In the next months we will be sharing some of Dr Marc Gafni’s key teachings on Pleasure, on which he will largely expand during the Festival next August. Please note that the content offered in this next series of blog posts was all taken from various teachings from Dr Marc Gafni on Pleasure. They are unplugged notes, just slightly edited by his students, so as to best capture the transmission of the live teachings. Enjoy!
“PLEASURE IS A SKILL” is our first Principle.
We’re not used to putting the words ‘pleasure’ and ‘skill’ in the same sentence. Skill is something we’ve got to practice and train for. On the other hand, we have a sense that Pleasure should be automatic, natural. But in reality, Pleasure is both an art and a skill which we’ve got to learn how to cultivate. The more we cultivate our skill for Pleasure, the more pleasure we will receive – from all levels of pleasure.
From Pre-Conscious to Conscious “Skilled” Pleasure:
Let’s take two examples at opposite ends of the spectrum: On one side we have a baby deriving pleasure from sucking at her mother’s breast. What is the relation of that baby to pleasure? How do they experience pleasure? Why? When? These are all relevant questions when we look at what pleasure represents for that baby. Let’s now look at an enlightened sage performing a Japanese tea ceremony in classical Zen Buddhism. The sage is able to derive maximum pleasure from a seemingly very ordinary life activity. How does he do that? Why and what makes him do so? Though the questions remain the same, the answers to these questions, however, would be very different, whether we are looking at the sage, or at the baby. That is because we are looking at very different levels of human development.
A sage is a person who has brought their capacity to receive pleasure to increasing richer textures and forms, and in such depth, that they actually begin to experience pleasure as
an expression of infinity itself. A baby yet has to travel the human developmental journey from instinctive unconscious pleasure to fully alive, fully awake conscious pleasure.
Most of us however experience blocks around pleasure. We feel shame and fear, we might feel that we don’t deserve it, or we’re scared to lose control if we surrender to our pleasure. Even beyond that, we’re afraid that if we give in to our full pleasure, the world would kill us. Because actually, wearing our Eros on our sleeve, is not a simple way to live. There’s a price for it. People who try to incarnate Eros too directly often get murdered in our society. Willem Reich wrote a book called The Murder of Christ in which he speaks to how we are afraid of our Life Force and how we quickly go to murder it.
In every engagement, there’s always Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3.
Let me finish our first principle with a very simple but very powerful distinction which we’ll be using all along our journey to reclaiming Pleasure. Here it is: At stage One: you’re a baby. You just get pleasure. Pleasure at this level is simple, it’s a given, “Ah, nipple, food, air, play, pleasure, pleasure, pleasure, pleasure”. You are innocent and your pleasure is innocent.
At stage Two, you learn to earn pleasure. You are learning to discern different levels of pleasure, you are learning to choose your pleasure. You are earning your pleasure. At Stage Three: Here, you once again get pleasure easefully and naturally, and you are reclaiming your original innocence, but at a higher level of consciousness. You’re not regressing. You’re not going backwards. You’re actually evolving. It’s what we call second innocence, when you reclaim innocence at a higher level of consciousness. There’s a second simplicity at that stage but that’s simplicity on the other side of complexity.
Now, you could easily, looking from the outside, confuse the two. But they’re completely different. You could confuse Stage 1 pleasure, with Stage 3 pleasure. But in between, at Stage 2, there is effort and everything you need to do to engage life. This is the stage when we’re appropriately exiled from the garden of Eden. We move up from Eden. We engage the complexity of the world and all of its demands. You can’t skip that stage, and it’s only when you’ve engaged it, that you can return to the garden, after you’ve developed the enlightened capacity of second simplicity, in which pleasure is a natural, organic, dynamic expression of the essential aliveness of reality.
The skill of pleasure is to reclaim ability to experience the eternity that resides in every moment that unlocks in every encounter as the infinity of pleasure itself, which overwhelms, melts away all shame. It’s the pleasure of infinity itself, which resides in every finite moment, which results in what we might call the celebration of finitude, the pleasure in every detail of life.