Do you ration pleasure? Do you reserve it only for high days and holidays? How much pleasure do you allow yourself? Do you section it into chunks, isolate it, or leave it for another day in the future which may never come? Life becomes more enjoyable and rewarding by making just a few straight-forward arrangements. With a few strategies, pleasure can become a regular life experience!
Seventeenth century philosopher, Rene Descartes, has a lot to answer for, in this regard. His famous Cartesian philosophy encourages you to ‘compartmentalize’ your life – putting work and responsibility in one box and pleasure in another. As per him, you go through your day fulfilling your tasks, often forgetting to enjoy yourself and saving your pleasure for the evenings, weekends and holidays. Trouble is, by the time the evening, weekend or holiday comes around, you’re so stressed out and tired, it’s hard to switch off enough, unwind and enjoy yourself. And no matter what the puritanical world says, a life without pleasure is a waste of time and energy. You don’t have to be an out and out hedonist – good heavens no! It’s a matter of finding a sensible balance.
The Taoist philosophy of ancient China recognises that you can feel pleasure all day even while carrying out your responsibilities. Those wise, old Taosists refined the art to a high level, believing you can access pleasure all day, no matter what, simply by uniting the mind, breath and body awareness. Eg., I always say, I love reading and writing – these are my daily pleasures. And the joy is reflected in my articles – whether I write on life, love, relationships, spirituality or humour. My vocation is sheer pleasure, day after day, every day!
Let me tell you a story of a wealthy man who got a carpenter to build him a beautiful house every year, which would be donated to orphans, widows and old people. The carpenter’s heart and soul were in his job. One day he wanted to retire but his master requested him to build just one more house. This time, his heart was not in his work, so he took short-cuts, resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials.
When his work was over, he cursed, “May whoever live in this house be most unhappy and miserable every day of his life!” The master inspected the house and gave the front door keys to the carpenter saying, “I always wanted to gift a house to you as a reward for building beautiful houses all your life for me.” The carpenter was shocked. What a shame! If only he had known it was to be his house, he would have done it so differently.
We are all like the carpenter. We build our lives, one day at a time, without the pleasure of putting our best into what we build. Childhood and youth pass like a dream and one day, with a shock, we realise that we have to live in the house called ‘life’ that we ourselves have built. If only we could do it all over again, we would do it differently, packing pleasure in all our mundane chores and duties… but we can’t. Hence, for the remaining years of our lives, let us cultivate positive choices with love so that at the end of life, we may like the house called ‘life’ which we lived in.
We all can practice the Taoist philosophy by enjoying pleasure in everything we do on a daily basis. Getting out of bed early morning without anyone’s help is the first pleasure. A steaming hot cup of adrak-fudina tea is the second pleasure, followed by the pleasure of saying brief prayers and then meditation or yoga followed by a morning walk before breakfast. A chat with friends, social-media (in moderation), reading, writing, a healthy lunch, an afternoon nap, a good TV programme, cooking etc. are all pleasures before the evening walk and then sitting in the garden with friends!
These days, due to the absence of domestic help, we have to do all household work, like jhadoo-katka, utensils, bath-rooms, dusting, making beds etc… all these can be treated as pleasure rather than an unwanted ‘chore’ just as stated in the Bhagwad Gita’s ‘Nishkaam Karma’ – do it well and do it with love – think of it as your ‘gymming’!! Speaking for myself, I feel the house is cleaner and I have become slimmer! Don’t know if I want the ‘pleasure’ of keeping my gangubai again when she comes back!