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During this challenging year, there is an emergence of offers to join pleasure-based programs.
And if we feel like our life is upside down at the moment, pleasure might not be our priority. It can sound paradoxical, frivolous, and almost like a luxury these days.
I want to offer that it’s essential.
As a coach myself, it took me time to even have a look at the concept of pleasure. It didn’t feel serious/valid to me until I experienced it in my own body.
I’ve been in the field of personal development for almost two decades now. And though I entered through the tantric yoga door, which is supposedly more open, it still carried its fair amount of “you have to suffer to heal” modalities.
I am the first one to say that we should suffer, for two reasons:
>> Facing our darkness is reclaiming our power of choice.
Because once something unconscious that is holding us back is made conscious, it doesn’t have power over us anymore.
>> We want to “clean the house” before decorating it.
The house is our whole body, holding past imprints that don’t serve us anymore. For this, I like somatic work. Cognitive is not enough to create shift.
It’s a first step to understanding that we didn’t ask for what we needed because we grew up in a household where we only received anger. But the healing starts when we can get rid of that dry, hot sensation in our throat, which stops us from speaking, and the fog that comes along with it.
For more than 10 years, I thought pain was the only way. It made sense to me. I didn’t grow up with a big religious imprint. I haven’t been influenced too much by some “spiritual suffering” stories. But still, the messages are everywhere in my culture. I am European, so I would say these beliefs have been largely influenced by Judeo-Christianity.
“You have to work hard to get somewhere.”
“You have to work hard to be beautiful.”
“Work first, pleasure after.”
“Busy is good because otherwise it’s laziness.”
“Working hard is always a compliment.”
“Life is a fight.”
So, no surprise that I responded well to “shadow work” or anything that guided me deep into the underworld. It made sense to suffer, hoping for something good on the other side of that until, intuitively, I had enough of it.
It started in my tantric yoga school. The teachers were deep and inspiring, I loved the work, and I loved the classes. But, at some point, I started to observe them as people. Tantra is the opposite of the ascetic path in the sense that, instead of retreating from life to reach the spiritual realms, you deal with life as matter and spirit are both divine.
All my teachers were involved in the longest, silent retreats, severe fasting or special diets and cleanses, hard-core practices where they would rinse their stomach with water and then regurgitate it, and certainly, they were learning a lot from those practices. But I didn’t notice a sense of joy within most of them, and I couldn’t help feeling they were constantly cleaning or punishing themselves.
I am not criticizing them here—maybe all those practices brought them closer to whatever they wanted. But I was seduced by tantra for its openness, I was after joy and aliveness, and the more I progressed into the curriculum, the more I felt like the fun had disappeared. Then I realized something.
I quite like the fun.
I realized that this particular school wouldn’t work for me anymore the day I was cleaning our yoga shala in India with U2’s “Sunday bloody Sunday” blasting through the speakers, shaking my head like mad in a hair-guitar moment as I was washing the floor. As if a bomb just exploded, the coordinator teacher rushed in, freaked out, and turned U2 off to replace it with some sugarcoated westernized “Om Shanti” songs with a big sigh of relief.
My whole system silently replied, “Booooooring.”
What I learned during all those years around southwest Asia and India is there’s always a contained side in any spiritual school, a lot of “you shoulds” that lead us more to suppression versus expression, and a lot of one-size-fits-all teachings that ignore our diversity.
I wanted tools to evolve in my everyday life—I didn’t want to live in a yoga bubble with like-minded people. What do I learn if I stay with like-minded people and there’s never any friction or resistance? How do I teach spirituality, love, or, at least, inclusion if we constantly separate ourselves from the world?
I wanted tools to do better in my day-to-day routine, where I encountered diverse people. I wanted to reveal my gifts to the world, have tools to deal with my hypersensitivity, and nurture better relationships. I love love, joy, and aliveness, and I didn’t find so much of any of those in schools.
It took me many more years, immersing myself in the study of the nervous system and working with teachers embracing chaos, wildness, and diversity to understand those principles:
1. We are wired to notice the negative, but we have to want the positive.
Our brain’s first function is to take care of our survival. It is in charge of our safety, which is our first basic need. And to do this, it is wired to notice the threats.
The more we grow up with caretakers in a survival mode, the more that function will be reinforced.
My parents, who were kids during the Second World War, had a strong survival mind. And though we didn’t go through huge challenges with our family from my point of view, they had the tendency to anticipate all the catastrophes that could happen. It feels like madness to me today.
Before going on a holiday trip to Italy, my father would sort things out in case they lost his luggage at the airport.
Of course, I inherited some of that. And to bring my attention toward what works, I had to be intentional. I had to make a conscious effort to notice it. When I am tired or challenged, my mind’s default is to think negative.
If this resonates with you, I recommend doing some reflective thinking, preferably in the morning. Write down all the thoughts that make your body contract and see if you can change them to something that feels more open.
For example, “I am not confident enough. I am confident in certain situations. What was I thinking the last time I felt confident?”
2. The pain path and the pleasure path are both necessary for healing.
Life is 50/50, so we will all experience the good and the bad. It’s the same for healing and self-development—the two go hand in hand.
I want to offer that self-work has a lot to do with developing the capacity of our nervous system to feel more. As we said before, our brain and nervous system are in charge of safety first. And the first thing it’s afraid of is change.
Our culture always pushes us to build up our capacity to endure. So we go to the gym, we work harder, and we do more. But what I observe with most of my clients is that what creates the most overwhelm is the idea of building our capacity for pleasure.
As a consequence, it’s hard to receive, it’s hard to have an orgasm, it’s hard to do less, and it’s hard to stop pleasing others first.
I would say 70 percent of the time, their access to pleasure will be their medicine. Pleasure is the entry door toward more eroticism. Do you want a pleasurable life? Find the pathway to your turn-on first.
And by turn-on or eroticism, I don’t necessarily mean something sexual—it can be, but we are basically talking about what makes us feel alive.
3. Pleasure can generate release as well.
I want to share a great experience I had in the Mexican jungle doing a jade egg practice with a group of 50 women. A jade egg is a stone that we insert in our vagina—it has several purposes; one being to increase sensitivity.
As we were all practicing and going through our own journey, I felt a wave of intense pleasure rising through my entire being. This wave went from my pelvis to the crown of my head. On its way, it loosened a knot in my solar plexus area that I’d had for a long time. And though I don’t have any scientific explanation to back that up, I experienced the lift of a dark veil, some witch-burning images appeared in my mind, and the heavy weight slowly dissolved and turned into a burst of electrifying laughter I couldn’t stop.
These words came to mind, “You burnt me, but I am back.” It felt so powerful. It was like ancestral healing and a huge relief at the same time.
4. Pleasure is a revolutionary act.
With the reclamation of pleasure comes the burial of guilt.
Many women experience guilt when they step into the pleasure zone. They are conditioned not to take too much—they don’t want to be seen as divas.
Of course, it’s entertained by the media because a pleasure-based woman feels good enough. And it’s magnetic. So she doesn’t need to buy some cosmetic procedures, accessories, and diet or antiaging program—or even antidepressants.
A pleasure-based woman is radiant and erotic in nature. She sources her pleasure within.
I see my clients transform so fast when they step into that zone. With guilt disappearing, what is it that they can’t receive? Nothing.
That said, if today you feel less alive than you used to feel and you realize you lost touch with pleasure, ask your diva self:
What simple action could I take today to pleasure one of my senses?