Just back from three weeks in Italy – part holiday, part work. The mechanics of travel don’t feel ‘risky’ to me, but I admit getting on a jumbo jet to be flung across six times zones and two continents is an incredible leap of faith. The risk for me in this trip was the work piece.
My spiritual community holds an international conference every three years and communities take turns hosting the event – Mexico, Brazil, and the USA have had their turns recently, so it was time for Europe, and the Italians picked up the challenge. This event allows us to share what we do and how we do it around the world, track the evolution of our collective development as a community and to deepen our understanding of the teachings we follow. Members are invited to propose ideas for workshops and facilitated processes.
I’ve been keen to let the wider community know about my Unlock Pleasure work, so I offered to do a workshop on it at the conference. All my life when I get a notion about doing something, and before deeply considering the implications, I just launch head first into it if the inspiration feels compelling enough. This was the case with the offering to do a workshop. Then I arrive and see the challenges: five languages, informal translation, cultural differences and some tensions between personalities and approaches.
The challenge was to get and keep people’s attention in a very busy, over-scheduled six days. My workshop was planned for the end of the conference, but I worried would people run out of steam, would they be saturated, what about the competition of downtime on the beach? How could I get their attention and offer something of value, while not being too complex, because it’s got to be translated, and be accessible across our cultural differences. Wow! I saw very quickly that the nice little plan I had made while still in Ottawa wouldn’t fly.
Part of risk taking is to let go and step beyond the familiar, to let go of the safety net. In this case, that meant too safe and too small a plan. Each day at meals I talked with people from all the different countries about the pleasure theme. They richly shared their experiences and cultural challenges – even the Italians, whom I assumed were the pleasure gurus, told me about the influence of religion and how often pleasure for them is rebellion against the still-tethered-to-guilt undercurrent of formal religion.
I took all this first-hand research into consideration and went back to the basic principles of the Unlock Pleasure work. They are: slow down, listen to your body, what science tells us about why pleasure is so good for us, and how pleasure can help us heal and be more resilient with the day-to-day challenges of life. I told myself “keep it simple – less is more.” Slowly a new plan arose.
In my work with pleasure my motto is “Let’s not just talk about pleasure, let’s have some.” So here we were at a beautiful, rustic, beach resort in southern Italy and I’m going to stay in the classroom and talk at people about pleasure? I don’t think so. I wanted to take the risk of stepping outside, and use the sound, smell and sight of the ocean as a part of the workshop.
Sensory awareness is one of the keystones of pleasure work because pleasure is primarily an in-body experience. So down to the beach we went. Over the days a pleasure practice had been growing in my mind, and it involved using the ocean as a focal point. So a bit of centering and grounding, a very brief talk about why we need pleasure, and then I turned them loose to explore embedding the experience of the ocean within themselves as a healing resource.
The workshop was successful. The participants got the one idea I most wanted to convey – we have pleasure all around us in every moment. If we slow down and open to the sensory experience right in front of us, and let it really register in our bodies, this practice can heal us.
People said: “I feel like I will always carry the ocean with me now.” “Although I’ve always loved the ocean, I’ve never really experienced it until today – thank you.” “I really see how I can use this experience with the ocean to deal with the stressors in my life.” “Thank you for this convincing and practical way to connect with pleasure.” Thank you for the permission to make pleasure a priority.”
So again, stepping into risky territory has brought me confidence – in myself and in being flexible to what wants to happen. Having a plan is sometimes over rated! The present moment is usually way more alive, informative and relevant than any plan.
Do you have stories of dropping a plan and stepping into the unknown?
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“As I step into the classroom with Madeline, I am aware of a spaciousness that few other facilitators offer, giving adequate time for self-reflection and digestion of the material. The spaciousness is well-supported by experiential learning and practical teachings. Madeline’s work—both within her own life and in facilitating others—speaks clearly through the profound space she holds for learning, and healing, to happen.”