A major principle in Tantra is the healing power of pleasure. Pleasure and play are not frivolous or pleasant extras after your work is done. Rather, they are vehicles for connection with the divine and the source of creative juice. Pleasure is intimately tied to our ability to be our full, radiant, authentic selves…. And show up in the world with our unique gifts. It’s big.
This take on pleasure is not confined to sexual pleasure (although that is an amazing pathway to all kinds of goodness) but full spectrum pleasure in all areas of our lives.
When pleasure is a priority, it becomes a portal to connecting with soul, to purpose, to intuition.
Here are some tools to quiet the noise in your head, expand your life force, and invite in more deliciousness…
1. I wonder:
Sometimes we don’t even know what brings us pleasure. Here’s the thing: it’s not so fun to figure out what gives us pleasure. As soon as we’re trying to fix the problem of our pleasure, it’s a huge buzz kill. But simply to wonder… opens up a space of lightness, imagination, and wonderment. Ask yourself: I wonder if it would bring me pleasure to…? I wonder what I could do to increase my pleasure just a bit right now?
2. My spirit loves:
When you get out of your head and connect with your heart, you tend to know what brings you pleasure. Put your hand on your heart and play this game: “My spirit loves…" Say it aloud. Keep listing what your spirit loves. Let yourself be surprised by what your spirit has to say. Try not to censor. Your spirit might be saucier than your mind.
3. Changing the Channel:
It's hard to connect to pleasure when we're caught in an old thought pattern. One easy way to shift the pattern and change the channel is to sing and dance for a song or two. Really rock out. Dancing and singing heals and activates the Vagus Nerve. So do cold water showers but I prefer dancing and singing. If you really want to interrupt the pattern, make a new move on each breath for an entire song. (The magic amount of time is at least 3 minutes and 40 seconds). Your brain won't be able to find the old pattern (or your familiar false self) and will flop down like a tired little dog after a good walk. And you'll see: it's quiet in your head! Once things get quiet, more pleasure possibilities bubble up.
4. Taking Out the Garbage:
Fear is a major block to pleasure. In part, this is because fear takes us out of the present moment and we only really experience deep pleasure when we get present. One of my teachers, Sonia Choquette, says that fear isn’t the problem; it’s holding it inside that is the problem. Here’s a simple technique she taught me that is incredibly useful for moving through fears. This can be used anytime — while driving, while cleaning, while in the bath, while walking — to stir the pot and sweep out the zingy, stagnant energy of fear.
The sound of your own voice is incredibly powerful so do this exercise aloud.
Take a breath. Say “I’m afraid”…. and say one thing that you are afraid of right now.
Then really see something in your environment. Not “the plant”... really see a detail you haven’t noticed before. Fears take us away from the present moment and this brings us back to the here and now.
Take a breath, say “I’m afraid”… and say one thing that scares you.
Really see something.
Repeat until you feel like you’re empty of fears for now. Then ask yourself, “What does my spirit have to say?” Or replace spirit with heart or whatever word works for you and lets you tune into your deeper self. And see what message or feeling is there. Once we notice our fears and begin to move them, there is usually a space where we can more easily connect with the deeper, wiser, part of us.
Again: be sure to do this exercise out loud. You're moving your fears, not stewing in them.
This is a great exercise to do if you are lost in a ball of anxiety or feeling blocked and unjuicy or just plain off… or when you are contemplating taking a risk!
5. Shadow Work - Turning the Tables on Your No-Pleasure Zones:
This is inspired by Carolyn Elliott’s process called Existential Kink. It’s a bit edgy.
Take something that you really don’t want in your life, which is keeping you from being fully happy and in your pleasure. It’s good to choose something that has been around awhile, something that is clearly a theme in your life. Maybe it’s lack of money or being overworked or caring for others to the point that you have no time for yourself or maybe it’s not having the love relationship you want.
Describe the situation. Notice how it feels in your body.
Now you start to turn the tables a bit. Notice what benefits you get from the situation. How does it help to solidify your identity?
Now again, feel it in your body. Notice the sensations. Maybe it's heavy or constricted.... Now, given that everything is on a scale of sensation from pleasure to pain and it’s just our perspective that makes something pleasure or pain (ie. Helga the Swedish masseuse who really digs in there). Now ask yourself: can I imagine that this sensation is pleasurable?
Now let yourself love it and be turned on by the sensation. As Carolyn Elliott says: you’re going down into your kinky dungeon to explore the sensation. Just let yourself enjoy this unorthodox pleasure.
Now try to enjoy the situation as your special kink. My old favorite was loving the drama of being a hot mess who works all the time. Another example is being the sacrificial caretaker who pours out her life blood for others. A friend of mine found the part of her that is always longing for relationship. Whatever it is, try on the idea: it’s kinky but it’s your thing.
I’ll give another old favorite from my own life: I notice the trend that I am often low on money and have big student loan debt. Then I feel into the feeling of the situation: I feel scrappy, a bit out of control, a victim of the system. I feel scared, a constriction in my chest and stomach. Now I turn the tables. I notice the benefits I get from this situation. It solidifies a sense of who I am as someone who put myself through school, who has had to do it on her own a lot. Now I notice how a part of me LOVES being scrappy, on the edge, takes pleasure in being a victim of the system. A part of me derives a twisted pleasure that the system is screwed up and I’ve had to suffer for it. I notice the rush and pleasure I get from the stress and drama. Now I continue to feel into the part of me who takes pleasure in all of this hubbub and experiment with being turned on by the feeling.
It’s edgy and uncomfortable but it’s magic to turn the tables in this way. I’m not saying that the student loan situation in this country is healthy, I’m just seeing how I’ve formed my identity around an experience. It’s paradoxical and we’re big and complex enough to hold all of it!
This process is inspired by the idea that having is evidence of wanting. Or put another way, the evidence of true intention is manifestation. It’s a way to turn on its head the idea that you are not getting what you want and are a victim of your life. You created this life, baby! You are an amazing creatrix. The universe is giving you exactly what you want — on some level. Granted, it’s likely not your conscious mind. But making friends with the unconscious in this way is incredibly powerful as the unconscious is hugely creative and better at making things happen than the conscious mind. This is also a process of unifying your conscious and unconscious wills. And a person with a unified will is incredibly powerful!
The key is not to get caught up in shame or the idea that there is something wrong with you for this. You are just playing with turning the tables and bringing parts of your subconscious out into the light. Just spend a little time with the part of you who loves and has created this situation, who wants it. See if you can enjoy her company and even flaunt it. Make friends with her. Take pleasure in being her.
That’s it. Now begin to notice how things magically shift.