Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Finding pleasure in the simplest things really is the cat's whiskers

Feline friend: having a pet is a stroke of good fortune

As I type this, the cat is lying beside me on the couch with her chin propped on the keyboard, covering the shift key and making smooth typing pretty difficult. I think she is jealous of the laptop. She sees me stroking it a lot and I reckon she thinks it's another pet – a pet that gets far too much attention!

So I have to keep nudging her face out of the way to make capital letters. It's a pain in the neck but she's not looking like she's in any hurry to move away. Now she's giving me the one-eye stare. I think she knows I'm talking about her.

Right that's it, this is impossible. I've given in and given her a good head rub, so she's lifted her head off the keyb ... no, wait a minute, it's back. Ah well, the cool, wet nose against the side of my hand is a nice sensation.

As I think I may have mentioned a few weeks ago, I take my physical contact as and where I can get it these days – human, feline, I'm not picky.

Such small pleasures are real treasures, mindful moments that capture joy, like a photograph. It's here, it's gone.

And if you hadn't framed it by being aware of it, you probably wouldn't even have noticed it and the joy would've passed you by.

We were given a little exercise at a workshop on Mindfulness one day. We were each given a raisin. A small wizened little thing was placed in the palm of each of our hands. We were invited to look at it. So we did. Touch it. It was sticky and rough. Sniff it. Not much, a hint of sweetness. And then we were invited to listen to it. Smiles and a few laughs greeted this suggestion. "Listen to it?" Yes, we were told, put it up to your ear. So we did. Suddenly and simultaneously, big smiles broke out on everyone's face. When we held this small insignificant morsel to our ears and moved it, it crackled audibly! Ha! Who would have thought! A ripple of childlike delight spread across this roomful of middle-aged adults. It was a small moment of unexpectedness – something you don't seem to get too often when you're closer to 50 than 20.

We spend a lot of time and money and effort and anxiety trying to buy and organise and enjoy pleasure. As if pleasure was something that comes to us from the experience. As if pleasure has to be looked for. As if pleasure is somewhere out there, to be found.

Actually, pleasure is available in every moment, no matter what is going on. When you slow right down and become aware of this very moment that's happening right now, there is so much to be grateful for, pleasure is inevitable. It's not that you have to go looking for it, you just need to have the right eyes on to see it, right in front of you.

Perhaps it's not always pleasure in the sense of total bliss, but certainly there is something like contentment, ease, gratitude and deep joy.

Pleasure's as good a word as any to describe those sensations.

Yesterday, I stopped briefly before eating my dinner. Looking at the food I was struck by how many people it took to get all that to me here now. Thousands. From all over. Planting, harvesting, transporting, packaging, selling – all that, for this, for me. What a sense of connection.

They say hunger is the best sauce. Wonder and gratitude are pretty good condiments too.

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