The Approximate Yogi

Conquering life one breath at a time

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About the Difference between Pleasure & Satisfaction

Here is an idea that I’ve been batting around in my head for a few days and thought it would make an appropriate New Year’s post.

It occurred to me the other day during an act that should be very pleasurable but has lately been only satisfying, that there is a distinct difference between the two and that my life could use a little more of the former.

I have a lot of satisfaction in my life lately –I’m working on a lot of different projects, making progress on them, I have big to-do lists that I get done, accomplishments I continue to accrue –these things are all very satisfying to me, but are they pleasurable? Am I getting pleasure out of them? And, what is the difference?

I would say there is a big difference, yet it is a subtle one. It is a difference you probably can’t see on the outside, an internal one. Although maybe if you observed two people in the same activity you could tell which one is having a pleasurable experience and which one just a satisfying one.

The dictionary defines pleasure thus:

Plea-sure: n. 1. Feeling of being pleased; 2. Delight, joy; 3. Choice; wish

Although the third definition is a different meaning than what I am describing (as in “What is your pleasure?”), for me, I think it is key to the first two. You have a choice about it.

Satisfaction is defined as:

Sat-is-fac-tion: n. 1. Act of satisfying or state of being satisfied; 2. That which satisfies; 3. Opportunity to avenge a wrong or insult; 4. Payment of discharge as of an obligation

Let’s leave #3 out of it, but I like the use of obligation in #4. That gets at the difference I’m talking about.

Satsifaction is an act; pleasure is a feeling. Satisfaction is linked to obligation; pleasure is linked to choice, wish, even.

Obviously there are many cut and dry things in life that give pleasure and it’s great to add those things if they are missing –hanging out with friends, eating an extravagant meal, reading a really good book, making love. But what if you could add more pleasure to the everyday things in life? After all, we don’t live in ancient Greece; we do have responsibilities in our lives.

But I think this can be done. I think there can be a balance between pleasurefinding pleasure in the little things and satisfaction and I think you can have them both.

Take a simple task like watering houseplants. This is a chore I need to do, an obligation I have, since I decided I want to have houseplants. If not on my written to-do list, it is at least on my weekly mental list. I get satisfaction from checking off this task on the list. I have accomplished something that contributes to me having a nice home. But often there is no pleasure in this task. I get it done as quickly as possible and move on to something else before I’ve even given it a fully formed thought. Or maybe I’m even doing something else while watering them, like talking on the phone or watching TV.

I’ve completely overlooked the opportunity for pleasure in that task. I’ve missed noticing the new pink-purple blossom of the African violet, missed savoring the last coral-colored petals of the geranium’s flower, the new growth on the snake grass. I missed the simple opportunity to admire the lushness of green in my home, even if nothing had been new or changing.

And what is at the heart of the matter of pleasure? Of course, something I find myself writing about often here, as if I need a continual reminder in new forms that spark my consciousness in new ways –a slowing down, a conscious effort to be available for the present moment. A choice.

One must choose the present moment. For that is where the pleasure can be found, always accessed to you. But it’s the getting there, the remembering again and again, and then again to choose it.

So my New Year’s wish to you all is that you will remember to find the pleasure in life’s little moments, and then chose to follow them amongst (and not inspite of) the day’s obligations. This daily practice will get us through whatever challenges (and satisfactions) the new year may bring.

Here’s to a blessed and beautiful 2015!

In light and love,



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Have a Ha-Ppy New Year! and Let Go of Resolutions

New Years Resolutions…what do you think of them? I used to make them. I’d have one or two…or three or four that I’d be keeping up with really well for the months of January and February. Then they would inevitably fade and be forgotten, or if not forgotten, I’d feel guilt over not being able to keep them up.

Then one year, I decided I didn’t want a resolution. That my year was good enough, I didn’t have to add anything to it. I was happy, content with life. That felt good. But my New Years lacked ritual. So the next year, with my good friend, I created a new ritual that felt even better. It is a tradition the two of keep to this day.

This is what we do:

Let Go of Resolutions

Resolution: a decision, or determination.

Resolution is not a fun word. Resolution is a word that you say with a furrowed brow, with determination, (not without a bit of trepidation), with grit. Resolution is a decision with no wiggle room.

Lighten up! Life is so much more successful when we add some malleability into it, some fun! So, if you want to make resolutions this year, why not make them out of play-dough (then later on in the year, when the guilt or frustration sneaks up on you, smash them! Squish them! Poke holes in them!)

Or do this: 2013-12-29 16.29.29

1. Take two pieces of paper, preferably scrap paper, or one from a cutesy little notepad, maybe one with cupcakes on the border, or some quote about Mondays.

2. Get a fun pen. I like red or purple ones.

3. On the first piece of paper write at the top: Accomplishments of 2013, then start filling in your list. Write everything, even things you were brave enough to attempt –we’re not talking mastery here, but you attempted, you moved out of your regular inertia, and you did it! Accomplishments I’ve included in my list over the years: maintained a yoga practice, went on a blind date, moved twice in one year, bought a vibrator, discovered a cool new band, attempted surfing, didn’t hate winter, drew more, got a high-tech new phone (I believe it was a flip phone that year), saw Bill Clinton in person (granted, from the bleachers), helped kids, tried skiing.

By now you should be feeling really good about your life. Look at all you did over the previous year. Read it out loud (to your best friend if possible). Take a moment to let it all sink in.

4. Now you’re ready to think about the upcoming year, bathed in this positive light. Take that second piece of paper and write To Accomplish in 2014 at the top and start writing. Are there things you started this year, and want to continue? Are there things you didn’t get to (because you were doing other wonderful things instead, by the way)? Is there something you’ve always wanted to try?

I guess a “to accomplish” list is similar to Resolutions, but doesn’t it feel a lot better? A lot lighter?

Now, I like to tuck both sheets of paper (they never leave each other’s side) into a drawer, where I accidentally stumble upon them once or twice throughout the year. Then at the end of the year, when I’m actually looking for my goals list, I usually can’t find it.

But you know what? That’s ok. Because I will take another little sheet of paper and write down my accomplishments for that year. Maybe some of them were listed as goals for the year, many others were not. Some things I look back on and had decided six months later that they weren’t really things I was interested in after all. I’d found a different interest, a different path to wander down.

The thing is, we are always moving forward.  As long as we resolve to move in love (love of ourselves, love of others), we don’t need any other resolutions.

May we all be at peace and full of light and love in the coming year. I look forward to continuing this journey with you in 2014.


Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

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