WHY YOUR BODY IS CRAVING THE HEALING POWER OF TOUCH

In a world where we’re starved of genuine connection, Kumi Sawyers is a passionate advocate for the healing power of touch … Intro by Ruby Warrington.

A few months back, I had a “High Times Massage” with Kumi Sawyers, an NYC body-worker and yogini who’s work I’d be following for a while. Kumi uses a CBD massage oil in her sessions, and it’s fair to say I was feeling literally zero pain (or even all the edges of my being) when I floated off her table. But it wasn’t just the cannabinoids.

Kumi is a natural born healer; there is magic in her hands. And she believe the missing piece in many a wellness journey, is that we all need to be touched. When we sat down for her to tell me more about this, here’s what she had to say:

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“A client will come to me and say, ‘I have this pain that doesn’t go away. I’m doing yoga and I’m seeing this physical therapist. I have my acupuncturist, I have my healer. I eat this and I eat that, and I’m doing all these things, but I’m still in so much pain.’ And it’s because there is blocked energy in their body.

All healing modalities talk about it, just with different names. Kundalini, Shakti, whatever you want to call it, it’s this energy that gets trapped. And it doesn’t matter what you eat. It doesn’t matter whether or not you talk about it with your therapist. You have to move the energy around. You have to recognize it, you have to feel it, and you have to associate with it as part of your body. It has to become alive, it has to join you. As soon as we connect to this, is when things begin to transform. To become beautiful, and vibrant, and alive, and abundant.

And the touch of another human hand is often the catalyst for this.

Touch is extremely powerful. There are even studies that show how what’s called ‘touch deprivation’ stops babies from growing and developing properly. I know that when I feel anxious, in order for me to calm down I need someone to hold me. Just hold me for a second. And yet we live in a world where people are afraid of touch. Where loving touch it is reserved for romantic partners; and in other situations, it can create a closeness we do not feel comfortable with.

People are choosing to rely on this false sense of connection instead. We think that because we’re friends on Instagram, it means that I care for you. But it doesn’t mean anything. It is a beautiful thing to feel connected to all these people, but the reality is we’re not. At the end of the day, we can go home and still feel very alone.

It should actually be: ‘I care for you because I show up for you. And when I see you I put my hand on you, and I listen to you, and I support you, no matter what.’ This is the currency, this is the energy exchange, that’s really healing and important in our development as human beings. Physical affection isn’t only sexual. Touch is another way of feeling. Of going beyond the superficial, and dropping down into the deep layers. Yet so many people are afraid to feel, and much of my work is to guide people comfortably into the depths.

Often people show up to my table very armored, guarded. The reason they can’t feel what’s going on in their bodies is because they don’t want to. To then come to me and to lie naked on my table and let me touch them, that is real vulnerability, real trust. And not everyone is ready for it, right away.

So I have to work with the nervous system. I have to prepare the body. I have to let them trust me, which means using really firm, but soft and consistent contact. To allow my touch to say to them, ‘I am here.’ And then slowly the body softens. And then people will let me in, and I can do the deeper work.

If I try to force my way, the body will just lock up. And then they’ll feel sore and agitated, and it’s a bad experience for everyone. The way you work with the body is the way you work with people. It’s the way that you work with your personal relationships. You can’t ever force somebody to be in a place where they’re not ready. There is a way of just being with people where they are, and guiding them through whatever experience they’re having.

When I go into somebody’s body and they’re like, ‘it’s too much, it’s too much,’ I tell them that I understand. And I ask them to breathe with me. I tell them that the only way to move this out of their body is to move through it, and that as soon as we get through this, there will be an opening. To trust me.

And that’s life. I can’t think of one thing I’ve done in my life that’s been meaningful that didn’t mean going through some really intense initiations. Beginning with the birth canal. That’s the work, and you can take this work and you can apply it to anything. You can apply it to body work, and to relationships, to careers, to politics.

People will try to bypass it. Like, ‘actually let’s skip around that. I’m going to just turn right.’ And you can keep turning right, and you’re going to arrive at a place where you look at your life, and you are not fulfilled. Where you’re suffering physically because you’re holding all that energy inside your body. Where your body can no longer move. Where you’re retaining water, your joints are not fluid, your skin is most likely doing some weird shit. Where your relationships are empty. And it’s sad. I see so many people make these decisions, and all because they weren’t ready to do the deep, uncomfortable work.

Ultimately, everybody wants to feel love, to feel happiness. They just don’t want to feel the discomfort. But anybody who thinks they can live without turbulence, that’s just not how it goes. You actually want the bumps, because it shows you’re feeling more. To really feel deeply about something is a gift. You want the turbulence, because the scarier it gets, the closer you know you’re moving towards something really beautiful.”

Discover more about Kumi Sawyers and her work at Kumarawellness.com and follow her on Instagram @shadylawn.

CITY TOUR: A GUIDE TO SPIRITUAL CHICAGO

Forget everything you know about the Windy City—there are plenty of high-vibe happenings in Spiritual Chicago, says Andrea Kasprzak

 

The Windy City may be better known for the Cubs than the cosmic, but it’s not all deep dish pizza and boozy baseball fans. When it comes to tapping spiritual Chicago, you just have to know where to look. Here’s our itinerary for a day of crystals, yoga, and high vibrational cuisine.

9AM :: Kundalini Yoga at Sat Nam Yoga
The second you step into this cozy, sanctuary-within-the-city you’ll want to curl up on a white sheepskin rug and never leave. Take a kundalini class in the sun drenched front room, shop for sage and crystals in the store, or book a treatment with some of the area’s most sought after healers. Not to be missed: lunar tune-ups in the outdoor courtyard during monthly new and full moon rituals and cosmic vinyasa (yoga and symphonic gong immersion under the projection of the stars).

Sat Nam Yoga

11 AM :: Soak at Float Sixty
Whether you consider sensory deprivation tanks a spiritual experience or a just a slightly trippy way to spend an hour, you’ll never regret the experience. Head to this River North haven to soak in style. The industrial cool space features tons of tubs, a meditation room to hang out in post-soak, and a grooming area. Try the Samadhi Tank for a super cool intergalactic womb-like vibe.

1PM :: Juice and Crystals at Infiniteus
Kill two birds with one (high energy) stone at this Wicker Park rocks and juice shop. First, hydrate with a cold-pressed juice or purified alkaline water amidst massive amethysts and orange calcite covered tables in the cafe. Then, hit up the back room to shop for gems and crystals. Owner Alex Drummond is super knowledgable and on hand to help. Bonus: they’ll even deliver your gems and juices to your door.

2PM :: Gong Therapy with Mason Pain
Transportive, elevating, and a little bit other-worldly, getting gonged by sound therapist Mason Pain offers deep release on a higher level. Surrender to the healing vibrations of three gongs, as well as singing bowls and chimes. Sessions begin with Yoga Nidra to open you up to maximum receptivity.

Maison Pain

3PM :: Nut Milk at Owen + Alchemy
Think you’re over juice after too many cleanses? This gothic cool Logan Square juice bar from Anne Owen and Jared Van Camp may change your mind. Try the nut milks. We suggest the dessert-y 54 (raw hazelnut, cacao, cinnamon, vanilla bean, raw local honey) or the fresh and creamy 59 (young raw coconut juice and young raw coconut meat).

4PM :: Tarot Reading with Laura Gonzalez
Laura, a self-described Mexican witch, has felt a true connection and psychic insights since childhood. Tarot card reading is her passion and it shows. Sessions are meant to offer guidance and clarity. Go deeper by asking specific questions. Laura’s hyper presence makes it easier to digest tough truths.

5PM :: Reiki with Jerry Mikutis
Clear energy blocks and connect with a like-minded sensi soul during a session with Reiki healer and yoga instructor Jerry Mikutis. Her warm personality and magic touch puts clients at instant ease.

6PM :: Vegetarian Dinner at Green Zebra
Bar and ballpark snacks may get first bill, but there’s still plenty of high vibe, creative and veggie-centric places to grab a bite. Case in point: Green Zebra. Fresh, local, and elevated, the West Town restaurant is a standout not to be missed. Small plate dishes like the Hen of the Woods mushroom pate and fermented beet tartare with borscht yogurt, candied pistachios, and dill pickles are plated to impress.

Green Zebra

8PM :: Crystallsage Massage at Ruby Room
Cap off the night with a Crystallsage Massage at this Wicker Park healing hybrid space. Sessions start with a flower and gem essence spray and reading. Move into a treatment room for an intense 90-minute massage featuring Himalayan salt crystals for serious grounding. After, shop for crystals and spend the night in one of the upstairs rooms.

EARTHLY DELIGHTS: NO MORE GUILTY PLEASURES

Be kind to yourself and indulge says Kate Horodyski, as questions why they must always be guilty pleasures… Artwork: Marcus Allen

A few years ago, I was flipping through a celebrity magazine, and on one of the pages, they’d asked different celebs what their guilty pleasures were. Most gave the typical answers like wine, chocolate, or online shopping, but one person, I wish I remembered who, wrote: “I don’t have any because I never feel guilty about my pleasures.

The perfection of this caught me off guard, and it had such an impact on me.  I’ve actually seen it quoted by a few different people since then, but the origin isn’t important. What’s important is how profound and amazing a concept this is.

Living things are hardwired to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Obviously, right? It’s a survival mechanism, but also, what would be the point of living if it weren’t for pleasure? Somewhere along the way (many would blame organized religion, but that’s a whole other topic), the idea arose that pleasure was to be avoided and that to “indulge” in pleasure must require a healthy dose of guilt.

The message this sends is that we can’t be trusted around pleasure as if it will derail us, or something.  In this scenario, guilt acts to protect us from ourselves and keep us “safe and in line.”

I’d like to propose though, that instead of only occasionally indulging in pleasure, while also feeling guilty about it, we just fully own it and make our lives as full of pleasure as possible. I think if we made pleasure (which translates to happiness) a priority, the world would be a much better place.

Because we’re so stingy with it, we’ve come to associate pleasure with selfishness or greed. But if we were more open with it, we’d see that it’s the exact opposite! Pleasure is like rocket fuel for our lives and the more we embrace pleasure, the happier and more loving and generous we can be.

How do you feel after a day of hard work, having also denied yourself delicious food, rest, or play?  Are you full of energy and ready to help others? Or do you want to simultaneously cry, sleep, and eat a tub of ice cream? Now compare that to how you feel after a day of chatting with friends, eating delicious food, being outside, and having some great sex (or whatever it is that you find pleasurable). You probably feel happy, at peace, and more open to helping others.

Pleasure doesn’t have to be an expensive or lengthy process (i.e. it doesn’t need to involve a trip to the spa or a five-star resort). It can truly be as simple as taking a few deep breaths, making yourself some tea, or hugging someone you love. The beauty of pleasure is its simplicity. Pleasure means caring about yourself and offering yourself the love that you deserve.

While I write this, I keep pausing to check in on my breath and any tension in my body.  The more I breathe and relax, the more pleasurable anything and everything feels. Practicing presence is practicing pleasure.

I also believe that we should be able to eat chocolate, drink champagne, take mid-day naps in the sun, go for 2-hour massage appointments, and buy ourselves beautiful things. We are spiritual beings living in a physical world, and the best way to celebrate this is by diving head first into the pleasures that this physical world can offer. We are here to have fun!

Most importantly, I think it’s important that we don’t see these as guilty pleasures that we only earn by putting in a hard day’s work. I want us to see pleasure as our prerogative, our birthright, and a celebration of what it means to be alive. I want us to know that pleasure doesn’t have to be earned.

I used to take life so seriously and having fun just didn’t seem overly important. But life changed for me, not all at once, but gradually, when I changed my perspective on pleasure. It got a whole lot more fun and a whole lot more amazing. I’ve made fun and pleasure my spiritual practice, and I am never looking back.

LOVE YOURSELF: A BODY WORSHIP RITUAL

Learn how worship your body with the same reverence you show when entering a sacred space of prayer, says Kitty Cavalier.  Artwork: Pedro Sacadura

As a little girl, I loved volunteering to clean my church after mass on Sundays. My family and a few other parish members would polish the pews, switch out the flowers on the altar, sweep the long processional aisle of dust bunnies and organize the hymnals. As a very devoted little Catholic girl, I felt like I was being given a backstage pass to my favorite concert. Tending and caring for what I considered God’s house was a huge honor and made me feel quite elite.

As time (read: puberty) went by, my beliefs about religion began to shift tremendously. As Mae West once said: “I used to be Snow White, but I drifted.” The church no longer felt even remotely like home – and as for many of us, my spiritual path since has followed more of a curve than a straight line. But there’s been one constant throughout: my body.

“My body is my temple” – it sounds so cliché. But let’s really think about it for a second. A temple is defined as “a space devoted to religious reverence,” and I can think of no greater house of worship than the cathedral of my very own heart. There is no holier a song than the sweet hum of my inhale and exhale. The light in my eyes mirrors the warmth of a candle’s flame. My skin houses and protects me like the smooth, lavish marble of the Taj Mahal, and the flush of my cheeks after an orgasm can put the ceiling of Sistine chapel to shame.

Yes, my body IS my temple. So today I’d like to share with you one of my personal favorite rituals to start 2016 off right: body worship. There is no way to do this ritual wrong. Just like learning a prayer or a hymn, a little heart, a sprinkling of soul, and practice is all it takes.

Suggested supplies for this body worship ritual:

  • Body Oil (such as coconut oil)
  • A mirror propped against a wall
  • A body scrub (like some sea salt mixed with body oil), or a loofah
  • A towel
  • Candlelight, incense, flowers, or anything else that helps you set sacred space
  • Music: click here for a free, hand-curated Body Worship Ritual playlist

1. Set Sacred Space
Imagine you are setting space for the high holy days of your inner temple. You can light candles, burn incense, place rose petals on your bath mat, fold your towel as you would for a guest, play music, or anything else that evokes the spirit of the sacred for you.

2. Tending The Temple Grounds
Step into the shower or bath. As you wash and scrub your skin, do so with the same care, attention and tenderness that you would show to the house of the Divine. Scrub and loofah your elbows and knees with the same softness and reverence you would show when walking into a sacred temple. Imagine that as you caress your body with soap suds, every bubble of soap is like a flower laid down in offering at the altar of YOU. When you rinse your body, feel the water wash away that which no longer serves you, and it’s healing power to make space for something new to enter.

3. The Sacrament of Body Worship
Now you have prepared the temple, you are ready for ceremony and worship! Place a soft blanket or towel on the floor in front of your mirror. Position yourself naked by candlelight seated on the floor and bow to the beauty of your reflection. Take the body oil and warm it between your holy hands, using your breath to blow a prayer of gratitude into the oil. Then, allow your hands to be both pilgrim and priestess, as they slowly, reverently massage prayers into your skin. Approach each curve and corner of your body as a different room in the temple waiting to be explored.

4. Encountering Eternity
When you feel complete with your body worship, get very close to the mirror. Stare deep into your own eyes and see if you can glimpse the part of you that is eternal, that never ages, and transcends time. Just like that sense of divinity we feel when we walk on sacred ground, that spirit is right there, woven into the fibers of your DNA. All that’s required to encounter it, is the courage to really look.

GET TO KNOW YOUR CAPRICORN MOON SIGN

The Capricorn moon sign is tougher than most – a balance of tender and tough, says Ash Baker. PLUS 8 lifestyle tips to help you manage your Capricorn moon sign. Artwork: Prince Lauder via Behance.net

Fellow sea goats, gather around and learn about your personal take on the Moon. You project an emotional character that is sparkling with strength. Even your aura is made of resilient stuff. Capricorn Moons get a bad rap though because the qualities of this sign are the exact opposite of what the Moon stands for.

This means it’s a tougher Moon than others, but not impossible. I too have this Moon so I’m really speaking from the heart with this article. And it just means we have to work a little more mindfully at achieving the Moon’s needs via our sign’s attributes.

Capricorn stands for power, control, success and ambitious achievement. The Moon, our heart, wants to nurture and support through being soft and gentle. So this Moon’s purpose is to understand how to be vulnerable while still feeling safe. To not be too controlling. To let go of the ice queen/king tendencies. This placement can feel a bit dark side of the Moon. We stay cool and detached so we don’t get hurt. Learning to bridge that gap is key.

Capricorn does have something in common with the Moon though, they both enjoy taking care of needs. What those needs are varies but possessing the ability to help fulfill them is strong. This can be a very realistic Moon in that Capricorns see the logic in emotions. They can come across insensitive due to being so grounded, conservative and stoic.

The Capricorn Moon sign needs independence and to prove that it can do things on it’s own. So working towards the goal of embracing independence while asking for help every once in awhile would be beneficial. Just watch out for being too controlling of others to get what you want. You really take it to heart if you think someone sees you as unable to fulfill certain functions. Therefore you can become too rigid and bossy just to hide the fact that maybe you are not so perfect at everything you set out to achieve.

It’s okay. You are human. Our flaws bond us. Allowing those who love you to take care of you is HUGE. You want to remain in a place where you feel dignified and composed, but also open enough to depend on someone else. This is where true intimacy is born and your Moon can fully blossom. We each have an area of life where we feel the need to get the job done. The Capricorn feels respected, nurtured and fulfilled in doing so.

Below are a few suggestions to work/benefit your Capricorn Moon sign’s higher vibes.

:: Strength ::
Pick an exercise that makes you feel strong. One that gives you a feeling of power over your body yet humbles you at the same time. This sign rules the bone structure so if yoga suits you try this yoga sequence…

High Lunge :: Alanasana
From a standing position step the right leg/foot towards the back of the mat. Come up on the ball of the right foot with an inhale. Exhale and bend the front left knee. Make sure the knee is bent directly over the ankle. Tilt the pelvis slightly under and lengthen up through the spine. Inhale and reach the arms loosely into the air. Reach your upper body towards the ceiling and press the lower body down towards the floor. Come back to standing and switch legs.

Warrior 2 :: Virabhadrasana 2
Come back to Tadasana. Step the right foot back 3-4 feet. Turn your right foot to a slight angle with the toes out and the heel in. The left foot should be pointed forward. Inhale and reach the arms up and out in line with your shoulders like wings. Exhale and begin to bend the front knee directly over the ankle. If you are a beginner, lessen the bend in the knee but never take it further than your ankle. You should see your 1st/2nd toes. Make sure your torso is directly above your pelvis. Reach your arms out wide and feel them lengthening. Press your feet down into the ground gathering energy back into the body. Hold for 30 seconds up to 1 minute. Come back to Tadasana and switch sides.

Reverse Warrior :: Viparita Virabhadrasana
From Warrior 2, drop your back hand down to the back of your back leg or on your hip as you lean backwards from your side and reach your front arm up and over your ear, creating length in your ribs and side waist. Keep the knee bent directly over the ankle. Look up towards your hand as long as you don’t have any neck pain.

:: Time alone ::
You need solitude to plot, plan and stay on top of all the goals you want to achieve. Being such an independent Moon you emotionally benefit more from private time than some other signs do. If this is something that feels difficult to add into your life, really start to make it a priority. Put up some boundaries if need be. This quiet time will really benefit your heart in the long run.

:: Lighten up ::
Now, following the tip on alone time you also need to balance. Be sure to add fun, and silly experiences to your life. This sounds easy to most people, but it’s something you actually have to work at. This Moon sign is serious from birth. We enter the world like little adults. So going out of your way to go out and play is actually quite therapeutic.

:: Life coach ::
Being such a goal-oriented sign is a good thing, but it can get a little too controlling. So why not ask for some help? Hire a life coach to help get things in order so you’re not constantly obsessing over your never ending lists. This actually is a double whammy for you because it allows you to work on asking for help while still achieving goals piece by piece.

:: Bodywork ::
Massage. Reiki. Shiatsu. Any modality that helps ease the rigidity of your body from stress is going to do wonders. We all hold tension in our bodies but due to this sign being so prone to stress, a healing release is necessary. You may be guilty of only feeling comfortable when worrying over a deadline. If this is you, go treat yourself.

Happy healthy climbing Cappy Moons!

MY MYSTICAL LIFE: ENERGETIC BREAKOUTS, A HEALING HANG DATE, AND SOME WARDROBE REIKI

This week, purging and clearing have been the themes of my mystical life…

I experienced an energetic breakout. Okay, this sounds like it’s gonna be about some radical consciousness shift resulting from a mind-blowing new healing technique…but actually it’s the tale of an aggressive outbreak of pimples in my mystical life. Ew. Gross. I know. But please bear with me, as these aren’t just any old pimples – I believe they are the result of an ongoing energetic detox.

Because WTF. I’ve been eating cleaner than ever since going full vegan and cutting out all alcohol over a month ago. As a result (I’m just guessing here) I’ve been sleeping like a baby, and experiencing “perfect” digestion for the first time in like forever. I’ve also been taking my supplements, letting all kinds of emotional s*** go, and feeling light of spirit and supremely optimistic about life – all the ingredients, surely, for radiant skin. And yet, not since my early teens have I seen zits like these!

It felt like time to consult facialist to the Numinati, Britta Plug, who brings a deep level of energetic healing to her sessions. My question: could this bout of extra clean living actually be the cause of my skissues (skin issues?) In a word: Yes! “We know that trapped emotional energy can cause sickness and disease, so it makes sense that we might actually see or feel it coming out,” she explained. “And if it’s really deep stuff, this could get a little gunky.”

In Ayurvedic medicine, she said, it’s also believed that the skin is the final frontier for toxins leaving the system – “once it’s showing up on the skin, chances are it’s been going through an internal process for a while” (i.e. affecting digestion, sleep, mood, etc). All of which made me feel WAY better about my current pizza face. In fact, I’ve even been able to embrace the pimples as evidence the deeper emotional clearing I’ve been doing over the past few months is working! Here are some tips Britta gave me for speeding up the process:

– Dry body brushing and Epsom salt baths – to help the lymph system clear that shiz out faster
– A Manuka honey mask – mix half a teaspoon mixed with water, spread on the skin and leave for up to an hour to speed up the healing process
– Accupuncture and massage – to keep the chi flowing, and assist the energetic detox further

I went on a healing hang date. As in, rather than do dinner or a yoga class as an excuse for a gossip with my Goddess gang, we got together to do a Family Constellation. It was my friend Alexandra’s idea. “I need to do a Constellation very soon. Venus retro has been kickin’ my butt, forcing me to really clear out and rethink! I would love to do this with you strong lovely women…” went the email. And well, how could we refuse?

You can read about what a Constellation is here, but it’s basically a form of group therapy that gets deep into your family patterns in a totally mystical way. I’ve only ever done it with strangers (not as scary as it sounds), and the results have BLOWN MY MIND. But with two women I know, who know me and elements of my story already, and who I knew I could trust implicitly with whatever came up? Next level.

Of course we bought snacks (our facilitator Marine even baked a vegan lavender cake) and caught up about the other stuff going on in our lives, and the session ended up lasting four hours. Totally  recommended next time you and a gal pal are in the market for more than your average dinner date.

I finally Kondo’d my condo. I might actually be the last person on the planet to read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but since I’m about to move (for the fourth time in as many years), and since I <3 tidying up big time anyway (seriously where is the Virgo hiding out in my chart?), I figured it was time to just get on this bandwagon.

And I quickly realized that “magic” is the operative word in the title, plus the reason, I believe, this little book has resonated so strongly with so many gazillions of people. Yes, there have been all the practical benefits (cleaner, neater apartment + A LOT of credit to spend in my local clothing exchange), but here are a few of Marie’s more mystical life lessons:

On tidying as meditation: “The work of carefully considering each object I own to see whether it sparks joy inside me, is like conversing with myself through the medium of my possessions.”

On healing through tidying: “If you can’t feel relaxed in a clean and tidy room, try confronting your feeling of anxiety. It may cast a light on what’s really bothering you.”

On tidying as personal evolution: “To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose.”

On wardrobe reiki: “When we take our clothes in our hands and fold them neatly, we are, I believe, transmitting energy which has a positive effect on our clothes.”

Conclusion? Marie Kondo is a totally witchcore modern mystic. LOVE!