An Ode to Natural Healing

In this excerpt from his memoir, Venus Juice: When I Tried to Live in LA, Luke Simon ponders our disconnection from nature and the rules of the new American Dream …

Luke Simon natural healing venus juice numinous books pink flowers

In a lull at work I researched hikes, and decided to go once I got off the morning shift. Since I passed the six-month mark and got promoted to assistant manager, the shop started feeling like a normal job. The initial learning hill and uphill climb had been realized. Now the high-maintenance customers and their dietary restrictions annoyed me.

I was tired of talking up the benefits of natural beauty products and balancing herbs. I wanted to be in Nature and get the direct experience. Maybe what was making us imbalanced was our total disconnection from Nature and obsession with work?

The shop was empty and I looked out to the endless passing cars. Everything in America was enclosed in glass, air conditioned, and divided up into single portions. Everybody was working to get theirs. I wanted to take all the herb jars on the hike and liberate them back to the land. I wanted to pour myself out of the jar of who I thought I was or should be.

I got stuck in traffic on my way to the mountains and was disturbed by how few cars were in the carpool lane. All of us were alone in our own cars. Finally we started flowing and I could see the San Gabriel Mountains in their full glory. If you can withstand the frustrating slow downs, the roads will lead to pristine places. The thought cut through my crankiness and I snapped back into faith that synchronicity was still guiding me.

I had started working five days a week at the Juice Shop since I’d been promoted to Assistant Manager. I had been proud of the achievement and pay raise, but now I was feeling drained and lost. I had been too exhausted to work on music or promote myself as a healer online.

Why was I giving so much time and energy to this job that wasn’t my life purpose? This was a familiar struggle I’d had at other jobs. Doing something just for the money always feels soul sucking.

The new American dream is making money from your passion. I was tired of serving rich creatives. I wanted to be a rich creative. I wanted to get paid to be myself. I parked and breathed the higher elevation air. Nature is a relief because you don’t have to be anybody or anything. I saw footprints in the dirt, someone had been hiking barefoot. We all need a break from human society.

I followed the bushy, dirt trail that zig-zagged down the side of a mountain. White sage bushes burst with their sacred, purifying leaves. I was glad no one had picked it to bundle and sell. I sent the sage protection prayers as I passed and stroked it.

The plant has been over-harvested in our struggle to rid the world of negative energy. I don’t ever use the words “negative energy,” though. For me, the problem is ego, and I can detect when I’m trapped in my head, my sense of self struggling to assert itself, to make sense.

Nature is the healer’s healer: wild and pristine in harmony with the Divine. We fall in and out of tune with that rhythm, but being in Nature helped me reset. As I hiked, the bay laurel smell was potent, like mint soaked in whiskey. I wondered if I could make a cologne from it and sell it?

I caught myself again in the constant search for how to make money off something. Why wasn’t it enough just to exist? I wanted to learn to value things in their natural form, when they haven’t been packaged and promoted. I snorted in the bay laurel and brush smells to re-wire myself back to Nature.

The guidebook said there was a stream in the canyon. I could discern the distant sound of the stream, and got quiet to listen. I could notice the difference without my noisy intellect. I walked the rest of the way down in an observant, walking meditation. The plants were more lush down by the creek, like a happy trail, guiding me to the source of life.

A flat meditation rock on the side of the creek beckoned me. I sat down crossed-legged and closed my eyes. The constant gurgling sound guided my meditation. As thoughts fought for my attention the river sound kept bringing me back to just sitting. I blinked my eyes open and took in the lush creek bed around me. The Sun was glowing through the pine and laurel trees.

I kept practicing letting my worries go, feeling the breeze on my t-shirt. As I let myself be influenced by the vibration of Nature, it tuned me like a guitar, out of the ego chatter. I didn’t have to hold on so hard, I could be drawn like the creek, finding its way to the ocean. The thought sent me into quiet stillness, feeling the inter-relatedness of things.

At the end of my meditation I asked what my life’s purpose was. The feeling in my heart made me laugh. Like my soul was tickling me from inside my heart. “Bringing new energy to Earth” were the words. I realized, sitting there, that I got to do everything I loved at the Juice Shop—talk to people, make smoothies and tonics, listen to music, counsel people, stare out the window.

I could feel God laughing at me. When would I learn to trust the flow of life? I felt ready to go back and enjoy my life, armed with this new understanding and reconnection to my purpose and my essence, my vibe. It didn’t matter where I was, I was going to keep being myself and grow this energy that made me feel happy.

I stood up, sent Reiki to the water and thanked it for healing me. For holding space for me to let go and clarify my mind. I had never felt Nature so alive, and wondered if it was the herbs in my system from the Juice Shop? Walking back, the bare earth felt so much softer than concrete.

I took off my sneakers and walked barefoot. I felt in awe of the Sierra Anita Ridge plants, river and hills, as well as the juice and herbs in my system, their magical ability to realign us to the Earth. The biggest mystery is under our feet.

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Venus Juice: When I Tried to Live in LA is out now. Find all the links to get your copy HERE.

HOW CAT MARNELL COULD EASILY HAVE BEEN ME

Magazine career, eating disorder, bad boyfriends, addiction. In another life, could Cat Marnell have been me, asks Ruby Warrington?

Cat Marnell

What I like best about Cat Marnell’s car crash autobiography How to Murder Your Life: A Memoir is that she makes absolutely zero apologies for who she is. Yeah there’s a line in there about “white girl privilege” (“warning! If you’re grossed out by it (who isn’t?), you might want to bail now”), but otherwise Cat tells her story with an utter lack of self-judgement and the kind of honesty that is a direct channel from the heart. Fuck yeah!

For the uninitiated, Cat Marnell rose to notoriety earlier this decade as the openly drug-addicted beauty editor for titles Lucky, Vice and xojane.com. Her drug of choice was Adderall (with pretty much everything else layered on top), her stories (GONNA WASH THAT ANGEL DUST RIGHT OUTTA MY HAIR: “Miracle” (Uh-Huh) Treatments To Help You Pass Those Follicle Drug Tests, Naughty Nancys!) written on no sleep “in an amphetamine spell.”

How To Murder Your Life reads like a Bret Easton Ellis novel (except it’s real life) and is the story of the ghouls behind the gloss. In Cat’s own words: “AUUUUGHHH!” But what struck me while I was reading it, was that served a different set of life circumstances, Cat Marnell could easily have been me.

Let’s examine the evidence…

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She was a teenage magazine addict. Like Cat, when I first discovered magazines at around age 12, it was like being given an instruction manual on how to be a woman (read: look good so I’d fit in and boys would like me). Like Cat, I gravitated towards a career in magazines—when she moved to New York, she became hell bent on scoring a role at Conde Nast.

Unlike Cat, when I moved to New York I began work on the Numinous, and immersed myself in exploring all the other very, very important things it means to be a human. Not to mention began to see the glossy magazine message for what it often is—a way to keep readers locked in the cycles of craving (for trends, for stuff to make us happy, for a “better” body) that fuel the capitalist machine.

She’s a perfectionist. Cat’s birthday is September 10, making her a Virgo. And if Adderall had a sign…it would so be Virgo! Total “no-sleep-until-every-last-detail-has-been-quadruple-checked” vibes. Plus Cat started taking amphetamines because “I felt like such a failure getting those terrible grades.”

My perfectionist streak comes from Mercury (Virgo’s ruler) conjunct my Sun in Aries (“must-maintain-image-I-have-it-all-together-at-all-times”). Cue teenage eating disorder (me too, Cat), and reaching for drugs (in my case booze) as a way to just chillax for a sec. These days, meditation and a whole lot of healing of my inner child is what keeps the perfectionist in its place.

Her parents are mental health professionals. Cat’s dad, a psychiatrist, was the first person to prescribe her Ritalin (and then Adderall) at the age of 16. In America, most psychiatric consultations seem to end with a prescription.

Back in the UK, my mum trained to be a psychotherapist in her late 50s, having faced her own demons with years of talk therapy. Years of therapy that have made her the kind of parent who wholly accepts me for who I am, since she accepts herself for who she is. Part of the reason I used drugs and starved myself was because I didn’t believe this. But as my own healing journey has shown me, all the years I thought my mum / society was judging me, I was judging myself.

She idolizes Marilyn Monroe and Edie Sedgwick. The damaged (and self-medicated) heroines of late 20th Century folklore! I collected Marilyn books from around age 10, and even made a magazine about her for my first big school project. And I fell in love with Sedgwick’s story when I read Edie: American Girl (the SO GOOD) biography of Andy Warhol’s muse.

As archetypes, these two women represent some of the ways our inner wild woman acts out when we get duped / spooked into playing by the rules (be beautiful, thin, submissive, SMILE!). And I no longer idolize them. I see them as a mirror for the parts of me that still don’t believe I’ll be accepted / loved unless I am beautiful, thin, submissive, and happy.

She loves fake tan. It makes you look thin and like you got enough sleep. In other words, like taking drugs, faking a tan is another way to fake feeling good about yourself. Another addiction I developed in magazine land (my friend Henry used to call me Umpa Lumpa) and one my Numinous path has not yet helped me kick.

She’s lets men use her like a sex doll because she thinks it’s normal. Some of the hardest stuff to read in Cat’s book, and one of the themes in mine. I tear up every time I re-read my chapter on the Divine Feminine, and I would love for Cat to read it sometime too. For a lot of women to, actually.

She had a lot of fun on drugs. Some might say Cat glamorizes drug use, but one dictionary definition for “glamour” is: “magic or enchantment; spell; witchery.” And if drugs do anything, it’s cast a spell, creating an illusion of happiness, connection, enlightenment, etc, making narcotics by their nature “glamorous.” I too fell under this spell coming of age in the UK’s rave culture, and I have also had some pretty “magical” experiences getting high.

Which is not to make light of addiction, which is both a killer and a tragedy. My heart wept for Cat every time she reached for the Adderall again in her book. But it’s also way too simplistic to label all drugs “bad.” And unlike Cat, as I write about in a chapter of my book called Healing is The New Nightlife, I have discovered SO many better ways to get high on my own supply.

Writing her book was a healing experience. Not least because having an 80,000-word deadline was the thing that finally made her take rehab seriously. We leave Cat listening to Louise Hay affirmations, getting eight hours sleep a night, and even praying. “Spirituality is so dope,” she writes. But best of all; “I’m supertight with my family now. Can you believe it?”

And yep, writing my book had a similar effect on me—my own 80,000-word deadline being what helped me kick booze once and for all. But living my subject matter, day-in-day-out, has also taken my relationship with my mum to a completely new level of intimacy and mutual respect. Not least because, the way I see it, as women our relationship with our mother is often a reflection of our relationship with our self.

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I loved Cat’s book so much. Yes, because I can relate (anyone?) But also because it’s a straight-up, honest-to-Goddess account of living with addiction, AND the society that feeds it. Meaning a society that medicates the fuck out of any personality type that doesn’t fit the cookie-cutter mold for “success”; that places utmost value on productivity (fuel for the capitalist model); and that celebrates thinness and the ability to dress like you swallowed a copy of Vogue as the epitome of attractiveness / worthiness in women.

And also because the lessons of my Numinous journey mean I have written something kind of like the antidote. Perhaps I should have called it How Not To Murder Your Life.

Material Girl, Mystical World is out in May 2017 on Harper Elixir. Read more and pre-order your copy here.