Last week, I sat in circle at a retreat in North Carolina with my coach and sister circle–a group that I’ve been part of for nearly 7 years–and an incredible deepened level of awareness began to emerge for me.
I’ve long been present to the many ways I keep myself at arms distance from true enjoyment and pleasure. The most prominent for me is the reliable old pattern of “when I get there, I will allow myself to enjoy.” The problem is that this is a never-ending cycle. Inevitably, as soon as we “get there,” wherever “there” is, we’re already onto the next “there” we’re trying to get to and we miss the experience of enjoying what’s right in front of us.
This pattern is really common, and it’s based on “the myth of arrival” —arrival being a myth because truly there is no arrival.
“Wait, what?! What do you mean there is no arrival?!”
You read that right. We never “arrive.”
On a path of growth and self-discovery, there ultimately is no endpoint–it’s a journey and a process! Yes, of course, there are definitely pit stops–times to pause, acknowledge our enoughness, and celebrate along the way–and yet, if we live inside a cycle where we’re constantly putting our pleasure and enjoyment on the backburner…waiting until we “arrive” before we allow ourselves the gift of pleasure, we’ll continue to be divorced from our most empowered and embodied selves.
It’s easy to get caught up in the myth of arrival. We’re conditioned from the time we’re born to focus on the things we want, and in consumer culture, we’re sold the belief that having X, Y, and Z or achieving goals 1, 2 and 3 will equal happiness. We’re also taught there’s always something to be fixed; that somehow where we are right now is not good enough; and that we must prioritize “working hard” over enjoying. (The biggest myth of all, for the record is that hard work and enjoyment are mutually exclusive.)
Why else do we deny ourselves pleasure? For me–inside this deeper level of awareness I recently came to–I realize I’ve been holding onto deep fear that if I really let myself enjoy the moment, I’ll somehow be unsafe. Almost like if I let my guard down to fully enjoy whatever moment I’m in, there’s no guarantee that the ground won’t fall out from under me. Put another way, it feels like at times I’m unable to really relax and enjoy because I’m afraid the other shoe will drop.
Now look, I am highly aware of my privilege: as a white woman living in California, I have access to a level of safety and security that so many humans do not. And still, this awareness has come blazing to life in me: regardless of all the work I’ve done around presence and pleasure, at times I still feel unsafe relaxing into the moment. Despite the fact that it’s kind of illogical, the feelings are super deep, raw and powerful.
How are you when it comes to enjoying the moment? How often do you allow yourself the pure pleasure of enjoyment? Enjoying a Sunday afternoon with friends, a caress from a loved one on your cheek, relishing in the fruits of your labor, or the pure satisfaction of feeling the sun kiss your forehead on a Summer day…how often do you indulge in these simple, momentary pleasures?
If it’s been awhile, I invite you to tune in–have you perhaps been putting your pleasure on the back burner? Are you caught up in the myth of arrival? If so, I ask you, what is it you’re truly waiting for? And more importantly, how can you support yourself in feeling “safe” enough to let go and enjoy the moment?
As I wrap up this week’s newsletter, I’d like to share with you some of the action steps and insights I have been playing with since this new awareness came forward [see below].
I’m still in process around this unfolding, and yet, what I’m discovering is so potent that I just can’t wait to share. I invite you to take these suggestions and adapt them however feels good to you. The main point here is that we recommit to prioritizing pleasure in our lives.
- “Safety truly lives inside me.” I know I might get some pushback here, and that’s understandable. I’m not denying that our world can be unsafe and horrific at times. Rather, what I am playing with is remembering that in any moment of my life, I can source my own safety by ________________. I don’t have to keep playing the game of believing that my safety is outsourced in any way. As I’m coming home to this new story around safety, I’m reminded that sure, “bad things” will happen and the world is unsafe at times, but that my enjoyment of the moment does not negatively impact my ability to be safe in any way. My experience of pleasure is not the culprit of the world’s ills, it’s the medicine. Just this shift in understanding alone has made a monumental difference for me this week…specifically in how I am letting myself be moved by my work with clients, how I’m being intimate with my partner, and how I’m luxuriating more in the food I am cooking and eating.
- “Enjoyment and pleasure are essential to my well being.” When I am caught up in the myth of arrival–prolonging the wait for enjoyment or cutting myself off from enjoyment entirely–my anxiety begins to increase. I start feeling like I am running more on adrenaline than my essential prana and energy. Letting ourselves really receive the enjoyment and pleasure of our lives has been scientifically proven to increase serotonin in the brain, and I know that when I am giving myself the space to really expand into enjoying each moment, I feel calmer, clearer, and more connected to myself and others. I also have way more energy!
- “It’s not about either/or.” I’m so over the belief that either I can feel pleasure and enjoyment or pain and the darker emotions I am going through, but that I can’t feel both. If you’ve been following me for awhile, you already know my feelings on this. We humans are multidimensional beings, and we have a full spectrum of emotions that move and shift all the time. So feeling pleasure and joy is not about denying myself the authentic experience of sadness and fear I feel sometimes; it’s about creating space for all of it. When I’m truly on my path, I don’t need to deny any part of me or of my experience.
- “Prioritizing pleasure is a choice, and I can choose to create space for enjoyment at any given time of the day.” There’s will always be lots that needs to get done, bills that need to be paid, and conversations that need to be had, but I don’t have to wait until everything is “complete” to create moments of deep, nourishing pleasure and enjoyment. Even in moments of overwhelm, we can choose to prioritize pleasure. Sometimes, even though we’re aware of this, we may still not be in a place where we’re ready to choose pleasure and joy–perhaps you’re working through some deep fear around this, as I am–and that’s totally okay! If you’re not ready to choose pleasure yet, have compassion for yourself. There’s no wrong choice and you can always choose differently in the next moment.
- “I am already enough.” This has been one of the most powerful antidotes in my own battle against the myth of arrival. When I awaken to the truth that I am already enough, it shifts my perspective so powerfully and so much more feels possible. From that space, I’m able to allow myself the pure satisfaction of the process and the present moment, rather than my pleasure or enjoyment being somewhere out there in the future as something I have to “get to” or “attain.”
It’s my deepest intention that my sharing my own process around all this will support you–that reading this will spark a permission, an allowing, and a deepened awareness of the pleasure and joy that is already available for you in every moment. If you’re feeling resistance to letting yourself savor the moment, it’s okay! There’s nothing wrong with you…nothing to be “fixed.” What’s more, there may be something going on underneath the surface that needs your loving care and attention. Remember to be easy on yourself, and enjoy the ride-moment to moment.