Two Kinds of Pleasure

yoga-two pleasures

We are all looking for happiness, for a sense of contentment, of well-being. We all want to feel good, and one of the ways we hope to get that is trough the pleasure we get from the senses when we come into contact with the world. A simple example is a chocolate cake, but it can be a relationship, a house, a better job etc. (I refer to pleasure both as the very basic one I get, for example, from eating a chocolate cake, but also as a more profound kind of pleasure, like that of doing the right thing or finding the right partner. From this point of view, they are the same because they both come from outside of myself.)

I eat chocolate and I feel good. But chocolate, or any pleasure, has four drawbacks:

A. The object, in this case the chocolate cake, has to be there; but, as with any object, it may be there, but it may very well not be there when I want it.
B. The senses have to be available. Even if the chocolate is there, I may have a stomachache and not be able to eat it.
C. The mind has to be there. I may have the chocolate, and my senses may be ready for it, but the mind may be too busy or too worried or too lost on plans so it cannot enjoy the chocolate.

And so, in order to experience pleasure, I completely depend on the right combination of these three aspects, something that is not completely dependent on my will, but on circumstances.

But then, even when these three aspects come together (which does not happen as often as we would like to!) there is a fourth—and fundamental—problem:

D. It finishes. Whatever pleasure I may get trough any object, sooner or later it finishes and right away that creates the need: when will I get it the next time?

Let’s say my pleasure comes not from chocolate but from a person, a person I enjoy spending time with. Again, that person may not always be there (and without a doubt we can find thousands of reasons why a person I may like to be with may not be there for me), or he/she may be there but the pleasure I use to get from him or her may stop at a certain point, or may not longer be as intense as it was. (When this happens, people usually go in one of two different directions: they start a search for pleasure in a different area, like one’s job, drinking, or parting, or they start to search for a new relationship.) Or the person may be there, my attraction for him/her may still be intact, but I may be so busy or with so many problems that I don’t have neither the time nor the energy to enjoy his or her presence.

Another common source of pleasure is travelling. I always hear from people: “I love so much to travel, there are so many places I have yet to visit, I have so many ideas of places I would like to go to.” The problem with this is that there is never an end to the places that we can go to and we depend on the availability of travel, which depends on so many things unconnected to our wishes, like money or time (and so many times we may have the time but not the money or we may have the money but not the time).
And it is the same with any object we can think of. A job, a house, a profession, youth, strength, beauty, money, power, fame etc.

As long as we know, as long as we are very aware that this is the fact with pleasure that comes from the world, then there’s no problem. We enjoy what comes and we don’t get upset when it goes. But this is not the general picture. Most of the time we become very attached to our pleasure, and when it goes, as it inevitably will, we become upset or depressed or disappointed. And so we cling to what comes, we grasp very tight, and in the clinging, in the grasping there is always the fear of loss, of change… there is always suffering.

So of course the solution is not to stop looking for pleasure from the world, but to stop demanding that it delivers what it cannot. It can surely offer a small moment of satisfaction (a minute, a day, a year, 10 years) but it cannot make us happy. The only problem with pleasure that comes from the world is in the expectation of what it cannot give. Other than that, the world is beautiful, and we can and should enjoy every pleasure given to us.


There is also another kind of pleasure, of well-being—a very different kind—one that is not coming from the world, but from myself. It is so subtle, so quiet, that it is very difficult to see, to appreciate… and it’s very difficult to talk about.

It is our own presence, it is the pleasure of being alive. And that does not depend on anything other than its realization, the realization of our own existence, of our own being, of our own aliveness… right here… right now.

If you don’t get completely lost in what you are doing now (like reading these words) but you keep some attention on yourself, you keep some attention on your surroundings, you keep this sense of aliveness in yourself, right now…, as you do whatever it is that you are doing right now…, if you experience your own presence, there is something magnificent, something immensely beautiful about the fact that you’re alive… right now.

In time, this sense of aliveness may grow into an appreciation of it, and this appreciation may grow into a sense of gratefulness, and it is in this gratefulness—the simple gratefulness of being alive, of existing—where our pleasure, our sense of well-being may come from.

But we are so often lost in the search for outside pleasure that we miss the subtleness, the beauty of this moment.
This is one of the things we do in the Yogilates classes. We learn to find this “space”, and we learn to value it. And once the value is there, we start to take it home, to our everyday life.

As this value grows, we may realize that we are becoming less needy for the things coming from outside, for the simple reason that what we may get from the world—the pleasure—we already have in us. And our relationship to the world changes, and the needy, grasping force will start to lose its hold, to change from being something that we need to being something we celebrate.
We learn to appreciate the world not because we need it, but simply because it is beautiful.

Categories: Reflections

There are 6 comments

  1. Raluca

    Yes…. these pleasures that keep us chasing them…. with the travel example you have touched my soft spot, I cannot not want that with all my heart. Anyway, I try to deal with the feeling of longing by reading, as I feel it enriches my imagination over places and times. Kind of like traveling. And, yes, we should see pleasure less like a purpose and more like just another fact of life. Anyway as a trivia there is great video I saw during an online class on Buddhism that says tests have show that when chasing a pleasure like thinking about eating a cookie intensifies certain parts of the brain much more than in the moment of actually consuming the cake. So, basically the longing is stronger than the actual consuming. Still, if the consuming does not happen the frustration appears and the mind loses focus and so on.
    My conclusion, practice yoga to learn to control your longing so that even if you do not ‘consume’ you do not experience frustration. “The consuming’ is not always possible… and maybe sometimes there is a good reason for that and we refuse to see it.
    That space you are talking about I see it as distance. The thing that comes to me when I try to practice the sort of meditation I can reach at this point is a feeling of distance, like a birds eye view, and everything becomes quiet and safe.

  2. Ileana

    Very beautiful! It is a real pleasure to read your posts evrytime 🙂
    I want to ask you one question: is the simple gratefulness of being alive, of existing the same with the “real” love that you talked in another article about?
    Thank you for everything!

  3. Dana

    Thank you, Carlos, for this reminder. Maybe I can call this also “Two Kind of Happiness”. Time to time I need your “voice” to come back to me, to myself. I know that you’ll be there for ever, because this is something that never ends for me.

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