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A Spiritual Life of Pleasure

Skip the first minute... I was trying to sort out technology.

Considering that pleasure could be part of a spiritual practice is radical. When we typically think of spiritual practices anything but pleasure comes up. Perhaps you think of kneeling on an uncomfortable surface, or sitting through an abysmally boring sermon, or even sackcloth and self-flagellation. For so much of Christianity's history pleasure has been look at as suspect. It's potentially dangerous and can lead us toward anyone of the 7 deadly sins... but this isn't quite right. So, the first thing I want you to consider is how you might define pleasure.

Admittedly, when I considered that question, I couldn't find a great answer within myself, but I did think of 3 basic kinds of pleasure: physical, emotional, and mental.

Physical pleasure is what we typically associate pleasure with. The pleasure of getting a great massage, looking at a beautiful painting, listening to music we love, tasting a decadent meal, etc. Emotional pleasure is commonly found in our friendships... the pleasure of being known and knowing another. Finally, mental pleasure is what happens as we read an engaging book or have an intellectually stimulating conversation. All of these are equally good and valid forms of pleasure. The second thing I want us to consider is what makes an action spiritual? I like to use the idea that grace is what connects us to ourselves, others, and the divine. So anything that does any of those three things is spiritual. Often we only consider actions that are connecting us to the Divine as spiritual, but this misses out on a lot. Connection to others is easily experienced as spiritual. Think of the Victor Hugo quote, "To love another person is to see the face of God." It's the connection to ourselves that tends to be harder to see as spiritual... however, you are a creation of God. You are made in the image of God, therefore getting to know yourself is getting to know an aspect of God. Additionally, you can only relate to another (God or Human) as deeply as they relate to themselves... so the deeper you know yourself, the deeper you'll be able to know others and the Divine. How do we connect with ourselves, others, and God?

Three keys to that: Slowing Down, Savoring, and being receptive. When it comes to creating a spirituality of pleasure the key is to pick aspects of the these two components and then to do the act in a way that is aligned with the keys to connection. Some examples: Eating is a physically pleasurable experience; it connects us with others and the divine (it connects us to ourselves through the senses, the food itself, perhaps those who's prepared and grown the food, and God in the act of gratitude). So if we eat slowly, savoring each bite, and are receptive to the various aspects of the experience of eating, then we have created a spiritual practice of pleasure.

A conversation with a good friend: A mentally and emotionally pleasurable experience, that connects us with others. So if we are able to do this without pressure of time, in order to help us stay present and able to savor the conversation, then we've got a potential spiritual practice of pleasure.

Good luck on your journey toward creating a spiritual practice of pleasure for yourself, in the comments let me know what you try out!

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