I’m about to get vulnerable: allowing myself to experience pleasure has always been a struggle for me. When asked to work with Maude White’s Pleasure Alchemy: A Deck and Guidebook for Self-Expression and Fulfillment, I felt a pang of excitement immediately accompanied by feelings of doubt. Could I work through a deck surrounding pleasure when I struggle to embrace pleasure in my life? It felt a bit daunting but also something I was ready for. I decided to give myself a comfy introduction to the deck by working with it every day for seven days straight while also making use of Maude’s Resilience Alchemy: A Deck and Guidebook for Self-Discovery and Empowerment. Come along with me as I learn to embrace pleasure in all its forms.
Day 1: Getting Familiar with the Deck
I started with one of the five card pull ideas recommended by Maude in the included guidebook, Choosing a Card as a Focus for Your Reading. I flipped through the cards one by one until I saw one that resonated with me, then consulted the guidebook to learn about the card’s meaning.
I had picked the card THE 1ST BODY REMEDY: LISTEN. This card invited me to observe my whole being, and to slow down and notice the sounds around me. What does pleasure feel like in my body? After reading the card’s interpretation, I closed my eyes and listened to Lana Del Rey’s “Let The Light In.” It was a powerful experience!
In the suggested spread for LISTEN, one question stuck out: what might I have forgotten to listen for? For this question, I pulled THE 20TH PLEASURE SEEKER: THE YONDERER. With this pull, I felt called to step out of my routine, break habits, and act on adventures.
I supplemented this spread with a one-card pull from Resilience Alchemy, pulling THE 17TH SISTER: THE SHADOWHOLDER. On the card, hands are holding a box that is about to be unlatched. The box stands for all of the shadowy thoughts and feelings that weigh you down. I thought about the shame felt for my own body––a shame that has been weighing me down for as long as I can remember. It’s not my shame to carry. So I let it go and let the light in!
This first day was honestly the most pleasurable day that I’ve had in a while. The YONDERER card inspired me to ride my bike to the river and enjoy the calming effects of the water. I listened to sounds––the water falling in the shower, my dog chewing a bone, the trees rustling in the wind––and noticed the sensations in my body. I put on some calming 528 Hz frequencies and stared off into space while cuddling my dog. It was blissful.
Day 2: Defining Needs
The next day, I chose to work with one of Maude’s nine suggested Self-Care Spreads: the Defining Needs Spread. The first question of this spread is: What important need can I honor and embrace to feel pleasure most fully? I pulled THE 12TH VOICE REMEDY: BELONGING: “Your pleasure here makes the world richer, deeper, and more beautiful. Settle into your body. Settle into your life.”
I have been working for years to feel a sense of belonging––it’s the settle part that feels hard. So, I decided to pull another card to answer the question “What can help remind me that I belong here?”
I pulled THE 7TH SPARK REMEDY: DAYDREAMS. Daydreams are “the beginning of something tangible.” I was called to imagine something pleasurable. While I did have a lovely daydream, I couldn’t help but think of my former self, three years ago in my Philly home, writing and daydreaming about my ideal life in Florida. Now, that daydream is true––how empowering is that?!
I found the one-card pull from the Resilience Alchemy deck a great way to bring everything together. I pulled THE 8TH HEART REMEDY: CONFIDENCE, which calls for a spark of confidence to be kindled within me. No need to doubt! I can trust my body and the journey.
Just a few years ago, I was daydreaming of the life I have now. I remember talking to my therapist about missing a sense of belonging. I dreamt I was walking through a beautiful nature area with friends, laughing and joking and loving each other. This is my life now, and that is something I can see, celebrate, and take pleasure in. Now let’s settle into that!
Day 3: Creating My Own Spread
Maude encourages us to create our own self-care spreads: “Get creative and ask the questions that are truly meaningful for you.” One doubt keeps crossing my mind: “Am I worthy of pleasure?”I’m not proud of this thought, so I decided to ask how I can remind myself I’m worthy of experiencing pleasure.
I pulled THE 7TH BODY REMEDY: SAVOR, which suggested I slow down and savor deeply. From there, I turned to my deck to answer the first prompt: What can help me slow down and savor today?
I pulled the THE 7TH SOUL REMEDY: THE GREAT WORK. The Great Work is “any created work that moves you deeply.” I was invited to let my heart fill with joy and fall into the magic of it all. MyGreat Work ended up being something I have loved since I was a child: rearranging my room. I moved my desk into a corner surrounded by windows, cleaning and reorganizing as I went. Everything felt so fresh and calming and allowed me to savor the serenity of my surroundings.
Day 4: An Invitation to Slow Down
This morning, I decided to return to the Defining Needs spread, focusing on two questions:
What important desire of mine has been neglected or forgotten?
What can be a tool or ally to help me clarify and articulate what I need?
I pulled THE 4TH SUGGESTION: STEP BACK and THE 12TH BODY REMEDY: BREATHE.
STEP BACK is a reminder to take my time. Before trying to move forward, pause. Sometimes, when I practice new self-care rituals, I subconsciously expect myself to move forward quickly. Because of this, I neglect and forget to simply relax and enjoy each moment without thinking of what happens next or what I have to do.
For BREATHE, Maude says that “every breath can be a talisman.” It felt so powerful to know that each breath has the power to bring me closer to myself and my desires. All I have to do is slow down.
I returned to the Resilience Alchemy deck this morning with another single card pull––THE 4TH ACTION REMEDY: STRENGTHEN. With this card, I was invited to “spend time––careful, gentle, slow time––letting events unfold around you, and letting strength unfold within you.” This was a much-needed reminder that although I have a full to-do list for today, I’m going to focus on one thing at a time, step back at times, and use the power of my breath.
Day 5: Gentle Reminders
It took me a bit longer to set aside time with my decks today. Tomorrow, I’ll be in the car all day to visit family for the week and I’m feeling overwhelmed about being pulled out of my routine. Since I find it hard to regulate myself and stay grounded when traveling, I decided to do a single-question two-card spread combining Pleasure Alchemy and Resilience Alchemy, asking myself what I need to remember as I continue on this journey while leaving behind my comfy routines.
From the Pleasure Alchemy deck, I pulled THE 15TH PLEASURE SEEKER: THE ARTIST. This card reminded me that “the act of creating… can bring you immense pleasure.” This inspires me to allow myself to explore and notice the simplest things on this trip, using this inspiration to make art, or even to see the experience of pleasure as an art form.
From the Resilience Alchemy deck, I pulled THE 4TH ACTION REMEDY: STRENGTHEN. Once again, I’m being reminded to spend time letting events unfold around me. We are not meant to be perfect. This inspires me to stay gentle with myself as travel and holidays can lead to lots of emotions and a lack of control over what’s happening.
Day 6: Partnered Pleasure Spread
After a 13-hour car ride, I waited until I was settled at my sister’s house to work with the deck, focusing on another self-care spread, the Partnered Pleasure Spread. Question 5 stood out––why might it be difficult for me to share pleasure with my partner?
I pulled THE 2ND VOICE REMEDY: PERMISSION. This card speaks to ”the voice inside your head that says you must ask for permission whenever something feels enjoyable.” That voice isn’t me, and it doesn’t align with my values. Maude White encouraged me to gently shush that voice with the affirmation “Enjoy what feels good. Goodness does not need to be earned.”
I know this voice very well, and I know it comes up in my relationships. When looking at the suggested spread for PERMISSION, one question stuck with me: Why is permission so difficult for me? I pulled THE 10TH PLEASURE SEEKER: THE HEDGEKEEPER, which is all about setting and respecting boundaries. The voice in my head does not reflect my boundaries––it’s a voice that has been given power by external factors in my environment. I have to meditate on what my true boundaries are while also making sure to allow myself to share pleasure in my relationships.
Day 7: We Made It!
On the last day, after a day of catching up with family and friends, I was exhausted, so I kept it simple with a single card pull. I pulled THE 6TH SOUL REMEDY: SPOKEN WORDS. I bookmarked the page in the guidebook and drifted off to sleep. In the morning, I returned to the description, which says to “Gain pleasure and joy from the sound of your own voice. Let your words connect you to others.”
As I wrap up this journey, I’ve been reflecting on how to best tell my story in video format. I was hesitant to use my voice in the video––it felt too personal and vulnerable. The thing is, this experience is deeply personal, and it’s mine alone to share, so shouldn’t I share it with my voice?
Looking back, I subconsciously thought that this journey would help me to fix all that was wrong with me so that I could experience more pleasure. In actuality, it’s revealed everything that is right with me. What a powerful notion. I look forward to deepening my relationship with pleasure by continuing to work with the Pleasure Alchemy and Resilience Alchemy decks and guidebooks.