Pleasure is a complex topic and I often feel like I’m playing with a gnarly ball of yarn. Which thread do I pull at first?
I’m just back from a teaching weekend, and now preparing to go to Israel to teach about pleasure. Pleasure is a topic that’s catching traction. I love how working with a group, pulling at the various threads that arise, helps me go deeper; helps me hold the topic more fulsomely.
It’s an inside job
When I step back and look at pleasure from a big picture perspective, one of the key principles I notice is: it’s an inside job.
We have to nurture an openness to pleasure within ourselves
Of course, the life that’s all around us, that we are immersed in every moment, holds copious stimulation for pleasure – in particular our close human connections. That being said, we have to nurture an openness to pleasure within ourselves, for any of that to really matter.
This past weekend we made a lot of links between nurturing the life force energy – that sacred spark of life that enervates all living things, and capacity for pleasure. Being in connection with our life force energy, feeling the scared pulse within us can be pleasurable in itself.
As long as we’re alive, our life force energy is there. Sometimes when we’re overtaxed or life has become a slog, that force dims. But the cool thing about it is that it’s elastic – always there and it waxes and wanes dependent on our attention to it. When we give our attention to it, it grows. There’s an interdependent connection between that inner spark and pleasure. Just being in touch with that inner spark is pleasurable, and when we open to pleasure, it feeds the spark. It can increase from a small ember, into a blaze.
What feeds your energy?
A question I often ask someone I’m working with is: What feeds your energy and what squashes it? In particular what are the habits, the “oh, so familiar habits” of thought and behaviour that nourishes your vitality, and what diminishes it? That’s a central pleasure question.
This divine spark of which we’re in relationship to all the time, consciously or unconsciously, is a gift. It’s the first and most important gift we’ll ever receive. Paying attention to your spark is a first step in unlocking pleasure. If your spark is at low ebb, it will be hard to notice or connect with the pleasure around you. If, as a first step, you turn your attention inward and breathe into that spark, give it your loving gaze; you will notice your overall energy picks up – little by little. As that happens you may notice you can begin to turn your focus outward, to the richness of life around you.
An Inner Pleasure Practice
When you’re at low ebb, breathe and movement are an easy in. It may need to be very slow and gentle movement at the start – even attention to the breath creates waves of movement in your energy system. But it’s the close and intimate attention to that wave that is important. Slow the mind and get curious about what’s happening inside. Notice the subtle shifts; notice how your body responds to your attention.
As this practice helps you connect with yourself, all of a sudden, and it may also be subtle, you may notice you have more capacity to take in your surrounding with greater ease. The world around you will gradually cease to be over stimulating, and become enticing again.
Let me know how this practice lands in YOU. I learn from your experiences and I love the back and forth, as we all find our way with pleasure.
Next entry: The Radical Act of Pleasure
Previous entry: Pleasure as a Spiritual Practice
“I had signed up for the workshop with a vague idea of validating whether or not beekeeping was something I wanted to get back into, so wanted the real experience and ‘instruction’ around hive life. But I also wanted to spend time in the imaginative life of beekeeping – so the poetry, and your story of bees as a significant part of your healing journey was really important. Sensing into your relationship with them - the calm, the respect, the love – was an important part of witnessing how a relationship with bees teaches those very things. I loved how the different activities dove-tailed so well into one another. The ‘energy meditation’ of approaching the hive taught me well about respect for boundaries, and the deep purposefulness of their lives. We can co-exist beautifully as long as I ‘let them bee.’ “