This past month I’ve been busy re-writing our Pleasure Module – a module centering on personal and professional pleasure practices. It’s been an immensely sensuous re-write as I’ve re-immersed myself in the teachings and… well it’s had wide and far-reaching effects.
In today’s podcast episode I wanted to share with you three of my current pleasure practices.
When I say ‘pleasure practice’ it’s easy to imagine black lace, red lipstick, and other pleasure that lean towards the sexual. But pleasure doesn’t (have to) start in your pussy. On the podcast today we speak about the pleasure spectrum & why my pleasure practices have nothing (and everything) to do with sex.
In this podcast we explore:
- Redefining pleasure & reclaiming the hyper-sexualized & tabooed versions of feminine pleasure
- How I worked with the idea that “other women have pleasure, but I don’t” & “it’s hard for me to access pleasure”
- Why I vomit in my mouth when coaches talk about their “morning rituals” & why I have now got one of my own to share with you
- Addressing the inconvenience of pleasure & life purpose
- How moving house has become saturated with pleasure
- My current 3 practices & what’s making me committed to them
Resources mentioned in this podcast:
Here are some of the quoted books & resources mentioned in today’s podcast:
- Pleasure Activism
- Audre Lorde
- Radiance Sutras
- Primal Feminine Flow (Feminine Embodiment Movement Practice)
- Feminine Embodiment Coaching Certification
Read the Full Transcript
Over the past month, I’ve had the great pleasure of rewriting our pleasure module and our pleasure coaching tools for the Feminine Embodiment coaching certification, and rewriting this module, which has required me to re-immerse in the practices and use the coaching tools both with myself and with clients, has totally reinvigorated my own pleasure capacity and my own personal pleasure. And so in today’s podcast, I wanted to share some of the practices and frames, and I guess tips, that I’ve rediscovered and remembered during this really alivening time.
I believe that pleasure is something that is so essential to the path of embodiment, because pleasure is a measure of our freedom. Those words are actually from Adrienne Maree Brown, who’s author of Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good. Pleasure is a measure of our freedom, freedom to inhabit our body, freedom to enjoy all of the sensory richness that this body has access to, freedom to be more of ourselves, because pleasure is part of who we are, and I think that we live in a world that really defines pleasure and orientates specifically to feminine pleasure in really unhealthy ways.
And so in this exploration of pleasure that we’re moving through today, I want to separate or distinguish the difference between pleasure, sensuality, and sexuality. These three things are absolutely part of a spectrum of the erotic, they’re absolutely part of a spectrum of engaging and enjoying the senses, but I think a lot of what modern women see pleasure as is confused, or is lensed through overt sexuality, or sexualization of women’s pleasure. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not against the exploration of sexual pleasure, but for me, and in my pleasure coaching and in my pleasure practices, I believe that in order for us to be in the full expression of our pleasure sexually, it actually begins a few steps earlier. It begins with enjoyment and aliveness, and connecting with the innate pleasure that exists within me and within my body as a sovereign, feeling, sensing woman. And the more tapped in to that personal pleasure, the greater my capacity for that personal pleasure, the more richness that I discover in sensuality and sexuality, with myself and with my partners. Or as I’m in a monogamous marriage at the moment, my partner.
Audre Lorde, who’s a beautiful writer on this topic, or this spectrum of pleasure as a power, she describes this pleasure as “The erotic,” and these are some of her words around it. Quote, “There are many types of power, used and unused, acknowledged or otherwise. The erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling. In order to perpetuate itself, every oppression must corrupt or distort those various sources of power within the culture of the oppressed that can provide energy for change. For women, this has meant a suppression of the erotic as a considered source of power and information within our lives,” end quote.
And I think this sums up so beautifully both perhaps why so many cultures taboo and shame and silence aspects of our feminine pleasure, and also through the hyper-sexualization of pleasure, make it unaccessible or performative, or that your body needs to look or conform to a particular standard in order to be beautiful, and thus in order to have pleasure. You know what? I just don’t subscribe to any of that.
I’m a very suburban mother, also housewife in some ways, and yet I identify as an overflowing pleasure-filled woman, and I think every woman’s journey to own and to re-inhabit her pleasure is one that requires her to really reclaim the body as our own, and for different people of different identities with different lived experiences, that journey can be an immense one. And as we reclaim our body as our own and rediscover all of the inherent gifts that exist within it, pleasure is absolutely one of them. And so in today’s podcast, let’s speak about some practices and some frames that might support you, whatever your lived experience or your daily life looks like, to infuse more pleasure into it.
Before writing this module and rewriting this module, I’m going to admit, my pleasure had kind of been in the backseat. It’s very easy when we live busy lives, or we’re playing a lot of different roles and there’s a lot to keep together in our day, for pleasure to be forgotten. And I think one of the narratives that feeds into this, certainly something that I know I’ve had to come to reckoning with within myself, is that part of me, for a long time, believed that some women were just pleasure-filled, that was just how they were born, that was just their disposition, and I didn’t have that. Pleasure didn’t seem to exist within me, seemed in some ways to maybe just be missed from the ingredients when I was built, and I would often look around and see other women’s pleasure, the types of pleasure that they’re performing or expressing about, and just wonder, “Well, what’s wrong with me that…” Or “Why don’t I have that? Why does it not seem to come naturally to me?”
And in a busy world, it’s easy for that type of frame to say, “Well, pleasure’s just not something that’s natural to me, so let’s not bother putting any energy in that direction.” And that didn’t really get me where I wanted to go, that didn’t get me towards more pleasure, so instead, I decided to view my pleasure explorations as if I was going to the gym and building a muscle, a muscle of increasing my stamina and my capacity, and my ability to lift, if you will, more pleasure.
And I think seeing pleasure as a skill that everybody has the capacity to develop, for me, that really shifted my relationship to pleasure, because if pleasure wasn’t here and if pleasure wasn’t arriving in my day, it changed the narrative from, “Well, I just… I’m just not a pleasurable woman, I just… I didn’t get that role modeled, or that wasn’t something that was available to me,” I changed that narrative instead to say, “Well actually, pleasure is a skill. Everybody has it, and it sometimes can require some devotion to rediscover it and repetitions to deepen it.”
And so in this way, it’s almost like there is some discipline required to cultivate the skill of pleasure, to deepen the skill of pleasure, to open into more of pleasure. And when I see it that way, it reminds me that I have to show up to hone my skill of pleasure, and to bring it from an… From a skill that requires me to consciously employ it and practice it and hone it so much, until it gets to the point that it becomes the default or the habit in my body.
And after being in a phase for me, as many of you will know, last year, I birthed a child, and I’ve been… And I’m emerging from that immense first year of my child’s life, and as I rediscover and take ownership fully back around my body and my breasts, and really come to a place of feeling like a fully whole and heal and sovereign woman whose body is her own again, I think that there’s been, for me, a natural phase of saying, “Okay, and now I desire a season of cultivating this pleasure, and I’m willing to bring some discipline.”
And so the first discipline that I bought, and the first practice that I am now hooked on, is my morning pleasure practice. And my morning pleasure practice… I mean, it could look like anything, and I’m going to be a bit transparent here, when I see people on Instagram post about their morning practices and how transformational they are I want to vomit in my mouth, because some days I just need to sleep in, or some days, I just don’t feel like being perky in the morning, and everyone’s on about, “This morning practice” and “Your morning ritual,” and “It will change your life,” and I’ve often got like a kid screaming to get out of her room in another room, and so much to do, and usually the first thing on my list of things to do in the morning is unpack the dishwasher, which isn’t particularly sexy.
And maybe there’s been a little bit of resistance to developing a morning practice, i.e. that wanting to vomit in my mouth, but I got to tell you, I’ve been doing it these past few weeks, and it actually has been a game-changer. My morning practice looks like a Feminine Embodiment movement practice, centering pleasure. And if I was to sum up the practice in some poetry, it would be this passage from The Radiance Sutras, which is a modern Western translation of a beautiful, beautiful Sanskrit text. Here it is. “Find something so enchanting to behold that you are transfixed, ravished. Allow yourself to be captivated. Gaze upon its form with the eyes of wonder. Attend to the details, the shape, texture, its colors. How can something so beautiful possibly exist? With a steady gaze, melt into the field of space embracing that form. As once, be at one with the creator, who’s looking through your eyes, loving creation.”
So, sometimes in my morning practice, I close my eyes, and the form of wonder that I meditate upon is a sensation or a feeling in the body. It could be a thought around the gratitude that I have for what exists inside me, and very often, my practice is coming into the internal sensations and feelings of pleasure and aliveness in my body, and expanding them and meditating on them to let them grow through the way that I move and breathe. Other times, if the doors are open and my bedroom’s wide and sunny, it’s summer here in Australia, where I’m recording this podcast for you, I might hear the wind in the… There’s a beautiful ironbark eucalypt that’s outside my bedroom, and I might hear the wind moving through those trees and the leaves, and really engage in that external pleasure through my hearing, and that might just spark aliveness through my body, and so I meditate and move into deeper intimacy with that.
But every morning, so far consistently, I’ve woken up excessively early, and begrudgingly dragged myself out of bed to do that practice. Sometimes it’s only 20 minutes, and then my daughter wakes, sometimes it’s 40 minutes, the other day it was an hour, oh my gosh. My day was truly transformed. The biggest thing that I notice, and I’ve been looking for evidence of what shifts in my day when I do make this commitment, the evidence that I have found is that there’s so much more space. There is so much more space between the gazillion things that need to be done, there is so much more space and capacity in my body, I’m so much less reactive, and I’m so much more willing to take up the pleasure adventures that might present themselves throughout the day.
My husband gave me some great advice to support me with this morning practice, and he said, “You need to make this habit that you want to create really visible and really easy. Don’t let your intent stay invisible and hidden, because it will become harder for you to make a commitment that way.” And gee, that was sage advice, and so beside my bed, I left a water bottle for a drink of water first thing in the morning, my AirPods, so I could do my practice without disturbing the house. I left my phone turned off, but with the playlist that I had chosen to move with, I choose to move with music, I had that playlist ready to go, it was pre-chosen.
And I’ve really taken lately to doing my pleasure practice and my movement practice on this particular piece of fabric, it’s actually a sarong from Indonesia that I bought there many years ago, it’s become like my anchor, that each time I do my practice, I reinfuse the fabric that I’m on with these intentions, and it’s almost like wherever I lay that out in my bedroom, or if I’m traveling, that becomes my anchor, that becomes my really sacred place to practice. And so this is one of the really practical little shifts that has made all the difference with my movement pleasure practice.
If you’re interested in learning some of the foundational principles around a embodied movement practice, there is a small at-home practice that’s available on my website, it’s called Primal Feminine Flow, you’ll find it at jennaward.co, and that could be useful if that’s something that you’re wanting to move more fully into.
So the second thing that my pleasure asked me to do was to say “Yes” to all the inconvenient pleasures. Think a lot of us can hold the narrative that if we’re to say “Yes” to pleasure and to prioritize doing those really indulgent and extravagant things, that it’s going to mean that we have less time to get shit done, and less time to be productive. And this is a very linear, in a way, almost masculine, “Go” view of pleasure, and one that I know is so easy to kind of internalize in this hyper-masculine world and time that we live in.
Yesterday, my… I was co-working, and one of the people I was co-working with said, “It’s lunchtime, it’s hot, I need a break. Going to go jump in the ocean and just have a quick dip and immerse myself in the blue water, and then come back fresh to work.” And I looked at my watch and thought, “I’ve only really got like 90 minutes left and I’ve got a lot to get done, and I just don’t think I actually have the time to go and have this wildly fabulous escapade with my coworker.” Then I realized, “I’m in this pleasure month and my commitment is to inconvenient pleasures,” knowing historically that actually pleasure can make me more productive, and that in addition to that, productivity is not the highest value that I hold in my life.
If at the end of however many years I have here, I look back and I think, “Gee, I was productive,” I’m probably going to consider my life a bit of a failure. I would much prefer to look back and say, “Gee, I really let pleasure and the experience of being alive have its way with me, and I went all the way in that.” That, to me, would be a much greater marker of success in life. And it’s true, I have a lot of privilege and a lot of resources and a lot of access to stability in my life that allows me to have that view of life success, and with that privilege comes a great amount of responsibility, and a desire to not only ask what more can I get out of life, but what else do I need to give back as a responsibility to Earth, to all the other humans that are on it? But yet I am still allowed to have my pleasure, and that is a great joy and responsibility that I want to say “Yes” to.
So, the beach swim happened. It was epic, more epic than I could have imagined. If you’re in some form of lockdown or quarantine, or unable to travel, or if you’re in winter in the Northern Hemisphere at the moment, you can just imagine azure blue seas that are undulating with waves crashing on beautiful golden sand, and it was a hot, hot day, you wanted to be in that water and you wanted to be diving under the waves as they were crashing around you. Oh, it was exquisite.
And then we had our dip, took about an hour or so, and when I came back to my work with only a short amount of time left to finish things, you know what I discovered? It doesn’t surprise me. I discovered that everything that needed to be done and more was easily possible, and this makes sense to me, because when we are in a very linear way of operating and moving towards our productivity, we are moving through a set of dogmatic steps that assumes the effort that you put in is the sole indicator of your success. And sometimes, for some forms of employment or some forms of work, that can be true. If I need to clean the bathroom, the amount of effort that I put into that cleaning is going to be proportional to the cleanliness of the room at the end of that clean, but for me, I have the great privilege of working in a creative industry, and in a creative way.
And so for me, the amount of effort that I put into my creativity does not necessarily equal better creativity, because woven into the fabric of my creativity is the inherent belief that a lot of what I want to create can be magnetized in, drawn in, and woven into the fabric of the work to be more powerful and more radiant with more ease if I’m in the pleasure of doing it. That was absolutely the case when I said “Yes” to this inconvenient pleasure yesterday. And so I’m curious, which inconvenient pleasure have you recently said “No” to, and which inconvenient pleasure is wanting to have its way with you this coming week? Could you be so bold to say “Yes,” and trusting that by enjoying and going deeper into what feels livening for you, everything else might be more spacious, and more ease?
The third practice or frame that’s been really useful for me in this recent devotion of pleasure has been to honor the season of life that I am in, and get really committed to what my current key devotion is, and so let me put this into context to explain it further for you. Right now, my family is packing up our house, because we’re moving really shortly. By the time this podcast is magicked up and put onto the interwebs, we’ll probably be moving, so send me good vibes, because I hear moving is one of the top most stressful things that you can do in your life, though I can imagine a lot of other humans that have far more stressful things going on for them.
Anyway, we’re packing, the house is moving. One might assume that I’m in the season of really needing to get shit done, but that’s totally not the case, and not the orientation that I’m choosing. I have a few final weeks of hot weather, beaches, sunshines, and a lot of freedoms that are afforded by the place that I’m currently living, and that sunshine, warmth, and those freedoms will be changing where I’m moving to, and so right now, my highest devotion is not actually packing the house, my highest devotion right now in this season is really savoring, savoring these pleasures and the smorgasbord of pleasures that are unique to where I find myself right now.
And this is a very interesting way, I think, to approach predominantly what is a personal life change, to get really clear about what season you’re in, and what is the highest devotion of that season? I spoke to my partner, my husband, around this, checking in with him about what season he felt he was in and what his highest devotion was at this time, and he had a totally different orientation to me, which isn’t surprising, because he has a different set of responsibilities and a different approach to this move that we’re making.
But for me, baby, I’m in the savoring of all of the pleasures during these final few weeks, and many of them are inconvenient, and many of them don’t look like packaging boxes that need to be packed, but I know it will get done, and I see it getting done, and there is magic in the ability for it to get done, in ways that feel so alivening and so overflowing. So for me, this move, it is not going to be stressful, it is going to be one of savoring every last morsel of every possible pleasure, as my pleasure evolves and changes as my location evolves and changes.
Now, you’ll notice that in all of these different pleasure ideas and experiences which have been useful for me, and which may be useful for you, nothing that we’ve centered here has been overtly sexual, or even overtly sensual, but yet all of these pleasure explorations, all of these pleasure practices, are in my view the most important personal responsibilities and capacities that we really need to own in order for us to deepen our pleasure authentically, from pleasure through to sensuality, and through to sexuality.
Would love to hear from you what pleasure practice you might be choosing, what season you are in, or what you’ve taken away from today’s podcast. As always, if you love these podcasts, go over to wherever you listen to your podcasts and leave a review, it helps more people to find us and to join this conversation. And thank you so much for joining me today, it has been such a pleasure sharing this with you, and know that I’m so grateful for you being here, joining me with this conversation today, and may you, woman, have a beautiful, pleasure-filled day.