This time of year is full of meaning. For many it is a time for gathering in family, community and celebration. For many, this time tinged with loneliness, disconnect and stress. This time of year can feel like a balancing act between holding the truth and light of ancient traditions in balance with the rampant pressure to consume and buy and stretch ourselves beyond our means to fit an impossible standard of perfection.
The truth is, family is a mix of messy and joyful. Discomfort and comfort. Mundane and transcendent.
To me, this is also a time when I get to practice giving and receiving. If I am mindful and conscious. this can also be a time when I can look closely at my patterns of martyrdom, stinginess and over-extension. Where in my body do I feel the impulse to be generous? Where do I feel an impulse to turn inward and give back to myself? How does it feel to receive?
So, where do YOU draw from to keep yourself full? How do YOU find your authentic ground inside of yourself so that you can keep giving from a place of integrity and fullness?
I consider myself a pleasure activist, which means that I believe in consciously practicing and making space for pleasure in our nervous systems. Not only as a way to personal well being but planetary well being as well. Humankind has evolved with a negativity bias. This is a good thing because it has kept us alive. But this means that our brains are much more practiced at holding onto and remembering negative experiences and turning them into patterns. In order to absorb and integrate positive experiences, it actually takes more focused attention and more time for the neuro-chemicals associated with these positive experiences to release and change our internal state.
So, my invitation to you is to is to actively seek out and find pleasure in your days. Especially when the patterning might tend towards stress and overwhelm. When you find pleasure in yourself whether it is in the fragrance of a food you are preparing, a deep breath, a hug from a loved one or receiving a gift, stop and notice and take a moment to make this feeling bigger. Breathe into it and let it grow. Notice what happens when you do this and how it may change your internal state. Do not pass it by as quickly as you might be accustomed to doing. Let pleasure be the measure of your days, your relationships and your interactions during these coming days.
May you remember that you are the gift and may you be deeply sourced in the authenticity of your own perfectly balanced generosity and gratitude.
*Beautiful art by Meganne Forbes (check her out meganneforbes.com )
As a Somatic Sex Educator, one of the main topics that I focus on with my students is unwinding sexual trauma. Whether they are unwinding from the systemic trauma of a sex negative culture, the trauma of a personal experience of sexual assault or abuse or something in between, the truth is that most people experience some form of trauma around their sexuality.
As a culture, our understanding of trauma is beginning to broaden and shift. We are coming to understand that trauma is actually not so much about an event itself but the stuck energy that it creates in the nervous system. We are coming to realize that every nervous system carries a different story which means that any given event can land as trauma in one nervous system and not in another. An additional challenge that we face is that we have pathologized the natural ways (crying, shaking, screaming, laughing, sleeping) that our organisms have evolved to release trauma and resolve this stuck energy.
We are living in an age where we are beginning to see the thawing and crumbling of generations and generations of internalized trauma and the ways that it has become incorporated into the very systems by which we live. One could say that having Trump as president is like a giant magnifying glass into the festering wound of violence, sexism, racism, bigotry and fear that are all symptoms of unresolved trauma. Through the #MeToo movement, the Kavanaugh hearings and all of the many rich dialogues that have ensued, we can agree that this wounding is out in the open now and the question is, what do we do with it?
A common hesitation that my students have before beginning the work of unwinding sexual trauma is that once they begin to let the light into these places there is no going back. They cannot un-see what has been seen. Often times, people have built entire identities and patterns of relating around their traumas and the thought of losing that is more terrifying than staying stuck. Who would they be without it? Many people fear that they will be left feeling lost and empty.
My teacher Caffyn Jesse writes, “We all set limits on the quantity and quality of pleasure we can embody. Limits to pleasure are ubiquitous in a culture that shames sexuality and fails to teach us how to honor and celebrate erotic energy. Sexual wounding becomes embedded in the body’s tissues and responses. Somatic Sex Education can assist you in expanding the pleasure that is possible. This expansion has physical, emotional, mental and spiritual components.”
Often times a person comes to know their traumas by bumping into the invisible electric fence they have built around experiencing pleasure. Sometimes it has been there for their whole lives and they have done such a good job at avoiding it that they forgot it even existed. Perhaps being shamed for touching their genitals at 3 years old was all it took. From that vague moment in their childhood memory, they marked that particular pasture as dangerous and inaccessible and have avoided it ever since.
This is where the concept of pleasure activism comes in. Pleasure activism goes beyond dismantling the traumas into a place where life can take hold and begin to thrive. Pleasure activism invites us to clear a path back to that overgrown pasture and keep clearing it again and again until we can dismantle the fence and step inside. Pleasure activism invites us not only to identify and reclaim the hijacked parts of our bodies but also to systematically fill the spaces that remain with content of our choosing.
The Japanese practice of Kintsugi or “Golden Repair” is the art of repairing broken pottery with gold. The philosophy is that the broken parts do not need to be hidden but tended to, elevated and celebrated. To fill the cracks with gold, makes them even more valuable than the parts of the pottery that have not been broken. When we begin to notice the parts of us that may feel broken, it is a sacred opportunity to choose gold to fill the cracks and rewire the nervous system in profound new ways to feel good about feeling good again.
In a culture that shames and discourages pleasure and even profits off of us feeling broken and insecure, it is not enough to simply “allow” pleasure.We are what we practice so it becomes a subversive act of reclaiming and practicing our own pleasure so that the body becomes a trustworthy compass as we move towards creating the world we would like to live in.