Joy and the Body, with somatic sexologist, bodyworker and life coach Aisha Paris Smith, is advaya’s newest upcoming online course. Embracing all that it means to be a human with flesh, blood, bones, ego, and eros, Aisha’s work and this course is an invitation to return to the sensorial abundance of our bodies. Believing that doing this will integrate all parts of ourselves towards finding our purpose, creating the lives we want, and healing collectively, this course is a natural continuation of advaya’s past and current explorations into feeling into our selves as a way of embracing a full-bodied participation in the greater world and deeper ecology we are embedded in.
We are being called to live a sensuous life. Rather than further developing our minds and intellect, the current moment calls for relishing the sensuous nature of our bodies. This is not a denigration of science, of knowledge. It is an invitation to enliven it, to deepen it, to rewild it, to envelope it in the unfathomably vast story of the earth (following our course re-wilding mythology); to really honour what we know—the complexities and intricacies of our bodies and their senses. If science has shown us that our bodies have such incredible capacities, why don’t we feel it for ourselves?
As David Abram, one of the teachers on the course re-wilding mythology, writes in Becoming Animal: “For too long we’ve closed ourselves to the participatory life of our senses, inured ourselves to the felt intelligence of our muscled flesh and its manifold solidarities.” He raises the example of the famous artist: “Fiercely intelligent, yet bearing a sensibility far more porous than most, Van Gogh was unable, or unwilling, to abstract his intellect from his body's reality, unwilling to abandon the myriad things, to tame his senses and so stifle the steady eros between his flesh and the flesh of the earth.”
Following the call of biophilosopher Andreas Weber (teacher of our course Ecology of Love), we are embracing the deep dive into the world of mutual belonging. He encourages us to perceive the world anew through an ecology of love, imbuing ecosystems with practical and spiritual principles of a living cosmos. In other words: the world and its ecosystems are alive, and we are a part of it, relationally entangled, sensorially bound-up. But to truly see these connections, we have to feel into our own bodies first. To see the richness of life, we have to return to our bodies.
So we ask: When was the last time you cultivated your senses? When was the last time you celebrated your body’s sensorial experience? When was the last time you connected with your felt sense of your body? When was the last time you felt yourself from the inside? When was the last time you paid attention to the internal compass of your body, the intelligence that has always existed within you, not, as Rae Johnson writes, as “tools in the project of self-mastery, [but rather] as gifts to be celebrated and enjoyed in their own right”?
In this world, technical and rationalist knowledge approaches have made use of disconnection and isolation, on all levels, to further the oppressive social systems that govern us and our cultures. As feminist author and social critic Minna Salami (teacher of our course Sensuous Knowledge) writes, “we are detached from each other, from the nonhuman natural world, as well as from our own inner experiences”. She urges us to explore new ways of being in the world, ones that are grounded in true embodiment—as in, being in our own bodies.
Enter advaya’s upcoming course, Joy and the Body. This course, like our course on embodiment and somatics, Bodyfulness, centres the body. It asks: What if we were able to transform our own lives and cultures at large by transforming the ways in which we inhabited our bodies?
It starts from our bodies: your body. Bodyfulness, as Christine Caldwell coined, begins when the embodied self is held in conscious, contemplative environment, coupled with a non-judgmental engagement with bodily processes. We begin with radical acceptance of our bodies, and an orientation towards a lessening of suffering and increase in human potential. A potential for pleasure, that Aisha Paris Smith, teacher of Joy and the Body, says isn’t currently accessed by most. So we must turn towards it, find it, engage with it. More than just being about pleasure, this is a journey about reclaiming our personal guidance system. The body is richly intelligent, and like a diverse ecosystem’s intelligence, it can, through signs and signals, communicate what it needs, wants, likes—and conversely, what it does not need, does not want, and does not like.
On this course, you will not only learn to unblock pleasure pathways, you will also encounter a safe, relaxed and supportive environment to establish boundaries, explore what projections you may have on your body, and confront conscious or unconscious body shame. You will learn to relate to yourself and your body in a new way, finding out how you authentically and honestly feel about your body. As Aisha says: “The more we’re allowed to be ourselves, the more we’ll become who we want to be. I believe this to be true individually and collectively.”
In a way, engaging in these processes is a necessary duty of ours: as human participants in a more-than-human world. Honouring who we are in embodied ways allows us to listen to our inner experiences and voices—which are, naturally, part of, and already attuned to, the earth we are embedded in. We return here to the bigger question: What if we were able to transform cultures by transforming the ways in which we inhabited our bodies? Once we inhabit our bodies fully, only then will we be able to transform our cultures, because the disconnection that we have from our bodies are at the heart of the disconnection in the external world.
As we learnt in Bodyfulness: in order to change, we need to become aware of how we are interacting with our bodies, and with the world around us. Somatics and physical self-awareness is essential to breaking free from oppressive systems and stories that are internal and external to ourselves. Continuing from that course, Joy and the Body is a course that invites you into a new story: of receiving pleasure, increasing sensation, expressing joy, and more. Beyond freeing yourself from narratives you have learnt about your body, this course asks: what can joy look like for you and your body? What does your body feel, and want? How can you receive and express what you want?
Aisha reminds us that: “The body is not a fixed, slow-moving object. It is constantly rebuilding itself and is malleable at any age.” The capacity for change is immense, and within you already—the question is: will you embrace it? And will you open yourself up to the truths your body already knows, and the stories it is already part of? Your embedded, sensuous, earthly, and fleshy body beckons.