HOW TO EXPLAIN YOUR SPIRITUAL AWAKENING TO YOUR RELIGIOUS FAMILY

When Fundamentalist threats of Hell left her wanting more, Kate Forristall turned to Now Age practices. But how to explain your spiritual awakening to your religious family? Kate shares her top tips for making the holidays less hellish …

Photo: Diana Vargas

Christmas 2017.  Reaching for a beautifully wrapped present (the gene I didn’t get, sigh), I notice my sister Sally give our mother a nervous glance. Given my family’s tradition of one-at-a-time unwrapping, there’s no hiding what’s inside, but I have to smile as I open my package and see an intricately carved wooden box … with a pentagram on top.

I steal a glimpse at Sally’s face and feel her telepathically communicating with me in a desperate Tim Gunn voice, “MAKE IT WORK!” I lift the new repository for my tarot deck (pentagram covered by my palm) and wave it quickly, “A wooden box!”

“Who’s next?!” Sally chirps, as we simultaneously head into the kitchen to get coffee and put my gift away. When it comes to the spirituality we now embrace, we’ve decided pick our battles.

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Finding a faith to set me free … 
At the age of 15, I began attending a church youth group known more for fun and community than hard line theology. Leaders preached the Gospel, but it was as simple as the original version (appropriate for humans without a pre-frontal cortex). The Jesus People movement had paved the way for a faith that was about loving God and loving each other, and I was happy to go along for the ride.

Unfortunately I got hijacked on the way.

In college I met Christians who could recite whole passages of the Bible and never seemed to struggle to obey all the rules the way that I did. They let me know that I wasn’t doing it right and by the time I graduated, the shame I felt over my failings was enough to send me right into the arms of Fundamentalism.

There were no sermons about the messiness of life, no Young Adult Group talks about how hard it was to be in your 20s. Floundering was considered moral failure and the threat of Hell was always looming. My goal became security, for myself, and eventually, my growing family, and I lost the delight and wildness of the God I’d met as a teenager.

In other words, I can help you explain things to your conservative mother, because I’ve been her. But while I forgot the kindness of the Divine, it did not forget me, and over the past 20 years I’ve managed to unload the toxic institutional religion that held me captive, while finding a faith that set me free.

Such faith means changed opinions about almost everything in life – politics, sexuality, social justice, capitalism, feminism – topics my family has often been less than thrilled that I brought up at the Thanksgiving table. But they were small potatoes compared to announcing I’d fully embraced New Age practices that we once believed were nothing short of demonic.

The new practices of my faith—meditation, spiritual direction, energy healing, multiple sacred texts, astrology, body work, and tarot—came from a period of darkness and spiritual searching, a time when I lost the ability to hear God and believed I’d been abandoned.

Now I can see that I was never alone, that my unknowing was, in fact the gift that pushed me through the Life-Death-Life cycle and into a belief that now sees the Divinity of all things.

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So as you prepare for Thanksgiving and the inevitable questions about why your life looks different than it used to, here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way … 

1// “Preach … at all times. When necessary, use words.” 
This advice from St. Francis is the best wisdom I’ve ever found for sharing experiences that have changed my life. If your example is one of serenity, service, love and hope, you’ll have no better evidence for the truth of the New Age spirituality you’ve embraced.

2// The Bible is your friend. Really. 
I know, right? Whether it’s the Wise Men who used the stars to find Jesus, God noting the wheel of the Zodiac when conversing with Job, or Jesus feeling the energy leave his body when a hemorrhaging woman touched him, the Bible has an awful lot of examples of “New Age” faith. The word meditate is mentioned 20 times and if you do a Google search you’ll even find phrases like “centering prayer” from many corners of traditional Christianity.

3// Because science.
Meditation’s benefits are now proven by so much data that if your loved one can’t handle it, they probably believe in a six-day creation. Measurable energy fields of everything from the flowers in your garden to the heart in your body have uncovered a universe way weirder than science fiction. Neuroscience has revealed that our brains are supercomputers capable of affecting objects miles away (hello, pray much?) If none of that lands, find an empty room, light a candle … and meditate. At least you’ll feel better.

4// Try not to brace for impact.
This phrase has carried my family through many an anticipated rough situation. Neural communication studies show how much we convey before we ever say a word and I can tell you from experience that if you are telepathically shrieking, “I fucking dare you to make fun of my Tarot practice,” someone is going to comply. Moments like these are when the rubber meets the road. The Buddhist practice of accepting suffering while trusting its transitory nature has completely changed my life.

5// Baby steps. 
I’ve always been an evangelist. Whether it was Jesus or toasted pecans in chocolate chip cookies, if I love something, I can’t wait to tell everyone I know. But when asking people to expand beyond a fear-based bias, I’ve learned that you need to move like an acrophobe in a skyscraper – one floor at a time. My mother now knows that I own a tarot deck. We’ve discussed the astrology of the moment on multiple occasions, and for her birthday, I gave her a book about manifestation. But it’s been seven years since I began this journey and my goal isn’t conversion. It’s that she too would find the path of greatest freedom for her life, no matter what it looks like.

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My resistance to the New Age movement wasn’t because I hated everyone outside my church. It was because I was terrified that it could destroy people I loved. Those who cling to fundamentalism are inordinately motivated by dread – circling the wagons to protect a God they can’t imagine being bigger than their sanctuary. Considering how vast and unknowable the Divine is, that’s a pretty sad perspective and I’ve given my kids unlimited permission to make fun of me forever for all the dumb stuff I did that was driven by fear.

Ironically, the greatest thing my New Age practices have taught me is how to deal with the fear I meet in this life. “If I go to the depths of the sea, You are there,” says the Psalmist to God, an understanding that no circumstance can separate us from Them—including, no matter how scary it is, spending the holidays with your family.

Kate Forristall is a writer, actor, mother, and lover of stories. Connect with her at #IRL Project, and on Twitter and Instagram

ADORNMENT AS SPIRITUAL PRACTICE: COMMUNING WITH JOY SMITH

Channeling the Divine through the decadently bejeweled, artist and mystic Joy Smith is raising the mystical-material vibration ever higher with her transformational talismans.

Sculptress and seer Joy Smith believes that adornment is an intimate conversation—between the creator, the wearer, and the Divine.

Inspired by nature’s potent mysteries, and the light of Divine beauty that resides in every being, the artist’s ethically sourced, recycled gold pieces spark an emotional exchange between the the universe and each of us.

For Smith, connection to the Divine is always available, and through our talismans we can bring our personal conversation with the heavens all the way down to Earth.

With her newly-launched Light Sessions, Smith is raising the material-mystical vibration even higher. During these custom experiences, she uses song, meditative chants, and Reiki to channel a one-of-a-kind talisman that supports your distinctive transformation and growth.

Spirit is absolutely everywhere. Why not dress her in radiant gold?

(Hint: Start decking out your Divine with some inspo from Joy’s jewel-drenched Instagram feed!)

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Ruby Warrington: What are your own personal talismans?
Joy Smith: I wear pieces according to what I need—so I can beam my light out everywhere. I have different pieces that embody different feelings for me.

For example, I have a custom piece I made for myself that’s super special. In Milan, on a retreat with Deborah Hanekamp, we hiked to a pagan ritual place, where I found what looked like a piece of a ceramic vessel glinting in the grass. I could feel that it was infused with a spirit that wanted to help me with my healing work, and so I set it into a ring, which I wear when I’m creating pieces, and during my Light Sessions.

Even talking about it takes me back to that place. In the future, I’d like to go on pilgrimages to sacred sites to source similar pieces as part of my work.

 

My Moon, My Light Necklace

RW: Your pieces have a strong spiritual essence. What’s your relationship to organized religion?
JS: The dogma of different religions can get messy, but the essence of spirit is what’s precious to me. I connect to the idea of the Holy Spirit, which I think of as our connection to the Divine—the spirit in us. My work is about activating that in others. I’m also super interested in world religions. I see the common thread and that’s fascinating to me. All the stories are the same, just different characters.

Having grown up Catholic, I still connect deeply to the iconography. I see the etchings in my designs as radiating light, and my goal is to elicit the idea of “heaven,” which I define simply as the place where great spirit lives … bliss.

 

Guardian Rustic Shield Ring

RW: What do you see as the intersection between spirituality, craftsmanship, and art?
JS: I never thought I’d make jewelry. I knew I loved art history, and wanted to be a painter. I also connected to artists, as I felt they were connected to something spiritual with their work. I wanted that connection to come through in my work, too. I also love fashion because I see the spirit of the designer in it. It’s like art to me.

I fell into jewelry through the sculpture of making it. I initially wanted to be a fine painter, but didn’t think I was good enough and I couldn’t relay my message effectively at that time in that medium. Now, I express myself spiritually through my pieces as they relate to how I feel on the inside. I want them to be infused with feelings of beauty and light, and for this to be reflected in how I adorn myself on the outside.

I believe God, spirit, etc., created us as an expression of the beauty of the Divine. I make it a point to meditate and pray before I make my work. When we work in this way as creators, that’s spirituality to me.

The artist at work

RW: What do the concepts of God and the Divine mean to you?  
JS: I believe God and the Divine are forms of the highest spirit, a spirit greater than ourselves that also lives within us and is part of us. That guides and protects us and loves us unconditionally. Neither are religious terms for me- I see them as a universal Spirit.

My own spiritual breakthrough came in my early twenties, when I had a very severe panic attack, and found myself debilitated by anxiety. My first teacher asked about my spiritual practice, and she gave me my first spiritual book, Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Prayer. I still read it every day. It helped me remember how to pray—how to connect to God—in a spiritual way.

RW: “Light Language” is such a glorious phrase—tell us about learning to speak this language, and how clients experience it during your “Light Sessions.”  
JS: “Light Language” is how I describe my conversation with the divine, something that comes out in channeled melodies, or prayer. The term came to me via my guides during an Akashic records reading—and this really is how I feel about my conversations with God. The Light Language also comes through as automatic writing, which I carve into my talismans and artwork.

I came up with the Light Sessions since my work can be very solitary and I knew I wanted to connect with people on a deeper level. And my Light Language becomes vocal, as if I’m speaking in tongues, during one-to-one with my clients. I see it as the language of love, as expressed in my creations.

The Light Sessions are about channeling creations for transformation. We talk about stones and the style of the piece, and then my clients give me their intention and lay on my table, and I’ll either sing melodies of prayer or do Reiki and channel messages that come to me.

Afterwards, we create an intention candle together and they go home with their candle to pray / meditate with their intention in mind, and I go home and channel that energy while creating the piece for transformation. The plan is to also make this available to couples as a custom ring engagement ceremony.

RW: Who is the “Communion Woman”? 
JS: Women who wear my jewelry have a strong sense of self. The common thread is that they have a connection to spirit, and that they’re all powerful in their own right. A lot of my clients have often been through a lot emotionally.

Having experienced challenges in their lives, they have been led to work on themselves spiritually, in order to connect more deeply to themselves and to the Divine. They’ve already found this connection, and want to explore more deeply what it means for their lives. A lot of their work is in service of the greater good. They have that depth.

Discover more about Communion by Joy’s sumptuously sacred jewels HERE, and book a custom Light Session with Smith in LA. 

SPIRITUAL SHROOMING: MY UNLIKELY AWAKENING

Strung out on repressed feelings, a health crisis and mental break became an unexpected awakening for Meg Hartley, care of some spiritual shrooming…

“During my four-day break with the mundane, I connected to a bigger part of myself, which also happened to feel like an infinitely more stable part of myself”—Meg Hartley 

When I was 19, I wasn’t in a good place. I had lost my mother to suicide four years prior, and my once-successful “smashing down” of feelings had relentlessly resurfaced into every part of my consciousness.

I usually avoided the pain by staying busy all day, then intoxicated into the evening via copious amounts of marijuana or whatever else was floating around the dorms: ‘shrooms, ecstasy, and lots and lots of cheap alcohol.

But late at night, when I’d try my hardest to sleep and fail miserably, I couldn’t hide from the pain. I had taken to scratching at my skin until it bled because it hurt less than the storm that wailed inside. It was like there was so much unprocessed pain my mind didn’t know where to start. Agonizing thoughts just whipped around in my head, out of control and going nowhere.

I’d soon learn about meditation and mindfulness, which gave me a life raft to embrace during these times. But before then, I’d go home to Alaska for summer break and have a four-day experience a psychologist called a “mental break” and a philosophy teacher called “a preview to awakening.”

But to me, it simply felt like a very long dream that showed me true happiness was a real possibility … even for me, which seemed impossible at the time. This set the scene for my subsequent spiritual exploration and gave me a reason to commit to my emotional healing.

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The year was 2002. My first year of philosophy classes in college had finally given form and texture to vague spiritual ideas I’d always had intuitive knowings about. The ideas that this life is an illusion, that humanity is currently experiencing a shift in consciousness, and that we’re each here to learn specific things, were presented by different religions and philosophers from all over the world.

This deja vu sense of remembering (that my teacher said was normal, but which sure felt like magic to me!) combined with all the partying left me ungrounded, spacey, and generally disinterested in “mundane” everyday life. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but I also had a B12 deficiency that was hitting mental health symptom levels. In addition to this, there was a cyst growing on my pineal gland, which is known to augment spiritual experiences.

And so, not yet privy to the drawbacks of being ungrounded, and unaware of this explosive combination brewing in my brain, I celebrated my return home by eating yet more ‘shrooms with a dear friend.

The experience of taking psilocybin is different for everyone, but in my experimental days it was something that I regarded with reverence––like a really fun church. During every trip, the idea of “God” or a benevolent bigger something, seemed obvious and present to me. There was silliness and hilarity, but also times where I would leave my friends to go sit with my favorite tree for hours, my head filled with streaming thoughts that were ontological in nature- the answers to all of life’s big questions, more ideas I’d later study in ancient texts.

And this time, for four days after the mushroom trip ought to have ended, my thoughts remained consistently in the ontological realm––a far cry from my daily headscape at the time, which was mostly centered around losing my v-card and being “too fat.” 

In stark contrast, everything I encountered had meaning on top of meaning, and life felt so beautiful that I cried happy tears. From the inside, the experience felt like a blissful and meditative state where therapeutic dreams met real life. Colors became more vibrant as I released dark twisted pains from deep within like a long and satisfying belch.

Meg with a handmade lithograph about her experience

Of course, it’s not “normal” to weep from joy at the sight of a mountain that’s there every damn day, or to stare at everyday items babbling about “the language of the Universe” and “signs.”

Everyone in my world thought I had lost my marbles. When I finally noticed this reaction in others, I very suddenly snapped out of it, shocked at their concern and upset about making an ass of myself. That clouded my vision of the experience, as social acceptance was the form of surrender I was most familiar with at the time. But I now look back on it as being as helpful as it was hugely bizarre: the juice was totally worth the squeeze (it can be freeing sometimes to have people think you’re a little nuts, anyhoo!) 

I was immediately changed, and the depression didn’t return for many years (not until my B12 levels hit a fantastic new low and a whole new set of challenges revealed themselves). It was like I had been dusted from the inside out, I felt clear and centered in a way that I had never experienced. I carried on with the drug experimentation for a couple more years and nothing like that happened again- something that brought both great relief and a fleeting sense of disappointment.

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During my four-day break with the mundane, I connected to a bigger part of myself, which also happened to feel like an infinitely more stable part of myself.

And that connection––and many times just the memory of that connection—brought a cherished light into the darkest nights of my soul. It also provided the motivation for my subsequent spiritual and emotional journeys: remembering that mental landscape, and knowing that if I stayed on the spiritual path then that sense of peace and connectedness would eventually feel like home.

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Meg Hartley is an Alaskan artist and writer happily replanted in wonderfully weird Portland, Oregon. She loves really great trees, cashew ice “cream”, mysticism, and is totally obsessed with mindfulness. Her new book is called How I Lost All My Fucksa one-month experience that will have you losing all yours! Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  

RELEASE AND RENEW: A DARK MOON RITUAL

Transform the unhealed and unloved aspects of yourself this Dark Moon, says Shaheen Miro

Before the birth of each New Moon, the sky grows rich and velvety—it is the night of the Dark Moon. We enter the infinite darkness of the Crone Goddess. She is the keeper of the mysteries, the underworld, the expansive void that tingles our psychic receptors.

The Dark Moon is the gatekeeper between the waking world, and the rich, fertile land of inner transformation. She holds the key to the soul’s mysteries. Penetrating the surface of superficial life, the Dark Moon awakens our zest for life, our sensual nature, and our most inspired magic.

When we tread into the Land of Darkness, we delve deeper into our own soul. Riding on the dark wings of the Owl we sweep further into the enigma of our Shadow… to where our unloved, unhealed, and unacknowledged parts silently wait. But answering the call of the shadow awakens our tenacity and power. We show up bigger and brighter in the world, as we learn to express our most mystical self.

So lay down your hurts at the altar of the Dark Moon. Spin your woes into strands of gold. For healing only comes when you go into the places that hurt.

:: A Dark Moon Ritual for Purging Pain and Restoring Vitality ::

You Will Need:

Your Statement of Release. This can be a written statement, or an intention you carry in your head.

A black candle.

A black scarf.

Some Dragon’s Blood, or other rich, earthy incense.

Walnut flower essence. (Black walnut is a powerful tree for severing ties with the past, as well as with things that hurt you, especially unhealthy relationships—walnut Flower Essence has a similar releasing power)

The Ritual:

Set aside the night of the Dark Moon (the night before the New Moon) to perform your ritual. This ritual will result in a bath, and if you can perform the entire ceremony in your bathroom that’s perfect. If not, find a space where you will be uninterrupted and then carry on into the bathroom.

Darken the ritual space (or simply turn off all lights). Lighting the black candle, make a declaration of intent. Such as:

“I enter the Dark Moon Kingdom with reverence and respect. With perfect love and trust. With bravery and complete surrender. I visit the garden of lost soul fragments, seeking bones discarded by choice or force throughout my life. I honor these parts, I sing to them, I quicken them back into life. Enfold me in the arms of rebirth and regeneration. So Shall it be.”

Holding the candle, walk in a widdershins (counterclockwise) circle to stir banishing and releasing magic. Begin where you like, but the West is the power spot for soul work and metamorphosis. Walking the circle summon protective energies. Let the Dark Moon energy settle around you, creating a zone for inner work. Include your bathtub in the circle if you can.

Seat yourself in the circle’s center. Begin breathing deeply, in and out. Slip into a light, relaxing trance.

Now light the incense, letting the snake of smoke waft through the circle filling the atmosphere with sacred protective energies. As you continue to breath, go deeper into your center. Repeat the above invocation.

Now allow yourself to gently crack open, traveling down the path to your pain and heartache. Feel how your body has become dense with the garbage you have accumulated, staying mindful of the intention you came to release. When you are filled to the top with heavy, sticky feelings, begin to release them into the dark void.

Repeat the Statement of Release as they slip out—reading something you have written or simply speaking from your heart. Become vulnerable to the receptive energy of the Dark Moon. Give her your pain and trauma. You are ready to purge, move forward and heal.

Be here as long as you like. Let your body respond as it needs. Shake, cry, curl into a ball, slip into silence. Whatever spirit moves you to do is perfect. The Dark Moon will move you through this experience of release.

The Black Walnut Bath: 

Fill your bath tub with warm water. If your bath is in another room, gather your accouterments, and see your circle move with you into the bathroom. You can recast the circle if you like.

If you don’t have a full tub, fill a bowl big enough to submerge both your feet.

Pour a few drops of Walnut Flower Essence into the water. Visualize or feel the water being infused with the dark, generative powers of the Moon. See it become an inky black sky. The great void of transmogrification, where there is nothing to fear.

Now wrap your eyes with the black scarf to disrupt your sense of sight. Then slip into the bath. Relax into the embrace of the dark. You are in the alchemical waters of healing. The vessel of rebirth, the womb of the Dark Moon.

Do you feel any resistance? Is there still lingering pain in your body and spirit? Is your heart heavy? Are your wounds still bleeding?

Allow the remaining feelings to fill you up until there is a sense of surrender. Now release them into water. Speak your Statement of Release again to the Goddess, asking the Dark Moon to take it all away…to return it to the void. Speak out loud, and speak from your heart.

Fully release and float in these healing waters as long as you need. When you are ready, let the water drain. Unveil your eyes. Thank the Goddess for her counsel. Release the circle clockwise. Then blow the candle out, or allow it to burn down.

The Healing Aftermath:

Major blocks of energy and pain have been purged. You have asked for the guidance and protection of the Dark Moon. Her energy and influence will curl through your spirit and move through your life in synchronistic ways. Honor her process, and yourself by being compassionate. Rest, eat something rejuvenating. Sleep as long as you like.

You may feel spacey for a few days as your soul parts knit back together. You have undergone a type of psychic surgery. Go as deep into this process as you like. You have just scratched the surface. Meet the Dark Moon each month with a new pain to lay to rest. Healing is always an expansive, ongoing process.

Seeking spiritual guidance or doing divination with a favorite intuitive, friend or oracle is also welcomed during this process. They may help you see how the pieces are coming together. How life is heading in a new direction. And never forget to ask for the guidance and protection of your Spirit Circle: Your Guides, Angels, and Ancestors.

DEAR DIARY: A CONVERSATION WITH THE DIVINE

As Neptune goes direct and the Sun moves into Sagittarius, it’s the perfect time to instigate a conversation with the divine. And your journal is the place to start, says Katie Simpson.

Almost 18 years ago, I bought my first journal. It was a small back hardbound book covered in pictures of Mickey Mouse designs. I’ve since journaled for self-care, self-expression, and so much more.

In the past year, my journal has provided a surprising new benefit: it’s become the space where I have dialogues with the Divine. This began on more intense days, such as in the build up to a New or Full Moon ritual. But now I can have these conversations during lunch breaks, late nights, or days when I am sick.

To be clear, these conversations don’t require any mind-altering substances. The most I have in my system may be a cigarette or a glass or two of wine. And my most profound conversations with the divine occur when I’m completely sober.

Journaling and talking to God both happen in my journal but look very different. When I’m journaling, I write my thoughts down as they come. With the Divine, it’s a written conversation. It sounds and looks like two different people having a discussion. I will write something, and then She responds. The best way to explain it is like the old written notes we used to pass in class. Only I am both one of the writers and the messenger.

These dialogues are a gift, but not one that’s unique to me. I believe that with a little time and effort, you can have these kinds of conversations as well. Here are a few practices that have helped me commune with the Divine through the written word.

:: The faces of God ::
As a religious studies major in college, I learned a lot about the different faces of God. For example, in Hinduism, you could see Kali, Goddess of destruction, and Sarasvati, Goddess of wisdom, as two separate entities. Or they could represent two different aspects of the same Divine Feminine.

So often in the Judaea-Christian West, we focus on God as a judge, ruler, or father figure. But for many women, it’s difficult to connect with this. Personally, I connect best with Jewish idea of the Shechina. She is the feminine, the maternal presence, that I see when I reach out to God. And as such, she is the one who communicates with me on the page.

To begin a dialogue with anybody, you need to feel a connection with them. It’s the same with the Divine. Perhaps you need God to be a fierce warrior. Or perhaps you prefer the idea of God as Sophia, or wisdom.
There’s no wrong answer. So think back to which icons, saints or experiences really made the divine manifest for you. Is there a pattern? What images and ideas do you gravitate towards now? Exploring this is a great start to feeling a connection with the Divine.

:: The inner God block ::
For me, God has never just picked up the pen on her own and started writing: she writes through me. Which means that before the Divine can show up on the page, I have to make space for her – space beyond the doubt, the criticism and the disbelief around God, that so many of us have developed.

To give her space, a free-writing practice is critical. Each morning, I sit down and write three pages, either typed on my computer, or in a hardbound journal. No editing, no second guessing, just writing. Have I perfected this practice? No, but showing up helps me be honest on the page. This way, when the Divine does decide it’s time for a chat, I don’t fight it. I just keep writing.

This practice does take time: I’ve been doing it for over two years now. A couple glasses of wine could be a faster way to muting the inner critic. However, drugs are only a quick fix. Taking the time to show up and write will prepare you to have a dialogue with God, whether it’s 8am or 8pm.

:: Just ask ::
My dialogues with the Divine don’t start off in a complicated way. In fact, they usually begin with a vulnerable honesty.

“I’m so scared of telling him, what will happen?”

“I’m feeling so tired today, I just want to rest in your arms.”

I don’t believe there’s one right way to start chatting with God. For me, it’s about being simple and direct. My dialogues began by me being honest about where I was and what I needed – while the maternal Shechinah simply listened, and held me.

It’s very rare that God reaches out to me or begins the dialogue. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have had any dialogues with God if I hadn’t started the conversations. Why? I wouldn’t have even known I was hearing the Divine.

And what YOU need when chatting with God could look and sound completely different. However, it is up to you to show up. It’s up to you to say you want the conversation, and in fact it’s critical that you ASK for it. The Divine is all around us, waiting. It’s up to us to show we’re ready for a deeper connection.

:: Say Thanks ::
I’ve seen it time and again in human relationships. Want to mess something up? Take a person for granted. Believe that your employee will simply continue producing great work and never leave – and just watch that relationship ferment into a bitter and moldy fruit.

The Divine doesn’t need gratitude. However, simply assuming that you can continue to have dialogues with God won’t do, since becoming proud and assuming of this connection is a surefire way to destroy the dialogue.

Being in the presence of the Divine should always feel like a gift. As such, showing good manners and saying even a quick thank you after the fact can help. There are other ways to show your appreciation: donate money to your favorite charity; give a loved one a call and tell them you love them; pick up some trash from your park.

Divine dialogue has become a gift that helps me be the best version of myself, for others and for myself. Whether you find God on the blank page or in the woods, know that it is your birth right to have time and space directly with her. But taking time to discover what aspects of the Divine resonate with you, and then actually asking for that relationship, are fundamental to creating and sustaining this connection for the long haul.

UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA: INSIDE THE MIND OF THAT SPIRITUAL DUDE

Because we never feature enough Numi dudes! Gabriela Herstik gets Unknown Mortal Orchestra front man Ruban Neilson’s take on love, the Universe, and everything. Image: Dusdin Condren

Best known for being the third eye of psychedelic pop rock band Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Ruban Nielson has more to offer the world than just some groovy tunes. Ruban’s experience grounding his soulful nature in day-to-day life has shaped many things, including his relationships – UMO’s latest full length, “Multi-Love,” is a synthy trip about his experiments with polyamory. We talked to the man himself about his constant commitment to channelling something beyond himself – and how it helps make some good dancin’ music.

On Spirituality
“I don’t really worry about whether I’m spiritual or not because it’s a mysterious part of life and categories mess it up for me. Music is my concrete connection to forces outside myself, whether this means community, history, spirit, the subconscious, or some concept of God – that isn’t my place to define. But through music I know there’s more than my ‘self’ because I get gifts from that place in the form of songs, or the ability to perform beyond what I thought I could.”

On Astrology
“I’m a Pisces, but the first day so I’m a cusper with Aquarius. I’m also a Cancer Moon. I feel like a pretty typical Pisces. Astrology is fun. I like talking about it with people and trying to find patterns. But I take it with a grain of salt like most things.”

On Love
“Being in love is so important to me. I spend most of my time thinking about love, although I’ll never know anything about it. I’m always just drowning and I prefer it that way.”

On Culture
“I have my own personal ideas about being Hawaiian. Most people don’t know what a Polynesian is and that’s both frustrating and useful. I think my genetics shape my music quite a bit. I think my music puts my heart on display, and Hawaiians are known to be very hot-headed and deeply emotional.”

On Yurts
“The shape of a yurt is beautiful and living in a yurt was cool. It was a certain time in my life. I miss it sometimes but my life doesn’t fit in a yurt any more, haha.”

On The Unknown
“Aliens of all kinds definitely exist. You can ask any mathematician. Magick is real too. It’s all around us in the form of branding; symbols and suggestions used to manipulate reality. It’s a pity it’s come to that. As for spirit guides and ghosts, I’m not going to try to categorize things that no-one really understands. There are a lot of levels to reality though, I’m certain of that.”

On Wearing Mala Beads
“I guess I do.”

Rockin’ some Mala beads 12 weeks ago on Instagram

On Mantras
“I do work with mantras. They change a lot.”

On Inner Peace and Zen
“I play music. I’m always looking to be possessed by this very happy and invincible version of myself.”

On Living Your Truth

“I’m really lucky. These days I’m really able to pursue my music and live the way I want to live. I don’t sleep much but I get to be the person I dreamed I could be and I get to be moving and creating all the time. That’s the way I want to be.”

Get tour dates and more for Unknown Mortal Orchestra at Unknownmortalorchestra.com

TURNED ON: INSTAMACY VS. INTIMACY

In the latest instalment of her column on sex and spirituality, Ellie Burrows is Tuned On by slow burn of genuine intimacy. Portrait: Mikal Marie Photography

Ellie Burrows shot by Mikal Evans

I have a Masters in Instamacy.

Instamacy: A feeling that’s created when two strangers come together and all walls effortlessly tumble down while you tumble into each other.

Sound romantic? Yes.

Is that the same thing as intimacy? No. And I have recently been schooled in the difference.

I can’t tell you how many first dates I’ve been on where the dude sitting across from me tells me his deepest darkest secret only a couple hours in. Yes, this has happened more than once and it’s typically followed by something like “I have never told anyone that.” Believe it or not, I’ve had more than one supposed guy’s guy cry on a first or second date: “This is embarrassing. I can’t remember the last time I cried” or “I don’t usually do this. Who are you?”

Each time I would be totally turned on. Each reveal felt like a little victory of sorts, an advantage right out of the gate. It made me feel special like I had some magical ability create an environment in which the person sitting across from me felt unusually comfortable. It was like I was a mutant, my name was “Heart” and I had the power to crack open someone’s center in an instant, leaving them emotionally exposed and totally exhilarated.

Well, long before X-Men there was Greek mythology. And the story Psyche and Eros, beautifully illustrated in the Suit of Cups in the Mythic Tarot, has been a barometer for relationships for centuries. It’s Greek lore, so their story is peppered with misogyny, but we would be remiss not to acknowledge how mind-blowingly contemporary this story is, particularly as an allegory for intimacy. See, it’s ultimately a story about boundaries, an if you’re reading this and living in the year 2014 then you know how complicated that whole conversation has become. Insert Google-stalking, Instagram-following and Facebook-liking here.

Now, please indulge me in a brief retelling of Psyche and Eros – updated and annotated for your modern enjoyment:

Psyche was one seriously hot chick. Aphrodite wasn’t having it. She sent her son Eros, the cupid, to destroy her, but instead he fell in love with her. To save her, he called on his boy Apollo to give an oracle that Psyche must marry a monster. But instead, Eros clandestinely carried her away to a dope palace, married her, slept with her, and before morning made her promise never to look at his face.

Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss by Antonio Canova

Psyche had never felt love like this before, so she agreed. But it was only a matter of time before her fear and insecurity got the best of her. Worried that her new husband must be a beast; she grabbed a lamp, lifted up the covers and took a peek. And holy shit, he was an angel! But she fucked up, dripped some oil from her lamp on that impeccable face and he awoke, enraged. In an instant, her nice digs and perfect husband disappeared and she was left out in the cold.

Heartbroken, she begged Aphrodite for help. Mothers-in-law are tough (I can’t speak on this firsthand, but so my friends tell me), so she put Psyche through a series of humbling and humiliating tasks. Ultimately she had to prove her love to Eros by going to hell and back. But it all worked out – he returned to her and put a ring on it, but this time it was in front of all gods and mortals.

Like Psyche, I used to love to lift the covers and peek behind the curtain. My past relationships were less about two separate subjects slowly coming together and more about a quick merger, a melding into one. I used to want to know everything about my lover as soon as possible – behavior that only betrayed how much anxiety I had around the unknown. I wanted to collapse all boundaries ASAP, because waiting for something to unfold was unnerving.

I thought if I could really see my partner then I would really know my partner. If I was “friends with the monster that was under my bed” (amen Eminem) then I could protect myself. I thought that’s what intimacy was all about. But I was wrong.

In spiritual circles, people love to throw around the phrase “into-me-see” and I think it’s misleading. Intimacy is not about seeing and knowing; it’s about feeling and experiencing.

For the first time in my life, I have recently experienced a natural progression towards true intimacy. It has felt like a slow build, not a swift shakedown. I am psyched that I respected his privacy. I do not need to peek behind the curtain; there is nothing to hide. Instead I am Psyche in her true splendor, patient and vulnerable to the unknown. For me, that feels like going to hell and back. If I thought I was turned on by instamacy, I had no idea the kind of pleasure that was waiting for me in the dance of getting to know one another…slowly.

And as much as I would like to tell you everything about him, I can’t. I’m focused on getting my Doctorate and I need to respect certain boundaries.

Read more from Ellie at Ellieburrows.com

MY MYSTICAL LIFE: LATHAM THOMAS

Doula, yogi and author, Latham Thomas is the go-to birthing guru for New York’s most magical mamas (and definitely one of the city’s sexiest vegans). Having discovered her calling after a shamanic astro reading on an ashram in the Bahamas (as you do), here she goes deep into the details of a mystical life…giving life.

WHAT’S YOUR MORNING AWAKENING RITUAL?
I wake up, give thanks, rising up to meditate briefly before waking my son and starting our day. Sometimes he joins me in my lap for a meditation.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE FEEL GOOD BREAKFAST?
My favorite breakfast is quinoa porridge in the winter and acai and granola in the summer months.

WHAT MATRA DO YOU LEAVE THE HOUSE WITH IN THE MORNING?
God is good all the time and always ordering my steps. Every encounter is blessed and I am learning every step of the way.

WHAT’S YOUR LUCKY CHARM?
My John of God crystal teardrop ring.

IN WHAT WAYS DO YOU MOST EMBODY THE TRAITS OF YOUR SIGN?
I’m a true Taurus – I am romantic, thoughtful, nurturing, and grounded. I am also stubborn – I don’t quit things.

WHAT OTHER ELEMENTS OF YOUR CHART DO YOU RELATE TO THE MOST?
My moon is in Sagitarius and I am very much aligned with the energy of the traveling horse. It balances the grounding energy of my sun sign.

WHO’S YOUR GO-TO GURU, AND WHY DOES THEIR WORK RESONATE WITH YOU?
God is my go-to! I don’t have a person who I go to most. I love Gabrielle Bernstein and Terri Cole, who are dear friends, and if I am in need of sister support I dial them up ASAP.

AND THE HEALER YOU HAVE ON SPEED-DIAL?
Maureen Dodd at the Ash Center, who is a true mystic and able to intuit what my body needs. I love her energetic facials.

IN WHAT WAYS DO YOUR MYSTICAL BELIEFS MOST INFORM YOUR WORK?
Spirit breathes into every aspect of my work, which is all about birth – and what’s more holy, precious, and divine than the miracle of birth?

AND HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH NEGATIVE THOUGHTS?
You know, that’s such a good question. I let them come up, then I call a friend to talk it out if I can’t seem to shake whatever arises.

RETAIL THERAPY IS…?
I’m not such a shopper – I get what I need and I am done. But I do love to shop for…teas!

WHAT’S YOUR POWER OUTFIT?
A stylish boot, leggings, a well-tailored blouse and a fierce hat. I love a good lid.

AND WHAT MAKES YOU FEEL BEAUTIFUL, WHY?
I think my energy, my essence, the touch I put into my work, and my passion are what make me beautiful. I’ve endured challenges and that has moulded my character along with my smile lines 🙂

YOUR LAST CONVERSATION WITH THE UNIVERSE WENT SOMETHING LIKE…?
Dear God, please give me the strength, the inspiration and the focus to write something that will help others on their self-healing journey. Please make me a vessel for your will.

AND WITH YOUR PSYCHIC GUIDE?
I have a Goddess I identify with who is called Oshun or Oxum, from the Yoruba tradition. I am not affiliated with the religion, but I really identify with the energy of this particular goddess. She is beautiful, lives in the sweet waters. She is vain, and courted by many Gods. She is benevolent, and a creatrix.

WHEN DID YOU LAST WITNESS MAGIC IN ACTION?
This morning – I woke up!

WHAT’S ON YOUR VISION BOARD RIGHT NOW?
Sooo much! I always put everything on, so that when I focus on a particular area I draw those experiences to myself. I’ve been in a mode right now of attracting people and experiences that so much so that I can’t discern whether it’s de ja vu, or whether I conjured the whole thing myself.

YOUR MISSION IN YOUR CURRENT EARTHLING INCARNATION IS…?
My mission is to help women reclaim their queendom and heir bodies and be empowered in the birth process. We need to nurture ourselves so we can be powerful forces in the world.

Find out more about Latham and her work at Mamaglow.com

@GlowMaven