The Greek philosopher Epicurus taught men and women in his garden school in Athens the principles of exploring pleasure in ones life. Epicurus described pleasure as ataraxia, which is sometimes translated as ‘tranquility’ or ‘peace of mind’. Today in the modern world the word “pleasure” can have a lot of negative associations, with connections to living a hedonistic life, of indulgent behavior, enjoying sex and drugs, wild parties etc. Even the term “epicurean” has been reduced to this level. Epicurus and his teachings could not be further removed from a state of hedonistic living. He taught his students to live a simple life; he was a vegetarian and encouraged the cultivation of friendship as being one of the most important activities in life. Pleasure is an important part of life and something that as human beings we need. There is a difference between a compulsive or neurotic desire for sex or food, that too often, after the event, leaves us feeling empty, and an experience of sex or friendship (or even a delicious meal) that may leave us feeling deeply satisfied. To allow ourselves to be fully open to pleasure, in a full and receptive way, means being aware and alive to our experience; being embodied allowing for a sensitivity to our senses, of taste, touch, smell, sound; giving it time and space so that we may come into deeper relationship to our friend or lover, or even the meal on our plate.
“The true Epicurean is a person who weaves these pleasures into a life where labor and pleasure intertwine in a beautiful knot where one may be profoundly implicated in the other.” Thomas Moore, psychologist