Own your inner hedonist


January 17, 2018

I love my morning coffee.

I anticipate the perfect cup before I go to bed at night which for me is rich of the French Roast variety, hot, almost to the point of burning  but not quite, and just the perfect amount of half and half, (no substitutions). I savor that first cup, relish in it, feast on it, and reflect on it later from time to time. I also love to talk about my coffee love with others who love coffee.

My love affair with coffee has inspired me to question the cultural messages about pursuing pleasure and weave more pleasure into daily life: I want to become a reasonable hedonist. Too much of a good thing is no longer good, like more than 2 generous cups I shake and can’t round up my thought.

It’s well known that enjoyment and simple pleasures can improve well-being, lower stress and boost health.

Besides, it makes life more fulfilling too. Here in Happy Valley Vail, we’re an odd mix of hard workers and ambitious fun pursuers. We carefully measure acceptable levels of pleasure. Most of us who live here, live here for the lifestyle we’re fortunate enough to enjoy. We skip out of work to ski, casually share about our experiences on the hill, bike rides in the summer, 14ers we summit, and maybe even smugly compare ourselves to city dwellers or flatlanders. Yet, most of us are quick to point out how hard we need to work in order to enjoy this lifestyle. In fact, it’s how we tend to feel justified in our pleasure pursuits, being worthy of enjoyment, earning our turns so to speak.

How can we harness hedonism for pleasure sake without having to earn it? Or feel worthy enough to improve health and quality of life? How about maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain?

Pleasure is the state of enjoyment.

Specifically, engaging your senses and widening your experience of life. Being touched by a song on the radio, noticing the sky as you drive to work, laughing with co-workers or simply noticing the surroundings when your ride the chairlift. It’s also sitting in your favorite chair immersed in a good book or watching your favorite athlete compete in the Olympics on TV. (Go Lindsey). Or it’s savoring a simple cup of coffee each and every morning.

There is no magic formula that will elicit pleasure in all. In fact it’s the subjective interaction between individual and life that determines the outcome. It’s your unique intimate interaction with life that determines the connection with life.

And there it is, the magic word, connection. Connection with self and connection with others.

Engaging life fully enables us to connect with our vitality and that feels good.

Pleasure can become a problem, like when that occasional delicious reposado is needed to get out of the door in the morning. Previously pleasurable activities can become counterproductive and problematic if we pursue them at the expense of self-control or if we’re not being a good steward of our life.

When it was snowing yesterday I took our pooch for a walk in between appointments. It was beautiful and peaceful and exciting since there’s been a dearth of snow this year so far. I couldn’t help myself I lay in the snow and made a snow angle. The memory of it makes me smile now.

Shake the cultural notion that pleasure is slightly shameful or unproductive.  Explore what’s pleasurable to you. Savor the simple pleasure we’ve  forgotten to enjoy. And don’t forget to share. A pleasure experienced and shared deepens the experience for all!