This is not exactly the ideal time of year for it, but barefoot is a joyous state of being for me. That’s why I recently tried barefoot hiking. Well, that and watching the documentary Fantastic Fungi where I learned about the mycelium network underground that allows trees to communicate and share nutrients.
The sensation of walking shoeless on the earth on top of the “woodwide web” felt both grounding and exhilarating. My feet were free to fully feel, and what I felt was pleasure.
This experience has me pondering the idea of pleasure as a sacred act of nourishment. Especially at this time of year when so much seems to be added to the to-do list and a great deal of it feels like obligation.
Why are we so duty-oriented? Because we’re conditioned to believe that pleasure must be earned. We have been told to reward ourselves only after all the hard work is done, to eat all our vegetables so we can have dessert, so to speak. We have also been told a perfectionism lie which plays into a “doing” mentality and a questioning of self-worth when we don’t measure up to an impossible standard. And that makes us feel we must do even more! Aren’t we worthy of pleasure by virtue of being in a body? Yes, we are! We are because we are sacred.
I recently heard a podcast where someone asked the question: Did you choose to be here on earth in this body at this time just so you could get through the day? Or are you here to experience all the juiciness this life has to offer you? I’m choosing the latter!
We’ve been sold the myth that pleasure should somehow make us feel guilty. Is it okay to feel pleasure when so many people are suffering?I believe it is. Guilt is a useless emotion. Just like we need to nourish our bodies with healthy food, water, movement and rest, we must also nourish ourselves with pleasure to be healthy. It’s not a luxury. Research shows experiences that bring us joy trigger the production of neurochemicals that help us better respond to stress and can boost our immune systems. So, if we really want to support those who are suffering, we must partake freely of our own doses of pleasure.
That brings me to two questions: How are you finding pleasure these days? And how are you weaving it into your everyday life? I think it’s important here to be honest with ourselves. If we are binging on things like food, alcohol, weed, tv watching, shopping or scrolling social media we may be feeding an addiction, not filling ourselves with nourishing pleasure. I have often struggled with the difference between pleasure and distraction, which is not necessarily binging, but a lie to myself, nonetheless. One way I tell the difference is by noticing after an activity whether I feel full and satisfied or still somewhat empty.
This chaotic time we’re in has taught to value the simple pleasures–a walk in the woods, a chat with a friend, a slow deep breath. I’ve realized these humble moments are really the most pleasurable of all. And after many years, I have finally figured out that no one is going to present pleasure to me on a silver platter! It’s my responsibility to nourish myself.
As I was hiking my first-ever half mile barefoot, I discovered something important about pleasure. It requires presence. You can’t feel pleasure if your mind is lingering in the past or wandering into the future. You must be right here, right now, to feel it.
And something else. Pleasure often gets mixed right in there with pain. And maybe that helps us appreciate the pleasure all the more. My feet were cold at first. My balance was kind of wonky. I even stepped on some sharp rocks. But the delicious sensation of soft dirt above the mycelium and between my liberated toes was so, so nourishing.
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