pleasure activism

Pleasure Activism as a Form of Care and Justice

abundant tree
photo by @jeremybishop


What happens when we as a collective center pleasure as a form of care, justice and liberation?
I have been exploring this concept in my life and also in my offerings particularly InterPlay, deeply guided by the work of  adrienne maree brown and her book  Pleasure Activism.

I have found Pleasure Activism to be an incredibly powerful approach to healing that not only affects the individuals engaging in the practice but all of those who in turn come in contact with them. Pleasure, compassion, and care intersect with each other and promote a more just society where we have the agency and capacity to care for ourselves and each other.

It gives me great hope that I can center pleasure as not only a practice that allows for well-being but as a loving form of rebellion against oppression, a form of individual and collective perseverance and strength for me and so many others in my communities and my ancestral lineage.

rosie-kerr-DoUUDaNwHJM-unsplashphoto by @rosiekerr

The permission that is the foundation of the work, according to adrienne maree brown, is a reclaiming of “our whole, happy, and satisfiable selves from the impacts, delusions, and limitations of oppression and/or supremacy.” This reclaiming is in complete opposition to what makes up many principles of capitalism and oppression as it centers abundance, our natural goodness and enough-ness, and tuning into what offers us happiness and making space for that. It is a reclaiming of the gratitude and celebration of the miraculous nature of the earth and all of the earth’s creatures. It emphasizes that pleasure is not related to accumulation, money, materialism, greed, or excess.

“It turns out, being present is the most important part of every single experience in my life.” — adrienne maree brown

I was never taught about pleasure growing up. It wasn’t something I or anyone that I knew placed value on. The value was in acquiring wealth and fancy objects, in assimilating to the dominant culture, in being perfect with the perfect house, career, family, etc. It always seemed so strange to me how acquiring something off that list only bought fleeting happiness followed by worry about what if I lose this or a quick momentum onto the next item on the list to be happy again.

I slowly gave up on the list and began allowing myself to be led by the simple moments of connection, the times of ease and expansion, the present moment experiences of aliveness, that I found great wisdom in and which seemed like sustainable forms of not only joy but vitality. By being with these experiences, I could see more clearly and live in harmony with life, with my experiences, with the universe,  rather than the previous disharmony of always needing myself, someone, or something to be different, to be better.

waterfallphotophoto by @azharckra

Is it possible for justice and pleasure to feel the same way in our collective body? Could we make justice and liberation the most pleasurable collective experiences we could have? — adrienne maree brown

What’s your relationship to pleasure? Is it something you could make more space for and see as a form of care?

Is it possible to see a connection, a companionship between justice and pleasure and for it to be a collective embodied experience?

Feel into what arises in the body in contemplation of this.

Imagine the type of world we could live in if this was all of our embodied experiences. A pleasure devoid of materialism, oppression, supremacy, greed or narcissism. A pleasure that is simply a reclaiming of the whole selves we always were before systemic oppression and associated trauma, before the conditioning around scarcity and inequities, before the retelling around our good enough-ness.

A world where everyone knows how good enough they truly are. A world where your mere existence validates that fact again and again.

adrienne maree brown writes: Do you understand that you, as you are, who you are, is enough?” She asks us to be “stay mindful of our relationship to enough.”

What if you could feel that sense of enough-ness permeating into your every pore, your every breath? Would you welcome it in, make space, and invite it to tea? It’s here and available whenever you’re ready. I’m happy to remind you of this whenever you need it: You, as you are, who you are, is enough. Always have been and always will be.

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The Body as Teacher

samuel-austin-omeaSFHIxYk-unsplashphoto by samuel austin

In Leaving it All Behind by Ayya Anandabodhi and Ayya Santacitta, Ayya Anandabodhi writes:

THE BUDDHA SAID that everything we need to awaken is right here in this fathom-long body, but most people I know have a lot of difficulty being in their body. That presents a bit of a problem. If the main teaching is here in the body, and we can’t be with our body, how do we access that teaching? How can we start developing a relationship with our body that is kind, friendly, and curious, so that we can learn from it? — Ayya Anandabodhi

How is your relationship with your body? Is it one that is kind, friendly, and curious? Do you consider your body to be a teacher?

Is it one with much discomfort and challenge? Please know that that’s okay. Our bodies hold so much history. They remember what our minds cannot. They hold the vibration and experiences of our ancestors, our traumas, our wounds, our lived histories. They are a perpetual beacon and anchor for the present moment.

I can really resonate with a relationship with the body that is kind, loving, and curious. I have that relationship now but I didn’t always. Growing up, it felt like something was always going wrong with the body whether it was chronic pain which I experienced in my adolescence or feelings and emotions that showed up so vividly in the body that I wanted nothing to do with, and not to mention the physical appearance of my body and how that landed for me.

It was the chronic pain which led me to say, “There must be another way.” That pain led me to a doorway of mindfulness consisting of an ability to be aware of and to be with what is present with a sense of acceptance, allowing, and friendliness. Mindfulness practice allowed me to soften and expand where I would reject, relentlessly judge, and try to control. I made space and welcomed whatever showed up in the body and it changed my life.

If chronic pain led me to the doorway of practice, finding movement teachers who could not support me without needing to fix and change me developed the embodied practices that are the guiding light of many of my offerings. I went to teacher after teacher and class after class only to find there was something wrong with me and that the teacher could not help me as I was. They didn’t know how to work with someone with a body like mine and instead taught me how to be with and work with a body like theirs. I experienced a violence in the perpetual rejection and shame this dynamic caused which resulted in continual injuries and a heavy ache that persisted for some time.

It persisted until I was able to listen, allow, and nourish rather than to push away; I was able to do this by trusting the mindfulness practice that I cultivated in sitting practice to also be a practice that could support and guide me in moving meditation. I slowly began listening more until over time a deep listening began to be present for the body. I began to trust the wisdom of my own body to guide me. I began to see the futility in elevating the guidance of external authorities who did not love or listen to their bodies. I began honoring the way my body wanted to move and the way my body wanted to rest. In turn, I then began offering those practices to those who came to my movement classes.

In the end, I really want to help everyone I work with create this space to be able to listen to and trust their own bodies to be their true guides because everything we need to awaken is right here in this body.