Practicing Pleasure



My pleasure practice this morning felt rusty, stagnant, uninspiring at the start. I seem to put off this practice a lot - continuing to live in the place where pleasure is to be kept at arms distance, a second place citizen amongst productivity, responsibilities and getting shit done.


I can’t have a glass of wine till I finish cleaning the kitchen.

I can’t go for that walk until I finish work.

I can’t play video games till the floor is mopped.


All these excuses to make sure that when I do eventually feel that snippet of pleasure, it’s because I’m worth it. It’s because I deserve it. It’s because I did all the important things first before I took the break or the reward.


Intellectually I’ve studied these habits. I know I’m likely wired this way due to how I was raised, the culture I live in, and stories I believe. I know that pleasure is not something we do, it’s something we are. I know it’s not just a reward, it’s something we can embody. Aliveness, electric sensations and constant.


But I struggle to embody that knowledge.


I think we all do.


But this morning, I did the practice. I got on my mat, focused on a seed of pleasure in my body, and just let her move. My mind kept wandering to tonight, my work, my to do list - but I kept drawing her back - drawing my energy back from the past, the future and into my body. And I continued to move. Slowly, minuscule at first. Tiny undulations, sways, circular motions in my hips, my neck, my shoulders. I breathed, deep into my belly. I kept bringing myself back to my present body and where she was at.


Over 20 minutes I moved, and swayed, and shifted my weight around on the mat - slowly having to draw my mind back less and less, slowly embodying this seed of pleasure that kept shifting, elusive throughout different parts of my body.


As I traced her, followed her lead, allowed her presence, acceptance and welcome - the seed grew, stabilized. A song came on that really spoke to her and she started to open up. Expanding in my belly, my chest, my heart - showing me sensations all over that just felt….. Pleasure. No need to perform, no one watching, just feeling - vibration, tingling, the air, my clothes - the contact with my skin, my hands on the floor, my knees.


With her came joy, release, aliveness, desire, and an openness. A remembering that this is something I can experience - without alcohol, without drugs, without chocolate, or TV or sex. Something that is within me - that I can access at all times.


I love this remembering, because that’s what it is. It’s recalling a time when joy wasn’t a reward for adulting. When pleasure wasn’t there for the gaze of another. When freedom felt real - not just a word on the page.


These small acts of remembering are acts of defiance against my beliefs, stories, wounds and scars. Against a world that offers distractions, short term solutions and instant gratification disguised as self care.


I wish I could sustain it always, that it was more than just a trip down memory lane as often as I can “make time” for it. I’m working on it, for sustaining pleasure requires stamina - allowing our bodies to experience it for longer and longer time periods. Elevating it beyond reward to way of life.


I’ve been watching other women too, in their explorations of pleasure. Amazing women leading the way in combining pleasure with our way of life, our way of operating in this world made mostly for men.


I believe many of us have a distorted relationship with pleasure. Distorted by what we were taught by family, culture, church, religion, school, media - the list goes on. We feel like the hard work comes first. People have written whole books about it. In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron discusses the “starving artist” - the creative whose whole life of dreams is swept away by the discouragement of those that would love them. “That’s a great Hobby”, “Put the paints aside - you’re a man now”.


So much of the creative lies in fun, in pleasure, in exploration, play and freedom - rather than the “tortured artist”. Cameron writes how she really stumbled across this creative program by giving up that idea, by going through recovery and realizing that nurture, self care, love and support is really what feeds the artist inside all of us.


I believe with that nourishment, love, support comes pleasure - and that the source really is a form of pleasure that we can access at any point. Whether you want to be “a creative” or not. For what is creation, but expression - of self.


So we can put aside our rewards and our pleasure until the time is right - till all the lists are done, and washing, and the cleaning, and the spreadsheet, and the meetings. We can put the fun aside because we are no longer children and don’t need to play with toys, and we can indulge in 5 minute spurts of immediate gratification as self care.


But is that truly how you want to live?


Is there part of you that feels like you're just giving into the status quo?

Part of you that is tired of waiting for your reward?

Tired of playing the part of “good girl" - while longing for more joy?

Part of you that just knows there’s more?


If so, I recommend finding a small moment of joy in your every day, and doing it in the moment you want to do it. Exactly at the time it occurs to you to do it. There is a special kind of pleasure that comes with claiming this small moment of joy in your life, or granting yourself this small desire. This pleasure is contained within whatever the small moment is, but also in the act of owning this act of defiance.


Like all advice, take it if it resonates, or leave it if it doesn't.


In taking this tiny small step, you can join me on the journey to increase stamina with pleasure. Together we can expand our capacity for pleasure, joy, lightheartedness and freedom.


I’d love to hear what you did, or how you felt if you took this advice. Reach out and let me know!


Cover Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash


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©2020 by Dominique Claire