Seven questions toward a body-led reality

A body-centred life is within reach for all of us. Somatic sexologist, bodyworker and life coach Aisha Paris Smith speaks with advaya and introduces seven core questions that can orient us towards a bodyful reality. These core questions form the foundation of each session on advaya’s online course with Aisha, Joy and the Body.

What is embodiment?

We are a whole body: each person is. Yet, we have a tendency to live in our heads, eyes, genitals. When one part of our body dominates our experience we lose balance, and we get loose ourselves. Embodiment is the practice of actively taking stock of what we’re experiencing across our entire physical land- and sea-scape, finding the safety and solidness to receive through our senses as an agent place from which to make choices and unfold each moment. Living in environments that recognise only the mind and intellect as valuable parts of ourselves, we often judge our bodies superficially, instead of appreciating the grandness of its experience, and the intelligence and opportunity our bodies can offer us. What happens when we hear our bodies speak, when we understand what they’re saying to us? If nothing else: follow its guidance as an experiment.

In the first session of this course, we will ease into the principle and practice of embodiment, that will form the foundation of every session after. We will come together as a community for the first time with a shared intention and defined agreements, and discover how we can share embodied experience with others, and more deeply understand theirs. Each of us will begin to unfold our unique experiences of being in our own bodies, and learn some basic regulation tools for managing our inner experience.

How do I access self-created joy?

Joy is all around us: if we learn to tune into pleasurable sensations, unblock our pleasure pathways, we can access the immeasurable amount of joy that exists. But what if we also told you that through paying attention to our bodies, we can find self-created joy—joy from within? Many of us turn away from our bodies, and therefore this can be hard to believe: the opportunities to feel good that are available from us at the level of our body go unfelt, unexplored and unknown. But opening up to the natural level of embodied joy that we have is simple and fast. The key is being receptive enough to what’s already there, and then amplifying it, reproducing it and living it. Knowing how to receive even a modicum of joy through our body is like rewarding and opens the door to a playground of pleasure inside of ourselves.

In the second session of this course, we get up close and personal with embodied joy. We look at feeling good in the body without looking at sex: accessing the many other pathways to feeling good. You’ll equip yourself with referenceable tools that you can call upon any time and anywhere to feel good. You’ll learn how to get comfortable in your body, which needs to happen before embodied joy. As embodied joy enters, we ask: how does that joy occur for each of us on the level of felt sense phenomenologically? The end result: we learn to surface the existing pleasure in our bodies, within the session and beyond.

What do I want?

What do we want? What do we need? What do we desire? Do we have answers to these questions authentically, independently, from what’s being told to us in the outside world? For many of us who don’t have the capacity to think twice about our wants, because of a lack of time, resources, or otherwise, the truth is that in spite of scarcity-led, materialistically-driven capitalism, our bodies have wants beyond what’s been inscribed for us. If we make space to drop into the body, empower ourselves as agents, we can find out what it is our bodies are feeling, and listen to the signals that point towards our true desires. In doing so, we write over the societal narratives we’ve subconsciously adopted, that have influenced our internal ethics. Instead, we can begin to identify, acknowledge and voice what is our own, evaluating our own joy ethics.

In the third session of this course, we identify core beliefs around our desires, needs, and wants, discovering how our bodies respond to those. We listen to our bodies through guided somatic practices, and practice in the group to voice it out, finding the emboldened expressions of our desires. How much can we allow ourselves to be seen inside our wants? What obstructs desire-based action, and how can we create permission to please ourselves first? We unravel the beliefs that create our joyful—or joy-less—realities.

How do I categorise my body?

Feeling good about our bodies is not something that can be developed overnight: so why do we still expect that of ourselves? Instead of forcing ourselves to change how we feel about our bodies, we should first observe and face how the current realities of our bodies are, with acceptance. The body is a place of projection: self-worth, identity, capability, and more. We categorise our own bodies, which speaks volumes about our societal, cultural conditioning, lived experiences, perspectives and values. It is important to unpack first what associations, boxes, labels we have put on our own bodies, and examine how they’ve influenced our self-image. What are the various layers of meaning that have formed over years and years of subconsciously being in our bodies? What are the stories that have been spun for us, or stories that we have spun? How can we observe them without judgement?

In the fourth session of this course, we ask: what associations do you have with your body, and of bodies in general? We look at narratives and associations we’ve adopted of bodies, and listen to each other’s stories. Through a group reflection, we will practice acceptance of where we’re at: the foundation for things to evolve naturally, rather than forcing change. Only then we ask: how do we build new associations? How do we reclaim power over our narratives of our bodies, and of pleasure?

How can pleasure be a resource for me?

Aisha Paris Smith says: “Pleasure is that space that opens up when I take a moment to breathe.” We live in a social context where it is normalised to have under-resourced bodies: but what if we could resource our bodies as we breathed, through pleasure? What if pleasure is an untapped resource, an infinite well from which we could draw from, anytime, anywhere? “You can do this right now,” Aisha says, “just feel into your body. Notice what sensations are moving. Notice how you’re breathing. Notice where your eyes want to go in the room. What are the experiences that being in a body offer up, and how do they facilitate pleasure? If we can open up these pockets of pleasure in our day, they can be an incredible resource for getting through tough times.” How can we experience pleasure as readily-available, and then draw from it to fill our cups?

In the fifth session of this course, we learn about the intersection between pleasure, trauma repair, and regulation. We discover how pleasure can be a grounding, nourishing coping mechanism, one that acknowledges the realities that we are each experiencing—without bypassing it, nor disengaging from it—but that also insists on making a choice of a different way. Pleasure can be an easeful, day-to-day practice that can regulate ourselves and our bodies.

What body shame do I have?

Working towards a body-led reality and a body-centred life is acknowledging that the work is more than pleasure. Finding safety, freeing self expression and integration of shadow are crucial parts too. Thus, a key step is confronting body shame. Shame, a very particular shade of emotion, is one of the most scarring on our bodies. This emotion is often tied to moments that are embedded within our bodies, moments that were maybe brief but impactful. To dissolve shame, we have to work through it: digging into the mechanisms of shame and relieving the pain. One way to do this is consciously touching the body part where shame is felt, accessing where that emotion is locked, and what memories are beneath the surface. Another way is by being in community with others, hearing their experiences, offering our own, feeling compassion and resonance: it can be deeply healing, and bring us back to the wholeness of ourselves.

In the sixth session of the course, we work to confront and dissolve body shame in a supportive community. Understanding that our bodies consciously or unconsciously hold shame from memories both recent and deep, we will witness and hold space for each other as we peer deeply into our own bodies. Doing so further unlocks our ability to be compassionate with ourselves just as we are, freeing us in a transformative way. With body shame gone, we are then more able to build more new associations, broadening the possibilities available to us when it comes to our relationships with our bodies.

How can I receive infinitely?

The amount of pleasure we can have in our lives are infinite. But we each have a resilient edge: a place where comfortable and uncomfortable meet. Finding more range inside of how much we can receive and experience before it becomes uncomfortable applies to “positive” emotions and experiences too. So: how much are we able to receive and experience, finitely? Can we tap into our bodies and find that answer, and then expand that range? How do we encourage our bodies to hold more? Where in our bodies can we hold more? From there, we can be pointed in the direction of receiving. We do not necessarily have to receive infinitely, but expanding our capacities, waking up to parts of ourselves that were dormant, and moving our baseline, are things within our reach. And to do so: simple somatic practices, somatic fluency and awareness, are tools that are available to all of us.

In the seventh and final session of the course, we expand. We expand how much good we can hold in our bodies through a combination of ways to self-express and by making active use of the natural embodied joy. You’ll be invited to a full-body experience: perhaps parts of yourself that you haven’t fully experienced before. You will learn to express yourself through your whole body, with your whole body. You will see how the felt joy in your body changes your external reality and enriches the life you are already a part of.


Aisha Paris Smith

Somatic sexologist, bodyworker and life coach. Aisha blends her conscious approach to life with the profound experience of being in a body. She embraces all that it means to be a human with flesh, blood, bones, ego and eros. She experiences every day the wisdom of her body and has seen clients transform through the power of somatic methods.

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Tammy Gan

Tammy (she/her) leads on content and storytelling at advaya.

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