I recently heard a speaker say that our culture is designed to replace happiness with pleasure. He also said that our culture wants to sell pleasure as the substitute for happiness. As I spend my day reflecting on and recovering from my weekend excursions in Brooklyn NY, I couldn’t agree more. Although it was really nice visiting the big city of dreams filled with its historic and new sights, it was easy to overlook the simple things in awe of all the novelty and many pleasures in a city that seemed endless in possibilities and entertainment. Sometimes we miss the simple things in lieu of all the immediate things that get us going.  My biggest temptation was the food!

One of the things that really kept me centered and focused in my own inner sanctuary was the health and wellness spa/apartment where I stayed, an Airbnb. When I first booked the space, I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy it as it didn’t have a television, Internet or any special amenities. I was well aware that this place was offering one thing and one thing only, a clean place to lay my head. I knew it would be a short weekend stay and more than likely, I would be ripping and running in downtown Brooklyn, spending lots of cash or stuffing my face. If I wanted to really do it big, I could hop on the C train and head over to Times Square—it was just one train ride away. I thought for sure I would have a regular NY style night on the town! Contrary to what I expected, it was the complete opposite.

The spa/apartment was not open for business during my stay, so that really allowed me to take in the whole atmosphere and feel the serenity the space had to offer. Despite the action right on the other side of the bolt-locked door, an ATM machine right in front of the building, the loud NY sirens, horns blowing, and the festive Mexican restaurant next door, I found a peace of mind there that I would have never imagined. It literally was the better of two worlds!

I was all ready to return to my home town, worn out after a long weekend; instead I came home feeling as though I had been on a retreat. I took in as much of downtown as time allowed, and all-in-all, I really enjoyed myself. In fact, I even paid Times Square a little visit on my way home.  But, more than anything, I found a balance in between the guilty pleasures that my body and my mind needed.

It all made me think about the speaker saying that we are conditioned to stay connected to so much “stuff” that we forget to give ourselves permission to disconnect. Even in my quest to seek a very minimalist life style, I mostly applied the non-minimalist lifestyle to clutter, excess bills, and things that I no longer wanted to feel an obligation to. I never really disconnected enough to feel the effect of not having a tv for a weekend, or no Internet service with nothing except a bed, a chair, and a light. I took advantage of that time reading for a few hours, resting, and looking off the balcony into the city running, as I stood there in a place of peace. Whenever I go away, like most folks, I’m used to having the royal carpet rolled out with amenities. However, this level of relaxation (when I wasn’t walking for miles sightseeing) brought me a sense of calm and still that I sought to bring back home with me. This experience of finding simple pleasure in my own being made me want to go deeper and do some soul searching and incorporate more quiet times like this into my life. No television, no connections, and no time restraints, just being.

While I know we love our “stuff”, it is equally important to love your “own” company minus all the guilty pleasures and connections to the things that have just become culturally part of our everyday life. Today be still; or even bolder, take some time for yourself without any notifications vying for your attention. Walk outside, take in the fresh air in the morning, and just be–no earphones, no cell phone–just BE. When we allow ourselves this space as often as possible, but at least occasionally; we clear our heads and create new fresh thoughts, and we even release the tension built up in our bodies.

In closing I will say our culture may push more and more stuff to bring us happiness and pleasure, but you can be the 20% that understands the value of being filled with personal gratification and less stuff (sometimes).