Awareness of Pleasure and Displeasure


“Those who are awake live in a state of constant amazement.”
Jack Kornfield


To live fully, we must be aware. To live wisely, we must be aware of our motivations. Some experiences give us pleasure and some give us pain. We are likely to be attracted to experiences which give us pleasure and averse to those which give us displeasure or pain.

Life is better if we are able to experience pleasure in simple ways. One who finds joy in life’s small moments and simple pleasure is less likely to be driven by impulsive or addictive behaviors. When a person is depressed, the ability to experience pleasure is impaired. When a person is addicted, pleasure can be gained primarily from the object of the addiction, the drug, for instance. It is important that we get to experience feeling good, so if our ability to feel good naturally and with subtle stimulus is damaged, we may go to extremes of risky behavior to get the good feelings.

When our aversions control our behavior outside of our awareness, we lose flexibility and freedom of action. When our neurotic fears take control of us, we lose the ability to respond to life spontaneously. In the process, we cut ourselves off from the moments of experience that might bring us joy.

When we become more aware of our experience, we feel more fully alive and are likely to  behave more wisely. It is more than knowing that we like a certain food or color. It is knowing how we experience what we like and what we dislike.

Try this:

Notice when you have a sensation of pleasure.
What is that like?
What induces it?
What thoughts might you have that affect the experience?

Notice when you have a sensation of aversion or displeasure.
What is that like?
What induces it?
What thoughts might you have that affect the experience?

Notice when your thoughts minimize your experience of pleasure or magnify your experience of aversion or displeasure.

Practice moments of awareness without attaching to thoughts. Seek the direct experience untouched by evaluation thoughts.

Become ever more mindful of your experience of enjoying or disliking this or that, so that you develop an acute and subtle awareness of your responses.


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© 2003 Tom Barrett