How do you respond to the delicious moments in life?
Do you allow yourself to taste them without hesitation? Do you allow yourself to savor them without guilt?
I struggle with letting my life be yummy.
In fact I can hardly remember a time in recent history when I ate something, spent money, or kissed someone without feeling self-blame afterwards. I feel defeated instead of elated when I bite into a brownie, I’ve been stricter with my finances than ever before, I get a hangover from just one glass of wine, and I quite literally refused and rejected the pleasure I experienced in the one romance I had this entire year.
Since prioritizing my health, my work, and my yoga practice, I’ve replaced late night dance sessions with early morning asana, vodka sodas with kombucha, and sexual relationships with self-inquiry. I feel healthier and more centered, but sometimes I wonder if my life has become, well, boring. After all, pleasure is what makes things fun… isn’t it? Without the occasional shot of tequila, seven-course meal, make out session, and 2am dance party, am I depriving myself of happiness?
You may recall a few months ago, when I wrote about my difficulty in accepting luxury during my complementary stay at a five star hotel in Thailand. I felt out of place and inauthentic being wined and dined by suit clad executives, walking through doors opened by porters, and sleeping in white linens likely made by impoverished Cambodians.
Though through that experience I considered that perhaps my discomfort, which I previously associated with “selling out”, had more to do with my own feelings of self worth. Did I deserve any of this? I wondered.
What I did know is that the universe tends to deliver what we allow ourselves to receive. By struggling to accept a complementary massage, a gourmet dinner, or an orgasm from someone I loved, perhaps I closed my door on receiving all of the pleasures in life.
So as I left my hostel dorm in Uvita and rode the chicken bus to a luxurious all expenses paid yoga retreat at Blue Osa on the Osa Peninsula, despite my hesitations in receiving this treatment, I set my intention for welcoming more pleasure into my life.
In perfect synchronicity, pleasure and pain arose as a theme in our yoga practice the first day at Blue Osa. My instructor spoke on the nature of humans to chase pleasure and to avoid pain. I considered how that statement rang true for me. Had I in fact been enacting the opposite? Avoiding pleasure and inviting pain? Allowing indulgence that week was my attempt to rebalance the scale… and indulgence is most certainly what the universe delivered.
Morning, noon, and night I felt tempted by decadent meals crafted by the French chef. I’m typically a green smoothie and organic salad consumer; at Blue Osa I indulged in chocolate chip muffins, sugary alcoholic drinks, and crispy fried onion rings. Initially I requested dairy and gluten free options, which the staff graciously accommodated, but in the end I resigned to eating everything. I reminded myself of my intention to taste the deliciousness. “Live a little,” I thought.
But I punished myself for it. My skin broke out, my stomach became bloated, and seeing photographs of myself in a bikini felt sobering. I witnessed how traveling for nine months in Southeast Asia had transformed my body from the skinnier one that strode for miles on beaches in Costa Rica for the last two years to a heavier one that withstood thirty hour bus rides and contaminated water. This comparison generated insecurity so palpable it shook me. Was it even responsible for me to continue to treat myself to big portions and decadent meals when I felt this badly about my physical appearance?
The theme of pleasure and pain arose repeatedly throughout my stay at Blue Osa.
On my second day I received a complementary reflexology session with the incredibly gifted onsite massage therapist. As I allowed myself to receive the yumminess of this gift, I surrendered into a deep state of meditative relaxation. To my surprise, and slight disturbance, images of a staff member continually entered my mind. I realized that for the first time in a long time, I had a crush.
Consequently I became hyper aware of my behavior around him. Before I had subconsciously created situations that required his help and responded with flirtatious sass, but upon realizing my feelings I became awkward in his presence. Then in crept that familiar fear of heartbreak.
Perhaps my past romantic experiences had wired my brain to understand that pleasure always led to pain. I believed that the same way eating a bagel gave me a bellyache, falling for a man led to heartbreak. Hm, was that fear why I had been denying myself of pleasure all along?
I saw that the way I acted towards this man was the same way I acted towards every man who gave me goosebumps. The cutesy, needy, sassy, superior guise I wore worked to win me attention, but what did I sacrifice in return? What kinds of relationships was I inviting into my life through living with these barriers? Certainly not authentic or fulfilling ones. I saw an opportunity to change this pattern and instead act from my heart.
In the sacred morning silence at Blue Osa I pondered these questions on my mat. From the gorgeous yoga studio that overlooked the beach I meditated with the sunrise and practiced asana while watching the waves. Despite the polarities of pleasure and pain in my experiences, in these moments with the rise and the fall of the sea, I found myself experiencing unparalleled joy.
In my asana I crept out of the judgments in my head and into the sensuality of my body. I allowed it to move the way that it wanted to, expressively, in a playful dance, while I flowed through my yoga postures. I lightheartedly practiced fear conquering poses, floating my body by pressing into my arms, flipping upside-down, and giggling as much as I sweat. The more I played the lighter I felt and the lighter I felt the less my fear existed.
Laying sweaty on my mat in savasana, I let go of analysis and judgment, surrendering to pure sensation. The deeper I relaxed and allowed what wanted to happen to happen, the more spacious everything around me became. My body began to feel less like me and more like everything. Like glittering stardust surrounded by even more glittering stardust.
Afterwards I skipped and sang for hours on the beach. Bliss had permeated my entire being. I was having so much fun.
I saw that what brought me joy in fact had nothing to do with pleasure. By connecting with the source of light that lives at my core and at the core of every other living thing, I experienced happiness incomparable to what the creamiest gelato, the highest thread count sheets, and the sexiest man could ever offer me. I experienced true, limitless happiness. I experienced my own true nature.
So in the afternoon, when I saw my crush walk across the room, I opened my heart, I shone my light, and I sent him love.
And it did not hurt at all.
This amazing experience arose out of my weeklong press trip at Blue Osa where I had the honor of staying in a beautiful room, eating thoughtfully crafted food, playing with adorable cats and dogs, walking for miles on the undeveloped beach, and connecting with beautiful people who truly radiated joy and love.
(Tutu beach photo by The Legendary Adventures of Anna)