People often wonder – How can pleasure be spiritual? The common assumption we make is that pleasure is such a human thing, but in my Unlock Pleasure work, I like to promote the holistic nature of pleasure. I like to open it up – expand the scope of what we name as pleasure. So, last night in my Online Pleasure Program that I’ve been running since January, I did a teaching on the intersection of pleasure and spirituality. I want to share some of that with you here.
One doorway into pleasure and spirituality is what I call: Care of the Spirit. While in Mexico this winter I did a week-long retreat with a traditional healer on the theme of freedom through forgiveness. In the Mexican spiritual tradition what we name as our spirit is what they call the “indwelling light.” They believe each of us is born with a light inside. Our task and responsibility in life is to connect with this light, protect it, nourish it, and allow it to guide us and shine in the world. This indwelling light is unique and particular to each of us, and our innate gifts are a reflection of this light.
Caring of the Spirit
Early in the retreat week, Elizabeth, the curandera, gave each participant a large candle. Now, I’m talking big! The candle was two and a half feet tall and about five inches in diameter. The instructions were to keep it close to oneself at all times – to carry it with us to meals, to the river, on our walks, and even sleep with it.
So, I carried my candle with me for the week. As you might imagine, it was not an easy task. The significance was not lost on me when a couple of times I got distracted, not paying attention to it, I dropped and damaged it! Just like my light inside, when I ignore and forget about it, it has an effect. Perhaps the biggest one is that I lose my way. I get off centre and have to find my way back.
In this very tangible way, it imprinted the reality that it’s not always easy to take care of my light. I’m at risk of neglecting it. However, that is my task - to remember my light. It is mine to carry, protect, look out for and regard. It’s a task, a responsibility – perhaps our main responsibility in life.
So, where does pleasure come into all this?
When you get to the heart of what truly gives you pleasure, whatever that might be for you, those things are also what nourishes your light. For most people, it’s a bit of work to unpack the societal injunctions about what should or shouldn’t be pleasure for you. But when you arrive at your truth about your pleasure and have the courage to engage with it, then you will find it profoundly feeds you.
When you’re instructed to protect your light, it can be protection from negative forces outside of yourself, but more likely it’s protecting it from your own neglect. When you feed your light it grows stronger; it becomes resilient to the random negative energies that are in the world, that you will inevitably encounter from time to time.
The Intersection of Pleasure and Spirituality
When you’re in the pleasure zone, you are very close to spirit. You’ll know by the enlivened way you feel. Real pleasure is about goodness, vitality, positivity, creativity, and constructiveness. These words are, in my lexicon other words for God/dess. Also, pleasure is not possible without real love. The two are closely bound. To really love, to deeply know pleasure, you must be undefended – your heart open wide to all of life. It’s a tall order – not easy, not always pretty, but yes, alive and real.
So, I carried my candle the whole week. We were well bonded by week’s end. On the final night, we prayed, danced, sang and did a closing ritual under a new moon. We lit our candles to going forward into our regular lives, dedicated to carrying our light in the world.
For many years now, a small daily ritual I do is to light a candle. Maybe instinctively I knew why, but now it’s taken on an even deeper meaning. It reminds me of who I am and why I’m here.
What do you do that nourishes your light? Do you notice how pleasure renews and strengthens your spirit?
“Madeline offers a safe space to explore what it is that blocks our capacity to live in pleasure. She supports us to recognize our unhealthy associations with pleasure, so we can finally open up to that which provides real power, serenity and love.”