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As long as there are unwanted pregnancies, there will be abortions – but why does the responsibility for birth control remain firmly on women’s shoulders? asks author Anna Wood, in this excerpt from her memoir I’ve Had One Too
FAST FORWARD TO THE ONE-YEAR MARK AFTER THE ABORTION. I began to spend a lot of time thinking about the circumstances of my pregnancy and how it compared to what it might be like for other women who are trying, or not, to conceive. In the past handful of years, as many of my friends became mothers, it seemed like just as many had struggled to become pregnant. Several couples I knew had spent the GDP of a small island nation on IVF treatments. Some had even considered taking an extended leave to go to South Africa for six weeks where there are top-notch private fertility clinics. Along with the expertise of those doctors, the procedure is a fraction of the cost it is here in the US.
Listening to these stories, I felt at once great empathy for my friends, and positively treacherous for having had an abortion. I know those women would have given just about anything to get pregnant as easily as I did. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who’d been having a particularly long and trying road to pregnancy. We were on the phone the night before she was leaving for a backpacking trip in the Tetons. She updated me about where she was at in her fertility journey, I told her stories about my new life in California, and she laughed, thank goodness you didn’t stay with the broker. Can you imagine if you guys had actually had kids together! I was silent for a beat and then went on to comment how happy I was to be away from him. A lie of omission. The first and only friend I hadn’t been honest with.
There was a knot in my stomach for the rest of our conversation. I wanted so badly to tell her what an amazing mother she’d be. I wanted to tell her how much I wanted to have a child myself, with the right man. I wanted to rage with her against the misfortune that I should have gotten pregnant at a time when she could not. I wanted to explain to her how careful I had been for 17 years, and how unfair it felt to find myself in the situation I did after one careless month. But instead, I kept my mouth shut. Maybe we would get there one day.
As hard as it is for some women to become pregnant, unintended pregnancies also happen all the time. In 2001, 48% of all pregnancies in the US were unintended. That figure rose to 51% in 2008 and dropped back to 45% in 2011. I was blown away when I read that. Consistently, half of all pregnancies are unintentional. Just let that sink in for a moment. When I first read this statistic, I was so overwhelmed by it that I immediately reached for my phone, who could I tell this crazy thing I just learned? In the end I didn’t call anyone but ruminated on how many lives are upended by this experience. Over time, it gave me a little perspective about my own pregnancy and eased my feeling of guilt with my friends who couldn’t conceive. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one this was happening to, and maybe, I wasn’t to blame.
In the US, there is this feeling that birth control is something we have allfigured out. That it is 100% effective, and we all know how to use it correctly, and we all do that all the time. But if the preceding statistic tells us anything, it’s that birth control is not all figured out. Birth control is still considered a woman’s responsibility, but it’s a burden that we don’t always want to carry. Besides which, it doesn’t always work. The pill comes in at 91% effective (99% if taken perfectly, though most women fall short of that), the shot 94% effective, and IUDs and sterilization are still not perfect—both are 99% effective.
The other staggering number to take into consideration in all of this, is that women tend to live at the intersection of being both sexually active and fertile for a full 30 years. As a woman, you worry about pregnancy from the time of your first sexual encounter until menopause. Your options should you become pregnant—motherhood or abortion—are weighty enough without the added stigma around ending an unplanned and/or unwanted pregnancy.
What toll does that level of subconscious worry take? One time in college, I received a failing grade on a Physics exam. I was devastated, and immediately set up an appointment with the professor to see what we could do about my future in the class. At that point in my life, school was everything, and the thought of not passing a class was unbearable. In the four days I had to wait before our appointment, I was a wreck—anxious, unable to focus, and with absolutely no appetite. When you have that much strain on you, it can become difficult to complete even the simplest tasks. There is a lot I want to do in this life, a lot that I think needs to be done. But how much of the time do we spend preoccupied with the question: what happens if I get pregnant? How much of my energy and focus was caught up with this worry?Women represent 50% of the population. Imagine how much collective headspace we could free up if birth control was not our sole responsibility, and if abortion was not so taboo.
As for the broker and I, we responsibly used condoms for the first several months of our relationship—it wasn’t like we threw caution to the wind immediately. But one night, he asked if we could skip it just this once. The conversation came up in bed, as he was getting frisky with me. It made me uneasy. He promised that he knew his body well and that he wouldn’t mess it up. I held off that first night, but as the topic came up again I eventually relented. The first time he pulled out, it was nerve wracking, but it seemed to go well. The next time I was a bit more relaxed about the whole thing, and it was then that he changed the rules of the game—he surprised me at the last second by coming inside me. I ran to the bathroom in a panic. When I returned to the bedroom I rocked back and forth on the edge of the bed, feeling the beginnings of anxiety prickling my skin. I’ve always been quite high strung, the broker in every way my opposite. He grew up in a small beach community and couldn’t be bothered to get upset about nearly anything. This was no different. He rolled onto his side to face me and said, Well baby, I guess we just rolled the dice. I retorted, We? Where was I in this decision? He laughed good-naturedly at my worry and tried to pull me into an embrace.
I can’t recall the latter part of that night. Did I sleep in his arms? My unease about the relationship was growing by then, and I often spent nights at the edge of his king-sized bed, facing the window, sleeplessly staring at the outside light spilling in around the edges of the black-out curtains. The next day I had to take a work trip, and by the time I was on the plane I had decided to take Plan B as soon as we touched down. I texted the broker to let him know. I still have a screenshot of his reply: I know I’m not always as sensitive as you want or need, I’ll work on it. I think I’m not stressed because of everyone I’ve dated I think having a child with you would be the easiest. As in I think we would agree on a lot and have similar values. So yes, I would prefer to continue to get there if we get there but an “oops” with you isn’t the end of times in my mind.” I took the pill and got on with my work.
I’ve Had One Too: A Story of Abortion and Healing by Anna Wood is out February 16 2021. Get your copy HERE.
Following a year-long hiatus, we’re back as Numinous Books. Founder Ruby Warrington explains the process behind this evolution, and why she believes books are magic …
As regular readers will know, I put The Numinous on hiatus in July 2019. Since attempting a failed “comeback” in November (which I knew was gonna fail, put which I put us all through anyway!), I have been in even deeper reflection about the next evolution of this platform. A very tired and cynical part of me wanted to just walk away. I was exhausted from the constant churn of maintaining the socials, the newsletter, the podcasts, the blog—and I badly needed to focus on work that actually paid my rent.
We’d had seven good years after all, and what began as a project to help me learn more about the mystical arts, had also done its job, in a way: I had learned enough about astrology to develop my own personal practice, and along the way (surprise!) I found I had begun to heal the hurting, over-achieving “good girl” part of me that felt the constant need to prove myself. A journey that is documented in the three book projects I had also put out, beginning with the release of Material Girl, Mystical World in 2017—with Sober Curious (2018) and The Numinous Astro Deck (2019) telling their own parts of my story.
But also … I’d put so much time, and love, and passion into building this thing. Could I really just walk away? NO. At least … no so fast. And so I sat, and I waited, and I meditated on a question that I have come back to periodically since reading The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks: “What is my zone of genius?”
Hendricks defines the zone of genius as the state in which you get into “flow,” and find ceaseless inspiration as you engage with your natural abilities, rather than those you have leaned and perfected over the years (the latter being your “zone of excellence”). The theory being that the more time you spend in your zone of genius, the more energized, fulfilled, and successful you will be. What I landed on this being for me? Reading. Writing. Words. BOOKS. I’m always surprised when authors talk in interviews about the “torture” of the actual writing process. Not me! Put me in a room with a laptop and a big idea and I’ll be happy for days. I love editing other people’s words just as much, and even enjoy the intricate map-making of finding my way out of writers’ block. In short, making words on a page brings me the kind of satisfaction I imagine farmers reap from harvesting a bumper crop.
As soon as I turned my attention back towards WRITING, it was like the magic magnet effect the manifestation gurus talk about hummed into action. In my burnt-out state, beginning another book project myself was out of the question. But before I knew it, I was inundated with work helping other people craft, write, and edit their book proposals and manuscripts. And able to earn a living from it. By the time COVID came along, I felt like I’d cracked the fucking DaVinci code. I found myself actually getting paid to do what I actually love … with zero pressure whatsoever to look good in selfies or have something funny, deep, or provocative to say on Instagram every day!
Halle-fucking-lujah. I call this “book doula” work, I LOVE IT, and it is currently how I’m spending the majority of my time. Not that I haven’t been working as a writer and editor my whole career—but it’s the words-to-self-promotion ratio that’s shifted. The actual “making words on a page” part of my work (i.e. zone of genius) in journalism, for The Numinous, and as an author, has always been squeezed into the margins until now. The pitching of ideas, hosting of events, and growing of the socials (i.e. constantly trying to prove myself) having taken precedence. Too much time spent on “zone of excellence” shit—now that is what will burn a person out.
As for how this applies to The Numinous? In alignment with this new personal direction, the platform is back as NUMINOUS BOOKS. Ta-da! This is where my year of soul-searching has brought me. And it feels SO RIGHT. A natural extension of my book doula work, this means I am also working with a selection of authors to self-publish their books across this platform—meaning working with them to concept, write, and edit their books, as well as consulting on the design, marketing, and PR process. Each “Numinous Book” will also have its own launch across the Numinous blog, social media, and newsletter. And you’ll be hearing about the first Numinous Books project very soon!
Over the years, The Numinous has been home to so many diverse voices and perspectives on emotional and spiritual wellbeing in the Now Age. As I have also written about here, the fact that much of the deep wisdom that’s being made available to us thanks to the internet also gets boiled down into bite-sized, snackable, and ultimately throw-away chunks of social media “content,” has also never sat right with me. Which brings me back to BOOKS.
There’s a bookstore in Brooklyn called Books Are Magic—a phrase that has spun circles in my head since I first heard it. Because it’s true. Books are also meaningful, impactful, and a slow-cooked antidote to the pace of modern life. You can’t read (let alone write) a book in the time it takes to swipe up. It is the commitment asked of us by reading (or writing) a book that gives it the power to transport and transform us, to shape the way we think, act, and see the world. Reading a book—whether it’s a novel or memoir that allows us to walk in the shoes of the main protagonist, developing empathy for others along the way, or a text that teaches us something profound—is like having a deeply private and intimate conversation with the most essential and always evolving part of yourself. Put another way, books are both our mirrors and our mediums for communicating with our unseen selves.
It’s no wonder dictators and fascists like to burn books—just like they burned the witches back in the day. And it is also an act of resistance that The Numinous will continue to be a home for books and modern mystics alike, to both the “reading” and the “readers” that we turn to for answers when trying to make sense of ourselves and the world. Thank you for being here for it—and sign up for our newsletter and keep following @the_numinous for a bit of both each week.
They say everybody has a book in them. Might yours be a fit for Numinous Books? You can learn more about our publishing services here—and contact us to set up a discovery call to discuss your project.
Last week I had the honor of an audience with a 350-year-old tree. Anchoring the island of Vieques to the ragged, rustic Puerto Rican coastline, the landmark Ceiba tree (or Tree of Life) stands solid as a rock, its elephantine grey trunk rooted as firmly into the earth as Everest. Since reading Richard Powers’ The Overstory, I’ve developed a newfound understanding of trees as living beings, possessing perhaps unsurpassed wisdom on what it means to sustain oneself over decades, if not centuries, of evolutionary change. And this majestic, great, great, great, great, great, great Grandmother Ceiba (below), is no exception.
It wasn’t like I came to her with a bunch of questions. Rather, sat in the circle of her presence, the gentle Caribbean trade-winds lapping at our skin, a few drops of rain curling my hair into salty tendrils in the cool, quiet shade of her branches, she took the lead and spoke to me. And this is what she said: “Slow down, my love, and look at me. This is how you do it. You focus on doing ONE THING and doing it really well.”
Wow. First of all, could she get any more Capricorn season?! It was as if the tree had looked the all-knowing part of my own being in the eye and delivered the one piece of advice I needed to wrap up what has been a year of intense anxiety, instability, procrastination, and self-doubt.
As I wrote here, 2019 was the year I crashed and burned, right where my type-A personality collided with an increasingly frantic media landscape, leading to me taking a four-month Numinous “sabbatical” over the summer. I followed up with this post, detailing what had been going on behind the scenes: writing, publishing, and promoting three books in as many years, launching two podcasts, coming to terms with my discomfort with being a “public figure,” while simultaneously trying, and failing, multiple times, to turn The Numinous into a sustainable (meaning rent-paying) business.
And what follows here—thanks to the wisdom of a 350-year-old tree, some Capricorn New Moon Eclipse clarity, and a dose of end-of-decade reflection—can be read as the culmination of what, it turns out, has been a year-long process of reconnecting with why I’m here.
The last time I experienced this level of burnout—the kind that grabs you mid-stride, pins you to the wall, and forces you to drop everything you’re doing “or else”—was in 2007. Which, incidentally, was also the last time Jupiter was in Sagittarius and transiting my ascendant. I was working for a free daily newspaper at the time (these were the days before all media was free, more on which in a bit), and had four pages per day to fill with “copy” to balance out the ads. Since the paper relied solely on advertising for revenue, our journalistic integrity was also severely compromised—and soon I’d coined a new term for this constant churn of throwaway content: churnalism.
This was also the last time I threw my hands in the air, dramatically stated something along the lines of “I CAN’T FUCKING DO THIS ANY MORE!”, quit my job, and took a summer off (which this time also included taking a break from my marriage). I had no backup plan, no family money or savings to fall back on, and my decision defied all logic. But as it turned out, that was the point. My leap into the unknown led to the luckiest and least foreseeable opportunities of my career to date. Within months, I was being paid fat wads of cash to edit the coolest magazine in Ibiza—a gig which also led, in a roundabout way, to me landing a job as Features Editor at the UK Sunday Times Style magazine.
My disillusionment with writing for fashion magazines is well-documented in my first book, Material Girl, Mystical World. But what had not registered fully with me until this year, is that the vast majority of what we used to call journalism has, in fact, morphed into churnalism. Since all media outlets now operate primarily on the advertising-as-revenue model, including and in fact precipitated by the advent of social media, a constant stream of throwaway content is now required to balance out the ads. Enter the era of click-bait, listicles, and bait-and-switch newsletter subject lines, all of which are designed to grab your attention for long enough for somebody to sell you something.
Which has got what, exactly, to do with what the 350-year-old tree told me about reconnecting with my life purpose?
Here’s the thing. I went into journalism because I love to write. Meaning, writing gives me more satisfaction per minute of effort expended than anything else. But there’s a big difference between the kind of writing I love—the kind where I get to make meaning out of the world I see and, hopefully, provide insight and inspiration for others with my words—and … the constant churn of throwaway content that’s become a requirement of running an online platform. Which, if I am going to take the Ceiba tree’s advice, means focusing on writing going forward, and taking a step back from making content for content’s sake.
When I launched The Numinous in 2012, it was because I wanted my own “magazine” where I could write about the things I really cared about.
My readership grew organically, and somewhere along the way (possibly during my brief friendship with Gabby Bernstein) I absorbed the idea that I should start sending out a regular newsletter as this would become my “most valuable audience” (meaning, the readers most likely to buy stuff from me). Instagram also took off, and I learned that posting “the kind of content your readers love” (note: this is not the same as “the content I love making”) a minimum of three times per day was how I’d grow my following there. The implication this time being that these “followers” would make my platform more appealing to advertisers, who would then pay for whatever scraps of your attention I could use my words to wangle their way.
Not that I ever capitalized on these audiences (meaning: your attention) in a meaningful way, as it turns out that I have absolutely zero interest in or aptitude for what is essentially network marketing (as detailed, again, here). Granted, the content-for-content’s sake has been part of the “platform building” that helped me land my first and subsequent book deals (oh, I also have many thoughts on the fact that you have to have a platform to get a book deal these days, too. I’ll expand on them another time). But in terms of actual “capital” (i.e. rent money) we were wayyyy off the fabled and much lauded “six-figure salary” promised by the digital marketing gurus.
And in the meantime, it turns out I only have so many words in me per day. Which meant all the words I now found myself churning out for the newsletter and the socials, were eating into the supply I needed to write about the things I really cared about. To the point, right before my sabbatical, where every time I sat down to write a post or a caption or an event description or even an email, it felt like I was scraping the dregs of my soul. Like I was literally spent, done, ALL THE FUCK OUT, when it came to words.
For somebody who has always written for a living, this was devastating. Maybe I wasn’t really a writer after all; or was just a dried-up old ink-well who couldn’t keep the pace with changes in digital media. Maybe I’d simply reached the bottom of my “good ideas” barrel, and it was time to reconsider the second career as an author I’d thought was only just taking off.
Or … perhaps it was time to LISTEN TO THE TREE and apply the age-old (for a good fucking reason) adage of quality over quantity, take a long hard look at all the places I was leaking my writerly energy, and make some adjustments accordingly. I’m going to go with the latter.
Sadly, in the first instance, this means cancelling the Numinous subscription I launched JUST LAST MONTH. Oh man, I’m so embarrassed about this! The idea was that I’d get enough subscribers to cover paying a social media manager, freeing me up to focus on … writing. But just 45 (beautiful, generous) humans signed up (and if you were one of these 45, know that I praised the Goddess and sent multiple blessings of thanks to each and every subscriber)—roughly one fifth of the number I needed to make it work.
Which is where I could beat myself up, again, for my lack of marketing savvy, and let my self-esteem get eaten away by doubts about my “likeability,” and the quality of my content. But what this experiment has actually shown / confirmed for me, is that … running an online business is … just not for me! Is NOT the “one thing” the Ceiba tree was telling me to focus on, and to focus on doing really well, if I want to create lasting security for myself going forward.
Because that one thing is writing. And not just any writing, but the kind of writing that requires lengthy periods of contemplation. That is is the result of weeks, if not months, of reading and research, and the assimilation of multiple ideas, instinctual hits, and incidental discoveries. The kind that keeps me semi-awake at night, searching my subconscious for just the right sentences to make sense of whatever Big Idea is currently romancing me. None of which is possible when I am churning out words to keep algorithms, and advertisers, and subscribers, happy.
For example, this post took me a good six hours to write. Plus editing time. Six hours which have also been preceded by several weeks, if not months, of reading, thinking, noticing, and mental-note-taking on the subject of “why the fuck am I so burned out.”
Which means this post is also the result of applying the insights of Jaron Lanier’s 10 Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now to my own life; of finding, and reading, Gail Sheehey’s 1992 book on menopause, the emphasis being on pause, on the beach in Vieques; of listening to Lisa Taddeo describe the 8-year process of writing her book Three Women on Elizabeth Day’s How To Fail podcast; of an hour-long phone-call discussing the kind of careers we want by the time we’re in our seventies with Alexandra Roxo; of the lasting imprint of a passing comment from a coaching client on how “not everybody who wants to be an entrepreneur also wants to run a business”; of noticing the panic / disgust I felt on discovering Gary Vee’s post on How to Create 64 Pieces of Content in A Day; and of paying actual attention to the teeny nips of tension that grip my shoulders each time I sit down to compile another newsletter or Instagram post.
The kind of focus it takes to put all of that into a post like this, is the kind of focus I think the Ceiba tree was talking about. It’s the kind of focus it takes to write books (and to help other people write theirs with my “book doula” work). The kind of focus that digital media is the thief of, and which it takes practice and patience and quiet and resistance to cultivate.
Alllll of which is to say, I will still be creating “content” on The Numinous … just maybe 3 or 4 times a year. And that this content will look more like books, and promo for books, mine and other peoples, as THIS is the one thing I’ll be focussing on going forward. Turns out my 2020 intention is to bemore like the tree (and Lisa Taddeo), in the name of my own majesty, and ultimate sustainability.
For more information about my book doula work and publishing with The Numinous contact [email protected]
What’s next for The Numinous, and the long-winded, behind-the-scenes, real-deal process of how I arrived at this decision (plus some thoughts on running a spiritual online business in the Now Age and the future, or not, of capitalism)
Warning: this post is long, messy, and rambling. A bit like my decision-making process for what’s next with The Numinous. I hesitated about posting it, but in the end I needed to write it for me—and, if you’re running an online business, are a spiritual solopreneur, or are overall just sick of selling and being sold to, I suspect there will also be plenty in here for YOU …
In the weeks leading up to my Numinous sabbatical I’d been gearing up for exactly the opposite: I was preparing to launch The Numinous Astrology School (a.k.a. NAS—kinda like NASA, but without the Astronauts part. Lol). But as I went about putting all the pieces together, the anxiety knitting my shoulders to the back of my skull was a signal that something was off.
On the one hand, I was nervous about the financial investment. Between the artwork, tech build, marketing funnels, and promo materials, it would cost me at least $10K to get it off the ground. That’s not factoring in the countless hours of my own time spent on content creation. And while I’d seen some of my peers make a mint with their digital products, I knew others who’d been burned when the supposedly magical “launch formula” peddled by the likes of Marie Forleo, didn’t work out so magic for them.
It was after I spent $1600 on a 3-minute promo video that looked like something a 5-year-old could have made on an iPhone, that the house of cards came tumbling down, scenes of past launch “failures” flashing before my third eye.
The time I spent thousands on the Numinous sweatshirt line my readers had been so excited for … which only a handful of people actually bought (it took two years to just about break even, and I wound up donating the leftover sweats to the Bowery Mission two Thanksgivings ago). The digital Numiversity courses I created with my then-resident astrologers Bess Matassa and Sandy Sitron, of which we sold about 30 for a total of less than $1K. Divided three ways, my split didn’t even cover one month’s medical insurance.
Why should this time would be any different? I was banking on at least 1000 sign-ups to cover my costs and (finally) generate a sustainable income to offset the hours (years) I have put into building this platform. To foot the bill of maintaining this platform going forward. This represented just 1% of my Instagram following. But based on past experience and given my miserably low IG engagement at the time (due partly, no doubt, to my growing resentment at IG for stealing our attention and creativity to profit an increasingly ethically challenged Zuckerberg empire), even this moderate goal suddenly seemed totally pie in the sky.
And so I quit. Not only did I not proceed with launching the course, I decided to press pause on everything Numinous while I took a big old breath. Created some space for myself to feel into what exactly did want to come next.
I’m sharing these details because I know I’m not alone in my attempts and my failures to “successfully” launch. Meaning, to create an income from my work that at least covers my rent and basic living costs (in NYC, this totals roughly an eye-watering $7K a month). In the age of side hustles and spiritual solopreneurship, “how to monetize my passion project / healing gifts” has got to be one of the crunchiest conundrums of the Now Age; we want to create a business and a life that serves others as it serves us … and the capitalist systems we are expected to fall into line with in order to do this are often totally at odds with who we are as creators, and what we believe as spiritual beings. Not to mention the basic root of all inequality and exploitation on the planet.
The “create a digital course” model is typically pitched as a way to generate a “passive income,” leaving you free to pursue what you really came here to do—but not only does it often entail subtle manipulation of your intended customer base, it seems more to me like it becomes your full-time job. And what if posting the recommended 25-30 IG stories per day, managing assistants and affiliates, and writing copy for marketing funnels, feels about as far removed as it gets from what your soul incarnated to contribute to the collective in this one wild and precious life?
Which is not to say there aren’t some beautiful, soulful, and generous digital courses out there. If you’ve created a course and / or a library of digital products that deeply serves you and others, fantastic! Some of us have an innate gift for community building that translates perfectly to authentic and heartfelt network marketing.
If anything, my “failure” to turn The Numinous into a one-stop online astrology shop (what well-meaning advisors have been telling me to do with this platform since before it even launched) has forced me to look more deeply at why this hasn’t worked FOR ME. To consider the value of what I actually DO feel called to create—and of MY unique gifts. And, in doing so, to trust fall back into walking my own messy, intuitive, utterly un-formulaic patchwork of a path.
-This has meant looking at what has worked, what space I was creating from when it did, and working out how I can do more of that.
-It’s meant reminding myself, as a writer in a world where “content” often only exists to sell a product, that my words have value in and of themselves. That my words are my product.
-It’s meant a deeper dive into my own lack of worthiness, the ancestral roots of this, and a look at what we value as a society (where we literally put our $$$) and why.
This is a process that remains ongoing, which is pretty much forming the basis of my next book (how to earn a living, or not, as an author: whole other subject!), and which has resulted in me creating a suite of personal services—from book doula’ing, to personal brand consulting, to astrology coaching 1-2-1s—that I’ll be offering going forward. You can learn more about them HERE.
But what of The Numinous? If you’re reading this, I hope it’s because you’ve found value in this platform over the years. Maybe you’ve missed our mystical missives, and you’re wondering when we’ll be back. And well the truth is, The Numinous cannot continue to exist until it can earn its own keep.
When I launched the site, it was because I’d always wanted my own magazine. My own space to create and commission content that meant something to me, and that I felt contributed something of value in the wider world. And off I went. I didn’t charge a subscription fee (who paid for online media?), and as well as my own writing, I relied on unpaid contributions from writers keen to promote their own offerings to fill in the gaps.
Within two years, in late 2014, I’d been approached by HarperCollins about doing a book, for which I received a $50K advance. Result! This felt like payment for the work I’d put into the platform to date. Five years down the line, I have yet to earn any royalties from Material Girl, Mystical World (and given that only 30% of authors “earn out” their book advances, it’s unlikely that I will)—and I’ve had to find revenue from other streams to support the site and its growth.
Freelance journalism, hosting events and retreats, the occasional paid partnership. More books, some affiliate sales of other people’s digital courses. There were also my Moon Club earnings, the biz I co-founded with Alexandra Roxo, which I exited in Jan this year. I scraped a decent living keeping these plates spinning, until I hit a wall. Here I was, age 43, super “accomplished” by any external measure, and working all the hours—yet eaten up with constant anxiety about where my next rent check was coming from.
The other reason I “quit” The Numinous this summer? Having finally hired a book-keeper, there was no more ignoring the fact that the majority of my earnings were going straight back into this platform—despite it not actually generating any revenue. Sure, it was what had led to my book deals, and what supported the income streams listed above, etc. But when I weighed the time and energy that was going into maintaining it against what I was getting out of it, the scales were waaaaaaay off.
Shit … is this coming off as some privileged white girl sob story?! I am mega aware that having a publishing deal land in my lap, for example, is a HUGE opportunity, for which I am extremely grateful. I also acknowledge that my previous career in journalism has opened many doors for me. That being straight and white and thin, it has been easier to risk “using my voice” without underlying fears for my safety. And that having husband who (until this summer) brought home a corporate salary also provided a financial buffer over the years.
And I also I know that my story mirrors many of our stories, regardless of our identities and external circumstances. Whether you’re creating a personal brand or are in any way pursuing a more creative career, the sheer volume of work that has to happen behind the scenes to generate even a moderate income, can be overwhelming. And if you don’t have a natural aptitude for IG stories, it can be even more draining. If this is you, I FEEL YOU. (And, going forward, I also want this to be a space for us to talk about the reality of running a digital business in the Now Age.)
Of course, the “smart” thing to do, as may others have advised me over the years, would be to seek VC investment. Use it to hire a team. Build an app. MAKE A FUCKING COURSE ALREADY. Put a bunch of money into Facebook ads, and get with the 21ST century!
But … that just doesn’t feel (as if you couldn’t guess by now) very “me.” It’s also playing by those same old capitalist rules again, and honestly, isn’t it time for something better? Elizabeth Warren might be promising to “remake capitalism” as part of her 2020 election manifesto, but I am leery of Big Politics ability to affect real change (given its affiliation with Big Business).
For now, here we are, lots of little, individual, human-run businesses, just making it up as we go along. And so long as the rules for how to make it work are still being written, here are some ideas that get a vote from me (*lifted pretty much verbatim from my proposal for book #3):
-We measure the “success” of a business by the positive impact it has on others.
-We buy less “stuff” and we invest more in each other.
-We revalue feelings, ideas, and relationships as our most valuable “assets.”
-We enact a more “matriarchal” business model, by pooling and sharing our resources equally.
-We embrace rest, resourcefulness, and wanting less, as vital elements of our planetary healing process.
… which is a very, very, long-winded of way of informing you that, going forward, The Numinous will be switching to a subscription model. I’ll still be posting select astro content and lengthy rants on Instagram. You’ll find the odd missive from a guest writer on this site. There will still be one free newsletter per month with info about upcoming events and retreats, details of any other stuff I’m promoting, and the astro mantras you love so much.
But the JUICE. The really GOOD STUFF. The writings and the teachings that reflect the contents of my heart, the ponderings of my mind, and the yearnings of my soul. These will be delivered as a monthly content drop to subscribers via my new Patreon page—which is still in the process of being set up, and which I’ll be sharing links to in the coming weeks.
So, there you have it. The full story and the real, behind-the-scenes deal. If you have any thoughts, feedback, or feelings about this post to share, I’d love to hear from you at [email protected] <3
A lot has changed since the original publication of Material Girl, Mystical World in May 2017 … which was kind of the point.
When I began writing Material Girl, Mystical World in early 2015, I didn’t realize it would be a book about a personal transformation—a transformation that has been unfolding ever since. I was a different woman when it was commissioned, by the time I had finished writing it, and when it was finally published in May 2017. Once you stop resisting their tug, this is how transformations go, continually unfolding until life becomes unrecognizable.
When they told me the paperback would be published this fall, I questioned whether it still felt like my story (which of course it is, and always will be). I had continued to change and evolve, as the work I chronicled in the original manuscript continued to do its work on me. And world events were also reshaping the world around us in unprecedented ways—did any of us think, and act, and see anything the same these days?
Reflecting on these shifts, I asked my publisher if I could write a new conclusion for the paperback, and they agreed. The resulting essay is published below. I invite original readers to reflect on how they have continued to evolve as a result of awakening to a more numinous outlook, and for anybody new here to consider what this might mean for you.
New York City. November 11, 2016
Two days after the 2016 US presidential election I hosted a gathering titled “Thank Goddess.” It was a launch event for fellow author Rebecca Campbell’s new book, Rise Sister Rise. When we came up with the name, we, like liberal-leaning “feminists” everywhere, were pretty certain we would also be celebrating the election of the first female president of the United States.
I had envisioned us referencing this as yet more evidence of the rise of the Divine Feminine (the subject of Rebecca’s book), as we high-fived a collective WIN for the sisterhood. Instead, forty women filed into the yoga studio on the Lower East Side with faces drained of color. A haunted silence hung over our circle. It felt important to be together, but, still barely able to process the news, nobody really knew what to say.
Rebecca and I were cohosting with our mutual friend, Madeline Giles, who ended the session with a signature Angelic Breathwork healing session. Along with the rest of the group, I lay down on my yoga mat and began to engage the stimulating three-part breath. But this time, when the tears came, there was no cathartic release. Instead, I sat up afterwards feeling disembodied and even more confused. Struggling to address the group to close, the lump in my throat was like a hot coal, my whole body reverberating with the static of our collective anxiety.
What the actual fuck was happening? And where on Earth did we go from here?
The hardcover edition of Material Girl, Mystical World was released six months later, and in the original conclusion I wrote about all the ways in which my life and my world were transforming as a result of the tools, philosophies, and practices I’ve covered in its pages. How my periods had regulated for the first time in my life, and how I’d healed my persistent IBS (having finally addressed the emotional issues that had been gnawing at my gut for years). I also shared how I viewed myself as a “recovering fashion industry victim,” and now bought 90 percent of my clothes second hand—the ultimate “sustainable” fashion!
I also mentioned that these external changes were really just the fluff since I could see how adopting a more numinous outlook was also making me kinder, more compassionate, more giving, and less self-absorbed. How it had completely transformed my relationship with my mum. And how seeking to truly know, accept, and forgive myself—how to unconditionally love myself—meant I no longer felt the need to accumulate stuff to make me feel good—as what was beginning to feel really GREAT was the idea that, in some way, whatever I did with my days was contributing to the greater good.
And, almost three years on from that Thank Goddess event, it is clearly evident that my own healing path reflects a collective awakening of sorts. That my confronting my personal demons has been part of a larger unmasking of “evil” forces operating behind the scenes—from political corruption, to the roots of the institutionalized racism that remain embedded decades on from the civil rights movement, and the largely unchecked exploitation of the natural world. My friend, Sushma Sagar, a former Marketing Director for Kate Spade turned energy healer, once described her own healing as a process of “un-brainwashing” herself, meaning it entailed confronting whatever subconscious beliefs and associated behaviors had been keeping her locked in cycles of pain. Pain that she, like myself and so many of us, self-medicated with cocktails, fancy clothes, drama-filled relationships, and an endless quest for career status.
Would our world look any different today had we elected a female president in 2016? If anything, without the collective wake-up call/“un-brainwashing” that has accompanied the Trump presidency, it seems as though the aforementioned societal woes would have been left to fester in the darkness even longer. And, as painful and confronting as this process has proven for many, I believe it has also been part of an overall raising of consciousness that began with the new age movement of the 1960s and 1970s, and which has sped up and gone viral thanks to our twenty-first century technologies.
The term “new age” was coined with reference to the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, a 2000-year-plus astrological era we began transitioning into globally in the middle of the last century. Moving us out of the preceding Age of Pisces, an era in which religious fear-mongering and hierarchical power structures reigned supreme, this new age heralds the rise of “Aquarian” values such as humanitarian efforts, power to the individual, freedom of information, and rebellion against the status quo.
I coined the term Now Age because, well, this new Aquarian age is happening NOW! Which also means anybody born between the 1950s and the 2050s are what I call the generational “pattern breakers” karmically tasked with ushering in this new evolutionary paradigm. Yes, that likely means you. And yes, that means that part of your purpose here on Earth is to help birth a more open-minded, less dogmatic, and overall more equally opportunistic Aquarian era.
And you thought my book was going to tell you all about what crystals to buy, and where to get the best tarot readings. Sorry! I kinda tricked you there with the hot pink cover and all the talk about “high vibes.” I have been known to refer to The Numinous as a “Trojan My Little Pony”—all rainbows and sparkles on the outside, concealing an army of freedom fighters within. As we witness the outdated systems of the Piscean Age begin to topple and fall, what will be your contribution to bringing the Now Age into being?
In Material Girl, Mystical World, I describe the shamanic view of humankind as “a giant people patchwork, with each and every one of us a vital stitch helping keep it all together.” Well, this is when you get to weave your story into the mix. What this means is, I hope you will feel inspired by this book to begin, in earnest, the thorough and searching process of un-brainwashing yourself, and a simultaneous investigation into your truth and your path. Meaning the path of your ultimate freedom, fulfillment, and empowerment, and, as a result, the path of your dharma.
You can begin by getting to know your birth chart (using The Numinous Astro Deck if it speaks to you). Of all the tools mentioned in these pages, astrology remains my preferred method of recognizing my inherited and/or subconscious patterning, behaviors, and beliefs—all the better to rewrite the script! And of course, do the yoga, the meditation, and the green juice (yada yada), but THEN pay attention to the wider changes you will very likely find yourself feeling called to implement as a result.
I often describe the practices and healing modalities covered on The Numinous as “the missing piece in the wellness puzzle”—because, guess what? In my experience, when you clean up your diet and begin to take better care of the physical, you will automatically be asked (by the Universe, Source, your higher Self, etc.) to pay more attention to your mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being, and to make any necessary adjustments to your priorities accordingly. And I guarantee that any discomfort you experience initially will be offset by a level of fulfillment, a depth of intimacy in your relationships, and a sense of meaning and purpose for your life that you may never have known.
Eddie Stern, my philosopher friend whom I introduce in the chapter on yoga, wrote a piece for The Numinous about the Hindu concepts of sakala, the reality we experience “with form,” and nishkala, the reality that is “without form.” In other words, our outer, quantifiable world (body, possessions, money, social media, even the Universe) and our inner, unquantifiable realms (knowledge, love, compassion, dreams, hopes, and potential). The Material and the Mystical. The here and now and . . . the numinous. “In yoga,” he wrote, “knowing who we are is the solution to all misery. For when we don’t know who we are, we are limited by the external things we measure ourselves against (sakala). We measure, we compare, and we are miserable in doing so, because we always come up short. Yoga teaches that when we truly know who we are, we are immeasurable, pure consciousness (nishkala).”
In other words, it is in seeking to know the unknowable, to connect to the truth of our numinous nature, where our unlimited potential— and our true freedom—lies. And if I could wish anything for you, me, and (why not?) for all humanity, it is for us to be free.
I’m taking a Numinous sabbatical, to recharge my creative batteries—and also to review, refresh, and rethink what this platform stands for. Here are 7 reasons why …
As of 7/7/19 I’m on a Numinous sabbatical—the dictionary definition for which is: “a period of paid leave granted to a university teacher or other worker for study or travel, traditionally one year for every seven years worked.”
Okay, I’m not a university teacher … but The Numinous is a place of learning. I’m not being paid to take this break … but this time-out is partly so I can focus on creating financial stability in my life. There will be travel, and there will be study. And while this platform was created seven years ago, I don’t yet know how long this sabbatical will last. Two months minimum … and maybe (although probably not) even as long as a year.
This means I am taking a break from updating the site, posting on Instagram, sending out newsletters, and producing The Now Age podcast. It also means no weekly horoscopes, Tarotscopes, and astro mantras from us. And since (hello, eclipse season!) this is coming somewhat out of the blue, I figured I would share my reasons for this below (all of which, coincidentally, begin with the letter M):
1. Mercury Retrograde Because what better time to take a step back and review, rethink, and refresh what The Numinous stands for, and the content I want to use this platform to contribute. For one more mother*cking time: MERCURY RETROGRADE is not anything to fear. In an always-on, progress-obsessed society, it is an invitation into a very necessary moment of pause, to reflect, refuel, and regroup. Join me?
2. Mission Accomplished When the idea for The Numinous lit a fire in my belly in 2011, it was because I wanted to make astrology, the Tarot, and other mystical practices more accessible to the masses. I was also pissed that people who “believed” in these ancient human technologies were routinely ridiculed and written off as deluded. So, I made it my mission to make it cool + smart #af to introduce yourself as “Aries Sun, Cancer Moon, Sag Rising.” Back then, all we had was Susan Miller and the Astro Twins. Fast forward to 2019, and the New York Times is writing articles about venture capital eyeing “big astrology” as the next boom industry. I’m like, job done: so, what next?
3. Meme Accounts And also, a lot of the astrology content that has sprung up to feed the rampant appetite of a freshly mysicisized public, makes me die a little bit inside. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good astro meme as much as the next narcissistic human looking for a quick hit of validation or “feeling seen.” AND a lot of this content reinforces really unhelpful stereotypes (something, hands up, that this platform has also been guilty of). But what the world does not need right now is more and more lowest-common-denominator astro content. It might get the most “likes,” and for a while I got sucked into playing the numbers game (ahhh, loving the irony that I’m “quitting” IG the week I hit 100K followers)—but it’s not doing perceptions of the practice any favors. My goal for The Numinous has evolved from wanting to help popularize astrology, to wanting to help people use it as a tool for REAL emotional, mental, and spiritual wellbeing. This is why I made The Numinous Astro Deck.
4. Making it Sustainable I’ve never really felt “okay” about businesses (mine included) relying on unpaid interns (which I have had to at times), but I realized recently that creating and maintaining a FREE weekly content platform has been like interning for myself the past seven years. Yes, The Numinous has brought me tons of “experience” and “contacts,” which in turn have led to me getting book deals, events, retreats, and other bits and pieces of income over the years. But most of what I earn “on the side” goes back into maintaining this platform, which is just not sustainable. I want to write more books. I want to do more book doula work. I want to volunteer for organizations and causes that I care about. I want to craft and lead more life-changing IRL experiences. And to do all of this, I need to reclaim the roughly 70% of my unpaid time and creative juice that currently goes into … The Numinous.
5. Mental Health “Burnout” became an official “syndrome,” as recognized by the World Health Organization, on May 28 this year. Symptoms include: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativity or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy. Um, this is me, me, and me. Looking at the work-life culture that social media + the gig-economy has created, no wonder it is also us, us, and us.
6. My Big Mission I recently wrote another book, Sober Curious, about how the past seven years have also been the backdrop to a total 180 in my relationship to alcohol, to the point I no longer drink or have any desire to drink. I did this by bringing a questioning, beginner’s mind to all my interactions with booze, a process I called getting “Sober Curious.” Coupled with the emotional + spiritual healing I’ve experienced from embracing all things Numinous, the result is that I no longer “need” alcohol to either numb out, or fake feeling more confident. As I write this, the term “sober curious” is snowballing into what is becoming a global trend, and when I pitched the book, I knew it would reach a wayyyy wider demographicMaterial Girl, Mystical World. I also hoped this would make it a vehicle for mysicisizing wayyy more people—and in doing so, help normalize the many different paths to mental, emotional + spiritual wellbeing. Which is happening, and which is something I need and want to focus on more fully for now.
7. Marianne As in, Marianne Williamson’s 2020 Presidential bid. Were you as mad as me at the media reaction to her appearance in the Miami democratic debates? Instead of reporting on any of the very intelligent points she made (not least the one about the current president not winning in 2016 on policy points, but on emotion—by harnessing FEAR for political gain), we got a good old #witchhunt, with Marianne and her work being being belittled and branded a laughing stock. UGH. My blood boiled! Maybe job of making the mystical mainstream not quite so done after all. Over the past year, I’ve committed more and more to talking about how we can look beyond our personal healing paths to ways we can help heal the world, with my interviews for The Now Age podcast in particular. Marianne has being doing this her whole career, from creating soup kitchens for HIV patients in the 1990s, to more recently enacting mass apologies for institutionalized racism in the US.
Why is her bid another reason for my Numinous sabbatical? Because 2020 is gonna be a s*it-show of opinions and fear-mongering, and never has Marianne’s mission to activate love, compassion, and, above all, HOPE, in the face of this been more important. I want to ensure that whatever I put out there contributes to this, whether or not she lands a candidacy—and, again, I need a break from churning out endless content to feed Mark Zukerburg’s algorithm to focus on how to do this.
So there you have it, my reasons for my Numinous sabbatical. Whether you’ve been a reader from the beginning, or are brand new, thank you for being here. I hope our work has been of benefit to you—and that you, too, are feeling ready to pay any healing and transformations you’ve experienced as a result of your own mystical explorations forward in 2020 and beyond. See you on the other side!
Five years ago I moved to New York City, with high hopes that I was basically going to morph into Carrie Bradshaw—with a closet full of designer shoes, fabulous cocktail-fueled social life, and a column in Vogue. 15 years working as a fashion journalist in London had taught me two things: 1) my sense of self-worth was directly linked to the level of kudos attached to my job, and 2) you could never have too many shoes.
My first apartment was on Christopher Street in the heart of the chichi West Village, and even had a walk-in closet. It also had holes in the wall exposing live electrical cables, and was infested with vermin. With hindsight, this is pretty much a metaphor for the holes in my materialistic worldview. Because it turns out no amount of Cosmos was a substitute for the friends I’d left behind, and that as a lowly freelancer, working out of my dingy kitchen using my ironing board for a desk, I barely even got to wear the shoes.
As my SATC dream began to crumble, I found myself questioning everything. Why was my NYC adventure so fraught with anxiety? If none of the editors I tried to get meetings with ever called me back, did I even exist? And how come every Skype with my mum made me feel so angry? As if the physical ocean between us served as a reminder of how emotionally distant we’d become over the years.
Which is right about when I decided to create The Numinous, and in doing so totally flip the script.
Let’s face it, five years ago I was kind of an entitled, over-privileged asshole. And definitely not a happy asshole either. Today, I definitely still love shoes. But I’ve also remembered that, for me, true “success” means being connected to myself and others, and contributing something valuable to the planet. Less conspicuous consumption, more conscious creativity. A journey I’ve written about in my upcoming book Material Girl Mystical World. Yes, MY book is the book that changed my life!
My personal revolution has actually been a result of walking the talk and embracing with an open heart and soul the mystics, the teachers, and the healers I’ve encountered on my Numinous path. Diving head-first into the transformational experiences of the Now Age, many of which are chronicled in all their far-out, emotional, and often hilarious glory in my story.
All with the aim of showing how (contrary to the Eat, Pray, Love school of spiritual awakenings) you don’t have to travel to an ashram in India to find yourself. I found “me” in the heart of NYC! The birthplace of the American Dream—the capitalist ideology that tries to convince us true happiness comes in the shape of a Louis Vuitton handbag. And which, since the Mad Men have made it to the Whitehouse, it is increasingly evident is the root of so many of the evils of the modern world.
So how did I get here? In the book, among other heart-and-mind-expanding topics, I talk about:
Astrology As Basic Life Skill. Raised atheist, astrology was the first thing that ever spoke to the deep human need in me to feel connected to something greater than myself. To feel like I have a unique role to play in weaving the fabric of humanity. This chapter explains the basics of birth chart interpretation as the path to Cosmic connection.
Doing My Dharma. How I came to understand the concept of my work as an act of service—opposed to pursuing a career for the status, the financial security, and the shiny baubles alone. (*When you pre-order the book you’ll gain access to a special Dharma School webinar with me, to help you discover your dharma too!)
Finding My Divine Feminine. A deep dive into modern feminism, and how this is intimately connected to the social, political and environmental issues of the 21st Century. Also, how connecting to my Divine Feminine has been instrumental in healing my sexual identity and my relationship with my mum.
The Inner Beauty vs. Botox Debate. Why it’s possible to get Botox and still love yourself / identify as spiritually woke. But also how cleaning up your emotional life and doing your dharma, AS WELL AS the yoga and the green juice, is what will truly give you that “glow.”
Healing As The New Nightlife. How I have slowly but surely replaced the cocktail highs with spiritual highs, and become a happier, healthier, more compassionate and more WHOLE human being as a result. Who. Freaking. Knew.
The book is out May 2 2017 (yes, she’s a Taurus—the original “material girl”) and the above is just a taster. There’s so so SO much more juicy content—and in the lead-up to the pub date I’ll be hosting a series of Facebook Lives to introduce the different chapters, and take your questions. Keep following on Facebook and Instagram for more details.
There’s also a sweet BONUS PACKAGE when you pre-order! Including the Dharma School webinar I mentioned, an exclusive missing chapter on how to work with Angels & Spirit Guides, and a month’s free membership to Moon Club. Get all the details and order your copy here.
So there you have it. THE BOOK THAT CHANGED MY LIFE. I hope my story can help you re-write your own.
Alexandra Roxo meets radical thought leader Daniel Pinchbeck, to talk spiritual materialism, future planetary solutions, and the rise of the extreme right…
Daniel Pinchbeck is a writer, thought leader, speaker, and one of few modern radical voices that come from a grounded, realistic, and holistic perspective. Today we are in dire need of leaders and thinkers who can articulate and envision a path towards union and healing that includes our political, environmental, cultural, AND our spiritual state. Daniel speaks of the whole picture, with a balance of right/left, masculine/feminine, science/art.
His new book How Soon is Now REALLY resonated with feelings I’ve been having for years about the nature of the world we live in, which I have explored in my own writing here on The Numinous and in some of my films. This includes the need to make a shift from focusing on the personal, to focusing on the global. To overcoming spiritual materialism. To escaping hyper-individualism and coming together.
Also, how plants may be aiding in our evolution on multiple levels. How our approach to love and sex is so heavily politically guided and conditioned. The need for rites of passage and the need for ecstatic connections to the cosmos and to each other, through experiences like Burning Man, with psychedelic experiences, and a reconnection to the Earth.
Beyond all this, Daniel’s book reveals to us how we can engage with the planetary shift and initiation that we all know at soul level is in progress, and in doing so be a part of the healing of our planet.
Even better, Daniel is going to be LIVE with us for Moon Club this Sunday Feb 5, which means you can join and ask him questions too! Click here to sign up.
I sat down with him for a little prelude to Sunday’s talk…
ALEXANDRA ROXO: So you’re an author, a TED speaker, a radical thinker, a writer. You wear a lot of hats in terms of your work. What’s the common thread? DANIEL PINCHBECK: I think that the core of my work is a philosophical quest for the nature of reality.
AR: Word. Was there was a clear point at which this search began? DP: I had a major spiritual crisis in my mid to late 20’s. I’d been writing for magazines, and it just began to feel very nihilistic. I felt this kind of total emptiness. I also realized ultimately that when people believe conscientiousness is only based in the physical hardware of the brain, then life has no particular meaning. I was like, ‘okay, how can I actually inquire into this?’ I remembered my psychedelic experiences in college as having suggested that there were these other layers of psychic reality that I didn’t really understand.
So I went back to them and went to West Africa, to do Iboga and I went to the Amazon to work with a tribe in Ecuador with ayuasca and so on. These travels informed my first book Breaking Open the Head, and then new questions kept opening up—because these experiences had completely transformed my world view.
AR: The subtitle of How Soon Is Now? is: “From personal initiation to global transformation.” To me it feels like that is what we’re all being called to now, on a micro and a macro level. DP: I came from a leftist background, and I always had this uneasy feeling about our culture and the direction our society was headed. And then when I looked more into the ecological disaster that we’ve constructed and the amount of poverty and inequality that the system creates, I also saw this whole “new age” spirituality thing, with the meditation and the yoga, as kind of like a trap—because I felt that people were using it as just another distraction, getting so obsessed with their own little healing journeys.
AR: There is definitely the idea of: “I’m entitled to my healing and my enlightenment and I gotta just focus on that.” Healing individually is very necessary too—but how do you see us then finding a way to integrate this into healing the Earth? DP: It would require for those of us who’ve been on this evolutionary initiation path to reach another level of our capacity to…hold a new frequency, to express it to people who are out of the loop. One thing that really began to upset me overtime was Burning Man. When I first went I was like ‘oh of course, this is the model for this new society. The point is to now bring this out into the world.’ But overtime I saw it become more like another entertainment complex. I saw the people who run Burning Man being really kind of pleased with themselves because all these rich people wanted to hang out with them.
But I think a shift is actually happening, because of this geopolitical emergency that we’ve unleashed. For example, I saw a really good thing on Facebook—this guy wrote that he used to have three different groups of friends that didn’t really integrate very well. One was artists, one was meditators, and the other was activists, and he was, like, thanking Donald Trump because now they’re all in the same group. We’re basically confronting a very, very severe existential emergency with this situation, that I think people are beginning to comprehend in kind of waves.
AR: In the book you use Burning Man as an example to show how if society praises you for good behavior, like cleaning up your own trash for example, and if we praise each other for good behavior, we can start to rewire the conditioning that says it’s somebody else’s responsibility to ‘do the right thing.’ DP: I feel that what Burning Man reveals and why it was such an ‘aha’ moment for me is that our social nature is extremely malleable and changeable, and humans will conform like putty to whatever reward system presents itself. So, say you get laid by becoming a Neo-Nazi and hating on the Jews, a bunch of people will do that. If you have lots of lovers or one lover or whatever you need, as a result of being generous, altruistic, and sharing your gifts open heartedly, you’ll do more of that that.
AR: So how did things tilt so far to the extreme right? DP: Unfortunately, the extreme right has managed to marshal a lot of collective intelligence by expert use the media system, whereas the progressive community has been much more slow and much less strategic and tactical.
There’s actually been a phenomenon of people on the coasts in LA and New York having greater freedoms, better lives, more opportunities, but we haven’t really taken care to transmit these benefits to the rest of society. And, rightfully in a sense, the rest of society realized they were just being shafted and got extremely angry. I think that theoretically, the more conscious we are of this, we have to bear the blame when things go this wrong.
AR: That’s a tough wake up call for people. If you’re living in light and love all the time, you don’t want to hear “hey, this is your fault, take responsibility, step up to the plate.” DP: But this awareness is spreading rapidly right now. In a sense, what I am trying to show with the book is that the progressive mystical counter culture hasn’t done a good job of articulating the world that we want to bring into manifestation, beyond our individual process.
For example, let’s take The Beatles at their word: “All you need is love.” But how do you actually create a society centered around altruism and sharing and empathy, what does that look like? In the book I am pretty rigorous looking at this in terms of love and relationships, in terms of monetary systems, even questioning whether private property is good for us. I’m sure many people will disagree with some or many of my conclusions but that’s good. At least we have something to disagree about, which can lead to debate and innovation.
AR: I write about sexual healing quite a bit and you share an anecdote about the community, Tamera, in Portugal, that’s so moving—how a young man’s first lovemaking happens with all the group gathered around the house, celebrating and holding space for him. I cried. There is so much internalized sexual shame in our society. I grew up in Georgia in a very, very Christian space and I was totally shamed from a very young age. When I heard that story, I was able to envision people not “losing” their virginity, but embracing this as a rite of passage—leading to us totally flipping the way that we approach love and sex. DP: One of the founders of Tamera in Portugal said that sexuality is a superpower that radiates throughout all different facets of society, and we can totally see that with this last election. We saw it with Trump and the grabbing of the pussy, Hillary and Bill Clinton, Roger Ailes who was the Fox News head who was taken down in a big sex scandal, and all of their connection to Jeffrey Epstein, the pedophile…
In a system where sexuality is oppressed, alpha male types seek power and wealth (versus creating a system that spreads wealth evenly) so they can have sexual access, you know? Since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, society is more open about sexuality, but it’s actually been reintegrated into a system of domination and control. So it becomes MTV Spring Break or Sex in The City, that type of vibe.
AR: Yes, those pop culture markers reveal that on one level we can “have sex” and “be sexy” but on another level it’s absolutely not okay as a culture to accept our sexual nature. DP:Rupert Sheldrake writes about the idea of “morphogenic fields” or “morphic resonance”—that actually, when a small number of a species is able to fully discover or integrate something new it can become generally available to the collective sort of non-locally. So if there’s a small number of communities that have shifted into this different frequency of collective care and responsibility and kind of a truly liberated Eros, or attitude to love and sexuality, then that could really propagate quite quickly. I mean Neo-Nazism didn’t seem to exist two years ago…and now it’s all over the place. Or look at something like Facebook, and how quickly everybody began using it. Ultimately, I think it’s fully possible that positive shifts towards empathic and responsible social system could also happen rapidly.
The Numinous: You’re both a poet and a musician, how do these two worlds intersect? Is the creative process similar or different? Markus Almond: They are pretty similar I think. Writing feels more natural to me. With music, I would have to fit a certain number of syllables into a melody and then sometimes make it rhyme. But with writing prose, I’m able to say exactly what I wanted to say without making it fit into an existing format.
TN: Where do you get the inspiration for your writing? MA: The inspiration comes from different things depending on what I’m writing. Sometimes I’m just writing thinly veiled notes to myself or people I love. Other times, I’m telling a story or trying to pass on some sort of advice.
TN: What is your definition of spirituality? MA: It’s that unexplainable power that you feel when you close your eyes and let go.
TN: Do you have any daily rituals or practices to aid you in your writing? MA: I meditate every day. And I listen to music in my headphones when I write. I prefer to write with the lights off and my office locked. It helps keep me focused on the task at hand. And I can usually only write at night after everyone else has gone to sleep.
TN: What was the impetus for putting your work out onto the Internet and becoming a published author? MA: I was going through some personal stuff a few years ago. And I was so over-worked and tired of looking at a computer. So I bought this little manual typewriter and made a limited edition zine with some scissors, a glue stick, and a copy machine. It was the first thing I ever published. And people seemed to like it so I published some more, built a website and started writing books.
TN: What life experiences have had the biggest impact on your work? MA: Being a musician has probably had the biggest impact on me. That journey took me to so many different places (both spiritually and geographically) that there is just so much material to write from. I’ve got enough stories floating around in my head that it will take me the rest of my life to get them all down on paper.
TN: We love your existential take on self-help – are you a fan of any traditional self-help authors? Who and how has their work impacted you? MA: Yeah, I read self-help books all the time. Right now I’m reading two books by Thich Nhat Hanh and also The 12 Week Year. I think books are like software for our brains so it’s important what we read. It can have a great impact on our lives if we read helpful things.
TN: What do you hope your writing will inspire in people? MA: Honestly, I hope that they’ll just email me once in a while and tell me I’m doing a good job. I don’t really write books for mass appeal or with the intention of selling a million copies. I write them because I enjoy writing. But still, it’s nice to know that people like them from time to time.
TN: What are the biggest challenges of being human? The greatest joys? MA: Fear can be one of the biggest challenges. It can manifest itself in all kinds of weird ways. I think if you can learn to spot fear and get through it without stopping, you’ll go far in the world. The greatest joy of being human is probably different for everyone. For me, it’s those happy things that happen by accident. Sometimes lucky magic just crosses our path for no reason and that can bring a sense of joy.
Call it an exercise in trading comfort for terrifying uncertainty (she does, in this brilliant blog post), but when something broke in Tatum Fjerstad in December last year, the only option was to pretty much quit what she’d been doing and start again. Which looks a lot like setting off across America to teach her twin (okay triplet) passions of yoga, meditation and writing – a.k.a. her Move, Sit, Write tour, which will take place in 15 studios in seven states, beginning March 3 in Portland, Oregon.
Up until this point, Tatum had been making her life / career decisions a lot like: “If I do this, people will think it’s cool. If people think it’s cool, then I’m cool. If I’m cool, people will like me and then I don’t have to work so hard to like myself because everyone else will be doing it for me.” And if you too suspect, on any level, you might also be living this life: “Get out now,” she advises. “It will bring you to a very dark place where you will feel so very disconnected with your own wants and desires that you’ll start to have bleak feelings about how we’re all just atoms bumping into each other and everything is meaningless so what’s the point.” Our point, in general, precisely.
It’s been through her own move, sit, write practice that Tatum has learned to re-connect to and value her sense of self – and since it’s often our own wounds that lead us down the path to our dharma, who better to guide others to do the same. Here, she shares 10 reasons to write and meditate every day…
1. Take An Inventory: When you create the space to listen to your patterns by meditating on and writing down whatever is bouncing around in your head, you (and only you) can decide what you want to keep and what you want to release. This doesn’t happen after one go at it. You have to do it every day.
2. Own Your Shit: When things are rough, this practice can help you get super clear on your hand in the matter. All of us are walking around with a LOT of baggage, no matter who you are, and we can’t unpack it by ignoring it.
3. Sleep Harder: I started meditating twice a day everyday and journaling once in the mornings almost a year ago. Since then, I have had some of the best naps, dreams, and deep sleeps. When you give yourself the time to slow down during the day, your body settles much easier when it’s time to do so.
4. Deeper Connections: When you become a better listener to yourself, you become a better listener to others. It’s a lot easier to put your phone down during a conversation and make eye contact with another person if you know how good that feels when you do it for yourself.
5. Forgive Freely: This soft quiet practice initiates the nurturing of your inner teacher, who happens to be pretty benevolent, empathetic and compassionate. You’ll start to be more lenient on yourself and that will trickle down to others because you’ll realize that we’re all doing the best we can with the tools we have.
6. Treat Yourself: So many of the people I teach think this sort of work is too indulgent or they say they don’t have time. If you have time to scroll through your Instagram feed in bed in the morning, or wash your hair every day, you have enough time to get up a little earlier and do yourself this favor.
7. Increase creativity: When you sit and watch your thoughts and freely write them down you are sitting at the seat of creativity. You can’t force that shit. It has to come on its own with space and sweetness. What better space than writing and meditation?
9. Inspire Others: The longer you do this, the more your friends will want in. They will see your softness emerge and they will ask for your secrets. Share them.
10. Get it Out: Omg, it feels so good to write a bunch of shit about someone who is pissing you off. It feels WAY better than telling them this stuff and then immediately regretting it. I’ve solved entire friendship dramas without speaking a word to them and having the conversation with myself until I was done with it. Sometimes that takes a few days, sometimes much longer.
11. Be Your Own Best Friend: You know that feeling when it’s whatever-night-of-the-week and you don’t have any plans and everyone is doing cool shit and you feel like a big loser full of FOMO? That goes away because you’ll start to really love those cuddly moments with yourself when it’s just you, a good book and some great music.
Working with metaphysical text A Course In Miracles has helped Gingersnaps Organic founder Jamie Graber enjoy every step of her journey – anxieties and all. She shares how…Images: John von Pamer
It can sometimes feel like all roads to spiritual awakening lead back to A Course in Miracles – a channelled, self-study workbook perhaps made most famous by the likes of Marianne Williamson and Gabriel Bernstein, who both reference the teachings of ACIM heavily in their own work.
Most recently, the classic text popped up on our radar thanks to a weekly study group that meets at chic West Village juice bar Gingersnaps Organic. Inspired by founder Jamie Graber’s own journey with the teachings of ACIM, here she shares how the Course has helped her re-imagine her relationship with food and step fully into her life purpose…
The Numinous: When did you discover A Course In Miracles? Jamie Graber: I discovered ACIM three years ago through Gabby Bernstein, who I met when she used to come and get juice when Gingersnaps was in the East Village, near her apartment. I was questioning a lot of stuff in my life at the time, and the Course helped me realize I could see things a different way. In turn, this helped me see that I had power over any situation.
TN: What inspired the ACIM study group at Gingersnaps? JG: Because it was always my vision to have my restaurant be a place of community. I also noticed that the more I talked about ACIM, the better I felt, so I thought having the weekly meetings would be a beautiful way to start giving back. An amazing woman name Anne Marie Imperiale leads the class, an incredible coach who uses the Course in her work. We meet every Monday from 8-9pm, the class is free, and people come early to gather and connect. I love it.
TN: Why do you think the teachings of the Course resonate with so many people? JG: Because because they give YOU the power. It’s not about idolizing or following rules, it’s about remembering that ultimately we hold all the power over how we see things. If we accept this and choose to really live in it, we begin to see that we have the answer for everything within us. The Course really teaches how to live in love and not fear, and who doesn’t want that!
TN: Can you give an example of this from your own life? JG: My journey with Gingersnaps Organic actually began with a massive fear around food. I was extremely uncomfortable with my body, unable to embrace or love it, to the point I would actually say I say I hated my body. But out of that, I found raw food and plant based living, which in turn led me to discover my passion in life and to really be able to experience joy around food. I even married a meat-eating chef, and my favorite thing these days is to travel the world eating amazing food with him!
TN: So how has the Course helped you heal your relationship with food specifically? JG: The lessons helped me realize my illusions about food were just that: illusions. For example, the idea that eating food would automatically make me fat and grotesque to everyone around me. At the time, I was 5 7″ and 85lbs, but when I looked in the mirror, all I saw was fat. In hindsight, I can see this was insane – but at the time, the the illusion felt very real to me.
TN: What’s been your key take-away from the teachings? JG: That when I’m uncomfortable or going through something tough, I know it’s because I’m in a place of transition and that I have to make a change – and there’s an incredible sense of ease that comes along with that. Also that while often healing hurts, and feels uncomfortable at first, the more you’re willing to push through discomfort, the faster you will come out the other side to a place of joy and freedom that you didn’t even know existed.
TN: And what’s your very favorite lesson from ACIM? JG: There’s one I love so much I actually set it as a reminder on my phone every night:
“Those who are certain of the outcome can afford to wait and wait without anxiety”
We often think we know what’s best for us, and have an idea of exactly what that should look like. We give a lot of power to this vision, and when things don’t go exactly as we “wanted,” we can lose faith and become anxious that we’re never going to get what we want. True faith believes that we are taken care of. We have to understand that we can’t always see the path ahead – but that if we have faith that everything we encounter is actually a gift, then we can enjoy every step of the journey.
Reaching the “destination” isn’t worth it for me any more if the journey is filled with anxiety and fear, so when I’m stressing about something, I will often read this lesson and mediate on it, remembering I am protected, and that everything is for my best interest. When I first opened the space in the East Village, I was a ball of fear and anxiety, so every day there was torture. I had no faith, and only frustration that things didn’t look like I thought they would.
Having Gabby and The Course in my life really took me back to my childhood, when I believed and trusted. I was the little girl waking up early before school to clear my crystals and talk to Spirit, and when I first opened up Gingersnap’s Organic, I had forgotten that. Opening up in the West Village has been completely different. I’ve done it with ease and trust, and chosen to just let things play out. Even when anxiety sets in, using my tools from ACIM, I am able to release it and actually enjoy waiting for how I want things to be.
“Women ourselves have bought into this idea of ‘feminine’ as meaning ‘weaker’…” Jo Becker‘s Marianne Williamson interview speaks to what it means to be woman and a spiritual activist.
Marianne Williamson is a powerhouse. The fierce voice of modern spirituality shares her love-driven ideas on how to heal America far and wide: she’s written four New York Times #1 bestsellers, chats with Oprah on the regular, and even ran for Congress in 2013. To me, she embodies the future of feminine leadership and spiritual activism.
I’m inspired by her eloquent commitment to heart-centered change. Years before I read her books, I heard her life-changing statement from A Return to Love, the quotation she is now famous for:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
I caught up with her at an Institute of Noetic Sciences conference. Astronaut Edgar Mitchell founded IONS back in 1973 after experiencing samadhi during the flight back to earth. Since then, IONS has been devoted to bringing together science and spirituality. I see Marianne Williamson as similarly groundbreaking in her work: she joyfully and relentlessly marries political activism with spiritual awareness.
The Dalai Lama said, “The world does not need more successful people. The world desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of all kinds.” Personally, I think the world needs successful peacemakers, healers, and lovers; and numinous women like Marianne Williamson are shining examples.
A lot of people think that “spiritual activism” is a contradiction. What would you say to them? Spiritual activism is a change in thinking: from a mental filter of fear to a mental filter of love. Given that thought is the causal level of all experience, active thought and change of thought is the most powerful force in the Universe.
Earlier today, a scientist was talking about how information, as in data, is only 10% of what causes people to actually change their behavior. And we have the data. We know what climate change is doing, we know how dangerous nuclear power is. We have the data on what violence on television and video games is doing to young people’s brains, we have the data on the carcinogens that are in the air…So why is it that “knowing the data” isn’t enough to make us change?
What makes us change comes from a deeper place, and that’s what spiritual activism is. It’s when something of the spirit, of the heart, becomes active in our thinking, and our thinking gets lit up. Because the mind itself can be used for purposes of love or purposes of fear, so spiritual activism is when we seek to do whatever it is we do from a place of love and with the intention of love.
And I’m talking about the love with which the mother lion protects her cubs. The love with which the adult female [and some males] of any species that survives and thrives exhibits fierce behavior when she senses that her cubs are threatened. So the marginalization of spirituality, the minimization of love as force, is just part of the ego mind’s propaganda.
Do you resonate with what the Dalai Lama said: “the Western woman will save the world?” Of course I resonate with it, but with all due respect to the Dalai Lama, I don’t think we need any man’s verification. I have a bit of a problem with the fact that we’re quoting a man to affirm our own power. I have the same great respect and reverence for His Holiness as anyone, but come on girls! I think what’s most important is that you say it. And I say it. Because we are affirming what we are doing: that this world is changing because we say so. Because we say so.
You’re doing a lot of work right now with balancing masculine and feminine energies in women. Why is this important to you? It’s such a significant issue. I am a product of the 1970’s wave of feminism—obviously the women’s movement is a wonderful thing, obviously I consider myself a feminist. But there is what I think of as a flawed strain of feminism, through which we actually suppressed the feminine in the name of feminism. And we embodied in many cases the archetype of Athena. She goes out there, she goes into the world, she manifests, she makes things happen.
But we get to embody as many energies, i.e. goddesses, as we choose, and Aphrodite is important as well. She embodies romance and beauty and pleasure, and I think many women, myself included have had a lot of psychic scars from buying into the belief that cultivating the masculine side of ourselves was actually more important than cultivating the feminine side.
I also think a lot of women have come to a very confusing point in their lives, realizing ‘I made this happen’ or ‘I made that happen.’ ‘I had these professional goals—some of which I’ve manifested, some of which I haven’t.’ But when are the other areas of my life, which are just as important to me, going to occur? Old wise women don’t get pregnant.
I’ve seen a lot of young women particularly deeply saddened, even traumatized, by the fact that while they feel they’re on some track professionally, their relationships, and child-bearing and deeper issues of cultivation of the family and romance have become…it’s like women are standing there saying, ‘How did I become clueless in this area?’ And then not only ‘How did I become clueless?’ but ‘What are the clues?’ They’ve become lost.
Inviting in the Aphrodite energy of love, pleasure, beauty – what does that look like in a woman? The integration of the Aphrodite and the Athena in my own life has been so important. I think obviously we’re all masculine, we’re all feminine, but women are here to major in feminine. It’s part of honoring our incarnation not to sideline something so fundamental to our being. And women ourselves have bought into this idea of ‘feminine’ as meaning ‘weaker’ without knowing it. Not women as weaker, but feminine attributes as weaker. I think many of us are seeking to reclaim lost pieces of ourselves, scattered pieces of ourselves.
What advice do you have for young women? I think my biggest advice to young women would be, ‘enjoy it while you got it.’
And not try to be the ‘wise woman’ before your time? The decades of life are like different rooms in the house. I have a daughter, early childhood, junior high, tween, high school college, now she’s a woman on her own. None of those phases is more or less magnificent than any other. And being in your 20s is fantastic, so be in your 20s when you’re in your 20s. Being in your 50s is fantastic; being in your 60s is fantastic. With every phase you lose something and you gain something. Be where you are when you’re there.
Having said that, I think something good is happening among American women. We’re starting to catch up, and we need to. We’ve not been the most mature group compared to women in other societies. And we’ve acted like we’re clueless regarding the suffering of women around the world, particularly at the hands of our own government in too many cases. We decry the policies towards women of a place like Saudi Arabia and for good reason, but when we invade countries that didn’t do anything to hurt us, a lot of the people who are dying in such invasion are women and their children.
So this is not a time for women of any age to be ditzy. This is a time to be deep. But I see many women of all ages seeking greater depth and it’s inspiring.
How do you think we can start to wake up to the suffering of others without dismissing it as ‘other people’s karma’? Oh please! What a brilliant ego device that is. It might be that person’s karma to be starving, but it is my karma to give them food. Their karmic challenge might be that challenge; my karmic challenge is to help those who suffer that way. The ego is brilliant at coming up with excuses for not helping. There is no serious spiritual path, and there never has been, that gives any of us a pass at addressing the suffering of other sentient beings.
Now, get sucked in by it? Absolutely not. But there’s a difference between denial and transcendence. If you don’t even look at it, you’re not in transcendence. You’re in denial. But if you look at it and practice positive denial, which is: I deny the power of this phenomenon to continue. Why? Because I said so. Because I’m gonna do something about it. Because I know other people are gonna do something about it and we’re gonna make sure this ends. That’s positive denial.
Do you have a daily spiritual practice? I am a student of A Course in Miracles. The course is 365 days of lessons; mine today is, ‘I will be still an instant and go home.’ Yesterday was, ‘I trust my brothers who are one with me.’ It’s a specific curriculum for dismantling a thought system based on fear, and accepting instead a thought system based on love. So spiritual exercise becomes like physical exercise. You are rebuilding your body, but with spiritual exercise you are honing your attitudinal musculature, just like in yoga. You want the correct position in your attitude, just like in your body. With physical exercise, you are developing your physical muscles so you can be strong and run. In spiritual exercise you are developing your capacity to be still. Your capacity for impulse control.
What practical applications does this have? It means there is a greatly diminished probability that you will send the frickin’ text that you will regret for six months. It diminishes the possibility you will say or do something or push the send button that will so sabotage a relationship or work situation or whatever. It diminishes the possibility that you will be so distracted by the meaningless chaos of the world that you will not be able to show up fully as a fully actualized human. We wake up in the morning and we take a shower because we want yesterday’s dirt to be cleansed off our bodies, but if you don’t meditate or pray, you might not be cleaning yesterday’s dirt from your mind. So internal purification is as important as external purification.
Marianne Williamson’s The Aphrodite Training began October 23 2015 and will continue to be available via live stream through October 25 2015. Get all the details and sign up here.