Enjoyment vs hedonism

This is an important one to get thoughts clear on. What is the difference between pursuing and fostering a life of enjoyment and simply being hedonistic? Is there anything wrong with being hedonistic? Where does the vaguely negative connotation come from? Am I a hedonist because I want pleasure?——–
From dictionary :

he·don·ism  (hdn-zm)n.
1. Pursuit of or devotion to pleasure, especially to the pleasures of the senses.
2. Philosophy The ethical doctrine holding that only what is pleasant or has pleasant consequences is intrinsically good.
3. Psychology The doctrine holding that behavior is motivated by the desire for pleasure and the avoidance of pain.[Greek hdon, pleasure; see swd- in Indo-European roots + -ism.]

he•don•ism (ˈhid nˌɪz əm) 
n.1. the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the highest good.
2. devotion to pleasure and self-gratification as a way of life.
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en•joy•ment (ɛnˈdʒɔɪ mənt) n.
1. the act of enjoying.
2. a feeling of pleasure and satisfaction; delight; gratification.
3. the possession, use, or occupancy of something satisfying or advantageous.
4. a particular form or source of pleasure: Bowling is his greatest enjoyment.
5. the exercise of a legal right: the enjoyment of an estate.
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Yes, I am promoting a way of life where pleasure of the senses is pursued and encouraged, where an enjoyment and appreciation of the life we have is bordering on the sacred. I believe that being a person who emmanates enjoyment and contentment is much nicer to have around than a moody stressed or angry being, and indeed being happy encourages those around us to feel the same. A difference is that I see the highest good as striving for a FULL life, of truth and authenticity, fostering the courage to find and live a life in that manner. This journey does not mean avoiding pain, in fact true development ofen involves significant growing pains and the occasional ordeal! And I am certainly prone to moodyness and anger; if anything I am more expressive of this than I used to be when disconnected from my body. Pleasure is not an escape or ultimate goal but rather one of the more satsifying fruits of being alive.

This blog was born from a growing understanding of how important it is for my full life to include enjoyment. How there is an art to creating space and events to enjoy, and a conscious awareness required to deeply savour and allow these moments. Rather than wait and hope for my life to bear fruits, I wish to become more actively engaged in the cultivation, nourishment, and care of the tree which produces them. I want bountiful harvests I can share with my friends. I want to plant enjoyment-trees in every aspect of my life; eating, movement, working, friendships, love. I want clear the weeds and strangling vines that limit and twist my trees, and in doing so learn how to help others identify and do the same.

Back to hedonism. I’m not sure if I have ever seen someone living in a truly balanced hedonistic manner. I see people spending periods of time being hedonistic, and usually there is a sense of unsustainability to it – that the money, time, drugs, sex, rock and roll etc will burn them out one way or another. I also haven’t seen people living purely hedonisitically. What I have seen time and again, including in myself, is bursts of intense hedonism as a strong reaction against feeling ground down, over worked, over caring, or just tired / unfulfilled. Sometimes these bursts are just for a few hours, or a weekend, or in repeated patterns for years. I spent quite a few years in my twenties indulging in all sorts of pleasureable actvities at the expense of other work, much of it a liberation-reaction from spending most of my teenage years working my arse off to get good grades. That plus years of trying to earn people’s friendship and love by doing things for them or to please them. A lot of my hedonistic adventures I claimed without care for others, as often a deliberately selfish act that came from a sense of ‘I deserve to have this’ or ‘I can’t do without it’ or ‘I’ve waited so long for this/everyone else has had some, now it’s my turn’. They were fun and exciting but not particularly artful and often resulted in someone in the background being let down or worried for me. I had spent a long time not feeling like I was able or had the power to create enjoyment for myself, plus I was so disconnected from myself that in order to feel anything it needed to be strong and intense. I couldn’t just relax into pleasure, I had to chase it, control it, grasp it, stop it from getting away! I got quite good at creating pleasureable situations for myself, but not so good at sustaining a sense of enjoyment in life. Much of my pleasure felt like a release or escape or both.

I have come to notice that some of the most extreme hedonistic behaviour comes from those who spend a lot of time thinking about others, working really hard, not allowing enough down time, and not knowing how to ask for their own needs to be met. The only way to really let go and enjoy is to take drugs or drink or indulge in sex or eat chocolate cake or spend hours playing computer games or reading self help books or whatever it is. To jump headlong into some other immersive activity and ignore what anyone else thinks or wants. In fact I’m starting to wonder if procrastination is just a low grade hedonism for people who feel too guilty to allow a fuller pleasure? I often procrastinate when I feel a sort of resentment at “having” to do a thing that doesn’t feel great, but I can’t fully allow myself to do something actively different and fun. From what i have been reading (primal and paelo living books, the energy project etc) humans are an instictively playful species and need time to have fun and enjoy in order to stay healthy and on top of our game.

I can just about remember being a child and approaching events in my life with a natural curiosity and seeking enjoyment. I loved drawing, pretending to be animals, making dens and being outside. As a teenager I spent a lot of time enjoying playing computer games, but for the last ten years have struggled to enjoy them as they feel a “waste of time”. I’m also getting a lot less nature time than my soul really needs to stay balanced and alive. At some point I learnt that life should be divided into play time and work time, and then was taught that I wasn`t “allowed” my play time till all the work was done. But the work is never “all done” as an adult so the old strategy led to nothing but chronic stress/anxiety/depression and over work intermixed with periods of going a bit wild and reckless. I`m not quite sure where this was all going to go, but felt that perhaps by serving some greater life plan I could give it all some meaning and purpose.

Lately I was hit by a cloud of resentment at humanity in general, and the feeling that I have spent years studying health and bodywork therapies all to help some strangers feel better. What about me? I was sort of matyring myself as a servant for life, but neglecting myself still. And what is the grand purpose and meaning? The closest I have ever got is this : “just be.” I picked this up aged 16 but still struggle to really and truly accept the depths of that except in certain delicious moments. What I see now is that truly, nobody will turn up and tell you what you are ‘supposed’ to be doing. It is up to us to decide and chose how we want to live and be, whether it flows with our natures or not : our will is a potent force and shapes us as much as external events. I have found different chapters in my life bring certain gifts, challenges, lessons, and for me recently there has been a huge shift, perhaps even a whole new book. Instead of reacting and surviving and overcoming struggles, I have a chance now to create something new, that I can choose. No one else is telling me who I should be, or what my life should look like. It has felt a little disconcerting!

This is my current challenge and life chapter – I wish to develop, explore, share the art of enjoyment. This is no reactive hedonism, this is something I want to claim back as a central part of my life. Instead of letting my overactive intellectual worrying mind look for flaws and problems I wish to turn it to creating and discerning possibilities to enjoy. I will test my hypothesis that to live with free flowing enjoyment is to be healthy, full and alive. That it doesn`t have to be done at the expense of others or of progressing and developing yourself. I will allow myself guilt free enjoyment and find ways to foster pleasure through my body and senses. Not to limit or hide from my world, but to inspire and expand it. Like any art, practice and development is required, but I will keep this simple. I do not need the excuse of enlightenment seeking or mysticism to wrap this in – instead I claim the beauty of life in itself, just to be, to be in a life I am enjoying. Feel-love-create.

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