As I was preparing for the February Women’s Group, I received a writing by Toko-Pa that really resonated and fit so well with this time of year and the continued topic of Self-Love. She writes:

Our capacity for embodied pleasure depends on our ability to receive, which is like a muscle that can atrophy if it’s been habitually contracted. A learned sense of unworthiness can act as a barrier against our well-being, keeping us from opening to the beauty that’s all around us. Whether it’s our ability to receive positive feedback and support, or to expect things to work out in our favour, we may be distrustful of goodness even when it stands on our doorstep. But this doesn’t have to be a permanent condition. With practice, we can learn how to welcome beauty and receive pleasure wholeheartedly.

Toko-pa, goes on to say:

With the expanded capacity to receive comes the awareness of how long one has lived constricted. How long one has felt unseen. How long one has hidden their tender parts away from hostility and invalidation. Imagine the enormity of grief and gratitude that flow in simultaneously, stretching the receiving muscle. As the poet Nikki Giovanni says, “We must learn to bear the pleasures as we have borne the pains.”

Bearing the pleasure means beginning to invite a gentle exploration of love into those jumpy places that anticipate pain, expect abandonment, and brace for danger when it’s no longer there. Instead of dismissing or armouring our vulnerability, we must begin allowing life into those areas that have been cordoned off in self-preservation. We must acclimate, often through grief, to the life-giving nature of love.

With gentleness Toko-pa invites us to recognize that maybe after so many hurts, disappointments, we brace ourselves for more and thereby prevent the love and goodness from coming in as well. So even though we all say we want more love and beauty in our lives, it may not feel safe, and we may brace against it. Yet, by allowing ourselves to “bear the pleasure” we can experience the healing powers of grief and love. The rest of Toko-pa’s Blog Bearing the Pleasure can be read here.

In Women’s Group, this month, we will explore small safe ways to invite in and connect with the love and beauty around us, while respecting the ouches and flinches we have gathered along the way.