Life for me has always been broad, bountiful and boundless—filled to the brim with the miraculous grandeur of our natural surroundings and the sheer genius of interesting people, places and things.
But despite the travel, the people I have met and the big, wonderful experiences along the way, I have finally come to the conclusion that it is in the small, simple things where I tend to find the most meaning.
I’ve discovered that the care and keeping of my soul requires minor, humble pleasures to feed it. With regard to seeking contentment, I have come to understand the importance of living my life in the present in order to recognize modest but brilliant, small moments of beautiful simplicity. My happiness comes from being quietly moved instead of incredibly amazed.
While material things are fun and should be enjoyed, I no longer wish for exotic trips or a large home. I know I don’t have to attend fabulous parties or keep up with hoards of friends. I was so busy trying to move ahead and on to the next big thing or the next fun adventure, that I failed to savor what was and is right in front of my face—what is essentially and in most cases free for my grateful enjoyment—all the smaller, quieter things we all seem to take for granted without much celebration.
Sleep. A good night’s sleep is worth two paychecks and a bottle of Dom Perignon. Sleep uninterrupted by worry, children crying in the night, dogs barking or racing thoughts, is as good as gold and difficult to come by in the chaos that is life. After a full day of creative productivity or hard physical work, sleep feels like heaven. I used to rebel against bedtime—pushing it back into the wee hours, just so I could carve out some time for myself. Now that my days are filled to the brim with activity, I fall swiftly to sleep each night, exhausted. Sleep is both a relief and a reward.
“Sleep is the best meditation.” ~ Dalai Lama
Quality Sex. It doesn’t matter how often we indulge in carnal pleasures, what matters is how good it makes us feel. Quality sex happens when we communicate every want, wish and need within a moment of passion without the fear of our partner’s judgement, resentment or boredom. Quality sex is connection, intimacy and pure physical fun. And sex should be fun—because it sure is funny! We must learn to laugh in the happiness and silliness of sex, and stop trying so hard to make it perfect. We can let go in the excitement of a sexy, spontaneous moment. I always try to remember that my partner wants to have sex with me because I’m awesome—plain and simple—and it’s a game changer. Gone is the doubt and the self consciousness and the need for it to be a perfect experience. When I choose to be fearless and feel good about myself, and when I practice being present, my sex life is fun and good too.
“In my sex fantasy, nobody ever loves me for my mind.” ~ Nora Ephron
Water. Yes—plain, old, boring water is beautifully brilliant. Water is a big deal. Just ask a person living in a developing country where running water isn’t available or clean. Water feels wonderful inside and out. I love to listen to it and look at it. I want to be inside it—to have it luxuriously envelope me as I dip and dive. Water is a requirement for fun stuff like skating, boating and swimming. We need it to make things grow. Rain, waves and waterfalls could quite possibly be the most soothing sounds on God’s green earth. Watching the snow fall outside our window is nothing short of free therapy. For me, a tall, cool glass of water will usually remedy anything from my emotions running wild to an impending headache. Water, most of the time, is a simple, delightful, free treat for the senses not to be taken for granted.
“Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it.” ~ Lao Tzu
Coffee. This is the drug of choice for many. It’s the sweetest, most comforting addiction in the world. Nothing cures the blues, wakes me up or calms my spirit like a nice hot cup of coffee prepared just right. The aroma is magical. The positive effect of coffee on my overall mood is instantaneous and the universal love of coffee creates common ground (pun intended) for all humankind. Coffee is like a prolonged hugging session from a special person. It is one of the quietest and purest pleasures in life.
“If it wasn’t for the coffee, I’d have no identifiable personality whatsoever.” ~ David Letterman
Kindness. We can never underestimate the power of simple kindness. Kindness in thoughts, actions and words will transcend time, because people do not forget kindness, ever. It requires no money and very little effort. I find that throughout my day, there are many opportunities to practice being kind—and just a little goes a long way! It’s one of the greatest gifts that I, as a human being, have in my back pocket. And if I’m conscious, I can apply it to every situation that comes my way. I have learned to give it freely and as often as possible, because kindness, on any given day, adds up and can change the world.
“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” ~ Mark Twain
Saturday. Is there anything else in the world that “feels” like a Saturday? A day ripe with possibility—an open day (for many of us) of abundant, grand plans or carefree, unapologetic rest—Saturday just feels different. It’s a sleep-in, stay in the PJs and watch cartoons with the kids kind of day. It’s pancakes and catch-up conversations—or, it’s a get cracking on our two-page “honey do” list kind of day. Saturday walks the fine line between productivity and doing absolutely nothing. Do I vigorously clean my house, or do I lay in my hammock? That is a question that can only be asked on a Saturday.
“On Saturday afternoons when all the things are done in the house and there’s no real work to be done, I play Bach and Chopin and turn it up real loudly and get a good bottle of chardonnay and sit out on my deck and look out at the garden.” ~ Maya Angelou
Belly Laughs. Those times when something strikes us so funny it nearly kills us are ones that can’t be planned or replaced. Those full belly laughs, when we are doubled over, grabbing our sides, faces hurting and hardly breathing are some of the sweetest and most surprising moments of pure, free pleasure in our lives. They can happen anywhere, anytime and with anyone. I know that non- stop laughter that creates tears of joy are more than memorable—they help me stay healthy. In life, in my relationships and at work, a full blown attack of belly laughter always gives me hope.
“A smile starts on the lips, a grin spreads to the eyes, a chuckle comes from the belly; but a good laugh bursts forth from the soul, overflows, and bubbles all around.” ~ Carolyn Birmingham
Savasana. In the practice of yoga, there is a moment at the end of the session where we are encouraged to simply and profoundly let everything go. Let go of our thoughts, let go of our practice, and let go of all the cloggy stuff in our daily lives that may block our happiness. Savasana is final relaxation. It’s a reset of sorts, and it creates a peaceful tone to all actions, words and thoughts moving forward in our day. For me, the best thing about savasana is that it guides and permits me to let go, to be centered inside one small moment and to experience life quietly and inward.
“When you inhale, you are taking the strength from God. When you exhale, it represents the service you are giving to the world.” ~ BKS Iyengar
Animals. Wet noses, wagging tails, goofy faces, sly brush ups against our legs, little sounds, unconditional devotion—animals simply make the heart grow fonder. Our pets are fun to study and be around—their silly behaviors, true feelings and needs are an endless source of fascination. The fact that we must care for them because they can’t fend for themselves ensures a bonding that cannot be duplicated in some of our other relationships. For example, the undying love of my loyal dog, who only has eyes for me, is one of the greatest joys and gifts in my life.
“Animals are my friends…and I don’t eat my friends.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
Innocence. If you ever get the chance to pick up a baby and simply hold her—do it. The eyes, the smell, the weak flailing fists—all of it is precious and completely innocent. Talk to a five-year-old child who only wants to show you his little metal truck, and make all the sounds a truck makes as he slides it across the floor and up your leg. That small child harbors no cynicism, bigotry, prejudice or judgement. The innocence of children is what is good and perfect and right in the world. Recognizing innocence has taught me to live better, be better, care more and figure out a way to do less harm while practicing peace.
“The innocent and the beautiful have no enemy but time.” ~ William Butler Yeats
Celebrating small pleasures is easy because they are abundant in our lives. They make the daily experience of simply being human beautiful, without so many bells and whistles. As much as we may covet all that is bigger, brighter and more exciting, it is the smaller stuff—such as animals, coffee, Saturdays, kindness and laughing until our faces fall off—that truly nourishes and sustains us. Seeing the beauty inside the little things is what the human heart craves in order to feel fulfilled. My life indeed grows bigger and more beautiful every time I stop to see, feel, appreciate and wonder at the usually free, small, simple pleasures that feed my soul.
“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.” ~ Camille Pissarro
Author: Kimberly Valzania
Image: Flickr/Alexandra E Rust
Editors: Yoli Ramazzina; Emily Bartran