Sitting in front of the computer, I slowly and intentionally insert earbuds, click to start my favorite writing playlist, and open up Microsoft Word. I feel the tips of my fingers resting lightly on the keys, and notice the slight give of each printed square, glossy in the middle from months of 80 words per minute. I lightly tap my fingers on the keys, not pressing enough to type a letter, body motionless except my fingers, watching the absolute stillness of the screen, exploring the edge between pressure and performance with slow, shallow breaths, finally noticing the moment when the edge is breached, the key catches, and a letter appears on my screen, taking it in with satisfaction.
This is how all my writing starts, with a ritual of simple pleasure and partial attempt at channeling. My partner recognizes this move when he sees it. It’s one I repeat throughout the writing process, as I’m waiting (hoping) for the next words to come to me. I’ll stop, lift my head and close my eyes, and allow my fingers to wiggle lightly over the keyboard as if inviting the unseen to move through me and write my piece. If that still doesn’t produce words, I might run my hands from thigh to knee, fingers pressing with increasing depth into denim-covered flesh. Or I might bring my hands up to my face, fingers resting on my hairline, palms lightly covering my eyes, as I experience the instant soothing of darkness and warming effect over closed eyelids, connecting to the me-within so she can help me bring forth missing concepts.
Writing is a pleasurable act for me. As a flow artist and fire spinner, I am familiar with the concept of the flow state — an experience researched and brought into public awareness by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. As Csikszentmialyi explains it, flow state is the experience of absolute absorption in an activity or task, best experienced when the level of difficulty is high enough to avoid boredom, but not so challenging as to cause you to lose interest. Over the past several years, I’ve experienced flow as a dancer in its exquisite release and as a fire spinner in its intense focus. I’ve also experienced it as a writer, when the flow of concepts exhales language onto the page, words taking on lived meaning as they leave my mind and hands.
Flow feels good. The sensation is pleasurable.
I first starting thinking of pleasure as a revolutionary, deeply spiritual act after reading Christine Hoff Kraemer’s 2013 book, Eros and Touch from a Pagan Perspective: Divided for Love’s Sake.
The erotic is the gravitational attraction of planet to star, the caress of salt water on a sandy beach; it is the pulsing energy of a crowd dancing at a rock concert and the electricity of a first kiss; it is a dog rolling ecstatically in fresh grass; it is a salesperson’s smile when it genuinely touches her eyes. Yet the erotic also moves within us. It is my compassion toward myself when my body is tired and sore, and I stop work for a hot shower and a nap. It is my willingness to sit with anger or jealousy, listening to what they say about my boundaries and needs rather than pushing them to the back of my mind. It is the ability, in the midst of struggle, to give myself the same nurturing advice I would give a dear friend or lover— and to act on it. The gods move in me, reflecting each other, making love, birthing new realities. I am both a piece of God Herself and a mirror of the whole.
For most of my adult life, I’ve held a view of spirituality that is expansive, not compartmentalized, a way of intentionally navigating the world that aligns with my beliefs about myself and my relationship to the divine. Oddly, an entirely secular semester of feminist theory readings at the hands of a hardcore scholar of postcolonial studies sparked in me an awareness of the ways intentional honoring of the sacred bodies of all people through our social justice and human rights efforts can be part of that spiritual practice.
And Kraemer sums it up — that intersection of social justice, human rights, and bodily pleasure — here: “When the right to pleasure is considered to be a basic human right, acts that do not nurture the body become clear ethical violations in a way American society does not currently acknowledge.”
If we believe that the cosmos is sacred and that humans are just one species on one planet that is part of that cosmos, then acts against the body are acts against the divine, and acts that honor the body — that bring it safety and pleasure — become acts of worship. And we have high-holy-day level rites of pleasure — mind-blowing, earth-shattering moments of sacred awareness of bodily pleasure. But we also have everyday moments of devotion and spiritual connection, found in savoring the touch of fingertips to keyboard, the luxurious slide of bare legs between freshly-washed sheets, or the first gentle wash of warm summer air into lungs after stepping outside.
This is not a practice that came to me easily, as someone who spent years disconnected from my body, valuing it only for its performative capacity rather than its inherent wisdom and worthiness. It came to me through the work of sex educator Betty Martin, through her activity “The Pleasure in Your Hands.” Once you connect with your hands as a center of pleasure, it radiates outward through expanded consciousness to other parts of the body, and everything from fingers to scalp to lungs to toes develops capacity for transmitting spiritual and/or erotic pleasure. And once that shift happens, so many everyday acts take on the potential to be sacralized into acts of devotion and focused meditation, a lived prayer of love and gratitude, an offering of touch and sensation to the divine within.
So I sit here writing now, fingers gliding easily across the keyboard, heart open, mind connected, words flowing, hoping that 2019 brings me and you both exquisite moments of everyday pleasure to fill the contractions between your most expanded experiences of high holy sensation. Happy New Year!
Christy Croft is a writer, teacher, storyteller, healer, and consent and sexuality educator whose interfaith, personal spiritual practice is inspired by nature, informed by science, and grounded in compassion. She holds a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies with a focus on religion, gender, and social justice. She has facilitated safe and sacred space for over twenty years, as a suicide hotline counselor, doula, rape crisis companion, support group facilitator, minister, mentor, mother, and friend. Her research interests are ever-evolving and include spirituality, new religious movements, religiosity and popular culture, compassion, trauma, gender, sexuality, and intimacy. You can find more of her writing at www.christycroft.com.