pleasure activism

joy and sorrow (pleasure activism series)

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photo by Ben Heine.

 

One of the keys to having greater access to happiness and pleasure is allowing space for their presence in all circumstances, through all the ups and downs of life. As adrienne maree brown says in Pleasure Activism, “Pleasure is the point. Feeling good is not frivolous, it is freedom.”

Pleasure is the point. And yet pleasure does not mean ignoring or denying sorrow when it arises. The difficult times make it more possible for joy to be present. There is an indelible connection between joy and sorrow.  Without one, there could not be the other. Can we allow there to be space for both? Can we allow for there to be space for all of our experiences without pushing away the unpleasant ones or grasping tightly to the pleasant ones?

“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain…When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. Some of you say, ‘Joy is greater than sorrow,’ and others say, ‘Nay, sorrow is the greater.’ But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.” — Khalil Gibran in The Prophet: 

adrienne maree brown references Gibran’s quote about sorrow and joy in Pleasure Activism:

I recognize that my sorrow carves out the space for my joy, and that both in this lifetime and in the cycles of my lineage there is so much space that has been carved out by sorrow, and I get to fill it up with joy and pleasure. What a pleasure it is, after all, to be a free Black queer woman. To be a human, self-aware. To be of the earth, with such beauty and interconnectedness. — adrienne maree brown 

I didn’t always see this connection between joy and sorrow. For some time, I always saw my happiness as small and my unhappiness as vast. I think that was because I paid more attention to my sorrow, which allowed it to grow. With my mindfulness practice, I became increasingly interested in the seeds I planted, cultivated, and nourished within me. Was I nurturing seeds of discontent, anger, scarcity or was I supporting seeds of kindness, love, and gratitude to grow?

I made choices regarding the seeds I was nurturing with each thought I chose to believe, each person I chose to spend significant time with, and each activity I chose to engage in regularly. I began to let go of the people who did not value me and did not treat me well and stop doing things that didn’t support my well-being. I spent time listening to my body, heart, mind, time in nature, and time in supportive solitude to help me know how to make choices that were supportive. All of this helped me find and connect to the happiness that was within me all along. It gave me the space to meet wonderfully kind and loving community once I fully understand how to be my own happiness. That kind of happiness, completely predicated on my wholeness, on the miracle of me being alive in each moment, stays present even when I am sobbing in heartbreak over the many injustices of the world.

Find the pleasure path for your life and follow it. Let it reverberate healing back into your ancestors’ wounds. Let it open you up and remind you that you are already whole. Let it shape a future where feeling good is the normal, primary experience of all beings. –adrienne maree brown 

Are you on your pleasure path for life? What supports you in feeling good? How can you share more of that with yourself and gift it to others?

—lissa

This post is part of a monthly series exploring aspects of adrienne maree brown‘s book Pleasure Activism. To see the first post in this series, please visit here.

 

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connecting with ancestors

3-gogo-and-the-ancestors-marietjie-henningphoto by marietjie hemming

I like to think our ancestors are rooting us on through life.

There is a mindfulness practice from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh called Touching the earth that I learned while on retreat at Blue Cliff Monastery many years ago where we place our palms in front of our chests in the shape of a lotus bud and slowly lower ourselves to the ground so that our four limbs and forehead gently press against the floor. We bow and return to the earth and our roots, connecting with our spiritual and blood ancestors. We know that we can never be alone as we are always surrounded by love, by divine beings who only want the best for us, by the earth. We touch the earth and reconnect with each bow to all of that life and recognize that we make up the earth and life and can never be separate. We are all connected.

Breathing in, I breathe in the earth. I breathe in connection. I breathe in life, strength, stability, love, nurturing, protection. Breathing out, I breathe out separation. I breathe out suffering. I breathe out anger, fear, shame, sorrow, grief.

I wonder if each time we engage in a healing practice, are we touching our ancestors? In engaging in the practice and connecting deeper with ourselves or transforming an area of suffering, are we also lessening the suffering in that whole ancestry chain? If we release a story steeped in limitation and inadequacy that we used to cling to, do we release suffering in our whole ancestry line? Is our growth a shining light of hope and pride to them?

—lissa

(This post is an updated version of a post that appears on lissabliss.com)

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background image by carolyn doe
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Being with Grief

everything’s going to be okay, I tell myself. this will pass.

I find so much peace in those simple words during challenging times. this will pass.

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photo by joniwoq

Grief has been increasingly present for me. A collective grief for all the beings who it feels like are gone too soon, for the state of the world, the conditions of the earth, institutional racism and all the other -isms that just repeat seemingly without end.

Grief used to scare me. The way it inhabits. It feels like water — giant waves overwhelming my heart, my body, my spirit that cannot be ignored, have to be felt, and have to be expressed. Its water-like state transforming from ebbing and flowing waves into varying forms of floods and erosion when ignored and into a soft intermittent stream when heard, acknowledged, and held.

I hardly notice grief when it arises and passes like the soft stream. When it starts to linger with the large waves that may flood though, there can often be a worry about what if it never leaves and I fall into a permanent state of grieving. There can definitely be an underlying wanting to get rid of grief and a wonder of what it would mean to never have grief again.

Is it even possible to never grieve and to have a full experience of life? With the reciprocal nature of grief and love, grief and joy — can one exist without the other when life is so precious, so impermanent?

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photo by llbolek

Deeply nourishing practices I find helpful for being with grief:

-Comforting and releasing grief through my cycle of breath, knowing that although I may feel grief that I am not grief. Breathing in, I am aware of my breath flowing in. I follow its journey through my body and feel its life and energy. I can feel my breath encounter grief as I breathe in. I shine light into the grief with my breath: touching grief with my inhale, releasing it with my exhale.

– Self-soothing with my hand at my chest, belly, or another part of my body that resonates as a reminder that I am not alone and I will always be there for myself no matter what.

-Engaging in rituals and celebrations that honor what has been lost starting with a land acknowledgment to remember the indigenous people who stewarded the land and to name all the loss and traumas taken in and healed within the land.

-Seeking support from nature. I find certain lands particularly supportive for being with grief where I can lay down all that I am carrying even for a moment and allow myself to be held by the land, to rest my body against a tree trunk, to be fully present for the way the tall grass at this particular hillside I often frequent effortlessly dances with the wind.

– Being active. Yoga, qigong, dancing, going for a walk/run, etc.

– Cooking and eating balanced, supportive meals.

– Engaging in activities that draw a deep belly laugh. I invite my favorite books and comedies to help with this.

– Communal grieving. Being around loving, welcoming people. I allow myself alone time and it’s really important to be around others as well to avoid getting too caught up in my experience. And if there isn’t anyone in your circle for you to be with in this way, please consider utilizing one of these resources from the Grief Resource Network.

– Journaling. Writing. Singing. Humming. Being creative and allowing for expression and release.

– Accepting each moment for what it is and bringing a gentle curiosity to each moment. I have started to realize the incredible peace and freedom in befriending each moment  — not just the ones that take my breath away with their joy but the more difficult moments that arise where I feel lonely or overwhelmed. Adding a layer of compassion and acceptance to challenging feelings and experiences can make them so much easier to navigate through.

-Remembering that everyone grieves differently and at their own pace. It’s really important for each person to find what works for them and to become aware of when they try to compare themselves to others or rush themselves through the grieving process.

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Writing a piece like this helps tremendously. It helps dissipate the grief, helps me to feel less isolated and more connected by sharing my experiences with others rather than keeping them a secret. We don’t have to grieve in secret. We can create space for us to grief together, allowing our collective grief and love to be held by each other.

—lissa