Last Summer, I read adrienne maree brown’s Pleasure Activism, and it truly changed my life. Like many of us, before that, I tended to think of pleasure in a more binary way, revolving mostly around sexuality, orgasm, and physical pleasure. And while those are important, they are far from the only expressions of pleasure!
Since then, I’ve been having fun expanding my vision of what pleasure looks and feels like and bringing pleasure to more areas of my life, even the uncomfortable or painful ones—which has been helpful in recent times. Thinking about pleasure during the chaos and challenges right now has taken more intention. It isn’t always easy. I’ve been approaching it the way I do all of my self care: by simplifying, keeping it as free as possible, and focusing on pleasure that originates internally, rather than from an external source.
To me, pleasure feels like another way to get curious, to look at things with fresh eyes. I’ve used pleasure principles to navigate some emotionally triggering things; for example, I was recently dealing with a flare-up of chronic pain. I asked myself, “Where is the pleasure in this moment?” Not as a way to bypass the pain, but in an attempt to slow down and stay connected to myself instead of dissociating. I wanted to treat myself with tenderness. Asking questions like, “How can I find the pleasure right now?” helps me find new ways to soften and take care of my needs.
Pleasure activism has also helped me heal some lingering body image issues. It’s shown me that not only can I be okay with myself—I can be turned on by myself! By all parts of me. This revelation helped me to step further away from the patriarchy and decenter harmful narratives from my body. It’s helping me prioritize my need for rest and my relationship with myself.
Here are some specific ways I’m working with pleasure right now:
- Rotating various herbs in my daily infusions. Herbs for pleasure include rose, tulsi, kava kava, reishi, ashwagandha, damiana, cacao, hawthorn, peppermint, cinnamon, hibiscus, ginger, chamomile, and shatavari.
- Ancestral healing. I’ve started keeping an altar as a way to connect with my ancestors, as well as eating foods of my heritage. Ancestral healing feels like another aspect of shadow work and an extension of my anti-racist work; it can be messy, but I’m finding the pleasure in it through food, photographs, and meditation.
- Treasuring my alone time. I’ve been spending time alone in nature, taking long walks outside, and taking myself on dates—all while thoughtfully soaking in the nature, plants, animals, and beautiful homes, gardens, and parks of New Orleans.
- Sensory pleasures. I use my skincare routine as a way to experience pleasure, as well as baths and my facial massage ritual. Self massage and breast massage are great tools as well.
- Resting. I’ve been making sure to really let myself rest. When I go to bed, I leave my phone in another room so that I can really tune out and I wake without an alarm, letting my body soak up the stillness and sleep it needs.
- Shadow work. When I approach the heavier things in my life through a pleasure-focused lens, it can bleed into me having to work through dark spots to find the pleasure. This can take many forms: meditating by candlelight, taking Epsom salt baths to detox, journaling, etc. Finding the power and beauty even in the dark spots has been healing to my nervous system and good medicine for these dark days.
Ultimately, pleasure feels like another tool for mindfulness. It helps me connect to hope, to joy, and to gratitude. I hope this inspires you to take time to meditate on what pleasure means to you and how it can show up in your life.
We’ve also just received copies of Pleasure Activism to our showroom location! If you haven’t read adrienne maree brown’s work before, I highly recommend it. Stop by if you’d like to pick up a copy or chat more about pleasure, joy, rest, or anything else, or scoop it up online!