pleasure is like a hot bath,
a perfect dessert,
a sweet summer night thick with jasmine and orange blossoms.
it takes time and openness to work its magic
and you need to be immersed, surrounded,
until the inescapable persistence of it surpasses suffocation and tips over into the complete experience,
and the deep-down knowing that this
is how you were meant to be,
this is how it was meant to feel,
every inch of your skin a living tribute to sensation,
so glad you are alive that you could cry.
It is a long way from where most of us spend our days.
And so I’m taking twelve people on a journey back into themselves.
For three nights and four days,
we’ll swim in the pool of yes.
Four days of bodywork,
four days of delicious food, prepared for us.
Four days of hot tub and gentleness,
of spaciousness and sweet conversation,
four days of feeling like feeling your body might in fact not hurt.
It might feel awesome.
Because when you do this work, usually,
you start to sink into your body and then you realize how much hurting
and tension and fear and ache and exhaustion you’ve been holding.
You start to sink in and then you feel like you’re going to burn your fingers on the hot stove of your fatigue and the burning-the-candle-at-both-ends solar plexus.
You start to sink in and then you recoil from what that feels like.
So I’m setting the stage, your stage, with bodywork and delicious food,
with a long night’s rest and a soak in the hot tub,
with sweet and beautiful people.
So when you wake and consult your body,
Come with me to the Berkshires for a gorgeous, cozy, luxurious retreat. Four days and three nights in mid-November: the 14th-17th. Be rested. Be restored. Be loved. Be renewed. Bodywork every day. Meals and lodging included. Come and be delighted.
email me and tell me what you love about this idea to register: firstname.lastname@example.org
This is my word. It is your word, too. This is the word that means yes that means joy that means ahhhh
This is the word that means right
This is the word that means the place inside
Where you go to figure out what is being left behind
And whether that is actually a problem
This is the word that means grass underfoot
Trees in the forest
Laughter with your lover
Laughter with a baby
Deep sleep after a long day.
This is the word
That means knowing your work
Is a job well done.
This is the word that means arms thrown wide
Sprinting heedlessly toward the cool surf
And this is the word
That means fire and kitten and book
While the storm rages
This is the word that holds making love and making cookies in the same breath
This is the word that means knowing you are safe, you are right with the world, you belong
This is the word that means home
This is the word that means god.
Do not let the people say in your ear
That pleasure is only for the weak
Or the horny.
They do not know
They have forgotten.
This is the word that speaks from the core of your heart
To answer the longing of the world
With your voice.
And you know.
And you will not forget.
This is the beginning.
And this is the word
This is the word
this is the word.
Whenever I talk about pleasure as the fundamental compass for decisionmaking, someone tells me that it doesn’t work.
“…because if I just ate whatever I wanted I would eat a whole bag of cookies and that isn’t good for me.”
But I don’t think your body ACTUALLY wants the whole bag of cookies. Or chips.
When you eat the first bite of the first cookie, you get a pleasure hit.
When you eat the first bite of the second cookie, you might still get a pleasure hit.
But somewhere around the third cookie, you’re not getting the same body sensation that you were getting at the beginning. The “pleasure” such as it is has moved from your body to your brain, which is telling you that you SHOULD be feeling pleasure because, hello, COOKIE!
Your body, however, is probably feeling a little maladjusted, a little off-kilter, a little done with the whole cookie thing.
If you practice paying attention to your body, you will notice when that happens, and you can stop. Or, you know, you can ignore it. You can choose. And once you know what you’re choosing, you can’t un-know it. That avoidance doesn’t work anymore. Eventually, mostly, you will make a different choice, and if you don’t, you’ll know to ask why.
It can change everything.
What do you do when you don’t know what to do?
I have a rather unusual weekend before me: nearly completely unscheduled. And I don’t know what to do with it.
Ironically, just recently someone I know on Facebook posted that they had an unplanned day and were at loose ends. The question that rose to the surface before I could even think about it was, “What would please you?”
She said, predictably, that she didn’t know.
I don’t know, either. And it’s usually my job to ask those questions. But faced with the actual reality myself, I have maybe a 50% success rate at asking and answering the question and then doing the thing. All too often I spend my extra hours or days or weekends refreshing social media, sleeping, eating when I’m not hungry, or staring at the ceiling.
First of all, if you spend most of your time sprinting from task to task, it actually takes time to downshift. The staring at the ceiling part is important. It’s part of the process. You need the break from doing anything, even something you might enjoy. Think of it like unschooling for the entrepreneur. It takes practice and even discipline not to pop up or flip open the computer to “just see” something. Don’t. Do. It. Let your brain unwind. There’s good stuff in there, caught up in the constant spinning.
Secondly, if you’re feeling a little tired (or a lot) or a little down (or a lot) it can be forty times harder to answer the pleasure question. Make your lens really, really small. Stop trying to find The Big Pleasure Thing (YAY I WILL HAVE HOT MONKEY SEX ALL AFTERNOON AND THEN EAT A SUNDAE! –wait, that sounds like a lot of work, maybe I will just check Facebook again) and let even the tiniest little whisper of pleasure be the place you start. (That wild violet: I want to put it in a bud vase on the kitchen windowsill. The house is chilled. I will turn up the heat. I will have a mug of my favorite tea. I will wear my happy socks.) Pleasure doesn’t have to start (or even become) huge. But the wiring of your brain (for reals, they have studies) gets into recursive loops. The more it does x the more of x it will do. So anything you can do to shift the loop will help. Anything. Tiny square of dark chocolate. Funny cat videos on YouTube. Using the good smelling soap.
Let “What would please you?” become, “What is pleasing you right now? (and how can you do a little more of that?)”
Anything is everything when it is the beginning of something. And when it is the beginning of pleasure, so much more true.
It’s a strange thing to move from the nonprofit to the entrepreneurial world. Strange as in disorienting and destabilizing and ultimately, liberating.
Because in a nonprofit (most nonprofits: there are, as always, exceptions) there are so very many lids on the possibilities. Decisionmaking is rarely streamlined or fast or nimble; passion matters more than practicality. But more than that, money runs the show.
It’s ironic, because money is supposed to be outside the issue for a nonprofit. Money is supposed to be beside the point. But precisely because it isn’t supposed to matter, it matters more than anything.
Try to have a new idea in a nonprofit. Want to see how long it takes before someone wants to know what it will cost and where the funding will come from? Use a stopwatch. For that matter, watch yourself try to have a new idea. How long before YOU ask where the money is coming from?
Drilling even further into the massive dirty laundry pile that is finances without money, take a look at rates of pay. There is an assumption that persons working for a nonprofit should expect to be paid less than their for-profit peers.
This is absurd.
Equal work for equal pay: across gender lines, across age lines, and across institutional lines. A nonprofit is nonprofit because it doesn’t make money for owners or shareholders, but not because it doesn’t pay its people. Unfortunately, this is what we as a culture have come to expect.
We criticize endlessly if people get paid at nonprofits. We complain about EDs who get CEO-like-salaries. Why? Do we not want to compensate talent and skill when it is working for the common good? Should it only be profitable to be brilliant if you work for a soul-sucking megacorporation? Is there something morally wrong with having a good income?
We love that these groups exist to do the work and organizing that we don’t have the time, energy, or skill to do, but we don’t want to actually pay someone to do it. And then we wonder why those groups are struggling to change the world.
When we focus the conversation on how terrible it is for them to spend money on things they find important, we are completely undermining their work and diverting their limited energy, time, and resources from the work we want them to do to arguing with us.
And if any institution has a massive gap between the highest and lowest paid employee, perhaps the question is why are the people at the bottom of that scale paid so LITTLE, not why the CEO is paid so much. Let’s adjust the scale UPWARD until it makes sense.
There is a third, insidious effect to this undervaluing of humans. It creates an entire culture where shoestrings are virtuous and sufficiency is considered luxury. It creates and supports a culture where struggle is deified, turned into some kind of god for which we must strive. And it means that we have no idea what our skills are worth in the rest of the world, or what it might be fair to be paid. The nonprofit world creates an insular subculture where valuing the self at a reasonable market rate is considered uppity and unreasonable. In a perennial culture of scarcity, no one wants to look up from the microcosm to find out that their rates and expectations are twenty or thirty years behind. So instead they put intense social pressure on everyone inside the container to stay the hell down.
and the people all said sit down! Sit down you’re rockin’ the boat. –Guys and Dolls
Minimum wage in Australia is $22/hr.
Twenty-two dollars. AND they have health care.
So when I say that my educated, skilled, practiced time is worth five times that, I’m not crazy. And in the world of entrepreneurs, indeed I am not. Consulting and presentation and workshop rates reflect that. They reflect that rate for the hours on the stage and the hours backstage, traveling, getting ready. They reflect the risk that we take on as entrepreneurs, the money we invest up front, the cancellations, the technical work, the marketing, the infrastructure that makes it possible for us to be hired. They reflect the actual cost of business. They reflect what it costs to do it well and have everyone feel good about it.
But if you start from a nonprofit where getting paid $10/hr seems like a huge upgrade from minimum wage (and you should be grateful!) or where your senior leadership is paid under $50,000/year, it is hard to even THINK numbers that big.
It is like speaking a language where there is no word for grass and then starting a lawncare business.
It requires years of rethinking to formulate a vocabulary which includes those possibilities. It is a major internal cultural shift to value yourself well. And if you continue to keep company with those who have a different sense of the financial value of a person, it is even harder.
This is not about being ungrateful. This is about knowing your worth.
Because when you are paid well, you have mental and emotional space to do what you are here to do, which is not worry about money. You release stress and pain. You take on pleasure as your compass. You make better decisions.
Because you–and the world–are worth it.
This is the teleclass archive, where any teleclass I deem worthy of posting will be made available. I’m still kind of new to the teleclass format, so sometimes I may record a class and then decide that I don’t want to make it public. If, however, you were ON the class and you want a copy, please let me know and I will either make an exception or tell you politely that I never want anyone to hear it again. 🙂
This is the Know Your Body, Know Your Mind class from April 22, 2013
I never thought I could speak in public. I hated speaking in public. I was the epitome of shy kid: that speaking assignment in seventh grade where we had to get up in front of the class and talk for four minutes was awful.
(You know it was almost impossible when your seventh grade classmates who hate you applaud and cheer for you when you’re done. Sympathy lives.)
I’ve been out of the pulpit for a while now. But at my last settlement I spoke to seventy or eighty people every Sunday. The position before that was two seatings of 400-500.
That’s not a typo.
And I loved it.
Yes of course, some of this is training and having something to say.
But the kick in the ass that got me from zero to basic presentation?
Sexuality education. No joke.
Let me tell you a story: I’m in eighth grade. Long hair pulled back in a braid. Braces, I think. Shy, shy, shy. Big glasses. Smart. Depressed. Withdrawn. Two close friends and the rest of the world thinks I’m invisible.
Unitarian Universalist church had already started to save me. I had more hope and connection in youth group, more interesting conversations, frankly, more fun there than anywhere else.
Then we started sex ed. In church. (PSA: They still do it. Now it’s called OWL and every single kid should have the chance. UUA and UCC churches offer it, but it’s also out there in some cities as an outreach program.)
So I’m sitting there with some kids I don’t know particularly well, and we’re going to spend a semester of church school talking about sex. I’m well-read but intrigued. And by the end of the semester I am thoroughly impressed. We have practice, information, and training in how to be with sexuality, make our own decisions, talk about what we want and need, set boundaries and limits, understand and provide (or not) consent, PLUS all the plumbing and mechanics. It is 1989. We have talked about HIV/AIDS and about being gay/lesbian/bisexual and even touched on transgender identities.
For possibly the first time in my life, I am totally inspired. I want to DO this. I want to TEACH this. I want to BE PART OF THIS BECAUSE HOLYSHIT IT CHANGED MY LIFE. (I had no idea how much it had changed my life.)
And I resolved, then and there, to get trained to teach AYS when I was old enough to do so.
Meanwhile I ended up becoming the go-to information source in my high school.
And then I went to UU summer camp and decided I wanted a youth group that did conferences and stuff…but I was the only one with the information. So I learned to lead. Training, modeling, mentoring, fumbling, but I learned and was encouraged and learned and was encouraged…
and then I was old enough. And I got trained.
And then when they updated the AYS program to OWL I got trained again. By that time I was in seminary.
And then I learned to preach. And the rest is kind of history.
But here’s the bottom line: if you want to break through an old limit, there is nothing (NOTHING) that beats passion for getting you there. When I was talking about sex I wasn’t thinking about what people were thinking. I was thinking, “Oh my god, you need this information. You needed it last week. And I’m the only one who can give it to you right now. Listen up, this is important.”
What do only you have to give? Give it. The world needs it. Right now.
Feeling better takes time.
That’s a royal pain in the ass for those of us who are impatient, or perfectionists, or just really into feeling good.
But it just is.
It just is so.
Like wind and rain and sunrise and the tides, feeling better doesn’t always turn up on your schedule. It hints and teases, and then you have One Of Those Days–the ones where you wish you had a magic pill to make it go away.
And when you can’t get out of bed, or the baggage you’re carrying from early childhood (or your last breakup) feels just a bit too heavy, what do you do?
I don’t actually know what you do.
But here’s what I do:
1) I drink water. Dehydration is a serious problem for my brain’s function.
2) I eat protein.
3) I forget everything I know about feeling better and wonder why (1) and (2) haven’t worked yet.
4) I try to go back to sleep. It doesn’t work.
5) I drown my sorrows in Facebook or Twitter. It doesn’t work.
6) I remember what feels good. (This is the key. It’s the pivot point.)
7) I get out the art supplies. When I draw I have TOTAL PERMISSION to make a COMPLETE MESS (2-d art is not my thing) so I get out paint or markers. And I draw. I scribble. I “waste paper” (ask me sometime about my mother’s admonitions about wasting paper.)
8) I call people who make me smile.
9) I go to the ocean (I live near the ocean)
10) As I am doing these things I put my attention in that part of my lower abdomen that gets tingly when I’m turned on. All of these things give me that same tingly feeling (sex doesn’t actually appeal to me when I’m down in the dumps or I’d probably try that, too) and as soon as I feel it, I follow it.
11) and follow it.
12) and next thing I know it’s 10 PM and I’ve written a blog post or a short story, or I’ve made art I want to hang, or made plans for the next day to see someone I really enjoy or…
There are variations on this theme. But this is the essence.
These techniques also work as maintenance–when you’re not dumpsy but you don’t want to be, it can be avoided by prophylactic application of art, friends, touch, salt water, and eventually joy.
Why does it work? Brain chemistry. When you’re down, you are actually less able to experience pleasure and be creative. Eventually, if you hit panic, you are functioning under fight-or-flight threat mode from yourself. BUT. But…if you can flip the spiral it changes everything.
Figuring this out took me yearrrrrsss. Long. Years.
But it changed my life.
Give it a shot. What do you have to lose?
If you’d like to go into detail about this, I’ll be teaching a class called Unpacking With Pleasure: how not to let your shit run your life–on April 20. Details are on my other website, over here: http://ebbmassagestudio.com/unpacking-with-pleasure
It’s about cheese and eggplant this morning,
anything warm against the bitter cold
shining so bright against the winter’s corners.
It’s about any excuse to heat the oven,
waiting until I am dry to go outside,
even to feed the birds,
anything, really, to remember
that she is bigger than us, bigger than all of us,
she cannot even see the speck of us
against the brilliance of the sky
we are too small
to even make shadows
and yet we feed the cats, walk the dogs,
bundle up scarves and mittens
to render the wind harmless,
just whistling on its way.
there is that moment when we yearn for something larger,
reach for the sunflower and
decide we are reaching for the sun
because why not?
Why should we not stand as tall and proud as any other?
Why should we not proclaim the greatness of miracles to the world?
Why should we not be prophets and scholars?
Indeed we shall
Indeed we are.
And it begins today,
it begins in milk for cheese,
Let it begin now.
Dear Boston, if you are needing a bridge from reaching to beginning, come explore on January 26th. We’ll start where you are and end up where you didn’t know you were going. http://ebbmassagestudio.com/wishfinding
This is the question I wake up with most mornings:
What if we’ve got it backwards? What if it’s inside out and upside down and widdershins?
What if it’s really supposed to feel good?
What if all this valorization of The Hard Way is a bunch of crap cooked up by people who pretty much didn’t have a choice at the time…
and now we have a choice. And if they were here today they would jump at the chance to be warm and dry and pleasure-filled and happy.
So what if you were to look at your life and do a hardness inventory?
Where are things hard?
Make a list.
Now what could be easier? What could you just stop doing? What could be fixed with a tiny little change?
What could be repurposed?
What five minutes would save you five hours?
Write down all the possibilities.
Now pick one.
And see what happens.
Everything is connected to everything else, and pleasure is your compass. Love your direction.
PS: in Boston? Wishfinding is intuition made easy. January 26. Register now at http://ebbmassagestudio.com/wishfinding