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I have always been intrigued by the sensation in the body of pleasure, and have felt shortchanged by how little it seems to last. In fact, I can say that my life has been a relentless search for pleasure that never last. The maddening battle to keep the blissful mood is often upended when pleasure decides to uproot and move. However, it wasn’t until recently that I realized that I can, without external assistance or stimulation “produce” this sublime sensation called pleasure, just by a regular practice of meditation.
This ecstatic state is achieved without logical explanation, and can occur while the whole world seems to be falling apart. Thus, pleasure has become the object of my most intense affection bordering on obsession. Why is this so? I have been what you may call “a spiritual harlot” for almost 30 of my 54 years. I rebelled at my grandmother’s “life as a valley of tears metaphor.” At a very early age, she became a young widow with 5 small children, and her only way of surviving in a country and era where women were little less than decoration, either to polish or smash, depending on the man’s mood, was to accept the harshness of her fate and detach from any motherly instinct to cuddle her children with affection. She did not have time for lullabies, story reading or tickle fights. She had to get on with the business of feeding them, give them an education, and keeping a roof on their heads. Hence, pleasure was the last thing on her mind. Of course, it is no surprise that my mother did not have a clue that demonstrating physical affection was a very natural and very much-needed part of a child’s emotional life. How much did I need to experience the pleasure that comes from the affection that only a mother can give? Let me not count the ways. Finding a replacement has been at the center of my existence.
For a long time I took refuge in mystical teachings, in self-help “law of attraction” trends, not without some success, until finally exhausted and unable to wash away the feeling of longing I gave up and started practicing meditation with the same relentless obsession that I use for everything that gives me hope. I began to notice, after many months of practicing, that there seem to be a sensation arising, it was both foreign but also very familiar. Like the supreme court justice that said, I recognize obscenity when I see it, well I may have not known bliss, but I recognize it when I see it.
It turns out that there is a reason why I could recognize it. I do not know how many times I have heard from spiritual “gurus” that the reason for my unhappiness was that I did not know myself and that if I did, I would realized that I was already happy. Needless to say this statement always seemed to me like a silly “new age” slogan created to give people hope and keep them buying the books. I fell for it, but now I know this is the kind of statement that cannot be transmitted orally, this can only be experienced.
Now, I have developed a new obsession in my research. I have been reading about the role of hormones and neurotransmitters, which are felt at all levels of being: it’s mental, emotional and physical pleasure.
I am not a scientist, but I am an excellent and persistent researcher. According to my findings, there is a link between certain activities that occur in the brain, produced by the hormone, oxytocin. High levels of it promote bonding and the impulse to trust. Poor levels of it trigger over sensitivity, and may be to blame for the development of addictions. That’s right, addicts are addicted to the pleasure they receive from their drug of choice. If meditation has something to do with the release of this hormone (and of others considered to be neurotransmitters of the feeling of well-being), I do not know. I still have not built the psychological bridge between the visible and the invisible, or the mystical and the mundane, but I know there is one. I know life was not intended to be meaningless, and definitively not meant to be mostly miserable. Yet, pleasure seems to be in short supply.
If we could be stripped of all the distractions that cover up how we truly feel in the depth of our being, I don’t know if we could bear living without the peace pleasure provides. I mean, just looking forward to pleasurable moments is pleasing to the senses. But is it possible to meet blissful pleasure, and let “it” heal us. Perhaps if we rage a little bit, and allow ourselves to be vulnerable, and accept the notion that we really want to he happy. In that moment, is it pleasure we seek? We may not know. We may not want to know.But when our stress is relieved by simply caressing the family pet, or by sitting still in silent meditation, we can recognize that it’s the pleasure of these experiences that is being sought. And yet, just as quickly as it appeared on the scene, pleasure will disappear; it never lasts.
Blog By Annabelle Cooper