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An Ocean in the Body:  A Blog  by Stefana Serafina

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The Pleasure Principle: The World Will Be Saved by Women Who are Having a Hell of a Good Time

A few months back, a friend who was turning 60 invited me to her celebration of The Pleasure Priestess. She was choosing to enter her 60s with the magic wand of a woman who was reclaiming her birthright to joy, pleasure, and luxuriating in the senses, without guilt or having to “deserve it”, or having to wait for the right time. It wasn’t too late...

I was thrilled. Some light bulb went on inside me and lit me up. There was a chance to play dress-up with pleasure, to act and speak with pleasure, to engage in pleasure– my whole body said yes. As if all the "unbearable lightness of being", as Kundera calls it, was offered to me on a plate. The questions came: Am I a Pleasure Priestess? Am I a good one? What is a Pleasure Priestess like? And if I have to be honest, when was the last time pleasure felt like... pleasure, all the way, without the justifications? Before I could answer, the more subtle voices began: What is this silly pleasure-seeking thing? Is this just another hippy goddess impression? There are more serious and worthy tasks at hand...

As those familiar voices snuck in, I realized that I was questioning something deeper: Have I been willing to feel and allow pleasure in a state-of-the-affairs kind of way? Have I been taking pleasure in the simple act of living? Suddenly, I was reminded of the pact I had made with myself years ago, when I was beginning to develop my own work and was committing to the uneasy task of creating my independent reality and my distinct vision in the world. I had just emerged of years of pursuing a life of academia, achievement, being smart enough, and working on big projects. And more often than not, there was no true joy in what I did. So, at the doorstep of my new life, I made a pact with pleasure. It went like this: If what I do doesn’t bring me joy, pleasure, and delight, I don’t have to and it! Simple as that.

Was I delighted to be doing what I’m doing? If not, could I slow down and get sensuous enough with it– whether I was writing, answering emails, or scrubbing the sink– so that I could feel pleasure in doing it, in my skin, in the way of breathing or the curve of the spine that the activity required, or the way my creative being flowed into each gesture and thought? Was there enough aliveness in me to make me feel like the mistress of my own skies?

And if I couldn't’ muster up taking pleasure in what I was doing, then I couldn't go on doing it. I would come back to it when the pleasure in it was available to me again. Golden rule. I wasn't allowed to just say, oh well, I just got to do this, I’ll feel good about things later.

Because pleasure is a practice in all things. Now.

A big practice, to be precise, a lifelong one. One we get excited about, then forget. One we unconsciously shame ourselves for. One whose value we mistrust.

For a long time, after making a pact with pleasure, it was the guiding principle of living my life. But, today, waking to a foggy, damp day in the North of California, it dawned on me: I have not been getting much pleasure from the simple fact of living or working, or being with friends, or walking, or messing up.... When did I let the deep, sense-rich pleasure of my being creative, developing a new exercise, seeing a client, or simply thinking about my day, slip away? When did I, little by little, allow the pleasure principle to give way to a seriousness, and a busy-ness that weighs me down with ‘shoulds’ and ‘what-ifs’? How did I get to the place where a good day measures in productivity, and scratching off items on my to-do-list? How did I, so secretly, manage to withdraw myself from that which turns a mediocre life into a brilliant one??

Time to practice again. Shall we?

Because, as Regena Thomashauer puts it, “The absence of the feminine is the absence of pleasure.”

When was the last time you ate slowly enough, without looking at your devices, and indulged in the scrumptiousness of every bite, just because? When was the last time you chose what to do first because it would bring you most joy? When was the last time you let your pleasure be your genius, your ignition, your guiding light, your everything?

The most common lie we tell ourselves is that we don’t have time or space for pleasure, at least not right now. And we have to do _______ first. Then we’ll think about joy and pleasure again.

But pleasure is now, never later. So let’s stop. How about now? How can you reading this be more pleasurable? Are you feeling it? The way you sit in the chair, the way you gently sway your spine, or take a fuller breath… The transient way in which this moment brings you juice.

And, by the way, don’t let yourself or anyone tell you that pleasure is not sexual. Nor that it is purely about sex. Yes it is a paradox, but only because of our limited view of what sex is. There is always sex in pleasure, by design. But what I truly mean is sex as life force, joy of the senses, a creative fire, and being turned ON to life.

I love the way Regena Thomashauer discusses this in her book, “Pussy: A Reclamation” :

“Our bodies were built for pleasure. How do i know this? Because function follows form. Why else would we have an organ that packs 8000 nerve endings dedicated to pleasure, with no other discernable function but to teach that rapture is your birthright? {The clitoris} Eight thousand nerve endings teach a woman freedom, self-reliance, and an experience of her purpose in life. Eight thousand nerve endings teach her that her joy is serious business, and that for the sake of being fulfilling her gift as a woman, she must not overlook her pleasure. Rather, she must be guided and informed by it as she makes her way through the world.”

And just so that the connection between female anatomy and the need to pursue our life’s deepest pleasure as a sacred path is fully clear, consider the words of Naomi Wolf, a brilliant scholar and thinker in the feminine ways:

‘Female sexual pleasure, rightly understood, is not just about sexuality, or just about pleasure. It serves, also, as a medium of female self-knowledge and hopefulness; female creativity and courage; female focus and initiative; female bliss and transcendence; and as medium of a sensibility that feels very much like freedom. To understand the vagina properly is to realize that it is not only coextensive with the female brain, but is also, essentially, part of the female soul.

( Naomi Wolf in "Vagina: A New Biography")

So there, I said it. Today I make the pact again. I am the Pleasure Priestess, and my mission is to practice the birthright of my anatomy and my humanness, the legacy of the essential feminine: The genius of my pleasure.

Because– would you agree?– the world will be saved by women who are having a hell of a good time!

Be Pleasure Priestess with me!

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