Savoring Your Way to Sustainable Happiness

September 28, 2011

The practice of savoring is a learned skill that is a key pathway to Sustainable Happiness. It can give us the motivation to choose to spend our time in ways that make us happy. Savoring can be a tool to overcome challenge and move through pain. By remembering the experiences that have brought us great joy or practicing present moment savoring, we can give ourselves a moment of relief in the pain of a stressful situation, which can truly be the recharge we need to keep moving forward.

Did you know it’s possible to intensify and prolong pleasure by choosing to savor? Have you ever thought, “I wish this moment of pleasure could last longer?” Research findings in the Science of Positive Psychology indicate that deliberate strategies can make it possible to increase and extend pleasure. For example, have you ever noticed yourself gazing at someone you love, just taking in every detail of their face, without them having any awareness of your gaze. I’ve done this with my daughter from the time she was a newborn to her thirtyseventh year. (Now that’s a heap of pleasure spanning 37 years!)

This simple act of savoring is not only a path to prolonging pleasure but also a path to sustainable happiness. Savoring takes me well beyond the exquisite beauty of my beloved daughter’s face, into an awareness of my feelings of love and gratitude for her and then, into an awareness of the uniqueness of this wise woman who has found what is hers to do in this world and forward into an awareness of the blessing she is in my life and the lives of others…and the added awareness keeps on moving forward until I’m forced to stop my private, savoring gaze because she has turned her head in my direction. Nothing of my pleasure is lost however, because that extended moment of pleasure can be savored again tomorrow, next week, next month or when ever I choose to remember it. “Times remembered are not lost; joys remembered are joys again.” Victoria Hamilton wrote these favorite words of mine in 1974. I suspect she had discovered and deeply understood the power of savoring as one of the pathways to sustainable happiness.

In the Sustainable Happiness Workshop Series that begins on November 5th, I will be suggesting a specific savoring experience to help you attend to, appreciate and enhance a positive experience. It’s called:  Savoring a Beautiful Day.

I offer you this idea now, to give you a little nibble of the strategies you will learn on your pathway to Sustainable Happiness. In this experience, you set aside a block of time for your own pleasure (a minimum of one hour or a maximum of a full eight-hour day.) I suggest treating yourself to a half day and that will be a perfect beginning. Block the time out on your calendar and protect it from all the many things that often wiggle their way in and could potentially interfere. Decide upon a particular activity or series of activities that you know will bring you pleasure. While you are immersed in your day, bring your awareness to your intention to savor every detail of pleasure. Focus on the details that bring pleasure and block out those details that vi for your attention or constitute kill joy thinking. For instance, avoid reminding yourself of other things you should be doing; of what comes next in terms of your responsibilities later on; or of ways your experience could be improved. Take mental photographs that you can pull forward in your memory later or perhaps select a physical memento allowing you to reminisce about your experience with others when you share with them later. The single best way to savor pleasure is to share your experience with others.

I also find writing about it during the experience adds to the savoring as well as providing an opportunity for your post experience reading pleasure, which provides savoring once again. Let yourself become totally immersed, moving out of your head and into your senses. When I chose to Savor a Beautiful Day, I decided to write about what I was totally immersed in at the moment of my savoring. I found that, for me, because I’m able to go deeper inside myself when I write, this choice enhanced my experience greatly. For others, you might find other fullfilling ways of recording your experience, possibly through photographs, a video or maybe a piece of artwork.

I’d like to share some of my experience with you. On a bright, sunny yet chilly Fall day, I spent my day savoring the Brandywine River from the vantage point of a small solarium-like space inside the Brandywine River Museum.  It was and still is a beloved space, visited often over a span of 40 years.  Here is an excerpt which records my observations during my experience of savoring.

” Rivers always move me to a contemplative place.  They take me to my sacred interior.  I think about the journey of my life – the flow of my life – where it’s been and where it’s going.  There is no controlling the ‘river of life’.  It has its path and it’s on its way, no matter what the obstacles, no matter how fast or slow.  Every section of light on the river can quickly shift to a section of shadow.  It can’t be stopped or altered.

Today, the speed of the current is very rapid. When I stare at the point on the river right in front of me, neither up river nor down river, in my peripheral vision, I can see the new river water approaching from my right and leaving from my left. The spot right in front of me has no staying power, no permanence whatsoever. With each second that passes, the image in front of me changes dramatically.  I see water, bubbles, ripples, light and shadow repeated…but never once are these common ingredients creating sameness.  It’s rather like staring into a fire and watching the immense variety in one moment and then the next.  And that’s my Zen view of the spot on the river right in front of me. Next, when I widen my view without shifting my body even one degree, I see the equivalent of a grand vista, an expansive landscape stretching out across the river and the land.  That’s how much detail there is in one moment of savoring my beloved Brandywine River. I receive her beauty and the gift of wisdom about life that she offers me today.”

I then listed the emotions I noticed within me. They included: peace, serenity, gentle sadness, gratitude, inspiration, joy, regret, wonder, and awe. Then I recorded the rest of what was in my awareness. 1) Silence in the midst of voices all around me. 2) Warmth of the sun through the glass window. 3) My own reflection in the window, like a beautiful painting or a portrait superimposed upon the image of the river.  The lighting that captures this moment in time and makes it possible for me to bear witness to it is extraordinary. 4) Contentment. 5) Elongation of time. 6) The absence of an awareness of the passage of time. 7) The stillness of the land in contrast to the fast flowing river. 8) The steadiness of the trunks of the trees, yet the gentle movement of the branches of the same trees. 9) A moment of no one being here except me; all the voices have gone; the gift of true solitude is mine. 10) What the current of the river does to the surface of the water is so amazing.  In the sunlight, it looks like a thin layer of water blowing across a mirror, yet the textures are two numerous to count. 11) Suddenly I become present to the passage of time and notice an inner inquiry about whether or not I should continue to stay? A gentle reminder to “savor” is needed, even when a moment ago I was completely in the flow of savoring. I ask myself to choose focused attention again. 12) I know there are other matters of importance, yet just for now, it seems this is all there is. This is my world, my reality fully embraced, fully valued, fully loved, fully honored. 13) I’m aware of a sense of gratitude heaped upon gratitude! I’m sitting in a solarium with the Brandywine River as my familiar companion and spirit guide, so full of her wisdom and comfort. 14) This is living in the present. This is savoring. This is  my appreciation of beauty and excellence fully operational. Making this choice is a reminder to me of how easy this is to achieve.  It’s simply an intention acted out in a choice. 15) This is restorative. This is meaningful. This is the privilege of intimacy with me, surrounded by the power of nature to reveal, to distill, and to inspire. I am so happy.”

My day at the river is an example of savoring the present.  Reading about my experience weeks, months or in this case, even years later (2004), is an example of savoring the past.   Just now, as I’ve been sharing my experience with you, I’ve had yet another experience of savoring the past. Yes, it’s about the past but all the details come fully forward to provide the benefits of that day all over again.  Joys remember are indeed, joys again.

It’s also possible to savor the future in terms of anticipation. Here’s a wonderful example of savoring through anticipation. A number of years ago, I asked the members of my Sustainable Happiness Workshop Series to describe in writing an ideal day that would be deeply satisfying. I asked, “What might you wear? Do? See? Eat? What would feed your soul?”  I’d like to share some excerpts from the ideal day described by one of my clients who is an artist, and designer of beautiful spaces.

“I’d be expecting to get together with my best friend for a day of savoring and mutual appreciation.  I’d pick out a fun, artsy, comfortable skirt with a casual top and “play” with my jewelry until I found just the right touches.  Shoes…pretty but comfortable. Casual enough for the day of ‘whatever’, but kind of sexy, glitzy enough for whatever the evening brings.  We could be headed off to Grounds for Sculpture in NJ, where the hour drive would add the dimension of extra time to talk, or listen and sing along to great music in the car. We would enjoy what is newly on exhibit but would also allow for an outdoor experience of beauty and calm. We are not in a hurry and we are allowing the day to unfold. We also will make time to wander around in the well-appointed gift shop and each find at least one treasure to take away…or maybe some little things for our friends. We will stop for an elegant, healthy lunch of salmon, salad, veggies, good bread and a light cocktail, finished off with a delicious piece of dark chocolate before we move on. If we haven’t been to Longwood Gardens for a while, we might stop there once closer to home, where we will only explore and enjoy the outdoors.  As luck would have it, there will be a free concert of Latin American music on the large open steps  –  beautiful instruments as well as beautifully blended singing harmony, upbeat, exciting as well as lovely and soothing. We will easily sit or stand under a tree canopy and feel our own relaxation as well as the relaxation of others.  The music, combined with the cool breeze rustling the leaves, is transporting.  How lucky we are to be in such a serene setting! Dinner will wind up at Harry’s Seafood Grill on the Delaware River and we’ll sit outside. The sun will be warm on our skin – not too hot, with a lovely breeze. New foods to try. A great drink or two, and then top it off with a shared chocolate dessert. In the meantime, we are sharing the satisfaction of being with one another…talking about light things and laughing, and also some deeper things. Probably, each coming away with some much valued insight, and a sense of knowing each other even more fully than before.  After dinner, if there is a special concert in town, we will have tickets and be totally excited about it.  Diana Krall, Josh Groban, Stevie Wonder, Keb’Mo, Sweet Honey in the Rock, a dance ensemble, Aretha Franklin, a gospel concert…or someone new to us. We will have great seats and be totally energized by the music, the atmosphere and the intimacy achieved even though it is a large concert. We stay around a bit after the show, and wind up meeting some of the people in their entourage who invite us backstage for an informal after-party. We mingle easily, meeting new people. Enjoy the hor d’oeuvres, cocktails and the welcoming atmosphere, and even dance informally as many others are doing. It’s probably about midnight or 1am. We are both pleasantly tired and still excited enough to recap highlights from the day as they come back to us on the way home. As the long day comes to an end, I find myself at home in my cozy, wonderful bedroom, and as I always do, find time to do some reading, breathe deeply, express my gratitude, and turn off the light…knowing I have the next day off  to savor the wonderful time and replenish myself quietly for the week ahead.”

Go ahead. Do this yourself! Describe your ideal day and savor the future as you create all the special details unique to what brings you pleasure.  Notice if the anticipation feeds your soul and if you feel happy while you are imagining and describing your ideal day.  And of course, I hope after designing your day,  you will do every thing you can to live it in real-time!   I invite you to contact me if you can join us on November 5th.


WHERE: Fairville Village, 518 Kennett Pike, Chadds Ford, PA 19317 (in the beauty and comfort of Erin Bobo and Eric Webb’s MFR studio)

WHEN:  Introductory Workshop is Saturday, November 5th

TIME:     1:00-4:00 pm

FEE:        $65


PHONE: 302 888 2345

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