Probably one of the most powerful people I know, Amanda Acorn is someone that, to me, is at once grace and strength. A choreographer, performer, and Misfit movement teacher in Toronto, this woman is a force and if you've taken any of her classes, you know what I'm talking about.
A few months back, Amanda did a series of workshops at Misfitstudio called the Poetics of Pleasure, which was a combination of meditation, exploratory practices, and sweaty movement to expand the potential for both subtle and radical sensation. I mean, incredible right?
This idea of tapping into a higher vibration of yourself via presence and pleasure in the body...the mind body connection. I've already read and reread this interview many times, and I find more to think about each time. Hopefully it inspires you to dig a little deeper into your own curiosity.
What is pleasure, to you?
I love this very simplified definition of tantric practice, to define how I think about pleasure: ‘Pursuing with consciousness that which brings you JOY’. This is transformative and radical to bring into our daily lives. Dropping into or connecting to pleasure, for me is related to mindfulness and embodiment… or mindfulness IN embodiment. It is a return to the body, to its wisdom, its power, and its softness in an era where generally speaking we are SO disconnected from our bodies. It is cultivating creativity, vitality and celebrating my aliveness. This allows the notion of pleasure to vibrate outward from the singular idea of sexual pleasure and become a larger force that can affect all parts of our lives. Dropping into the felt senses in my body and slowing down to experience them fully. Noticing subtle energetic sensation, tuning into them before moving, before eating, before making love, doing chores, reading etc. Connecting to breath before doing anything one wants to do with more focus on pleasure; regardless of whether we consider that activity as erotic or sexual. Being awake to all that being human has to offer. I very recently read the profound and beautiful essay, Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power, by feminist, activist and poet Audre Lorde and it inspired me deeply. Holy shit, everyone needs to read it. She speaks so passionately about the power of the erotic to deeply transform not only our selves and our lives but also the world.
What was the spark that led your interest to this topic?
A natural unfolding of many things and influences… I have always been a person who is sensitive, curious, into Feeling and seeking out pleasure in different ways. I love eating delicious food so much, wearing soft fabrics and sitting in bath tubs (!). Moving my body in new and weird ways to expand what is possible in my perception of what my body is and can do. A sense of curiosity and awe in how powerful the body is, as a home for our transformative experiences.
I grew up dancing throughout my childhood (not often an experience of pleasure, or particularly ‘empowering’, however dance allowed me to develop a deep understanding of my own body in motion both physically and energetically). I first learned meditation and Reiki as a teenager and this brought about a deeper understanding of what was possible with my body in an energetic and spiritual sense. In my art practice, I work with sensation as a tool for both the performer and spectator. In 2014, I created a performance where I danced in the nude in hot pink lights, undulating and vibrating for 40 mins. This was in my early 30’s and around that time I started to feel much more attuned to my sensual nature and sexual power than I had before. This was so liberating, as I moved through feelings of shame (often projected onto me by others.) and began owning and speaking my desires more.
When I started teaching movement at misfitstudio in 2017, I started noticing connections with my art practice, my personal development and what I wanted to communicate through my teaching. I started researching Tantra and looking for links between my personal pursuit of pleasure and ways of sharing my curiosity with others. I did an online introductory course about tantra, sex and intimacy because I think I might be a sensation junkie and I want to feel it ALLLLLLLL (maybe not all but if there are ecstatic feelings possible, I want to chase them…)
I’m also realizing that living from this awareness, is to embrace the feminine qualities that I swim in, which I think I resisted for a long time. Capitalism and patriarchy do not want us to be in touch with our feminine power (regardless of gender identity). Our world values logic and intellect and shits on intuition, softness and vulnerability as qualities that are lesser than or weak, or that it wants to use for it’s own destructive purposes. I pushed these qualities away in myself in a lot of ways, perhaps as a way to survive or achieve what was expected of me. I’m rediscovering the power, beauty and fullness that this kind of softness can offer. Also that this is powerful stuff to embody and share in resistance to the oppression, destruction and isolation that we face in today’s world.
Are there any unexpected benefits to being able to access more pleasure in daily life?
There is something so liberating and empowering in asking oneself what is pleasurable for you and taking steps to move towards that. I imagine it as a practice in noticing, softening and making space for things, activities, people, places that make you feel good and bring you joy. The beauty being, these can be small things that bring us more in touch with what we actually need and want in our lives. Noticing the miracle of breathing and how good it feels, or taking an extra 5 mins in the hot shower in the morning. Taking extra time to eat your meals as a mindfulness practice, appreciating taste and nourishment. Enjoying a delicious glass of wine and truly savouring it. Resting when you need rest and not beating yourself up for it but enjoying the resting.
How can we create more pleasure in our day-to-day lives?
(Kind of answered this one above too…) A few things I have done in the last year!
Creating a sacred space in your home.
This was one of the first homework assignments in the Ecstatic Sex and Deep Intimacy course I did online with Juliet Allen.
Starting by cleaning out your space…. Your bedroom, clearing it out of junk and clutter. Using sage or Palo Santo to smudge and energetically clean the space.
Gathering some items that you find beautiful to put in the room, maybe art, textiles, lighting or candles to make the space feel warm and special.
Create a small alter somewhere in your space with some items that are sacred and meaningful to you.
Find more about Juliet Allen here
Ayurvedic self massage practice: Abyanga
‘It is believed that the effects of Abhyanga are similar to those received when one is saturated with love. Like the experience of being loved, Abhyanga can give a deep feeling of stability and warmth.’
Find more about Abyanga at The Well Woman here
Is there a mantra or visualization you can share that can be added to someone’s meditation practice?
While in a comfortable seated position, be in stillness and focus on your breath for a few minutes. Drop in to the felt senses of the body. Feel the sensation of your breath moving in and out of the lungs. Witness any sensations through your whole body. Draw your awareness down into your sex centre or 2nd chakra, just below the navel. Visualize and feel the energy in your genitals and sex centre (might feel a lot right away and you might feel nothing… that’s ok)
Bring your breath down into this area, imagining your breath circulating and stimulating this energy centre and part of your body. Imagine increased vitality, creativity and warmth building, expanding. Notice what you notice (maybe a lot, maybe nothing)
Eventually you can start practicing moving this energy up from this area into the heart centre and eventually the third eye.
If you want to move, dance and sweat it out with Amanda, she teaches at Misfitstudio throughout the week, check the weekly schedule here, HOT TIP: she is also teaching GET SHIFTED every Saturday at 12:30 at 68 Claremont St in Toronto as a Misfit pop-up (highly recommend!) you can sign up for this at the link above.
Amanda is also running intensives in movement and contemporary dance technique which you can learn more about here
Top photo: Tim Nguyen
Bottom photo: Talia Shipman