“Assume that your drive to experience pleasure isn’t a barrier to your spiritual growth, but is in fact essential to it. Proceed on the hypothesis that cultivating joy can make you a more ethical and compassionate person. Imagine that feeling good has something important to teach you every day. What might you do differently from what you do now?”

–Rob Brezsny

Tableau d'Astronomie et de SphèreWhile I have great respect for various spiritual tools and traditions, I’m not the biggest follower of horoscopes. Yet I always take away something from Rob Brezsny’s writings, even if it’s just a smile. His style is fresh and his message is uplifting without being saccharine.

I don’t know why we’re taught that pleasure and spiritually are so divorced from one another. Nor do I understand why we must put so many conditions on life’s enjoyments. It seems as if we feel a continual need to justify pleasure versus accepting it as a gift and our birthright.

While I do consider myself something of a neo-hedonist, there are clearly limits. Activities born out a lack of choice, such as addiction, or that impinge upon the free will of another are harmful and clearly not conducive to a mindful existence. But that still leaves an enormous range of  pleasurable experiences open to us, from the subtle and sublime to those that are more refined or downright complex.

And while I believe that one can simply enjoying life in and of itself, pleasure can be a vehicle for spiritual encounters. Taking delight in our senses can deepen our relationship with our own bodies, help wake us up to the world around us and what it has to offer, and be a motivator for sincere gratitude.