As broad and as wonderful as life can be – filled with the miraculous grandeur of our natural surroundings, and the sheer genius in people, places, and things – it is in the beautiful simplicity of life where we will find the most meaning. The care and keeping of our soul requires simple things to feed it. In the age of instant access to information and ease of travel, we tend to expect to be amazed by life, instead of quietly moved.
We can find our truest and happiest moments through the simple appreciation of the smallest pleasures if we practice being present. We don’t need exotic vacations and large homes. We don’t have to attend fabulous parties or have hoards of friends. Often, we are so busy trying to move ahead and on to the next big thing that we forget to savor what is right in front of us – what is essentially (in most cases) free for our enjoyment – the smaller, quieter things we take for granted.
A good night’s sleep is worth two paychecks and a bottle of Dom Perignon. Sleep uninterrupted by worry, children crying in the night, dogs barking, or racing thoughts, is as good as gold. Sleep that comes after a full day of creative productivity or hard physical work is the kind that feels like heaven. I used to rebel against bedtime – pushing it back into the wee hours just so I could carve out some time for myself. Now that my days are filled to the brim with activity, sleep feels like a well deserved relief and reward.
“Sleep is the best meditation.” ~ Dalai Lama
It doesn’t matter how often we indulge in carnal pleasures, what matters is how good it makes us feel. Quality sex happens when we communicate every want, wish and need within a moment of passion without the fear of our partner’s judgement, resentment, or boredom. Quality sex is connection, intimacy, and pure physical fun. And sex should be fun – because it sure is funny! Laugh in the happiness and silliness of sex – and stop trying so hard. Let go in the excitement of a sexy, spontaneous moment. To make sex wonderful, I try to remember that my partner wants to have sex with me because I’m awesome. Because I feel good about myself and what I am doing with my life, the sex is good too.
“In my sex fantasy, nobody ever loves me for my mind.” ~ Nora Ephron
Water – plain, old, boring water – is beautifully brilliant. Water is a big deal. Just ask a person living in a developing country where running water isn’t available or clean. Water feels wonderful inside and out. We love to listen to it and look at it. We want to be inside it – to have it luxuriously envelope us. Water is required for fun stuff like skating, boating, and swimming. We need it to make things grow. Waves, rain, and waterfalls could quite possibly be the most soothing sounds on God’s green earth. Watching the snow fall outside our window is nothing short of free therapy. For me, a tall, cool glass of water will usually remedy anything from my emotions running wild to an impending headache. Water, most of the time, is a simple, delightful, free treat for the senses not to be taken for granted.
“Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it.” ~ Lao Tzu
Coffee is the drug of choice for many. It’s the sweetest, most comforting addiction in the world. Nothing cures the blues,. wakes us up, or calms the spirit like a nice hot cup of coffee prepared just right. The aroma is magical. The positive effect of coffee on my overall mood is instantaneous and the universal love of coffee creates common ground (pun intended) for all of humankind. Coffee is a bit like a prolonged hugging session from a special person. It is one of the quietest pleasures in life.
“If it wasn’t for the coffee, I’d have no identifiable personality whatsoever.” ~ David Letterman
We can never underestimate the power of simple kindness. Kindness in thoughts, actions and words will transcend time because people do not forget kindness, ever. It requires no money, and very little effort. Throughout our day, there are many opportunities to practice kindness. A little goes a long way! It’s one of the greatest gifts that we, as human beings, have in our back pocket. We can apply it to every situation in our lives. I have learned to give it freely and as often as possible, because kindness is what changes my world.
“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” ~ Mark Twain
Is there anything else on the planet that “feels” like a Saturday? A day rife with possibility. An open day (for many of us) of abundant, grand plans or carefree, unapologetic rest – Saturday just feels different. It’s a sleep in, stay in the PJ’s and watch cartoons with the kids kind of day. It’s pancakes and catch-up conversations, or, it’s a get cracking on the two-page “honey do” list kind of day. Saturday walks the fine line between productivity and doing absolutely nothing. Do I vigorously clean my house, or do I lay in my hammock? That is a question that can only be asked on a Saturday.
“On Saturday afternoons when all the things are done in the house and there’s no real work to be done, I play Bach and Chopin and turn it up real loudly and get a good bottle of chardonnay and sit out on my deck and look out at the garden.” ~ Maya Angelou
Those times when something strikes us so funny it nearly kills us are ones that can’t be planned or replaced. Those full belly laughs, when we are doubled over, grabbing our sides, faces hurting, and hardly breathing are some of the sweetest and most surprising moments of pure pleasure in our lives. They can happen anywhere, anytime, and with anyone. Non-stop laughter that creates tears of joy are more than memorable – they help us stay healthy. In life, in my relationships, and at work, a full blown attack of belly laughter always gives me hope.
“A smile starts on the lips, a grin spreads to the eyes, a chuckle comes from the belly; but a good laugh bursts forth from the soul, overflows, and bubbles all around.” ~ Carolyn Birmingham
In the practice of yoga, there is a moment at the end of the session where we are encouraged to simply and profoundly let everything go. Let go of our thoughts, let go of our practice, and let go of all the cloggy stuff in our daily lives that may block our happiness. Shavasana is final relaxation. It’s a reset of sorts, and it creates a peaceful tone to all actions, words, and thoughts moving forward in our day. For me, the best thing about shavasana is that it guides and permits me to let go, to be centered inside one small moment, and to experience life quietly and inward.
“When you inhale, you are taking the strength from God. When you exhale, it represents the service you are giving to the world.” ~ B.K.S. Iyengar
Wet noses, wagging tails, sly brush ups against our legs, little sounds, unconditional devotion…animals make the heart grow fonder. Animals, in general, are fun to study and be around – their funny behaviors, true feelings, and needs are an endless source of fascination. The undying love of a loyal dog, for example, who only has eyes for you, is one of the greatest joys and gifts the world has to offer.
“Animals are my friends…and I don’t eat my friends.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
If you ever get the chance to pick up a baby and simply hold her, do it. The eyes, the smell, the weak, flailing fists – all of it is precious, and completely innocent. Talk to a 5 year old child who only wants to show you his little metal truck, and make all the sounds a truck makes as he slides it across the floor and up your leg. That small child harbors no cynicism, bigotry, prejudice, or judgement. The innocence of children is what is good and perfect and right in the world. Recognizing innocence has taught me to live better, be better, care more, and figure out a way to do less harm while practicing peace.
“The innocent and the beautiful have no enemy but time.” ~ William Butler Yeats
All of these things are easy to find in our lives, and they make our daily experience beautiful in a small, unencumbered way. As much as we covet that which is bigger, brighter, and more, it is the smaller pleasures, such as animals, coffee, Saturday, kindness, and laughing until our faces fall off, that truly nourish and sustain us. Seeing the beauty inside the little stuff is what the human heart craves in order to feel fulfilled. My life indeed grows bigger and more beautiful every time I stop to see, feel, appreciate, and wonder at the smaller things, the little pleasures that feed my soul.
“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.” ~ Camille Pissarro