First, the Bad News: Pleasure won't protect us from pain, death, loss, or illness. Pleasure cannot inoculate us from our own pain or the pain of the world. Pleasure isn't a magical amulet we wear over our hearts to prevent them from breaking.
Opening our hearts and souls to pleasure guarantees that our hearts and souls will be open to pain, too.
But wait, all is not lost.
Here's the Good News: being a pleasurista allows you to surf waves of pain just as you surf waves of pleasure, neither clutching nor resisting. This means pain can move through cleanly and clearly.
Being a pleasurista also empowers you to find pockets of pleasure and happiness even when pain has shown up at your door.
The way of the pleasurista is not some Madison Avenue fantasyland of adolescent beauty, endless sunsets, and nonstop Crest smiles. The way of the pleasurista is about learning to trust the process of life, living open hearted and curious, willing to step into adventure and Mystery.
And romping with pleasure wherever, and wherever, she shows her luscious face.
Great theory, I hear you say. But how does that really look? How do we keep returning to, and remembering, pleasure, even in illness, loss, death, and the profound pain of both our culture and the world?
First, a couple of stories from my clients;
Blake subscribed to a flower delivery service during a painful divorce, treating herself to beautiful weekly flower arrangements (her favorite pleasure). After mediation finished, she continued to send herself flower arrangements once a month. The best part was that with menopause brain she kept forgetting that she had set up this automatic treat, so each flower delivery was a surprise!
Georgia decided to journey through chemotherapy as a pleasurista. Her friends gave her hand and foot massages during her treatments. During one chemo these generous pleasuristas gave hand massages to the four other patients as well. "It was like a love feast, and the high point of those three months," Georgia told me. These same pleasuristas gave her weekly pedicures and manicures.
Georgia told me these times of being cared for by girlfriends were like oases in the desert she had to cross. Knowing an oasis was coming soon helped immensely when the desert crossings—the nausea, the bottomless fatigue, the fear—got really tough.
And from my own life:
The Way of the Pleasurista recently sustained me during the darkest fourteen months of my life: both parents suffered and died (Parkinson's and breast cancer); my daughter left home; my homeland, New Orleans, was devastated by Katrina and politics.
I chose to find pleasure wherever I could. I allowed David (The Husband) to cook me scrumptious meals, even when I didn't feel like eating. I watched funny movies three times a week, finding that sometimes I could laugh even when I thought I'd never smile again. I wrote gratitude lists. I lit rose-scented candles and meditated.
Surrounding myself with pleasure and love and beauty reminded me of a piece of Buddhist wisdom. Grief is like a fistful of salt, they say. If you dissolve it in a cup of water, just try sipping it: what you have is some pretty damn gaggy stuff (my words, not theirs). If, however, you take that same salt and dissolve it in a lake, the gag factor plummets.
We can't make the salt go away. What we can do is to dissolve it in the biggest container possible. Pleasure helps us make that bigger container, a container made large with love, caring, and beauty.
Knowing how to dissolve the salt of your pain is one of the sweet powers of a pleasurista.
After 45 years on the planet, our losses pile up, sisters: children leave home, illness finds us and those we love, marriages end, and parents die. We can shut down in the face of so much pain (many of us do, unfortunately, for the rest of our precious lives), or choose life, pleasure, beauty, and love even in the midst of sorrow.
And the final Good News: opening to both pleasure and pain (in other words, opening to life as it moves through us) makes us so much more grateful for the pleasure, the joy, the happiness, when it shows up.
We post-45 pleasuristas can celebrate pleasure, and beauty, and joy as the divine gifts that they are. Let sorrow and pain come, as they most certainly will.
Let us keep returning, as we can, to love, and beauty, and pleasure.