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March 21, 2023

Distinction between Ego and Unique Self #24 – Pleasure: Delusion or Divine

from Your Unique Self by Dr. Marc Gafni

(c) 2012 photo courtesy of domdeen

©2012 photo courtesy of domdeen

Money, power, and pleasure, when experienced at the level of ego, appear separate from the divine field and trap you in the clutches of grasping and striving. When experienced from the level of enlightened consciousness, money, power, and pleasure are expressions of your Unique Self touching the divine. Pleasure from the place of Unique Self is experienced as a divine caress reminding you that the world is sane and good. Ego pleasures feel narcissistic, and solidify the coiled contraction into small self. They never satisfy; you are constantly driven to get more and more, and someone else’s pleasure makes you feel your own lack. The same pleasure experienced from the consciousness of Unique Self expands your heart and consciousness into the love-intelligence, love-beauty, and love-pleasure of All-That-Is. You are satisfied by even the simplest pleasure, and you delight in the pleasure of others.

Similarly, power and money grasped by the ego seek to support the false belief of the separate self that it will live forever. Power and money are used to accumulate goods you do not need, and to acquire superficial control over others in order to assure yourself that you are valuable and worthy. Money and power experienced from the consciousness of Unique Self are gracefully and skillfully deployed with delight for the greater good of all beings.

Separate from the divine field, money, pleasure, and power appear as foolish and even grotesque identity enhancers for the ego. This becomes radically apparent whenever we encounter death. The ego is confused. It fails to discern between separateness and uniqueness, and so the goods of existence are hijacked to serve its own impossible goal of survival—separate from the larger field of love-beauty-pleasure-intelligence from which it was never separate and never can be separated.

Correct intuitions that are hijacked and misapplied by the ego are contextualized and reclaimed at the level of Unique Self. These include eternity and the finite goods of the world, the goodness of pleasure, the divine aspect of power, and more. All of these are reclaimed without grasping at the level of Unique Self.

Further Discussion:

One of the things Dr. Marc teaches us to recognize about pleasure is that it is not pain’s opposite. In fact, he teaches:

The opposite of pain is comfort. To achieve pleasure you must be willing to bear the discomfort of being displeasing to yourself, of feeling worthless, inadequate, depressed. It is only by sitting in the pain that you can find the pleasure. (p. 282 of Unique Self)

In a great video series on pleasure, linked here, Dr. Marc discusses how decadence, generativity, pain, pleasure, and comfort are woven together in our society in a way that keeps us locked in pursuit of addictions and pseudo-eros.  To reframe our relationship to pain and access true pleasure, we have to be willing to give up some dimension of our comfort for a time (1st principle of pleasure link), which is known as delayed gratification of our desires. Then, we have to be willing to develop the skills and make the effort to reach unique pleasure.

To follow these pleasure teachings is to avoid becoming “comfortably numb” in the lyrics of Pink Floyd. When we realize that skill and effort and delayed gratification are required for our greater pleasure, we avoid the decadence and degeneration of endlessly pursuing just our comforts, which bring us pseudo-pleasures. “All pleasure dances with pain,” Dr. Marc says here,“If I avoid pain, I’ll achieve comfort.  Then, I’ll wonder at the end of my life why didn’t I ever get any pleasure?”

Marc also says in this same video entitled “The Opposite of Pleasure is Comfort,” “Decadence is the belief that pleasure and pain are opposites.” When we are in decadence (“de-cadence”), we have lost the cadence or flow of our lives and reality. When we degenerate (“de-generate”) through an addiction to comfort, we enter a place where we are not creating and engaging in self-creation.

Not only is true pleasure a return from the pseudo-eros of mere comforts, but we also find that we have a Unique obligation to experience pleasure.  Further, pleasure is an invitation into our own hearts. Here is an excerpt about that invitation as part of our enlightenment from a joint teaching by Marc Gafni and Sally Kempton in 2010 on the Yoga of Pleasure (Also join them for the “Falling in Love with the Divine” event at Esalen in October).

We often don’t realize the connection between pleasure and enlightenment. Yet one of the secrets of true spiritual growth is to move into, not away from, our deepest sources of pleasure.

Pleasure is the natural doorway into spirit. By knowing your own pleasure, and how to explore and expand it into its divine source, you can enter directly into the truth. When we are cut off from the depth of our pleasure, we are also cut off from our own heart, and our own truth.

The tantric traditions understand that all pleasure comes from and leads into a divine source. They unfolded a yoga of pleasure and a path to transformation based on recognizing and entering deeply into subtler and subtler levels of enjoyment. As we learn and practice the yoga of pleasure, we awaken to the heart of our own joy, we begin to find the real pleasure that reveals itself in every moment of life—even the tough moments.

We all experience levels of pleasure, and at every level, there is a way to go deeper. From the physical pleasure of eating, dancing, or using your body well, to the subtler joys of love, creativity and service, to the ultimate pleasure described by the sages, we can learn how to make pleasure a path to the heart.

For more on this teaching, such as details on the five levels of pleasure and the full 13 principles of pleasure, watch this video-series:

This truly life-changing teaching will show you how pleasure is a genuine option for you that can be identified and derived from all five levels, which are listed below:

The Five Levels of Pleasure

  1. Physical World Pleasures
  2. Love and Relationship Pleasures
  3. Living a Great Cause, Living for Meaning, Working for an Ideal Pleasures
  4. True Self Pleasures—the pleasure from participating in the oneness of all that is.
  5. Living your Unique Self and Story Pleasures—the pleasure of being and becoming and of realizing your Unique joy, gift, obligation, and responsibility.


  • When is a time that you have tried to be more comfortable in your life and avoid pain?
  • When is a time that you have been willing to delay gratification in order to reach a unique pleasure in your life?

View a much broader discussion of pleasure here as part of a playlist that explores many detailed aspects of these teachings.

And, be sure to join Marc Gafni and Sally Kempton in Esalen in October.  Click here for more details and to register.>>>


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