REPLACING LACK WITH PLEASURE
About 80% of what we take in everyday comes through our vision. When we see what’s outside of ourselves, it’s the first way to see possibility and inspire desires, and it also becomes a first point of reference to comparing ourselves. When the massive overload in the media is tantalizing us to compare ourselves with “how we look”, especially when it comes to “looking sexy”, one of the most important things we can do is to create an inner communion with our bodies.
The most tragic thing about comparing ourselves is that it gets in the way of being able to see, to feel and to know our own beauty.
We get caught up in “what we are not”, which makes us feel trapped in a continual cycle of trying to change something about ourselves.
When I was six years old in ballet classes, adults would casually comment about how I had more “meat on my bones” or I was “bigger boned” or a little more “fleshy” than my older sister, who was leaner than I was. For some reason, people liked to categorize us and they were surprised to hear my sister was the older one when I was the “bigger” one.
I Felt Not “Enough”
When I was fourteen, I was still bigger than my sister. I was convinced I wasn’t “skinny enough” to wear a bikini. I have a picture of my precious teenage self wearing a one-piece bathing suit, with big felt marks circled around all the areas of my body that I didn’t like. I wrote “FAT” and pointed arrows to the areas of my body I wanted to change before I’d deem myself able to wear a bikini.
Still, I was convinced that I needed to do more exercises from my Mom’s Reader’s Digest, and that I should eat only what my sister ate. In my brain, I believed that what I was doing was “positive” because I was “improving myself.” Little did I know that this quest to improve myself was motivated not by self-love, but by self–lack.
“Improving” myself became one of the biggest forms of self-sabotage ever.
Years later, as a fit model, my income depended on being the exact measurements of the clothing the job required me to wear. My financial stability and survival depended on how my body and its image was seen and measured from the outside.
I was never “done” improving myself.
Underneath it was shame that I wasn’t enough, there was something wrong with me.
Shame is the motherboard of doubt, fear, control, and self sabotage.
Shame is what no one likes to talk about.
It’s the thing that makes us hide.
It’s the thing that makes us fear and avoid rejection at all costs.
It’s the thing that makes us believe that we don’t deserve happiness, pleasure or love.
When you hide this feeling of shame, your body on some primal level doesn’t feel safe.
Your body clenches up, because in your nervous system, there’s an imprint of a painful emotional experience.
This contraction in your body leads to sexual frustration because even if our minds WANT to experience pleasure, our bodies may shut down.
Perhaps you’ve long outgrown some of your body image insecurities. But if you are like me, you may have found yourself, at some point, experiencing sexual shut-down no matter how many affirmations you do, or how much you tally your “gratitudes” everyday. If your body says no, (even if your mind is saying yes) this shut-down leads us to feeling not fully self-expressed, and sooner or later you start to feel trapped.
Often when we’re on the verge of feeling most alive… like on the cusp of orgasm, or opening up our hearts and the possibility of new love, or taking on a new business venture, or exposing a new art project to the world, that’s when our deepest fears start to kick in, and our bodies contract.
On a very basic level, the core thing that causes our bodies to shut down is: not feeling safe.
When we don’t feel safe emotionally: fearing rejection (feeling “not enough”), fearing betrayal (maybe you’ve experienced this from a past lover?), and/or when we don’t feel safe from the result of a physical trauma or violation, like sexual abuse, we’re not free to experience the full range of pleasure in our bodies, because the visceral shut-down mechanisms start to run the show to protect you from re-experiencing past pains that don’t want to be reactivated or re-lived.
Maybe you’ve not only experienced body shut-down through touch and intimacy, but you may also feel shut-down emotionally and feel disgusted, violated, overwhelmed, or nauseous as a replay of an emotional or physical pain starts to activate in your body.
If you’ve ever felt this, you know how it gets in the way of experiencing pleasure!
1 – The splendid truth: our bodies are built for pleasure
When we don’t express the sensual part of ourselves, it reinforces the feeling of “lack” or “not enough” that our brains picked up over the years either by comparing ourselves, based on the cultural messaging that our bodies are not our own, or by a physical violation that left the imprint of feeling fear or disgust. That feeling of lack can sometimes turn into addiction— work addiction, consumer addiction, food addiction, drug addiction.
However, the opposite is equally true:
2 – Expressing the sensual part of ourselves fills us with our own unique beauty from the inside out
So how do you dissolve the belief and judgment of yourself as “not enough” or “tainted” or “shamed” in order to feel pleasure and arousal, even when your body involuntarily shuts down?
Shame is held in our nervous system, in our bone structures, in the stature of our spinal cord, in the way we hold ourselves and in the way we speak.
In order to experience the change in your body and in your nervous system, a change needs to happen beyond the level of your mind.
Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk, one of the leading psychologists in trauma and neuroscience, outlines the limitations of “talk therapy” and has proven with his patients that the most healing forces for healing emotional and physical trauma held in the body are through movement, breath and touch. Van Der Kolk explains that talking through trauma either gets the patient disconnected from feeling, or gets the patient to re-live trauma, neither of which have proven to be helpful in the healing process. However his research shows that movement, breath and touch help to make the body feel safe with any range of emotion, and therefore free the patient of becoming identified with the trauma.*
Specifically with experiencing sexual pleasure, harnessing your mind to focus on sensation breaks the pattern of sending signals to your nervous system to shut down. It untangles the belief that something harmful will happen when your body opens up.
The key to allowing pleasure to open in your body is this:
3 – Practice observation of your senses without judgment
Building the experience of pleasure and happiness in your body everyday starts with focusing your mind so that your body can first feel safe and grounded, and then open to greater degrees of pleasure.
4 – Everyday pleasure without guilt
Learning to focus on sensation, without guilt, without shame, and without even labeling it as pleasurable or not, but just noticing it, dissolves your body’s involuntary impulse to shut down, and expands your ability to experience pleasure beyond your imagination.
When you breathe into those areas of sensation, you become more sensitive and open to express your emotions through your body and your voice. All of the above allows you to deepen intimacy with confidence, so you can feel fully self-expressed, fulfilled emotionally, and physically free—first and foremost with yourself, and also with your lover.
Connecting to your sensuality is as simple as shifting your focus from any action you’re doing, or from the emotion you’re feeling, to focusing on the sensation you’re feeling.
It doesn’t need to take a lot of time! Just focus on sensation.
5 – The key? Consistency.
You can focus on sensation anytime during your daily activities!
When you do the dishes, focus on feeling the smooth surface of a plate glide beneath your fingertips. When you’re walking, feel the textures of the stones beneath the arch of your foot.
When you’re savoring fruit, feel the tiny bulbs of a raspberry as you roll it against the ridges on the roof of your mouth. When you take a bath, experiment with focusing on the sensation of your fingers sliding a smooth bar of soap over your skin, or caressing your skin with a sponge or a wet face cloth. To amp up the focus on pleasure a notch, play music that evokes emotion, and let your touch express how the music moves you.
The trick is, no matter what you’re doing, no matter where you are, who you’re with or what you’re feeling, keep bringing your focus back to the physical sensation, observe every detail of the sensation, and breathe into it.
Pleasure is your birthright! Claim it now!
For a free meditation on how to focus your mind and breath on sensation to break your body’s shut-down pattern, just click here.
The 10-minute guided meditation below will help you to:
- Get out of your head and into your senses
- Increase the levels of pleasure you feel in your body
- Interrupt yourself from shutting down either emotionally or physically
- Train your mind to be in observer mode, instead of judgment mode
- Biochemically open your nervous system, so that endorphins run freely from your body to your brain
- Help to ground you in feeling emotionally and physically safe
- Empower you to move through your emotions when you may feel anxious, self-conscious or frustrated during sexual intimacy