“It’s May. It’s Pleasure Month, here at the Intensives Institute. And we’re thinking about ways to allow our sense of pleasure to be part of our guidance system, to be part of our awareness system. And to recognize that everybody is better off when their pleasure centers fire.”

Here is a link to the old Thirty Day Pleasure Project. Note that this site is no longer maintained and any links within it are more likely than not expired:


Transcript and notes: https://dev.intensivesinstitute.com/captivate-podcast/what-gives-you-pleasure

Recorded 16 May 2023.


Hi, everyone. Thanks for tuning in.

I want to talk a little bit about the details of the pleasures of an intensive. Because, while we are many and varied and unique in almost every way, also, there are some common threads. And it's useful to know what brings us pleasure. What brings you pleasure as a leader. Because it allows you to meet your own needs.

When we can meet our needs, we're less resentful, we're more able to be present to everyone else's everything. And when we can be more present to everyone else's everything, we are more likely to meet their needs, and we are more likely to hold a coherent team. And that means we're less likely to drive people away, we're less likely to alienate people.

And we are also still not squishing ourselves. We are not trying to turn ourselves into somebody we're not. And that's critical.

But what does pleasure look like for an intensive? Because so often, and I mean, really often, when we go to figure out what our pleasure is, and we kind of do that thing that all humans do, because we're social, we look around, we assess what other people seem to think is pleasurable. So often, ours turns out to be not like theirs. It turns out to be different in some significant way or ways. What they're doing doesn't look nice, doesn't look fun, looks dreadfully boring, makes us want to do something else entirely.

And so we have to reconsider what, what as I said, one long ago Beltane morning, What gives you pleasure? What gives you pleasure? What gives you pleasure, and not just, it's Okay, it's fine satisfaction, understanding, success, dopamine, but actual pleasure, like that rich, full bodied experience of pleasure. Often, and not always, and this is true for everything that I say often, but not always, because there's always an exception. And the exceptions are many and varied. But that doesn't change the overarching pattern.

So what brings you pleasure? What brings me pleasure? I'll start there, because I have the best answers for that. Flow state is absolutely seductive to me. If I can get all the way into something so that nothing else exists, that's the best creative state, but it's also one of the best things I do. And it's also one of the most exhausting. If I come out of flow state after three hours, four hours, three days, a week: I will have nothing left. I will have left it all on the floor and left the room and collapsed. Sometimes literally.

But flow state, absolutely, if you can get me so engaged with something that the entire rest of the world falls away, that's the best.

For me, also the right kinds of stimulation. And that's really important because the wrong kinds will make me utterly miserable immediately. But the right kinds of stimulation. In my case, certain kinds of touch, certain kinds of music. Certain sensations like my bare feet in the grass.

I had a really interesting short conversation on Facebook, when I posted that I kind of hate to wear shoes. And everyone weighed in on one side of that or the other either they love them or they hate them. Either they always want their feet protected from all other inputs, or they want no covering. Obviously, those of us who live in climates that are not always conducive to bare feet, have learned to wear shoes where we need them. Those of us who live in terrain that doesn't allow us to be barefoot all the time have learned to wear shoes when we need them but that sensation for me of bare feet on the actual ground is breathtakingly beautiful.

And while we're on the subject of breathtaking beauty, pretty much anything that's breathtakingly beautiful. I don't always see beauty where other people do. I don't always taste beauty where other people do. I don't always feel beauty or hear beauty where other people do. But the right combinations. They sends shivers down my spine. The change my breathing, my heart rate, probably my pupil dilation. They're everything.

Especially, especially when It's been hard. It's everything to be able to find even the tiniest little window into pleasure, even the tiniest little crumb moment. Even a little tiny bit, anything.

So when I ask myself the question of what gives me pleasure, what brings me pleasure, what engages the pleasure centers of my heart and mind and spirit as well as brain, I ask myself, where my body pulls me.

It was a shock and a revelation to me, when I started doing pleasure based work back in, oh gosh, 2010 maybe? It was a shock and a revelation to me that not everybody could just feel what was happening in their body, could just allow their body to be the compass to be the direction finder. Because it's always been something that worked for me. It's always been easy for me. And so I didn't realize that that wasn't true for everyone.

Isn't that the common mistake? Right, whatever we're good at must be easy, and therefore often valueless.

So just telling people, Hey, listen to your body, wasn't working. I created a 30 day program, free program, still up on the internet. Although if there were any links in it, they have now expired. Long since gone.

But the Thirty Day Pleasure Project is still there. And it guides people through this tiny little bite sized stepwise process of engaging better with their bodies. You're not supposed to like every single assignment, but every assignment can be done by yourself in 15 minutes or less. And the reason it's designed that way is because this is not about the traditional sexualization of pleasure.

This is not about driving the eyes of pleasure outward, the attention to pleasure outward. This is about you and yourself. You and your own pleasure. You and your own responses. You and your own sense of aliveness. You and your own sense of responsiveness. And it can be anything. It can be drinking water when you're thirsty.

I had a chemistry teacher in high school who once overheard some students talking about sex and said, you know, everyone thinks that sex is like the best feeling ever, but have you ever peed when you really had to pee? And that has always stuck with me. That our sense of pleasure, the scope of pleasure is so much wider than we usually give it credit for.

And it is tightly tied to basic needs. Eating when you're hungry. Drinking when you're thirsty. Peeing when you have to pee. It's relief. And there's a kind of pleasure in it. Why? Well, I presume it's because we evolved. And we had to evolve to do those things. And the only way evolution gets living beings to do things is by making them feel good or at least better than the alternative. The other way is to make them inevitable like sneezing.

So when I asked myself what gives me pleasure, the question is really what gives me the sensations in my body that take my breath away. That focus me deeply. That engage me richly. And that feel good.

I think after this many years of pandemic, I have sort of forgotten what feeling good feels like. But every so often it sneaks up and surprises me. Like discovering that the irises in my backyard smell a little bit like grape soda. Like discovering the people that I loved and connected with here years and years and years ago, are still glad to see me. Are still glad to make plans. Are still glad to connect and get together. Like discovering somewhere that I'm starting to read paper books again, after having left them behind for electronic books for practical rather than aesthetic reasons.

I'm still working on getting the pleasure in food back. But that's a more complicated issue. Most of the foods that I like, are not safe for me to eat right now. And that's unfortunate.

But it's pleasure month. It's pleasure month here in the institute. And we're thinking about ways to allow our sense of pleasure to be part of our guidance system, to be part of our awareness system. And to recognize that everybody is better off when their pleasure centers fire. Everybody is better off.

And that means maintaining this delicate balance between too little and too much. Not too much person, but too much stuff. Too much abundance too much. Like if you eat too much, it's uncomfortable. If you eat too little, it's also uncomfortable, there's a middle ground. Most of us if we sleep too much, it's uncomfortable. If we sleep too little, also uncomfortable.

There's a middle ground that this pleasure is kind of leading us down, a kind of center path that still has room for our intensiveness are massively impactful, imaginative, boundary breaking disruptive intensiveness. There's still room for that.

Our intensiveness can give us pleasure, because that's, that's how it works. Right? When we get to be untrammeled intensives, we get pleasure just from that. From not having to hold our breath. From not having to pull our punches. From not having to not do and not do and not do. And instead, getting to do all the things. Here's what it takes, let's do it all.

And also at the same time not to cause harm. We can have both. We can do both. Both are possible in one place, in one institution. You don't have to hide your intensiveness in the corner or sneak out to go be intensive at night. You can have an institution- especially if you're the business owner- you can have an institution that embraces your intensiveness that allows your intensiveness to have all of the resources it needs. All the resources you need.

Because having the resources we need to do the things that we do as intensives is part of the minimum need meeting that we're doing. And also- and also we can meet the needs and give that pleasure to everyone around us.

Not everyone needs the same set of things. Some people need regularity, cadence, predictability, and we can do that. We can create buffers and containers so that most of the vagaries of our differences are softened. Until it just feels like pleasure. Until the needs are so met, that everyone can have their own bucket full. We can do that.

Because one of the things that gives us pleasure is making our way in the world in a way that doesn't detract from anyone else. We can do that. And then the work itself gives us pleasure.

I probably could talk about this for three hours, but I'm going to stop here and just leave you with a question. What gives you pleasure?

Thanks for tuning in. Talk to you soon.