WHY SKINCARE IS A SPIRITUAL PRACTICE

Fed up with the beauty industry’s impossible standards, Giselle La Pompe-Moore set out to heal her relationship with her skin at soul level. She explains why skincare is a spiritual practice …

Giselle La Pompe-Moore

Have you ever thought about your skin beyond aesthetics?

We can spend hours in front of the mirror analyzing every pore and perceived flaw, but we rarely see beyond this. But on a deeper level, our skin is a barrier between our internal and external worlds. Something both public and deeply personal at once.

This skin allows us to experience the universe around us, to touch and be touched in return. This is why skincare is a spiritual practice.

The color of my skin was different from most of the people I grew up with, and from the women I saw in the media. I loved my skin, but as a black woman I always felt like an “other.” Was always comparing my skin to that of somebody else. The black women I DID see on TV and in magazines seemed hyper-real, with flawless, perfect skin. In an attempt to replicate this for myself, I pursued a career as a beauty editor, drowning myself in products.

Over the years, I began to notice that while creams and treatments can heal the skin externally, they do nothing to address feelings of not being good enough, of shame, and of endless comparison.

And so I took a step back to shift my focus from how skin looks on the outside to what it reflects about our inner life. To investigate the impact of spiritual tools, such as reiki, meditation and tarot, on our relationships with the skin we are in.

Now working as a healer specializing in skincare, I’ve seen how acne, psoriasis, dermatitis, and eczema have impacted the way my clients move through the world. I’ve listened to stories about what they’ll do once their skin is “healed, better, or different,” while denying themselves of the life they could be living right now. I’ve also learned that our skin is the physical embodiment of our innate self-worth.

Whether you’re working through a skin condition, are struggling to accept your physical appearance, or want to add some spirit to your skincare, here are the tools that I’ve used on myself and my clients to help shift our skincare mindset …

///

1// Give yourself a crystal facial massage
Crystals can work wonders helping to set intentions around your skin—and one way is with a crystal facial massage. Here’s how to do it:

  • Choose a crystal that symbolizes your skin intention. Pink Transparent Calcite (for non-judgment and comparison), Apatite (willpower for shifting your skin mindset) and Malachite (forgiveness, committing to this journey) are some of the crystals I’ve prescribed to clients.
  • Get comfortable, cleanse your space, and connect to the crystal. Hold it in your hand and feel its energy. As you hold it, visualize your intention. If it’s to help you to forgive yourself for the unkind words you’ve said about your skin in the past, imagine this forgiving energy passing through your body. Then ask the crystal to offer you support and guidance in achieving this.
  • With the crystal in front of you, start to massage all around your face in upward and outward strokes using a face oil. With each movement, feel your intention sinking into your skin at the same time.

///

2// Journal to go beneath the surface
A lot of our limiting beliefs about our appearance reside deep below the surface. Use journaling to investigate your relationship with your skin and unearth subconscious beliefs.

Here are a few questions to start with:

-How would you describe your skin? Think about the language you use, is it positive or negative?
-What does the word ‘comparison’ bring up for you, in relation to your skin?
-What memories do you have where someone made a comment about your skin or appearance and how has this had an impact on you?
-What has your inner critic said to you today? Do you believe what it told you? How do you usually talk to yourself when you’re in front of the mirror?

Through journaling, I realized that I used only negative words to describe my skin and would skip past the features I liked. So I decided to start accentuating the parts of my face that I did love, like my lips. See what comes up for you and what tools you can use to release and heal these limiting beliefs. I’ve used tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique), binaural beats and visualization in response to what I uncovered in my journal, and written letters to my skin.

Giselle guides a client

///

3// Synch your skincare with the Moon
The phases of the Moon phases can provide a mirror to examine our self-image triggers, and a framework for charting our inner work and emotional landscape over a period of time. Here’s how to incorporate each phase into your skincare routine …

New Moon. Use this time of new beginnings to set an intention for your skin. It could be to reconnect with your skin. Start with self-massage, simply feeling the skin beneath your fingertips. This is also the time to add any new products in to your beauty routine.

Waxing Moon. Check in with the intentions you set at the New Moon, examining how you’re feeling about your appearance now, and thinking about how you can move closer to growing your intentions and reconnecting with your skin. Your skin is also the most absorbent and receptive to nutrients now, so add in a serum with hydrating properties or a nourishing face mask.

Full Moon. Take a moment to celebrate yourself, thanking yourself for all of the work you’ve been doing to shift your skin mindset. There can be heightened emotions and energy at this time, so make sure you’re filling your cup back up with restorative baths or an Ayurvedic abhyanga massage.

Waning Moon. Use this phase for journaling and exploring the limiting beliefs that might have come up for you over this cycle, reflecting on what you need to release in order to grow. To support this internal cleansing and shedding, use an exfoliating body scrub, try body brushing, or add in a detoxifying charcoal soap to draw out impurities and toxins.

Dark Moon. Give yourself a break! It’s easy to end up with spiritual overload, I’ve been there many times – digging into shadow work, past life astrology, and the deepest crevices of my psyche all before lunch ain’t easy! Allow yourself this time to restore, heal, imagine, and to press pause.

///

4// Use the tarot to talk to your skin 
The tarot is a powerful tool for working on your mindset and self-worth, and I use it daily for both myself and in my rediscovery: skin sessions. You can start with a single card pull, asking the deck to show you how you can work on your self-image. Use the cards to start a conversation with your skin and listen to what it needs.

Example:
In the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, the Two of Swords depicts a blindfolded woman with two swords crossed over her. The moon is above her and a body of water lies behind her. This card is all about taking the time and space to be still and look inwards. To embody this card, think about how you can create a boundary that allows you to dive into your own self-care. Allow this stillness to offer you intuitive guidance as to where you’re in need of healing and any areas of low self-worth. Use this as an invitation to see through your third eye rather than your physical eyes.

///

5// Meditate for both mind and skin
Meditation is a powerful tool for shifting our skin mindset, and for relieving the stress that can trigger or aggravate neuro-inflammatory conditions such as acne.

In sessions, I guide my clients through a skin-focused meditation, which fosters gratitude, forgiveness, acceptance, and kindness, and includes a simultaneous facial self-message that creates physical connection with the skin.

*You can download a version of this meditation HERE. You’ll need cleansed skin, a comfortable space, and a facial oil in easy reach, then plug in and tune out.

///

Giselle La Pompe-Moore offers one-to-one rediscovery: skin sessions that guide you to shift your skin mindset to a path of acceptance and gratitude. Her rediscovery: soul sessions incorporate reiki, tarot, and meditation. Both are held either virtually or in-person in London. She also hosts monthly Mirrorscope skin healing circles

MANIFESTO FOR AN INCLUSIVE WELLNESS INDUSTRY

After discovering that there was nothing “wrong” with her body except conventional health messaging, Jillian Murphy shares her manifesto for a more inclusive wellness industry …

Photo: Samantha Santy

I had put on 40lbs in my second pregnancy and they seemed to have nestled in for good. I was eating well and moving my body religiously but I just couldn’t lose the weight.

Every well-intentioned health care professional I worked and interacted with as a naturopath was happy to offer up advice about what must be wrong with my adrenals, thyroid, hormonal health, sleep patterns, food combining, mindfulness, sugar intake, etc. etc. etc. and I had worked on it ALL. But to no avail, and I was exhausted from the effort.

Frustrated, I hired a body image and emotional eating coach and, after explaining my long and convoluted health and weight story to this new mentor, she told me something I was wholly unprepared to hear:

“There is nothing wrong with you except for your belief that your body is wrong. You are exceptionally healthy: you don’t have a food problem and your body is exactly, happily, where it needs to be.”

It was one of the strangest, most revolutionary things I’d ever heard. It simultaneously crushed and liberated my soul. Crushed, because, OMG! All the lost time I’d spent trying to “fix” my body. Liberated, because I’d finally been given permission to shed the physical expectations of our culture and just live my life.

The mere suggestion that my body weight and shape may not dictate my health nearly blew up my brain. It set into motion a 7-year journey of critical thinking, self-discovery, and research that would ultimately serve to heal my relationship with food and my body and revolutionize my understanding of health.

What I realized was:

Conventional health messaging flattens beautiful, complex, and biodiverse individuals into 2D facsimiles. Squishes us into mathematical equations, diets, and wellness checklists that promise abundant health and complete control over our bodies.

This messaging makes us believe that if our bodies don’t fit, we are at fault – too lazy, not enough willpower, intelligence, or effort. And in our attempts to conform, we offer up our emotional and spiritual wellbeing, our peace of mind, and sometimes our sanity.

Now, we in the wellness industries are being called to dismantle and challenge outdated, oppressive, and limiting beliefs about food, movement, weight, and health. To present a model for inclusive wellness that is respectful of ALL bodies; critical of information that leaves us feeling confused and in lack; and that offers alternatives to restrictive and prescriptive health ideologies that ignore the lived experience and values of the individual.

This is my manifesto for a more inclusive wellness industry ….

///

1// Pursue physical health without compromising your mental, emotional, and/or spiritual self.

When we exercise though our body is asking for rest; when we cut carbs or calories despite our body begging for sustenance; when we skip dinner out for fear of not having the “right” food options; when thinking about food and health consumes our every thought – we sacrifice our sense of peace, connection, and joy in the pursuit of physical “health.” The outcome is a feeling of depletion despite doing “everything right.”

The shift: Put physical health back in its place, as one piece of the health puzzle and not the whole picture.

///

2// Respect and appreciate the diversity of human bodies. 

All bodies deserve access to quality healthcare and health resources without judgment or shame. Current body type and weight ideals are problematic and unscientific (including the Body Mass Index or BMI). They negatively impact our relationship with food and movement, and encourage the stigmatization of all but a small percentage of bodies deemed “appropriate.”  Those in bigger bodies are judged harshly and mistreated in every sphere of society, from the workplace to medicine.

The shift: We must shed the belief that losing weight is the #1 path to health and wellness and work instead to pursue behaviors that have been proven to have a positive impact on health – whether we lose weight or not – while developing a much broader and inclusive definition of bodies we deem healthy, attractive, and worthy.

Photo: Samantha Santy

///

3// Define “health” and “wellness” for yourself. 

These terms are social constructs that differ across communities and cultures. It’s also important to recognize that many people don’t have the privilege of prioritizing wellness, even if they want to. We can own our own investment and interest in health and wellness without projecting it onto others. Imagine how many hours a day/week could you free up if you let go of food, body control, and worry.

The shift: Consider what aspects of health and wellness actually light you up. Can you think of moments when you’ve judged the health and wellness choices of others? Begin to think about how our narrowly drawn ideas about these concepts impact the overall health of our society.

///

4// Become the leading expert on YOU.

We have been taught that we must rely on externally devised, highly moralized food plans telling us how much to eat, what to eat, and when to eat. The Now Age way is to turn to models for nourishing ourselves that put us back in touch with our innate ability to regulate food variety and quantity. These models consider the needs of our physical bodies, while also taking the mental, emotional, social, cultural, and spiritual aspects of food, movement, and health into account.

The shift: Promote eating based on our bodies’ internal cues instead of following fad diets or parroting somebody else’s food rules. (ED: read Jillian’s tips on using body positivity to unlock your intuition).

///

5// Cultivate a sense of purpose and worth beyond your physical form.

The exhaustion, digestive issues, inflammatory processes, and body concerns I see in so many of my patients are one part physical, two parts spiritual/emotional. We feel disconnected and the stress of floating through the world unsure of where we belong, what makes us worthy, and what our purpose is shows up as dysfunction in our thought processes and bodies. We then cling to the rituals, routines, and ideologies of wellness and weight that serve as the ultimate distraction.

The shift: Replace diets and health “regimens” with rituals that connect you to the moon, meditation, talk therapy, dance parties, ditching toxic relationships, eating mindfully, speaking up, saying no, walking in nature, swimming in the ocean, lighting a candle, giving back. Anything that reminds us that our worth is inherent, we are more than our bodies, and we are connected to everyone and everything.

///

6// Work to change the systems in place that deeply affect the health and wellness of our culture and community.

Socioeconomic status is the leading determinant of health. Accordingly, we must work to shift these issues on a systemic level if we truly care about our health and the health of those around us. There are systems in place that can’t be “love + light”ed away, and we all have a responsibility to pull apart our own oppressive beliefs and work toward amplifying the perspectives of those who experience this system differently.

The shift: Realize that representation matters – if we want to feel normal and acceptable in our various forms, we need to SEE those forms and diverse paths to health. Start with your social media feed by including a wide range of body shapes, sizes, races, abilities, and gender expressions, and enter into those spaces with the intention of listening. As you learn, commit to engaging those who share your social identity in conversations that question your current health and wellness beliefs. Be an active catalyst for change.

HOW BODY POSITIVITY CAN UNLOCK YOUR INTUITION

After a lifetime of food issues, Jillian Murphy discovered that living fully in her own skin was the key to her magic. She shares how body positivity can unlock your intuition …

Photo of Jillian by Wild Little Hearts Photography

“Before you can hear, much less follow, the voice of your soul, you have to win back your body.” – Meggan Watterson

I remember the day I first abandoned my body. 

I was 8 years old and visiting the mysterious temple my mother escaped to every evening when my dad got home from work—she called this evasive place of worship “the gym.” It was a Saturday open house and I was an immediate convert. The place was magical – dusty rose carpet, slick chrome and mirrors, George Michael pumping through the speakers, and LYCRA. So much lycra! (It was the 80s, k?)

I could tell right away that this was the place for me—a space of transformation, potential, and movie-worthy —this was a place where life happened. I grabbed a pop and a hotdog and then I naively hopped up on the scale where they were weighing everyone. And that’s where “It” got me.

As I scarfed my lunch, the two staff members in charge of weighing me began sniggering. Whispering about something clearly “adding 5 pounds” while looking at my body.

I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on but I knew the joke was on me. And I knew it was bad. Bad enough to remember but never ever talk about, until 25 years later, when I finally started to heal my relationship with food and with my own shape and size.

>>>

Coming face to face with “it” … 
“It” is not that creepy clown from the Stephen King movie you’re picturing. No, no, the “It” I speak of is much worse—its name is diet culture and it spews a thin-is-best, fatphobic, classist, able-ist, racist, gender-biased rhetoric where the gold standard of beauty, body, and more recently “wellness,” is blatantly clear, objectively unhealthy, and unavailable to most.

Beyond the gym, there were many other moments when “It” got me, some that obvious, highlighted in Technicolor and frozen in time—a mental photo album created to prove my lack—while others were so subtle I internalized them without realizing, recognizing the damage only in hindsight.

From health messaging at school and dieting advice from teen magazines, to negative looks from boys and the admiration of “beautiful” girls in front of me, the signs were everywhere.  

Once, I remember hearing an older male cousin condescendingly laugh about the shape of a specific woman – stating that “to be attractive to men your shoulders needed to be at least “X”cm wider than your waist. Though I thought it harsh, I internalized the comment as though it were about me. In a diet culture with rigid beauty ideals, no woman is left unscathed.

Everywhere, the message I absorbed was: you are not good enough. More specifically: your body is not good enough.  

Even more specifically: your body is not good enough and, as a female, it’s your personal responsibility to take charge of your weight and beauty and behavior and do what it takes until you fit the ideal lest you remain unworthy forever. Also, hot sticks of processed meat are un-ladylike.

Photo of Jillian by Wild Little Hearts Photography

>>>

Your intuition lives in your flesh …
It might look like a criticism, a comment, a side-eye (sometimes much worse), and it makes you gasp, the foul gas of “you’re not good enough” filling your lungs and seeping into your tissues. From that day on, the myth of diet culture is no longer just a story around you, it is a story about you.

You disconnect. You abandon your physical self. You override your female knowing that your curvy, lumpy, bumpy body is beautiful and normal and you do your best to crush the voice that says “I’m hungry” or “carbs would be nice” because that voice is clearly an idiot that doesn’t know bikini season is coming up.

The result? Food issues, yes. But diet culture doesn’t just destroy our relationship with food and distort our body image—it separates us from the most powerful ally we have—our inner knowing.  

Your intuition lives in your flesh and speaks to you through your body. She is nourished by pleasure, abundance, approval, and desire.

When she has been dampened and starved into submission, you are left living a storyline that keeps you doubtful, unsteady, competitive, and unsure. An ideal that keeps you distracted from your most important work in the world and suggests your worth is up for debate.

>>> 

Amplify the whisper …
When we discourage (read: flat out ignore) the whisper of biological feedback that tells us we need more calories or carbs or a day of rest—we simultaneously diminish the whisper that helps us discern and decide in all areas of our lives.

These whispers are one in the same. Learning to hear and trust the signals from our very intelligent, self-regulating, female appetites is a super-powered short cut, reconnecting us to our broader inner knowing. It amplifies the whisper.

I lost so much time sacrificing my wellbeing and connection to self in the pursuit of worthiness via weight loss and superficial beauty. I made bad decisions. I was distracted. I lost time. I learned slowly that, in order to write a new storyline for myself, I would need the power of my intuition and that the first step in rebuilding a connection with my soul voice was winning back my body.

Photo of Jillian & family by Wild Little Hearts Photography

>>>

Here’s how to start amplifying the whisper and winning back your own body …

1// Give up the pursuit of weight-loss. The pursuit of weight loss is THE thing that disconnects us and keep us looking outside of ourselves for shoddy solutions. Weight-loss attempts fail over 90% of the time, long-term, and the collateral damage is your relationship with food and your connection to your inner knowing. Start by pretending that you aren’t in control of your weight (because you really aren’t) and that your only goal is to feel vibrant and energetic and joyful in your body.

2// Counter the deprivation narrative. Tuning into our hunger and reliably feeding our bodies is the first step in repairing the collateral damage of deprivation and moving towards a more intuitive relationship with food.

Start the process of consistent nourishment by connecting with your hunger signals. See if you can rate your hunger on a scale of 0-10 (0 = not hungry at all, 10 = “hungry,” low blood sugar, shaky). Can you notice the subtle differences between a 4 and a 7, or do you regularly swing from overstuffed to starving?

3//Discover your delicious. The basics when it comes to nutrition and movement have been well understood and unchanging for generations – move your body regularly, get fresh air, drink water, eat lots of plants and unprocessed foods – not too little, not too much, and honor your mental/emotional need for pleasurable, celebratory foods.

Now, from this magical place—without all the rigid rules, “shoulds”, and fears—what do you feel like eating? How do you feel like eating it? How do you want to move your body and for how long?

*Note: There is a good chance you have NO IDEA. Start by asking the questions and experimenting. Follow your curiosity and see how it goes—maybe you hate plain raw carrots but you love them roasted or with dip (Hot tip: DIP IS DELICIOUS). Allow yourself to try new things and neutrally observe how your body feels.

4// Fully live with the beautiful bod you’ve got. When your physical appearance stops representing your entire worth and is, instead, just a fun outward expression of your personality, the game changes. Start living the life you aspire to have when you are in the perfect body and watch the shift!

Make a list of all the activities you are waiting to do when you lose the weight, get more toned, have your nose fixed, are more perfect, etc. Make the list as exhaustive as possible. Next step? Start doing all of those things IMMEDIATELY. Wear the red lipstick, rock the shorts, eat the gelato, show your navel, go on the date, try the tap class, climb a mountain, go back to school. Do it all!

Dr. Jillian Murphy is a registered, licensed Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine. She has dedicated the past 8 years to studying intuitive eating and body image, and works with diverse, smart, health-conscious, women who are DONE WITH DIETING, and looking to get out of their heads and re-connect with their bodies. Follow her on Instagram, listen for more wisdom on her Podcast, and join The Food Freedom/Body Love Collective, her monthly membership space that provides you with the tools, strategies, support, and community you need to live healthfully in the body you are IN! 

HOLY F*CK: LIVING FROM THE SEAT OF YOUR SEXUAL POWER

How can embracing your deepest sexy unleash your creative force? In her latest column, Alexandra Roxo shows us that diving into our full sexual power is the key to world domination …

Owning my sexual and creative power, and letting it inform my life and creativity and work, has been revolutionary and radical …  despite how much society had told me I’m too loud or too sexual or too freaky or kinky or messy or whatever.

Here are a few of my tried and true techniques for owning your sexual power, your guts, your voice, and your gifts to the world … 

>>>

FIRST: A little visualization for your viewing pleasure … 

Imagine you are a house. Perhaps 5 stories high. Castlelike. Grand. Tall. Well crafted. And each floor and each room is decorated beautifully. Lamps and lights and candles. Beautiful art. Cultivated space. But the first floor, the foundation, is dark, full of cobwebs. Closets locked. Perhaps a corner here and there with a little light that is only turned on “sometimes”—on a special occasion …

Now imagine this floor is your sexual energy. Your life force. Your creative power that is waiting to be stirred deep inside you.

Does it only get stirred in a bed in the dark? Between sheets? With your partner? Or a vibrator? What if you ran through that first floor, saged it out, turned on all the lights, decorated it—made it come to life?

We live in a world of compartmentalization. We shit in another room with a locked door. We carry our money in locked safes and little wallets held close to our bodies. We have sex in a bed in the dark.

When I was younger, my menstrual cycle was WAY off. After some soul searching, I realized that it was most off during the times that I was suppressing my power. Now, if my cycle is late, I look at how I’ve been holding back and “keeping it together?” How can I EMBODY my power, my vision, and my voice more boldly?

Sexual power IS creative power! And it does not work when controlled or locked away. In fact, this is hurting many of us. Disrupting our menstrual flows. Our skin. Causing diseases. Depression … the list goes on.

How might your life change if your sexual energy was present in every moment, every business deal, every Pilates class? Here’s how to awaken your deep sexy and use it to power your mission … 

>>>

STEP 1// DEFINE YOUR “DEEP SEXY” 
Sexual energy does NOT have to be defined or encapsulated in the “sexy” of black lingerie. Or being coy, Or performing “sexy.” Or having skinny thighs. Or whispering fantasies at dinner. I LOVE all that but that is JUST one layer.

Deep Sexy to ME is sexual energy as POWER. Holding the key to all creation between your legs. The womb being an infinite pool of ideas and visions of growth. Orgasms healing the world.

A portal to the Divine that you are I are both gifted with.

We begin breaking the compartmentalization of sex as penetration, locked doors, and quiet moments in the dark, by practicing turning it on. No need to stroke a clit. No need to stick it in. Just breathe into that flow. give it space, connect to its depths.

This can be literally visualizing sexual energy as a certain color running through your body. Or connecting it to a scent. Or a song. Find a VISCERAL and SENSORIAL “IN,” and go with it.

That is what lights up the house. Increases financial flow. Health. Radiance. Love. Business growth. The whole house is illuminated.

OKAY NOW YOU GO! Write your own list. What is sexy to YOU?

>>>

STEP 2// BELLY BREATH VS. CHEST BREATH
This is how you start to see and FEEL your sexuality. Meditate into your pelvis, your guts. Give your whole lower body as much importance as you do your mind, remembering every day about the portal to source energy that lives in there.

This can be practiced through dancing in your undies. Doing deep belly breathing at home in the mirror or with a book on your stomach while watching TV. Or picking points in your day by putting an alert in your cal that says “Am I breathing into my GUTS? My deep BELLY?”

And notice if you’re sucking it in. Let your belly hang out as much as possible, even though it may feel kinda weird! Breathe it open with deep belly breaths instead of shallow chest ones.

>>>

STEP 3// WHAT IF YOUR BRILLIANT IDEAS CAME ALL THE WAY FROM DOWN BELOW? 
Ask yourself “Did I just make this business decision from my mind? My heart? My womb? My balls?”

Regardless of your genitalia or gender identification, let your ideas brew from your depths, the roots, the intimate parts of you. Not the surface layers of your mind.

One way to check if you are truly dropping into your sexual power and living from THERE instead of the mind is to see how much you can FEEL in the moment you are making that decision. Can you feel your clit? Your cervix? Your kundalini vibes? Your balls? Your anus? (Not by literal touching, just the vibes and energy!)

And if you’re not feeling it, THAT’S OK! Try using a Chakrub, doing some PC muscle clenching, or literally start talking to your body and trying to put into words what that part of you is feeling today.

It may sound LOL, but unless you can really identify what your root is feeling, you definitely can’t find your gut intuition or make decisions from there.

>>>

STEP 4// GET MESSY AND WILD  
Look to the most genius creator for wisdom—MOTHER NATURE! She is wild! Messy! Disgusting! Ravenous! Beautiful! Sensual! Vicious! 

Messy for me can mean taking a day to hike, laying in a field, walking barefoot, wearing no makeup, peeing outside.

But what does it mean to you? This may mean vision boarding on the floor of bedroom and making a mad genius mess of old magazines. It may mean a week you play with letting your hair be wild and free. Or only wearing long flowy dresses.

Write down 5 things that feel “messy,” aka “outside the box,” to you. One day a week take a “IMA B MESSY AND NOT GIVE A FUCK” practice. So. Fun.

>>>

STEP 5// MAKE CONTAINERS FOR YOUR FLOW TO FLOW IN!
As you unlock your flow, don’t be afraid to have structures. A set time to meditate. Time to stare into space. Time to journal. To masturbate. Time to roll around on the floor sobbing.

Because when you start to open that flow of energy stored in your pelvis you will feel A LOT. The power can be overwhelming. Don’t be afraid. Stay close to friends. Nurture yourself. And most of all … HAVE FUN!

We are deep in the collective process of healing through hundreds of years of collective trauma towards women, towards sexuality, towards, well, A LOT. We will not stay quiet, hating ourselves, being ashamed of being sexual, powerful beings. Let’s do this. TOGETHER.

>>>

In Moon Club, our online mentoring program and growth accelerator for your Spirit and Business, you can get help finding your power and voice, and sharing it with the world.  Join our “New Moon Ritual Intentions Setting Journey” on April 15th with something to let go of! Last month people were loving it so much that we heard it was “orgasmic” and “completely life changing.” Attend your first New Moon Ritual for FREE by emailing [email protected]. We would love to have you!

HOLY F*CK: VALENTINE’S DAY EDITION

In a special Valentine’s Day Edition of her monthly column, Holy F*ck, Alexandra Roxo tells us how reclaiming your “single” status can lead to the greatest love of all.

Portrait by Caitlin Mitchell Studio

From “intimacy grad school to solo initiation 
From age 21 to 32, I was in “Intimacy Grad School,” aka back-to-back relationships without breaks. Yet there were certain parts of myself I was not integrating. I always had trouble staying dedicated to my spiritual practice with someone traipsing around the bedroom while I was mid-meditation. I also hid some of my weirdness and wildness in certain moments. But more than anything, I hid my mystical.

But for the past two and a half years, I have been single and working on myself deeply, alone. I needed to be by myself to REALLY vow that I would never abandon my practice for anyone, ever again. And I also know that the subsequent career growth, shamanic initiation, and unfolding of myself, had to happen solo so I could define myself as ME and not as WE.

>>>

What are you really in love with?  
In these years, I have gone deep into both the pains and joys of being “single.” And part of this process has been about realizing that the word “single” is problematic to begin with. The word implies a LACK of something. And it implies that if you aren’t in a partnership, you aren’t whole in some way. Cause let’s face it- knowing if someone is “single” or not ties into old school traditional ways of viewing relationships and love and sex.

What if instead of saying “I’m single,” we said “I’m currently in love with my book writing!” Or “I’m loving my besties so hard right now!” Or “I’m doing some major healing work.” Because chances are you are deeply loving and in partnership with MANY things in your life, with or without a romantic love.

When we define ourselves based on LACK we set ourselves up for suffering, pain, anxiety, depression. When we define ourselves based on what excites us, makes us feel alive, connected, sexy and real—then we reprogram ourselves for success!

Now, that doesnt mean it’s not okay to want Love, or partnership, or a family. Allow that yearning. Always! But there is a difference between wanting something from a strong grounded place versus wanting something from a desparate clingy place outside of ourselves. One feels REALLY good to claim. The other feels like anxiety in the body.

Read on for 5 ways to swap your “single” status for “in love with so many other things” … 

Portrait by Caitlin Mitchell Studio

1// Stay connected to your heart. There is no better time to get to know the deepest of your Heart’s desires than when you have time and space. Get to know your blocks. Your barriers to Love. Your yearning. Your longing. How can you ask another to enter your Heart if you don’t know your own Heart? DO your work. Now is the time

*Easy ways to begin: Journal and/or meditate daily. Make a Pinterest boards of “What Makes you feel Alive” or “What Turns you On” and most of all BREATHE. Learn to let your belly hang loose and let breath travel through your body for a hugely more connected experience of living.

2// Change your words, change your realityChange your WHOLE vocab around dating, sex and love. No more “Honestly there are just no good men in X (swap X for your city).” Or, “Gosh dating in LA is so hard!” New Yorkers say the same. Small towners say the same. Your language CREATES your reality.

*Easy ways to begin: Try focusing on the good stuff—”Wow! I met two amazing, conscious men last week.” Sounds cheesy but it will reframe your experience! When someone does something kind for you, like opens a door or offers to help you at the store, take notice. And say it aloud: “Wow so sweet this guy carried my groceries!” It’s a SIMPLE practice but it can move mountains.

3// Reclaim your solo sex practice. This one can get super hard. But if you’re walking around horny all the time and unfulfilled, you will be like a starving animal on the prowl.

Take back your sexual power instead of waiting for someone to enter your life and get you off. Yes, it’s not the same. But you are going to feel so yummy and juicy if you start this process. Folks are gonna tooooootally look at you differently in Whole Foods. Trust me.

*Easy ways to begin: Take your masturbation practice up a notch. No more lazy vibrator in sweats to an old porn nights. Put on lingerie. Burn a candle. Buy some new toys. Explore something new on your own. Buy some erotica to read in the tub. Go to a ropes class.

4// Get clear about your REAL values. Many times we “think” we know and then someone comes and we’re all googoo gaga for them and wake up 6 months later like “whoops, our values are not aligned” because we didn’t define and clarify what we wanted. So take this time to dial in your business and get clear on your desires.

*Easy ways to begin: Get to know yourself—not the you from last year. What are you into right now, what do you want more of in your life, what are your hard Yeses and hard Nos in love and sex and relating?

5// See the whole world as your soul mate.  This is *advanced* spiritual practice my Loves!  But you can let love flow through you ALL the time. In every old man’s smile. Each caress of wind on your cheek. You see, there is no separation between the Beloved and You and your Whole Life. This is the shit the mystics talk about. Rumi. Hafiz. This is real deal work, and focusing on this will let your Heart be met ALL THE TIME.

>>>

Alexandra Roxo works with clients one-on-one, both in person and online, and focuses on sexual healing, sensual embodiment and empowerment! *Parts of this piece were edited from Alexandra’s “Sex Goddess” monthly column on Horoscope.com—check out her other work HERE.

HOW IT FEELS FOR A TRANS SOUL TO COME HOME

As the 2018 Leo Lunar Eclipse asks us to stand up in our fire and be truly seen, childhood abuse survivor and joyous healer, Danny Brave, shares his journey and reveals how it feels for a trans soul to come home …

Danny Brave. Photo by Tommy Venus.

“I remember the moment
when I came home to
my body

what a lovely reception 
that was
(though emotional) 
. . . ”

While working with a sexual empowerment coach in 2015, this was the beginning of a poem I wrote entitled “coming home.” In the exercise that inspired it, I visualized that pieces of my soul were perched over my head.

My coach then instructed me to reach up with my hands and pull these pieces of my soul back into my body with my hands. After a few minutes, the coach then instructed me to call my soul back into my body by placing my hands on my heart and saying my name out loud, three times: Katie. Katie. Katie.

And I burst into tears, because I felt in that moment a tiny piece of me came home, along with a deep knowing that I had never actually, up until this moment felt at home within my body. Not once in 28 years.

>>>

:: MEETING DANNY BRAVE :: 
This session took place just a month after recalling memories of my father sexually assaulting me as a child, an event which completely altered the course of my life. The memory shattered the fabricated reality of the cheerful, healthy relationships I thought I had shared with my immediate family members up until this point.  

As a result, my journey home into my body has also felt, and still sometimes feels, extremely challenging. In fact, at times, this would be an extreme understatement.

Between July of 2015 and now I have, almost relentlessly, uncovered countless repressed memories of being sexually assaulted and abused in a multitude of ways. Not only by my father, but also my mother and grandfather, along with some deeply questionable evidence that I was not in fact a woman.

I remember being in the thick of my repressed memory recall and looking in the mirror and talking to myself, and hearing a voice in my head say to myself, “I want to be a boy.” I thought I must be insane, and shut that voice down for an entire year before I would allow it to re-emerge and accept it as truth.  

Fast forward to today. I now know that my true name is Danny Brave, and I am a gay trans man. I discovered the trans part in June of 2016, but was too terrified to come out until that November. And the gay part I wasn’t even too sure about until about a week ago.

Photo: Tommy Venus

>>>

:: I WANT TO BE A BOY; I AM A BOY :: 
The reality of my gender identity came crashing down that June, when I decided to, once again, look my inner child in the mirror and have a conversation with them and really listen this time. This is a practice I had adopted from the amazing work of Louise Hay as I found it to be deeply healing (and for those who are brave, I cannot recommend it enough!)

I asked my inner child what was wrong, as I had been feeling deeply depressed, and I had long hair at the time that felt droopy and heavy. I asked what I could do to help them feel better. In response, I heard the voice of my inner child scream: “I want to be a BOY!! I AM A BOY!!  I want to cut off all of my hair!” 

It was that same voice I had heard a year ago, a voice that I could no longer ignore or discredit as crazy: this was the real me, the one who as a kid tried to pee standing up, who felt confused about why he did not have a penis, the one who loved dancing, singing, and fabulous shoes, and had dreams of being a visual artist.

This moment in the mirror was the moment I finally decided to listen to myself. Two days later, I cut off all of my hair and immediately felt so much better, so much more like me. I began to realize that I could not visualize myself in the future as a woman without wanting to die.  

>>>

:: FROM TERROR TO TRANSITION :: 
At this time, I had dug myself into a hole by moving to a small town an hour and a half outside of Los Angeles, where I was making little to no money, had no car, and no health insurance, let alone access to trans health care or support groups.

I was terrified, and had created this situation out of that same terror. I knew I had to get back to a city to gain access to support for figuring out my transition. I thought my choice would be Los Angeles as that would be the most convenient, but shortly after moving to LA and not being able to land a job with decent pay, I took the little money I had left and moved back to NYC in August of 2016.

It was in NYC that I was able to take my old job back, and gain access to the support I needed to come to terms with myself and transition: trans masculine support groups and free therapy via the Center on 13th Street (for which I am forever grateful). I came out in October 2016, and lost a majority of the “close” friends I had at the time.

In the winter of 2016, I met up with a friend from one of my support groups and told them I was having suicidal thoughts and that I couldn’t get out of bed. They gently pointed out to me over a cup of coffee that not being on testosterone was “not working for me,” (to put it mildly) and I started hormone therapy shortly thereafter, in January of 2017.

Every week since then (with the exception of one month during which I completely panicked) I have been injecting myself with a needle filled with testosterone (also simply referred to as “t” within the trans community).

This simple act is slowly but surely transforming me externally into the person I have always been internally, which feels a bit like becoming sane and going crazy at the same time. I am going through a literal and a figurative process of transformation in order to become the person who I have also always been. Quite a trip!

Photo: Tommy Venus

>>>

:: WHOLE, LOVING, JUICY :: 
Last week I had a more triumphant and joyful moment of homecoming, when I attended a dance class with my loving partner (who is also a trans man) shortly after having anal sex for the first time (for hours on end, I might add).

Something so essential about who I was clicked into place while with him: I felt like my soul actually landed it my body. It felt really good, and really whole and loving.

Running late for the class, I looked into his big, beautiful eyes on the train on the way to class and felt he was really seeing me for the first time, and I him. Beneath the boobs, we were, and are, two gay men, despite all of the “ma’ams” and “misses” and the lifetime of being perceived differently by everyone, including ourselves. Our truth felt so simple in that moment, and I felt truly beautiful in his eyes. Really real, and really me.

Looking in the mirror in the dance class, I could see how recently my arms, wrists, and fingers had gotten so much more masculine looking, and how flat my chest looked with my binder and the grey t-shirt I was wearing. This made me smile, as did acknowledging how much I love to dance—always have, always will.

I glanced over at my partner in the mirror, and saw a beautiful person who was somewhat scared to be themselves out in the world, but who was doing it anyway, just like me. I saw someone who was willing to go outside of their comfort zone to try something new, something they always wanted to do, like take a dance class, or write this article, and the simultaneous nervousness and courage behind his eyes made my heart swell.

Then I looked at his juicy butt doing the warm up and felt my genitals wake up once again in my stretchy pants. This also made me smile. I realized and accepted in this moment that I was gay—that I REALLY was a man who liked men (cis and trans). Always have been, always will be. And that despite all of the incest, I always have been and always will be a deeply sexual person (after all, my Venus is in Scorpio).

>>>

:: IT TAKES COURAGE TO ENJOY IT :: 
It has taken years, a village of trans allies, sensitive artist friends, therapists, Reiki attunements, shamanic healers, dance/movement therapy teachers, sexual alchemy teachers, yoga trainings, sexual empowerment coaches, random acts of kindness from strangers like the lady in the Starbucks who told me that who I was was really beautiful and that the world would love the real me, and thousands of dollars worth of credit card debt to get here. But damn, I did it. I’ve done it. I’m here.

And I love sex. Yes, I love sex! says the man who had his first orgasm from masturbation when he was 27 years old, because he thought sexual energy meant being hit, yelled at, and penetrated without consent. Says the man with a female body who didn’t want to look down or touch himself there because it would mean realizing that my mind and body did not match. Says the man who was, as a child, anally raped by his father and grandfather and molested in a bath by his mother, and taught by the Catholic religion that sex was a sin and that my body was something to be ashamed of. Says the man who was not allowed to share a bed with his boyfriend when he visited his parents’ house at the age of 26, being not-so-subtly shamed that they lived together before marriage.

Yes, I love sex. And I have reclaimed sex to the extent that it now makes me feel alive, loved, present, powerful, and best of all, real. What once made me feel terrified now allows me to feel safe. It takes me from that idea of myself in my head perched above my body to actually being an embodiment of self. It is teaching me to trust life again.

In the words of Bjork in her song “Big Time Sensuality”: It takes courage to enjoy it. I hope that everyone who has been through what I have gets to experience this particular kind of courage.

I hope that everyone gets to experience the pleasure of coming home into their own sexuality, their own body. 

Tommy & Danny. Photo by Lyndsey Kamide.

Danny Brave is a Writer/Public Speaker/Educator on the subjects of Gender/Transgender, Overcoming Trauma, and Ascension/Spiritual Living. He is a Master Shamanic Reiki Practitioner/Psychic Healer specializing in helping people of all genders, ages, body types, and races overcome the effects of child abuse/sexual assault via various healing modalities which he has come to term “Brave Healing Arts.” He conducts monthly LGBTQIA & Allies Community Healing Circles at Maha Rose in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (1st or 2nd Wednesday of each month). He is 100% sober, vegan, and loves to paint, take photos, dance, and pet dogs. 

HOLY F*CK: HOW TO REALIGN SEXUALITY AND SPIRITUALITY

Tired of disembodied meditation and higher chakra holiness? Alexandra Roxo tells us it’s time to get down and dirty with our healing, and realign sexuality and spirituality …

Photo by Caitlin Mitchell

How many times have you walked into a yoga class and had the teacher speak to your womb or your balls or your anus?

While you can find cute articles about sacred sexuality, breathing with your partner, and yoni eggs, the nitty gritty WHOLE body is largely left out of the modern spirituality and wellness conversation. And of our healing journeys as a result …

>>>

:: Sacral Shutdown ::
Right now, many of us are caught in a cycle of closing our “lower” chakras (a.k.a. our connection to Mama Earth and the body), as we focus on higher ones. This cycle often looks like:

PHASE 1: Make unconscious choices around sex, the body, and pleasure for a certain period of our lives (i.e. eating unconsciously, using sex for self worth). This phase is often impacted by everything from sexual trauma to eating disorders, which affect our ability to receive joy and pleasure.

PHASE 2: We find comfort as we begin our spiritual paths, manifesting in attempts to “transcend” the body with meditation, mantras, and other external spiritual tools (astrology, tarot etc.)

PHASE 3: Once “woke,” we wonder, why do I still not feel whole? Why am still not able to experience pleasure, and feel JOY on a regular basis?

>>>

:: Returning to the Raw ::
With millions of women coming forward as sexual abuse survivors through #metoo, many of us are more painfully aware than ever that trauma and shame live in the BODY, not just the mind. This means that more than ever, we have to figure out how to include sexual healing and a return to bodily pleasure in our modern spiritual journeys.

But this integration can’t come in a neat and fragrant package; we need to welcome the body and sexuality to the door in all its messiness—raw and bloodied, awkward, weird, and slightly unsettling. Because the conversation around sexual healing IS unsettling. IS raw. IS painful.  

How do we start bridging this gap? I’m not suggesting you start masturbating on the meditation cushion (through you can if you want … I have!) But we do need to get more fearless and more courageous in our conversations about the body, sex, pleasure, and pain, and in the way we heal.

Here are 4 ways to start integrating your sexual story with your spiritual one, right now …

Photo by Caitlin Mitchell

>>>

1// Woo your body back from numbness. If you spend 90% of your time on the computer and the rest in a seated meditation practice, most of your life is disembodied. I prescribe the Sofia Loren/ Italian housewife style of medicine, where you eat and dance and dress and fuck with such joy, that your pleasure begins to heal the Earth—because she’s so happy you’re enjoying her gifts!!  

Practice: Make a Pinterest Board with your fave women who embody RAW pleasure. I love Penelope Cruz in Almodovar’s films, Brigitte Bardot, and Sofia Loren. Eat food as if it’s your LAST meal! Feel how amazing it can taste when you slow down and savor every bite.

>>>

2// Explore. Last month I lead a retreat in Los Angeles that combined Japanese rope bondage and sexual healing (more on that here). And if you follow my work you know I dance with snakes too which awakened my sexy like WHOA.

While ropes and snakes may not be your thing (my Mars is in Scorpio, what can I say), find ways ways that feel safe and good for YOU to reclaim and LOVE your sexy side. Does taking a floor dance class sound fun and healing? Or learning how to make your body an offering to a lover with a sexy lap dance? Get curious! 

Practice: There are conscious kink classes in major cities (Babeland in NYC has rad classes!) I also highly rec reading erotic books, and exploring practices and women integral to this movement like Vanessa Cuccia of Chakrubs, Cycles and Sex, and Kimberly Johnson, aka The Vaginapratcor. 

>>>

3// Talk. Hold an intentional sharing circle for sexual stories, embarrassing stories, and erotic tales. Implement a timed sharing policy with no cross talking so people can share their stories without needing validation, approval, or advice. Or hold a dinner party themed around fun and sexy talk, and draw anonymous questions from a hat.

Practice: Here’s a sexy Moon ritual and an erotic recharge activation that can be used anytime AND done in a group!

>>>

4// Bring your shame and pain to the table. One barrier to embodied healing is compartmentalization. Often, we don’t think it’s possible to feel JOY while also experiencing PAIN. Or you may start an excited conversation about your new crystal dildo but also feel ashamed. Remember, your body knows that it’s possible for multiple feelings to exist at the same time—hold space for all of them, express them, and don’t shoo them away. 

Practice: When navigating shame, I choose my 3 go-to shamanic tools—BREATHE, SOUND, MOVEMENT. Lay on the floor, breathe into your belly like you’re pregnant with air, and make sounds while moving your spine. Breathe the shame, sound it out with a HA, a growl, a moan. Cry in your car. In the tub. And then put on a song and dance!

>>>

Bottom line is, the sexual and body healing that is necessary on this planet in our times is not going to happen from the MIND. 

It will only happen when we begin to integrate and come home to the body. Seek pleasure. Make space for joy. Sensation. Rage. Crying. Screaming. Cumming. As we come back to the body, and release old programming about it being shameful and dirty, we will come home to Mama Earth and her environment, which has been abused for far too long.  

*I am taking on 5 clients from February 2018 to July 2018 for a 6 Month Transformational Healing Experience around sexual healing, expression, and embodiment. It’s going to be a radical return to the body, pleasure, love, sexuality, and healing. For more info, please email [email protected]

WHAT YOUR PERIOD BLOOD IS TRYING TO TELL YOU

When energy psychologist Alexia Traverse-Healy started her cycle one night, a flood of emotions came with it. She soon discovered what her period blood was actually trying to tell her …

Photo: Christal Yuen

Feeling a movement, a shift of tides, I tense a little and then spring up from the bed. My partner looks bewildered. Mid gallop to the bathroom I shout over my shoulder: “I’m bleeding.” He relaxes. Her period.

I run to the bathroom but we are out of loo paper upstairs. I turn back on my self to head to the downstairs bathroom, covering the light switch in menstrual blood as I flick it on, having tried to hold the blood in with my hand. I won’t make it down and back.

“I’ll get it,”says my boyfriend, coming from the bedroom. Gratefully, I sit on the loo upstairs, door open. And just as I am pulling my Mooncup out of my vagina, full of not just free-flowing red blood, but also strings of mucous and matter, he bounds back up and freezes for a moment. Hand outstretched but face away, he mutters something about “mystery” and walks off.

I recognise the wounded feeling straight away. Mystery? I know what he means. He means how I ask him not to poop with the door open or fart in our bed. “I know it’s not the same,”he has already muttered as he heads off back down the corridor, in preparation no doubt for what happens next. He knows me well.

>>>

Because it IS my mystery … 
Then comes my Leonine anger. The years of hearing “Are you having your period?” when I am fired up and passionate. I want him to understand what rages through me when my blood is denied or demands to be hidden, to be cleaner, to be prettier.

Because, to me, it IS my mystery. It is my essence and my strength, my sexiness, my womanhood, my core. The smell. The blood. The mess. It is me. And to be turned off by it, turned away from it, is painful and personal.

I didn’t always feel this way. After growing up learning to conceal and apologize for it, it has taken me until 38 years old to be proud of it. The Mooncup has been a big part of the transition. Now I handle my blood. There’s no hiding with a Mooncup.

I cut back to this moment and tune into the love I feel for this man.

His reaction is to the sight of the blood all over my hands, down the inside of my thighs, dripping from my vagina into the loo, pouring from the full Mooncup into the sink. It is slightly shocking, if it’s not yours. If it’s not beloved to you.

>>>

When your daughter wants to paint with it … 
But I want him to be fascinated by it. I want him to come over with wonder and be interested and slightly awed. Like my five-year-old daughter is: “Mummy can you not take your Mooncup out until I get back from school? I want to see.”

At first, her deep, deep interest freaked me out. What? Really? Is that even appropriate parenting? But she was insistent and so purely intrigued. It was her right, as a woman in the making. I’ve been raising her to question, to take interest, to be fearless – so why not here too? With minimal fuss or pomp, I showed her this everyday occurrence infused with a little wonderment. And she was joyful. Fascinated.

I wanted to give her the choice of always being easy with her body. A wild, artistic child, she’d ask if she could paint with it. Even I have my limits, but god I love her for wanting to.

>>>

I will continue to worship my blood … 
My boyfriend is in the kitchen making us Sunday breakfast. And as I come down off my adrenaline high, I see what he means when he compares seeing me in full flow to farting in bed. Though to me, it’s not the same. With the blood of my monthly moon comes the possibilities of life and death, the magic of future and past, and I doubt anyone can say that about a fart.

But what he means is that, to him, it is a bodily function, and he sees them all the same. In a way, it may be his version of equality.

As I drop down from my orbit of emotions, I remember him falling asleep last night, with his cool hand on my too-hot belly, holding the pain for me and with me, asking me if I wanted an ice pack from the kitchen. And I feel grateful. I breathe. I’m here

If he holds me through the pain of my bleeding, then maybe for now I am happy to leave the blood paintings, the roars of grace and gut, the dancing and the revelry, to my sisters, my daughters, and to the mothers.

Every time we are triggered, it is an invitation to learn and to go deeper. To peel off an onion layer. I love that this morning’s little wounding helped me to deepen my trust for my partner, helped me to articulate silent shadow feelings that I’d never even thought to express.

I will continue to worship my blood, to feel proud and stand strong in my SHEness – but I won’t blame my man for running from it. It is powerful after all.

He asks me, before I send this in, to change “he bolts” to “he heads off down the corridor.” “I know it doesn’t sound as good,” he says, “but it’s more like what happened.”

I concede, erase, replace, and eat my delicious breakfast, bleeding quietly.

Alexia Traverse-Healy is a London-based energy psychologist who works with clients on anxiety, stress, phobias, sexual issues, relationship crisis, family, fertility, finances, patterns of stuck behavior, and existential questions. To book a free 20 minute phone consultation go to www.sheworkswellness.com, where you can also find a free SHEness Audio visualisation.

 

 

WHY WE HAVE TO GET REAL ABOUT DIVERSITY IN THE WELLNESS INDUSTRY

On the brink of opening a brand new studio in Harlem, SHAKTIBARRE co-founder Corinne Wainer confronts the status quo, and shares 5 ways to get real about diversity in the wellness industry right now …

When I read that 77% of yogis are white, and that in New York roughly 44% make over $75,000 a year, I was astonished. Also, like I had been de-naïved. Seven years ago I founded a yoga and literacy non-profit for 7th-12th grade girls called YoGirls Program, but I had not assumed that the lack of access to wellness education my young students experienced would follow them into adulthood.

I started YoGirls Program because I knew the shameful feeling of being excluded from this often elitist world. Though I’m not a cultural minority, I didn’t grow up with money, and wellness education is RIDICULOUSLY expensive. And there was the one time I was told not to come back to a barre class because my shoulder injury, which necessitated modified moves, would make their sequencing “look bad.” Given this minor “image” infraction, you can imagine what other exclusionary practices exist.

Soon, I began to realize that theses issues needed to be tackled in the wider world. At first, I pitched articles to wellness editors along the lines of: “Hey, I see you have many articles written about elitism in the wellness industry but none that really discuss how to solve the problem … can I write about that?” My “idea” became SHAKTIBARRE, the yoga-barre studio and community space I opened with my partner in 2016.

Our mission was to actually DO SOMETHING about the aforementioned wellness injustices. So we implemented a sliding-scale pricing model, offer classes that emphasize body, cultural, and spiritual inclusivity, and dedicate 10% of net profits to YoGirls Program. As my friend Robyn from The Babe Collective says, it’s been about building a biz without becoming a superficial a**hole! This is all the more imperative because the yoga industry is 82% women. Change starts with us.

In an industry that profits from your self-doubt, any wellness initiative that supports you liking yourself is a healthy rebellion—but amazingly, we’ve gotten explicit push back for this, and been told we should just “stick to exercise and stop caring so much.” Or haven’t been invited to things where our mission wouldn’t be popular with those who are after more glitter-worthy press.

Because good intentions are one thing—making real change at a grassroots level requires GRIT. It’s not enough to hope our overall vibe and messaging would magically erase a deeply ingrained and capitalist-motivated lack of diversity in the wellness industry.

So if you too desire to create tangible change—in wellness or any industry where there is a lack of integrity and action—then read on for 5 ways we turned feel-goods into do-goods, and let the SHAKTIBARRE story be your guide …

>>>

1. When we took a survey. So far we’ve had over 10,000 students and achieved a 4.9/5-star rating. Exciting. But we couldn’t help asking: “what’s up with that missing 0.1?” So we created a survey asking direct questions on everything from mat quality to cultural equality, promising to implement response-based changes within six weeks. We discovered that real empowerment comes from dynamic conversations, and thousands of our members were more than happy to share their honest insights when asked. The learning: In an industry where “exchange” has become the creepy synonym for “money,” make direct inquiries and practice active listening.

>>>

2. When we said “no” to big opportunities that would compromise our integrity. We’ve been asked countless times to partner with corporate brands and been offered 6-12 million dollar investment deals; and it was a memorable magazine moment that taught us early on the power of staying true to our SHAKTIBARRE selves. An incredible article was written about us, but the title used a pic of a supermodel as click bait. The feedback from some new students was that they’d been afraid to visit because they felt nothing like the famous woman portrayed in the piece.

From that moment on, we’ve refused to film or do interviews with anyone unless they use inclusive pictures and dialogue. We also decided to fundraise for our second location instead of taking on investors who may prioritize financial gain over our community efforts. The learning: Always emphasize your mission over money and fame. And be honest: if your mission is money and fame, reevaluate your mission.

>>>

3. When we got totally transparent online. Originally, we thought SHAKTIBARRE was just going to have local impact, but we realized our responsibility on-site and online. We take time each week to individually reply to reviews and Instagram comments, and pay extra special attention to tense conversations. For example, a woman recently challenged our fundraising campaign in response to a post we wrote with Alexandra Roxo, arguing that we’re “a for-profit company who can just go to the bank.”

We created a whole newsletter on it and asked for input from our community, ultimately opening our Quickbooks and telling the whole world exactly what we make, why, and how, all in the name of transparency. We even invited her to tea! The learning: Every criticism is a chance to unveil a deeper truth for both parties.

>>>

4. When we empowered our OWN community. We have about 30 people on our team at any given time, and in order to help them bring their gifts to the world, we extend our services inward. This means we’ve raised salaries twice before paying ourselves more, provided free coaching when asked, generated promo codes and worked out various continuing education opportunities (marketing seminars, teacher trainings, and attending outside classes, benefits, and performances together). The learning: When your team gets to experience your mission first hand, your foundation becomes rock solid, and your impact will be true.

>>>

5. When we became socially … awkward or awesome (you decide). We are a trendy, boutique fitness spot that also promises to create large-scale sociopsychological shifts in the way women experience wellness. That is why we sometimes post (with permission, of course) really provocative shares from teachers and students about racism, sexual assault, vaginal health, chronic illness, family dysfunction, learning disabilities … you name it. That is why we create SHAKTIPOPS (SHAKTIBARRE classes with a theme) that take deeper looks at how wellness is more specifically experienced by people of color (there’s a class coming up on December 3rd!), queer populations, Latina heritage, Judaism, morbid obesity … again you name it.

These subjects can be super triggering, and are NOT necessarily gonna get us all the likes on Instagram. But we see it as our responsibility as role models to go there. The learning: With every second you have in the limelight, say something consciously disruptive to exclusive wellness industry statistics. Want to get ridiculous right now? Post our crowdfunding link on your Instagram and start a conversation about real change through wellness.

 

>>>

The biggest challenge you’ll face with our 5 tips? That you’ll have to let go of being accepted and step into being accountable. The greatest reward will be a loyal, lasting, and long-term impact on an industry ripe with opportunities for equal-opportunity empowerment.

As I build more and more studios over the next 5 years (where do YOU wanna see one?!),  more and more adult women will get inspired to become activists, and more young girls will have a fully-funded after school program. Meanwhile, my co-founder Shauny Lamba will continue expanding our Shakti Teacher Trainings all over the globe which is where this dream gets even more real because every year the YoGirls design a service project where they visit a city in need and learn alongside their local peers! And this all starts in our SHAKTIBARRE empowerment hub home-bases …

We entirely believe in you to make this shift and hey sister, we’re in this together. Come visit us in Brooklyn this Thursday at our benefit party (and next Spring in Harlem, which you can learn more about here) and share your stories of becoming actionable in the name of women’s wellness.

WHAT YOUR SIGN NEEDS TO CONSIDER BEFORE GETTING A TATTOO

Thinking about inking up that bare summer skin? Before getting a tattoo, consider the long term implications for your sign, says Ruby WarringtonMain Image: Mohammad Faruque. 

 

Summer in my local ‘hood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is officially tats out season. As the mercury rises and jeans and long sleeves make way for tanks and micro shorts, my streets become a walking, talking gallery of ink.

In fact, if it used to be considered rebellious to get a tattoo, in 2017 the fact that I’ve personally yet to go under the needle (that kind of needle anyway—me and Botox is a whole other story, and one you can read about in my book) feels like the anti-establishment choice!

I considered it for a while there, back when I was 18 or so. White tattoos, that would only show up on my Caucasian skin when I had a tan, were a “thing,” and I liked the idea of a design that would only be visible half the time.

After a few weeks of research, I decided on an ornate crayfish design to wrap around my ankle—and thank Goddess I talked myself out of that one! Having a small mollusk inked on my body for life may have been befitting of my Cancer Moon sign, but it isn’t exactly a look that fits my current MO.

When it comes to making big decisions and implementing change in our lives (yes, getting a tat totally counts), the signs of the zodiac are grouped into three different categories: Cardinal, Fixed, and Mutable. Worth considering before you land on the tattoo for you …

*As always, in any matters considering personal appearance read for your rising sign too!

Photo: Matheus Ferrero

:: CARDINAL SIGNS :: Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn

Qualities: Trend-setting; bring about change by starting something new; project into the world (feelings, thoughts, ideas); use their will to make things happen.

Tattoo tactics: The urge to get inked may be linked to a big life change, as a way of marking the transition from what was to what could be. If this is the case, then consider what you truly want to bring with you into your new incarnation—and what you’re ready to leave behind. Is there also a way to incorporate an intention for the future into the design?

>>>

:: FIXED SIGNS :: Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius

Qualities: Make change in order to maintain the status quo (imagine tidying a messy house to bring it back to its original state); security-seeking; needs stability.

Tattoo tactics: For you, a new tattoo could be a way to imprint a cherished memory or state of being onto your body forever. Tats can be a source of comfort for you, a reminder that some things in life are indeed permanent, even when the outside world appears to be in a constant state of flux. Choose a design that triggers this sense of stability and reminds you that your body is your “home.”

Photo: Prabuddha Sharma

:: MUTABLE SIGNS :: Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces

Qualities: Accept and adapt easily to external changes; move quickly from one thing to the next; willing to change themselves to fit in with their environment.

Tattoo tactics: Two words—“impulse control.” Your signs are the most likely to be talked into getting a tat because all your friends are doing it, or seeing a celebrity style you like … and then finding yourself paying a fortune to have it removed a few years down the line. Give yourself at least two weeks to think things over before you commit, and take extra time to find a design that truly speaks to YOU.

This article originally appeared as part of my Style Goddess column over at Horoscope.com!

7 WAYS TO HAVE AN (ACTUAL) MAGIC WORKOUT

Fitness becomes truly powerful when we also get our spiritual sweat on. Former NFL cheerleader turned conscious trainer Kayla Vernaglia shares her top tricks for how to have a magic workout …

Let’s get real. It seems like everywhere we look these days there’s an ad to get “beach body” ready or “slim down for summer.” It’s no wonder we’re all running for our tarot decks and tubs of vegan matcha ice cream … 

There certainly isn’t anything wrong with honoring your bod, taking a sexy ass photo, and flaunting what your momma gave ya! But beyond the physical vessel fitness is a FEELING, and that’s where the magic lies and the change happens. When meeting our physical wellness goals is challenging, it’s often because there’s a mental, spiritual, or emotional weight behind it.

Which might sound like some heavy sh*t if it’s hard enough to find time to go for a run or get your down dog on.

Below are some of my pro tips for getting your spiritually conscious sweat on, and bringing an extra layer to your magic workout … 

>>>

:: 1/CREATE A WORKOUT ALTAR :: 
Clear the space and really set the intention! This is especially great for in-home workouts. If you’re using a mat, find sacred items that hold meaning to you and place them at the head or foot. Perhaps you line the mat with spell-infused candles or a freshly pulled tarot spread. Maybe you incorporate the four elements in some way.

Don’t have a mat to create the traditional vibe? Alternatives could include anything from practicing on a patch of grass or dirt in your backyard that calls to you, using your own body as a moving altar (with your outfit choices, for example), or mapping a route on your walk/run, starting North, and then hitting the other three magical directions.

You can make it as non-traditional or traditional as you’d like—it’s your space to connect to. Work with what you’ve got and if the intention is pure, you”ll always be able to harness the magic.

>>>

:: 2/PRACTICE MIND CONTROL :: 
The mind is powerful AF. Truly, every choice we make, from the foods we eat to the words we say, start in the mind. If you are mid sweat and can’t stop thinking about how much you hate your thighs, well they’re probably not gonna respond with loving you back, sister. Flip the script and write a little love note to those puppies: “I love and appreciate my thighs for holding me up and keeping me strong.” Ah, doesn’t that just feel better?

>>>

:: 3/LOVE UP ON YOURSELF :: 
Stay in your own lane and let go of comparisons. Whether you’re an avid fitness goer or a complete novice, you are right where you should be in your journey. Focus on what you CAN do, not what you can’t. Be kind to yourself, and give yourself some love for showing up and granting your soul the beautiful opportunity to move energy and connect to the core.

Words count for sure, but there are so many other magical ways to tell yourself yor’re worthy. Perhaps you put on your sauciest pair of skivvies and walk around all day like you’re carrying a sexy little secret, or wear sensual fabrics and colors that make you feel desirable. When was the last time you sent yourself flowers? Do it up and love yourself up cause you deserve it baby!

>>>

:: 4/CHECK IN WITH YOUR “EARTH SUIT”:: 
We are different day to day, moment to moment—what might feel okay for you now might be different later. Have you ever had those days where you just feel sluggish or sad? Or maybe you feel really jazzed and inspired? Listen to those feelings and follow suit, literally. If something does not feel accessible for you, then modify or take that sacred pause. Modifying does not mean you’re doing less than, it means you’re honoring your body.

>>>

:: 5/GET DIRTY :: 
Get outside and do your workout barefoot! There is something incredibly magical about placing your feet into the earth and really grounding into her energy. Whether it’s by the ocean, in a garden, or beyond, taking our sweat sesh outside is a wonderful way to remind us that we are connected to something greater. With that sense of security, it may just allow you to reach new sweat levels you never dreamed possible.

>>>

:: 6/SWEAT WITH THE MOON :: 
Allow your workouts to follow the moon cycle. If the moon is waning, perhaps you go for a long run to help sweat out the toxins and release. If it’s waxing, you might work on strength building exercises such as lifting free weights to help connect to the idea of adding power to your life. If it’s summer and your workout lands around a Strawberry Full Moon, you may focus more on pelvic floor exercises for sexual liberation. Perhaps, it’s closer to the colder months, such as a Snow Moon, and you shift your focus to gentle stretching to enhance relaxation and yoke mind with body.

>>>

:: 7/BREAK OUT THE TUTU :: 
Like for real … HAVE FUN! Working out doesn’t have to be a horrible experience. It might even be *GASP* enjoyable! If someone farts in yoga class, we’re all still gonna make it people. As adults, sometimes it’s like we need permission to play. Add the element of fun whenever you can—maybe mid gym sesh you pretend the floor is lava, or wear a tutu to yoga class. Get creative and release that little kid who just wants to experience the world through light and laughter.

>>>

And always remember: you are a strong ass warrior queen. A Wonder Woman. Next time you lace up your sneakers or slip into your leotard (do people still wear those—please say yes!), harness the power of thought, try a few magic tricks, and allow self-love to transform you from the inside out. Now go get ’em (cue Rocky theme music)!

Kayla Vernaglia has always allowed her love of music, fashion, performance, and fun to infiltrate her active lifestyle. She is a former team captain and NFL cheerleader for The New England Patriots. In 2010, she teamed up with her sister to create The Mind Body Barre Method® – a multi-level workout emphasizing body awareness, functional fitness, and spiritual connection. ​Her mentorship program lovingly displays her passion for helping people embrace their inner wild, connect to their core, and push past societal bullshit to uncover their own deep sacred truths. She currently resides in Boston with her 10lb fur baby, Lucy. 

HOLY F*CK: WHY WOMEN TRIGGER EACH OTHER & HOW TO DEAL

From public shaming to private comparison—enough is enough, says Alexandra Roxo. It’s time to figure out why women trigger each other, stop throwing shade, and turn those triggers to gold …

Photo: Alexandra Herstik

As women, we have been taught to compare ourselves to others women from the day we were born …

We’ve been presented with images of people we’re supposed to look like, dress like, love like, and work like. We’ve talked shit about other women and not only has it been acceptable, it has gained us allies.

And then we reach a certain age where we hold the shit talk in, because it doesn’t make us look good … but the shit is still shit. And it stinks.

>>>

WHEN JUST BEING IS BEING “TOO MUCH” 

I’ve been triggering people since I was young. I was 12 when people started calling me “Slut” and “Whore.” Though I hadn’t so much as seen a penis at that time, I was expressing as a feminine being, and people were pissed. I eventually saw that the way I expressed myself made people uncomfortable, and so I stopped eating, changed my hair, and did just about everything I could to attempt to deflect the hatred and jealousy of other women.

But as hard as I tried to squash down my power, it always leaked out. I’d piss someone off and they would tell me I was “too much” or call me “Slut” again. Thankfully, at age 33, I have had enough therapy, sat in enough plant medicine ceremonies, and done enough inner work in general to know that it’s safe to reclaim and express the power I attempted to shove down for so many years. But it’s always a work in progress.

As an adult, I’ve split with business partners and besties because of triggering behavior—and received death and gang rape threats because of the creative work I do.

>>>

WHEN WE DO OUR WORK, NOTHING REMAINS UNSEEN 

But now, because I’m more aware of EVERY fiber of my energetic alignment, when something even just feels slightly off, I can tell.

When we develop our witchy and magical powers and do our own work, nothing remains unseen. And negative thoughts or jealousy towards another person creates a hook or cord. An energetic connection. Now, more than ever, I can tell when I am triggering other women, and they are triggering me.

I can see the look in their eyes when I’ve said something too bold or too big or too sexy or too powerful. I know when I don’t hear from them for a while and they aren’t speaking up, that I’ve triggered the part of them that wishes they could. I used to avoid those looks in people’s eyes. They hurt too much. But now I won’t sacrifice myself at the altar of someone else’s shit.

And I know when I’m triggered too. When the tall skinny blonde women in my life bring up my own body issues from the past. Ones I thought I was over (ish). It’s like being an alcoholic and walking into a bar. Why do it? But I can’t just get rid of the beautiful blondes in my life because they unknowingly trigger me! So I keep working through it … 

Photo: Alexandra Herstik, Dress: Forgotten Feather Vintage, Styling: Haley Francise

FROM PUBLIC SHAME TO PRIVATE COMPARISON  

As adult women most of us no longer publicly shame each other. Instead, we compare quietly behind closed doors. Remember when we had private eating disorders and hated our bodies? Anybody? Now many of us are all talking about that, thank Goddess! But we still aren’t talking about the fact that we’re quietly judging each other all the time …  

It’s a wild world out there ladies and I know that the endless sea of triggers is never gonna end. But we CAN own up to our triggers, speak honestly with one another, and start CLEANING UP OUR SHIT!  

Digging in to why women trigger each other and what we can do about it, here’s what I propose …

>>>

DO honestly challenge yourself to come clean. Pretending will get you nowhere! Recently, I felt very triggered after hanging with a friend. At first I thought, “Maybe I shouldn’t hang with her!” But I challenged myself to come clean. The next time I saw her, I spoke directly: “I felt very challenged the last time I hung out with you. It triggered the part of me that thinks I must hustle to be successful. I know this is all mine and it was a beautiful and painful process for me.” She received my words and it was so loving, and there was nothing ANYONE did wrong. FUCK YEAH.

DON’T lash out and say “You trigger me! Every time you complain about your weight and you wear a size 2, I feel awful that I’m a size 6 and I want to kill you. Fuck you!”

DO take space. When you need to, step aside, take a moment, breathe. Journal. And come back to the situation when you are grounded and in a productive place rather than a REACTIVE one.

DON’T use excuses about taking space to avoid necessary confrontations. Ask yourself, “Am I just running?” While I’m definitely not suggesting that you contact everyone in your life who’s triggering you, notice when you can’t ignore that heavy feeling inside. Instead of ignoring that text, DM, or email, craft an honest reply.

DO start taking responsibility for throwing internet shade. If you’re sending jealous, envious, or angry vibes, sometimes to complete strangers, it’s time to come clean. If it’s a trigger you can confront, then DO that. But if it’s not, unfollow, block, and stop engaging. If Kim K triggers you and you keep thinking hateful things about her bod, then stop looking at photos of it. When we start to learn energy work and ritual, we must take responsibility for EVERY little bit of our energy that gets thrown around. Whatever you send—even unconsciously—is going to come back to you three-fold.

DON’T try and “fix.” As women we LOVE to sit and “fix” each other. When you share a trigger with someone, or someone shares one with you, let it hang loose and messy and bloody for a moment instead of trying to solve it and make it neat and pretty and clean. For example, after hearing the statement “I am triggered by the fact you have more followers than me,” just sit and hold that energy instead of suggesting your fave social media strategist and marketing plan and sending 10 helpful emails. Feel the feelings together about what was said. Holding the words and trying to fix are two different things.

DON’T throw out a good friendship just because the person triggered you a few times. In the past year, I’ve been in multiple situations with women where our friendships have ended because we haven’t chosen to just sit and talk and face the triggers together. Instead of giving it time and space and facing the dark depths together, we have both run for the hills!

DO look at the why. “Were they intentionally hurtful? Or is them being them just triggering for me?” If you find the fact your new friend can walk into any bar or yoga class and turn all the heads in the room incredibly triggering, look at the part of you that desperately wants to be seen. Instead of thinking about her—spend some time on YOU. Work on how you can begin to turn heads.

DON’T let it eat you alive. If we walk away from friendships, and block people on socials again and again because we are triggered, we are walking away from incredibly valuable lessons about ourselves. But if we stick it out without acknowledging the facts, it will become an elephant in the room that becomes cannibalistic and eats the friendships. Usually in an epic and mythical way that warrants trips to psychics and energy clearings to clean up the mess! We don’t want that either.

What we need, if we want to revolutionize this reality, is a new era where vulnerability and truth have real value. It starts with us.

Want to make sure you move towards your fullest expression and don’t get lost in a sea of triggers? Join me in Moon Club for powerful communion and mentorship. 

HOLY F*CK: WHY SHIBARI BONDAGE IS THE ULTIMATE SURRENDER

In search of the deepest act of spiritual surrender, Alexandra Roxo gets bound and discovers boundlessness with the ancient art of Shibari bondage …

Shibari (Japanese Rope Bondage) can be erotic, intimate, loving, sexy, quiet or raucous, meditative, artistic, insightful, transformative—all depending on the people engaged and how they both feel at the moment” – Victoria Blue

>>>

I am always on the hunt to find ways to get free, to go wild, to let loose, and to go deeper into myself. Over the last 15 years, my search to explore the depths of my sexuality and spirituality has taken me everywhere from witch camp in the woods of Oregon, to working as a dancer in a truck stop strip club in New Mexico, to banging a drum at a Rainbow Gathering in West Virginia, to an orgasmic meditation circle where I had my clit stroked by an old Indian man … and SO many other places and practices.  

Drugs. Sex. Spirit. Art. It’s been a lifetime of exploration that started the first time my mom pulled Louise Hay off the bookshelf when I was 7, and the first time I kissed a boy, and girl, at 8 … 

So for an explorer of depths who hasn’t left many stones unturned, I am always seeking something new to try and am always ready with a big fat YES! 

>>>

WOMEN TYING WOMEN 
My next yes fell straight into my lap after my dear friend Kyp Malone (who played the “urban shaman” in my web series “Be Here Nowish,” and whom I consider a Yoda of sorts), took me to a dinner party, introduced me to a woman in the corner named Victoria Blue, and said “You two should talk.”  

It all remained a mystery until months later. I was on the bus back home from 3 days of steeping and soaking in the magical Orr Hot Springs of Northern California and I suddenly thought to myself: I want to be tied up. This was especially random after spending 3 days in a tub reading a book about Jesus’ mystical life. But the words were clear and from my heart.

I’d been tied up by lovers before and engaged in a fair amount of BDSM in sex, but I knew there was something more here that I wanted and I began to investigate the ancient form of Japanese bondage called Shibari. Whereas other types of BDSM include performed dominance or submission, or the giving and receiving of pain as practice, Shibari is a fine art. Comparing a “50 Shades” rope scene with Shibari would be like comparing an IKEA rug with one from a Moroccan souk. 

Interestingly, when I googled “Shibari LA” and the first thing to pop up was a workshop called “Women Tying Women” with none other than Kyp’s friend Victoria as teacher! The next day, the magic continued when I walked into my 5Rhythms class and a cute woman ran up to me, handed me a card, and said  “Come to ‘Women Tying Women!’ My friend Victoria Blue is teaching!“ “She has one private session left. Do you want it?’ 

FULL. BODY. YES! 

Victoria in a state of calm, suspended surrender

>>>

GOING OFF LEASH 
So why did these words spring from my soul and why did I even want to be tied? Perhaps there is some past life witch healing there. But really, I think it’s because I crave deep surrender. And I crave deep catharsis.  And I long to become art as often as possible … 

How many places in your life can you TRULY surrender in? By surrender, I mean LOSE YOUR MIND. Let go of the reins. My friend Andi calls it “going off leash.” When you go “off leash” you slip into an altered state of ecstasy and sometimes agony and the mind goes quiet. Void.

Mind-blowing, expansive sex is a place one can find surrender. Meditation can be. Some good old fashioned tequila and a night of all night dancing with some MDMA licked from a tiny plastic bag in a Brooklyn bathroom worked in my late 20s. Plant medicine ceremonies too. Dance can be ecstatic and deep. But being tied up seemed like a depth of surrender and catharsis that my soul needed now.

Even though I’d been “off leash” many times, I was still nervous before going to see Victoria. Because not only was I going to be tied, I would also be suspended. Not like suspended from school—like suspended from the ceiling off a rope. Yes, this may conjure some morbid images of hanging corpses, but I thought of it like making myself into an ornate chandelier hanging as a centerpiece.

I told Victoria I wanted to be tied in a pose of expansion—heart opening, if possible. She quietly blindfolded me … 

>>>

BOUND & BOUNDLESS 
I closed my eyes and Victoria began to play a German instrumental album that was integral to my sexual awakening in my early 20s. Out of all the music in the world she chose the goth band that the first person who ever tied me up used to play, and whom I had learned some of the most beautiful and fun things about sex at the age of 23. This moment of kismet softened my heart like butter, and as she tied me I felt myself starting to relax after being reminded of the divinity present.  

She bound me tight, hands up and open, back arched up, heart to the sky, one leg extended, and one folded. I let the ropes hold me. They were tight. Not soft and sweet. I began to turn into pliable flesh with no other option but letting go. I was like an infant. Helpless. Paralyzed almost. But the more and more I was tied, the more and more relaxed I felt. Like someone was caring for my soul.  

Then she hoisted me up and I lay back, being held only by this rope around my waist, floating in the air. The whole of my weight resting on one piece of rope. Completely bound. Angelic even. And that’s when the full surrender and deep catharsis began … 

Tears streamed down. Then they broke into deep, deep sobs from some place inside me that I had never met before. And moans of pain mixed with joy. Of release. Of heartache and heartbreak. I hung there. The pain escalated until the discomfort quieted the mind in the most nurturing way. The only thing possible to do was breathe.

I sobbed and breathed until I reached that edge that I have loved to flirt with for so many years. I whispered to her: “I’m at my limit” with tears streaming down my face and my chest. And then, ever so gently, Victoria pulled me down. She stroked my head and told me that I stayed up there a very long time and that I was very strong. As she pulled the ropes off me, my body felt lighter and freer than it had in ages. I felt my consciousness move into every cell. I could breathe into corners where breath hadn’t touched. I felt alive.

Victoria and @sophiashibari

Discover more about Victoria’s private sessions and group classes HERE, and join she and I this October for a two day overnight retreat in Topanga that will bring together Shibari, Shadow Work, Storytelling, and Sexual Healing. If you’re interested in this deep work, add your name HERE and we’ll send out applications and full retreat info in a few weeks. 

THE SPIRITUAL MEANING OF YOUR SUGAR ADDICTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

>>>

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

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

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

>>>

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

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

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

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

>>>

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

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

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

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

Art: Sustici

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

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

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

>>>

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

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

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

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

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

>>>

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

THE TAURUS NEW MOON WANTS YOU TO TRUST IN YOUR VALUE

The message of the 2017 Taurus New Moon is to connect to your inner stillness, be present for beauty, and trust in your true value, says Sandra Sitron  …

Binta Dibba for Nakid Magazine by Bethany Vargas

New Moon :: April 26th 2017:: 8:18 am EST :: 6 degrees 27 minutes Taurus

Slow. Peaceful. Still. Serene.

The moment of thisTaurus New Moon opens a portal for you to connect with your inner stillness (aka inner serenity, the quiet mind, your essential nature, your higher self). When you access your “inner stillness,” you may notice a sense of true security. In this headspace of harmony and peace you have no insecurity. You trust in your value. You trust in abundance.

This portal is open for you. Move into it through meditation. Create space and stillness. Be patient. Be present to the beauty around you. Focus your attention on being grounded, registering the sensations in your body, and connecting to your inner worth.

Taurus is a powerhouse sign. On the Taurus New Moon, the Sun and the Moon meet here, to represent a new beginning. We can take this time to send our wishes to the moon. What new beginning are you ready for in your life? Craft your intentions now.

It’s especially powerful to center your intentions on Taurus themes, which focus on the physical body. The stimuli that makes the physical body feel good. The food, shelter, and water the physical body needs to exist. Money. Anything that is sustainable or of value that will keep the body going for a long time. Anything beautiful that the physical body will appreciate.

This Taurus New Moon entices you to find inner stillness. What does Taurus have to do with inner stillness? Taurus rules the body. When you can become completely grounded in your body and aware of the information that is coming in through your senses, you have acquired one way to arrive in a meditative state. You are present.

Inner stillness helps you discover other Taurus themes. It makes you aware of your inner worth and your inner value. Your security. Your sense of abundance. Your inner harmony. It brings your values into perspective. Inner stillness is grounding and secure.

There is a vibration of Taurus that can be completely concrete and stubborn. At this Taurus New Moon, it’s time melt any stubbornness and transmute it into stability. True stability creates space for security and openness.

As you create stillness within yourself, you are tilling fertile soil in which to plant your seeds. Your Taurus New Moon seed intentions should bring forth lovely blooms of abundance, harmony in relationships, security, physical health, and beauty. These themes can be very powerful for you now.

>>>

Moon semi-sextile Mars
The next move in a game of chess.
This aspect urges you to take action. Mars is in the zippy sign of Gemini, cajoling along the slow-poke Taurus New Moon. They may not agree on the correct speed. But they can decide to take concentrated, deliberate action. And that action can be potent. Center yourself and then move your chess pieces deliberately. Take your time. Make it happen. This is not time to push forward hastily. You can take slow and powerful, grounded actions that are based on your values.

>>>

Moon trine Saturn Retrograde 
Drinking your green smoothie.
The Taurus New Moon is in a wide trine to Saturn. Saturn’s energy here can help you find the structures that work best for you. What are your systems for optimal health and wellness? What are your best systems for quieting your mind? For exercise? For learning? For communication? For managing your finances? This is positive energy that will help you get everything into alignment. Think about what kind of support and structure you need and call it in.

>>>

Use the questions below to dive deeper into the lessons of the 2017 Taurus New Moon. For a more accurate reading, calculate your chart for free here and see what house holds 6 degrees Taurus…

Aries or New Moon in the 2nd House
This New Moon takes place in your house of security, money, values and worth. What support can you ask to receive?

Taurus or New Moon in the 1st House
This New Moon takes place in your house of identity. How are the circumstances in your life teaching you about who you really are?

Gemini or New Moon in the 12th House
This New Moon takes place in your house of the subconscious mind. What advice would your higher self give you about an issue in your life? Write down your issue, then write your higher self’s advice.

Cancer or New Moon in the 11th House
This New Moon takes place in your house of friends and future. What vision will you craft? What do you desire?

Leo or New Moon in the 10th House
This New Moon takes place in your house of career. Where can you push yourself a little further out into the limelight?

Virgo or New Moon in the 9th House
This New Moon takes place in your house of exploration. What do you need to see that you aren’t seeing?

Libra or New Moon in the 8th House
This New Moon takes place in your house of emotional union. What feeling is ready to change form? Write yourself a letter from that feeling. Let it tell you everything it needs to say.

Scorpio or New Moon in the 7th House
This New Moon takes place in your house of primary relationships. How will you let yourself get closer to another person? What will you say to encourage closeness?

Sagittarius or New Moon in the 6th House
This New Moon takes place in your house of health and habits. What is one small thing you can do every day to connect to your body? Can you thank your body for that connection?

Capricorn or New Moon in the 5th House
This New Moon takes place in your house of creativity and fun. How are you yearning to express yourself?

Aquarius or New Moon in the 4th House
This New Moon takes place in your house of home and family. What will you do to welcome in a new feeling at home?

Pisces or New Moon in the 3rd House 
This New Moon takes place in your house of learning and communication. Do you believe that a breakthrough comes to you or that you have to invite it in? What would you do to invite it in?

Want more wisdom? Book a reading with Sandra here.