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. 

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.

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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.

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.

MY MYSTICAL LIFE: BLESSINGS, BOUNDARIES, AND HIGH VIBE JULY 4 BOOZING

Plus a moment of swap-shop glory and a meeting with the mind behind Shaktibarre…Numinous founder Ruby Warrington shares her Mystical Week

:: MONDAY ::
Still buzzing from yesterday’s beautiful Blessing Way ceremony for my dear Victoria Keen. We gathered, we ritualled (yes I’m making this a word), we created an altar, we shared memories and we set intentions. My favorite part of ALL? When we took an actual bone-fide cauldron (purchased by our host at a Brooklyn junk yard) filled with fears and sage, out into the street to be burned away. As Victoria lit her fire, we stood around her in a circle of sisterhood, playing drums, shaking rattles, and singing. At the height of the Williamsburg brunching-hour. YES we got a lot of stares, and YES it felt so right to be bringing this kind of s*it out from behind closed coven doors!

:: TUESDAY ::
A l’il psychic moment in my favorite clothing swap-shop the Buffalo Exchange (first introduced to me by Goddess Gala Darling). I’ve been taking my cast-offs there for the past two years or so and have racked up a serious amount of store credit, so I stop by whenever I’m in the area for some guilt-free retail therapy. Today, as I’m browsing the racks, this little voice goes; “some Isabel Marant shoes would be nice, right?” I’m like, “yeah, higher self, sure would!” And YEP, found these beauties (below)—boots not sandals, BUT, my size, UN-WORN, and FREE (cos of my store credit).

What a beautiful lesson in the all-abundant nature of our Universe! Namely: when we just listen to our intuition, everything we desire is right in front of us; when we give freely of ourselves (or our old clothes), not necessarily expecting financial pay-back, we will get it back 10-fold; and when we don’t attach to the details, is when we grant the cosmos permission to surprise us in all kinds of magical ways.

:: WEDNESDAY ::
A lesson in boundaries. My first reaction when a friend in need texts to say: “I may need somewhere to stay the next few nights, can I have your sofa?” is to reply with a straight up “no.” Some things are a non-negotiable, and my sacred morning alone time is one—as such, I usually only have family stay over in my home. Sorry-not-sorry, but I’m also a believer in strong boundaries as a marker of self-respect.

But THEN I’m like: woah, here I am preaching (check out my IG account etc.) about how we need to create a world that looks after our most vulnerable first, and how the current political climate change is giving me a new depth of compassion for the displaced people in the world…like my friend who’s being kicked out of her apartment! And the first time I’m asked to walk the talk, I stumble.

Humbled, I text her back—”shit, of course, mi sofa es tu sofa, ANY TIME.” By which time she’s found somewhere, and actually goes on to tell me how MY strong boundaries are a lesson for her in cultivating the same in her life. HOWEVER, it was a moment of pause for me in terms of what it means to be a good Now Age hippie global citizen. #bethechangeyouwanttosee

:: THURSDAY ::
A meeting with incredible, inspiring Corinne Wainer, founder of the new Shaktibarre studio that’s coming to Williamsburg in August. Reasons I love this woman No.1: She’s all about the shaktivism (spirituality + activism), and so her studio has sliding scale pricing to make classes + workshops accessible to ALL, with the underlying mission of uniting women in the fight against body fascism in the yoga community. No.2: She’s a total no-smalltalk zone. No time + no interest = no holding back. No.3: She guessed that my spirit animal is a black stallion (which he is, I write about how I met him here). So suffice to say, watch this space for some Shakti-Numi collabs coming your way later this year.

:: FRIDAY ::
Regular readers will know all about my path to raise my overall vibe with sobriety—which has meant totally re-framing my relationship with alcohol. Which basically means treating like it’s as powerful a mind-and-heart expander as, say Ayahuasca, and thus only imbibing with extreme reverence and caution. And then along comes a big fat trigger like JULY 4 WEEKEND.

And you know, I likely will have a couple of cocktails Sunday, since I booked tickets to this super high vibe event (flyer below)—high vibe as in, it’s outside, it starts at 2pm, it’s on the West side so there will be a sunset situation, and it’s alllll my favorite DJs so I can be guaranteed an afternoon of truly emotionally resonant tunes.

And here’s another reason to maybe raise a glass (but really, how about just one?) this weekend. It’s America’s birthday—and America could really use some truly intentional toasting rn, and some reminding that far from broken, she’s just going through a rough patch. As a Cancer country, I think this weekend’s reading from Strong Eye Astrology resonates for the good old US of A pretty darned hard:

Cancer :: Cancer Rising
Taking a horse over jumps. You are sitting in the driver’s seat. But where do you want to go? We can so easily get caught in an image of ourselves. But who do you want to be? This is a fresh start. Now is the time to visualize about who you are becoming. Get very, very specific in your intentions.

*NB: read the weekend forecast for your sign here!

5 SIGNS I NEEDED A SPIRITUALITY DETOX

When your practice becomes a crutch it could be time for a spirituality detox, says Victoria Cox. Artwork: Elayne Safir

I’ve been fascinated with the esoteric side of life since I was a little girl, but in recent years I’ve been delving a little deeper. Kundalini yoga, tarot, energy healing, astrology, crystals, meditation. You name it, I’ve probably tried it.

And lately I began to notice that whenever life got more intense, I would lean a little harder on these practices.

I’d pull a tarot card every day (okay, sometimes several), check five or more astrology sites religiously, and my morning meditation schedule became a non-negotiable. To the point I began to wonder if, instead of utilizing these practices to gain a deeper meaning of life, I was using them to numb out. After all, I was no longer experiencing the blissful results and striking insights I’d encountered initially. Simply put, the whole thing was starting to make me feel neurotic.

So, what was a girl to do?

In a twist of irony, my question was actually answered during an energy healing session. After listening to me whinge about how I was working so hard on myself yet my anxiety levels were creeping higher, I was informed I was being put on a month-long “spirituality detox.” In short, it was time to cut the woo-woo and get grounded.

Here are the five signs that showed me I was in need of a spirituality detox. If anything sounds familiar, you might decide to join me…

A daily practice becomes a daily obsession
For me this was Kundalini meditation. At first, the results were impressive; I was calmer throughout the day and found myself less likely to get sucked into life’s dramas. Yet, as external challenges mounted, I became more rigid about my practice. I had to do it no matter what.

There were mornings where I woke up tired yet pushed myself through the practice, counting the seconds until I was finished. My morning “meditation” was beginning to feel more like bootcamp, and I was no longer enjoying it. As a result, the benefits I’d experienced when practicing from a place of reverence, began to ebb away.

Pursuing spirituality for personal gain
Over time I’d acquired a toolbox of sorts to deal with life’s rough patches. If was feeling anxious, I journaled about my feelings. If I was feeling uninspired, I meditated. If I wanted to create something new in my life, I would use visualization techniques.

These tools were extremely helpful in getting me through hard times, but I was starting to use them in the good times too, to satisfy my ego desires—opposed to spiritual yearnings. And then when life didn’t go exactly the way I wanted it to, I became angry. I realized that in using these practices this way, I was buying into the idea that the the Universe somehow “owed me”—and was mystically designed to reward selfishness, when actually the opposite is true.

Self-helping vs. self-medicating
I noticed a pattern of behavior that went something like this: waking up after a boozy night out I’d feel a familiar sense of self-loathing about having drunk too much. To alleviate these feelings, I would head straight to a yoga class to clear my head.

Feeling better about myself, I would then come home and have a glass of wine—undoing all the good work I’d done in class! I was essentially using my practice as a quick-fix means to feel better in the moment while ignoring the real issue (why I’d drunk too much again)—instead of a way to learn about myself on a deeper level.

Searching for the next spiritual fix
Living in New York, there are a classes and workshops offering every spiritual answer under the cosmos. Energy healing; Chakra cleansing; Past-life regression. You name it, it’s here. While this is wonderful in many ways, I noticed how the sheer abundance of choice made it feel like there was always one more thing to try.

I began to convince myself that I needed to do every treatment, attend every event. I was treating these revered spiritual arts like a mass consumer, always looking for more instead of stopping and simply asking myself what I was trying to heal.

Spiritual neurosis
I discovered that my motives were becoming completely anti-spiritual, as I indulged in a sort of metaphysical materialism. Over time my beloved practices had morphed from a source of comfort into a supposedly mystical way to manifest my worldly desires.

Instead of wanting to go to a sound-bath at the end of the week to relax, I felt I had to go—or I would be missing out on some great revelation about myself. I wasn’t. I was living my life wrapped up within my ego’s neuroses instead of living from my heart.

***

Once I saw clearly how I was misappropriating my spiritual practice, I asked my energy healer what I needed to do.

Her prescription?

No mind-altering substances (i.e. alcohol) for 30 days. Stop reading or engaging with all esoteric information. Cease all meditation. Stop all energy practices or group healing

Instead?

Spend time on grounding activities such as house-cleaning. Practice intense cardio exercise. Sleep and rest. Spend time in nature. Take plenty of salt baths to detox the body and drink lots of water.

Initially it seemed like too big of a pill to swallow. But as I deleted my astrology and tarot apps from my phone I already began to feel lighter. When my alarm went off at 7am for my morning meditation I almost squealed with pleasure at the thought of sleeping for an thirty extra minutes. I relished the empty weeknights where I didn’t have some class to attend.

I knew it was the right thing to be doing simply because it felt so damn good. I felt like a child taking a month off from a very strict boarding school. Admittedly the hardest part for me was not drinking alcohol; I didn’t partake during the week, but I’ll be honest and admit that I still dabbled, albeit lightly, some weekends.

And once the thirty days were up? There were some practices, such as Kundalini yoga, that I was dying to get back into—simply because they made me feel better. But there were others, like my incessant tarot card pulling, that no longer held any appeal.

Most importantly, my experience taught me far more about myself then I’d learned in my obsessive pursuit of all things Now Age. I learned that the spiritual path is a long and meandering one; that there are no quick fixes or shortcuts.

Most importantly it taught me to listen to my heart instead of my head, and to always ask myself if what I’m seeking is in service of enlightenment or egotism.

Have you had a similar experience to Victoria? Share your thoughts with the Numinous tribe Instagram and Facebook, or in the comments below…

3 ALCOHOL-FREE WAYS FOR COPING WITH SOCIAL ANXIETY

How Victoria Cox switched from Dutch Courage to Divine Courage, and learned to say “cheers” to social anxiety… Artwork: Nahu Marín Luriaud

It’s 7pm on a Saturday night in NYC and I’m getting ready to hit the town for a charity event a friend is hosting. Keeping me company as I slather on the make-up is my obligatory glass of chilled white wine.

“Just to take the edge off,” I tell myself. Give me a quick buzz so that I arrive relaxed and confident. I don’t know many people at the party and this fact alone is revving up my anxiety levels. I’ll just be completely honest and admit that on occasion I struggle with social anxiety, especially when I’m with large groups of strangers. Likely a leftover from my childhood, when I used to be crippled with an extreme case of the shy’s.

Thankfully, I left that mortifyingly awkward stage behind me as I grew into adulthood, but on occasion, my inner shy girl pops up from the deepest recesses of my subconscious to say hello. She usually makes an appearance at large social gatherings and she’s guaranteed to show up as my plus-one at networking events. Those are her favorite.

She especially enjoys it when I walk into a party, look around and realize I’m engulfed in a sea of strangers. “Look,” she whispers conspiratorially in my ear. “You don’t know anyone here, why don’t you just leave?” When I do eventually strike up a conversation with someone she’ll pipe up incessantly; “This person is bored by you. You have nothing interesting to say. This is so awkward. Just go home.”

Sometimes she gets her way and sometimes she doesn’t. But over the years, I’ve grown sick of the bitches sneaky antics, and so I figured out a way to make sure she stays her ass home. Alcohol. That intoxicating social lubricant. She hates it – one glass and I’m already dancing out the door. Two glasses and I can approach a group of strangers. Three glasses and I’m on the dance floor with said strangers, a.k.a my new best friends. Four glasses and… let’s not go there.

I’ve been feeling pretty smug about my secret weapon for many years and it’s got me through some skin-crawlingly awkward networking events that I’ve gladly suffered the hangover for.

But in recent years, as I’ve begun to focus on getting to know myself on a deeper level, I’ve begun to question my secret weapon. Is it really a weapon – or simply a crutch? Could I cope at one of these events if I didn’t drink beforehand? What was it saying about me that I could only be my “best self” when I numbed my senses with alcohol? Why did I feel I couldn’t just be me, weird social ticks and all?

These questions reverberated around my head for many months yet I had no answers. All I knew was that I had two options. Choose to keep on applying the social lubricant or get to the bottom of the matter once and for all.

I chose the latter.

And so, I began an experiment. I decided to switch from “Dutch Courage” to “Divine Courage,” and see what I could learn about myself in the process. Here’s what’s in my tool-box…

:: BREATHWORK ::
Being a long-time yoga devotee I was already familiar with the breathwork known as “pranayama.” And, one form of this is called Alternative Nostril Breathing – where you do just that. Breathe out of one nostril for a set period of time, then switch. Sounds odd but what this actually does is soothe the nervous system and equalize the hemispheres of the brain. Fancy talk for saying, “It chills you the F out.”

This practice had always worked a charm at calming down my over-excitable brain so I added it to my toolbox. But I needed more. Breath-work alone wasn’t likely to be enough to stop me running back into the arms of a perfectly chilled Pinot Grigio.

:: VISUALIZATION ::
This is where visualization meditation came in. It’s no secret that visualization can be incredibly powerful – even professional athletes are known for using it to get “in the zone” before a game. Basically, the aim is to try to see your desired outcome before it happens. So, before heading out to a social engagement these days, I sit quietly and visualize myself at the party, acting confidently, laughing, having fun, meeting new people and generally enjoying myself.

More often than not, what I visualize, or a version thereof usually comes to pass. Even on those occasions where things didn’t quite go as planned, I found I was in a much more centered space which helped me to relax and connect with people a little easier.

:: MANTRA ::
My toolbox was coming together but I needed to add one more thing. A mantra. Whilst mantras are typically used during meditation they can also be used throughout the day as a method to turn a negative thought pattern into a positive one.

Mantras can be incredibly powerful to soothe anxiety or just to give the mind something positive to focus on, thus avoiding a leap down the rabbit hole of fear and worry. My personal mantra differed for each occasion, but phrases such as “I am relaxed and confident” or “I am enjoying meeting new people” were especially helpful when I just wanted to run away and hide in the bathroom.

***

Its been a few months since I began my experiment and already I’ve been noticing some improvements. While I will probably always experience an involuntary shudder at the word “networking” I no longer feel that I simply must have a drink beforehand to get through it.

Whilst my pre-party drink routine enabled me to come across as lively and fun, in actual fact I was only showing people what I thought they wanted to see, lending an air of superficiality to my encounters. The real me might not be the life of the party but it is authentic – and more often than not I’ve noticed people can sense the difference leading to a more genuine connection.

Although I’ll probably never eradicate my inner shy girl completely, she no longer accompanies me to every social event. At the end of the day I’m only human and she’ll probably make an appearance now and again but I no longer feel the need to chase her away with gulps of wine. As a result, she doesn’t hold the same power over me.

I’ll also admit that wine and I will likely never end our love affair completely, but I no longer need it in the same way I used to. Alcohol has transitioned into something I enjoy on occasion rather than a can’t-cope-without.

My experiment has gifted me the knowledge that my social anxiety toolkit is available at any time; which in turn has emboldened me with a burgeoning self-confidence. I feel that I’m now able to face an intense social situation without desperately seeking an exit route, and surely that’s something worth raising a glass to.

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.

HOLY F*CK: CAN CASUAL SEX BE SPIRITUAL?

In the second installment of her column Holy F*ck, Alexandra Roxo questions if modern-day hookup culture can co-exist with a Numi gal’s desire for conscious dating and sex…

As I sat next to my two friends Malia and Loulou watching Marianne Williamson speak to a crowded LA auditorium, I slumped further and further down in my chair as she discussed that which had been keeping me busy post breakup for nearly nine months…CASUAL SEX. Her words: “When a man puts anything in any of your orifices he has unspoken claim on you”, stung me. And to add insult to injury she went on to state: “Some Buddhist teachings say after sex the energy of the other person doesn’t leave your aura for seven years.”

Shit. My aura was starting to feel real crowded.

Not to mention that on my way to see Marianne talk I had casually mentioned to my new friends how I had recently had phenomenal sex in the back of a Prius under the Hollywood sign with a TV actor in an open relationship after drinks at the Soho House. (#Cliché.) I laughed about it, but now I felt a little uneasy…

Last year when I broke up with my girlfriend of nearly two years and decided to try dating dudes again, I had a period of being “free.” Meaning I hit Tinder hard. I was still meditating. Practicing affirmations. Reading Marianne and Louise Hay. But I was also determined to learn how to have casual sex in a casual way. Remember the “Sex and the City” episode where Carrie tries to have sex like men and can’t? That was me.

But there I was on Tinder, wondering: is conscious dating and/or sex even possible through online apps? Can you explore deep sexual bliss with a stranger you drunk swiped on? In fact, can you explore sexual bliss with a stranger at all?

Obviously sex and religion is a whole big Pandora’s box I will not attempt to open, except to say that I do have massive PTSD from spending too many hours at “youth camp” where I was saved/told I was a sinner for being a sexual being. I’ve been healing from that for years as a non-religious “spiritual person,” but still many of the same judgements and questions continue to come up. Is casual sex an obstacle towards enlightenment or can it be an aid?

My friend Karley (a.k.a. Slutever) who is a sex writer and creative collaborator, turned me on to Dr. Zhana Vrangalova, who did a rad TED talk on how casual sex can be super healthy, which inspired me. In the last year I decided to fully commit myself to this quest. Oddly (or not – cause the Universe knows what it’s doing) I attracted quite a few “spiritual” dudes down for the cause. According to Dr. Zhana, healthy casual sex must be sober (at least pretty sober) and feel authentic to you. Once alcohol, drugs, and sadness enter, then it’s a whole ‘nother thing. Thing is, I couldn’t seem to get naked with a stranger without at least three drinks. (If this isn’t a sign I dunno what is!)

Then I started seeing someone. I thought maybe this was gonna be someone I would partner with for a long time. We meditated together. We have the same agents. We write and direct comedy. It seemed perfect. And it was – but only on paper. In person we didn’t get along and never laughed. So cut to the breakup, and the same night that a friend asked me to go a “very progressive” sex party. She said I could just watch and that it was going to be a great experience etc…I mean…how could I turn that down?

So in my fragile, broken state I put on a tight black dress and lipstick and got myself into an Uber, and embarrassingly sang the Weeknd’s “Hills” to the driver getting into my “empowered single woman” space, i.e. hot mess space. When I arrived at the sex party I stood on the sidelines until a man with a top knot and a jar of organic coconut oil offered me a Thai Massage. This seemed harmless enough. But then again I was drinking large amounts of Patron. And nothing under the influence of tequila is harmless.

As I was being twisted into yoga poses I heard strange gurgling sounds. When I opened my eyes I saw the woman next to me was double deep throating. I was shocked, and took another deep sip of tequila. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against deep throating – it was just that in my vulnerable state, it was all too much for me. It just didn’t feel like my truth.

I like to think that I’m “sexually progressive,” and open, and sex positive. I think I said yes to at least 2 out of 5 threesomes last year…but maybe that’s just not me anymore. Not my authentic truth now. Though, at this party I kept downing tequila hoping to “make it my truth,” and the next thing I knew I was laying in some couple’s arms, naked. I still have no idea how I made it home, though I did get a text from the wife who is a yoga teacher inviting me to class and telling me: “Congrats on no longer being vanilla!” If she only knew…

The next day I decided to stop drinking. To stop smoking weed. And to stop having casual sex. At least for now. Because none of it seemed to be serving my highest good anymore. (Did it ever?) I had put so much pressure on myself to “be free” and have fun, but the truth was I was covering up loneliness and a feeling of separation from Source.

I can see that my true freedom now lies in healing my wounds, in meditation, and safe self exploration. But my fear was…does this make me…boring?! (Um, if anybody’s watched Be Here Nowish season two I basically wrote a character that I have become! Yoga pants and celibacy!) But you know what: I don’t give a f*ck about becoming boring. I haven’t drank or done drugs in over a month, and I’ve danced, laughed, and sung a ton recently, and felt myself surrounded by beauty and magic.

I’ve also just come off a 3-day meditation retreat where I chanted and sat in a circle for three eight hour stretches with amazing humans deep in spiritual search, which is something I’ve been actively in, off and on, for the last 15 years. I realized how sometimes I veer so far from this part of myself, and thank GODDESS something always brings me back. This time in the form of a best friend who I’ve known for 14 years, Rebecca, beckoning me to Berkeley. And hours of meditation and chanting and crying and healing brought me back, yet again, to myself. The self who is held by Source, and doesn’t need to be held by random strangers.

The truth is, as much as I want to believe in the glories of casual sex, I don’t think it brings me personally closer towards Bliss, Peace, and Spirit. If it works for you then that’s beautiful and more power to ya. For me, I hope and think that having sex with someone I love deeply in a soul partner way will do that.

Until then I’ll go back to what I’ve been doing more of what I’ve loved since I was 19 years old…chanting my kundalini mantras, singing Steve Winwood’s Higher Love at the top of my lungs, making Shiva+Shakti cosmic union collages and altars, getting high off raw chocolate, and doing my girl Elyssa’s soul mate manifesting meditation.

Alexandra Roxo is an LA based filmmaker and actress who is currently developing a holistic coaching business. She has a company called Purple Milk that makes all kinds of fun stuff including the popular web series Be Here Nowish. Follow her on Insta here and read her past Numinous articles on Now Age love and sex here

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.”

HOLY F*CK! MAKING AMENDS WITH MY EXES

In the first installment of her column Holy F*ck, Alexandra Roxo decides making amends with her exes is the next step on the path of awakening…Photo Credit: Louise Androlia

In the last nine months of being “single” I have done a LOT of work trying to figure out my love life/self/astro chart/addictions/blahblah. Some of that “work” was on Tinder but no need to get into that…yet. Anyway, I decided that in order to move on and clear the slate I would make amends with all my exes. I was having a John Cusack in High Fidelity moment where he’s like, “What’s wrong with me? Why did all my relationships ‘fail’? I should probably seek out and bother everyone I’ve ever dated in order to figure out what it is about me!” Which seems pretty narcissistic, I know.

But the way I saw it, this wasn’t about narcissism or figuring out what was wrong with me. I don’t believe in relationship ‘failure’ anyway. It was about wanting to neutralize our energy, so I wasn’t carrying around a bunch of ‘eugh’ and ‘agchk’ vibes towards a bunch of people that I once loved, had sex with, and maybe even told that I wanted to have their babies…Plus the fact that in order to really move on to new love, I feel it’s important to unpack any potential baggage that is weighing us down. Justin Bieber’s words “Is it too late now to say sorry?” kept echoing through my mind.

No one taught me how to do this and I was just going off intuition, though I had heard it was a part of AA and some program called Landmark that sounded trés culty.  So I consulted my teachers. Marianne. Jesus. Marianne again. She says many things about making amends, but this stuck with me: “Forgiveness is the choice to see people as they are now. When we’re mad at people, we’re angry because of something they said or did before this moment. By letting go of the past we make room for miracles to replace our grievances.”

So at first I thought, should I write everybody a letter? Hmm, it felt kind of like a wimpy way out, like I could just get something off my chest without hearing their (potentially not so charitable) side of the story. So instead I reached out to what had been my biggest primary relationships individually, and suggested we sit down for a drink.

Now yes, it is a little tricky to suggest “just a drink” with an ex – I mean what happens if two vodkas in, the romance spontaneously rekindles itself and you find yourself making out?! #RiskyBusiness. I knew this was a possibility, and yet “coffee” seemed sooooo formal. I mean these are people that have held you at your darkest hour / made you cum many times. Wine, my friends. Wine.

So I sat down with my first ex. This was someone I’d only dated for about six months after having sex on her NFL sheets where she kept saying: “You’re such a dime” while she came. After that she wooed me with a Jaws movie night complete with steamed crab legs and champagne, and we fell in love. She was the kind of person who danced with me to Motown in the kitchen, ate gluten free because I did, and gave me orgasms where I legit saw rainbows of light. (FYI this is called “synethesia.”)

So it was real RUDE of me to ghost on her. When we sat down three years later to reconnect at a mediocre spot in Williamsburg, I apologized first, went into my spiel about being grateful for all of the wonderful things she did for me, all the ways she put up with my neuroses, and how much I’d grown up…while she gulped down some rosé, looked at me and said: “You really fucked me up.”

To which I replied: “I am NOT going to own that, because whatever expectations you put on the relationship are what made you feel that way. I PERSONALLY couldn’t make you feel that way.” But then I remembered this was not about patting myself on the back or being right.

So I said “I am really sorry for my actions. For yelling at you. Being mean. And for checking out when things got tough. I am truly sorry.” We walked through the park quietly after that and haven’t spoken since. She seems happy, I like her Instagram photos on the reg, and I’ll probably text her on her birthday. CHECK.

Next I saw the guy who was my last boyfriend before I somehow gave up men and dated women for six years. With him, I was a little bit nervous. I had dumped him in cold blood for my first girlfriend and…blamed it on the fact he wasn’t spiritual enough. He was an atheist, and I knew I couldn’t date an atheist or raise children with an atheist, so why bother, ya know?

We met at a dive bar. I was nervous, and he’s still hot. Even hotter now. I fondly remembered a time we had sex in the pool at my dad’s condo and the security people taped it and bribed my dad with it. Cut to my internal dialogue: “What if I’m not strong enough? Should I wear lace panties just in case? No. Don’t even shave. Ugggh. Okay. Fine.” When I told him, “Hey, I’m sorry for how much of a crazy diva I was,” he just gave me a cute smile and said: “Don’t worry mama” in that way that had always made me melt. Then he scooted off to help another ex gf move house. THIS IS EASY RIGHT? Hmm, not so fast…

Next was the hot, fast, love affair that happened the summer I was living very gypsy-like, i.e. out of a suitcase and on an air mattress. She showed up at 3am at the place I was house sitting with a bottle of tequila, told me she was dying, cried, fucked me, and I was like “SIGN ME UP!” Then things got really bad between us. She was going through some dark stuff, I was going through a rough patch with my family. I was also living in my creative partner’s office, trying to make art, struggling with addictions, chain smoking…

I recognized that I had to get it together which I thought meant cutting her out. When I told her “No mas!” she cried and told me she vomited for days and had to go to the doctor for an IV, and I basically couldn’t deal. So I blocked her. And from then on, anytime people said her name it was like horror film music started to play…

Needless to say I was VERY nervous to meet up with this one. But I did my energy protection ritual, marched in, drank only half a glass of wine for safety and told her I was sorry and that she caught me when I was in such a dark place. She smiled a really cute smile and was like “It’s okay. We both were.” And we proceeded to talk about our mutual friends and though I lustfully admired her long sinewy fingers I emerged from the bar thinking: “Oh. My. God…we’re friends, we’re friends!” But soon she started texting me and asking me out again to which I politely declined, repeatedly. Eventually she caught on.

The upshot of making amends this way, has been that I’ve realized it’s never too late to take responsibility for your actions, and create a different ending to your story with an ex. You might think: “Oh, what’s done is done is done is done.” But what if you could make something else, something better, the last thing that happened between you? It could even be something random like sending them a box of chocolates or a bottle of champagne, with a note like: “Sorry, I was awful.” No two making amends are alike.

I didn’t need to see my most recent ex (Yogi_Vegan_Lez Orian) since we made amends in semi-real time. It felt and still feels like a MIRACLE OF GOD. Painful, but evolved. We Facetime a lot, often while I’m driving in LA and while she’s on a toilet in Brooklyn. And when I came to NY last we karaoked our song “Islands in the Stream” from Youtube like old times.

I hope from here on out I can try as much as possible to make amends in real time. Which means a) not numbing out from feelings when the going gets tough (umm hi marijuana / alcohol / sugar) and b) Stepping up and taking responsibility for my actions quickly and not stuffing anything away.

When I think back on my exes now no more waves of darkness descend upon me, and no more sob stories about how they were assholes etc run through my mind. Now when I think of them I smile and imagine them saving the planet, curing cancer, etc etc.

Next making amends I’m doing is with myself – because it’s my longest and most important relationship, and arguably the one I need to forgive the most. But for now I’ll take Obama’s apology.

THE MAGIC INGREDIENT: 10 HIGH VIBE PANTRY UPGRADEs

Up the ante of your high vibe pantry and feel the magic in every bite, says Raquel GriffinPortrait: Margarita Corporan

From nutrient dense sweeteners great for raw foodies to high-energy crystal charged water – it’s all about the magical, the medicinal AND the delicious here. So read on for a shopping list of the foods you need right now to create your very own high vibe pantry hit list.

1. High-vibe: Natural sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, stevia
Way higher-vibe: Organic un-sulphured Black Strap Molasses

Black strap molasses is a double duty sweetening super food that approaches coconut oil territory when it comes to nutrition and sheer versatility. You can bake with it, use it for greater regularity, and to stimulate hair growth and banish grays – it can even double as a hair de-frizzer when mixed with warm water and applied as a mask. It’s low-glycemic, high in calcium and iron, and it’s great for vegans! Five tablespoons of blackstrap molasses contains 50 percent of the recommended daily allowance of calcium, 95 percent of iron, and 38 percent of magnesium.

Yes, it has a strong flavor so it can’t totally replace all other sweeteners, BUT its high vibe qualities definitely merit adding it into heavy rotation. Ease into using BSM by adding 1-2 tablespoons to your morning Chai and top it off with a splash of almond milk. This old school come new school super food can be found almost any local supermarket.

2. High-vibe: Kale
Way higher-vibe: Purslane

Although nothing can technically replace kale (Goddess forbid) this juicy, slightly lemony edible weed gains super star status in your kitchen due to its incredible nutritive and medicinal properties. For example, it’s the richest known plant source for Omega-3 fatty acids (usually found in fish oils). A one cup serving gives you all the Vitamin E you need in a day, and it’s also one of the best sources of magnesium as well as being high in calcium, potassium and vitamin C.

Used externally, it has similar properties to aloe and calendula in that its sticky broken leaves can soothe burns, stings and swellings while the juice can be used to treat ulcers, wounds, sores and gastrointestinal problems. And last but certainly not least, it’s also one of the five herbs richest in anti-depressant substances. Purslane is usually available in the summer and fall but you can always order Purslane online. Eat this green in salads, soups and smoothies, or fried in oil with chopped onion as a side dish. (And FYI – Purslane can get slimy so make sure to add it at the last minute to your recipes!)

3. High-vibe: Standard water filter
Way higher-vibe: Alkaline Water filter

Berkey, a Zen Filter or a Zero water carafe – if you can’t harvest actual fresh spring water it’s all about these gravity filters. So what’s all the hoopla with the alkaline water you say? The Alkalinity is referring to the pH level of the water, and the higher the pH, the more water helps hydrate the body on a cellular level. Water in its most natural state — untouched by pollution — is water that is highly alkaline (a high pH-balance between 9-11). However, most of the water we drink today (i.e. tap or bottled) is anything but, with most clocking a pH of somewhere between 4-8.

And when our bodies get out of balance (i.e. too acidic), we can experience low energy, fatigue, excess weight, poor digestion, aches and pains, and all sorts more serious disorders. Not to mention that high acidity in the body is one of the major factors effecting overall cell aging. So long story short, we want to get more alkaline any way we can – and these filters are a great way to do it. Now there are some Rolls Royce’s out there like Kangen Water Filters but if you’re not looking to shell out upwards of $5K the above mentioned filters are a super option.

4. High-vibe: Water with lemon
Way higher-vibe: Laminar Crystal Charged Water

Part Muscovite Mica, part food-safe clay, Laminar Crystals have the capacity to not only make water more physically absorbable by the body (which equals far superior hydration) but they are also able to pick up and transmit many life-supporting cosmic frequencies, including those that support energetic balance and continually cleanse the surrounding environment. Cool additional factoid: Laminar crystals were used in the capstone of the Great Pyramid in Egypt! So you can only imagine what happens when you add these babies to your water! Users, including myself, have been known to experience less pain, better moods, clearer thinking, better toxin elimination, gorgeous skin and unbelievably increased energy levels…my assistants have affectionately dubbed it “crazy crack water.”

So what’s the skinny? When laminar crystals are added to water they energetically lower the surface tension of water – making it more easily absorbable and more “life giving” for the body. Most of us drink some form of tap or bottled water, which has considerably higher surface tension and is therefore much harder to absorb. And water that’s not absorbable is no bueño – kind of like trying to eat food without a fork. So where to get your hands on these little pearls of goodness? Numerous places on the Internet offer various Laminar crystal products but I highly recommend the Precious Prills brand available through Life Enthusiast.

5. High-vibe. Organic grass-fed milk / butter
Way higher-vibe: RAW organic grass-fed milk / butter

On the rare (or maybe not) occasion that you consume dairy, upgrade by going RAW. Why? Because while all grass-fed dairy (vs grain-fed dairy) contains a little known vitamin called K2, an essential component in building healthy teeth, bones and the magic ingredient in healing cavities naturally, it’s in its most potent energetic state when “live” (ie. non-pasteurized). Though still technically “illegal” in many U.S. states, for hotly contested reasons which you can learn more about here – raw grass-fed dairy can still be had through many raw dairy farmer affiliated food buying co-ops. Or, if you’re lucky enough to live in a pro-raw milk state like California, right off your supermarket shelf. And for all the Vegans, never fear – Natto is here! A popular Japanese fermented soy bean product, Natto is the highest source of plant based K2 currently available.

6. High vibe: Any Random Green Superfood powder
Way Higher Vibe: Dried Moringa Leaf Powder

Moringa leaf is pretty much the cat’s meow when it comes to all around nutrition. Native to Asia and Africa moringa has been used there for centuries but is just now making its way to our shores. Available for consumption as both a tea and a powder, dried Moringa leaf has the following staggering stats…1 gram of Moringa leaf powder = 7x the vitamin C in oranges, 4x the calcium in milk, 2x the protein in milk, 4x the vitamin A in carrots, 3x times the iron in spinach and 3x times the potassium in bananas.

So to call this baby a super food is an understatement — think of it as the holy grail of plant based nutrition. That’s right vegans, raw foodies, and vegetarians…Morninga is about to be your J-A-M. Sprinkle the powder in your tomato sauce, add it to your smoothies or drink it as a tea…Whatever way you get it, it’s all good. Moringa seed oil has also been shown to regenerate skin cells – I’ve actually used it on my scalp to increase hair growth, and it can also be used for inflammation, psoriasis, eczema and shingles. Holy grail indeed.

7. High Vibe: St. John’s Wort
Way Higher Vibe: Ormus gold

Discovered by farmer turned researcher, David Hudson in the mid 1970’s while mining for gold on his farm in Arizona, a substance dubbed ORMUS was found to contain mineral elements (such as gold, palladium, iridium etc.) that were able to exist in a special energetic state described as “reserved for things like the ‘dark matter’ that astronomers look for in space, the Earth’s magnetic field, healthy soil, weather phenomena like lightning…even consciousness itself”.  WOAH.

There’s still much that is unknown about the full capabilities of ORMUS, but simply put ORMUS is considered to be “life force energy” in material form. Pretty radical, huh? ORMUS has been known to increase feelings of awareness, connectedness, psychic phenomenon, dream lucidity, anti-aging, increased metabolism, miraculous healing and when added to water makes it more easily absorbable by the body. Most commonly available for consumption in tincture form ORMUS goes way beyond the classification of mere “supplement” – and could even be considered the ultimate magic ingredient.

8. High Vibe: Mugwort tea
Way Higher Vibe: Wild Asparagus root tea

For those looking for something that goes a step beyond mugwort, make Wild Asparagus root tea, aka the other “dream time tea” your go-to. Similar to mugwort, Wild Asparagus (or Tian Men Dong as it’s known in China) is great for lucid dreaming and was known by monks there as the “flying herb” due to the “flying dreams” it stimulates. However, what really sets Wild Asparagus root apart are it’s heart opening effects and ability to help you move into alignment with spirit. Also used widely in Ayurvedic preparations as a women’s health tonic it can also be found under the name “Shatavari.” So before you go cozy up under the covers with some regular ol’ tea, if you’re up for a heart opening dreamtime adventure consider making a “trip” of it.

9. High Vibe: Chlorella
Way Higher Vibe: Bentonite Clay

Bentonite Clay is composed of aged volcanic ash and is taste and odorless. Largely produced out of Fort Benton, Wyoming, Bentonite Clay is unique in its ability to produce an “electrical charge” when hydrated. SCIENCE STUFF COMIG UP. Upon contact with fluid, its electrical components change, giving it the ability to absorb toxins. As Bulk Herb Store explains: “think of the Montmorillonite (aka Bentonite) crystal flake resembling two pieces of bread, with a strong vacuum pulling the filling in between them. Whatever lands there (Sodium or Calcium) determines what kind of sandwich it will be. Now when you activate this clay sandwich, it will magnetically grab the junk in your body (heavy metals, toxins, acid, etc.) and trade it for the “filling”, taking the toxins out in your waste.”  Got it?

This amazing “dirt” also has an alkalizing effect on the body and can help balance gut bacteria, along with quelling nausea, vomiting & diarrhea. P.S. For most internal uses (oral & intestinal) a little goes a long way (ie. a 1/2t in a 1/4-1c of water) so make sure not to overdo it, and be sure to avoid storing or mixing in metal containers since metal reduces it’s efficacy.

10. High Vibe: Green Tea
Way Higher Vibe: Chaga & Reishi Mushroom Tea

Looking to crack open your pineal gland in between visits with the Grandmother? If Chaga & Reishi are not already in heavy rotation in your regimen – they should be. Both Chaga and Reishi mushrooms are grown in the northern hemisphere, and once foraged and consumed (as a water-soluble tea or alcohol soaked tincture), they both actively work to decalcify and activate the pineal gland (your third eye) in addition to helping you relax, handle stress and sleep better.

They’re also digestive aids, immune boosters and contain some of the highest antioxidant effects on the planet. And when adding these magic mushrooms to your regular routine don’t be surprised if you find yourself more easily moving into “flow” states or rising to howl at the moon.

MODERN FAMILY: A HIGH-VIBE HOLIDAY SURVIVAL GUIDE

In her holiday survival guide, Erin Telford has some tips for staying zen when you’re home with the fam… Images: Ofir Abe via Behance.net

 

“If you think you’re enlightened, spend a week with your family.” – Ram Dass

Nothing is truer than this statement, since THIS is the real spiritual work. Take it off the mat, take it out of the personal development book, take it off the cushion – family time means time to walk the talk.

If you are mentally steeling yourself for holiday family time this year, know that you are not alone. We always revert to children when we go home, no matter our actual age. And this inner child will always re-experience the same unmet needs for attention, affection, allowing, acceptance or appreciation.

This inner child may even be coming into a family gathering with an expectation of feeling old hurt. This child may unconsciously be watching and waiting for familiar signs that he or she is inadequate, unwanted, or less than.

And if these wounds haven’t been addressed and healed, even if there isn’t an overtly toxic situation to navigate there will always be people present that push these buttons.

The trigger might be a casual remark about your job or relationship status, your parenting style or appearance. The deeper the wound, the more power these off hand comments can have to throw you off your game, creating a spiral of anger and insecurity. Happy holidays!

And we’re talking deep, subconscious stuff, the kind of stuff it’s hard to see coming. One minute you’re “fine,” the next, an insecure little girl who wants to lash out teenage rebel style – or else go hide in her room.

With this in mine, here are a few tips to keep in your back pocket while you navigate…

:: EVERYONE IS FEELING IT ::
And truly doing his or her best (even if it doesn’t look anything like it from where you’re standing).

What if everybody was overtired, over sugared, feeling small, feeling ugly, feeling overweight, feeling anxious, feeling insecure, nursing old wounds, hurt by something that was just said to THEM, grieving, feeling lonely, feeling sick, trying to stay sober.

There are any number of reasons that people don’t act the way we wish they would, especially when our usual routines and coping mechanisms are taken away. They are trying with everything they have just as you are.

:: FORGIVE YOURSELF FIRST ::
If you lose it, if you feel petty, if your buttons get pushed, if you respond exactly the way you didn’t want to, if you fall into old unhealthy patterns of relating, if you get sucked in…you are ALSO doing your best. Here is my prayer for you: A Prayer to Release Your Burdens

I forgive myself.

I will no longer be held hostage in my own mind.

I will no longer replay events and wonder if I could have/should have/would have done more/been more.

I did all I could do.

I gave it everything I had.

I acted with all of the tools that I have and to the best of my abilities.

My intent was always love.

I forgive myself.

Say this in the bathroom when you sneak off to get away. Say it into your pillow at night.

:: WE CAN’T CONTROL HOW WE FEEL BUT WE CAN CHOOSE HOW WE DEAL ::
You are not a victim. You are an adult who has created a cozy little corner of self-love, proud achievements, acceptance for your authentic self, and emotional stability back home. HOLD ONTO THIS VISION.

If we walk into a situation feeling insecure and anxious, we are already poised to get knocked off our center. No wonder, then, that first obnoxious or critical comment already feels like the famous Last Straw.

It’s important to remember that what’s been said is magnified by the open wound we’re already re-experiencing. It’s like the salt jar accidentally fell in. So we can pick up the gauntlet and do battle, we can withdraw, or we can decide to eat/drink our feelings, depending on our personalities.

Or we can pause, we can breathe, we can excuse ourselves, and we can physically shake it off with a jog around the block or a brisk walk. Our call.

:: FOCUS ON GOOD SLEEP, EXERCISE, WHOLE FOODS, MEDITATION, PRAYER :: 
…but since it may not feel that easy to maintain your usual high-vibe routine, you can also ground and own the holiday space with this simple visualization. It will help shift the energy wherever you are to support you and help you feel comfortable:

Imagine a column of golden light in the center of the space you will be in. This column extends from the center of the Earth to the heavens.

Place a golden rose at the top of the column with three words that signal your intention for your experience. These can be words like Stable, Peaceful, Relaxed, Strong, Joyful, Happy.

Imagine writing your name on all of the walls in the space or hanging pictures of you smiling and having fun.

This exercise helps you to set the energy of the space to a vibration that supports your highest good. And I wish you the absolute loveliest holiday season and strength for any challenges that come your way!

HOLY C**P! How I achieved the perfect poop

Don’t get grossed out! The perfect poop (PP) is a sign that mind and body are working in perfect harmony. Ayurvedic practitioner Wolf Medicine says finding hers meant leaving New York City…

Image: Oh…by Edward Edwards via Behance.net

Forgive the crude title, but the Ayurvedic practitioner in me can’t help but get real about bowel movements. After all, a good gut is the key to good health and lately I’ve become obsessed with poop because I know it’s about more than just taking a dump. When shit ‘ain’t right down there, it’s a sign that shit ‘ain’t right in the mind – and in the name of addressing both, I find myself on a quest to figure some stuff out in my life.

Essentially, my ultimate goal in Ayurveda school was to experience the Perfect Poop (PP) – which is what all the doctors and practitioners who taught me actually referred to it as. The PP occurs first thing in the morning upon waking. A friend of mine says the urge to poop is what wakes her up in the morning. It should be shaped like a banana or a coiled up snake (yes this is truly possible), and yellowish brown in color.

If you aren’t gagging or disgusted by now, congrats! You are an emotionally mature person. If this is grossing you out then you’d better read on, because once you realize how important it is to have the PP daily, you will be looking in that toilet and jumping up and down with glee and admiration when it finally does occur.

For me, achieving the PP is epic, a sign that I am truly taking care of my body. The thing is, it only ever happens when I leave New York (my home) for vacation, or if I take a day or two off work. Seriously, I once went to visit my mom in Texas and was pooping perfect poops for days. And recently, after being constipated for three days, I had a morning off and experienced a moment of PP glory that brought such a sense of calm and happiness I almost took a picture to show to my friends.

I had been eating Ayurvedic meals of root veggies, ghee, Kitchari, and all that good stuff, and drinking warm water in the morning and Triphala tea at night for several days in addition to taking ‘moments of silence’ (my phrase for meditation) each morning. Then, it happened: not just a nice, long, snake-like poo in the toilet, but proof that my body was responding to my good intentions. A sign that mind and body were working in perfect harmony!

Getting all the waste out of the body, not only physical but mental waste as well, is how we stay healthy. Put good food and thoughts in, and the kidneys, liver and colon will get the ‘bad’ stuff out. What happens if it stays in? Well, cancer for one thing. And migraines. And skin rashes and acne and a host of other ailments and diseases. If the crap isn’t coming out via the rectum, then it’s coming out in the skin, or festering in the colon, liver or blood, or wherever else the body decides to store it. Then it gets rotten and toxic, and then you got problems.

Which brings me to 2009. Back then I was in my late twenties and drank one to two bottles of wine a day. After months of my skin breaking out in either acne or eczema, I decided to change my ways for good. I didn’t really pay attention to poop then. I knew constipation was bad because I’d read it somewhere and that was about it. I was pretty regular but relied heavily on coffee to help me ‘go,’ which, I later learned, was also contributing to all the skin issues.

Image: Headcase Designs

So I quit drinking coffee and alcohol (and ‘til this day I feel like if I can accomplish both those things, then I can do anything in this lifetime. ANYTHING). I cut out gluten, and later, much later, processed sugar (another REALLY difficult journey that’s a whole different conversation).

I also started reading about Ayurveda, and even went to an Ayurvedic doctor who put me on a diet of no onions, garlic, tomatoes, shell fish, cashews, peanuts, yogurt, fermented food, coffee or alcohol, along with having me take a bunch of Indian herbs and immune boosting vitamins. Meat was also off the menu, but I decided I needed at least one thing in my life that I could still enjoy. Was this hard for me to stick to? Hell no! I actually found I thrive off this kind of shit.

I love a challenge, and I’m so vain that if it keeps my skin clear, I will do it. For the next eight or so months I pretty much stayed away from partying and instead ate really well and read books at home. I actually don’t remember if I was having regular bowel movements at that time but I assume my digestion was better.

The bad news is, I was still getting eczema outbreaks every so often despite my saint-like diet. About two years into my new Ayurvedic life, a friend suggested I try meditation. I felt my body stiffen and my mind shut down (but not in the good, meditative way) as soon as she suggested it. Sit still? Not think? Quitting coffee is one thing…but for somebody whose made restlessness an art form, that shit is impossible.

You think checking your Facebook or Instagram non-stop in a problem? Well I laugh, ‘cause that is child’s play people. Try not committing to ANYTHING, ever, as your life’s work. Routine, consistency, commitment, stillness…all of it is like kryptonite to me. I’m amazed I’m still with my current girlfriend (it’s been nine months which is like nine years for me).

I have yet to join a club, organization or class, and stick with it for more than a month. I have also managed to avoid a permanent place of employment throughout my twenties and into my mid-thirties. The list of careers I have either attempted so far include, but are not limited to: joining the peace corps, working on a boat, becoming an ordained minister, being a massage therapist, homeopath, acupuncturist, psychiatrist, naturopath, bike mechanic, addiction counselor, hermit, herb farmer, stripper, dominatrix, queer porn actor, houseboy, dancer, choreographer, yoga teacher (that is still something I’m looking into) and many more.

I’ve also made several attempts at figuring out how to make a living hanging out in the desert or the beaches of Hawaii and Australia (I’m actually still looking into those). All of this is to say my passions and interests vary, and rarely stick. So if I can’t even choose a life path then how in the hell am I going to meditate even three minutes a day (my goal each morning when I wake up)?

People often blame New York, saying it breeds this sort of behavior in folks. I hear over and over that there is so much variety here – so many paths to choose – that people take on too much. I’ve come to believe it isn’t New York that makes people this way – rather, it’s a mecca for people who already have this monkey-mind-I-love-to-be-busy-and-do-as-much-as-possible quality in them. New York is where busy people come to get off on being busy.

How does this relate back to the PP? My digestion got really fucked up when I lost a long-term freelance job, around the same time my friend suggested mediation to me. And what I’ve learned about pooping, or lack thereof, is that if your mind isn’t settled, calm and in harmony with your body, then the rest of your body will not function properly.

This is an illustration of the direct link between mind and body. If your mind is scattered and frantic, then your digestion will be scattered and frantic and too – thus, constipation (and lots of other symptoms that come under the umbrella term IBS).
In Ayurveda this is called a ‘vata’ imbalance. Vata is ether and air. It is a quality within each of us that is light, cold, rough, dry and constantly moving. It is located in the mind and pelvis. You can’t always see ether and air but they are there.

So how to address this imbalance? I have learned to find a calm, grounded place for my mind through meditation and yoga. For me, sticking to routine as much as possible also helps. Any divergent from my morning or evening routine means no PP for me. I seriously need two hours each morning of quiet time – no talking, no rushing to get ready, no looking at lots of crap on the internet – in order to properly evacuate my bowels.

My girlfriend and I recently made an agreement to block Facebook from our lives and to have silence in the morning to either sip warm water or do pranayama, and that has helped a lot. When I still get eczema every now and then, I know the feedback my body is giving me is that a time of retreat will do me some good – in addition to upping my dosage of probiotics and blood cleansing herbs.

As for finally settling on a career as an Ayurvedic practitioner? Using the practice to heal myself and my poop has shown me that it’s my dharma to share Ayurveda with others. Oh wait. Or is my path simply to become a yogi, practicing svadhyaya in the mountains of northern India? For now I commit to listen to my body and follow its guidance.

Have you found a way to do the PP too? We’re all yogis here, so come share your stories on Twitter, Instagram (maybe not your photos tho) and Facebook

Find out more about Wolf Medicine here.

HOLIDAY CHEER: ON SPIRITS AND SPIRITUALITY

Among more spiritual circles, alcohol is considered the lowest of the low-vibe highs. Facing two weeks of steady holiday drinking, Ruby Warrington considers what her attachment to booze really says about her.

Ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol, pure alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol, is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid with the structural formula CH3CH2OH, often abbreviated as C2H5OH or C2H6O. It is also used as a psychoactive drug and is one of the oldest recreational drugs still used by humans. Ethanol can cause alcohol intoxication when consumed. In common usage, it is often referred to simply as alcohol or spirits.

I’ll be drinking alcohol tonight, and pretty much every night now until the new year. Happy holidays! But in two weeks time, I can pretty much guarantee I’ll look like crap, be feeling anxious, depressed and like putting myself into some kind of self-imposed rehab – in fact, I’m already looking forward to how I’m going to feel after my first ever Dry January. Yes, that’s some serious future-tripping right there, and so not reflective of my usual glass-half-full outlook on life. What about the thrills? The bonding? The laughs? The drunken fun times that await!

Sure, there’ll be all that. And all that used to be one of my favourite ways to pass the time. Being British (a nation of “high functioning alcoholics” according to this former NY Times London correspondent) and a journalist (one of the high-risk professions for alcoholism, I’ve been told), in my circles the fact I spent most Sunday nights in my twenties and early thirties mapping out my week according to my drinking patterns was nothing to shake an AA manual at.

And I learned to drink late – I was teetotal all through college. My boyfriend back then was a big-time weed smoker and by default so was I, but actually in the end it was alcohol that gave me the Dutch courage I needed to get out of that soul-destroying relationship. He was so anti-booze, considering it, along with cocaine, the lowest of low-vibe highs, that when I took up drinking I might as well have been having an affair right under his nose. Which in the end, with the help of some very strong cocktails, I did.

Talk about messy. But right off the bat, alcohol represented freedom to me. And I guess this was the real kicker, but I also found it helped me access a happier part of myself. No surprises there – isn’t this why most people drink, if we’re honest? Even if this means something different for everybody. In my case, I can be kind of intense and alcohol helped me loosen up and see the funny side of life. Felt like it got me out of my head and into in what was going on around me (you can imagine what a miserable pot-head I was).

This to me felt like magic. Here was a potion that sprinkled the world with actual freakin’ fairy dust. And if creativity is akin to spirituality (as the divine Elizabeth Gilbert suggested when I interviewed her recently), didn’t the fact that drinking helped shunt me into the right side of my brain also, in some way, mean it was helping me get closer to…God, the Universal oneness, or whatever? How did we think spirits got their name, anyway? The fact that alcohol had a dark side (the morning after) felt right, like karma.

But like a relationship that sours overnight, something shifted when I hit 35. Maybe it was the onset of my North Node return (a whole other story, but for the astro geeks out there I’m on the Taurus / Scorpio, material / mystical axis – go figure), but I began to fall out of love with my liquid crutch. The hangovers were lasting longer than the highs, and I noticed, as if coming ‘round from a stupor, that certain relationships relied on a steady flow of cocktails to really mean anything to me.

It was also interesting, and unsurprising, that a lot of the people I was meeting who described themselves as having “woken up” to a more spiritual connection with life (you know who you are, readers!) had kicked alcohol to the curb along with negative thought patterns and the majority of foodstuffs besides kale. This got me questioning the real connection between spirits and spirituality. Not least, what it said about my spirit that I still felt (feel!) the “need” to dink in certain situations.

If spirit is the oneness as expressed in each of us, then yes, there’s no doubt that spirits – in the form of a Ketel One martini with a twist, in my case – can feel like an Access All Areas pass to an audience with our higher self. Ego inhibitions slain, I know I’m not alone when I admit I only dance like nobody’s watching after martini number three. And actually dancing when nobody’s watching? Pretty much one of my favourite ways to party with my inner soul tribe.

But note the use of the words “feel like” in the previous paragraph. What my own experience of heightened spiritual awareness has shown me, is that a back stage pass is in no way a satisfactory substitute for paying upfront for the best seats in the house. In other words, sneaking in the back door with access to the free hospitality bar, you’ll probably miss half the show – and have a hard time remembering what parts did touch your soul in the morning.

Now note the use of the word “probably.” Some of the most spirit-affirming moments of bliss I have experienced have been under the influence of spirits. Singing my heart out (don’t you love that expression?) with my girlfriends on a rooftop bar in Ibiza at 2am, because the only other people up there just got engaged; any tear-jerk sunset viewed from the edges of that same mystical island; experiencing sheer, all-consuming love on the dance floor of any given wedding; knowing that the person I’m expressing my love to feels exactly the same as me.

Which goes back to my point about alcohol being a social drug for me. Sober moments of bliss are often the ones I experience on the inside – like the intense feeling of calm after a dead night’s sleep; being guided by a healer over Skype to meet my shamanic power animal; or experiencing a heart-wrenching psychic connection to my father during a deep Kundalini meditation. The fact that I’m experiencing both on a regular basis (veering towards the internal, for what feel like deeper reaching ramifications and for my vanity) feels to me like balance.

Among my more spiritual friends, the fact I’m still quite attached to the external kind – and the substance that helps me reach them – I sometimes feel like Paris Hilton lining up for a hug with Amma. But hey, I’m only human, still a material girl just beginning to explore the true depths of our mystical world. And the fact I’m preparing to drink my way through the holiday season? A couple of years ago I would have been planning the outfits. These days, like I said, I’m already planning the detox.

@The_Numinous

The author, under the influence.