HEALING FROM TRAUMA WITH PSYCHEDELICS

Psychiatrist Will Siu, MD, is an advocate for healing from trauma from psychedelics. Currently a therapist on clinical trials using MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to treat PTSD, he shares his insights into a very human way to heal …

When we think about trauma, we often go straight to war, physical, or sexual abuse. But as important, are the traumas of neglect, of feeling un-safe, of feeling un-loved. People think: “I don’t deserve to say, ‘I’ve suffered trauma’. But that’s BS. All of us have suffered numerous traumas in our lives.

When this trauma is unhealed and unresolved, this manifests as suffering—in our bodies and in our beings. And so we find strategies to cope. Depending on our genetic make-up, our family history, and our place in society, this might look like a cluster of symptoms that we call OCD, PTSD, or addiction. I don’t think about these as disorders. They are simply what our body and mind are doing to try to protect us. There’s nothing wrong with us—these symptoms just show us that there is a trauma to be healed.

We’ve been throwing medication at this for years, and it doesn’t work. When it comes to mental health, Western medicine has seen most success with SSRIs like Prozac for treating depression, for example. But they only work slightly better than a placebo. It’s silly when physicians say this is the answer.

In contrast, the data from trials on MDMA for PTSD, psilocybin for alcoholism, psilocybin for end of life anxiety, and MDMA for social anxiety, is better than anything else we’ve seen for mental health. But there’s still a lot of resistance to integrating these therapies, which I believe stems from a fear of these being dangerous or addictive drugs.

I also want to emphasize that the studies being done are using these substances to facilitate the psychotherapy process. It’s not the molecules themselves that are doing the healing. Rather, they are assisting the interpersonal healing process that we call “psychotherapy.”

When it comes to healing trauma, I think of the concept of “catharsis”—and old psychology term for the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions. And three things need to happen for our bodies and our minds to release us from our traumas. There is a need for the intellectual memory of the trauma to be coupled with the emotional memory of it, and for this to happen in an empathic setting. Empathy is different from sympathy, when we might hear: “oh, that must have been hard for you.” It’s about really feeling that the person in front of you understands your experience. In many cases with empathy, there isn’t even a need for words.

What you’ll notice in my recipe for catharsis is that psychedelics are not in the equation. That a therapist is not in the equation. That a shaman in white linen a warehouse in Brooklyn is not in the equation. This is because we’re capable of doing this work by nature of us being human. Not that these things can’t be helpful, but thinking that one or more of these modalities themselves is going to heal you, is a mistake.

I believe that because of the way that Western culture has developed—with the breakdown of community, the breakdown of family—we’ve created the need for mental health professionals. It is possible to do this work on our own. When people are trained, there is a higher chance of healing the deepest wounds, but I don’t think it’s necessary. There are people who’ve been doing underground therapy for a long time—not that everybody does it well, including people who are trained to do psychedelic therapy. The key is to trust yourself and the way you feel when you are working with someone.

A psychiatrist named Stan Grof, who was friends with Albert Hoffman, who discovered LSD, has said: “The full experience of a negative emotion is the funeral pyre of that emotion.” This is an important way to think about healing from trauma. With psychedelic therapy, we’re talking about enhancing “negative” emotions and memories, whereas the Western approach has focused on suppressive therapies. Look at the categories of medications we use: anti-depressants. Anti-anxiety meds. We’re really doing the opposite of trying to feel every emotion through to its “funeral pyre.”

Western medicine and psychiatry are not to blame for this. It’s also an approach that represents our culture and where we are as a society. The emotions that we tend to suppress are sadness and fear. Interpersonally, and in self-help memes on social media, they’re thought of as signs of weakness. Something to be ashamed of, as if there’s something wrong with us for feeling or expressing them. I think the way we treat them medically is a result of this cultural treatment of them. Emotions like joy and anger, meanwhile, are very, very acceptable. We need to shift this if we’re going to do any real healing.

Using psychedelics as part of the Western medicine approach in doing this work is also going to take a change in society. These are evocative therapies. They’re the opposite of suppressive therapies. They evoke emotions, they evoke memories, they evoke physical symptoms. Hopefully in an environment that is conducive to healing. The term “set and setting,” coined by Timothy Leary in 1961, speaks to where you’re at personally, who are you with, and what is the physical space like. All of these elements have an impact on your overall experience.

Of course, some of these consciousness altering molecules can also be used to escape from our problems, including ketamine, marijuana, alcohol, MDMA, and nicotine. Again, it comes back to set and setting as to whether these things can be helpful or harmful. I’m also not saying these substances can’t be used for recreation, for fun, for creativity. We just need to not be fooling ourselves when we’re trying to do healing work with them.

The final piece I want to mention is integration. People aren’t focusing enough on this part of psychedelic healing, which I think of as the work that is done in the days, weeks, and months after the experience itself. In my opinion, the majority of the long-term benefits of psychedelic therapy is in the sober work that follows.

Real bravery doesn’t come from taking a third of fourth cup of ayahuasca, or five or six tabs of acid. It’s really about going back to work the following week and seeking to make peace with the coworker that irritates you. It could be calling a sibling you haven’t spoken to in nine months because you felt they aren’t as “enlightened” as you, and choosing to love them anyway. These healing interactions are truly where we find the long-term benefits of this work.

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Will Siu, MD , DPhil, studied medicine at UCLA, the National Institute of Health in Washington DC, and Oxford University. In addition ton addition to his private practice in NYC, he is a therapist on clinical trials using MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to treat PTSD. Learn more about Will and his work HERE and follow him on Instagram.

THE CAPRICORN WANING MOON WANTS YOU TO TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR TRANSFORMATION

The sobering glow of the Capricorn Waning Moon asks us to befriend our shadow side, release addictive patterning, and align with our highest destiny, says Jennifer Racioppi

Photo: Geo Martinez

Waning Quarter Moon // April 8 2018 // 3:17am EST // 18 degrees Capricorn 

Are you ready to take charge of your transformation? 

Next week’s New Moon in Aries offers tremendous potential to blast off in new directions. As we build towards this energy, the Capricorn Waning Moon asks us to release our shadow and get ready to open up to all this new potential.

First, we’ve got to assess what’s no longer needed. Conjoining Pluto, this Moon urges us to befriend denied aspects of Self and surrender the extra baggage.

With Mercury in the midst of his retrograde journey, use this Waning Moon to get clear on what no longer works for you! Release what stands in the way of creating what you desire.

Look for what’s coming to completion and make a choice … 

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//The Cycle//
This Moon harkens all the way back to the New Moon in Capricorn on January 9, 2016. Think back to the intentions you set at the start of 2016. What’s culminating now that correlates with the beginning of the new year in 2016? What did you manifest then that you no longer need now?

Intentions often take an extended gestation period, and aspects of life coming to fruition now may correlate to this New Moon from over two years ago. Simultaneously, it’s essential to release what you no longer need (whether you consciously want to or not), to make room for a new level of maturity that’s emerging.

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// The Transits //
With Saturn, Mars, the Moon, and Pluto all conjoined in Capricorn, this powerful combination puts pressure on you to befriend the truth and let go of addictions. Saturn represents purpose, Mars action, the Moon emotional needs, and Pluto represents shadow. Look at lies and addictions with clarity.

Luckily, Jupiter, the planet of growth and abundance forms a productive and supportive sextile to the Moon in Capricorn, signifying that good luck comes in the form of honesty!

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// The Square //
With the Moon traveling through work-oriented and ambitious Capricorn while squaring the Sun in assertive Aries, now’s not the time to resist change.

This Capricorn Waning Moon has the power to not only reveal secrets but to also disintegrate shame in the process. With the Moon conjoining Pluto and squaring the Sun, the ego not only has to confront issues it’d prefer to avoid, but simultaneously needs to integrate learnings.

*Warning: this tough medicine requires you to participate in your transformation. The good news though is that Jupiter is there to support you!

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// The Opportunity //
This Waning Moon offers up tough love, and asks us to release any blocks that hold us back from thoroughly enjoying our success.

Look to addictions and get honest about what you no longer need. Consciously think positive thoughts, get rip-roaring clear on what you need to release, and align your mind with your highest destiny! 

*Want to celebrate this Waning Moon’s clarity and consciousness, Numi style? Join us this Sunday, April 8th for Moonrise Kindom, a one-day urban retreat dedicated to deep connection and conscious un-cocktailing!  

And for more Moon wisdom, or to book a coaching session with Jennifer, visit Jenniferracioppi.com.

ALTERNATIVE HEALING AS “CURA” FOR ADDICTION & TRAUMA

Can meditation and visionary medicine break cycles of addiction, trauma, and poverty? Elyssa Jakim sits down with the makers of new documentary Cura to talk alternative healing as a tool for empowerment …

Yolanda commemorating her son’s death at a ceremony led by Ananda Ray

“When you find this disciplined practice, you discover that you can support yourself—you can be a sovereign being. That’s the big takeaway from medicine work or any of these other modalities: they help you find a way to stand up for yourself and to know when to ask for help”—Yolanda Frausto 

Cura is a feature length documentary in progress that tells the story of Yolanda and Donny, a Mexican-American mother and son breaking cycles of addiction, trauma, and poverty using community, meditation, and visionary and alternative medicine. When Yolanda loses her younger son while in police custody, she strives to save her other son, Donny, from addiction and the possibility of suicide.

As the film preps for debut (the Kickstarter is live through December 17th), Elyssa Jakim sat down with producer Ismail Ali, who’s also the Policy and Advocacy Counsel at the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), and Yolanda Frausto, the film’s subject, to talk film as medicine, the war on drugs and, ultimately, the healing power of community.

**Watch the trailer HERE. 

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ELYSSA JAKIM: You call Cura an “An evocative soul portrait of a mother and her son healing generations of family trauma with natural and alternative medicine.” What is a soul portrait?

ISMAIL ALI: With this film, we want to show people that there are methods to healing that are beyond the body; that require a relationship between the body and the mind, and even the spirit. As a form of soul portraiture, the film is a snapshot of the lives of Yolanda and Donny. So, it’s about their lives in a mundane way, but it is also about them as spiritual beings—a portrait of their spirits. We’re saying this is a look at who they are at their core, framed by them living in Oakland and coming from poverty.

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EJ: How did the title “Cura” come about? It seems like a word with multiple meanings. What does it mean to you?

YOLANDA FRAUSTO: To me “cura” means “here’s how we heal together. Here’s how you can find healing in yourself through my story.” There’s no one cure. It’s like the grief process—it’s a fact of life that we all go through it, but nobody can tell you exactly how it’s going to happen, you have to figure it out. I come from a background where it’s common for somebody to get stabbed or shot, overdose, or commit suicide and we don’t talk about it. So to be able to talk about grief is where the name “cura” helps. It means “let’s heal from what’s too hard to deal with and let’s do it together.” It plants the seed for healing.

Yolanda and her son Donny

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EJ: How did you discover natural medicine, Yolanda?

YF: I got sober from drugs in 2005. I needed to change my life because I was headed in a really bad direction and I just stopped using. Three years later, I was working in a hotel in San Francisco and I learned about yoga from a woman doing a teacher training there. I started practicing, eventually up to six days a week. Then I got really serious about meditation. About a year later, I found plant medicine and I was like “Oh, this is my jam!” I felt that my whole life happened the way that it did so that I could find this as a spiritual practice. All of these things fell into my path, I didn’t seek any of it out, but inside of me I knew I was ready. 

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EJ: How has plant medicine helped you work through a trauma?

YF: It allowed me to have that one-on-one communing time with spirit that people can also find in prayer or in a deep meditation practice. I found the medicine around the time my mom became sick with ALS, and when I lost my son, I was already in the medicine community. Both times that I lost family members, I found that I had this community of people praying for me, showing up for me, bringing me food. I’d never had that kind of support before and they really taught me what it is to be supported. Also when you find this disciplined practice, you discover that you can support yourself—you can be a sovereign being. That’s the big takeaway from medicine work or any of these other modalities: they help you find a way to stand up for yourself and to know when to ask for help.

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EJ: Do you believe that you have this kind of medicine work or curandera work in your ancestry?

YF: I hear the land where my great grandparents come from is peyote lands. So somehow I have a funny feeling that my great grandmother has been guiding me throughout my life and brought me home to the traditions by showing me a pathI believe strongly in the spirit world and how they lead us back to what’s home for us. When I was a kid, my grandma would cure us with folk remedies. And now I’m that person. I know the recipes and natural remedies, I know what to do. I feel like it was something that was instilled in me, but that no one taught me. I’m always saying “There’s a tea for that!” My sons would say “Oh, you’re just a witch.”

Yolanda

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EJ: As plant medicine gets more popular, what kind of responsibility do people need to be taking when they take the medicine or administer it? Is it something you believe can find a place in a more Western medical mindset?

IA: Donny and Yolanda have experienced a tremendous amount of trauma as a result of simply being Mexican-American people who grew up in a place with huge amounts of drugs and violence, and which was not set up for them to have access to power or influence. I believe the strong pushes to decriminalize or medicalize or otherwise create access to pant medicines are in many ways responses to that harm.

So how can you leverage this harmful system to bring about some sort of benefit to the people who have suffered this exact kind of trauma? We need to take an honest look at what will be necessary to make this possible, and I think that during the next five or ten years we’re going to really crystallize what those systems look like.

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EJ: Does the film speak to the phenomenon of wellness practices and techniques being inaccessible to people who aren’t of a particular ethnicity, or of a particular socioeconomic background?

IA: That’s actually why I started working on the film. These beautiful practices often require you to have resources—at the very least to be able to afford to take time off to care for your own mind. So many people are limited in this way. So accessibility is real, colonialism is real, and being aware of all these concepts and then shifting our behavior in line with addressing them is really important. The film is really about two people who are deciding to do some really serious work to break the cycles of their lineage, despite the fact that they don’t have the time and resources.

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EJ: Did you find the process of filmmaking itself to be a kind of healing?

YF: I was able to process grief in a way that I did not know was possible. I reenacted the scene when I was driving and got the phone call from the coroner about my son. After we shot it, I cried for about an hour and then felt so much relief. I only got to process my grief in that visceral way because I was part of this film-making process. How else could you act out something in your life? Whenever things become challenging to film, I know it is creating space for me and my family to process. It’s hard to have these conversations but we’ve also found a way to communicate differently while filming.

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EJ: What would you most like to see for the film?

IA: We hope people will be inspired to involve their own communities in it. We want people to watch this and to talk to the people in their lives about what all of these themes mean to them. We really think that yes, all of these healing modalities themselves are great, but part of the reason that Yolanda and Donny are where they are now is because of the community in their lives.

YF: I believe it will speak to specific people, who find something in it to help them. Maybe it just means they’ll find a way to say, “I can talk to my family, this isn’t so hard.” Quite a few friends have told me, “for you to come out and tell your story really gives me hope, trust, and faith in a future for myself and my family.” The goal was for my story to help other people heal.

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Cura is a project of Hover Pictures, directed by Ethan Goldwater. Please support the film by visiting the Kickstarter page, and sharing the link. Be on the lookout for information about future events during the campaign in Los Angeles (December 13), and New York City (December 15), and make sure to follow the film on Facebook and Instagram. 

10 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SOBER DATING

Leo season means the romance AND the party vibes are in full force. How to navigate the love landscape sans booze? Caitlin Cecil shares 10 things you need to know about sober dating …

Photo: JD Mason

Once upon a time, my favorite part of dating was getting ready for the date: mixing myself a rum and Coke to take the edge off, jamming to some Blink 182, choosing my outfit and make up, and sipping on my beverage to alleviate the first date jitters. Even if the date turned out to be a bust, I really enjoyed having a drink with myself in anticipation of a night out …

Two years ago, alcohol having wrecked havoc on my health through migraines, anxiety, and the occasional total melt down, I chose to go booze free. But I’m certainly still dating. And as a 29-year-old single woman in Texas, the constant go to when I’m asked out is, “Do you want to grab a drink?”

How to navigate this new terrain? Whether you’re sober or just sober curious, here are 10 things you need to know when it comes to sober dating …

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1// Know what you want. Whether you want to date a fellow non-drinker or don’t mind dating someone who drinks, make a clear decision. This takes some research. Go on some dates and see where you fall on the spectrum. I’ve done both and discovered that while I don’t need to date someone who’s also sober and can handle a partner who enjoys a drink, dates who get blasted over and over again are certainly not for me.

2// Reveal only as much as you want. Decide ahead of time how much you want to give away. When I first quit drinking, I was still a little embarrassed to tell people I didn’t drink. In a dimly lit bar with an attractive man, I’d feel silly saying, “Oh this? It’s a Shirley Temple.” It’s your call if you want to obscure the truth while you get to know somebody. Or if you’re totally vibing with the person and want to reveal your alcohol free lifestyle, go for it … any judgement is on their part.

3// Know your secret drinks. The magic concoction that got me through the early stages of my new life was a little drink called bitters and Coke. Bitters has an orange flavor to it, most people do not know what it is, a lot of my dates just assumed it was a type of alcohol, and bartenders would never charge me much for it. The truth is, it has a teeeeny bit of alcohol in, it but not enough to cause any sort of difference in your BAC. And the more comfortable I got, the more I was able to move away from dependence on sugary sodas.

Photo: Matthew Henry

4//Take the lead suggesting date ideas. If you have a date coming up and he or she asks you if you have any ideas about what to do, suggest something that doesn’t involve alcohol. Coffee, bowling, hiking, dog walking … one time I even visited a wolf sanctuary! Once you open your mind to what a date “should” look like, the possibilities are endless. Check your local listings and start exploring.

5// Find your time zone. I used to say yes to dates at 8 or 830pm. Now? Heck no! Too close to my sober life bed time. If someone wants to take me out, they’re going to get my best self earlier in the day. Let your date know your best time zone, give them some options, and don’t be afraid to suggest earlier times if your alcohol free lifestyle has your schedule shifting.

6// Do NOT feel pressured. A big part of dating alcohol free is remembering that you are a ROCK STAR for choosing to live the way you want to live in the face of social pressures. You are making a choice that goes against the grain and yes, many people will be confused. I recently went on a bowling date and ordered a beer for my date, but he felt really uncomfortable because I wasn’t drinking too. I assured him that I wanted him to enjoy himself and that my not drinking was a choice I made for me—nothing to do me with judging him.

7// Craft your answers. When people have serious addiction problems and enter into AA or other treatment programs, others seldom ask why. But choosing to be alcohol free for other reasons often leaves others confused and asking a lot of questions. Never feel pressured to respond in a certain way. Sometimes, I reveal medical information and talk about my migraines. But other times, I choose to keep it short and simple. You can simply say “I’m doing a cleanse,” or “I’m alcohol free to support others who cannot drink.” Say what you want to and what feels right, and remember that if somebody’s weirded out, they’re probably not for you.

8// Feel for real connections. Dating is a two way street and sober or not, you have to actually get along. When you’re sober and really connecting with someone, you’ll have even MORE amazing conversations about the universe, TV shows, animals, political drama … and guess what? You’ll actually remember them the next day!!

9// Irish goodbye if you need to. The Irish goodbye stems from the idea of an Irish person being so drunk they just leave a social event without saying goodbye, but in this case it’s a reverse Irish goodbye. While this may seem like regular dating ed 101, for the newly alcohol free it may be harder to do. If your date is drunk or you are uncomfortable for any reason, Irish goodbye on out of there.

10// HAVE FUN! Do not let the disappearance of alcohol hold you back from meeting people, discovering fun activities in your city, and trying new things. Remember, being booze free and feeling healthy will actually liven you up—not the opposite!

Caitlin Cecil is a Houston-based wellness coach who focuses on helping people with stress, burn out, anxiety, and finding balance. She has a degree in Rtvf, a NESTA wellness coaching certification, teaches barre, and loves coaching women to their highest potential. Connect with her on Facebook and Instagram, sign up for her newsletter HERE, and check out her “Cruise from Booze” wellness program. 

THE SPIRITUAL MEANING OF YOUR SUGAR ADDICTION

Can you balance unhealthy compulsions without losing your appetite for pleasure? Emma Whitehair wrestles with the demons of alcohol, love, and sugar addiction, and asks herself: “What are you really hungry for?”

“Could I continue to sink my teeth into life with enthusiasm while learning balance around an unhealthy compulsion?”- Emma Whitehair

Ughhhh … Krispy Kremes. Never something I’d choose to put in my body. So why, when a colleague turned up with a box full of them, did my inner werewolf rear its head? A demon who was frothing at the mouth to demolish the lot, while my sensible side tried to argue the case to “go-halves” on one.

The demon won, leaving me to contend with a toxic dose of self-loathing. 

My sweet tooth kicked in with a vengeance when I quit booze over a decade ago, and I felt that this new appetite was part of my continued search for escapism and relief. Love, too, came under this dopamine-inducing umbrella. My hunger for gratification also showed up in romantic fantasies of that one magic person who’d be capable of making me happy forever after …

However, unlike sobriety, going cold turkey on sugar (and love for that matter) didn’t feel like the right approach. Isn’t fruit sugar? Not to mention nutrient rich blackstrap molasses and antibacterial raw manuka honey? Where to draw the line? I’ll admit that my justifications sounded a bit like the arguments I used to have against quitting booze. “I just want to be able to enjoy a nice glass of Rioja with tapas, or champers at a wedding.” I know where those odd glasses can lead me though—the tail end of a two-day bender.

With an addictive personality, could I become moderate in this one area? And how not to lose my wildly passionate side and my appetite for pleasure in the process? I set out to discover if I could continue to sink my teeth into life with enthusiasm while learning balance around an unhealthy compulsion …

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:: BELLY BACTERIA BALANCING ::
My first step was to go into my gut. An overgrowth of yeast in the digestive tract can manifest as fatigue, a foggy head, anxiety and, most noticeably, sugar cravings. Overdoing it with alcohol, refined carbohydrates and sugary foods commonly causes this problem. Perhaps this was my werewolf’s lair?

I consulted Nutritional Therapist Claudia le Feuvre, who placed me on a course of Dida supplements and probiotics to tackle any pathogenic bacteria and to re-inoculate my gut with antimicrobials.

A few months later, I noticed my urge to bury my head in a bag of Haribo had disappeared. I now had the confidence that the issues were not tied to gut health. It was time to take my journey even deeper.

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:: IT’S ALL A METAPHOR ::
Claudia prescribed a reading list as a key part of my healing, and I consumed each title with gusto.

After living with the patriarchy for thousands of years, we’ve literally been starved of our divine feminine. The result? We’re now going wild with addictions and disorders as we fill our bellies to fill the emptiness in our hearts. Women Who Run with the Wolves and Eating in the Light of the Moon both have this concept at their core, and show how cravings can be metaphors.

The Gift of Our Compulsions inspired me to meet my compulsions with curiosity rather than resistance in order to get at what lived underneath them. By cultivating detachment from my thoughts, feelings, and sensations, I could witness my cravings.

When I declare ‘I’m hungry,’ I am identified with this experience. Whereas ‘this is hunger’ creates space for me to relate to what’s really happening, and ask if the statement is true. And in most cases, it’s not true at all. It’s more like ‘this is boredom/procrastination/loneliness,’ which I can either try to remedy or simply observe without needing to ‘fix.’

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:: A SESSION WITH THE SPIRITUAL NUTRITIONIST ::
The final part of my work with Claudia involved a 1-2-1 session where she called upon her spirit guide to help us “recode inner conflict” and used kinesiology to identify a potent mantra.

During our session, my arm suddenly gained strength from the words: “I am in tune with my body’s nutritional needs, and have no hunger for food beyond them.” This was then used as a mantra in a kind of Psych-k self-hypnosis meditation, where after about 10 minutes Claudia was shown by her guide, with a shiver through her body, that our work was done.

Although, I didn’t feel a bolt of lightning during the session, it’s like a spell has been broken. I feel relaxed around my usual triggers, and noticeably more tuned in to the intuitive whispering of my body.

Now, when I get the urge to eat when I’m not hungry, I often seem to instinctively know what tactic will help me ride it out. A few deep breaths, a drink of water, or a big stretch is usually all it takes.

Art: Sustici

:: THE FAST OF ENLIGHTENMENT ::
My newfound gut feelings also told me that the next step in this journey was to introduce a fasting practice to help me regain a sense of the true nature of my body’s hunger. Fasting is the most natural way to rest the body, giving it the chance to do the “housework” needed to repair cells and cleanse the itself, while improving immunity.  

When I started losing my appetite for a meal in the evening, I took it as a sign that my body wanted the benefits of some regular light fasting. So from around 5pm to late morning, I often stick to water and herbal tea. And although I sometimes go to bed feeling hungry, intuition tells me my digestive system needs this rest. I’m now sleeping more deeply and I wake feeling light and much less hungry than if I have a meal the night before.

I’m also committed to fasting at least a couple of days per month, usually over the New Moon—my version of the “Lunar Diet.” Near the Full Moon I often crave extra calories because of my cycle, whereas during the New Moon I feel more like hibernating. It’s also the ideal time to go inwards and set intentions for the coming astrological season.

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:: WHAT AM I TRULY HUNGRY FOR? ::
Using tactics to pause when I’m tempted to grab a substitute for what I really need has been a total (third) eye opener!

It’s given me the sense that my appetite is primal. We’re first comforted as babies through sweet breast milk and so sweetness will always be associated with mother love. An absence of that kind of nurturing can show up in dysfunctional relationships with comforting substances like sugar, alcohol, or the dopamine hit you get with the first flush of ‘love’.

So what to do in the present about a void from the past? Some sweet ass self-loving of course! We all have the chance, right now, to be the parent we needed growing up. Allowing feelings that have been buried in the past to move through us is how we evolve …

My epiphany about my constant low-level hunger? There’s fulfillment to be found by relishing my appetite, rather than chasing gratification. It’s summed up in this quote from one of my all-time favorite movies, Take This Waltz: “Life has a gap in it. It just does. You don’t go crazy trying to fill it like some lunatic.” I simply need to accept, and even celebrate, the fact that there will always be this hunger within me.

So when Krispy Kreme (a.k.a. my Soul Challenge on this journey) announced their new flavor (Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Crème, in case you were wondering) by sending a truckload to my office, I met my inner wolf with curiosity. I saw that she wasn’t a “demon” at all, and just a part of me wanting to be comforted. “Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance,” says Epicurus. So I enjoyed half a donut. Leaving enough room to still be able to taste the sweetness of life.

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Emma Whitehair is the founder of London based boutique lifestyle PR agency, WHITEHAIR.CO, which specialises in fashion, beauty, and wellbeing communications. 

MOONERS & SHAKERS: THE MOON CLUB MEMBERS MAKING WAVES

Get inspired by this month’s Mooners & Shakers, the Moon Club members making waves and fueling their passion projects!

HEBA TALLAH, LUMINOUS FEMME
“The medicine is in the remembrance. Cutting through the BS and the noise – going straight to the truth, and calling on it.”

The Project 
A Luminous Femme is a woman who has remembered that her greatest power, beauty, and strength, have been within her all along.

She knows that her trials and tribulations are opportunities for more self-awareness, growth, and compassion. And she jumps into this journey of deeper and deeper self-love and self-awareness with gusto and no apology. She cultivates a deep love and respect for her Femmebody, for the way she waxes and wanes, and for her inherent superpowers along the way.

The Medicine
I have been called here to anchor the Light and the Divine Feminine (in the Middle East, no less) and across all borders on Mama Earth. I feel the deepest honor and gratitude for carrying this calling. And such reverence for this life!

Being a woman (or a human, for that matter) in today’s world can feel so draining, confusing, and sometimes downright infuriating. Claiming who we inherently, truly are—and our connection to Source that is right here, in our heart space, in our every cell, at any given moment—is the fast track to inner peace. The medicine is in the remembrance. Cutting through the BS and the noise—going straight to the truth, and calling on it.

The medicine is also in knowing that the divine feminine that is within us all is awakening en masse—and she is not to be tamed, or quieted, any longer. I created Luminous Femme as a container to facilitate a woman’s return to her inner core, which is already perfect and whole, and to remember how to live from that space on the daily. Because there’s nothing juicier or more healing for the world than a woman in her divine feminine element!

The Birthing Process
It has been at least five years (more like my lifetime really) since I’ve had this luminous gift and voice pulsing inside, wanting to be expressed. This has meant healing myself and my blocks, my stories, and working through them all. It’s been knowing I had a message to share but having life keep throwing me curveballs to fill in all the blanks and help me get over whatever held me back in the past.

Discovering yoga at age 18, becoming a teacher 12 years later, and the journey it takes me on a daily basis is humbling and so fulfilling. My mat is my healer, my sanctuary.

The Moon Club Inspiration
It really feels like the coolest place to hang out on the web. I’ve been a Numinous reader for years and a lover of all things Moon related, which is a big part of Luminous Femme philosophy—cyclical living and connecting to the Moon phases.

When I see how this conversation is so normalized in the club, and the presence of all the women in the group who are so strong and healing and brave, it fills me up with so much juice and passion for this way of life. We’re all so connected and willing to do the work—to show up, to accept, and to self-realize. It’s not only deeply informative, it’s also so much fun, like a cosmic pajama party! It’s such an honor to walk this way with you all.

Discover more about Heba and Luminous Femme here. 

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Feeling the inspo? Read more about Moon Club here and become a member to start working your own Moon magic! 

HOW CAT MARNELL COULD EASILY HAVE BEEN ME

Magazine career, eating disorder, bad boyfriends, addiction. In another life, could Cat Marnell have been me, asks Ruby Warrington?

Cat Marnell

What I like best about Cat Marnell’s car crash autobiography How to Murder Your Life: A Memoir is that she makes absolutely zero apologies for who she is. Yeah there’s a line in there about “white girl privilege” (“warning! If you’re grossed out by it (who isn’t?), you might want to bail now”), but otherwise Cat tells her story with an utter lack of self-judgement and the kind of honesty that is a direct channel from the heart. Fuck yeah!

For the uninitiated, Cat Marnell rose to notoriety earlier this decade as the openly drug-addicted beauty editor for titles Lucky, Vice and xojane.com. Her drug of choice was Adderall (with pretty much everything else layered on top), her stories (GONNA WASH THAT ANGEL DUST RIGHT OUTTA MY HAIR: “Miracle” (Uh-Huh) Treatments To Help You Pass Those Follicle Drug Tests, Naughty Nancys!) written on no sleep “in an amphetamine spell.”

How To Murder Your Life reads like a Bret Easton Ellis novel (except it’s real life) and is the story of the ghouls behind the gloss. In Cat’s own words: “AUUUUGHHH!” But what struck me while I was reading it, was that served a different set of life circumstances, Cat Marnell could easily have been me.

Let’s examine the evidence…

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She was a teenage magazine addict. Like Cat, when I first discovered magazines at around age 12, it was like being given an instruction manual on how to be a woman (read: look good so I’d fit in and boys would like me). Like Cat, I gravitated towards a career in magazines—when she moved to New York, she became hell bent on scoring a role at Conde Nast.

Unlike Cat, when I moved to New York I began work on the Numinous, and immersed myself in exploring all the other very, very important things it means to be a human. Not to mention began to see the glossy magazine message for what it often is—a way to keep readers locked in the cycles of craving (for trends, for stuff to make us happy, for a “better” body) that fuel the capitalist machine.

She’s a perfectionist. Cat’s birthday is September 10, making her a Virgo. And if Adderall had a sign…it would so be Virgo! Total “no-sleep-until-every-last-detail-has-been-quadruple-checked” vibes. Plus Cat started taking amphetamines because “I felt like such a failure getting those terrible grades.”

My perfectionist streak comes from Mercury (Virgo’s ruler) conjunct my Sun in Aries (“must-maintain-image-I-have-it-all-together-at-all-times”). Cue teenage eating disorder (me too, Cat), and reaching for drugs (in my case booze) as a way to just chillax for a sec. These days, meditation and a whole lot of healing of my inner child is what keeps the perfectionist in its place.

Her parents are mental health professionals. Cat’s dad, a psychiatrist, was the first person to prescribe her Ritalin (and then Adderall) at the age of 16. In America, most psychiatric consultations seem to end with a prescription.

Back in the UK, my mum trained to be a psychotherapist in her late 50s, having faced her own demons with years of talk therapy. Years of therapy that have made her the kind of parent who wholly accepts me for who I am, since she accepts herself for who she is. Part of the reason I used drugs and starved myself was because I didn’t believe this. But as my own healing journey has shown me, all the years I thought my mum / society was judging me, I was judging myself.

She idolizes Marilyn Monroe and Edie Sedgwick. The damaged (and self-medicated) heroines of late 20th Century folklore! I collected Marilyn books from around age 10, and even made a magazine about her for my first big school project. And I fell in love with Sedgwick’s story when I read Edie: American Girl (the SO GOOD) biography of Andy Warhol’s muse.

As archetypes, these two women represent some of the ways our inner wild woman acts out when we get duped / spooked into playing by the rules (be beautiful, thin, submissive, SMILE!). And I no longer idolize them. I see them as a mirror for the parts of me that still don’t believe I’ll be accepted / loved unless I am beautiful, thin, submissive, and happy.

She loves fake tan. It makes you look thin and like you got enough sleep. In other words, like taking drugs, faking a tan is another way to fake feeling good about yourself. Another addiction I developed in magazine land (my friend Henry used to call me Umpa Lumpa) and one my Numinous path has not yet helped me kick.

She’s lets men use her like a sex doll because she thinks it’s normal. Some of the hardest stuff to read in Cat’s book, and one of the themes in mine. I tear up every time I re-read my chapter on the Divine Feminine, and I would love for Cat to read it sometime too. For a lot of women to, actually.

She had a lot of fun on drugs. Some might say Cat glamorizes drug use, but one dictionary definition for “glamour” is: “magic or enchantment; spell; witchery.” And if drugs do anything, it’s cast a spell, creating an illusion of happiness, connection, enlightenment, etc, making narcotics by their nature “glamorous.” I too fell under this spell coming of age in the UK’s rave culture, and I have also had some pretty “magical” experiences getting high.

Which is not to make light of addiction, which is both a killer and a tragedy. My heart wept for Cat every time she reached for the Adderall again in her book. But it’s also way too simplistic to label all drugs “bad.” And unlike Cat, as I write about in a chapter of my book called Healing is The New Nightlife, I have discovered SO many better ways to get high on my own supply.

Writing her book was a healing experience. Not least because having an 80,000-word deadline was the thing that finally made her take rehab seriously. We leave Cat listening to Louise Hay affirmations, getting eight hours sleep a night, and even praying. “Spirituality is so dope,” she writes. But best of all; “I’m supertight with my family now. Can you believe it?”

And yep, writing my book had a similar effect on me—my own 80,000-word deadline being what helped me kick booze once and for all. But living my subject matter, day-in-day-out, has also taken my relationship with my mum to a completely new level of intimacy and mutual respect. Not least because, the way I see it, as women our relationship with our mother is often a reflection of our relationship with our self.

>>>

I loved Cat’s book so much. Yes, because I can relate (anyone?) But also because it’s a straight-up, honest-to-Goddess account of living with addiction, AND the society that feeds it. Meaning a society that medicates the fuck out of any personality type that doesn’t fit the cookie-cutter mold for “success”; that places utmost value on productivity (fuel for the capitalist model); and that celebrates thinness and the ability to dress like you swallowed a copy of Vogue as the epitome of attractiveness / worthiness in women.

And also because the lessons of my Numinous journey mean I have written something kind of like the antidote. Perhaps I should have called it How Not To Murder Your Life.

Material Girl, Mystical World is out in May 2017 on Harper Elixir. Read more and pre-order your copy here.

MOON CLUB: MOONERS AND SHAKERS JAN 2017

What does spiritual activism look like? We’re so inspired by our change-making Moon Club members and their passion projects! Our Mooners and Shakers this month are Danielle Russell and Rachel Hanberry

DANIELLE RUSSELL 

“Basically…we leaped. We saw an opportunity to use our passions and skills to serve a cause we valued.”

The Project
The Women’s March on Washington Archives Project began with a group of archivists inspired by the massive political and social importance of the January 21st Women’s Marches. Taking into account both the marches’ historical context, and the new wave of grassroots activism that fueled it, we’ve dedicated ourselves to ensuring the preservation of women’s voices in this intensely controversial contemporary political climate. Our end goal is to create a digital aggregate that documents this diverse, women-centric, political resistance with the eventual hope that these materials will become publicly available.”

The Breakthrough
“After volunteering my skills to state-level organizers, I reached out to a group of professional archivists to explore both what they had done for similar protests in the past and how they were currently responding to this event. I was pointed towards Documenting Ferguson and the Baltimore Uprising Archive, but there hadn’t been any efforts yet for the Women’s March. My co-administrator created a Facebook group, and we just started planning from the ground up. I sent out cold-call emails and she collaborated with her mentors to collect oral histories on a national (and now global!) scale. We started laying the groundwork for photographs and physical materials to have homes, and we reached out to state and city-level organizers to lend legitimacy to our team’s efforts.”

The Wider Mission
“I firmly believe that archivists actively shape documentary heritage to reflect the broad spectrum of human experience, and that marginalized voices and experiences have been overlooked in the archival record. We have to pay attention to ‘hot spots,’ where people object to or suggest variations from the official narrative of state or societal structures. Ideally, the culmination of these documentation efforts is a comprehensive image of society that includes public hopes and dreams, frustrations and failures, and activities and movements, all preserved in their original voices.”

The Inner Work
“As archivists, we are not impartial caretakers, but socially conditioned, subjective humans who are trying to be very transparent in our work. While my co-administrator and I are both women who deeply feel the importance of this next wave of feminist activism, obviously we can’t, and the WMW organizers do not, speak for all feminists or the entire Feminist movement. While this next wave of feminism aims to be truly intersectional, we also recognize the controversy that surrounded the Women’s March on Washington having been conceived by white women, and we are beginning to hear more from voices that complicate and enrich the narrative. Acknowledging this personally, and within the scope of the Project, is so important to the growth of the movement, but also to my own growth as a scholar, a feminist, and an activist.”

Moon Club Inspiration
“This project was conceived because of my participation in Moon Club, and is directly born out of my quarterly journaling exercises. After we worked in Moon Club on the idea of developing a service practice, I started looking into archival activism. I wanted to figure out how my skills could be used in the causes and movements I supported. In addition, the open and varied discussions with diverse women (and some men!) have expanded my practice of deep listening. Listening to their voices talking about their lives needs to be a fundamental part of my activism.”

Follow Danielle Russell on Instagram and Twitter, and check out the WMW Archives Project on Facebook and Twitter.

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RACHEL HANBERRY

“Is being sober and sane the new sexy?”

The Project
The Sobriety Club is a subscription club that supports and provides connection for people who have consciously decided to quit any kind of addiction. In this Age of Awakening, negative addictions make us less conscious. When we are free from addiction, the fog dissipates and we can clearly see the light-filled path towards our true selves. The Sobriety Club’s mission is to support individuals on that path. I know all too well that this can be challenging, and understand that connection to others on the same path can ease the pressure to conform to social norms of negative addictions.”

The Breakthrough
“Before finding my true calling, I lived the London party lifestyle—consuming copious amounts of alcohol and participating in occasional drug use. At first it was fun, but it quickly became a coping strategy and a way for me to survive my own life. I was drowning in despair, self-loathing and hatred. I knew that alcohol didn’t serve me or my purpose in life, but found it hard to separate fun from the substances. I was so conditioned to consume and often felt boring if I didn’t drink.

Yoga transformed me, and I discovered I was born to be a yoga teacher and coach. Through teaching and coaching, it became clear to me that others were suffering from the same issues. Yet even after many years away from my former London lifestyle, I would have periods of drinking, and gradually lose my own light the more my alcohol consumption increased. The Sobriety Club was born to help me keep my word to myself and to support others who want to be clean, light-filled, and focused but find themselves trapped in this cycle.”

Rachel teaching free yoga on the beach

The Wider Mission  
“My wider mission in the world is to help others to evolve their own lives. Through yoga classes, meditation, coaching programs, workshops, retreats, and teacher training courses at Yoga Beach House I give people the tools to learn to live in the present, fully and abundantly without the constraints of the past or future. I enable other people to be their best selves.”

Moon Club Inspiration
“During the last Moon Salon, I was really inspired to reach out to Ruby after hearing her talk about alcohol. As we come together to share ideas, resources, and ourselves, it’s been so inspiring to witness Moon Club members encourage each other’s enlightenment and growth of consciousness!”

Discover more about The Sobriety Club, Rachel’s Organic Products, and Yoga Beach House, and make sure to follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

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Want to join the cosmic crusade? Sign-up for Moon Club, our monthly membership and coaching program where astrology, community, and activism combine to help you create a life of passion, purpose, and pleasure! 

MY MYSTICAL LIFE: SHARING MY “SOBER CURIOUS” STORY

WTF does “sober curious” mean anyway? Allow me to explain…

Shiny sober people—pre-beers at Austin City Limits

:: MONDAY :: (and basically on my mind all week)
So the Pisces and I have embarked on a fuck-off road trip for the majority of October (planned very last minute, but totally fitting for my Aries Tarotscope this month)—and we kicked things off seeing LCD Soundsystem at the Austin City Limits festival last night. Coincidentally our favorite band just happened to be playing in the first city and on the first night of our trip. Thank you, Universe!

Those who follow me on social media will also know that I had a couple of beers at the festival (three, to be precise), which in turn led to a couple of comments from people asking “erm, what happened to #highsobriety?” Comments that were quite justified, since having begun hosting my Club SÖDA NYC events this year I have been talking a lot about my journey leading a more sober life.

These comments also made me realize I can’t then just randomly go drink a beer without properly explaining myself! As such, I have decided to share my sobriety story here this week—which I have done in person at my Club SÖDA NYC events (stands for Sober Or Debating Abstinence btw), but never in a post on this site. So here goes.

***

Having been a habitual binge drinker for the majority of my 20s and 30s, I have spent the past six years slowly but steadily unlearning the habit of reaching for a drink on autopilot in any and all social situations.

Why? Well firstly the hangovers had become pretty fucking unbearable as I entered my middle 30s, and never really worth the short-lived buzz of the night before. But on a more sinister note, I had also been able to pinpoint alcohol as, if not exactly the cause, then a major contributing factor to the daily anxiety and overall sense of doom that had begun to cloud my days.

I only made the connection recently, but this coincided with me first learning to meditate back in 2010—and subsequently having my first ideas about creating The Numinous. And stepping deeper onto my spiritual path over the following months and years, I began to question the nature of the “high” that I (we?) got from alcohol.

The more I worked on healing my emotional wounds (much of which is documented elsewhere on this site), and the deeper a connection I forged with what felt like my whole / true / spiritual self as a result, the more I began to feel naturally high a lot the time. The question became; why did I (we) even “need” alcohol, anyway?

But no way was this process proving to be a walk in the park. Booze was (is) everywhere, not to mention it being a highly addictive (in fact the most addictive) drug. They say the definition of madness is repeating the same behavior and expecting a different outcome—and considering I spent the next few years resolving not to drink, drinking anyway, then feeling like shit and hating myself for it, it could also be said that alcohol was beginning to drive me crazy.

So eventually, a little over a year ago, I asked a friend to bring me to a couple of AA meetings. By now I was only drinking maybe once or twice a month (versus what had been three or four times a week). But if I was still having a hard time saying “no” in certain situations—or else obsessing over the next time I would “allow” myself a drink—I must be in denial about a more serious drinking problem, right?

And while I could immediately see what an amazing source of support AA is to the people the program resonates with, sitting among these brave souls I felt like an imposter. When it came time to introduce myself with the classic: “hi, I’m Ruby and I’m an…” the word “alcoholic” stuck in my throat like a puke-inducing tequila slammer.

Some people might say I was (am?) simply in denial, but I had already made so much progress cutting back on my drinking by this point, it was hard to swallow the idea I was “powerless over alcohol” (the way they frame alcoholism in AA). I also knew from conversations I’d begun having with other friends that no way was I the only one who felt this way. And so I got a bunch of us together to talk about it over a pot-luck dinner at my apartment. Which was essentially the first Club SÖDA NYC meet-up.

We shared our stories, along with our conflicted feelings about booze (could be so much fun! but at such a high price…), and it felt good, and right, to shine a light on the shame and confusion most of us felt about this. Questions that came up were along the lines of: does continuing to drink even when life is generally better when you don’t make you an alcoholic? If so, does this mean total abstinence is the only answer? Or is it possible to be mostly sober, and still drink in a high-vibe way from time-to-time?

***

These questions are at the heart of a conversation I’ve since been having a lot, not to mention a subject I’ve been doing more and more research on. And besides plenty of soul-searching and at times painfully honest self-inquiry, discussions at Club SÖDA NYC events and a few great books (listed at the end of this post) have led me to draw the following conclusions:

1. Our brain chemistry is designed to a) seek pleasure and b) avoid pain, causing us to repeatedly seek out anything that ticks these boxes. And so, since alcohol is a substance that a) provides pleasure by b) numbing pain, human beings are essentially pre-disposed to become addicted to alcohol.

2. Since we are old enough to understand that certain behaviors lead to certain outcomes, we are conditioned to believe(by society, media, and relentless marketing) that drinking alcohol a) provides pleasure and b) numbs pain. Also, that it is a necessary component to any and all social situations, celebrations, dance parties and first dates, and that it makes miserable days feel more okay.

I’ve billed subsequent Club SÖDA NYC events as being for the “sober curious,” which basically sums up the way I feel about my journey with sobriety today—much of which has meant getting curious about the above findings, in both my thinking and my life choices.

It has meant questioning the nature of addiction, and the stigma we attach to alcohol addiction in particular. For example, you’d probably be happy telling people you’re addicted to coffee…but alcohol, not so much. But if evolution (not to mention a lifetime’s social conditioning) has pretty much set us up to believe alcohol is the answer to…let’s see…the existential crisis known as “being human,” then where’s the shame in simply acknowledging this?

After all, as Brené Brown teaches in Daring Greatly, shame-breeds-secrecy-breeds-stigma-breeds-shame—and shining a light on that shit is the only way to end the cycle, as any AA advocate will also tell you. (Despite the whole “anonymous” part kind of playing into the secrecy-stigma-shame game in my opinion…which is also NOT to dismiss how invaluable the support provided by AA is for many millions of people! Jeez. This can be such a slippery conversation.)

Living sober curious has also meant facing a lot of sober firsts. If my journey thus far had got me comfortable with sober dinners and sober networking events, say, now it was time to attempt my first sober wedding, first sober vacation, first sober nightclub, first sober family visit. A.k.a. the drinking occasions I had held onto as sacred (read: not going to be much fun / even doable without a drink).

And turns out that some of these things are amazing—if not waaaay better—sober, and that some are not as much fun / even worth doing without alcohol. Which I basically see as my soul telling me to a) either not do those things, or b) accept that life is simply not endlessly entertaining / enjoyable!

Because last but by no means least, living sober curious has meant getting super comfortable with the fact that being human is not—and is not supposed to be—comfortable. We are designed to experience a whole range of feelings on a daily basis, some “good,” some “bad,” and all in service of keeping us in alignment with the choices that are in our highest good. Feels good? Do more of it. Feels bad? Either don’t do it, or do something to make it feel better (like, maybe actually have that “difficult” conversation with your mom versus getting wasted on rosé next time you have to see her). Option three? Simply sit with it, feel it, and allow it to pass. (It will pass).

The way I see it, alcohol momentarily overrides the “feeling bad,” thus providing a fake “feeling good.” The problem being that we then never get around to addressing whatever it was that was making us feel like shit in the first place. And so another soul-destroying cycle is perpetuated.

And well, at this point on my sober curious journey, I can tell you that consistently choosing not to drink feels fucking GREAT. Feels confident, calm, safe, focussed, enthusiastic, engaged, and energized. And that it’s also great when it feels awkward, sad, angry, lost, or lonely—because it turns out all these feelings are just part of my human experience, and so choosing not to numb them out feels like choosing to be fully ME.

***

So then why drink those beers at ACL? Why not show up fully “conscious,” fully myself, to an experience I could pretty much guarantee would be awesome without alcohol?

The short answer is that dancing under the stars to my favorite music is still one of the very few (if not the only) drinking occasion I still hold sacred. Sacred as in…a way to connect to the undefinable, numinous, part of me that is pure sensation, pure experience. Yes, there are other (low and high-vibe) ways to attain this state—but as humans have known since the dawn of civilization, one other use for alcohol is to get there fast. Like, in the 90 minutes LCD Soundsystem are on stage. If (and it’s still an “if”) I choose to keep alcohol in my life at all going forward, it will be solely for…dancing under the stars to my favorite music. Like a Pagan.

Which is about where this becomes a tricky conversation again.

Because the sober stalwarts might say this is just my addiction talking…and to be fair, I might well agree with them. Is it fucked up that I’m also kind of okay with that? Yes…I guess…because they might also say that it’s irresponsible of me to be preaching the joys of #highsobriety, and then go drink a beer (or three)! Even if it’s only once or twice a year. And I take this on board whole-heartedly, since I know that my path to semi-sobriety is unique to me—and that, for many, alcohol poses more of a serious if not a deadly threat.

If this is you, then I bow to your sobriety, and to your spiritual resilience. You are an inspiration.

For now, this is who I am, and this where I’m at on my sober curious journey. I’d love to hear where any of you reading stand on the issues it’s brought up—since the more sharing, and the less shame, secrecy and stigma about alcohol and the slippery, slippery subject of alcohol addiction, the better.

FURTHER READING – 

The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction Is Not a Disease

This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol: Find Freedom, Rediscover Happiness & Change Your Life (Volume 1)

The Sober Revolution: Women Calling Time on Wine O’Clock (Volume 1)

The next Club SÖDA NYC event will be on December 1 2016 in NYC. Sign up for our newsletter for more details as they are announced.

GABBY BERNSTEIN: “SOBRIETY STARTED MY SPIRITUAL AWAKENING”

For Gabby Bernstein sobriety played an important role in her spiritual awakening. Ruby Warrington asks her, could we all benefit from a more sober life?

I received my copy of Gabby Bernstein’s new book, The Universe Has Your Back, right when I was in the middle of organizing our #TuneInPeaceOut initiative for World Peace Day. Translation: I had zero time to sit down and read it. But an interesting thing happened.

Flicking through the pages, every time I stopped Gabby was riffing on how her sobriety had played such an important part in her spiritual journey. And experimenting with a sober life myself right now (check out my Club SÖDA NYC project here) the message that this is exactly the right path for me came through loud and clear (thank you, Universe!)

It was also clear that for Gabby Bernstein sobriety had played an important part in her spiritual awakening. I decided to sit down with her, to talk about the link between sobriety and spirituality, and get her advice on living sober.

(And p.s. the day I’m running this post—October 02 2016—is her 11 years’ sober anniversary!)

Ruby Warrington: So the reason I’m trying to be sober is because the way I feel when there’s no alcohol in my system is like, “Fuck, this is who I AM.” And honestly, I no longer feel like I can show up and properly serve on my mission these days unless I’m 100% myself.

Gabrielle Bernstein: I love that, and I think you should be sober then. That’s part of the reason I’m sober. This is the only consciousness I want to have. Although of course sometimes I’m like, ‘bye bye, get me the hell out of here’!

RW: That’s the thing, sometimes that still sounds nice! Especially when, and I know you’ve had issues with this too because you’ve written about it, I end up replacing alcohol with work. I fucking love what I do, so that’s okay. But then, where’s the release, where’s the escape?

GB: I have had to find that in the last five or six months. I realized I had become severely addicted to work, because I’ve been running for so long from these fears that I didn’t want to see. In the beginning stages of healing from this, I would find myself going to my desk and sitting down and literally numbing out with work. I was like, “Oh my God, that’s how I’ve been hiding.”

RW: I do that too. There’s a sense of relief when I can say, “Oh good, I’ve got like three hours of solid emails now and I can’t think about anything else.”

GB: Exactly. So what I’ve done is freed up a lot of that space for meditation. I meditate a lot longer.

RW: More meditation than your two TM sessions?

GB: I’m doing this Doreen Virtue chord cutting meditation in the morning, and then a TM meditation in the afternoon. It’s super good, I’m going to send it to you. As a result, I’ve been feeling more connected than ever. It also has to do with not playing into the word addiction, and being willing to heal.

Carrot juice on our interview date

RW: So on the sobriety thing, one reason I created Club SÖDA NYC is because I don’t feel like I identify the word “alcoholic.” As somebody in recovery, do you believe there is a middle ground when it comes to alcohol addiction?

GB: Absolutely. And it’s so good that you’re doing that. There’s some people that don’t find their way to AA but they want to have a way to get out of alcohol.

RW: When do you remember first finding an escape with alcohol and drugs?

GB: I guess in college, when it was uppers that I liked. I didn’t really even like alcohol that much, it was more like the snorting things.

RW: You mean uppers like Adderall?

GB: Yeah that’s what I was in to. I never liked alcohol, I just needed it to balance myself out. But by the time I hit my rock bottom in 2005 I was doing drugs and drinking every day.

RW: Were you fully aware of that being a problem?

GB: Yeah everyday I’d be like, “Shouldn’t do that again.” And then do it again. It was probably only seven months that it was really bad. The really bad didn’t last that long.

RW: So how did you seek help?

GB: I went to an addiction specialist who helped me understand that I was an alcoholic, because at the time I thought that I was just a drug addict. He was like, “No, you have an alcohol problem.” And I was like, “what do you mean?” He’s like, “Well what do you do every time you have a drink?” I was like, “I do drugs.” He showed me how this meant I was drinking unmanageably.

RW: I recently read an amazing book on alcohol addiction called “This Naked Mind.” And based on the teachings of this, plus my personal observations, I feel like a lot more people than will ever admit—even to themselves—are in a similar situation with alcohol and drugs. Do you believe this to be the case?

GB: I think that people definitely struggle…but it’s hard for me to comment because most of my friends today are sober. Well not “sober,” they just don’t really drink because they’re really health conscious. So I don’t see that much abuse of substances in my day to day. A lot of people come up to me and say, “Oh I got sober because of Spirit Junkie.” I hear people’s sobriety stories, but I don’t see people in their addiction anymore. But overall, I think it’s an epidemic. I mean addiction is an epidemic.

RW: And actually alcohol still kills more people than all prescription and all illegal drugs put together…

GB: Even more heroin?

RW: Insane, right? And in tests it’s the only drug that falls into the “extreme risk” category for addiction. Yet it’s the one that’s pushed on you from every direction the minute you’re old enough.

GB: Right. And I do think that from a spiritual perspective, if you want to have a closer connection with God then you can’t be muddying your consciousness.

RW: Which leads me to my next question. Do you believe that anyone who identifies as being on a spiritual path or who is seeking in that way, would benefit from at least trying an extended period of sobriety?

GB: Absolutely. I don’t want to say that if you’re on a spiritual path, you have to be sober. There are plenty of people that I know that are fine with a glass of wine. They have it once a week and they’re fucking fine. But I do think that it will only benefit you spiritually to have a sober life.

RW: My experience of this has been feeling truly “whole.” I think this is because as much as alcohol is about numbing out from fear, it’s also about hiding the parts of yourself that you don’t necessarily understand. That you find it hard to love and accept.

GB: Yes, that you don’t want to admit to, and you don’t want to feel.

RW: Totally. So I think for me, that sense of wholeness has been about accepting that even if I don’t really like myself today, that’s still me. It’s all part of myself. You know? So what about the plant medicines that everybody’s doing now, like ayahuasca?

GB: Well, I think sober is sober, and that’s a mind altering substance. You know my spiritual teachers do it and I’m not going to judge anybody, but I would definitely say that’s a relapse if you think you’re sober. Most sober people wouldn’t even take NyQuil!

RW: I hear you! So I’m kind of at this point where I’m experimenting with trying to experience each situation I would normally associate with drinking sober…

GB: You want to know how you quit drinking? You no longer give yourself permission. We all have permission giving thoughts—and, for example, I’ve been off sugar for three years now because I no longer give myself permission to have sugar. if you were like, “I’m no longer giving myself permission, any more, to have alcohol,” then interesting things could happen.

RW: Vacation are the really tough one for me…

GB: I feel like that’s okay! I think you can maybe not give yourself permission unless its a vacation. Except you have to be really strong, like, “When I come back I have to stop this.” Because even eating things on vacation that I wouldn’t normally eat, like cheese or bread. I come home and I want those things!

RW: Well I’m ready, because the more I commit to not drinking, the more I feel like this is a part of the consciousness shift that’s occurring right now. Like people are really invested in the idea that you can get high by tuning in, not numbing out. I think you’ve helped to spearhead this, and it’s actually been a really important part of your story, you know?

GB: There’s no doubt that getting sober was the catalyst for my spiritual awakening. I’ve had many, many more since that day, but that was the turning point for me. It was when I chose a life of deep connection rather than a life of numbing out. It was when I chose to wake up.

Gabrielle Bernstein’s new book, The Universe Has Your Back, is out now on Hay House. And we’re giving away one signed copy!

To win, tag your next Instagram post with #NumiUniverse. Make sure to follow and tag @The_Numinous and be sure to add the hashtag #NumiUniverse—otherwise we won’t see your post! Winners will be picked at random and notified via direct Instagram message.

Deadline for entries: 1 p.m. (EST) October 5, 2016.

SENSUAL AWAKENING: WORK WITH YOUR TAURUS MOON SIGN

Understand your Taurus Moon sign and maximize your self-care practice to be the best YOU, says Ash Bonelli. Artwork: Prince Lauder via Behance.net

The Taurus Moon sign is the symbol of sensuality. The full embrace of our five senses. Our moon sign symbolizes our heart, our deepest needs, our ideal environment, as well as the things in life that make us feel secure, safe and loved. We feed our moon and our moon feeds us. Understanding this side of yourself can help you feel more balanced, stable and centered.

The moon is considered to be exalted in Taurus—meaning the moon loves this sign and can operate quite well here. She gets to express her desire for security through earthy realms that satisfy our more human needs. As such, if you have a Taurus Moon sign, you like to stop and smell the roses and have the ability to feel comforted by the simple joys of life.

Work out your moon sign, when you do you chart for free here.

The Taurus Moon sign also needs and seeks out stability in all areas of life. It can be quite unnerving to you if you find yourself in a whirlpool of whipping emotions. Even if it doesn’t have to do with you in particular, just being around energy like that can take you off-kilter. You like to operate in a way that feels safe and comfortable.

You usually don’t rush into emotional situations without careful thought or even planning. The Taurus Moon sign likes to see what organically develops and prefers to allow time and space for trust to blossom. If you find yourself being forced into a situation that you feel you are not ready for, then those around you should get ready for some serious stubborn responses. This moon will emotionally resist just to prove a point because moving too quickly can threaten the sensitive heart of a Taurus Moon sign.

This moon can also be prone to overindulgence for pleasure’s sake or external soothing—such as emotional eating. A real love of healing touch, delicious tastes, and lovely landscapes are most certainly not a bad thing. It only gets unhealthy when you begin to use sensual pleasure as a band-aid. The Taurus Moon sign is stellar at finding pleasure in simply being human, but the real beauty is to enjoy it without getting totally lost in it.

:: CREATE INNER STABILITY ::
Accountability. Sudden change can be psychically toxic to this moon, so making your own plans and sticking to them helps keep your core more centered. Often not so simple in our fast-paced, always shifting world. Work on creating some habitual patterns with intent. For example, head to the market every Sunday to buy yourself fresh flowers for the week. You get the dependability of your routine and the sensual pleasure of the flowers themselves. Start an exercise regime that feels good to your body and stick to the goals you set. The more you can rely on yourself, the more your emotional body will open up to the vacillating currents of life.

:: CALM BEFORE THE STORM ::
Try this mini meditation when life does throw you some curveballs. The Taurus Moon sign doesn’t enjoy change, since they work hard to develop stable systems that work for them. Yet we all know that life moves to its own beat. When you find yourself freaking out, take the time to stop and do some deep breathing. Then really ask yourself, “Is my immediate reaction equal to the outcome of the change in front of me?”

We live in such a high-stress society that our nervous systems are always in “go” mode, making us more susceptible to react rather than respond. And for the sweet and stable lunar Taurus it can be even more difficult. We first breathe to balance the body, and then we create open space to allow the inner dialogue to occur.

:: MANTRA ::
“I am collected regardless of external uncertainty.”

:: SENSUAL BALANCE :: 
Seek out the pleasures in life without totally leaning on them for emotional stability. Ice-cream will eventually let you down. Sad, but true. Especially if you’re one those people that beats yourself up after eating a whole tub. Our bodies are amazing machines, and deserve to be taken care of. If you find yourself returning too often to something that’s not the most healthy option, take time to consider why. What are you trying to avoid, hide or ignore?

If you can’t dig deep enough to scoop up the root consider exploring this with a therapist.  I’ve seen many clients with this moon placement who use food in particular as a form of comfort, yet secretly hate this about themselves. I’ve even seen the opposite occur, where the denial of pleasure becomes a form of stability. Either way, these are vicious cycles that are usually signals that some psyche work needs addressing. It’s nothing to be ashamed of—everybody is going through something, and we are on this earth to help each other through it.

:: EARTHLY DELIGHTS :: 
This is a creative moon that needs to feel connected to its earthy roots. Think gardening, getting your hands dirty, and really feeling the earth. As well as working with pottery, clay, sculpture, mixed media, paper mache, etc, it’s about creating something that feels good in your hands and takes time to master. Go for long walks outdoors, collect beautiful flowers that you can press later for safe keeping, or go to artistic events that inspire you.

:: MOVEMENT :: 
The Taurus Moon sign is what’s called in astro language “fixed,” which can be embodied by traits such as being stubborn, lethargic or possibly lazy. Keep in mind that Venus rules Taurus, and she really does enjoy lying about being fed grapes from time to time. With that said, the body needs a fair amount of movement. Try vinyasa yoga, ashtanga yoga or a barre class, all practices that work through repetitive motions, allowing for heat and stability to build. A double whammy for you too, because you get the consistency of a set routine while allowing for more expansion in your head and your heart.

MY MYSTICAL LIFE: AN ACTUAL DATE WITH RUSSELL BRAND (KINDA)

Tending to my zen-den, a modern day witch hunt, and a Skype date with Russell Brand…

:: MONDAY ::
So I spent the past two weeks on vacation in Hawaii, where I had planned to switch off completely and mend my broken mind after pretty much a year of #nodaysoff. Which, for various reasons, is not how things panned out – but OH WOW, what valuable lessons and insights the Universe had in store for me instead! Why do I bring this up? Because rarely does life give us what we think we want – the Universe prefers to serve us what it knows we NEED. Basically the number one thing to keep in mind as we head into this Mercury (+ Mars + Pluto + Jupiter + Saturn!!) retro phase. So be open, be vigilant, and just watch in grace and wonder as it all unfolds.

:: TUESDAY ::
Mega congrats to my beautiful friend and collaborator Kirsty, who launched the most fabulous service today – an online subscription service for high-end, hard-to-find scented candles named Scent. When you set up an account, you’ll be asked to create a “scent profile” so all the candles you receive can be tailored to your tastes. Your zen-den never smelled better – and just in time for Mother’s Day too! Discover more at Scentfrom.us

Loving the beautiful imagery on Scent…

:: WEDNESDAY ::
And speaking of zen-dens – can we just officially acknowledge that ritual baths are currently officially a thing? Like is anybody out there not soaking with a bunch of salts, crystals, and activated herbs? Which is timely, actually, since with all those planets currently in retrograde, the big memo from the Cosmos is to slow things TF down. So check out this ritual bath recipe from Deborah Hanekamp, or stock on House of Intuition’s genius “bath bags” (like a tea bag but for your bath, see below) – and soak it up!

Clarity Bath Bags, $8, House of Intuition

:: THURSDAY ::
An interview with Jessica Knoll, who’s runaway best-seller Luckiest Girl Alive is – hello – an absolute feminist classic. Do not be put off by the breezy comparisons to Gone Girl etc, this is a straight-up Medieval witch-hunt at its most gory. And in the Now Age? Girl comes out alive and kicking. It’s not giving anything away to reveal that Jessica recently came out about the rape scenes depicted in the book as being based on her own teenage experiences – in other words, took one giant leap for female kind in re-writing history from the perspective of herstory. Read it and weep (tears of  fully empowered female joy).

:: FRIDAY ::
Got so SO close to making an actual dream come true today, when I got to speak at an event hosted by the David Lynch Foundation with none other than…Russell Brand! Only Rus ended up being Skyped in – so near, yet so far. The topic? Meditation as a tool for addiction recovery and substance abuse, and of course Russell nailed it. I’ll share a link to the whole panel discussion when it’s posted online, but one classic RB take-away to take you into your week-end: “I used substances to access a alternate state of consciousness. Now I have meditation for that.” Amen.

SOBER CURIOUS: GET HIGH ON YOUR OWN SUPPLY

Join The Numinous & Guided By Biet for SOBER CURIOUS, a social experiment to discover what it means to get high on your own supply…

 

“Numbing vulnerability also dulls our experience of love, joy, belonging, creativity, and empathy. We can’t selectively numb emotion. Numb the dark and you numb the light” – Brene Brown

There’s a reason sobriety is in, and it’s because it feels amazing. Blissful, even. Within days of alcohol leaving your system, you become aware of how much more at peace you feel in your body. A little longer, and you’ll notice how even a friendly text sends a tingle of physical pleasure along your limbs. Give it a few weeks, and you may find yourself breaking into spontaneous laughter at the sheer ecstasy of being alive.

This is what it feels like to get high on your own supply. But modern drinking culture makes it easier, often way too easy, to choose booze as our go-to method for feeling good (by simply numbing the “bad”). The price? We’ve all been there.

And so SOBER CURIOUS is a social experiment from The Numinous and Guided By Biet – a new space for the sober curious to investigate just how good life can get when we re-frame our relationship with alcohol. Far from “boring” (an accusation they love to levy against non-drinkers), what if choosing sobriety meant being “high” all the time?

This might not mean total abstinence from alcohol, either. The power of positive drinking can be a beautiful thing. A sacrament, even. But an occasional cocktail to celebrate life can also be a slippery slope into the kind of habitual drinking that becomes a substitute for sustained, self-generated joy; that dulls our awareness; that only exacerbates feelings of anxiety and emptiness; and that ultimately separates us from a true sense of self.

A proposed series of meet-ups, talks, workshops, and other events, SOBER CURIOUS could be for you if:

– You drink to feel good, but it often leaves you feeling worse (and it helps to talk about it)

– You want to drink less, but think this will mean the end of your social life

– You want to drink less, but think this will mean the end of DATING

– You want to cultivate a healthier relationship with booze

– You want to attend high-end, high-vibe events where alcohol is off the menu

– You love how good life feels when you don’t drink, and want to connect with other people who’ve discovered this too

– You want to experience getting crazy high on your own supply

Sign up for the Numinous newsletter to see how the conversation unfolds.

And a caveat: SOBER CURIOUS is NOT an addiction recovery program – although it may be a stepping stone to AA for some people. If you think you might need a higher level of support to address a drinking problem that’s negatively impacting your life, or in dealing with any underlying emotional issues that may be part of this, we also have the resources to connect you with people who can help.

WEEKLY TAROTSCOPE: FEBRUARY 29 – MARCH 6

Our guest Tarotscopes queen, Lindsay Mack of Wild Soul Healing, has pulled Oppression (The Devil) for this week’s forecast! Don’t be scared – this is the perfect energy to help us face our demons ahead of next week’s detoxifying Pisces New Moon eclipse…

COMFORTABLY NUMB: WHY ARE WE ALL AFRAID TO FEEL?

Dry January opened my eyes to how I’ve been comfortably numb, so this year I’m committing to feeling it and healing it, says Kate Atkinson.

‘Hello, is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me.” Ringing an opiate bell in your psyche? If you’re a borderline millennial like me, you’re shamefully more likely to recall the Scissor Sisters version before the much more pleasant, sedate and, well, numbing, Pink Floyd original of the track “Comfortably Numb.”

But this song bears a special significance in my world right now. Having completed my first ever dry January I, like I suspect many Instagramming, Malbec-drinking, Bumble-ing, Happn-ing global citizens, have realized to what extent I’ve been moving through my life in a similarly cozy but numbed-out state.

The Oxford Dictionary defines “numb” as depriving us of the power of sensation. So to do so in any capacity means more or less living and feeling at a fraction of our capabilities. Or in Numi speak: “vibing at a lower frequency.” By CHOICE. How depressing is that?

And it’s not just the booze. NYC might be a cultural smorgasbord, but it also offers ready access to all the compulsions that can take you down a rabbit hole of distraction and, eventually, longing.

Rather than dealing with our shit, we drink. Opposed to being alone, we over engage on social media (no wonder “Digital Addiction” has become an actual “thing”). Others get high on the rush of success and pepped on promotion. There’s addiction to substances, of course – legal medications, essential oils, cocaine. Addiction to online dating.  Addiction to people. Addiction to pizza. Addiction to tattoos. Addiction to solitude. Addiction to sex.

The list is endless, and the more you get to thinking about it, the more it feels like anything can become an obsession when you’d rather numb-out than feel…and deal. Then there’s the replacement of one addiction with another. Partying for yoga. Work for a relationship…and so it goes.

Without booze to cloud this revelation, I’ve only become more aware of back-to-back evenings of time wasting on Facebook; the getting obliterated after a bad day at work; the 18 nights a month I eat pizza. And many more obsessions I don’t care to list in a public forum.

And I’ve decided this is no way to live. Along with this newfound awareness, I’ve realized how sick I am of the “terrifying Tuesdays,” the hours spent staring at my phone, of saying I’ll do things I never do, and spending my precious hours on mind numbing, opposed to mind-expanding activities.

So what’s the alternative? Bottom line is it’s tough to to feel the full spectrum of your emotions. It is hard to stay at home and sit with your loneliness, when grappling with an overwhelming desire to put it all behind you, just for one night.

Personally, that social itch and need to be surrounded by others is a compulsive distraction, and when I obey it and ignore my calmer (and undoubtedly more vulnerable) intuition, generally the more disasters head my way. The thing with numbing is it becomes a cycle. Drink too much. Make bad dating decisions. Attack your liver again with Advil. Waste $40 on breakfast. And so it goes.

With this in mind, I’m accepting you have to “feel it to heal it” – which means, for now at least, I am committing to a time of being UN-NUMB. And what this will entail exactly I don’t know, since I’ve been living comfortably numb for well over a decade.

Nonetheless, I want to commit to it this year. I have no idea what I’m doing – and already I’m finding myself interested in activities I would have laughed at this time last year. So welcome to my blank canvas of withdrawal…which right now seems to be manifesting into this column.

Signing off until next time, with one of my favorite quotes from Anais Ninn:

“You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book…or you take a trip…and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating.

The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death.

Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death. Some never awaken.”