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book review: the pleasure prescription

When a book uses phrases like “the seventh sense,”  ”the third path” and “rational hedonism” it’s got my attention.  This book, The Pleasure Prescription by Paul Pearsall, certainly got mine, and in a most unusual way.

At this point, my bookshelves are overflowing with books on sex and intimacy – many of which I have yet to read!  Sex, relatonships, intimacy, these are hot topics nowadays and everyone’s got something to say about them… even if what they say isn’t worth listening to.  Which is all to say, when I’ve got multiple shelves worth of books to catch up on, I don’t often buy books on a whim.  Except this book.

It immediately caught my eye the moment I walked into – you guessed it! – the local Value Village.  Thrift store whore all the way, baby – I love the thrill of the hunt, and the thrill of the deal doesn’t hurt either.  The book section can be a bit of a pain, but this book jumped right out – look at me, look at me!  I figure anything with the word “pleasure” in the title is worth checking out, so I thumbed through it and immediately put it in my basket.  Sold.

This isn’t your ordinary sex book.  In fact, it’s not a sex book at all.  The Pleasure Prescription is about transforming your life into a life of healthy pleasure, through the lens of ancient Polynesian practices and modern psychology.

Imagine that: a life governed by healthy pleasure, instead of enlightenment or success.  Paul Pearsall speaks of the Polynesian way as “the third path,” in addition to success-driven Western culture and the enlightenmight-oriented East.  He invites us into this world through aloha, meaning “shared breath.”  (Westerners in Polynesia are often referred to as haole, meaning “breathless” or “out of breath.”)

Unlike either the Western or Eastern approaches, the path of aloha specifically embraces connection and community.  It’s not about getting anywhere – success, enlightnment, or otherwise – it’s about really being where you are.  And that means being connected to everyone and everything around you.  This sense of interconnection or unity is called lokahi, and is one of the five principles of aloha, along with ahonui (patience), ‘olu’olu (pleasantness), ha’aha’a (humility), and akahai (tenderness).

Now, even though you’re probably not Polynesian and may know no more about this way of life than what you’ve just read, consider this for a moment.  Consider living a life where feeling good was the key to a life well-lived.  Consider a life where everyone feeling good was what really mattered.  And not just everyone people.  Everyone everyone – plants, animals, rocks, all that is… including people.  Isn’t there just something that feels right when you imagine living this way?  I feel a rightness in my bones, my breath deepens, and a smile begins to pull at the corners of my mouth.  Paul would say this is is my seventh sense: my sense of healthy pleasure.  And I say: yes, please.

I believe we all have this: this seventh sense of pleasure that resides in our bones and our bodies.  Paul thought so too – just that some of us were brought up in cultures like this one, where we’ve covered it up, chosen to focus on things like success, money, fame and power – things we’ve been told will make us happy but actually never will (don’t believe me? check out What Happy People Know by Dan Baker and Cameron Stauth).

And think about what this success-driven culture has done to our sex lives – we want bigger dicks, bigger boobs, more orgasms and better-looking partners.  What if we slowed down and took some pleasure in our bodies as they are?  (And what if, paradoxically, that opened the door to experiencing even more pleasure?)  What if we chose to notice our interconnection in sex, chose to notice how our partner’s body responded to our touch, and found pleasure there as well?

IN SHORT: The Pleasure Prescription is not a book about sex – in fact, it barely even touches on the subject (if it did, I’d have given it five stars instead of four).  But reading it will do more for your sex life than most sex books out there, because it will change how you approach sex.  I highly recommend checking it out.

In the spirit of interconnection, I want to acknowledge both with sadness and humility that the ancestors of Western culture, who are my ancestors and perhaps yours as well, were brutal in their treatment of the Polynesian peoples.  They not only took their lands – modern-day Hawaii, Samoa, New Zealand and many others – but attempted to destroy their language, spirituality and culture.  This continues to affect modern-day Polynesians, many of whom now struggle with poverty and addiction.  I am humbled at the willingness of the kahunas (healers) and kupunas (elders) Paul spoke to in the making of this book, that they so generously chose to share their wisdom and culture with the very peoples who have tried to destroy it.  May we receive their wisdom with gratitude, and be part of creating a kinder, gentler world.

  • http://www.positivelifechanges.ca/ Ina Stockhausen

    Great post Julie and thanks for finding that book and sharing it with us. It sounds like something I want to have on my professional and personal book shelf as well :)

    • JulieHekate

      Thanks Ina! I hope you find it as useful and inspirational as I did.