Why choose pleasure?
The following was written by dear colleague and mentor Dr. Betty Martin:
It's good for you.
No news here. Scientists have been saying this for a long time. There are changes in blood chemistry, nervous system, immune system, changes in feeling connected to people you experience it with, changes in perspective and resilience. Pleasure is good for you.
It's valuable in its own right.
You don't need an excuse to experience pleasure. It doesn't have to be an accidental side effect of something else. It likewise doesn't like to be used for some other purpose, even self-improvement, and it doesn't like to be a strategy to get something, even sex.
You can't make it happen.
You can't force pleasure, but you can contribute to the likelihood of it happening. In tantric massage, we set up the situation to get clear what your desires and limits are. Then you can choose where you place your attention, and then the pleasure systems can engage.
You can learn how to access it.
Accessing states of pleasure is not an accident you fall into - it is learned through a few simple steps, which are mostly setting yourself up for safety and learning how to attend to your sensation.
You can't give or receive pleasure.
When you understand pleasure as physiology, you see that you can't give it or receive it. You access it within yourself. I can contribute to the likelihood that you will be able to access your pleasure, but I can't actually give it. What we can give and receive is time and attention and touch.
Follow the pleasure.
You can't tell pleasure where it should be. The fallacy is that if pleasure is not already happening (the way you think it is supposed to), you have to try harder or push yourself. This is backwards. Pushing yourself engages the defence response, and the pleasure response cannot engage. When you notice whatever pleasure is already there and follow it, the defence response calms down, and the pleasure response can engage.
You can't predict where it will take you.
When you follow your pleasure, you can't predict where it will take you: relief and comfort, playful exuberance, sexual turn-on, a mass of jelly, a heap of tears, fits of creative energy, joy, fear, surprise, sleep, and transcendent insights.
You have a pleasure ceiling.
You have a ceiling on the amount of pleasure and the kind of pleasure with which you are emotionally comfortable. This is normal and universal. It may be a teaspoon, a bucket, or an ocean, but it's still there. In terms of pure sensory bliss, a two-hour, full-body erotic massage is hard to beat, but the amount of fear, doubt, suspicion, shame and just general consternation would, for most people, cancel out any possible enjoyment. What raises the ceiling? Following the pleasure until you might want to back up a little so the feelings are less strong; you might want to stretch a little and feel more of the feelings. When you stop pushing yourself, the feelings gradually soften. That lets your ceiling rise, and then you can handle more pleasure. And then you hit another ceiling. So it goes for decades.
You are right to have mixed feelings about it.
We crave pleasure and we fear it (because of the pleasure ceiling), and both are correct. We crave it because we need it. It awakens, calms, refreshes, nourishes, restores, and brings us relief and gratitude - and we fear it. It's going to bring us right up to our self-doubt and lead us to insight and change. We have an inner push-pull going on, which is normal and unavoidable.
Pleasure is a powerful change agent.
Pleasure lets you make friends with your body, and that changes your sense of who you are in the world, and your sense of self-worth, value and compassion. Many fears and inner conflicts resolve. This is why it is often said that pleasure heals. Pleasure changes your physiology. Change your physiology, and you change what you are able to perceive. Change what you can perceive, and you can change what you are able to imagine. Change what you can imagine, and you can change what you are able to choose in your life.