TAMMY (ADVAYA): Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining live. And hello everyone who is joining not live. Aisha, do you want to say hi also?
AISHA PARIS SMITH: Yeah, I just feel so moved already by the number of people we have joining and that they’ve taken time in their day to come and discover about pleasure and hear this conversation… which I’m… honestly my body’s like tingling all over to start.
TAMMY (ADVAYA): Me too. I haven’t done this webinar thing in a minute, so please forgive me if I’m a little bit clunky. But today’s session falls on the summer solstice. So happy summer solstice to everyone. Hope your summer is coming in well, happy and bright. And if not, that’s okay. But yeah, I just hope everyone is having a good, restful time today. And today’s webinar is titled Pleasure is a necessity, which is obviously a nod to adrienne maree brown, and Audre Lorde. So also calling in these people who have informed a lot of our work. And for those of you who are joining, to find out more about the course, we’ll be getting into that. Which is called Joy and the Body, by the way. And the tickets can be purchased at joyandthebody.com. And we have a special code WEBINAR25. That’s case-sensitive. And I’ll share it in the chat later. But [that’s] to get 25% off. Also if you’re facing any financial difficulties, bursaries are open and will be open until the two weeks before the course starts. So please apply if you require financial assistance. And we will probably not be getting to Q&As today unless we have extra time. But we will be doing a second webinar. So your questions will feed into that. So if you have questions, just feel free to pop them in the chat, or into the Q&A thing. And I’ll keep track of that. And we’ll shape the next webinar according to the questions. And yeah, so this is recorded in case you are worried. A few days after this, I will be going through it and subtitling it. So hopefully, many more people can watch it after. So okay, that’s a little bit of a long intro. But I think I got through everything I needed to get through.
AISHA PARIS SMITH: Honestly, that’s so important. I would have never thought to share those things at the beginning but you just opened up so much choice and possibility for everyone who’s here and it’s so empowering when we know, Hey, it’s okay for me to want this for myself and other people will support me in getting it.
TAMMY (ADVAYA): Yes, exactly. I feel much better now that I got all that off my chest. Okay, lots of joy. I’m going to now introduce Aisha. Brief introduction because we’re gonna get all into it. But, so I will pull up the bio.
Your course curator and host Aisha Paris Smith, is a somatic sexologist, bodyworker and life coach. And experiencing every day the wisdom of her body, and having seen clients transform through the power of somatic methods, she works with the principle that when we can be with and integrate all parts of ourselves, we will have a greater sense of who we are and her clientele spans people of all ages, descriptions and identities. And I’m really excited to get into a lot more things. I’m going to cut some stuff out of the bio, because we will get into that during the questions. But so yes, so Aisha is the curator and host of our upcoming course Joy and the Body, which is a six week online course, which is all about returning to the joy of the body, pleasure and the richness of life. So before I get into the questions, Aisha, do you have anything to add or say?
Not to put you on the spot.
AISHA PARIS SMITH: Well, I want to say that this is a really sort of strange course in a way. I’m very strange as a person, and it’s not a course like other courses that you’ve probably done with advaya. It’s not about the intellect and the head, although we will be going into those sort of thought, mental masturbation places today. It’s really about being. It’s about experiencing. It’s about connecting and finding presence, and seeing what presence opens up for you. And I can’t actually, as much as I would love to, tell you all the things you’re going to get out of the course. Those things will arise spontaneously between you and your body. So it’s a very, very special space too, as well as being totally weird and bonkers. And I hope that, what you’re ready to discover is that wisdom that your body has. It’s not my wisdom, you’re not coming to learn about me, I’ll just be facilitating those experiences between you and your body, and between each of us and the community group that we’re in together. So that’s just what I want to share before.
And also, I’m a somatic sexologist—this course isn’t about sex. You’re not coming to be asked to confront your relationship with sex or to look at your sex life. It’s about the fundamentals beneath the expression of sex. So how do we feel in our body? And are we able to communicate what we’re feeling? Do we know what we want? And how to ask for or facilitate that? Do we understand what stops us from connecting with others, from connecting with our body, or exploring our desires? So it’s yes, for sure, if you are looking to experience changes at the level of your sex life, for instance, you can get that out of this course. But we’re going deeper… we’re going more to the roots, more to the core of your relationship with your body and pleasure.
TAMMY (ADVAYA): Yay. I love that. Also useful clarification, because I think people might feel intimidated as well. And of course, not to say that any of those things that we will not be covering isn’t important. But that like getting to the root of things is hopefully the first step. And then hopefully, in the future, even when we have future courses with Aisha, we will get into the more fun parts. But for now, I think this remains a very accessible course to any and all with bodies. So we will start with the first question, I do have a list, so.
AISHA PARIS SMITH: Bring it on, Tammy.
TAMMY (ADVAYA): The first question is all about you. And so you describe your work as about more than pleasure. It’s also about finding safety, freeing self expression and integrating shadow. And so what we’re getting at here is kind of a nuanced understanding of pleasure. It’s not just about like, feeling good, even though like we said, feeling good is really important. But pleasure and joy as firstly, like radical acts, but also about more than just feeling nice and happy. And so that being said, I wanted to ask about what you mean by pleasure, like what’s informed your view and definition of pleasure. And also acknowledging that that changes day to day, year to year, decade to decade, so…
AISHA PARIS SMITH: I have to say like, even moment to moment… who I am, I’m changing all the time. My take on things changes all the time. And I like to feel into questions. So just give me a minute to feel into it.
Pleasure is that space that opens up when I take a moment to breathe. When I feel the body that I’m in, and everyone who’s on the webinar or watching this, you can do that right now. You can just feel into your body. And notice what sensations are moving. Notice how you’re breathing. Notice where your eyes want to go in the room. Like I was watching the screen, that was bringing me pleasure; now that I’m spotlit, I’m feeling like more like ooh, I want to look around. These experiences that being in a body offers up can facilitate pleasure. And pleasure in its most basic form is just that—enjoyable sensations in the body. However, when we move into experiences of enjoyable sensations, we open up all these different opportunities, like opportunities to bond with other people. So having pleasurable experiences with another bonds us to them. It destresses and removes anxiety. So it’s this incredible resource for getting through tough times. If we can open up these pockets of pleasure in our day—they don’t have to last very long.
When I speak about pleasure, I’m not talking about hedonistic pleasure that ends with hangovers, or tummy aches from eating too much chocolate, I’m talking about long-term pleasure that nourishes the body. And I don’t think that we have many good healthy role models for what that looks like. And I think that most people don’t relate to their body as this vessel for pleasure. In fact, a lot of people are wracked with pain, or high stress or difficult emotions, that they can’t find a lot of safe spaces for expression of. And so for me, working with pleasure, also having… I grew up in a household that had a lot of abuse going on. And then, as I grew up and left that home, I developed an eating disorder. And so there was a really difficult experience that I was having with the outside world, and all the pain and difficulty I was experiencing there. And then when I had my eating disorder, that sort of projection or experience that I was having outside turned inward. And then suddenly, I was really struggling with my body, really struggling to even receive sensory pleasures, like the taste of food, or the sound of other people’s voices. And I really struggled, and it was through not trying to fix myself, but just moving into experiences of pleasure, that I suddenly found an access to a new way of being.
It was like, Oh, I don’t have to go and fix all my problems, I can just align with what feels good, and see how everything else starts organising itself around that. And I’m very aware of how much we don’t know. Everything that we look at and we say we know these days, are just the latest scientific explanation for them, or the latest spiritual explanation for them. All I can share is what works. And this works. We’ve mentioned Audre Lorde, and adrienne maree brown, the two women of colour who faced systemic oppression, families full of trauma and abuse. And, outside of themselves, no one was really saying, hey, like, let’s have you live a good life. It was a radical act for them to say, I want to have a better experience. I’m going to start exploring what that feels like, between me and my body. Between me and myself. We talk about, we should love ourselves, we should love ourselves first. But it’s sort of this top down approach of like, I should love myself, yes. Rather than, well, let’s experience what there is here. And, for me, that’s everything.
If I can just spend some time with my hand, like, Oh, I’m gonna explore and enjoy my hand. Oh, my hand, the skin on my hand feels so good. Just like that. And there’s a total emptiness there. That is also like an active, if I go back to sort of more spiritual language, it’s like a movement meditation, a sensory meditation. So that is my experience of pleasure. And for me, living in the city of London, being self-employed, having recovered from an eating disorder, and living like modern life as it is today, pleasure pays a huge role for me every single day, there’s not one day that goes by, I don’t think there’s even an hour that goes by when I’m not focused on and experiencing pleasure to resource myself. So I think that’s all I want to share about that right now. That’s what that feels complete for me.
TAMMY (ADVAYA): Thank you for sharing that. I’m going to add the spotlight so you’re not just alone. But yeah, there’s a lot to hold there. And I also don’t want to unpick all of that at the moment. But I think what stuck out to me is definitely this kind of sense of… to access pleasure, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to fix everything that’s wrong or address everything that’s wrong, even though that’s definitely like part of it. But that there is kind of… knowing that there is that pathway, there’s that option, there is that route that you can take towards pleasure in spite of, and despite of everything that you are going through or have been going through. So, yeah, I’m holding onto that thought, first and foremost.
AISHA PARIS SMITH: Can I add something?
TAMMY (ADVAYA): Yeah, go for it.
AISHA PARIS SMITH: Yeah. Because I remember when you first asked this question, this popped up, and I’m like, Oh, I gotta say that. That’s so important. So part of my upbringing was also that everyone around me was just trying to survive, really, like, my mom was just trying to stay alive. And I was like, so I learned how to survive. And surviving is great. Like, I’m still here, that’s so awesome. But being able to thrive, and setting my goal on thriving versus surviving… which, you know, there was no thought about thriving before. And I think for a lot of people, they are thinking actually, even if they don’t have that conscious, like, Oh, my goodness, I want to wake up tomorrow morning… they might have it more like, Oh, I want to pay my rent, or I want to fall in love and have children. And, they think of it that way, but they think of it like surviving.
And for me, when I focus my attention on thriving, instead of on surviving, like, the shape of my body changed, the shape of my world changed. And pleasure was a huge, and is still, a huge part of that. So when I think about thriving, it’s about moving from a place of safety. And it’s about moving towards things that feel good, versus moving away from things that feel bad or could be threatening to me. And so this is a lot what the course is about, is like, we’re living in this world to survive it. But what if we switch to thriving in it? And what if we didn’t need to change the outside world, in order to do that? What if we didn’t need to enroll anyone else into that? If it was just between me and myself? And the channel for that, one of the expressions of that, is pleasure. So yes, I think that is like such a core piece that sort of sits inside my heart and my tummy every day, which I haven’t always had words to articulate. But that’s how it is for me. And I think that’s what I would like to offer a lot of other people too, through this course.
TAMMY (ADVAYA): Yes. Lots of love in the chat. So love back to everyone out there. And yeah, definitely, like asking the question, are we thriving? Or are we surviving? And knowing that the option to thrive is like there for us, and that we can take that. It’s not like you have to, and it’s not even that you have to survive or thrive. It’s just that they’re there. You can do whatever you want, as a free agent in this world. Yeah, and so… Also, I realised that while I was listening to the answer, I was like, somehow not breathing. So if anyone who’s listening out there isn’t like just taking deep breaths, please do that. Yeah.
AISHA PARIS SMITH: I just want to acknowledge that this is really big stuff. This is like existential stuff. And every day we wake up, and we want to make the most of the day, and we don’t want to live the same day as yesterday and live a generalised life. And so it does stop us from breathing, and also, we might be in the space of I want to capture everything that they’re sharing, and I want to get it, and I just want to share that you won’t get everything. Because of the way I speak about things. And just like trust, just trust. Just trust: you did your bit, you showed up, you’re here listening, and the rest will just happen.
TAMMY (ADVAYA): Yeah, and things will find you when they find you. Algorithms or otherwise. So anyway, back to my list of questions. So my second question is about people not accessing our incredible capacity for pleasure. I think you kind of touched on that a little bit, but I do think that it might be worth pointing out, and saying it directly—what are kind of obstacles for accessing our capacity for pleasure, whether they be… I think they’re all… physical, social, political. It’s all connected. So maybe speak a little bit to that.
AISHA PARIS SMITH: Okay.
So I like to call the body a pleasure superhighway. There’s all this pleasure available all the time. And, I spoke about this idea of, like dragging the hand and just feeling the pleasure in it. But there’s also pleasure outside of us, this pleasure through the sounds that we hear… when I wake up in the morning I can always hear the birds chirping. And so there is… literally the body is structured [such] that every inch of it has a sensory tone. And all we have to do is pull our attention there. And second, stimulate a situation that brings a positive sensory experience. So for instance, if I was listening to in the morning, construction work outside, that would not necessarily be like a super sexy, pleasurable thing that was happening. And one of the ways that I could move towards pleasure from there would be probably like, to close my windows, put in my headphones, and listen to something more soothing. But we don’t tend to think about what’s happening for us on a sensory level.
If my head is feeling squashed together and hurting, I might not recognise that that’s happening. I may not be in tune with an awareness, I might not be like pulling on my interoception, which is my ability to be aware of the state inside of myself. And if I’m not aware, then this feeling that I’ve got with my head, like pushed together, and all hurting and scrunched up, is gonna make me think: I’m stressed, today is a horrible day, I don’t want to be here… all these things that I’m projecting from that one sensation that I’m having. But if I move my attention there, Ah, my head is hurting. Okay, so do I need to drink more water? Have I got a migraine coming on? Am I wearing a too tight scrunchie, so it’s like pulling tension on my head. Like, there are all these different options that we can open to. And it’s funny, there’s this one study about happiness, and they say it’s not the presence of good things that necessarily make us happy. But the absence of annoying or upsetting or uncomfortable things.
And most of us are like running towards the good things: like, I’m gonna work harder. I’m gonna spend more time outside. I’m going to spend more time with my friends, find better friends, find a partner, blah, blah, blah. I’m going to take a holiday. I’m going to run towards these good things. And we’re not so much checking, Okay, where’s the not so good stuff? Like, where is the… I’m having this experience of being stressed, or I’m having this experience of not quite feeling satisfied? Where is that coming from? And it’s mostly because we don’t know how to effectively look. They say that story, our narrative of what’s happening, follows our state, the state of our body, the state of our nervous system, the state of our emotions, the state of our thoughts, the state of our impulses, and our ability to express our impulses. And when we know that, okay, story follows state, I don’t like what’s happening here, I don’t feel good in this moment, what’s happening in my state? And how do I get better at noticing what’s moving in my state? That’s so vital.
And there was this other study that was done, looking at how emotionally in tuned people are, like how good people are at reading their own physiological and emotional states. And the more that people could notice, like what’s moving in their body on the level of sensation… So like, for instance, I have a tension right now in my tummy, but I know that that tension is like an excited tension. If I wasn’t good at reading that, then I might just feel excited, or I might just feel Oh, I’ve got so much energy right now, and I don’t know why or where that’s coming from. But by knowing where it’s coming from, and where it is in my body, it doesn’t just make me better at managing my own emotions and having great emotional hygiene, it also makes me better at reading everyone else’s emotions, so that even when I’m with someone who doesn’t have as high an emotional—we call it—intelligence, as I do, or doesn’t have an access to this intersection, I can support them with it, and I can better manage our relationship as a result. I can intuit, or instinctively know what’s moving for them.
So it’s really, really, really important that we’re able to stay focused on our body, to notice. And then with that choice that comes in… Oh, I have a choice because I know what’s going on… then I can put things in place to feel really good. So for instance, not all of you will care about this, but this is like a big theme in the last year of my life, is like, I have been searching for clothes that fit me—clothes for my wardrobe—but I have really high requirements for my clothes. My clothes need to fit me; my clothes need to fit me whether I’m having a bloated day, or whether I’ve lost a bit of weight, and I’ve got a bit skinnier, or I’ve gained a bit of weight, and I’ve got a bit fatter, or like whatever is going on, my clothes need to fit me; [then] my clothes need to feel really good against my skin. I don’t have any scratchy pieces of clothing. I like to dress in like soft cotton or silk. Sometimes I like really heavy pieces, if I feel like I need to be a bit more grounded today, let’s put something heavy on.
So there are ways that we can weave into our world these beautiful experiences. When I sat down here, I lit some incense. It’s a particular smell that grounds me, so that I could be present on this call, so that I could feel like, with nerves going, I could manage that. And so there are all these delicious things we can do. We have so much choice to feel good, through the body. But we have to be aware that that is available to us. And then we have to be aware of what works for us. And a lot of clients come to me because they don’t know how they like to be touched. And touch is such an important one. So we need to go on this journey of self-discovery through the body, in order to really know how to tap into all the pleasure that’s available for us there.
TAMMY (ADVAYA): Wow. Breathing. And I’m just seeing the comments and making sure I’m not [missing] any questions or anything. But yes, I think listening and noticing sensations, or signals from your body, has been a big theme for me also, hopefully, it’s been a big theme for a lot of people who are listening as well. I think learning how to kind of slow down and pay attention is something that, first of all, we’re not being paid to do that, so like, people just aren’t doing it. But it is so good for our bodies, so good for our systems, just regulating our systems. And so, trying to really bring that habit into our lives is I think something we’ll be going into during the course as well.
And speaking of touch, that’s a good segue into the next question. Which is, so if you guys have read the course description, part of that has this particular phrase or these sentences that I really like, which Aisha has written… it goes: “Touch allows us to bring a tactile experience of care and attention to places that may never have received it… It’s less about being taught something new and more about being prompted to find the permission to access and act upon an intelligence that was always there.” I’m gonna drop that in the chat also, so people can let that ruminate.
I think the idea here is that, and the key question here is what happens when we touch. Like what the tactile experience really brings to ourselves and also kind of the idea… which also again, you’ve been speaking about already, is none of this is new. This is just kind of opening our eyes to what’s always been there. So I wanted you to elaborate a little bit more about that. And maybe also bring in some more practical examples. The clothes one was a really good practical example. But like, we talk about touch in ways that are sometimes very abstracted, really. So yeah.
AISHA PARIS SMITH: I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.
So I’ll start by saying that, to me, the body is our unconscious manifest. So when we’re touching the body, we’re actually touching unprocessed, and held past experiences. They say that the body holds on to the trauma that we haven’t been able to deal with. And so when we start touching ourselves, we actually come into connection with those things. And, if, for instance, someone came and held my shoulder right now, depending on my previous experiences with my body, I’m going to have a different experience of that. For instance, if my mother used to hold me like this, when she would reassure me, as a child, it’s going to feel really sweet, and I’m going to remember the sentiment of that. And if I used to be grabbed here, in the playground, when a kid would bully me, then I’m gonna remember that, and it’s gonna have a different context to it.
But the other thing that’s incredible about touch, which is on a very different level, is that… before we had words, when we were in a pre-verbal state, our body was still learning through all the experiences that we had… And generally, we start to build memory and start to learn words at the same time, so that those two areas in our brain are forming. And when we’re learning things, say from day one until we’re three years old, there are all these moments that we’re having that we’re learning from, but we aren’t storing memory of them, and we don’t have words that we’re learning through. We’re learning through touch, we’re learning through our senses. And so those things get encased and woven inside our psyche.
Let me think of a practical down to earth, easy to get example of this. So if I smelt cedarwood, through the first year of my life, in a home that was unsafe to me… as an adult, when I smell cedarwood, I’m going to not like something, I’m going to not like the person that’s smelling of it, I’m not going to like the space that I’m in. And I’m not going to have a reason why. It’s just going to feel bad to me. And to the same degree, when we’re experiencing touch in our body, we’re contacting places inside of us, that are deeper for us than words. And so it’s a very powerful thing, to offer ourselves touch, to self-soothe through touch, to reach out to another person and touch them. And for me, touch is… I’m just gonna read the question again, touch allows us to bring a tactile experience of care and attention…
Yeah. So the thing about being given permission to access an act upon an intelligence is that when we touch, we come immediately into the body. So people talk about embodiment, and how do I get embodied, and that’s something that we cover in depth on the course, but if I’m going through my senses, I’m immediately in my body. And we spend a lot of time up here in the mind. And when we drop into the body, and all the other things the body has to share that is true for us, independent from the outside world, it can be quite overwhelming for people. They get all this information about what they want, what they don’t want, how they’re feeling. And if we’re not empowered and agent[ial], like given choice to act from those things, or if we don’t trust ourselves, it’s really overwhelming to receive touch. It’s really overwhelming even to like eat food. And touch drops us into our body. Touch connects us with all those parts.
But it’s also an incredible tool for soothing us inside of those experiences. So for instance, if I have a tummy ache, I can just come and I can just stroke my tummy and even though the tummy ache itself might be overwhelming, by having this soft, sweet caress on top of the skin, I’m now suddenly balancing my experience and I’m resourced, and I’m also doing an action that resonates through past memories that I can’t even reach, memories that I don’t have in my physical memory, but they live as memories through my psyche, and my body, of care. So there’ll be moments when my caregivers stroked me, my tummy, or loved me with strokes. And so it’s just an incredibly effective way to get to very deep parts of ourselves.
TAMMY (ADVAYA): Yes, I think just responding to that… I think this is quite kind of, information and wisdom that is entering the mainstream now as well, I think, people are understanding that our body holds experiences, good and bad, but of course, I think, bad more so than good, or we’re more inclined to hold on to the bad experiences, rather than the good ones. So it’s time to retrain our bodies, everyone.
AISHA PARIS SMITH: Sorry, can I just add one last thing?
Which is, for me, touch is an incredible tool for regulating our systems. When we aren’t able to regulate ourselves, so say, we get really angry about something, or say, we’re really tired and we can’t sleep, we need to be able to regulate our system, so then we can continue taking actions that feel good for us. If we’re dysregulated, then we don’t know how to communicate the thing we need to communicate, or we don’t know how to lower this sense of anger, or to use it in a powerful way. Anger is actually just in service of our care and protection. For me, there’s nothing wrong with anger, but we do need to know how to regulate ourselves. And touch just does that, because with touch, we’re touching the nervous system. The nervous system comes all the way into our skin, so we’re acting upon it directly. And I feel like yeah, that’s a really important point to make, as well. But please, you had another question.
TAMMY (ADVAYA): No, I mean, I can go to that question any time. I just want to emphasise that, yes, I think all kinds of emotions are valid. And anger, is, just on many levels, I think a very useful emotion to tap into. I think it’s less about the emotion itself, and more about what it tells us about ourselves, about the situation that we are in. And, again, coming back to observing and listening so that we can figure out how to respond, regulate, accordingly. And yeah, tools that we’ll be learning on the course. And I think now would be a good time to introduce the course more directly—we will return to the questions later on—but I think, just to describe more specifically about the course… I’m sure a lot of people who are attending today and watching the webinar recording will also be interested in finding out about the course and what we will be covering. So a lot of information is on the website, but Aisha will be talking a little bit more about the sessions in more detail, and also giving us a little bit more about the context, which is hard to express in copy on a website. So take it away Aisha.
AISHA PARIS SMITH: Thank you, Tammy.
So this course… it’s a six-week course. We also have a week in between. So you can go out and be like, experimenting in the world, to see how can I use these tools that I’ve gotten from the first three weeks? And what do I need to learn in the last three in order to really maximise on this?
But like I said, the course is not a usual course. This course accounts for and fosters your unique expression of joy, your unique relationship with your body, which like I’ve shared is based on experiences that you’ve been through—that you and your body have been through together—and also your individual access to pleasure. So what makes us each feel safe, comfortable and joyful is very different, and the course has been created in respect of that. And this is a community course. So each week we’ll meet as a community to look at those three things: your unique expression of joy, your unique relationship with your body, and your individual access to pleasure. And we’ll look at those things through the lens of your body. And we’ll acknowledge and share what we’ve uncovered individually, that helps our memory so that we can then resource out in our day to day lives, what we learn through the course.
In many ways, you’ll be your own expander, depending on the level to which you take on each invitation, and how much value you put on your body’s intuitive response. And I’ll also be there for you, as a resource and facilitator, sharing my experiences and reflecting along with you what comes up, to open up new and deeper levels of awareness. So I’m going to add to these discoveries that you make. Usually through questions, not through: Yes, I saw you got that. But what about this, too? It’s more like: And what if you looked at it this way? Then what’s there for you? So this course, I’ve designed it in the same way that I work with my one to one clients, who find themselves going through organic radical change out of their sessions with me. It’s a powerful thing, to centre our body’s intelligence, as the expert of what we need, rather than another person. So thank you in advance for not putting me on a pedestal.
The first week, we look at embodiment as a profound starting point. You’ll learn through experiences: things like, Well, what is the state of embodiment? And how does my body communicate with me. It’s a really trendy word that everyone’s using at the moment: “embodiment”. But not everyone has a deep understanding, or a lived experience of what embodiment is. And because we tend to be in environments that recognise only the mind and intellect as valuable parts of ourselves, the body is too often just judged superficially, which doesn’t leave us with a great experience of it, or with any level of appreciation for all the intelligence and opportunity it offers us. So on the course, each week, you’ll hear your body speak. You’ll get to understand what it’s saying to you. And you’ll be encouraged to follow its guidance as an experiment—if not anything else. Your body will lead you through this first session that we have together around embodiment, and in every session thereafter. This course is unapologetically a body-led space.
Week two focuses on what embodied joy is and how do we create it? What is self-created, self-led joy? You’ll get up close and personal with the things we’ve been talking about these last few weeks. And each week builds on that to get any pleasure box out of the way and orientates each of us to what it means to feel good, genuinely, in our body, not just: I should feel good, or I should feel grateful. But wow, this experience is so nice! And then we’ll understand, through a lived experience, what embodied joy is. You’ll be equipping yourself with referenceable tools that you can call upon anytime and anywhere to feel good. And this cause is centred around feeling good. It’s unique in that we’re looking at feeling good in the body without looking at sex. So how do we resource ourselves to better manage the everyday challenges of modern life?
And through this course, whilst we don’t look at sex, we will be in a space that sex-positive. And like, you know, understand that being human means that we have genitals, and we have sex, and we have sex lives. And so anything that you learn about your intimacy, or your sensuality, is really welcomed to be shared in the space. What else do I want to share? I guess my favourite thing about this course is that there’s no expectation of you, and how you participate. So one of the greatest things about, I think the coaching that I offer, but also this way that I live life is: everything’s a choice. And I don’t think we recognise it enough, that our life is just one choice after another. And when we make the same choices every day we experience life and the world the same way, we experience our capacity and our potential and who we are the same way. When we choose to behave towards other people the same way, based on who we think they are, we have the same experience of them.
So I want to put you front and centre as the creator of your experience of the course and empower you to choose again and again and again how you want to follow the invitations what feels good to you. Do you want to do the course whilst you’re walking in the park? Do you want to be laid down on your bed? How do you want to be? Following your body in the moment, instead of pre-determining, “I should be sat at a desk, fully present with this course, in order to get the most out of it”. Actually, when we turn to the body, it tends to not be that simple. One day, you might be really tired and want to lay down; another day, you might feel so filled with energy from what’s being shared that you’ve got to stand up and move around and dance it out. So that’s one of the core principles that we’ve woven into the course structure.
And you’re also, of course, welcome to say no, to say no Aisha, I don’t want to do that. No, I don’t want to go into the breakout room. No, I’m not doing this exercise with everyone else. And to just be with your no and to be with everyone else, celebrating you and your no—which in itself is a very unique experience that we don’t get a lot of. So the actual way each session breaks down, I want to share with you too. Every week, we’ll have a really short introduction by me, we’ll then share group agreements, because we are in community, so in order that we feel safe in this community, in order that we can get comfortable, that we can have pleasurable experiences where we first need to feel safe, so I’ve created some group agreements, so that we can have that. Then we’ll do an arriving practice. This is a body-based presencing exercise, it’s very chill, it will allow you to discover as a immediate unfolding, how you want to participate in that session today, what would serve you and your body. Then I’ll do a teaching on one aspect of the course. So whether that’s, working through shame, understanding how your body speaks, and says yes or no, how you can increase your capacity for pleasure in everyday life, how you can find ownership of the things that you want and not feel like you have to go to everyone else to get permission for it… I’ll be giving a talk, then you get to ask questions about any of that to make sure that it landed for you and to clear up any place where I didn’t make complete sense. And then we’ll spend the rest of the course being in practice of those principles. So I’ll be making invitations, a somatic invitation, a body-based activity that we’ll enter into together, and you’ll feel it out. And you’ll immediately get to apply what was taught in the first part, and you’ll get to try it on for yourself and with your body and see how it feels for you, so that you can evaluate for yourself: is this something that holds merit for me? Is this something that I want to be using in my day to day life? And then we’ll go into breakout rooms, so for those of you who are live, you’ll actually get to then be one to one with someone doing either another exercise, or reflection on what you discovered today. And that is really an opportunity to acknowledge each other for like being on the call, in your life this way. And also to have a real life interaction of, for instance, saying no, or sharing what you’re feeling in your body, or teaching them the tool that you just learned so that you can like empower the people in your life to this. There are many different breakout room activities I have, which I’m very excited about. And then we’ll end when everyone comes back from that with some one to one coaching. So if there was something that blocked you or stopped you that you don’t feel was taken care of by everything that we shared, you’ll get some time to ask for that support. And that feels to me like a really important part of the fact that it’s a group community, that we’re learning together, because in community, our learning is accelerated, out of the fact that we have all these different people working on different things that resonate and apply to us in our lives. Our focus right now is on this other intention. But oh my goodness, yes. Let me take that up too. So we also have that happening.
It’s a very exciting course, there’s so much more I could say. But I’m going to stop there and go back to you Tammy.
TAMMY (ADVAYA): Thank you for that you really powered through that one. Also thank you everyone for listening!
AISHA PARIS SMITH: There’s so much to say!
TAMMY (ADVAYA): There is and you didn’t even get through like all of it. And actually I’m not going to make you go through the rest of it because I think it’s like exhausting to go through the whole thing. And we can explore that offline. But just to say that, yeah, this is a really unique experience that we are offering, getting the chance to do embodiment work with other people in a safe space. Also, virtually, which I think in this case has its strengths, because sometimes you might feel uncomfortable, exploring your body with other people in person. I mean, we at this point, we’re kind of all over Zoom and stuff. So thank you, everyone for joining us live, by the way. We’re like past that moment, kind of. But, this might be kind of a really good experience, like one of those things where maybe it does make sense to do it virtually, for people who are shy or uncomfortable or, haven’t warmed up to it yet.
AISHA PARIS SMITH: And it actually, I hope, I have my fingers crossed, because I know it’s not a reality for everyone. But I really hope that everyone who’s doing the course… [that] their home is a safe space, and that will support them dropping into the work much quicker. And because we have a week in between, and we’re meeting just for two hours, coming together as a group, it will take longer for us to be able to do the depth of inquiry that we’re going to be doing. Not that we’re going to triggering areas, by the way—I’m a trauma-informed coach, and I saw some questions in the chat about that. So I just want you to know that this is a trauma-informed course: it’s really digestible. But that doesn’t underestimate how powerful it is, because it’s also very, very powerful to work with what feels good and moving away from what doesn’t. But yeah, there’s absolutely a deliciousness inside of the fact that we’re doing body-based work on Zoom. It’s probably none of us… I think it’s like what we would prefer, but there are benefits to it too. Especially since we’re an international community here.
TAMMY (ADVAYA): Yeah, I love that. So just to briefly touch on that, it is very difficult for folks who are in—or at least because I’m familiar with Asia timezone—so for my friends out there in the same timezone, it is going to be really hard timezone wise. So hopefully in the future, we’ll be able to figure out timezones so that we offer other options, but at the moment, it is going to be a little bit hard to join live. That being said, we do have, if I could allay your fears, our courses are fairly internationally attended. So people do attend live at really odd hours. So you’ll not be alone, I don’t think. If you want to know specifically, please write into us. And we’ll double-check for you, if that’s something you’re worried about.
But yeah, so back to the last few questions. I’m also wary of time. So I want to make sure that we get through them and also to people who have asked questions, they will be answered. So please feel free to keep asking them. I’ll just take them down for the next session. So they will be answered. And I am seeing them. So yeah, I think related to some of the comments in the chat, [are] talking about pleasure and joy as a necessity for all. And so Aisha you write that: “the body is not a fixed, slow moving object. It is constantly rebuilding itself and is malleable at any age.” So my question and I think a question on a lot of people’s minds, is: is body-based work really for everyone, regardless of age, body type, health conditions? And also, I think this might be a point where it’ll be good to explain how it is accessible for all kinds of bodies, and how that will be taken care of, but also generally: how body-based work is accessible to all or at least it should be?
AISHA PARIS SMITH: Yes, I mean, we all have a body. We all have a body. And we don’t get born into this world with a manual that says, hey, here’s the body that you’re given, here’s the manual for it, go and enjoy it. And I always think of the body also as a talisman. And I feel like there are all these nooks and crannies and things that are under-appreciated. And since we all have a body, yes, I believe this course is for everyone. I wish that everyone could have the experience of exploring their relationship with their body and exploring their relationship with joy, and I think that we would live in a very different society… if people even got like 5% of the exploration that I’ve had, we would absolutely live in a different world. The course is not gender specific. It’s not just for certain bodies, it really is for everyone. I’m not sure that I can say more about it than that. It’s for us all. Yeah, I think we all have something to learn. And even I know that I will learn a lot on this course, I know that what people will share will open up things for me. So I’m excited about that.
TAMMY (ADVAYA): And I guess a more specific question would be like, is body-based work intensive, does it requires a lot of movement and mobility, per se?
AISHA PARIS SMITH: Yeah, so this course does not require a lot of movement or mobility. This course doesn’t require you to be a singer, this course doesn’t require you to have a space outside, it is a fantastically versatile course. And all you need is yourself, your body, and a safe space to work from, with good internet connection. That’s it, everything else… maybe a pen and paper to write down some things that your body says that you might want to remember. I always encourage that, because the body just comes out with these incredible things. But that’s it. That’s all you need.
TAMMY (ADVAYA): That’s great. I can do that. I hope people can do that, too. But so moving right along to our last question. So yeah, I think the last question is really focused on why is it an important collective exercise to do body-based work together? Not just on this course. But I mean, I think speaking more generally, like, why is it important to create spaces in which people do embodiment work together? And what does that open up? And of course, this is not to say that doing it individually, or one to one is not important, but it’s like, what is it about a community that changes, that opens up something, opens up new possibilities?
AISHA PARIS SMITH: Well, I think in many ways, it’s still quite taboo to acknowledge that we each have bodies, especially post-pandemic, everyone’s renegotiating their boundaries, and if they want hugs, or handshakes… and living in the city, if I sit next to someone on the bus today, do I sort of sit half off my seat so that they don’t acknowledge that they have a body and that I have a body and touch them? There’s a lot of charge packed into the fact that we have bodies and learning how to manoeuvre ourselves smoothly and communicatively with our body is quite a big, necessary skill. And learning how to feel good inside that body when we’re around other people, is also a super necessary skill. It’s like, when I’m in a meeting, whether it’s on Zoom or in person, do I know that it’s fine if I get up and go to the bathroom? Or do I feel like everyone’s gonna judge me? Do I think it’s okay to move around a bit and stretch, because that’s what I need? Yeah, absolutely. We don’t always live inside of those agreements. But being in a space that is body-positive like this, will leave a mark, and will mean that we are tougher negotiators and better advocates for our body, wherever we are, whenever we are, whoever we’re with. So that feels really important.
And then the other thing is that sharing about our bodies in a community space, well, it dissolves shame so fast. Shame is one of the nastiest things inside of the human experience, in my personal opinion. And when we get to speak things aloud, and others hear them and hear that this is us, and this is our experience, and this is our body, and when we hear other people do the same, and we feel no judgement towards them and in fact, we feel compassion and resonance, and we get that that’s what they also offer us when we speak… It’s just hugely healing. I don’t use the word healing very often. But that is. It’s hugely… it brings us back to the wholeness of ourselves.
The other huge benefit that we get from being in a group space of bodies together is that we learn as other people learn. So like I said, we might be learning one thing, like my intention might be on, Oh, I want to know how to be more relaxed and find more play in my life. And that might be my intention for coming onto the course. And then another person might say, Well, I just don’t like my body, I have all this body image stuff going on, and that’s their intention, and that’s what they’re exploring. And then another person can be like, Well, I don’t know how to enjoy being in a body with my partner, because we have completely different ways of relating to each other and being affectionate. And as each person then shares, even though I might be a fourth person with a completely different intention, I get to learn on the level of those other three. So there is an accumulative effect when we learn as a group of people. And also what feels profound, is to learn about the differences, we are not all the same. And one person’s experience of being in their body may not relate to us at all. But now we know that that sort of variation of experience exists. And it gives us more tolerance, more patience, more compassion, we get outside of our own experience, and realise there are all these others too. And that makes us more thoughtful and considerate human beings. And don’t we want that?
TAMMY (ADVAYA): Don’t we want that? I love that. Yeah, absorbing all of the good energy. And thinking about how, what would be a good way to end this off? Yeah, I didn’t think about this. But perhaps like, leaving us with a little thing we can all do today… maybe sharing something for people who are joining us live and people who are watching this to take away to the rest of their day, for the rest of the summer?
AISHA PARIS SMITH: Actually, this is honestly a great, great tip. And it continues along the lines that I was speaking of earlier. And that is, I invite you today to stay in touch, to stay cognitant of how you’re feeling inside of your clothes. Do you need to wear something looser? Would you feel more comfortable if you had something tight on? Sometimes we want to be held and compressed. There are no rules for what works. But I invite you to feel that to manoeuvre through that today. If you’re wearing something that feels good, well, then how good can it feel? How much of your attention can you place solely on the feeling of your clothing against your skin? And like, have that be like a one-minute meditation. And for me, like even as I just moved gently to the left and the right, I can feel my dress against my chest, against my tummy, these very sensitive, sweet areas, and it’s lovely. It’s just like, Oh, this is great. So I invite you just to do that today and to notice how your choice of clothing changes, or how you adapt your clothing, making it looser, making it tighter, etc., to have more pleasure and joy in your body.
TAMMY (ADVAYA): I love that. And also I will be building my wardrobe around that from now on, or picking outfits around that from now on. I don’t know about everyone who’s watching this, but I have never ever thought of how clothes make me feel. If there’s a specific sensation that’s really bothering me, and it stands out, then I access it. But if not, I don’t think about it. So I appreciate that practice a lot. And I’m going to be doing that more.
AISHA PARIS SMITH: And Tammy, I know that we’re running over. But one other thing I’ll share is that our brain maps our body and our sense of our body. And when we have pieces of clothing on, the map extends to our piece of clothing, or if we’re holding something like a mobile phone, it extends to the mobile phone. So we’re constantly updating our sense of identity and our sense of self based on what we’re wearing, what we’re holding, so if we’re wearing like old clothes that don’t fit us anymore, and that smell a bit funny. We project that onto our self-image. Literally the brain does it automatically. It’s not even a conscious thing. And so manoeuvring, and choosing clothes that feel good, that we like, that we feel express our identity, we feel like more powerful people.
TAMMY (ADVAYA): I’m half into a sneeze. Thank you it never happened, but it’s somewhere out there in the universe now. Okay, thank you, everyone. Thank you, Aisha for, as always, your amazing energy. This was a great session. I’m so glad everyone got to feel your energy. I hope it pops out through the screen because it does so for me. And it’s really nice to be able to get to know you better through this session prior to the course. And I’m excited to carry that energy through. And really excited for this course to be happening during the summer. I think the summer energy is so perfect for… so many things. But definitely for getting into our bodies and feeling our way into things. And now that, I guess for folks who are like, in countries with winter and other seasons, you’re now no longer bundled up, so you can really see yourself and feel yourself. So yeah. I hope you all have a wonderful summer solstice, and get outside, celebrate, enjoy being in your body. Hug a tree, touch an insect, anything. And yes, a replay will be available. It’ll be sent to your emails. And yes, I’m going to leave the last word to you Aisha. No pressure.
AISHA PARIS SMITH: Our body is our world. So let’s fill our world with joy. Wishing you all the most beautiful day, in the most beautiful bodies, having the most beautiful experience. Whatever colour it is.
TAMMY (ADVAYA): Thank you everyone. Thank you Aisha.