Pleasure can open your deeper and often truer nature – start with your body!
The mission of Unlock Pleasure is to support you in deepening your capacity for pleasure. The starting point for this is to make contact with your body. Pleasure is inherently a ‘felt’ experience, so your connection to your body and your experience of pleasure are interactive and mutually supportive.
In my last blog, I invited you into the practice of the pleasure pause – taking moments throughout your day to tune into the world around you, find something that’s pleasurable to you, and to focus on it. The most important aspect of this is bringing your experience down from your head and into your body where it can register on your nervous system to create a calming, settling effect. This practice, if done on a regular basis, will form a new habitual response, so that whenever you’re over-stimulated, stressed or strung out, you can slip down into your ‘feeling body’ and allow the pleasure pause habit to take over.
Now I realize that “bringing it into your body” may be new terrain for you, and everyone in our head-oriented society could use a respite from over-thinking. We need lots of support to build a relationship with our own bodies and the real, sensory experience of being alive. This is what we mean by the concept of somatic experience of the sensory world.
In my private practice, I use Somatic Experiencing® as a healing tool, and have noticed that some people take to it quite easily, while others not. In SE, you learn how to track sensations in your body that lead to regulating your nervous system and calming feelings of being overwhelmed, trauma or stress.
This practice is home for me, it comes so easily, but I’ve wondered how I and others who find it pretty effortless to feel, identify and track sensations in our bodies acquired such ease. Perhaps we’re just born with it – like a musical or mechanical inclination. But truthfully, I have honed the skill over many years through yoga classes, meditation practices that directed my attention to body sensations, as well as many different types of massage and other healing touch modalities, and by hours spent in the quiet of nature.
I’d like to share a resource that will help you explore somatic experiencing for yourself. Will Johnson is a somatics expert and a Rolfing and embodiment practitioner and teacher who lives on the West coast of Canada. His first book, The Posture of Meditation (1996. Shambhala Press), was a lifesaver for me in the early years of establishing a meditation practice.
Most of the meditation guidance back then talked about “emptying your mind”, “letting thoughts go”, or encouraged you to focus on a single object or action, like breathing or counting. These were good suggestions and helped to a degree. Then a friend gave me Johnson’s book, and after reading it, my meditation practice took off.
Johnson aims for the body, encouraging you to experience and note what’s going on inside your body when you’re sitting and meditating. As you do this, he tells you to track three things – alignment, relaxation and resiliency. These themes became the title of his next book on the physical foundations of mindfulness. It is this book, Aligned, Relaxed and Resilient (2000, Shambhala Press), that is such a treasure for anyone wanting to connect with the somatic realm. It contains excellent conceptual information and lots of exercises to help you tune in and track your own sensory world.
He’s a good writer and chooses beautiful metaphors that draw on nature and childhood experiences to help you understand somatic concepts and practices. He makes the material, which at first reading might seem foreign and abstract, come alive and real. His many exercises teach you about aligning, relaxing and experiencing resiliency in your body.
Here’s a neat way to make the practice even easier for you. If you have a recording device on your phone or tablet, read his exercises out loud to record them and then play them back whenever you want. As you practice listening inwards to your own body’s experience, it’s much easier to be guided by a voice rather than by reading the words.
A somatic focus breaks our habitual patterns of constant thinking, which is the number one enemy of pleasure. So much of what Johnson teaches in both of his books are pre-requisites for deepening your experience of pleasure – that is, you first become present to the moment, relax into the moment, still the mind, and listen to your body experience. Almost without fail whenever we do this with any level of skill, pleasure becomes available to us.
Johnson offers this synopsis of what happens, with my addition in italics: “Ordinarily we conceive of the body as a solid object and experience the mind as an on-going flow of thoughts and stories. When the body is still, the mind becomes overly active. [But…] as we learn to bring resilient movement into the actions and motions of our body [even when sitting still], our mind becomes quiet and still, and our deeper nature is revealed.”
Pleasure, I believe, can remind us of our deeper and often truer nature. A somatic focus helps us connect to the pleasure of being alive in every moment. Practice and deepen your skills using Johnson’s excellent guidance.
Next entry: Individuation is a Pre-requisite for Pleasure
Previous entry: Time for a Pleasure Pause?
“Forefront Psychotherapy had Madeline present a morning workshop called Unlock Pleasure for our counselling centre’s open house. Her presentation was innovative and captivating. She brought forward the information in a way that appealed to new and seasoned therapists alike. Her presentation style put the audience at ease and she kept each one of us captivated for the duration of her talk. We would highly recommend Madeline to any group looking for a speaker.”