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Spirituality Essay:

Life's Good Things    ( June 2011 )

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I was chatting on the phone with a friend when she cut in and said she had to go, as she only had 15 minutes before having to leave and needed that time for her daily "life's good things" time. Later, she told me that every day she creates a 10-15 minute space in her day to totally disengage from life and steep herself in some special pleasure activity.

Busy, like the rest of us, with all of life's routines and demands, she shared that she'd discovered the value of setting up and committing herself to a time to fully indulge herself in something that gives her deep pleasure and reminds her of "how good it is to be alive."

All of us have many, many things which we enjoy and make us feel good. But I think, in the main, for most of us, we don't get all the pleasure from those activities that we might ... inadvertently, we tend to block or diffuse much of the joy those activities might otherwise give us. Our minds wander off thinking of other things, or we're comparing them to other times, or, insidiously, we're planning what we'll be doing next ... .

The more fully and passionately we enjoy those things that make us happy, then the more life itself feels good. They become a tailwind for us, making everything else in our lives better and easier: our work becomes more rewarding, we love more expansively, we give more freely, and we work through our difficulties with greater confidence and creativity.

So more fully enjoying "life's good things" becomes a very good and helpful spiritual practice.

My friend created a list of things that give her special pleasure - and which she commits to taking the time each day to be fully present with and enjoy: sitting in the sun and feeling its warmth on her skin, enjoying good coffee, doing special yoga stretches ... good bread and jam, special music, a phonecall to one of her children, weaving, and so on.

She uses her list of special pleasures as a grounding, centering exercise - focusing all her attention only on that moment and fully savoring the pleasure she's experiencing. She says that that more intense joy and deeper connection to life she experiences lingers on, seeping into the rest of her day - making it richer, more alive, more "spiritual".

She adds that some of her more poignant pleasure moments come from not doing anything per se, but often, just sitting quietly, connecting to whatever the moment offers.

"Sometimes it's just sitting on my deck, watching the birds, listening to the insects and feeling the air on my skin - being still and enjoying "what is" right here - right now. It makes me realize that whatever was going on before and whatever will happen after this moment, I am truly blessed to be here, to be alive, and be a part of this world. I think most of us, myself included, start planning the future, whether the future is an hour away or a day away, as soon as we awake. We often go through our day checking off all those things that need to be done before the day's end and in that process miss what is really happening to us."

Life is, of course, a mixture of the good and the bad. But we can most certainly get more of life's exquisite "highs" with some helpful cultivating. Identify 12-20 "good things in life" that you really enjoy ... pleasures that you know will work as raw material for this practice; eliminate those that require extended time. Things that create sensory pleasures are especially wonderful to include: showers, sitting in the sun, stretching, playing with your pet, music, favorite foods and drinks. Write them down, (because so much more tends to happen when ideas get put on paper). Then pick one from your list each day and spend 5-15 minutes, fully enjoying it.

The key to creating maximum pleasure benefits from it (to get that "natural high" we speak of) is the mindset you bring to it: allow yourself to relax and slowly and deeply savor the experience - and (this is important), work to keep your mind from running off to other things. At the end, take a moment to notice how good you now feel ... different than before. A spiritual reflection - appreciating your ability to have and enjoy that wonderful experience and, more largely, being grateful for being alive to have that experience (because some day that won't be true) - will help deepen its value for you ... .and allow it to spread its goodness into the rest of your day. And your life.

This is one in a series of essays on spirituality by Rick Childs, lay leader of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Mendocino Coast. You may want to:
Read more Spirituality Essays
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