Anyone who fancies themselves more authentic than the masses will concur that many people go through life never even knowing what they like. It’s banally true for the masses of guys on Tinder or Grindr who, when asked what they’re looking for, respond along the lines of “I’m open to a lot of things”. But let’s face it, “I’m open to a lot of things”, if not prefaced by “well, I’m especially keen on foot massages and movie dates, but”, is code for “I have no idea, please don’t reject me”.
But this reality becomes less of a banality when we admit that many of these people who are clueless about their own desires and dislikes are Initiates. This ignorance of desires is a reality for many people who genuinely seek after the mysteries of their own inner selves, including some for whom that search occurs within the Temple of Set.
Sometimes our desires and dislikes are hidden to us because we lack the confidence to state what our own preferences are. We maintain a cautious impartiality, as if looking at options — soup or salad? Suit or sweater? — from the sidelines… and withering away. At other times, our desires and dislikes are concealed by the norms of the society, including its subcultures. This is as true for the married evangelical Christian unable to admit to her own homosexual desires as it is for the jazz lover whose sense of self-worth is so hung up on his lofty musical tastes that he denies his love for Taylor Swift. The theme is present on all levels of likes and dislikes. “This sweater is almost new and the colour is a fashionable green” conceals “I hate it, that’s why I never wore it”. This level of likes and dislikes may seem trivial, but how do you profess to know something about your core Being if you can’t even tell if you like the sweater or not?
I offer a relatively simple antidote for this. Like all antidotes, it can only begin the process of reversing ignorance about our likes and dislikes. Like most, it involves a task that sounds tedious and is surprisingly fun. It draws from two major inspiring figures: Anton LaVey of Church of Satan fame, and queen of neat Marie Kondo.
Cool combo, right?
Much of Anton LaVey’s magical method revolved around the concept of Indulgence. The idea in Indulgence is basically to go forth and enjoy the fleshy (and other) pleasures of life for the greater glory of our very own selves. This runs counter to most Right-Hand-Path schools, for which spiritual progress more often than not involves forgoing personal pleasures in favour of something more lofty and perennial. “Bollocks,” Anton would have said, “if you want to be immortal, that’s just fine, but what good is that without your personal shade of fun and pleasure?”
Problem is, it can be hard to discern what that personal shade of fun is. More often than not, we recognize that something is wrong with a socially dominant way of doing things (say, chastity) only to rebel in a manner that’s equally far from listening to our own, true desires (say, an unsatisfying friends-with-benefits situation). That can be part of the learning process: “It’s not X, so it must be Y. Wait… it’s not Y either.” But it’s not true Indulgence, not yet.
To make matters worse, we sometimes find fault in something and deduce we dislike it – which may or may not be true. Few things in life are perfect, and it takes a bit of courage to admit to liking something that’s not. Before pursuing my current career, I studied fashion. That career wasn’t for me, but somehow I ended up abandoning my interest in fashion altogether for many years, largely because I thought fashion was an unethical waste of global resources. It took me a good while to re-embrace, without guilt, my love for a great choice of fabric or a beautifully drafted pattern, for a skilfully embroidered Alexander McQueen jacket or a voluminous pair of Yohji trousers. When I run my fingers over a quality fabric, I feel uplifted with pleasure. Not the quick pleasure of a run-of-the-mill chocolate bar, but a deep, transformatively soul-nourishing pleasure.
And that is where the Japanese neat freak comes into play. Marie Kondo may have gotten more than enough fame for her folding methods and her strict policy of tossing everything that doesn’t “spark joy”. But the Japanese original choice of words behind “spark joy” is tokimeku — literally translated as a heart’s throbbing or fluttering, and figuratively as bringing joy or prosperity. Kondo may strike you as an unlikely teacher for a Left-Hand-Path Initiate, but I believe she has a very functional method based on two insights that come in handy for anyone pursuing better self-knowledge, and on being able to communicate those insights clearly.
Yet, as with all new information, people tend to overlook Kondo’s real insights and think of her in terms of what they already know. Kondo’s method is completely guilt free and denounces asking others for advice on what to keep, yet people denounce her with the straw man that she would disapprove of their favourite collections or that she would guilt trip them for the stuff they have accumulated over the years. But I digress. The two insights an Initiate can learn from practicing the Kondo method are:
1) Genuinely liking something is a physical feeling, as is disliking it. It is possible to learn to listen to your own likes and dislikes by learning to listen to your body.
As Kondo explains in this pretty cute video, when you feel an item in your hands that you do like, your body will feel energised and uplifted, whereas for something you don’t like, you’ll feel weighed down and ‘blocked’. The feeling can be intense with some items, but mostly it’s a faint whisper that you can learn to listen to. This is a skill that is improved with practice; the easiest place to start is with clothes. Yes, it does sound silly, but it works.
2) Mindfully caring for the items you like will reinforce your connection to your own preferences and desires.
I think it’s less important to fold your clothes the Kondo way and more important to fold or hang them with care. Any bibliophile who secretly delights in dusting out her bookshelf, and any home cook who finds oiling his cutting boards rejuvenatingly meditative, knows the feeling: by caring for external objects you’ve selected, you’re expressing the pleasure you take in having them in your living space, and caring for yourself in the process.
As always, Initiates in the LHP should choose their own spiritual exercises. I have good reasons to recommend the KonMari method as an Initiatory tool. I suggest that Kondo’s method is an awesome tool for anyone who’s looking to live in true Indulgence. Just trying it out, maybe with your sock drawer, is a great exercise in learning how it feels to like something. Doing KonMari like the Devil, going through it with your entire home, will be a tremendous exercise that will teach you to curb excuses, really Know what you truly Indulge in, and shape a living environment that is as Indulgent as it gets.
And the results don’t stop there. I realize this is a pretty non-sexy post about Indulgence – and there should be space for sex. The thing with the resulting connection to your own desires is that it will lead into more Indulgent choices in all spheres of life, including a better, more Indulgent sex life. Someone truly in touch with true Indulgence knows who to swipe right and how to both recognise and express, her desires. That you got your underwear sorted out in the process will only improve matters.
So try it out, just a bit – what do you have to lose? KonMari like the Devil. Dump all your socks on the floor. Hold each in your hands, in turn, and give yourself time to have an embodied response to them. Note your response and put those socks in the keep pile or the toss pile, accordingly. Then toss or recycle the ones in the toss pile immediately, with confidence — no second thoughts. Put back the ones you liked carefully, pairing and folding them as you see fit.
It should go without saying that this isn’t the only way to find your way to true Indulgence. But it’s a straightforward way, and it works — straightforward functionality being something that sparks joy for me, LaVey, and Kondo alike.