Optimal Intelligence: with pleasure
When things change inside you, things change around you.” - Unknown
Mindfulness is a practice that changes our internal state to manifest an external desired experience. Yet often approaching mindfulness practice can feel like a chore, the opposite of doing mindfulness with pleasure.
“With pleasure” is a common gracious reply to gifts and greetings. It means, to do so with happiness. The term derives from the Old French term “avec plaisir”.
Sometimes, we forget how strongly our history and society impact our way of life. We approach things as a list of tasks to be done, a race to be run, a document to be summarized. We are so busy consuming information on the internet that we fail to notice the way our mind operates as it jumps from thing to thing, think to think, brilliant shiny object to next shiny object.
So then, we bring this same mode to mindfulness meditation. We want to get stillness, the quite mind, peace, calm and all the mindfulness benefits proven through science Right Now.
We forget to do so, with pleasure.
Arguably, optimal intelligence is experienced when you are in an elevated state of pleasure. Referred to as flow state, this state occurs when we are immersed in an activity that we love. Whether this is carving a table, writing a poem, promoting health, talking to a large group of people, or creating a piece of art, the flow state is experienced as one of great coherence. By coherence, this means that everything seems to line up and the focus is purely on one thing.
Mindfulness has been shown not only to reduce stress and improve health, but also to enhance adaptability. I personally experienced this when, after 2 years of daily meditative practice in quiet Tofino, I returned to my dance training to find the most delightful and agile control of minute muscles an dangles in my body that I no longer felt studious or as if I was using extra exertion, instead I felt like I was floating along with my body, adjusting here and there for the simple enjoyment of alignment or to express a wordless feeling.
In terms of the effect on my mind, my medical school entrance exams were much easier than expected. Without the distraction of anxiety, worry, or fear, I could focus on the questions and the essay composition and even enjoy the privilege of being in the room out at University of British Columbia, surrounded by at least fifty other students, quietly writing in a huge auditorium, this group of studious people interested in a humanitarian career.
Scientific studies show that mindfulness grows both white and grey matter in the brain. The white matter are the beautiful support cells that encourage different synapses to connect with each other in the process of learning, like parental hands holding out a space for a child to move forward on its first steps. White matter cells also clean the brain, detoxifying cells of their waste products in the depths of the deepest stages of sleep. The grey matter is the fiery electrical cells that send messages throughout the vast network of our brains. The sophisticated hierarchy of electrical pulses ensures clear thinking, fast decision-making, and innovative insights.
Yet, with this and all of the other information that you have likely read about mindfulness, knowing is not enough. When you sit in the dark with your eyes closed, the brain that is used to multiple sources of stimulation can seem to roar like a rushing waterfall. The body can ache. Suddenly, mindfulness feels incredibly painful and you think - I will never be able to do this.
In my training, we were always taught to seek neutral ground. To neither run from the pain or hold onto the pleasure. Neutral ground is foundational and important.
However, sometimes in the Western World, we can approach tasks such as doing a mindfulness meditation with a “hard work ethic”. We apply effort, force, intensity. We are ready to show mindfulness how it’s done. Or we desperately seek relief from running thoughts.
Perhaps a possible antidote to fear of mindfulness, is to approach mindfulness with pleasure.
Mindfulness as a treat.
Mindfulness as an opportunity to face your mind, and see it as only one small part of your existence.
Mindfulness as a doorway into magical experience.
Mindfulness as a slip into a summer lakeshores lazily at the end of the day.
Mindfulness meditation as a resonating of the sounds of your day until they begin to play out in harmony.
Each time you practice, you create more pathways in the brain to motivate you for future practice. Our connections between our neurons are mobile, always getting thicker or thinner, growing new connections or letting go of old connections or strengthening old connections.
So try slowly, gently, with as little effort as possible, luxuriating into the practice of mindfulness, the delicious sensation of the breath moving, the lightly bouncing thoughts that sometimes slow and start to sift through the moment, and the feeling of your energy and truth.
And then, you can move into the magic of manifestation and self transformation. You start to change your inner world so profoundly that your outer world shifts to reflect your values and your joys. This makes it more possible for your dreams to come alive.
Change your inner world, to change your outer world.
More on this next week.
Wishing you the best, always,
~ Dr. M.
Join me for small group workshops in April. We’ll create a pleasurable and personalized mindfulness practice designed to suit your reward system.