Last Saturday had been a day of downpours interspersed with sunshine, but by early evening the clouds had dropped to the horizon and the sun was warming the land. I decided somewhat tentatively, since the past two weeks had been mostly cloudy and cool, to swim my laps in the unheated outdoor pool at the health club. At first splash, I knew I’d made the right choice. Yeah, the water was brisk, but I could feel the sun warming my skin as I shot up and down my lane like a bullet.
Ugh. I hadn’t wanted to use that simile. The point is, I was pretty focused and intent on counting the lengths. Then here came another woman to join me in the pool. After a while, I noticed that she was just kind of lollygagging up and down her lane, making smooth, slow strokes. Whoa, I thought, I wonder what that feels like. I slowed down. I started to really feel the water caress my skin. The warmth of the sun’s rays began to feel delicious. I fully took in the deep blue sky, the nearby treetops waving in the breeze, the dried grasses dancing just beyond the fence.
We are taught to move with purpose in our postmodern machine culture. We sit or stand purposefully at computers, drive purposefully to the store, eat purposefully with an eye on the clock. Being able to focus in that way is good and necessary, but not all the time. Also within our capabilities is pleasure. We can take pleasure in movement. Wouldn’t it be sweet if we were also encouraged to notice what feels good as we move through the day?
I’ve been reading Tabitha Jayne’s book The Nature Process. She proposes these rules of engagement with life, based on natural attractions:
1. Stop doing things that make you feel bad.
2. Start doing things that make you feel good.
3. Harm neither yourself nor others.
That last item is to ensure that you don’t become a promiscuous, hedonistic lush. Short of that, I think we could all afford to give more time to pleasure to balance out the overabundance of purpose in this world. I’m going to go for the full spectrum this evening as I stretch and breathe during the alfresco full-moon solstice yoga class I’ve signed up for.