FROM FEAR TO MEDICINE: USING THE TAROT TO FACE WHAT SCARES US

The Tarot is both a mirror and an evolutionary invitation towards change. Lindsay Mack offers us a guide to the so-called “scary” cards and reveals how we can use our decks to turn fear to medicine …

Fear is a highly unpleasant, but profoundly important emotion — one that deserves a place at our table of feelings.

Fear, when considered for what it is, can offer information, wise counsel, direction, and clarity on our deeper feelings. We don’t have to believe everything our fear communicates to us, but it can be transformative to hear it out. By doing so, fear can become an ally, especially when we understand the strength that can arise within us through working with it.

Fear has always been a very deep teacher in my life. I live with a long term brain condition. I’m a healthy and joyful survivor of extreme childhood abuse, and have worked through complex PTSD for most of my life. I have traveled through some of the darkest places a person can experience, and every time I take one of those journeys “through the woods,” I am shifted for the better, having gained deeper strength, trust, and faith, my fear shifting into medicine with wisdom to offer me. The more wisdom I cultivate through those paths of darkness, the more I have to offer to myself, my students, and my clients.

The Tarot is a profoundly useful tool to turn to in moments of fear, trauma and stress. It can help to contextualize what’s happening underneath our fear, and how it is trying to help us evolve. It can also bring a visual landscape to something that we may not be able to communicate or understand with words. Whether you are a reader or not, The Tarot can be a deep aid in moments of darkness.

There are six Tarot cards in particular that, when we look at them through a soul centered lens, offer a beautiful invitation to evolve through fear.

Read on for how use them as guides in our own journey, exploring what it means for us to shift from fear to medicine. You can also check out my brand new course, From Fear to Medicine: A Six Week Journey into the “Scary” Cards of the Tarot. The first class begins on April 22nd – find out more HERE

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// THE FOOL // Trusting The Invisible
Have you ever been called to take a giant leap of faith with hardly any proof that it will pay off? If you have, you’ve been in the energy of The Fool. It is the invitation to jump into the unknown, and begin a whole new cycle of our lives. We are drawn to the edge of a cliff in this card, but it is up to us to jump off of it. The soul work that we are asked to do in this card is to trust ourselves, and trust the invisible.

To our brain chemistry, The Fool can feel like death, a loss of control for the ego. If we can move through this deep contraction with mindfulness, leaping into the unseen, the treasures we will gain will be priceless. We will begin to truly know that when we jump in The Fool, we will be supported. We will begin to trust our intuition, and we will be a co-creator in our own evolution and growth. Trusting the invisible takes deep work. The Fool is here to help us learn.

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// WHEEL OF FORTUNE // Centering in the midst of change
The Wheel of Fortune heralds the coming of great change, the marriage between our choices and our destiny. The change that Wheel of Fortune brings is always for our good. There is no “bad” turn on this card, and there is no reversal.

When we work with the Wheel of Fortune, we can never see the change that’s coming. It teaches us to root into the unknown, and to stay centered in the Wheel, rather than flailing on the outer edges. When we work with this card, we get to learn how to root into ourselves in times of change, staying calm in the eye of the storm. Beautiful wisdom for life.

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// DEATH // Sacred Compost
There is no greater metaphor for the Death card than that of composting. I eat you, then you eat me. Nothing truly dies in the Death card, just like nothing ever truly dies here on Earth. It merely changes form, becoming a different version of what it was.

The Death card is the transformation of something – a relationship, a thought pattern, a belief – into something new. When we work in this card, it is a signal that we are no longer being fed by something growing in the garden of our lives. It lets us know that it is time to pull the weeds up and allow it to become sacred fertilizer, encouraging the new things in our lives to grow. The work we do in this card is profound ego surrender, letting go of the things that are ready to go.

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// THE DEVIL // Blessing the Shadow
The Devil is an opportunity to look deeply at our shadow. Are we judging ourselves? Believing that there is something wrong with us? Are we spiraling into an old, destructive pattern out of fear or contraction? If we are, The Devil will let us know.

If we pull this card, it is a sign that we are doing everything right. The Devil always shows up as a little mindfulness bell around our expansion, letting us know that the brain is trying to pull us into some old, limiting patterns to keep us in what it perceives as safe and known. We get to drop into these patterns and say no thank you to the invitation, whatever it may be. By doing so, we liberate ourselves from believing that we are “bad” or “wrong,” to thinking that there is anything adverse about us for our desires or our anger, and allowing all parts of ourselves to just be there.

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// THE TOWER // When Things go Wrong
Everyone has experienced a Tower moment in their lives. It is a moment where it truly feels like everything has gone wrong – it can feel like we are living in a nightmare. A beautiful metaphor for The Tower is a forest fire. We watch everything burn, knowing that it is clearing the soil for new growth.

It is an intentional shaking of the foundations underneath us, all to help us grow, and shed some part of ourselves that is no longer aligned with our expansion. The Tower can be intensely uncomfortable, or it can be a very minor, internal experience. When we survive and move through Tower experiences, we emerge stronger, clearer and transformed, our lives shifted on its very axis.

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// THE MOON // Floating in the Darkness
In The Moon card, we learn how to hang out in the Void – no easy feat! Ruled by Pisces, this card goes as deep as it can go. It is an experience of truly not knowing where we are going next, not having any answers, and feeling like we are floating back into old, shadowy feelings and emotions. To experience this can be very uncomfortable, and can make us want to really swim to shore, to find the light, to get some semblance of clarity and direction.

But, the more we kick, the deeper the waves become. We eventually learn the most profound surrender in The Moon card, letting the darkness become an ally, learning from the quiet, tuning in with ourselves beyond the din of our ego. When the light finally dawns, we learn that we have been moving all along, allowing the currents to take us to our next destination.

Want to go deeper into these energies, and learn how to work with your own fear in a mindful, empowered way? Please join me for my brand new course, From Fear to Medicine: A Six Week Journey into the “Scary” Cards of the Tarot. The first class begins on April 22nd – find out more HERE

ALTERNATIVE HEALING AS “CURA” FOR ADDICTION & TRAUMA

Can meditation and visionary medicine break cycles of addiction, trauma, and poverty? Elyssa Jakim sits down with the makers of new documentary Cura to talk alternative healing as a tool for empowerment …

Yolanda commemorating her son’s death at a ceremony led by Ananda Ray

“When you find this disciplined practice, you discover that you can support yourself—you can be a sovereign being. That’s the big takeaway from medicine work or any of these other modalities: they help you find a way to stand up for yourself and to know when to ask for help”—Yolanda Frausto 

Cura is a feature length documentary in progress that tells the story of Yolanda and Donny, a Mexican-American mother and son breaking cycles of addiction, trauma, and poverty using community, meditation, and visionary and alternative medicine. When Yolanda loses her younger son while in police custody, she strives to save her other son, Donny, from addiction and the possibility of suicide.

As the film preps for debut (the Kickstarter is live through December 17th), Elyssa Jakim sat down with producer Ismail Ali, who’s also the Policy and Advocacy Counsel at the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), and Yolanda Frausto, the film’s subject, to talk film as medicine, the war on drugs and, ultimately, the healing power of community.

**Watch the trailer HERE. 

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ELYSSA JAKIM: You call Cura an “An evocative soul portrait of a mother and her son healing generations of family trauma with natural and alternative medicine.” What is a soul portrait?

ISMAIL ALI: With this film, we want to show people that there are methods to healing that are beyond the body; that require a relationship between the body and the mind, and even the spirit. As a form of soul portraiture, the film is a snapshot of the lives of Yolanda and Donny. So, it’s about their lives in a mundane way, but it is also about them as spiritual beings—a portrait of their spirits. We’re saying this is a look at who they are at their core, framed by them living in Oakland and coming from poverty.

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EJ: How did the title “Cura” come about? It seems like a word with multiple meanings. What does it mean to you?

YOLANDA FRAUSTO: To me “cura” means “here’s how we heal together. Here’s how you can find healing in yourself through my story.” There’s no one cure. It’s like the grief process—it’s a fact of life that we all go through it, but nobody can tell you exactly how it’s going to happen, you have to figure it out. I come from a background where it’s common for somebody to get stabbed or shot, overdose, or commit suicide and we don’t talk about it. So to be able to talk about grief is where the name “cura” helps. It means “let’s heal from what’s too hard to deal with and let’s do it together.” It plants the seed for healing.

Yolanda and her son Donny

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EJ: How did you discover natural medicine, Yolanda?

YF: I got sober from drugs in 2005. I needed to change my life because I was headed in a really bad direction and I just stopped using. Three years later, I was working in a hotel in San Francisco and I learned about yoga from a woman doing a teacher training there. I started practicing, eventually up to six days a week. Then I got really serious about meditation. About a year later, I found plant medicine and I was like “Oh, this is my jam!” I felt that my whole life happened the way that it did so that I could find this as a spiritual practice. All of these things fell into my path, I didn’t seek any of it out, but inside of me I knew I was ready. 

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EJ: How has plant medicine helped you work through a trauma?

YF: It allowed me to have that one-on-one communing time with spirit that people can also find in prayer or in a deep meditation practice. I found the medicine around the time my mom became sick with ALS, and when I lost my son, I was already in the medicine community. Both times that I lost family members, I found that I had this community of people praying for me, showing up for me, bringing me food. I’d never had that kind of support before and they really taught me what it is to be supported. Also when you find this disciplined practice, you discover that you can support yourself—you can be a sovereign being. That’s the big takeaway from medicine work or any of these other modalities: they help you find a way to stand up for yourself and to know when to ask for help.

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EJ: Do you believe that you have this kind of medicine work or curandera work in your ancestry?

YF: I hear the land where my great grandparents come from is peyote lands. So somehow I have a funny feeling that my great grandmother has been guiding me throughout my life and brought me home to the traditions by showing me a pathI believe strongly in the spirit world and how they lead us back to what’s home for us. When I was a kid, my grandma would cure us with folk remedies. And now I’m that person. I know the recipes and natural remedies, I know what to do. I feel like it was something that was instilled in me, but that no one taught me. I’m always saying “There’s a tea for that!” My sons would say “Oh, you’re just a witch.”

Yolanda

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EJ: As plant medicine gets more popular, what kind of responsibility do people need to be taking when they take the medicine or administer it? Is it something you believe can find a place in a more Western medical mindset?

IA: Donny and Yolanda have experienced a tremendous amount of trauma as a result of simply being Mexican-American people who grew up in a place with huge amounts of drugs and violence, and which was not set up for them to have access to power or influence. I believe the strong pushes to decriminalize or medicalize or otherwise create access to pant medicines are in many ways responses to that harm.

So how can you leverage this harmful system to bring about some sort of benefit to the people who have suffered this exact kind of trauma? We need to take an honest look at what will be necessary to make this possible, and I think that during the next five or ten years we’re going to really crystallize what those systems look like.

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EJ: Does the film speak to the phenomenon of wellness practices and techniques being inaccessible to people who aren’t of a particular ethnicity, or of a particular socioeconomic background?

IA: That’s actually why I started working on the film. These beautiful practices often require you to have resources—at the very least to be able to afford to take time off to care for your own mind. So many people are limited in this way. So accessibility is real, colonialism is real, and being aware of all these concepts and then shifting our behavior in line with addressing them is really important. The film is really about two people who are deciding to do some really serious work to break the cycles of their lineage, despite the fact that they don’t have the time and resources.

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EJ: Did you find the process of filmmaking itself to be a kind of healing?

YF: I was able to process grief in a way that I did not know was possible. I reenacted the scene when I was driving and got the phone call from the coroner about my son. After we shot it, I cried for about an hour and then felt so much relief. I only got to process my grief in that visceral way because I was part of this film-making process. How else could you act out something in your life? Whenever things become challenging to film, I know it is creating space for me and my family to process. It’s hard to have these conversations but we’ve also found a way to communicate differently while filming.

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EJ: What would you most like to see for the film?

IA: We hope people will be inspired to involve their own communities in it. We want people to watch this and to talk to the people in their lives about what all of these themes mean to them. We really think that yes, all of these healing modalities themselves are great, but part of the reason that Yolanda and Donny are where they are now is because of the community in their lives.

YF: I believe it will speak to specific people, who find something in it to help them. Maybe it just means they’ll find a way to say, “I can talk to my family, this isn’t so hard.” Quite a few friends have told me, “for you to come out and tell your story really gives me hope, trust, and faith in a future for myself and my family.” The goal was for my story to help other people heal.

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Cura is a project of Hover Pictures, directed by Ethan Goldwater. Please support the film by visiting the Kickstarter page, and sharing the link. Be on the lookout for information about future events during the campaign in Los Angeles (December 13), and New York City (December 15), and make sure to follow the film on Facebook and Instagram. 

LEARN HOW TO READ TAROT WITH LINDSAY MACK

At last! Numinous resident Tarotscopes queen Lindsay Mack has created a digital course on how to read Tarot. Ruby Warrington explains why Lindsay’s Tarot For The Wild Soul is an invaluable tool on your soul journey …

I first met Lindsay Mack about two and a half years ago, when I interviewed her for my book Material Girl, Mystical World. I’d become aware of Lindsay and her work after we ran this interview with her on the site—and there was one quote that had really stood out to me.

“I read Tarot for people’s soul expansion—meaning I read in a way that helps them to wake up to the truth of their being.”

Woah. I was still in the early research stages of my book, and I didn’t know at the time that this sentence was essentially tapping into what would become the BIG message of MGMW, and my work in a wider sense.

I have since come to believe that seeking to unpick the conditioning that keeps us small, fearful and compliant, thus connecting to our individual truths, and then making our life choices from this place, is at the essence of our spiritual work, and our evolution both as individuals and as a collective. And in Lindsay’s hands, the Tarot becomes an amazing tool for exactly this.

After our first meeting (which I wished could go on for DAYS, that’s how good it is to hear Linds speak on her soul subject), I invited her to become a regular contributor to The Numinous. She’s since been writing our monthly Tarotscopes column and recording weekly Tarotscopes videos—which regular readers + viewers will know are not only off-the-hook accurate, but delivered with the utmost love and compassion for our individual journeys.

And so, I could NOT be more excited to share that Lindsay has gone and created a TAROT FOR THE WILD SOUL digital course! YES. Like all the most evolved modern mystics, Linds is dedicated to empowering others to use these ancient tools for themselves, and this 8-week program is a deep-dive into the Tarot as medicine.

Course dates: October 3—November 21 2017
***IMPORTANT*** Signup is only open through October 1 2017 (and the course won’t run again until next year!)

You can click HERE to learn more about Linds and her work and sign up—or read on below for more details on the course itself!

The Motherpeace Tarot by Karen Vogel and Vicki Noble is one of Lindsay’s favorite decks

An eight-week guided immersion into how to read Tarot, participants will receive 13 instructional videos, 10 pre-recorded audio meditations, weekly rituals and practices to do with their decks, a beautiful PDF document for journaling, gentle homework assignments, access to a private community Facebook group, and an abundance of weekly bonus material, all to support them on this journey.

The eight weeks will be structured as follows:

Week 1—What is Soul Tarot?

Week 2—The Major Arcana :: The Sacred Macrocosm

Week 3—The Swords :: Mastering Brain Chemistry

Week 4—The Cups :: Trusting One’s Intuition

Week 5—The Wands :: The Sacred Fire

Week 6—The Pentacles :: Living Spiritually in a Material World

Week 7—The Court Cards :: The Master Level

Week 8—Going Deeper

For the full low-down + pricing and payment plans (it’s SUPER affordable btw!) click HERE

Lindsay and I also will be hopping onto a Facebook Live at 2pm on Thursday Sept 28, so log on and join us there if you have any more specific questions about the course—or ask in the comments section here. I for one cannot wait to get deep and soulful with Lindsay this fall!

MOONERS & SHAKERS: THE MOON CLUB MEMBER PRACTICING ‘NOW AGE’ AYURVEDA

After a lifetime of health challenges, Sahara Rose was ready to get healed. Little did she know, she’d become a healer herself. Meet the Moon Club member practicing ‘Now Age’ Ayurveda that blends ancient wisdom with up-to-the-minute innovation …

Health crisis as dharma discovery … 
“I suffered from chronic digestive issues and a hormonal imbalance, and no doctor could figure out the root cause. I was told it was something I would just have to deal with, and that I’d have to take multiple pharmaceutical pills to mask the symptoms.

Deciding to become my own investigator eventually brought me to Ayurveda. I became fascinated by this ancient science and ended up traveling to India to study alongside doctors and practitioners for over two years, which culminated in the publication of my first book, Idiot’s Guide to Ayurveda. Crazy! I realize now that my health issues were given to me to allow me to become a better healer.

I believe the purpose of obtaining health is so you can utilize that energy and strength to go out there and fulfill your dharma—your life’s purpose. My mission is to give people the tools they need to find their creative flow and blossom into the butterflies they already are.”

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Ayurveda is the knowledge of life …
Originating in ancient India 5000 years ago, this sister science of yoga has truly passed the test of time- it isn’t another fad diet or trend. Ayurveda literally means “the knowledge of life” in Sanskrit because in order to have health, you must have full knowledge of your life- mind, body, and spirit.

In the West, we tend to just look at symptoms isolated from one another, like a stomachache or losing your period, without looking at the bigger picture.

So many people, like myself, have jumped from one diet to the next (I’ve been raw-vegan, paleo, keto and everything in between) and Ayurveda offers a solution: there is no one diet for all people or even just you because YOU are always changing—with the season, where you are in your cycle, your environment, your stress levels, your age …

Through Ayurveda, I’ve learned how deeply everything is interconnected. As a practitioner, I ask people just as much about their dreams as I do their digestion because the two go hand-in-hand. Did you know that dreams of fleeing and flying are related to bloating, gas and constipation? Seriously, it’s crazy.

The mind and body are interconnected, and every single part of us has its own intelligence.

Sahara leading a packed workshop at the Envision Festival in Costa Rica

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When two worlds collide …
I feel like I have one foot in ancient India, one in modern Santa Monica—and I love it!

The ancient provides us with wisdom, insight, depth, and clarity. The modern provides us with technology, innovation, efficiency, and research. We need the two words to collide in order to move forward in this world with authenticity and understanding.

I’m currently working on a project with mentor Deepak Chopra to use scientific research to prove that the Ayurvedic practices like customized nutrition, yoga, and meditation are beneficial for your health. While we undoubtedly experience the benefits in our bodies, legitimizing the effects in this way can allow insurance companies to recognize them as a true source of healing.

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Follow your “bliss” body …
In Ayurveda, we don’t have one body—we have five koshas: physical, energetic, mental, intuitive, and bliss bodies. Each body is equally important and we can’t access the next unless the one before it is balanced.

I see a lot of super “spiritual” people disassociate with the physical body but this is our first home! I’m all about enjoying my physical body—feeding myself good food, ecstatic dancing, tantra, yoga, movement.

Our pranamaya kosha is our energetic body—essentially the vibes we give off. It’s our responsibility to keep our vibes high because this is the energy we are putting out in the world as we co-create our reality!

Our mental, manomaya, bodies are our construct of who we think we are. It’s the ego-created self that keeps chattering, interacts with the world, and figures out how to pay our bills. A lot of people get stuck on this one.

Our intuitive, vijnanamaya, kosha gives us our ability to pick up on things before they happen. When magical coincidences keep on occurring, that’s when we are operating from this place.

Lastly, we have anandamaya kosha- bliss bodies. Because above all, we are supposed to enjoy our time here on this planet serving our missions and experiencing life, complete with all the cool oceans and trees and things to do and people to interact with.

Life is not meant to be hard. When you’re living in your dharma, you’re in a state of bliss—even when you are working. When we’ve reached anandamaya kosha, we realize that everything in the universe has a place and all is divinely timed. We are guided on our missions and all we have to do is silence the chatters of our minds to truly listen.

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The Moon Club inspiration … 
I bought my year-long subscription literally knowing nothing about it—I just knew I had to be a part of it.

Through a mutual friend, I connected with moonie Sah D’Simone and felt like he was my twin brother in a past life. Months later, through that chance encounter, I ended up at a conference where I met Deepak Chopra—which truly changed the course of my whole life …

For me, Moon Club is about like-minded souls crossing paths so we can live out our karma together. The GREATEST resource we have is each other. Each person was brought here for a reason. Each of us has so much to offer.

Friend a random person; send someone a DM and tell them you love their style; start a conversation about the universe … I’m sure that person will dig it!

Synchronicities are awaiting each of us if we just connect with one another, and Moon Club is an incredible place to start.

Sahara Rose is the best-selling author of the Idiot’s Guide to Ayurveda, a wellness blogger and host of the Highest Self Podcast. Follow her on Instagram and discover your Ayurvedic mind-body type with her free quiz.  

**Want to start manifesting your own dreams? Sign up for Moon Club and join our tribe of cosmic change makers at Moonclub.co. Sahara will also be leading a virtual workshop for our Moon Club members on August 29.

 

WHY WE ARE ALL HEALERS IN THE NOW AGE

We are all healers in the Now Age, says Nicole Adriana Casanova—and self-healing is the first step towards discovering your unique medicine for the world …

If you are being called to the healing path, recognize that this has come from deep within you. That you have stilled yourself enough to hear a voice that has always spoken. It’s not that something within you is awakening, but that your awareness is awakening to a part of you that was never not there.

Every human being on this planet is a Healer. We are all Pacha: a word that speaks to the essence of being, that is the most pure and distilled part of ourselves and unique to only us. For some of us, Pacha may express through art, through writing, our ability to connect people to other people or opportunities that benefit them; for others, Pacha manifests through music, or the way we prepare food, our ability to hold space for others, maybe even the crafts: oils, jewelry, the way that we appoint our homes, the clothing that we make or wear…

One thing is certain, when we are working with our soul, our fundamental truth, with a desire to marry our will to the divine will, our Pacha radiates through everything we touch and brings great healing to the world. To our own lives, and the lives of those around us.

What this means is, we all carry medicine. We are all healers. Just think about it for a moment. Think about the last time you really connected to the creative spark and answered that unique calling in your soul, allowing it to ignite you from within and light up what you put out there. Feel it. Feel it deep in your bones. And remember the impact that it had on your community, your home, even your own consciousness.

Remember the permission that you created for yourself and others by actually allowing yourself to embody your Soul. This is a very potent medicine. A subtle silent medicine that influences everything around you and inspires it to open.

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Expressing this is part of the grand design of our human race. We are not meant to be exactly like each other, which is why we exist as separate beings. But within this separation we are united. And if each of us were to consciously decide to live our Pacha, the world would transform. It would become much more interesting and rich. Rich with love, courage, and the fire of our innermost passion. Fire that brings transformation and clear vision, an ability to see how we are all unique and how that uniqueness is needed in order to illuminate the human experience here on Earth.

Pacha is not solely reserved for gurus or masters or teachers, it is within each and every one of us. And when we came to this life, the Earth provided everything we would need in order to thrive. All of the food, the shelter, the elements, the terrains, all of the teachings, the animals, the plants, the minerals, the vegetables, the family, the friends, the art, the songs, the medicines…

All of this is just a metaphor for how we truly need a diverse landscape in order to remember ourselves. Within the gift of this remembrance is the understanding of natural order, and how we must continue to carry our inborn essence and bring it outward to share, to provide for others, to honor the sacred traditions of the humanity, the Earth, and our Souls.

We close the circuit by being who we truly are, by accepting others as they are, and by understanding the divine order within this sublime diversity. It is an undoing of false identities that leads us to this truth.

Imagine the incredible healing that would take place on this planet if we integrated this ancient wisdom and let go of scarcity, competition, jealousy, fear, rage, comparison, separation. How would our entire experience level up if we were simply able to accept what is? Our selves, our Souls, each other.

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So, are you committed to awakening the healer in you?

Before you embark on this path, self-healing is an extraordinary and necessary part of learning how to be of service to others. Self-healing helps us strip off all the false identities, the false masks, social constructs, familial inheritances, etc., that clog our minds, hearts, bodies, and spirits from being able to truly hold and express our Pacha. Because Pacha takes space and commands a level of integrity with ourselves in order to hold it. 

Eventually, the realization dawns that our own self-healing is actually the most beneficial offering we can give to the world.

Why?

Because we are all connected. By healing ourselves, by being in truth, we become as gardeners creating a beneficial environment for everyone in our lives to also embody themselves authentically. Like the metaphor of the Earth, we begin to thrive in our interrelation and interconnection.

The seeds we plant today become the food of future generations—the systems of this planet teach us through simply being how we can regenerate as humans, and how to live in harmony. So, begin by looking at what you are taking in. What do you feed yourself, literally and figuratively? And then look at what you provide for those you love? And then look at what you feed your garden. Is it struggling? Is it thriving?

This is your Pacha. Tend to every part of it with fierce compassion, the world awaits your medicine. 

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Nicole Adriana Casanova is a student if Maestro Manuel Rufino, Taino elder and founder of Golden Drum cultural center in Brooklyn, New York. Nicole is a writer, poet, and storyteller, a 200 RYT Yoga Alliance certified, a certified Reiki Master in the Usui and Karuna Reiki Riojo, a Shamanic Practitioner, a Human Movement and Meditation teacher, and Magical Awakening Practitioner. Discover more about Nicole and her work HERE and follow her on Instagram.

WHY AYURVEDA IS HAVING A MOMENT: AN INTERVIEW WITH DIVYA ALTER

Ruby Warrington sits down with Divya Alter, chef and author of the brand new What To Eat For How You Feelto discuss why the timeless science behind Ayurveda is the perfect food philosophy for the Now Age…

William & Susan Brinson for Divya’s What to Eat for How You Feel from Rizzoli.

“Eating the right foods in the right way makes the light of our soul shine—you experience a tangible connection with the divine energies.”- Divya Alter 

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RW: First up, what would you like everybody to know about Ayurveda?

Divya Alter: That Ayurveda can work for you today! Although written thousands of years ago by ancient Vedic sages, Ayurveda is a universal manual that helps us integrate and balance ourselves on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels. This timeless science helps us determine what to favor or avoid in terms of diet, routine, and environment by considering our individual needs, and what choices we can make to be healthy.

And if we face health challenges, an authentic Ayurvedic treatment goes much deeper than suppressing the symptoms; it addresses the root cause. An Ayurvedic healer’s goal is to assist in restoring the intelligence of one’s body to heal itself.

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RW: So why is Ayurveda having a moment? What makes this the perfect wellness system for the “Now Age”?

Divya: Ayurveda has had many moments through history; it is a divine universal science and its principles are always true. But I think that by experiencing the benefits of practicing yoga, lately many people have begun to explore and embrace its sister science, Ayurveda. It’s also encouraging to see how modern science is doing more research on Ayurvedic herbs, proving the ancient wisdom that was there all along. We know so much about turmeric now!

It is the perfect wellness system because it is highly customized to one’s individual needs. It is the most comprehensive preventative medicine—something we need today especially, as so many of our modern health challenges can be eliminated or minimized through preventative care.

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RW: What has your own journey with Ayurveda taught you about our relationship with plants?

Divya: Ayurveda helped me look at plants—fruits, vegetables, grains, spices, etc.—as my friends. I really want to get to know them! And the more I “hang out” with them, the more I appreciate them and understand when and how to use them in creating delicious, healing meals.

An aspect of every relationship is compatibility. Just like some people really don’t click together, sometimes eating two good foods together may result in them fighting in your stomach. Ayurveda taught me how to enjoy a healthy relationship with food by mixing and matching it properly. This goes beyond matching ingredients to layer friendly flavors and create stunning presentation; my goal is to make delicious food that can always be digested without any problem.

Another fascinating lesson I received from Ayurveda is that herbs and spices, like humans, are composed of the five elements (space, air, fire, water, earth). Dr. David Frawley explains in The Yoga of Herbs that each of the plant’s tissues affects a corresponding tissue in the human body: the watery liquid of the plant works on liquid plasma; the sap works on blood; the soft part of the wood on muscle; the gum of the tree on fat; the bark on bone; the leaves on nerve tissue and bone marrow; and the flowers and fruits on the reproductive fluids. Seeds, which contain all parts of the plant in an un-manifest form, work on the body as a whole.

William & Susan Brinson for Divya’s What to Eat for How You Feel from Rizzoli.

RW: How can eating this way heal the mind and soul, as well as the body?

Divya: Ayurveda recommends that we eat invigorating, “intelligent” foods—the way God or nature designed it in the first place. Fresh, locally grown, seasonal, organic, wholesome (unprocessed), energizing—properly combining such quality ingredients will support your body in doing all the intelligent things it is designed to do.

Eating Ayurvedic clears the body and mind from blockages and helps us feel happiness and bliss. You experience a clear communication between your body, mind, and senses, and you can easily control them. On a soul level, eating the right foods in the right way makes the light of our soul shine—you experience a tangible connection with the divine energies.

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RW: Are any foods “banned” in Ayurveda? Why?

Divya: According to Ayurveda, there is no good or bad food in and of itself. A food or herb can be good for someone or bad for someone—it depends on one’s individual needs at that time.

However nowadays, for the sake of convenience, manufacturers have created a lot of corrupted foods that make our cells act less intelligently (for example foods that are canned, homogenized, or genetically modified). These are bad for everyone. Why let such denatured foods clutter your pantry, and then your body and your mind?

Additionally, the Shaka Vansiya (SV) Ayurveda lineage that I am trained in recommends that we limit or avoid foods that are predominantly clogging, inflammatory, or overly heating to the liver: leftovers, soy, nightshades, onions and garlic, and flax seeds.

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RW: When would be a good time in life to experience Panchakarma?

Divya: Panchakarma is the traditional Ayurvedic practice of purification and nourishment. It is a practice of being open to letting go of physical, mental, energetic sludge, and to receiving nourishment and rejuvenation. It is a time-tested and efficient way to address imbalances resulting from daily wear and tear, as well as seasonal changes and energetic accumulations.

To really experience the benefits of Panchakarma, you have to give yourself the full 30 days for the practice and to do it at an Ayurvedic clinic located in a natural setting. I’ve seen quite a few victims of modern day Panchakarma that is practiced without a personalized protocol. That’s why I have to caution you: don’t do it unless your body is ready and unless an experienced Ayurvedic doctor is on hand to constantly supervise you.

A good time in life would be when you are in relatively strong health, you’re able to afford taking a month (or more) off, when the channels of your body are open to release toxins, and you are at a good clinic under close supervision. The weather should be not too hot or cold (spring temperatures). Such a Panchakarma experience can be truly life changing!

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RW: What is the overall philosophy of Divya’s Kitchen? What’s your message for the world?

Divya: At Divya’s Kitchen we believe that food can heal. That’s why we are devoted to serving you delicious food that your body and mind say YES to!

Our fresh, balanced meals are prepared with love, and deeply rooted in the authentic tradition of Shaka Vansiya Ayurveda that meets us where we are today. Ayurveda teaches us how food can restore the natural healing intelligence of the body.

Divya’s brand new book, What To Eat for How You Feel: The New Ayurvedic Kitchen- 100 Seasonal Recipes, is now available from Rizzoli! 

Divya Alter is a certified nutritional consultant and educator in the Shaka Vansiya Ayurveda tradition. She is the co-founder of Bhagavat Life, the only Ayurvedic culinary school in New York. She and her husband launched North America’s first Ayurvedic chef certification program and Divya’s Kitchen, an authentic Ayurvedic restaurant in Manhattan’s East Village.

IS MEDITATION DANGEROUS FOR MANIC DEPRESSIVES?

Following an experience that took her to the edge, Lisa Luxx asks is meditation dangerous for the more sensitive minds among us?

Some of us are so highly connected to the rhythms of the Moon, that much like the tide we are dragged by some greater force into depth and darkness. One would have thought the way back toward the surface would be through meditation; the New Age answer to everything. I certainly thought so—surely it will balance me back out and return me to my moorings. Until one prolonged Samantha mediation class led me to the lip of suicide.

Silence is best taken in tiny sips when the mind has a tendency for self-destruction. I know this after I glugged on a big cup of the stuff and wound up choking. What happened was, the class leader was taking us through a guided meditation; only at a certain point, I was instructed to stop following their guidance and continue with my own practice for the remainder of the class.

So now there’s me, free-falling. Surrounded by all these people in woven clothes, with clear eyes and a softness about their jaw. And me, whimpering in pain, crying abundantly, unable to make eye contact or speak, playing out my own death forwards and backwards in my head until I now how to execute it perfectly.

I survived thanks to a very sensitive friend who was in the class too and saw it all happen. Once I’d come ’round I spoke to another friend, also bestowed the gift of ‘manic depression’—and she told me that her teacher at the East London Buddhist Centre advised she only take half hour classes because of the uncertainty that lay in opening up. My quasi-spiritual therapist wasn’t surprised either; “you have to be so careful with meditation,” she told me, explaining how dangerous it can be to create space for unwelcome thoughts to take hold.

My experience was overwhelming. Depression has been sucking on me ever since I remember, but I’ve never felt such a sudden rush of pain as I did that day. It was a tidal wave. A brute force. The most certain and determined I’ve ever felt about wanting to pass through to the other side of living. During the time it took for the episode to play out, I existed within the visions of death, rather than the visions of death existing within me.

Ever since the experience I’ve been wary about meditating again. I’ve got myself in a really good, balanced place now but I daren’t allow space for that darkness to re-enter and consume me again. My pal won’t always be on hand to pull me back in from the ledge. I see now that this resistance is my psyche trying to protect me. But when I speak to Sumaya Fenton, my friend who is a practitioner of Rinzai Zen, she tells me: “The psyche trying to protect you is based on fear and ego. Any emotion you had was only temporary.”

She goes on to explain that sometimes these knock backs happen before a great break through. But I haven’t felt safe blindly continuing with the same practices I felt had almost killed me. However, each person walks their own path to enlightenment (in as many life times as it takes), and perhaps my pathway is going to start to look a little different.

A walking meditation. Photo by Olivia Sykes

“Wherever you’re at you’re still on a path. In Zen they talk about the ten stages of insight—the road map to enlightenment—and around stage four people have this experience of a big fear, or something that really knocks them back, but you carry on and focus less on the significance and meaning of that experience and more on the physicality of meditation,” says Sumaya.

For me, meditation right now cannot be about sitting in silence—but it can be about movement, like walking meditation, or other physical manifestations. Paying attention to each part of my foot in turn as it makes contact with the earth. Focusing on my breath and other practices that put the awareness in my body: “[in these practices] your mind is still opening up and expanding but you’re not watching your mind so consciously and fearfully.”

I also sit across from the Yorkshire moors, where my house is nestled, and interpret the patterns of the Sun/Moon-light across the hills mirroring my emotions. Finding synchronicity between my internal process and the greater external process. Which also works to remind me that my ups and downs are simply localized versions of the master rhythms of this universe.

Yoga helps. And I’ve also taken up life-drawing. You learn something about yourself from the way you depict another body. These have become my ways of getting mindful and finding peace within the almighty Oneness. Though I still often feel like I’m free-falling.

Sumaya says that the pressure in the West to do everything ourselves is what’s making for unsafe meditation practices. “Having a teacher is paramount. Pretty much as important as daily practice. The problem is systemic, Western capitalism only provides this culture of sticking plasters rather than giving the proper context of how and why to tread this path—which often comes from a long-term relationship with a teacher.”

It feels to me like in our society, this ‘one size fits all’ take on meditation is proving to sit a little baggy or tight on many of us. For the more sensitive minds among us, giving time to developing a relationship with a trusted teacher would also mean rooting ourselves in connectivity, by allowing our journey to be directed by the wisdom of another.

East London Buddhist Centre run Breathing Space, a course developed for people with depression, anxiety or other imbalances (‘gifts,’ as I like to call them). The course involves more personal attention from the teacher, more support. But even within their standard classes they aim to relate to people on a personal basis.

“Faith in humankind is what we need the most” says Sumaya. And if our practice begins with trusting another human being then we starting off in the arms of safety, which is ultimately what saved me. And why I’m ready to continue on my path.

If you’re concerned about whether meditation is right for you, then please consult with a medical professional.

KNOW YOUR DOSHA (HINT: IT MIGHT NOT BE WHAT YOU THINK)

Know your dosha…know how to balance your body your mind and your LIFE. But don’t go thinking you’ve only got one to work with, says Wolf Medicine. Image: Geonah Lee via Behance.net

*note, I am not a licensed physician and cannot diagnose or treat dis-ease. Please consult your GP before proceeding with any of the comments or suggestions presented in this blog post.

So it’s 2015 and everybody is all about getting away from categorization and labelling (or maybe it’s just the people I hang out with). You’re post- human? Post-label? You don’t want to be called anything? Cool. Those are all labels too, but whatever. And well I’m the opposite. I’m a label fiend. Gay – check. Queer – check. Black, cancer, scorpio rising, feminist, killjoy, Ayurvedic teacher and yogini. Check, check, check and check.

Listen, I get it – we all want to be seen as individuals with our own unique qualities and attributes that set us apart, but we humans also want to belong, which is why we often seek out community/tribe. There’s a constant push-pull of wanting to belong, but also be seen as standing out from the crowd.

Which brings me to a HUGE misconception about Ayurveda I’ve been wanting to address for some time: the doshas. More specifically, the idea that each of us is just one. Hint: we aren’t!

I’ve lost count of the number of times a client has come to me for a consultation, and begins the session by telling me what dosha they are. This is usually based on a quiz they took, a book they read, or maybe what some random person told them eight years ago at a meditation retreat in Maui.

Not that I’m here to patronize and act as some elevated expert guru. I was taught, in depth, a great deal about the sacred science of Ayurveda, and simply act as a conduit for that info. I have deep respect for this ancient philosophy and its lineage, and am into learning just as much as I am into sharing. This is why I want to clear up some myths surrounding not only doshas but the practice of Ayurveda itself.

So, why label the doshas Vata, Pitta and Kapha in the first place? To begin, Ayurveda, the science of life, or living in harmony with the rhythms of nature as I like to think of it, has its origins in India dating back at least 5,000 years.
According to Ayurvedic philosophy everything on earth is made up of five qualities: ether (space), air, fire, water and earth. These qualities are then separated into three categories: Vata (ether + air), Pitta (water + fire) and Kapha (earth + water). These are the doshas.

So as you can see, these elements are all everywhere – in you, in me, in our pets, our plants etc. There is no perfect translation from Sanskrit to English, but know that the word “dosha” refers to that which vitiates. Meaning, the doshas are always moving, shifting and getting out of balance within each of us, often wreaking havoc within the body as they do.

So when you take Deepak’s quiz online and declare yourself a “Vata”, what you are labelling is your true essence. It means that those qualities of Vata (ether and air) are dominant in you – but by no means are they the only qualities in you.

Borrowing from the Aries Pitta pop art weirdo Lady Gaga, it is Ayurveda’s way of saying you were born this way. And your dominant dosha will also be what lies beneath any diseases/maladies you are experiencing.

But actually, two doshas usually proliferate in people – your body type is one dosha while your personality is another. Once you know what these two are, you can use that knowledge to eat for your body type, address any dis-ease you are experiencing and, hopefully, feel empowered to maintain a balance in mind, body and spirit.

During my time studying Ayurveda I began to understand the intricacies of the doshas, and on a personal level this has helped me to better understand how I am behaving (i.e. several days of boiling rage means I need to cool that fiery Pitta) and to also work with and meet others where they’re at.

Here’s my take on the doshas and how they might all manifest in you:

:: Vata (ether + air) ::
Physically, these people are usually very short or very tall. Basically think super model, Lurch from the Addams Family or Tinkerbell. They have trouble putting on weight and often don’t achieve bulky muscle mass. These are the people who eat and eat and eat and never put on weight.

The downside? Well there’s a reason one of my favorite teachers refers to them as “crunchy, munchy, itty, bitty, teeny, tiny Vata.” They tend toward brittle hair and nails, dry skin, cracking joints and brittle bones. Of all the doshas, they are the most susceptible to disease and illness and don’t have strong immunity.

What is awesome about vata people is that they tend to be really optimistic and positive. They are creative and playful and like to think outside of the box. Vata is that person who shows up at a community meeting with a TON of ideas and enthusiasm and gets everyone motivated and hyped up…and then never shows up again or quits after three days.

:: Pitta (water + fire) ::
Whoa there Pitta people. CTFO. Seriously. Pittas – my personal favs but don’t tell – have more muscular bodies or can build muscle quickly. Their weight fluctuates and they are sometimes more susceptible to thinning hair or balding and skin issues such as acne. Gingers are usually considered Pitta, with their red hair, fair skin, freckles and alleged quick tempers.

Pittas are usually courageous, determined, goal-oriented, follow through on projects and can tend toward being bossy, controlling and critical of others. I like to think of Pitta’s tendency towards being judgy and critical as misunderstood passion. Pittas get turnt up when people are being lazy and don’t care. My best advice if you want to avoid that feisty Pitta in your life (being one myself), is to show up and be ready to give 100% – or leave and quit wasting folks’ time.

Pittas like to accomplish goals and get ahead and don’t like to do things half-assed. I advise all Pitta people prone to anger/rage to stay the hell away from hot yoga and try some twists and grounding yoga poses in a cool place instead. Also, drink lots of coconut water and aloe juice. Seva, or selfless service, is also a great way to constructively channel that Pitta fire.

:: Kapha (earth + water) ::
Big, beautiful, abundant Kapha. The dosha with the strongest immunity. It is said that Kapha is only susceptible to 40 or so diseases while Vata is vulnerable to 80+. Kaphas are a sturdy bunch. They tend to put on weight easily and have trouble loosing it (if they so desire). Their joints and ligaments are strong and limber. Their hair is think and wavy and their skin has just the right amount of oil and suppleness.

Chronic sinus, congestion and lung issues pop up when Kapha is out of balance. I don’t want to say that kaphas are pushover doormats prone to hoarding but…let’s just say that these people just aren’t frantic, anxious or bossy. Don’t expect them to purge possessions or relationships easily either. I actually make it a point to cultivate relationships with Kapha people. When you are as fiery, feisty and flaky as me, you need some of that calm, earthy vibe around you. My boo and many of my friends are Kaphas and it’s a good balance for me.

They take their time when making big changes. They are never in a rush and don’t really like to get angry or upset folks. What I love about Kaphas and try to access within my Vata-Pitta self is their sense of groundedness, kindness and empathy. They aren’t quick to react and aren’t easily angered. When Kapha is too abundant in the body, people can become depressed, lethargic, clingy and possessive. Vigorous yoga and pranayama as well as spicy food are great for busting up too much Kapha.

So there you have it – Vata, Pitta and Kapha all working together harmoniously (hopefully) within every body.

Sound therapy: Babe, can you run me a gong bath?

Spiritual scene queen Victoria Keen on the ancient healing modality that suddenly feels so modern.

Being a seeker and practitioner of Sound myself, I’m excited to check out Petroglyph this November 8th at Sage Center for the Healing Arts in groovy Woodstock, NY. Petroglyph brings together indigenous instruments like Gongs, Didgeridoos, Native and Shamanic sound tools and unfolds them to create frequency domains that are excellent for journeying and transformative dreamtime experience.

The Sage Center for Healing Arts is dedicated to increasing awareness around Sound therapy, and the founder Phillipe Pascal Garnier, former magazine art director turned Sound Healer, was kind enough to answer a few of my burning questions. Garnier found Sound after seeking alternative therapy from a recommended surgery for the vertigo he was experiencing brought on by Meniere’s disease. He travelled to the Upper Amazon in Peru to work with indigenous spiritual healers, profoundly altering the course of his health and his life.

So what is Sound with a capital S?
Everything around us vibrates, thus makes sound to which we are all interconnected. Heard and unheard sound are actually the make up of our reality. Once we accept this truth, we can see reality as a myriad of tunes we have to harmonize with. Some will resonate with us more than others. Resonance is “the magic word” when it comes to opening up and connecting with the awareness of the vibrational world we live in, and it can teach us how to live it better.

How is Sound Healing so ancient and so modern at the same time?
In modern times we have come to understand that Sound Encoded Intention was the first medicine used by our indigenous ancestors and, in fact, continues to be used to this day. All cultural traditions of the world used sound as vibrational medicine or as gateways to travel energetically in what is called a shamanic trance, to gain a better awareness of who we are in relation to the universe and to bring healing to individual members of their communities.

So, to some people that could mean loosing your s*** to a sound system at Burning Man?
Let’s make an important distinction between sound healing and modern music. Music is organized sound that the brain can make sense of. It can easily follow where the notes are going, and expect the next one to be, where as working with unorganized sound brings the mind to the present moment, to the now. The cascading effect of an untamed scale brings the mind of a patient to “still point,” open to receive the energy flowing with the frequencies to manifest a sound massage.

But you still use instruments, right?
Sticks, stones and whistling hallow bones were the first tools used by our ancestors, then the sacred conch shell and didgeridoo came to be used as more elaborate healing instruments. Most of the instruments used today by Sound Practitioners come from the past, ie. Himalayan Singing Bowls, Gongs, Chimes and Bells, etc.

I’ve heard Sound Therapy described as the medicine of the future, and it certainly seems like all the cool cats are into it…
Sound has always been used to expand our consciousness, and it’s an important key to the awakening taking place around our planet. It just brings you to the present moment. That’s why it is also sometimes called Sound Meditation. It can be seen as a type of meditation, and enough research has been done on the benefits of meditation for creating wellbeing in modern life.

What would the world look like if we all took a regular Sound bath?
The more people who come to the realization that we live in a world of frequencies, the more awareness there will be about the connectivity of all things. The root of the word “healing” is “wholeness,” and Sacred Sound shows us the road to the Unified Field Of Consciousness, a future of Oneness and Equanimity.

A last word on Sound Healing?
My advice to all: BE THE SOUND YOU WOULD LIKE TO HEAR.

Petroglyph perform live at the Sage Academy of Sound Energy on Friday Nov 8 2013. For information and tickets click here.

www.v-keen.com
@V_Keen