Every winter I suffer from seasonal affective disorder and struggle to maintain my emotional wellbeing. This winter has been no exception and recently I had a particularly difficult bought with the winter-blues. Luckily, I work with tantrikas. These women are not just my colleagues, but my spiritual family, and we support each other in our work, our lives and our spiritual growth. I am so grateful to have these women to support me through my spiritual journey.
On this particular day, I called upon my colleague, Courtney Garner and she helped me to hone in on which of our tools would be best for surviving winter depression. We talked about focusing on pleasure consciousness, or the simple act of allowing oneself to experience pleasure in various forms. When we teach students, we have them write a pleasure journal where they keep track of the ways that they meet their need for pleasure every day. It’s a simple but effective tool created by Authentic Tantra® founder, Devi Ward. Courtney reminded me that I needed to “fill my cup” and to engage in activities that would bring me pleasure and joy.
Pleasure has the unique capacity to bring a person back to their center. It helps them relate to their overarching needs, such as connection, comfort, and safety. As well as satisfying more complex needs like the need for personal growth, meaningfulness, and creative expression. In short, it keeps us in the flow of life and connected to source.
Now, when I say pleasure I don’t just mean sexual pleasure, though that is a profound and effective form. Pleasure consciousness is about paying attention to anything that brings you pleasure and joy. It could be the joy you feel when watching your cats snuggle together in a patch of sunlight. It could be the calm that comes in the embrace of a trusted loved one, the tangy, salty flavor of a delicious green olive, the ecstasy of deep meditation, or even the simple pleasure of wearing soft socks and covering yourself with a warm blanket on a cold night.
Pleasure heals. And I had forgotten how much I needed to pay attention to it.
So, with renewed focus, I set out to experience greater pleasure consciousness and to “fill my cup” with the joy of experience. I was inspired to take myself on what I’m calling a pleasure date. Years ago I was obsessed with Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” and my favorite homework assignment was the artist’s date. So I thought I’d take that concept even further and go on a pleasure date. I set my sights on an activity that would bring me pleasure, joy or inspiration that I could do for at least one hour by myself.
I settled on taking a nature walk so that I could get some much-needed sunshine. I bundled up for a brisk, sunny walk on a trail near my home.
I chose a path high up on a hill that circles a meadow of native plants. This location provided me with optimal sunlight and a great view of the blue open winter sky.
I spent lots of time admiring the contrast of the mottled white and brown bark set against the clear blue sky.
As I walked I tried to bring awareness to my surroundings. I moved slowly and contemplatively so that I could take the time to allow my senses to absorb information from the environment.
As the walk progressed, I startled a flock of small birds hiding in the meadow and was myself surprised to see them alight all at once. I was so taken aback I gasped and laughed uproariously.
I continued to pay attention to my senses: the sun on my face, the feeling of the cold wind in my nostrils, the sounds of the birds, and the grass rustling around me.
An icy path through the trees provided a satisfying crunch underfoot.
At the end of my hike, I noticed droplets of tiny icicles covering the bushes. As I got closer I could see the sun shining through the ice, creating the illusion that the bush was sparkling. I took a moment to examine the striking, clear beauty of the frozen water.
My winter’s nature hike was a fantastic success.
I started the hike feeling heavy and sad and as the walk progressed I began to feel more and more wonder tiptoe back into my being.
By the end, I felt much as I did when I was a little girl exploring the forests near my home. I was filled with awe and inspiration at the beauty of the natural world.
For me, documenting the walk with photos added an extra layer of joy to the process. If you are going to do this with a phone, I recommend switching it to airplane mode so you aren’t tempted by the outside world.
It can be anything your heart desires. It doesn’t need to be a cold winter hike. The only parameters are that you take an hour to do something that brings you pleasure, joy or inspiration and that you do this alone, just for yourself.
Written by: Alaina Salks
Alaina Salks is the Co-Founder & Director of The Institute of Authentic Tantra Education.
*The Tantra Mastery Training Program does not require approval by the registrar of the private Training Institute Branch (PTIB). As such, the registrar did not review this program.