07.16.12 Truth & Wisdom

On Being a Responsible Hedonist

On Being a Responsible Hedonist

BY Sash Milne

Is being a self-confessed hedonist such a bad thing? Hedonists have gotten a pretty bad rap throughout history, what with all the egotism and pleasure seeking that more often than not leaves a trail of pain and destruction in its wake. But what if there was a new kind of pleasure seeking, a responsible kind?

I propose a different lifestyle choice to the daily grind that so many of us have found ourselves stuck in. An alternate option to the self-deprecating, depressing, woe full lives that our western culture seems to have told us is “normal”. Responsible hedonism, chasing your bliss with the wisdom to understand that being surrounded by other happy, cared for people makes life a thousand times better.

Imagine living the life that YOU really want. Imagine forgetting about the social constructs and expectations that you have been so tightly woven into and spend your days seeking the joy in life by actively pursuing your happiness. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? It’s amazing how something so freeing can be so difficult to achieve. It takes balls of steel some days to throw off the cloak of expectation and run in the direction of bliss. It takes a strong mind to learn to let go of your hang-ups and ignore the calls from your social conditioning – the urge to buy a house, work nine to five, climb the corporate ladder, conform to the latest trends. You don’t need it. Take a moment to discover what it is that makes you different, because you are. We all are. What is it that makes you truly happy?

You are 100% responsible when it comes to pursing your bliss. Bliss breeds bliss. The most transformative thing you will ever do is to truly understand that the happiness of the people around you is just as important as your own happiness… in fact, their happiness in turn will transform you into a happier person. I have in no way perfected this just yet, but I’m working on it. Every day I remind myself to try a little harder, to learn to let go, to breathe and to find awareness.

For me, being a responsible hedonist started when I was a wayward traveller, a wanderer finding myself by diving head first into rich cultures and exploring the great beyond. I spent months on the road, my life on my back, my heart on my sleeve. I would find myself in a new place, a new village, a new world and I would give to them before I took anything. I gave time, I gave supplies, I gave energy, I gave love. In orphanages, slum schools, rice fields I left a part of myself behind there. My happiness came directly from being useful. I took the time to listen. To the language, to the culture, to the world. And I began to learn what it is to be human, what it is to just exist when you strip back the things we don’t have any use for.

Responsible hedonism isn’t about getting what you want RIGHT NOW. It’s about patience. It’s about getting what you want, forever. Avoiding short term pleasures that are sure to lead to pain and thinking of creating a world around you with sustainable happiness.

Be a good lover. The best way to be a good lover is to start by loving yourself. For some people, myself included, this is perhaps the hardest part. Loving yourself isn’t something we are taught to do. In fact, we are encouraged not to. We are encouraged to look at our bodies and our minds with distaste and distrust… stop now. It’s hard, but you can do it. You don’t have to be a victim.

What makes you feel amazing? What gets your rocks off? What do you LOVE to do? This is what you should be doing for your bread and butter. We all have to work, we all need to make money, but we can all survive with so much less than we think. What are you willing to sacrifice for true, sustainable happiness? Before you do anything, ask yourself if it’s what you want. If the answer is yes, do it. If the answer is anything else… Don’t.

Being successful does not equal money, nor does it equal exhaustion. What is success if you are not happy? What is experience without someone to share it with? Let go. Trust the good in yourself and behave responsibly. Today, tomorrow and every day that follows get up in the morning and do something that makes you smile. Allow yourself to truly come alive. This is your life, so live it your way.

Break free. We are taught that hard work means suffering, that success means sacrifice, that relationships will hold us back. We are taught to complain first and celebrate later. We are all more likely to share a woeful story than to shout from a roof top with unrestrained joy. It’s sad, isn’t it? We cut people down who we see as more successful – we are taught not to rest. I struggle with this every day. I struggle to give myself a break, to stop expecting so much, to save myself from disappointment, to keep challenging my own social conditioning.

I will continue to struggle because now I’m a parent. And I have this little girl who I am responsible for and I finally realise what I’ve been doing wrong all these years. I have been in my own care, and I haven’t been doing a very good job. It is my job to guide my daughter, to help her learn, to lead her in the right directly and ultimately to set her free. How can I possibly do that if I can’t first learn how to do the same thing for myself? I want to teach her how to be happy and proud and joyful, I want to show her that happiness comes from people not things and that true success, true love, true joy has no dollar value. There is no way I can truly teach her these lessons if I don’t at least try to live them every single day of my life. Some days I fall miserably flat. I doubt myself. I pity myself. I cry. I wallow in my own pity. Then I pick myself up and I start again. Tomorrow is a brand new day, and I have another chance to get it right, to be the person that I know I can be. For myself, for my daughter, for the world.

Transforming your life is a constant state of being. It doesn’t happen instantly. Even if you can only manage an hour of freedom before those little voices start chipping away at you – that hour could change your world. Try it. I dare you. Allow yourself to play. Love easily. Forget past mistakes. Forgive indiscretions. Give without expecting return. Go home! Leave the dishes unwashed and the clothes unfolded. Get outside and play with your kids. Eat what makes you feel good. Follow your bliss. It’s those little things you do today that can change the very fabric of your life tomorrow.

Featured image by Janaina Castelo on Flickr

Sash is an untameable freelance writer who marches to the beat of her own drum. This young Aussie mama is all about women’s rights, freedom, open minds, laughter and diving headfirst into a life that’s worth living. Sash currently lives in a remote village somewhere on the coast of Java, Indonesia with her surfer husband and their five month old baby Bo. You can find her at the popular blog Inked in Colour, where first time parenthood, wanderlust and the path less travelled meet.


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