Pleasure As Antidote to Adversity
I get it life is hard, it’s relentless, it’s full of heartbreak, disappointment, and loss. And if we are lucky enough to grow old, then we get to have more experiences that affirm this… Yay!
Kidding aside, If we are being responsible, conscious beings, who are interested evolving, staying woke, working to better ourselves, our families, and our planet’s health… then our journey will include more pain and heartbreak, as we touch the suffering that is happening inside us and all around us.
In the words of Grand Master Flash & The Furious Five:
“Don’t push me ‘cause I’m close to the edge, I’m trying not to lose my head…
It’s like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder how I keep from goin’ under…”
As much as I hate say it adversity is a natural part of life and is here to stay, it is how life molds us into the people we have the potential to become. It calls us into our purpose.
But too much adversity overwhelms our systems. If we don’t get a chance to rest and digest the difficult moments in life, then we end up a bit shell-shocked and traumatized by it all, which seems to be more the norm these days for a lot of us.
If you are regularly feeling raw, anxious, depressed, uninspired, lethargic, or are a bit compulsive about eating, social media, watching TV, or medicating with any kind of substance, chances are your system is has not had had a chance to process the ripples that adversity has left behind.
We are living at a time in history, where we are being confronted with an overwhelming amount of truth, tragedy, injustice, and suffering; on top of the hardships in our personal lives.
This stuff has always been a part of humanity, but with social media and the internet, we are now hooked up to a constant stream of input. Which means more potential triggers, more potential trauma, more potential overwhelm.
I am all for keeping our eyes open to this crazy reality that we’ve created. I think our salvation literally depends on us being informed, having empathy and the agency to do something that keeps shifting this world towards more love.
So how do we take good care of ourselves in the face of so much adversity…...?
….. We allow ourselves more pleasure :)
Our ability to continue to thrive instead of shut down, when faced with adversity, is directly tied to our ability to receive pleasure.
Let me define what I mean by pleasure, which is different from hedonism in my book.
Hedonism has more of a self-indulgent tone. It is often thought of as the pursuit of pleasure to avoid pain, which can trap us is selfish behaviors and keep us from being with adversity which we need for our growth.
The kind of pleasure I’m talking about is wholistic. It is in response to pain without avoiding it or pushing it away.
The kind of pleasure I’m talking about is inspired by what your body needs to feel nourished, what it needs to relax and rest, what it needs to feel listened to and loved.
The kind of pleasure I’m talking about looks like a spontaneous dance party to your favorite song, looks like a hot bath with salts and aromatherapy, it looks like a deeper breath, drinking in the blue sky, lingering in bed a little longer. It looks like deeply enjoying these things as we receive them.
When we are in ‘go’ mode, when our survival feels threatened, when we are overwhelmed, we forget to find things we enjoy and give them to ourselves.
We forget that our pleasure is the antidote to our suffering. We forget that pleasure can be simple, can be quick… but the real challenge is making it as important and habitual as brushing our teeth, our paying our bills.
Allowing ourselves to receive more pleasure sounds like a good idea right? So why don’t we do it more often?
We give our energy to the things and people we deem valuable, and the truth is most of us are not connected to our own value in a real, consistent way.
Most of us are receiving our value, and a sense of belonging from the people and things we have invested in…. but we leave ourselves out of this equation all the time.
These bodies are our most precious resource, it is literally what makes it possible for you to experience anything in the life, and it shapes how you are experiencing it… what could be more precious than that?
I invite you to prioritize wholistic pleasure for yourself for one week. And see what happens? You can use my cheat sheet below for a super simple way to practice pleasure in 5 easy steps.
5 STEPS TO CREATE YOUR PLEASURE PRACTICE
1. CREATE THE SPACE FOR IT IN YOUR CALENDAR LIKE AN IMPORTANT DATE
Seriously, if pleasure doesn’t actually go on your to-do list, or your calendar, there is a good chance it ain’t going to happen. Make ‘pleasure dates’ where you schedule 30min - 2 hours devoted to an enjoyable activity. Or set ‘pleasure reminders’ with an alarm to give yourself quick hits of pleasure like a few deep breaths, or close your eyes and say something ‘sweet’ to yourself internally.
2. WATCH THE IMPULSE TO FILL THE SPACE WITH OTHER ‘MORE IMPORTANT’ STUFF
When the time you have set aside arrives, don’t let other things get in the way. This can be a form of resistance, and frequently comes up until we are more comfortable creating time for pleasure. You’ll be amazed at how the world doesn’t fall apart if you put other things down for a moment, to give to yourself in this way. If you miss your date with pleasure, reschedule it! Don’t leave yourself hanging.
3. GIVE YOURSELF SOMETHING THAT FEELS GOOD
This may be harder to do than it sounds. Some of us can’t even access what would feel good to receive. I recommend taking a moment to check in with your body and see what it really needs. Often relieving tension is a good place to start, free-form movement, listening to something comforting, tuning into your breath. Start simple and then keep exploring what your system enjoys that doesn’t numb, or harm you, or anyone else. I recommend starting a list and adding to it over time. Use this list for inspiration during your ‘pleasure pockets’.
4. RECEIVE THE SENSATION INTO THE CORE OF YOUR BEING
Bravo if you get to the point of successfully giving yourself something enjoyable! To really maximize its impact and the potential medicine of the moment, get really present.
Tune into what feels good in your body as you receive pleasure. What do pleasurable sensations feel like? Describe them for yourself as you feel them (ie: sparkles in my chest, warmth in my belly, etc.) As you locate each pleasurable sensation, imagine sipping it into your bones like a sponge soaking up water.
5. WATCH THE IMPULSE TO GIVE AWAY, WHAT YOU JUST GAVE YOURSELF.
When we start to give ourselves more pleasure, we feel better, we are more energized, there is literally more of us to give. Watch the desire to give away, what you have just given yourself. See you if you can enjoy the feeling in your body without having to spend it right away. Ways we will often do this is to talk more, to give affection to people around us as touch or compliments, to be super active until we are spent again. Some sharing of your good feeling is great, and part of why a pleasure practice benefits everyone. But watch the impulses to give all the goodness away, this is often a way we reduce ourselves back to a state of depletion that is more familiar.
If you enjoyed this and what more, you can also join me in person at The LA Times Festival of Books this coming Sat. April 13th., where I will be offering a somatic storytelling experience with my pleasure seeking companion Brittany Ballard. It’s a free event where we’ll be exploring this topic live.