WITH INTENT: WHAT IT’S REALLY LIKE LIVING IN A COMMUNE

Living in a commune reflects the humanitarian vision and values of the Aquarian Age, says Amanda Capobianco. Just no-body mention the “C” word…Homepage image: The Source Family

Just over a year ago I did something that would appear crazy to most people around me. I let go of a five room, $1600 apartment in the heart of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and traded my solo living situation for well over 20 roommates.

When I moved into to my own apartment I thought I had “finally made it.” But as I set my last moving box down and crossed the threshold, the voice of my spirit, my own higher self – or what I actually like to think of as Shiva – came through: “Don’t get attached,” it said. “Appreciate this to the fullest because it’s an illusion that won’t last forever.”

I appreciated it for over a year. Walking around naked, decorating however I wanted, all of that alone time… It was dreamy and ideal. I was proud that after years of roommates and sublets I finally had a place of my own. Not to mention the apartment was beautiful – a top floor, sunlit, spacious home, with a walk in closet to boot!

But the voice kept getting stronger. This living alone business wasn’t for me. You see, when I wasn’t alone in my apartment I was involving myself in another space just a neighborhood away in Greenpoint – an intentional community called Golden Drum.

I had been connecting with them for about four years or so, and at one point it became very clear that in order to progress on my spiritual path I would need to embrace the initiation of communal and intentional living. After all, this is the teaching of the Aquarian Age – to move out of the solo and selfish Piscean age and into the communal and humanitarian vision of the Aquarian. I knew this had to be my next step – or rather leap – into the unknown.

While it was a clear decision, it wasn’t an easy transition. I had moments where I doubted my choice, believing everyone would call me crazy, and if this new situation proved to be temporary I’d be stuck trying to find yet another home. I didn’t back out though, and I could have.

A year or so later, after some deep spiritual scrubbing, I find myself living in the most harmonious environment, and with some of the greatest people I have come to know on this path of awakening. My work has been supported as well as my health and my happiness. It was by far the hardest and yet, the best decision I have ever made.

We spoke to Amanda in more detail about her experience of living in a commune…

The Numinous: How did you first connect with Golden Drum?
Amanda Capobianco: A close friend of mine had been doing some spiritual work with the community and had just come back from a week long retreat. When she spoke of her experience with the community’s spiritual teacher I knew that I had to investigate. Here I was, like so many, a yoga instructor with no real teacher to learn from or help guide me. I knew it was something I needed to feel into so I started attending events and creating relationships with the community to see what it was all about.

TN: What appealed to you about the community and their lifestyle?
AC: What appealed to me most was that it was and is highly intentional, rooted in the study of sacred practices and open to all walks of life, especially to those that express a need for healing and transformation. It felt revolutionary, compassionate and also, the people were very real, very human. There was no big illusion of spiritual grandeur. You felt that everyone involved was working through their stuff and totally committed to doing so. After being a part of this myself, not only do I see my own transformation but I am a witness to those transforming around me. I can see how people have empowered themselves through their dedication to spiritual disciplines and studies.

TN: Is this something you sought out or, did it find you?
AC: I feel like it found me but it was something that I had wanted all along. I loved the idea of a space that fostered community and peaceful living. I had tried living in community in some sense, renting an industrial loft and having like-minded roommates. But, without any sort of structure or discipline, it was never fully realized. We were all good people but it just never opened in the way I had envisioned. I believe now what was missing was sharing in strong spiritual practices and a commitment to serve others, as well as guidance beyond our own “inner guide”.

Amanda with a drum gifted to her by her spiritual teacher

TN: What are the rules/codes you live by?
AC: It’s not a rigid household by any means, but there is a code of conduct that helps keep the energy peaceful. Because we base our work in spiritual disciplines, it’s important that we keep the space very clean, not just physically but energetically. We are very mindful in this way. These guidelines may appear strict, but are truly set in place as an advantage to our liberation.

We are substance free, no smoking, drinking or drug use.
We do not shout at each other or act in any violent capacity, if we do, we have to leave.
We do not eat flesh foods including fish.
We all have a service duty to help move the non for profit organizations (Golden Drum, Sacred Arts Research Foundation) along.
We all pitch in to help with events and everyday household chores.
We have a protocol for inviting guests over to stay.
We communicate via email threads to make communal decisions and we have house meetings on a regular basis.

TN: Can you describe an average day at home?
AC: We begin each day with some form of morning practice or ritual. This could be communal or individual. After which we head into our work life, studies and/or tend to the business of the community spaces. If I’m working from home there are usually, at least, two other people around, with others coming and going. There may be a music rehearsal then a private healing session, I may even be giving a yoga lesson online, it really just depends on the day.

There are usually some communal meals and if more than one of us are eating at time a good conversation about the current astrological aspects might be taking place! If we have an event in the evening we take care to organize and set up so that all is in place. We tend to our individual sacred practices before bed. There is no code of when we should sleep just an overall sense to be mindful of others if we are pulling an all-nighter.

The beauty is in the harmony of it. To be in a space where so much is happening but it is flowing peacefully is the true take away of community living. It really teaches you how to let go of all those things you think you need, like absolute quiet and for no one else to be around in order to focus. You learn how to conquer all of that and get your work done anyways. It is a true training for any spiritual practitioner.

TN: Who is your teacher/guru and how often do you see him?
AC: My teacher is recognized as Taino Elder Maestro Manuel Rufino. I am eternally grateful for all that he has shared with me. I try to see him as often as possible.

TN: What are your feelings about the word ‘cult’?
AC: It feels like a word rooted in the paradigm of fear.

TN: How do you explain your living situation to your family, people you’re dating etc.?
AC:
With transparency. Being a yoga teacher, my family is used to me being the “odd one,” but they trust how happy and healthy I am. Year after year, my spirit is in peace. While they might not share the same values they cannot deny their daughter’s happiness and contentment.

Dating is funny in the world of intentional community living though. It’s not impossible, but it will never be what it was when you lived alone. Which for me is actually a high point. You have to go really slow and gently bring that person into the fold. Otherwise, it’s just too intense for them. However, if they make it they are met with an incredible community of supporters. I’ve learned a lot about relationships being surrounded with conscious couples. It’s been a great way to undo the ideas of the past surrounding love and partnership, and it has been very healing.

With her roommates at the Sacred Arts Research Foundation

TN: Do you think more people will seek this kind of living situation in the future? Why?
AC:
 I think when people start to understand how incredibly helpful it is to live in community, they will begin to let go of the illusion of needing so much private space.

Think of all the people who are afraid to have children because they don’t have enough money or they don’t have a partner. When you live in a community like ours you have help that you can lean into. You have people that have done it before and can share knowledge with you. You also have children around you via other families, so maybe you don’t have to have a child after all. Maybe that child comes to you in another way. Again, its learning to let go of what you think you need (the societal pressures we are all subjected to) and recognizing the gifts that are already right there in front of you.

On an even more practical note, why pay $1600 a month when you can pay $800 and live just as peacefully, abundantly, and harmoniously? I guess keeping up an image can be cool, but I would much rather live simply and spend all that extra money investing in my continuing education, helping out my family or perhaps taking some time to travel.

TN: What are the difficult parts, if any?
AC: Living amongst spiritual practitioners means you are stepping into a vibration that’s going to show you things about yourself that were much easier to hide from when you were living in your independence. It is a mirroring process with many mirrors! In a lot of ways, you are completely exposed, and it is up to you to own your stuff and then transcend it. Sometimes, it takes a while for this to happen.

You have to let go of judgments and allow for others and yourself to grow, which means you have to learn to forgive and practice compassion. It’s much easier to hide. It’s much easier to isolate yourself or run away. But then you aren’t really growing, and those that come to live in an intentional community are on a path that values spiritual growth. It’s not enough to just take a yoga class every once in a while and call that spiritual living. This is a clear and deep investment in your path of awakening.

TN: Do you see yourself growing old with your community? Is this your long term plan?
AC: I do! I am not sure what it will look like 50 years from now and I don’t know that staying in NYC is really something that I want for the long term but staying connected to this community, our way of life, our walk and these teachings are something I hope to carry with me for as long as I possibly can.

Follow the links for more about Golden Drum and the Sacred Arts Research Foundation, and discover ore about Amanda Capobianco and her work here.

GODDESS TRIP: DIARY OF A PSYCHEDELICS ADDICT

And almost ten years sober, her experiences inform her work as a healer to this day, says former psychedelics addict Jesse Heid.

Jesse Heid celebrating her 39th birthday earlier this year

My six siblings and I grew up in what I can only describe as a mellow and small Christian cult, created by my parents. Their worship centered around a Buddha-Christ figure and I took it very literally when they taught me, ‘Jesus lives in your heart.’ To me, Jesus was the most gorgeous, the most beautiful hunky guy. I had that classic ’70’s portrait of him on my bedroom wall, the one where he’s sexy Jesus with the beard.

I had always felt that I was Christ’s favorite kid. I really thrived on the sense I developed early on that I was sacred and Beloved to the Divine. He did everything with me, ballet classes and tea parties. He also was also the compassionate witness to all my childhood traumas. As a result, I had a very intimate, loving, and positively romantic relationship to the Divine.

But when I first altered my consciousness with marijuana around age 21, I started to hear a new voice guiding that Divine dialog, and it was the voice of a woman. This Great Feminine presence was the raddest experience of my life. Beyond words, beyond what I could describe as Love and Wisdom. When I started using various psychedelics and entheogens this Divine female voice took on a great authority – such authority, it made Jesus look like your super casual, chill best friend.

Goddess I call her, and her voice commands deep loving RESPECT. And, while in hallucinogenic and other altered states, I was in constant dialog with her. Mostly her talking to me while I tripped on this miraculous communion with her.

Although I certainly partied, I was intentionally using psychedelics and plant medicine as sacraments. I didn’t necessarily differentiate the “party” from what others call “temple” or “ritual.” Basically, I was in it for the transcendent, mystical experiences. And while I experienced deep healing on my adventures, of course this way of exploring consciousness can have tremendous consequences. Especially in a culture where as a trippy young healer, I had no mentors or sacred container for this unusual path.

For seven years, from 1999 to 2006, I tripped often, and was rarely truly sober – the time I was “landing” from one trip I was getting ready to take off on another. It’s important to note that I believe I was able to carry on like this for so many years because I was generally micro dosing – imbibing very small doses – of the highest quality substances. This enabled me to function well in my daily life, but still get Divinely freaky. I also think my severe allergy to alcohol has been a blessing really. I’ve never been able to drink, so I was never taxed physically that way.

But I was a psychedelics addict. I ate mushrooms almost every day for over a year. I would pop them in my mouth like people pop breath mints. I did psilocybin until they stopped having any effect, a tragedy when it happened. Other years, the pattern went something like: Molly on a Monday, Tuesday, some pot cookies and coffee, Wednesday, maybe a day off, LSD for Thursday, and bit of Foxy on Friday. The weekends would be a surprise mixed bag.

During this period, I was also running a Pilates studio in the East Village of New York City. I had a very robust clientele with a waiting list. I was a very popular teacher, and was frequently teaching while on psychedelics. Beyond surviving as a young women in the City, I was thriving.

And all the time, I felt the Goddess was teaching me the nature of the Universe. What I saw was a matrix of loving energy weaving through everything, and how the negative space between objects is perfect. That everything is whole, and also interconnected. Whenever I laid hands on my client I was able to see the matrix inside of us, the fascia system, and the way this extends outside of us to connect us to everything. That these filaments remain unbroken, and cannot be broken.

Jesse Heid today

If this sort of Divine Matrix can be an abstract concept to even the most dedicated “believer,” I could visually see this in a psychedelic state. And this is really what I was working on with my clients all day.

People would come to the studio to get a Pilates lesson, and then they would tell me their neck hurt. So I would put them on the Pilates Cadillac and work on their fascia, in a psychedelic state, and then tell them it was “Pilates.” And even while they were talking to me about their stressful lives, the Goddess was whispering instructions in my ear the whole time about what they needed for healing. It was all very mysterious and magical, and it really worked for me for a long time.

Goddess also revealed to me everyone’s true voice. That was consistent on every trip, no matter what I was on.  No matter what medicine I was dosing with, everyone I encountered spoke to me as an extremely vulnerable, innocent five-year-old. It even seemed like the more serious someone was, the more of a heartbreakingly precocious child they were inside.

I was working with CEO’s, neurosurgeons, film producers and their stars, and all I could hear was the innocent child, just trying to navigate and negotiate the suffering of this world.

Now remember, I am completely, 100 percent, not a rebel. I am a good girl, a product of my environment. I was doing what I was taught; “you talk to God. You do loving kindness and make art. You take responsibility for your Divine nature, as Jesus lives in your heart.” And I was never criticized by my family for doing drugs of any sort.

But I don’t think they knew how much I was doing. I don’t think anyone could conceive of how much I was doing because I was so highly functional. But in the end, I started mixing in cocaine. Not because I ever liked cocaine, it was never my drug of choice. But I rarely slept from doing psychedelics, and I had to go to work in the day, so it became like coffee to me. Plus, people were giving me coke for free. The East Village of NYC was different beast back then, and it’s how my clients would tip me sometimes.

With this harder substance in the mix, my lifestyle was finally taking its toll physically, and very quickly. I went down to 95 lbs. I also started to lose any and all respect for society’s rules. Everywhere I went, I was smoking a huge, fat joint.

I started to see a Jungian psychoanalyst, and it was clear to him, I think, that here was a talented young healer, going too far on her mystical trip. He was like, “Are you smart? I think it might just be the drugs that make you feel smart.” Soon I wanted to know if I WAS talented, if I WAS creative, if I had any value, if my friends even liked me (which it turns out they didn’t really), without drugs.

At the same time, the Goddess was telling me; “I’m bringing the hurt if you ever do cocaine again. And by the way, you have to take THIS much acid because it won’t work anymore…” I couldn’t do Molly anymore. Everything was just giving me a headache. When it finally ended, I had taken drugs for 92 days straight, just a few days over 3 months.

That last trip, I mixed a lot of cocaine with acid. Do not EVER do cocaine and acid. I felt as if every single fiber of connective tissue in my body was having a migraine. For days, I could feel my nail beds. I lay on my back for about seven hours to protect my spine. I was in full head to toe spasms. Every single part of me was throbbing with the message; “It’s over. It’s over. It’s over.” And I needed that brutality. Pain is my greatest teacher.

When I quit drugs, I went through the terrible loneliness of feeling disconnected from the Divine. I went from a Universe that was beyond Technicolor and blissful joy, to a world that was grainy, fuzzy black and white. Food didn’t taste good. Music sounded like shit. People lost the innocence in their voice. And my friends were very, very angry at me. Very angry at me for quitting drugs, because, I realized, they had lost their best curator for trips. I had curated fantastic trips.

Jesse in her psychedelics heyday

I felt like I had been kicked out of the Garden of Eden, and kicked out because I couldn’t handle it anymore, and had abused the sacraments. But I also had faith that things were unfolding as they should. I quickly figured out that not only did I have a drug addiction, but almost an addiction to spiritual epiphanies. Now I needed time to digest, to integrate the massive insights I acquired. The Jungian analysis was really fundamental to this. I saw my therapist three times a week for six years.

Physically, I went from one hundred to zero by myself. I swore off absolutely everything that could alter my consciousness, including several years without caffeine. I was being penitent. And there was no 12-step group for psychedelics. I would piggyback on Cocaine Anonymous and AA, but that didn’t work out for me very well. I was dropped by every sponsor, predominantly because they weren’t a psychedelics addict. They were alcoholics, and it’s just a very different vibe to recover from.

I feel very blessed that my body had an easier time dealing with withdrawal than most, and that I was able to fully quit on my own without medical assistance. But my mind and spirit was in hell. I also had to get over the shame of being a psychedelics addict. It was hard work to do that, and it was hard work to participate in life and to show up for people.

On another level, I also had to participate more spiritually. I couldn’t just take the medicine and have Goddess come to me. I actually had to do the work to get into a mystic state. I found myself studying meditation, ritual, and ceremony to try to integrate the wisdom I sourced on my trips into my daily life, but also simply because I missed my communion with Goddess. This period of recovery was a cocooning stage really, where I withdrew from the world to work on myself.

I consider it a miracle that my ability to understand spatial relationships on a very deep somatic level, my understanding of inner space, remained with me through sobriety. Psychedelics taught me everything that I use in my career as a healer now, and these days I just tell my clients the truth when they ask about my methods. That this is something I developed when I did psychedelics regularly, and explored inner space. I often say that once you peak behind the curtain, you can’t “un-see” what you found there. However, integrating that wisdom into daily life is a whole other trip!

I also know that for my spiritual evolution, I needed to know the real darkness of addiction. I relate so deeply to the path of the Wounded Healer, and so many of us are battling addictions of every sort. I’m much more of service as a healer having had to heal myself from my addiction to hallucinogenic drugs. I look back, and rather than deny that part of myself, I feel blessed I got experience it. But I’m far more grateful I got to recover from it.

I do not recommend MY path to anyone else however, and I consider myself very lucky to be here. But witnessing the renaissance for psychedelics unfolding around me now, and the healing aspects of non-ordinary states of consciousness in general being celebrated, actually makes my heart sing. I’m also thrilled to see real support for the appropriate research into the healing properties of these substances, as well as social support for people exploring consciousness through hallucinogens.

For anybody who is choosing to experiment, I’m also beyond stoked to see all the resources out there for people to educate themselves and stay safe and healthy. Check out the awesome organizations below that are helping us evolve towards cognitive liberty and safer inner explorations.

As a healer, teacher, and artist, some of Jesse Heid’s most passionate work is introducing people to their fascia connective tissue and exploring the tensegrity of the fascia matrix throughout our entire form. Jesse holds a BFA in modern dance and composition from CalArts and has been a popular NYC Pilates teacher since 2000. Find out more about her and her work at Alignedspiritpilates.com, and follow her on InstagramFacebook and Pinterest.

For more information about the safe use of psychedelics for healing:

MAPS: Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies

Women’s Visionary Congress

The Cosmic Sister Women of the Psychedelic Congress

BRAINWASHED: IS LANDMARK A CULT?

When I did the Landmark Forum, I was following in the footsteps of the most badass people I know – and I learned some invaluable life lessons. So why did I find myself asking; ‘is Landmark a cult?’ By Ruby Warrington. Images: Alex Prager for Garage Magazine.

 

Half way into day three at the Landmark Forum, I was ready to run for the hills. Along with 150 or so other people, from every walk of life, I had been cooped-up in a windowless basement in midtown Manhattan for almost 13 hours a day straight, whilst being told that everything I knew about myself, about my beliefs, and about the world, was an illusion. An illusion created by my “always listening” mind (Landmark speak for the ego) to avoid taking full responsibility for my life.

The course leader was busy psyching the crowd up for the “big reveal” – the key teaching of the Forum that would come later that day, embracing which, we’d been promised, would lead to a life of “infinite possibilities”. So long as we “enrolled” everybody else we knew into the Landmark conversation too (at $600 a pop), and then committed to an on going ($900+) study of their “curriculum for life”.

All around me, people had already been having life-changing epiphanies as they’d worked the course – coming out from behind their “rackets” (“fixed ways of being that result in persistent complaints”) and calling friends and family members they had been “pretending” things were cool with to “cough up the fur-ball” of their most shaming truths (‘Mom, I never come visit because actually it felt like you never really loved me’).

Encouraged to publically share their breakthroughs, there had been tears, and there had been cheers. And here I was, feeling an almost physical repulsion to the teachings. Earlier, we’d been asked to identify our “strong suits” – coping mechanisms we’d adopted at key points of trauma in our lives, which had become “ways of acting and being you rely on to produce results and make it in life.” Which, obviously, had to go, along with all the other “stories” you told yourself about…yourself.

I’d identified one of my strong suits as what I always considered a healthy degree of scepticism, or discernment. It’s what made me a good editor. But now it felt like a straight jacket. I’d paid my money and I wanted a breakthrough too! But all I could think, as I took in the scenes around me, was; “OMG this is actual brainwashing in action. Why did nobody warn me Landmark is…a cult?!”

The “c-word” hit the headlines last week, in the aftermath of the HBO documentary Going Clear – an inside expose on the Church of Scientology. And watching the opening scenes, in which they described the Church’s central process of “auditing” members in order to process their limiting beliefs, I was taken right back to that basement room in the Landmark HQ.

Was Landmark Scientology lite?

The dictionary definition of “brainwashing” is; “to make (someone) adopt radically different beliefs by using systematic and often forcible pressure”. True, nobody forced me to do the Landmark Forum – I actually decided to sign up because I knew so many amazing, go-getting, and seemingly highly-evolved individuals who’d done it, and I basically wanted a piece.

But the constant pressure throughout the course to “enrol” our friends, co-workers, and family members definitely crossed over into coercion territory in my book – echoing the way Scientologists are asked to “disconnect” from any people in their life who don’t adopt the teachings of the church. It’s also the kind of behaviour that gets organisations labelled “cult”, opposed to simply “community” or “club”.

The fact that during Landmark I was also confined to that one windowless room for three consecutive 13-hour days, with minimal breaks for food, and asked not to take notes or go to the toilet (this used to be enforced rigidly, but nobody actually stopped me when I did sneak out for a restroom break), also felt a lot like “systematic” pressure to adopt their teachings.

Then there was the bizarre lingo and double-talk they used to scramble my synapses and “re-program” my thinking. Overall, by the time I left, my scepticism very much intact, it felt simultaneously like a narrow escape…and like there must be something really, really wrong with me.

Watching Going Clear (named for the ultimate goal in Scientology – a mind that’s completely “clear”, or washed, of negative beliefs), the phrase that kept returning to me was; “the Emperor’s New Clothes.”

You know the story right? About the sneaky tailor who convinces the Emperor his “invisible” new suit is actually made of the finest cloth. In fear of questioning their leader’s beliefs, the Emperor’s subjects go along with it – complementing him on his beautiful new clothes, despite the fact they can see for themselves he’s naked.

And this desire to conform is something I felt they played on at Landmark, too. Deeply rooted in our most basic psychology, human beings are pack animals after all. Positioning yourself as the outsider is also something akin to suicide on a primal level. In ancient times, distancing yourself from the tribe was a sure-fire way to get killed by predators, or die from lack of food and warmth. Going along with what’s being indoctrinated therefore is not only preferable, it’s the only truly “safe” option.

Did that explain why everybody around me was whooping and cheering when the “big reveal” finally occurred…while it seemed to me like the biggest “racket” on the planet?

Coming out of Landmark, I immediately wanted to speak to the switched-on women I knew who’d done it too. I was desperate to know if they’d felt the same as me – or if I was, in fact, a hopelessly repressed freak-a-zoid, too scared of facing my own demons to even acknowledge their existence. The overarching response I got was that yes, it was a huge shame that there was so much cult-like emphasis on “enrolment”, and the accompanying financial hard sell. Because the teachings in and of themselves were awesome…right?

And here comes the really interesting part. Seven months on, I can see that they were absolutely right – and that the Landmark Forum was one of the most pivotal experiences on my inner journey to date.

We are all slaves to our monkey minds; we do self-sabotage with the stories we choose to believe about ourselves; and we do have to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to “look bad”, and to see beyond the illusion of reality, in order to evolve into the highest expression of ourselves. It is in this place of ultimately authentic self-expression that a life of infinite possibility lies.

Behind all the crazy linguistics and mental manipulation, these are the central teachings of Landmark (and of Scientology, from what I’ve read, not to mention Buddhist philosophy!). With hindsight, I can see how having them strong-armed into my psyche over that one mind-bending weekend last September forced me, on some deep level, to accept and work with limiting parts of myself I used to believe were unassailable.

I’ve since had the kind of searingly honest conversations with my mother that have taken our relationship to a whole other level. I no longer blindly accept what my belief system tells me, and look instead to the cold, hard facts of life.

And if I railed against actually calling any people in my life to “get complete” during my Landmark weekend (I had a lengthy email exchange with my mom, and called a friend to confess a very innocuous white lie), I have since embraced the concept of not sugar-coating stuff for fear of upsetting people, or getting a bad reaction – and seen massive benefits. All common sense stuff, actually, “but delivered in an environment of startling intensity,” as another journalist wrote about Landmark.

As for the “big reveal”? You’ll have to do the Forum and find out what it is for yourself. And if that means I’m now “enrolling” you – well, there must be some chinks in my sceptical strong suit after all.

Have you done the Landmark Forum? What did you get out of it? Connect and share your stories on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook

To find out more about the Landmark Forum and their courses visit Landmarkworldwide.com

THE NUMI YEAR IN REVIEW: BEST OF 2014

2014 has been a year of SELF-EXAMINATION, TRANSFORMATION and ADVENTURE! Here are 11 posts that made us laugh, gasp, cry…and take a good long look at our lives from the inside (listed in no particular order of awesomeness).

1. YOGI VEGAN LEZ: DIARY OF A DETOX A DEUX

The yoga was the fun part…

When Alexandra Roxo decided to embark on a hardcore nine-day Ayurvedic cleanse, she had no idea her girlfriend would decide to come along for the ride. Cue tears, tantrums and an ocean of emotion.

2. TURNED ON: THE TANTRA OF ONLINE DATING

Dancing between masculine and feminine…

Ellie Burrows is pretty sure she’s discovered the secret to online dating. And it’s Tantra. Not super-connected, total body orgasm, tantric sex – rather the energetic concept that makes that kind of sex possible: a balance of the masculine and feminine energies.

3. NEED-TO-KNOW: YOUR SPIRIT POWER ANIMAL

Feel so much more powerful knowing he’s on my side…

Dealing with a situation that had left her feeling vulnerable and alone, when Ruby Warrington met her spirit power animal last year…it got emotional. Here’s how to connect with your own beast of the wild unknown.

4. TO SKINNY DIP OR NOT TO SKINNY DIP: KNOW YOUR YOGA RTREAT ETIQUETTE

No hiding behind your hair all week…

Yay, you’re going on a yoga retreat! You want to get the most out of your experience, right? Who better than Heather Lilleston and Kumi Sawyers fromYoga For Bad People to lay down some summer retreat etiquette. We’re talking less freaking out, more more F.U.N.

5. KUNDALINI CALLING: HEAVEN ON EARTH WITH GURU JAGAT

Guru Jagat shot in Venice Beach by Lisandra Valazquez

Guru Jagat is the outspoken face behind the Ra Ma Institute, the only all kundalini yoga studio in California’s Venice Beach. She talks to Madeline Giles about her vision for the Age of Aquarius, life on the 33rd parallel and outsmarting the Global Elite. Conspiracy theories or conscious debate?

6. DARK FAIRY DELIRIUM: WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO BE A GEMINI

Image by Bela Borsodi for Document Journal

Right after a powerful New Moon in multi-faceted Gemini, gifting us an opportunity to embrace the quicksilver side of ourselves, Nadia Noir gives an insight into a life spent searching for “the other me.”

7. THE NU RULES: ATTRACT THE RIGHT RELATIONSHIP FOR YOU

See yourself through your lover’s eyes…

Can’t seem to attract the right relationship? It’s not him, honey, it’s you. Jennifer Kass re-writes The Rules, beginning with a lesson in self-love…

8. 26 LIFE LESSONS MY BURNING MAN EXPERIENCE TAUGHT ME

Ruby and her husband Simon on the Playa…

Connfession: My Burning Man Experience was too full-on to be called fun, says Ruby Warrington. But when it comes to life lessons, a week on the Playa delivered pure gold.

9. SPIRITUAL AWAKENING: THE REBIRTHING OF BROOKE CANDY

Image: Brooke Candy’s Instagram account

Lessons in Kabbalah with Madonna and a “little spiritual trip to Hawaii.” Brooke Candy tells Ruby Warrington how following a more “soulful” path has been a lesson in self-love…

10. BEYOND BFFS: HOW TO CREATE A COVEN

Cara and her coven, photographed by Richard Bush for i-D magazine

Something very special happens when women come together in ceremony. Erin Telford explains how to create a Coven – and bonds that run deep as blood.

11. ORGASMIC MEDITATION: INSIDE THE CULT OF CLIT

Orgasm as spiritual exchange…

Empowering women’s movement, or de facto sex cult? Dani Katz gets intimate with the practise known as Orgasmic Meditation…

ORGASMIC MEDITATION: INSIDE THE CULT OF CLIT

Empowering women’s movement, or de facto sex cult? Dani Katz gets intimate with the practise known as Orgasmic Meditation…

“I hate LA, and I hate my life,” I sputter in a flurry of tears, snot and spaz-out, as I drop my purse on the floor of Jamie’s kitchen, and freak way out.

“And my favorite pants are ruined,” I whine, gesturing to the stains dotting the hem, remnants from this morning’s explosion of glass and green at Moon Juice, where my Kundalini teacher dropped an eleven-dollar bottle of algae on my Birkenstock while lamenting the torment of her beloved’s non-monogamous tendencies. “…and everything would be easier if I were dead.”

“And how late is your period?” Jamie smiles, perpetually unfazed by my dark, melodramatic tendencies.

Why I can’t seem to remember that my every twenty-eight day despondency/bad hair day combo is related to the onset of my moon remains one of the more confounding mysteries of being woman. Well, that and our tendency to totally abandon ourselves for the crumbs of affection half-heartedly proffered by the man-children who don’t deserve us.

I reach for my iPhone, and pull up my Period Tracker app.

Period is 1 Day Late.

“I had a feeling,” Jamie nods. “Let’s get you stoned; let’s get you fed; and, let’s get your pussy rubbed.”

While this last zinger might seem wildly inappropriate coming from anyone else, Jamie is a One Taste devotee, an adept in the cult of orgasm, and – as such – her answer to pretty much everything is: Get your clit rubbed.

For those not yet hip to the casual stroking craze that equates orgasm with meditation, and mindfulness with turn-on, Orgasmic Meditation (OM) is a practice focused on female orgasm. It involves two humans, at least one vagina, a timer, a dash of lube, a tightly held container comprised of a very specific configuration of pillows and limbs, and a very (very) precise stroke – a gentle, vertical petting atop the surface of the upper left quadrant of the clitoris with the tip of the left pointer finger, for fifteen minutes.

“Okay,” I sniff, wiping an errant strand of hair from my face. “Can we make that happen?”

“Pfft,” Jamie snorts. “Duh.”

I should probably mention that all three of Jamie’s roommates also OM. Like, religiously, and even then, fanatically, as in several times a day. It’s but a symptom of the One Taste organization’s culty-er aspects – outcroppings of community houses packed tight with pussies keen to be rubbed, and fingers eager to rub ‘em.

“Hey, Dani,” says Jamie’s roommate, Josh, walking into the kitchen all of two seconds later.

“Hey, Josh.”

While Josh and I exchange greetings, Jamie – not one for subtleties – mimes a diddling motion with one pointer finger, while directing the other one my way. She’s a Capricorn; she makes shit happen.

“Wanna OM?” Josh blurts.

For those not living in houses populated exclusively by Orgasmic Meditators, most folks go about finding vaginas to rub, and fingers to rub ‘em on the OM Hub, a private online network available to those who qualify (i.e. throw down the cash for the online course, pass a quiz, and then throw down more for network access; oh, and who aren’t registered sex offenders).

“Anyone near Mar Vista wanna come stroke my pussy today between 3 and 5:30?” reads a sample posting.

The community operates on an any finger/any pussy/anytime philosophy, and the extent to which the randomness of the OM hook-up icks me out has proven prohibitive in my developing any regularity around the practice. To this end, I barely even qualify as a practitioner. Dabbler is probably even pushing it.

“Oh, hi honey,” Jamie said, meeting me at the top of the stairs back when she was first inculcated into the Grand Order of Holy Diddlers. “I’m just gonna squeeze in a quick OM, and then we’ll go.”

I took a seat on the futon in the loft, and texted our friends to let them know we were going to be late for dinner. It wasn’t long before the telltale sounds of turn-on started seeping forth from the backside of Jamie’s bedroom door.

“Mmmmm….uhhhhhh…ooooooooohhhh…oooohhhh….oooh-oooh…ohh…”

Ew, I thought, scrambling to untangle the earbuds I couldn’t get out of my purse and into my ears fast enough.

It’s not that I’m prude, or shy, or at all delicate when it comes to erotic expression. Still, I just don’t really want to know what my friend sounds like when she’s getting off, much the same way I’m not interested in smelling her used tampons. TMI – way (way) TMI.

Minutes later, a man wearing glasses and a Pokemon t-shirt came strutting out of Jamie’s bedroom. “You next?” he asked, waggling a finger my way – a finger I could only guess was coated in vagina slime.

“Ew,” I snorted, thoroughly put off by the creamy digit aimed in my direction, but moreso the assumption that my holy vag was this random guy’s for the stroking.

When it comes to touching my vagina, the list of those who qualify for the privilege is short, and contained – lovers, gynecologists, the occasional nurse practitioner, and the Russian lady who waxes my bikini line. Hired tenders aside, it’s a highly restricted area, reserved for those I deem special/worthy enough to handle both the sacred wonderfulness that is my labia, as well as my heart, because – like so many people in our culture and maybe on the planet in general, I am programmed to believe that the regions are inextricably bound. As such, unless I’m in a relationship, my pussy doesn’t get much play.

Thus is the beauty of the OM – once she who is grossed out by the culture figures out how to meander her way around its ickier aspects. Hanging out at Jamie’s, as I’m now realizing, is a fantastic method to this end.

“Yes, please,” I say.

“When?” asks Josh.

“Now.”

And so it is that I’m dropping chlorella-stained trou in Josh’s room, while he places a washcloth in the center of “The Nest” – which is really just a yoga mat surrounded by half-moon meditation cushions strategically placed for my head, my thighs and his ass, but which will be honored as holy, and thus entered with the implicit understanding that while so cradled, there will be no canoodling, and no reciprocity. Just pussy-stroking. For fifteen minutes, no more, no less.

“Are you comfortable?” Josh asks, pulling my leg over his thigh, and arranging his foot so that it’s flat against mine.

I catch myself before asking How are we defining our terms? Because, while sure, I’m enjoying a semblance of ergonomic ease, I am also naked from the waist down, lying with my legs splayed to reveal my six days un-groomed pussy as a relative stranger dangles his arm over my thigh. Which – while fine – has me feeling more than a little vulnerable. Plus, there is the matter of warm-blooded man hands touching my inner thigh, of palm against flesh, and – um – the novelty of the connection and the alchemy on this unique, raw and dense plane of purely physical exchange. Which is all to say, comfortable isn’t the first descriptive that comes to mind.

“Uh-huh,” I chirp, because now is not the time for heady unravelings of my mental state, and because Jamie got me stoned while Josh arranged the pillows, and I’m just blitzed enough not to give a shit what he thinks of my spread eagled lady bits.

“Okay, I’m going to ground you, now,” Josh says, mashing his palms along the surface of my thighs.

It’s standard, The Grounding, as is the practice of announcing whatever touch is about to happen. It lends a sterile, business-like vibe to the exchange, which I happen to appreciate. As impersonal as we can keep our interaction, the better, I say. Josh is not my lover. Josh isn’t even a friend. Josh is the guy attached to the hands that are right now mashing my thighs, and my pelvis, and is getting ready to—

Oh fuck, I think, just now remembering the sequence of events, because it’s been a while.

The Noticing.

Please don’t do The Noticing, I think, suddenly observing mild sensations of panic. Please don’t do The Noticing.

It’s my least favorite part of the practice, The Noticing, wherein the stroker ogles the vag in front of him and then shares his visual observation. Out loud.

“I’m noticing that you have one pubic hair that’s really straight, and poking straight up towards the ceiling,” a stroker once told me, as I wished a hole would open up in the ground beneath me, and swallow me at once.

“The outside of your lips are, like, a really dark pink, almost like cranberry juice,” noticed another, as my cheeks turned a similar shade, and I stared at the ceiling and wondered why any and all references to my vaginal “lips” creep me out so hard.

Please don’t do The Noticing, I psychically beg/command.

That Josh actually skips The Noticing is as much a testament to the anti-Noticing trend Jamie will later tell me is sweeping the community at large as it is to my psychic authority. No matter. Noticing isn’t happening. I’m golden, I think, grateful to have escaped the humiliation of Josh’s take on the whitehead lodged inside my inner thigh crease, as he starts the timer on his smartphone, snaps on a pair of latex gloves, and goes about sliding a hand underneath my ass.

“I’m going to touch your introitus now.”

Safeporting, they call it, the resting of the stroker’s thumb against the vaginal opening. I guess it’s supposed to help the strokee to feel held, to quell any lurking fears of floating up and toward the ceiling, of slipping through the cracks of an air vent and being forever lodged in the crawlspace with no pants on. Jamie has developed this annoying habit of rolling the term into her everyday lingo to reference any sort of safeguarding.

Like the time we were invited to our friends’ house for dinner, after a particularly awkward series of texts and naked hot tub gropings, and she said: “I know Michael and Katrina keep trying to fuck you, but don’t worry. I’ll be right there, safeporting you the whole time.”

I appreciated the sentiment, but, the languaging? Um…ew.

“I’m going to touch your pussy, now,” Josh announces as his lube-globby finger makes contact with my clit.

They’re big on the P-word, these Orgasmic Meditators. On the one hand, it’s refreshing, especially given how many Tantra intensives I’ve attended wherein the words yoni and punani are tossed around like so much New Age-appropriated Far Easterly exotica.

Still, if one more soft-eyed dude wearing three-day beard scruff and a rudrakshra mala wrapped around his sacred geometry tattooed wrist greets me by mashing his hands together at his curiously hairless heart chakra, bending at the waist, and purring Namaste, I might have a stroke. To this end, I’m all for the P-word. And yet, I find something slightly confrontational about its ubiquity, as if those who OM are wielding the word in the hopes of inspiring discomfort, verily daring those within earshot to take issue with their languaging, and their lifestyle.

“Okay,” I sigh, narrowing my focus of attention to the point of contact between Josh’s finger and my clit, while expanding my awareness around all the sensation said contact is generating.

“Why can’t you just do it yourself?” my mother prods when I meet her at Pilates a week later, wanting to not be disturbed by this, yet another comfort zone-challenging ritual in which her daughter is dabbling, and yet still not getting it.

It’s not that I can’t; it’s that I don’t. I tend to forget that a) I have a bundle of nerves in my vagina that tingle when stimulated; and b) I can stimulate them whenever I want to. I’m a heady gal – “an upper chakra creator” as Trish, my go-to psychic, likes to say. More often than not, I forget I even have a body, let alone that caressing it is an option. But, even if I chose to remember, OMing and masturbating are not the same thing.

“Ooohh…” Josh groans, clearly navigating a surge of arousal as the tip of his finger waggles up and down and up and down and up and down along the top of my clit.

OMing is an exchange – of trust and vulnerability, and of grunts and desire, but mostly of the electro-chemical polarities that attract masculine and feminine.

“I felt this electrical jolt – like a lightning bolt – shooting out of your clit and into my finger, where it traveled up my arm, across my chest, into my heart, down into my cock, and out my other arm, like a circuit, and then it just kept circulating for the rest of the OM,” said Lance, a guy who once stroked me while I was crashing at Jamie’s, and we were Sharing Frames after the stroking part, which isn’t quite as cringey as The Noticing, but is sort of in the ballpark.

The point is that something larger, magnetic and infinitely more mysterious happens when fingertip strokes clit in this specific way and inside of this container – something that doesn’t happen when I’m jerking myself off.

It’s the electro-chemical exchange that inspired me to try Orgasmic Meditation in the first place, back when I was cozy in a monogamous love thang, and my partner and I read Slow Sex together at a Colorado hot spring, and thus grooved on Nicole Daedone’s whole down with stimulation, up with sensitivity/awareness philosophy, and took to a daily OM practice.

“Achoo!” sneezed then boyfriend.

“Wow!” I said, shivering, because I felt his sneeze in my own body as palpably as if it were my own.

I liken it to Vipassana meditation, wherein the prolonged practice of scanning the body for sensation strips away the walls and shadows that obscure our hearts and our light and our genius. The practice of OMing strips away the walls and the density that obscure not only our connection to our own feeling nature, but to the shared feeling nature that conscious sexual exchange inspires when we know how to work with it.

“Ooh,” boyfriend said, when he hit a particularly sweet spot with his tongue during a post-OM canoodle. “I felt that one in my toes.”

“Do…more…that…” I instructed, palming his skull, trying to catch my breath, “…hnnnh!…”

But, it’s not just instances of Freaky Friday-like feeling-sharing that differentiates OMing from diddling myself. Orgasmic Meditation isn’t goal-oriented – there is no race toward climax. In fact, it’s not even a destination. Sure, it happens; I hear. I’ve yet to climax during an OM, and I have all of zero interest in doing so, and not just because I think it would be thoroughly embarrassing.

The magic is at the edge, which is where all magic lies, and – for me – OMing is the perfect set-up to play with that edge, to redirect the energy that threatens to undo me in a fit of trembles, spasms, shrieks and sensation, and to instead redirect it up my spine and into my head, where it dances between my third eye and my crown, and animates my entire body with a thousand and one lightning bolts exploding behind my eyelids and across my every meridian in fractalized bursts of psychedelia.

“UNNHHH!!” Josh sucks in his breath at the very same moment a jolt of electricity explodes in my upper cervical spine, and then mutters a thoroughly floored: “Whoah.”

“And, what’s in it for the guy?” Mom presses.

I can’t really say, not being a guy or having ever stroked, but that doesn’t stop me from rolling my eyes, and snorting, and saying “Mom, I already explained this,” because even though I’m a grown woman, there’s something about sharing time/space with my mother that inspires adolescent histrionics. “It strips away the layers of calcified density, and renders them more sensitive and available to experience their own sensation through less and less stimulation.”

Also, a lot of the guys in the community are spazzy dweebs who, if it weren’t for One Taste, wouldn’t likely see much pussy, let alone get to touch any, unless they were paying for it.

“Two minutes,” Josh says, alerting me to the impending close of our session with a pronounced shift in his touch – Downstroking, they call it, which is totally applicable when spread eagle and doused in coconut lube in The Nest, but kind of annoying when chatting with my friend over kale smoothies.

“You probably want to downstroke her before telling her you don’t want to work with her anymore,” Jamie advises.

I roll my eyes and vomit just the tiniest bit in the back of my throat, not because it’s not good advice, but because I’m still having a hard time getting used to my friend’s tendency to talk like a cult initiate.

“Time,” Josh says with a massive exhale, removing his hand from very, very tingly pussy, despite my clit’s silent pulsing pleas for him to come back, to stay awhile, to keep doing that thing he was doing with his finger for – like, I dunno…ever?

I exhale as Josh grounds me back into my body, and into the room, again mashing his hands atop my only slightly trembling thighs. He helps me up to a sitting position where I drape the now damp washcloth over my lady bits, and avail myself to the grand finale – the Sharing of Frames.

“There was this moment, when I saw, like, a drop of – um…well, your juices on the edge of your pussy, and – uh, well – when I did, I felt a lot of sensation in my cock.”

I think the point is to get us in the practice of communicating our turn on, and our feeling experience. It’s gotten easier, the Frame-Sharing, minus the moments when I realize, mid-OM, that I’m going to have to do it, and then I retreat to my head, scanning the practice for something noteworthy to speak to. That, and the fact that I don’t love talking to strangers about my turn-on, but – whatever – I’m a grown-up; I can deal.

“There was a moment when you pulled back on the pressure, and I found myself wanting to chase it, but instead chose to inhale into my clit, and found the connection I was craving through my own breath.”

“Awesome.”

“Rad.”

“Thanks.”

And with that, we are complete.

It’s actually my favorite part of the whole experience, the leaving, the absence of lingering eye locks, of nervous heart flutters, of carefully couched farewells that may or may not allude to a deepening intimacy, and to future dalliances that so often never come to pass. I love the none of that. It’s honest. It’s clean. We have accomplished the business at hand – the touching of my pussy – and now that we are finished, I will be on my (way merrier) way.

Back in Jamie’s kitchen, dinner is ready – kale salad with pumpkin seeds and tons of nutritional yeast.

“How was that?” Jamie asks, knowing smile hijacking her perpetually radiant face.

“Best. Friend. Ever.” I gush, proffering the world’s most grateful hug, feeling infinitely less suicidal and – dare I say – pretty darned good.

Dani Katz is the creator of the I Am Calendar 2015, a total astro/affirmation/badass birthday fest of all ’round awesomeness. You can find out more about her work here.

The I Am Calendar 2015 by Dani Katz