Many of us are well versed in tolerating pain. Especially in spiritual circles, we may even gravitate toward painful, uncomfortable situations, milking them for all the soul growth we can tolerate and being grateful for the discomfort. But we can get out of balance this way. We can even venture into full on masochism if we’re not careful! What if the real challenge is being equally fluid and open to both pleasure and pain? What if we’re not grasping at pleasure or resisting pain, but we’re also not grasping at pain and resisting pleasure? Might it be possible to just roll with what life throws our way, relishing in the pleasurable experiences when they arrive and composting all the painful experiences as soul growth?
To help you get out of a funk, or to help you navigate a personal or global crisis, it can be helpful to keep a toolbox of reproducibly pleasurable experiences. I have hundreds of these kinds of tools in my toolbox, so no matter what happens, I know I can always pull out one of these to help raise my vibration when I find myself spiraling downwards. I’m in the middle of the most intense initiation of my life right now, and I’ll be able to blog about it and give you details soon. But until then, just suffice it to say I’m currently putting into practice everything I’m about to share with you about how to call upon your Pleasure Toolbox when you’re in crisis. Many of the tools in my toolbox are specific to living in the San Francisco Bay Area, and they’re unique to my personal inclinations and preferences, but hopefully, you’ll be inspired by this list to create your own personal Pleasure Toolbox. It’s helpful to create this toolbox when you’re not in crisis, so if crisis strikes, when you might be paralyzed by fear, grief, anger, or disappointment, you have your toolbox ready and waiting.
1. Go on a Goddess Quest.
Going on a one day or multi-day Goddess Quest is the #1 way I remind myself that I am deeply and perpetually loved by a benevolent Universe. This has never, ever failed to get me out of a funk. Instructions for how I do this are in this blog.
2. Play with a child.
Let a little human show you how to experience pleasure in the smallest ways. Chase a butterfly. Get super curious about a flower. Squeal in delight as you swing on the swingset (yes, grown-ups can swing too!). Children don’t have hang-ups about relishing life and experiencing pleasure the way adults sometimes do!
3. Meditate near water.
Any body of water will do, but I have a particular inclination toward a natural serpentine cave at Tennessee Valley Beach. I can sit in that little cave with my eyes closed and listen to the waves and plug into Divine Love and happily stay there for hours. Any beach will do, but that one, in particular, seems to connect me straight to the heart of the Universe.
4. Serve someone or something other than yourself.
It’s easy to get stuck in your own self-pity, but no matter how much you might be suffering, I guarantee someone or something is suffering more than you. Find where your love is needed and go give it. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Visit elders in a nursing home and bring them music or your presence or read stories. Plant a tree and commit to watering it. Make yourself available for a nonprofit that is serving something you care about. Serving from a clean, clear, open heart is guaranteed to make your day.
5. Make a play date with the muse.
My daughter and I love going to gem fairs, shopping for the crystals, stones, and gems that speak to us, and then sitting together in front of the fireplace, making malas. (She has her own mala shop Handmade By Siena on Etsy.) I also love making encaustic paintings and sculptures. (You can see my art here.) Siena and I make fairy houses. We make homemade raw chocolate. We make self-published illustrated books of photos and stories and drawings on Blurb.com. We make altars around the house out of sacred objects in nature. We create art in the kitchen. Being creative and letting the muse have her way with me always brings me intense pleasure.
6. Have a dance party.
I have a whole music playlist dedicated to helping me get out of dark shadowy spirals. There are certain songs that I just cannot listen to without feeling uplifted, and when I add movement to those songs, I’m instantly transported into a kind of musical dance Ecstasy. Here are 10 of my favorite uplifting dance songs. I dare you not to shake your booty and feel better.
Another Day In The Sun—La La Land Soundtrack
We Are All Earthlings—Michael Franti
Just Let Go—Fischerspooner
Sioux War Dance—Shawnee
I Lived—One Republic
Wake Me Up—Avicii
Hold My Hand—Jess Glynne
Something About This Night—Finding Neverland Soundtrack
7. Hike to a special place in nature and do a despacho ceremony.
I can’t be unhappy when I’m hiking in nature. Nature is my most reliable lover, and it’s truly bliss for me to be out among the trees, the mountains, the rivers and oceans, and the animals. One way I like to honor nature is to perform a shamanic ceremony taught to me by the shamans of the Q’eros in Peru. This practice is a surefire way to return me to a place of gratitude and connection with “Pachamama” (Mother Earth). You can learn how to do your own variation of this gratitude offering here.
8. Take a scenic drive.
I’m lucky because I live right on historic Highway 1, so I’m blessed to have access to one of the most beautiful drives in the world. Right now Highway 1 is washed out from mudslides just north of me, so I have to drive all the way over Mount Tamalpais to get to Highway 1 North, but it’s still worth it. If you happen to find yourself in the Bay Area, start with buying a loaf of the stellar bread at Parkside Café in Stinson Beach and pair it with their out of this world homemade pesto and a cappuccino. Then stop at the honor system veggie stand in Bolinas, take a horseback ride at Five Brooks Ranch in Olema, stroll for hours on Limantour Beach in Point Reyes, watch the whales migrate from the Point Reyes lighthouse, pick up some local cheese at Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes Station to go with the bread (if there’s still any left). Make sure to make it up to the Marshall General Store before they close. Order the barbecued oysters and sit outside by Tomales Bay where the oysters were just harvested. If you don’t feel blissed out by the end of a day like this, you probably have anhedonia—the inability to experience pleasure—which is the most reliable sign of clinical depression. (If you are depressed, don’t give up. There is help for you. This video I made with Casi Zachiarias might give you hope.) If you’re able to let yourself indulge in pleasure, I’m sure you’ll find your own version of a drive like this in your neck of the woods.
9. Communicate with and celebrate wild animals.
You can read about how to joyfully play with the wild animal kingdom here, here, here, and here. You can also celebrate the animal kingdom by performing a ritual to celebrate the animals. I like to do a particular ceremony in the bone circle at Slide Ranch in Muir Beach, where dead animals go to decompose. After decomposition, the animal bones are put into the bone circle, where I go often to honor the animal spirits with the shamanic ceremonies I was taught by the shamans in Peru and my Native American friends. Any kind of ceremonial ritual puts me into a space of gratitude, gets me out of my own self-absorbed stories, and connects me to the Universe. Burn sage or palo santo or incense. Offer gifts to the earth. Say prayers. Chant. Bring an instrument and play to the spirits. Write down what you want to release and burn what no longer serves you (in a safe way!).
10. Indulge in a spa treatment.
Even if you can’t afford to go to a fancy spa, you can still have a spa day with your friends, taking turns painting each other’s nails, giving each other backrubs, and giving each other facials. If you can afford to go all out, find a destination spa, somewhere you can hang out all day and really relax.
Whether you have a partner or not, a full-throttled orgasmic rush can pretty reliably be just what the doctor ordered. Make it an experience. Take a bath with bath salts. Light candles. Set the mood. Put on music that turns you on. Tickle yourself with feathers or flowers or silks. Let your body relish in the pleasurable experiences it’s capable of feeling.
12. Fill yourself with uplifting books, movies, music, festivals, or spiritual gatherings.
Go to a kirtan. Take a yoga class. Attend a music festival. Sign up for a meditation retreat. Read books that light you up. Watch inspiring films and documentaries. Keep your heart attuned to what uplifts you.
13. Soak naked in hot springs.
My favorite way to soak is to hike to a natural hot springs outside fancy, expensive resorts, but there aren’t many of those close to where I live. Oregon is full of them, so I always prioritize seeking them out if I’m in places that have natural hot springs like this. Because of fires and mudslides, two of my favorite clothing-optional hot springs destinations are no longer accessible at this moment—Esalen Institute and Harbin Hot Springs. So I’ve accepted alternatives that still lift me up—Orr Hot Springs, Wilbur Hot Springs, and Sierra Hot Springs. A second best alternative is bathing suit required Watsu pool at Sonoma Mission Inn or the Olympic-sized hot springs pool at Indian Hot Springs. Twenty minutes in the 98-degree hot mineral water pool at Sonoma Mission Inn, floating on two noodles with my ears under the water listening to angel music and I’m in heaven.
14. Offer love to dogs and cats.
It’s hard to be in a bad mood when you’re snuggling a Golden Retriever. Just sayin’ . . .
15. Make a pilgrimage to a special spot in nature.
Visit a waterfall. Go to the top of a mountain. Take a trip to your favorite state or national park. Take a tip from the Balinese and honor the spirit of the waterfall, mountain, or park, imagining it as a temple and bowing in prayer and gratitude.
The Yum Goddess
You can make any experience more pleasurable by simply asking yourself, “How could I make this experience even better?” For many people, especially women who tend to be focused on everyone’s needs except their own, particularly those who work in service industries or are stay home mothers, it can be a challenging practice to ramp up your tolerance for pleasure. It sounds nuts, but many of us have blocks against experiencing intense pleasure. It’s like we’ve been so conditioned to martyr ourselves in the name of service that if pleasure gets too intense, we literally resist it. (We humans are so adorable!)
If you think this doesn’t apply to you, consider this. How much pleasure do you let yourself experience? Do you get panicky if things get too yummy? Do you judge other people who have a high tolerance for pleasure as hedonistic, self-indulgent, or frivolous? If the Universe was trying to shower you with infinite blessings, could you just stand under the waterfall of unbounded, unrestricted love, time, energy, beauty in nature, financial abundance, soul tribe, fulfillment in your calling—and maybe even some wine, fresh crab, and chocolate on the side? Does imagining such a thing cause you to feel constricted? Or are you wide-open to receiving infinite blessings?
I learned a lot about how to upgrade my tolerance for pleasure from my friend Ania, who I’ve lovingly nicknamed the “Yum Goddess.” Ania knows how to make anything juicy. When most people go to an event, they show up, sit in a folded chair, and listen to the presenter. Ania shows up with a sheepskin rug, a jug of fresh squeezed watermelon juice, an aromatherapy spritzer, some raw chocolate, and two pillows. You can just see everyone else at the event wishing they had bothered to make the experience as yummy as Ania does. When her adorable, Goddess-worshipping husband asks her how she could feel even more yummy, she’ll coo at him in the most sexy, delicious, sincere, loving way, “Ooooh . . . my love . . . I would get so turned on if you made me some of that raw cacao cashew milk hot chocolate with maple syrup.” And he is delighted to please her in this way. I mean . . . yum.
So I’ve learned to let myself practice being more of a Yum Goddess than I used to be, and my new guy Richard is totally on board to indulge me like Ania’s man does! (In fact, he said to me, “Thank you for showing me how I can pleasure you. Meeting your needs meets my need for intimacy, so thank you for giving me the opportunity to live in alignment with my values in this way.” Super yum. And I love doing the same for him. Double yum.)
Practicing ramping up your yum factor doesn’t mean you’re not grateful and content with what you already have. It’s not meant to hook you into the “more, more, more” hungry ghost of the ego. (That will never make you happy.) It’s more like holding the paradox of “Life is perfect just as it is and I’m grateful for every blessing, and I’m unblocking any blocks that prevent me from receiving infinite love, gifts, and blessings from the Universe.”
Try it if it feels resonant. What might make this present moment even yummier? Could you put soothing music on? Could you light some incense? Could you make yourself a green smoothie? Could you gather wildflowers out in your garden? Would it be better if you invited your best friend to join you? Would you feel more comfortable if you changed into your pajamas? What if you just let yourself feel good without judging yourself for indulging even the smallest dose of yum?
How to Use the Pleasure Toolbox
Try making a list of what’s in your Pleasure Toolbox. What lights you up? What lifts your spirits when you’re feeling down? What reliably reconnects you to Source? What comforts you? Call on these tools if life just threw you a curveball, if you’re in crisis, if you’re feeling low, or if you just want a pleasure upgrade. I’m doing nearly all of these during this holiday weekend to help me through this acute crisis. What about you? Do you need to ramp up your tolerance for pleasure? What would you put in your Pleasure Toolbox? Share what lights you up here, since you might help give other people ideas for their Pleasure Toolboxes!
Much love and wishes for loads of pleasure,
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