One of my friends lives in a house called ‘Mount Pleasant‘ and she has an esker in her garden.

I wonder why it was named that (certainly not by her, as she dislikes
that name). And I wonder whether the name, and her dislike of it,
relates to ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ by John Bunyan. This 17th century classic, a religious allegory, actually doesn’t include ‘Mount Pleasant‘, although it sounds as if it might.

Anyway, the view is very pleasant from the top of the esker, and I have been pleased to get to the summit without having to resort to using a stick. Coming down feels scarier, particularly since the surface is prickly from the remains of gorse bushes. But that’s another story, of an unpleasant descent.

And today we are going to focus less on displeasure, than on what brings us pleasure and delight. What pleases us.

Starting with this BrainDump exercise, which can start as a simple appreciation exercise, or can provide a launch pad (if that most pleases you) into a full-blown essay:

Brain Dump

Today these things please me:

~

~

~

Today I can please myself whether I …

I would be pleased if …

It gives me great pleasure to say …

In my childhood I had to please …

(In the past) I recall that these things gave me pleasure …

I am easier to please than …

I am harder to please than …

These things please me, as long as/ when …

It might be pleasant just now to …

Experiencing pleasure

Now I invite you to put down your pencil, and follow this short meditation ‘Treasure of Pleasure, from a series by an inspirational teacher Vidyamala Burch who founded the international organisation Breathworks.

This is a non-denominational, secular meditation about recognising and identifying pleasure in the here and now, just as we are.

She leads in with an introduction about how this type of meditation is a training for opening up to what is positive in our experience, both in our body sensations and in our emotions. Shifting from a threat-dominated experience to one that is open to noticing, ready to be moved by what is warm, spacious, intriguing, delightful, both within and around us.

Vidyamala refers to the biologically vital responses to threats: fight, flight and freeze, to which some embodiment teachers are now adding the response of fawn, which has a synonym of “people-pleasing” or appeasement.

I know I recognise that often over-used response …

Synonym serendipity

According to Oxford English mini dictionary, 7th edition, Catherine Soanes, ed, 2007:

synonym = a word or phrase meaning the same as another – in the same language

A sunflower-burst blooming out of this pleasurable activity
Copyright Kathy Labrum McVittie 2020

serendipity = the fortunate occurrence of events by chance

So: as a series of five sunbursts, write down now as many synonyms as you want (as fantastic as you dare) for these words:

pleasing

pleasant

pleasure

please

pleasuring

people-pleasing

and you can let them arch into rainbows (arc en ciel in French) with word associations if you so please. Enjoy!

Golden Threadwork

In 1785 when the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens opened …

I find it pleasurable to taste …

When I wake up in the morning it’s pleasant to feel …

O …. makes me sing with pleasure as …

Mick Jagger “can’t get no satisfaction” and …

And those people had no embarrassment about pleasuring …

I love to hear the pleasant voices of …

A prospect of Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens in 1751 by Samuel Wale. By Samuel Wale – NADFAS East Surrey Area. Painting has also been engraved and published in various 18th century publications Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=594049

I wonder whether today’s flights of fantasy and untrammelled imagination have taken you to places where you can truly appreciate something, however small, about your present-moment experience. And I encourage us to record it like this, in our usual way. Share a selection of your pleasant findings with us, if you please.

Appreciation practice

Today I am grateful for:

~

~

~

Today I am grateful for:

~ enough dry, locally seasoned logs available for me to light – in the middle of the day – the wood-burning stove, with its freshly cleaned chimney;

~ our local public library being opened enough (by appontment) that I can plan to borrow some new reading material to tide me over as the days get shorter and shorter up here;

~ the safe arrival of my new shamanic drum, which – by a quirk of serendipity – is not the one I commissioned, but nevertheless has won my heart. And she and I are setting up home together, and learning each others’ voices.

Further Resources

I acknowledge the The Reader website at Calderstones for signposting me to this poem by John Clare (1797-1860), who had pleasantly idiosyncratic spelling and an unparalleled delight for local dialect words in his local Northamptonshire (where many of my ancestors hail from too).

Usually puddock = toad, but here puddock is included among the birds, and probably refers to the Red Kite. (That usage occurs in another of his poems, ‘The Fens’ quoted here.)

Pleasant Sounds

The rustling of leaves under the feet in woods and under hedges;
The crumpling of cat-ice and snow down wood-rides, narrow lanes, and every street causeway;
Rustling through a wood or rather rushing, while the wind halloos in the oak-toop like thunder;
The rustle of birds’ wings startled from their nests or flying unseen into the bushes;
The whizzing of larger birds overhead in a wood, such as crows, puddocks, buzzards;
The trample of robins and woodlarks on the brown leaves, and the patter of squirrels on the green moss;
The fall of an acorn on the ground, the pattering of nuts on the hazel branches as they fall from ripeness;
The flirt of the groundlark’s wing from the stubbles – how sweet such pictures on dewy mornings, when the dew flashes from its brown feathers.

John Clare

https://www.thereader.org.uk/featured-poem-pleasant-sounds-by-john-clare/

Course starting on Monday!

A course in secular mindfulness, based on the Breathworks model, is starting via Zoom this 23 November. It’s happening on Monday evenings 645-830 pm (UK GMT) until 8 February (not 28 December).

If you live in the UK and would like to know more about joining this course starting Monday 23 November (which is by donation but requires a non-returnable deposit of £50), please contact me immediately via the Comments and I can email you the tutor’s details.

https://www.breathworks-mindfulness.org.uk/our-approach-to-mindfulness-and-compassion

Pleasantries

How many words can you make out of the twelve letters of the word above?

In alphabetical order they are:

a e e i l p r s s t

How many of them have pleasant connotations for you? Would it please you to include them in a poem?

What would it be like to exchange pleasantries with others on your daily walk? Or via online groups and communities such as this one?