Ysanne Spevack learned early in life that food is medicine. But we must also consider how our food choices impact the wellbeing of our planet …
When I was 22 I went backpacking around India for three months. I visited the river Ganges and saw the burning bodies and the dolphins and Shiva temples in Varanassi. I went deep into my own process and traveled far off the grid. To prepare for my return to London, I went to Delhi for my last week. To see some other Westerners. Check that I was still myself.
In 1993 there was one German café in Delhi, where they had coffee and croissants. It was a big deal, all the travelers went there. And that’s where I got sick. I’d been eating street food for months, lots of deep fried lentils and rice, all very safe because the deep-frying killed any bugs, and I was actually quite plump. But on the plane on the way home I got intense diarrhea. The decline in my health was very quick, very intense. It continued this way for months.
I was really, really sick. Super skinny, with no energy and a distended belly, like a famine victim, and doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. They gave me round after round of antibiotics. But I was getting worse. Skinnier and skinnier, no energy at all. Finally someone recommended I go to see an herbalist. At first, I was like, “the doctors can’t fix it, what are herbal remedies going to do?” But I decided I had nothing to lose.
I found myself at the London Clinic of Phytotherapy, an extraordinary teaching hospital. I was seen by a doctor and his ten students. It turns out I had something called Shigella, a bacterium related to E. Coli, and the remedies they prescribed were a herbal tincture, a serious boiled herbs tea, and a bottle of pure undiluted garlic juice. Just pure, squashed garlic, and very, very strong. I remember knocking back the first round. As I felt it going down, there was a sensation of relief. I could literally feel it healing my esophagus as it went down. I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced that feeling since.
It was this experience that taught me the healing power of food—a philosophy that has informed my life and my work ever since. But in our current climate, adopting a healthy diet is as much about healing our planet as it is our bodies. I believe the term “mindful eating” is absolutely meaningless if this is not also considered.
We tend to focus on diet as it relates to our own health and happiness. Our digestion, and how our skin looks. But I believe we should be experiencing these benefits almost as a bi-product of caring for the Earth. Which also means caring for the people far away who actually produce our food. People who are often exploited by our desire to have beautiful bodies and lots of energy, and to live high-performance lives.
There’s currently lots of focus on a plant-based diet as the least harmful to the planet. But it’s more complex than that. It’s true that a vegetarian driving a Hummer has less environmental impact than a meat-eater riding a bicycle. Beef is so impactful to the planet, it’s the most harmful single ingredient.
But a coconut, for example, comes from very far away. It comes from a place where workers are exposed to pesticides, and paid a pittance. I see these issues the same way some vegetarians see meat. It’s about looking at the whole story, not just the ingredient, but how it gets to you, and where it comes from. It’s about seeing the reality. That’s my main thing really. Increasing people’s perceptiveness, supporting them to see the truth about food, and about how everything else is connected from there.
You could say I promote a macrobiotic diet—which basically means seasonal and local. People think of macrobiotic as Japanese, because the diet and the word were coined in Japan. But there it just means eating stuff that’s grown locally, and which resonates with where your body is at.
So, if you live in New York for example, rather than like hitting the coconut oil really heavy, it might mean choosing local sunflower oil, since sunflowers are grown here. Olives grow in California, so olive oil is the way to go there. When you begin to really research it, it’s also creatively much more exciting when you can eat truly local.
For example, come January there’s no fresh food in New York City. The fruit and vegetables are all imported from miles away. But if you’ve got some sprouted alfafas seeds that you’ve been growing in a canister on your windowsill, you’ve always got fresh food in New York, whatever the weather.
I take this very seriously because I know food is medicine. And with the healthcare situation in the US the way it is, eating to prevent illness is another important conversation to be having, especially for lower income people. Another reason to eat local, too, because it’s less pollution. Yes, it’s all these fashionable little potions and powders. But it’s also the main ingredients of your dinner.
There’s a lot of perceived elitism in the healthy eating scene, but the poorest people can also have a really solid diet—like I did when I was 17 and living in a squat in London, making nutritious meals for no money out of lentils. There’s also only so high of a price point you can put on locally grown plants. Cabbages are amazing!
While I’m not a fan of some of their ideas, I’m quite protective of the women who are attacked for talking about how food is medicine, Gwyneth Paltrow and Amanda Chantal Bacon of Moon Juice being the two most often assaulted. It’s massively gendered. Because we’re not seeing Alex Jones of Info Wars being attacked. We’re not seeing Tim Ferriss being attacked. And they’re all recommending similar stuff, but aren’t attacked at all.
It’s important we separate the conversation on food and localness from elitism and medicine, and take it out of the context of gender.
And anyway, when you look at it, it’s often people who are broke who are eating the processed food, which is the expensive stuff. From my perspective, they’re eating meals that have been prepared by servants in factories. Not to mention paying a premium for the truck that brought it to the store, the marketing campaign, and the shiny box it comes in.
Ysanne Spevack is a composer, private chef, and the author of 13 books. Ysanne is available for talks, cooking classes, personal chef and consultancy projects, and to create private dinners and mocktail events. Discover more about Ysanne and her work HERE and watch her recent TEDx Talk HERE.
What’s worse, a broken healthcare system or the elitist wellness industry? One thing is clear—it’s time for a healthcare revolution, says Ruby Warrington …
Seeing these two articles next to each other in my news feed this week really struck a nerve. The wellness industry comes up for yet more criticism and ridicule in a lengthy article in New York magazine … while mainstream America continues to medicate itself to death over conditions that can very often be treated successfully with diet and lifestyle changes.
As reported by PBS Newshour, over 50% of opioid prescriptions go to people with depression and mood disorders—prescriptions which have contributed to the incidence of death from opioid overdose having quadrupled in the USA since 1999. Of the 33,000 who died from opioid overdose in 2015, nearly half involved an opioid prescription.
“We’re handing them out like candy,” says an MD in the PBS piece. Candy, or rather poor diet in general, being another leading contributor to chronic conditions in this country. Heart disease still kills more Americans than any other illness (1 in every 4 deaths). Worldwide, 350 million people now live with diabetes—with 1 in 10 healthcare dollars spent on managing the disease.
All particularly resonant RIGHT NOW, as this was also the week that the American Health Care Act was predicted to raise healthcare premiums for the most at risk populations—in the name of reducing taxes for the wealthiest few.
With this in mind, I can see why it still feels cool to take Amanda Chantal bacon to task for peddling extortionately-priced miracle wellness “dusts.” But beyond the OMG-she’s-peddling-snake-oil witch hunts, Amanda and wellness industry pioneers like her are actually the forerunners in what basically HAS to be a healthcare revolution.
After all, if those increased health insurance premiums are only going to cover yet more prescriptions, isn’t the real “solution” to work on providing alternative “wellness” options to America’s most vulnerable?
Yes, $65 is a lot of money for powdered mushrooms that may or may not make your hair shiner. The fact the Goop Summit in LA last month appeared to be attended exclusively by white women with expensive blonde highlights and time on their hands to get high on vitamin drips also leaves a nasty taste (kinda like Stevia).
These people are not necessarily “at risk” of developing the chronic conditions that keep millions of low-income Americans enslaved to a healthcare system that does not serve them. (Although, let’s also not forget that “depression and mood disorders” tend to be pretty indiscriminate when it comes to the size of your bank balance.)
But rather than waste more time, cynicism, and column inches decrying the “haves” for making choices that, frankly, a lot of us might make if we had the resources—the time is surely NOW to dedicate more of our precious life force energy to figuring out ways to make the conversation about wellness more accessible to all.
After all, if being “well” is all our birthright, then isn’t it also all our responsibility to contribute to the wellbeing of the collective? (Yes this includes you, cynical lifestyle editors.)
If you want to get inspired, check out what Numinous contributor Eddie Stern is doing bringing the tools of yoga and meditation to schools. Or my friend Jessica Murnane, on a one-woman mission to get America eating at least one plant-based meal a day.
And The David Lynch Foundation, who have taught transcendental meditation (proven to help with PTSD, for example) to hundreds of thousands of veterans, at risk kids, and women survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault. (The part that gets overlooked when they’re “accused” of ripping off rich white people by charging those who can afford it for tuition.)
But you don’t have to be a celebrity or have a million-dollar fund-raising operation to do your part.
On a peer-to-peer level, one reason Alexandra Roxo and I started Moon Club was to make the sisterly emotional support and self-healing tools we had found at moon circles and workshops in NYC and LA available to everybody, regardless of location.
Meanwhile, a lot of our members are also awakening to their own innate desire to work as healers within their local communities, and are using the group to support them as they build their own businesses and side projects to bring this work to life. So beautiful to witness!
Bottom line? Taking responsibility for your own wellbeing, and modeling the positive effects of whatever choices this means you end up making to your own family, friends and colleagues is really where it’s at. To quote Rha Goddess from Monday’s post on spiritpreneurs: “To tip the world, it will take all of us.” Same goes for healing the world, too.
Enter the 8/8 Lion’s Gate…and an encounter with the cacao goddess, a return to my mojo, and a meeting of minds with Amanda “Moon Juice” Bacon.
:: MONDAY ::
Happy New Year! According to the Mayans, that is, for whom 8/8 marked the planetary new year. Also the opening of the mystical “Lions gate” portal (8/8 through 8/12—a.k.a. this week), marked by the star Sirius moving closer to earth and aligning in Orion’s belt, which perfectly syncs up with the Pyramids in Giza. Linked to the numerology of 8/8, the astrological sign of Leo, and the Strength tarot card (which traditionally shows a woman holding the jaws of a Lion) the message is basically “MAJOR POWER PORTAL”! So let’s see what went down for me…
:: TUESDAY ::
My first cacao ceremony! Thanks to a particularly switched-on editor in the UK commissioning me to write about cacao for The Times newspaper. #progress. And as the cosmos would have it, The Alchemist’s Kitchen was hosting a ceremony tonight with Numinous contributor Sarah Eve Cardell. Sarah’s been working with the cacao goddess for about 10 years, and the first thing she advised the 60-odd people in attendance was that: “it doesn’t taste pretty.” Not your average cocoa treat, in other words.
But I actually did like the bitter chocolate taste of the thick, gloopy glassful I was instructed to drink down as fast as possible—even if made throat a little raw and my mouth go slightly numb. Since we’d already been around the circle to share our intentions for the ceremony (mine, to invite the energies of collaboration and mutual support in my current projects) now it was time to journey.
As we all found a place to lay down and zone out (or rather in, to the visions of our heart center—since cacao is known as heart medicine), I felt a little nauseous, the cacao sitting kind of queasy in my stomach. But soon I was transported to a lulling trance state on the sounds of a gong bath by Jarrod Mayer. I actually think I drifted in and out of sleep, and while I didn’t have particularly strong “visions” (like I have in, say, breathwork sessions with Erin Telford, or Deborah Hanekamp’s medicine readings), towards the end of the experience I received a kind of “pat on the back” from what felt like a loving maternal presence for the work I’m currently doing—particular my Club SÖDA NYC initiative.
“The world needs what you’ve got…so keep giving it?” was the message I shared with the group afterwards, Sarah having reminded us that whatever came through for us was also a message for everybody in the circle. And since you, dear readers, are part of my circle too, let’s take this as the message the cacao goddess also has for YOU.
:: WEDNESDAY ::
Maybe it’s the Lion’s Gate, maybe it’s the cacao, and maybe it’s because Mars finally moved into Sagittarius last week (likely a combo of all three)…but today I found myself thinking: “whoa, I’ve got my mojo back!!” Like the speed at which I can feel myself processing stuff, and the energy welling in my veins again this week, has made me realize I’ve been operating on half speed or something for most of this year. And well, what can I say but bring. It. On! (And where can I get my hands on some medicinal grade cacao please?)
:: THURSDAY ::
More talk of magical medicinals, as I got to interview my friend Amanda Bacon, founder of Moon Juice, for the UK’s Red magazine today. Also more #progress, since Amanda was slammed by many in the mainstream media when a food diary she once shared with Elle re-surfaced earlier this year.
Her response to that whole situation? “Taking the harsh words away, I was interested in getting to the essence of: what are people really saying here? They’re saying that they don’t understand it. They’re saying that they’re skeptical. They may not believe in it. They’re afraid that they’re not invited or included, and it’s not for them,” she told me.
As such, it actually became an opportunity for this savvy businesswoman to find ways to refine her message—that we can all use food to heal and feel amazing—for the masses. Next up? Two new stores in LA, and her first cookbook, The Moon Juice Cookbook (above), out in November this year. 10 years ago, even green juice felt far out; 10 years from now, it’ll be Sex Dust for breakfast.
:: FRIDAY ::
Planning my own mini ritual to close the Lion’s Gate tonight. And to thank you, cosmos, for another magically mystical week.
Check out all the lightworkers moving to LA! Fern Olivia breaks down why life on the Left Coast is calling…Photography: Nicolas Jandrain
So what’s the real reason behind the mass exodus from cities like NYC to LA? You’ve noticed it, right? How the lightworker tribe are all feeling the call?
Well, it’s no coincidence that people are packing up their overpriced apartments, saying farewell to the brutal winters, and moving to the magical City of Angels. In fact, many of the Numinati made the move years ago, and now more of our tribe are arriving in waves.
When I heard the call of my soul to move to Los Angeles, I had no idea that I would be part of a major movement. I was not consciously aware that there was a deep reason for the work I was being called to do here, nor did I understand the energetic force by which it happened at this particular time in space.
It all makes sense to me now. If you, too, have been feeling a voice inside calling you West, what I’ve learned since my move may explain why – and in a radical way.
In April 2015, I was visiting my girlfriends in Malibu and I remember the precise moment, sitting on the beach, my soul clearly demanded: “Come home.” I had never lived in California, nor had I ever heard a voice inside as strong as this.
But I was not afraid. I listened.
The voice continued: “Move to Venice in the Fall.” So specific and commanding, right? I dared not question it, even though I had only been to Venice a few times for Kundalini classes at Ra Ma Institute with Guru Jagat, and for nourishment at Moon Juice and Cafe Gratitude.
But over the past several years, I have recognized my intuitive gifts and learned that in order to stay in alignment, I MUST TRUST this deep knowing.
And something inside me insisted that this was exactly where I needed to be. So I set about transitioning all my yoga classes and clients in New York, seamlessly found a friend to take over my lease, and effortlessly slipped out of my old life to plant myself in Venice Beach – the epicenter of the Now Age. And now that I’m here, I feel grounded and aligned.
So, back to why are we being called to LA, why should we trust the pull, and what’s next for us fearless souls who have listened to our spirit’s deepest longing.
Here are FOUR reasons that may help it all make it crystal clear.
1. We are being called to return to our Aphrodite – our pure, liberated Feminine.
New York City is literally on a grid – when you see the city from the air, the avenues and streets are angular and the buildings are close together. It’s tough to see the wide open sky unless you’re at the top of a skyscraper or in the middle of Central Park. We pound our feet on concrete and have little connection to the bare, soft, fertile earth. For most of the year, our feminine form is bundled in layers, and the sun has only a small window to kiss our bare skin.
Living in any city, we’re disconnected from the Earth, Air, Moon and tides – which in turn influence our moon cycles, our creativity, and manifestation capabilities.
When our creative expression is stifled, we become tight, rigid, stressed, and stagnation takes over our physical bodies. Living this way demands we’re dominated by our masculine energy – and it’s hard to keep up. Our adrenals burn out. We grow tired of being Wonder Woman – one of Dana James’ female archetypes – in the city that never sleeps. Rather, our hearts are longing to dance under the moonlight. We know we will rise in our true power when we feel grounded with the earth under our bare feet.
2. We got chewed up and spat out, and now our souls are strong enough to handle the work ahead.
Our souls brought us to cities like New York to do some major work on our karmic path. Our soul contracts had very specific lessons and experiences to learn in order to do the light work we were born in this incarnation to deliver.
New Yorkers have grit. New Yorkers are tough. We had to be, to get through the brutal winters, hurricanes, floods, terrorism, city noise, and commutes. And our souls had to practice becoming strong enough to do the major work that we are about to do in LA – influencing some of the brightest, most powerful, creative, receptive people in the world to step up to change the future of our planet.
So what is this work? Our world is suffering from the bankruptcy of love – we are living in a time of immense poverty, suffering, terrorism, abuse, and fear. It is our work to bring light to this planet through our creative leadership. We must be strong and clear in our own bodies otherwise, this difficult work can leave us feeling hopeless and depleted.
But first, we need some time to play. To retreat. To rest, rejuvenate, and restore. Once we have brought ourselves back into balance, we will have the clarity and vitality to do some major work as the next generation of visionaries on this planet.
3. We’re feeling the pull of the 33rd parallel (Allow me to explain…)
In heeding the call to LA, lightworkers are being called to congregate around the 33rd parallel – an energy vortex which happens to run through Venice Beach. You may know that in numerology, 33 is considered a Master Number and symbolizes the Christ Consciousness. The 33rd degree is highest publicly known degree for Freemasonry, and some say it signifies illumination and freedom from religious dogma. In Hinduism, Yoga Sutra 3:33 states: “Through keenly developed intuition, everything can be known.” And the Tibetan Book of the Dead speaks of the thirty-three heavens ruled over by Indra, and the thirty-three ruled over by Mara.
Furthermore, the latitude of the 33rd degree is shared with the ancient city of Babylon and by modern day Baghdad. The longest continually inhabited city in the world, Damascus, in Syria, is also on this line. The site of the first atomic bombing during WWII, in Nagasaki, Japan, also resides on the 33 parallel, and coincidently, so does the White Sands Testing Range in New Mexico, where the atom bomb was first tested. This geo-latitudinal line also passes through what is known as the “Bermuda Triangle” in the Atlantic Ocean.
So, clearly, there is something very powerful about the energy vortex around the 33rd parallel! And in essence, the quality of the 33rd parallel is that it shifts our energy more effectively and quickly. But looking at the history, it’s also clear that this has been utilized by some pretty dark forces – and now the lightworkers are moving to readdress the balance.
4. Our soul family is waiting for us.
To do the work we were born to, we need the support of our tribe. I’ve found there’s nothing more influential than a community of brilliant, grounded, strong, connected souls – our “soul clusters” as my dear friend Aimee Follette, chef and founder of Sun in Bloom, so perfectly calls it.
You know that feeling when you meet someone for the first time, but something inside you remembers them, as if you’ve known each other before? That feeling is real. Our souls have contracts with other souls – and we have these soul contracts with all the people we walk with, our parents, friends, business partners, lovers, and children.
The soul contracts of my New York life, including a controlling six-year relationship, showed me the work I needed to do: to heal deep-rooted karmic patterns of insecurity, self-doubt, and the inability to speak my truth. Many of us in New York experienced a similar struggle, freeing ourselves from lineages of insecurity, scarcity mindset, and fear of abandonment.
And having learned the lessons of city life, a tribe of stronger, fierce, liberated souls are reuniting together in Los Angeles.
Not feeling the call to move? That’s okay!
As explained by my teacher Harmonjot Kaur at Ra Ma Institute in Venice, it is important to understand that YOUR soul family will be found wherever you open your soul. “We are moving into a time where we stop looking outside for answers. Moving to LA to find one’s soul family simply because one identifies as a “lightworker” is a recipe for heartbreak I feel. Because wherever one is, that is where the soul family will show itself. And when we make expensive moves looking to satisfy from the outside what can only be satisfied from the inside, we really set ourselves up for great disappointment.”
There’s also a critical need for lightworkers to remain in New York City – since NYC is on an energetic grid that’s very powerful, meaning there’s an opportunity to amplify light work in the city.
And the truth is, we’re all designed to be more energized by different locations, explains Light Maker Cassandra Bodzak. “There are people whose energy field is actually more primed for NYC than LA, or vice versa, or for a different location such as Austin, Miami, or Boulder. You can even get a special astrology chart reading to determine which places on the earth will optimize your energy or deplete you.”
Another disclaimer from Harmonjot: The move to LA alone does not equal automatic self-discovery! “I’m reticent about encouraging people to move to Los Angeles because it’s touted as some kind of promised land. But many people have the illusion that their problems will be solved by coming out here. They likely won’t. Deep spiritual practice is what allows one to find the next step and the next place.”
So, my dears, wherever you feel the call, trust it. Trust your soul. Your soul family. Just as your future self is trusting YOU to heed the call. When you are living in alignment with your soul, you’ll feel home wherever you are. You’ll be in harmony with your body, and from this space of feeling healthy and in the flow, you will be your most creative self, and able to fully show up to do the work you were born to do.
Elevated living in my PJs, The Reality of Truth, and getting some supplies in for my Moon time…
:: MONDAY ::
Still vibing off our Numinous Presents: Lead Your Own Moon Ceremony workshop, which was led by Deborah Hanekamp in NYC last Saturday. Having my moon in Cancer (the moon’s home sign) I’ve always felt especially attuned to her movements, which is one reason I’m always posting about what sign she’s moving through in our Instagram #moonscopes. But Deborah’s teachings brought a whole other level of awareness to how to use each Moon phase, PLUS all the proper protocols for hosting my own moon ceremony (for myself or others). Essential info – which is why we’re planning to bring the course to LA next month. Watch this space!
:: TUESDAY ::
Since I’ve mainly spent this month working towards my March 1 BOOK DEADLINE (out spring 2017 #savethedate), I’ve also been mainly spending all day every day in my PJs. And doing a bit of research for the chapter on beauty, I remembered this post on The Art of Sacred Adornment by Kitty Cavelier. She writes how: “When you rouge your lips, be aware that you are bringing red, the color of passion and power, to every word you speak. As you paint your fingernails, remember that every stroke of the polish is a prayer of adornment for all the magic your hands create every day.” So the PJs can stay, but I’ll be adding some lipstick and polish from here on in (see main pic!)
:: WEDNESDAY ::
Dinner with my friends Ian and Drita, who recently moved down to Costa Rica to help open a high-end shamanic healing retreat called Rythmia. Needless to say I’ll be heading down to check it out later this year, and in the meantime I’ll be watching The Reality of Truth – a documentary exploring how people, groups and entire cultures tap into an alternative, “true reality” through spirituality, meditation, and psychedelics. Featuring ALL the great Now Age speakers, you can win a $10,000 retreat at Rythmia when you buy a copy.
:: THURSDAY ::
Ah, the magic of manifestation. While we were trying to engineer a move from London to NYC, I’d been making my husband (a.k.a. The Pisces) a morning cup of tea in an “I <3 NY” mug every day for like 18 months. Once the Universe heard and gifted him with a transfer to the Manhattan office of his firm, we told our friends Catherine and James about this, who were like: “oh we’d quite like to live in New York too.” So we gave them the mug for them to try their luck…and they’re only only moving to NY next month!! They’re here looking at apartments this week. As for the Pisces and I? We’ve moved on to an “I <3 LA” mug…
:: FRIDAY ::
Placed an order with Kerrilynn at CAP Beauty for some Moon Juice snacks, which they began stocking this month. The thing about getting to know my personal moon cycles better (i.e. properly tracking and working to regulate my period) is that I know when I’ll be PMS’ing. And with the book deadline not exactly going anywhere, I figured a supply of my fave Chocolate Chaga Donuts and Rose Geranium bars might come in handy in the days to come. Except they’d only sold out!! I’ll have to make do with the Mulberry Cacao Crunchers instead #sigh #fristworldmaterialgirlproblems…
Her juices have a cult following on the West Coast…and she’s basically a total babe. This week’s Material Girl is Moon Juice founder Amanda Chantal Bacon, here’s a peek into her Mystical and super stylish World…
What was your entry point into healthy food and juicing?
Healthy and body specific eating began around age five with a divine intervention by an ayruvedic doctor. The gateway to serious juice drinking was an apple lemon ginger green juice.
What’s been the most transformational part of your own foodie journey to date?
It really dates back to that doctor, who pulled me aside and had me stop eating sugar, wheat and cow’s milk when I was five years old. It turned out to be life defining. This has all been enhanced by working as a fine dining chef, traveling the world’s farmers markets, and experiencing peasant traditions.
How does this tie into your path as a spiritual being?
My meditative practice and life experiences are directly affected by the foods I eat. When I’m juicing and eating light sattvic foods, I can tune in and slip out to other dimensions within seconds. I don’t drink any more for this reason, but even eating heavier, cooked foods and meat just adds some time and pranic work to getting the cosmic high. I would have to say that there was a real shift in my spiritual perception when I made a deep commitment to clean eating and drinking.
What’s in your fantasy juice?
Love this question…It would be white peaches pressed into fig leaves drunk on a dock in the summertime on Lake Como.
Empowering women’s movement, or de facto sex cult? Dani Katz gets intimate with the practise known as Orgasmic Meditation…
“I hate LA, and I hate my life,” I sputter in a flurry of tears, snot and spaz-out, as I drop my purse on the floor of Jamie’s kitchen, and freak way out.
“And my favorite pants are ruined,” I whine, gesturing to the stains dotting the hem, remnants from this morning’s explosion of glass and green at Moon Juice, where my Kundalini teacher dropped an eleven-dollar bottle of algae on my Birkenstock while lamenting the torment of her beloved’s non-monogamous tendencies. “…and everything would be easier if I were dead.”
“And how late is your period?” Jamie smiles, perpetually unfazed by my dark, melodramatic tendencies.
Why I can’t seem to remember that my every twenty-eight day despondency/bad hair day combo is related to the onset of my moon remains one of the more confounding mysteries of being woman. Well, that and our tendency to totally abandon ourselves for the crumbs of affection half-heartedly proffered by the man-children who don’t deserve us.
I reach for my iPhone, and pull up my Period Tracker app.
Period is 1 Day Late.
“I had a feeling,” Jamie nods. “Let’s get you stoned; let’s get you fed; and, let’s get your pussy rubbed.”
While this last zinger might seem wildly inappropriate coming from anyone else, Jamie is a One Taste devotee, an adept in the cult of orgasm, and – as such – her answer to pretty much everything is: Get your clit rubbed.
For those not yet hip to the casual stroking craze that equates orgasm with meditation, and mindfulness with turn-on, Orgasmic Meditation (OM) is a practice focused on female orgasm. It involves two humans, at least one vagina, a timer, a dash of lube, a tightly held container comprised of a very specific configuration of pillows and limbs, and a very (very) precise stroke – a gentle, vertical petting atop the surface of the upper left quadrant of the clitoris with the tip of the left pointer finger, for fifteen minutes.
“Okay,” I sniff, wiping an errant strand of hair from my face. “Can we make that happen?”
“Pfft,” Jamie snorts. “Duh.”
I should probably mention that all three of Jamie’s roommates also OM. Like, religiously, and even then, fanatically, as in several times a day. It’s but a symptom of the One Taste organization’s culty-er aspects – outcroppings of community houses packed tight with pussies keen to be rubbed, and fingers eager to rub ‘em.
“Hey, Dani,” says Jamie’s roommate, Josh, walking into the kitchen all of two seconds later.
While Josh and I exchange greetings, Jamie – not one for subtleties – mimes a diddling motion with one pointer finger, while directing the other one my way. She’s a Capricorn; she makes shit happen.
“Wanna OM?” Josh blurts.
For those not living in houses populated exclusively by Orgasmic Meditators, most folks go about finding vaginas to rub, and fingers to rub ‘em on the OM Hub, a private online network available to those who qualify (i.e. throw down the cash for the online course, pass a quiz, and then throw down more for network access; oh, and who aren’t registered sex offenders).
“Anyone near Mar Vista wanna come stroke my pussy today between 3 and 5:30?” reads a sample posting.
The community operates on an any finger/any pussy/anytime philosophy, and the extent to which the randomness of the OM hook-up icks me out has proven prohibitive in my developing any regularity around the practice. To this end, I barely even qualify as a practitioner. Dabbler is probably even pushing it.
“Oh, hi honey,” Jamie said, meeting me at the top of the stairs back when she was first inculcated into the Grand Order of Holy Diddlers. “I’m just gonna squeeze in a quick OM, and then we’ll go.”
I took a seat on the futon in the loft, and texted our friends to let them know we were going to be late for dinner. It wasn’t long before the telltale sounds of turn-on started seeping forth from the backside of Jamie’s bedroom door.
Ew, I thought, scrambling to untangle the earbuds I couldn’t get out of my purse and into my ears fast enough.
It’s not that I’m prude, or shy, or at all delicate when it comes to erotic expression. Still, I just don’t really want to know what my friend sounds like when she’s getting off, much the same way I’m not interested in smelling her used tampons. TMI – way (way) TMI.
Minutes later, a man wearing glasses and a Pokemon t-shirt came strutting out of Jamie’s bedroom. “You next?” he asked, waggling a finger my way – a finger I could only guess was coated in vagina slime.
“Ew,” I snorted, thoroughly put off by the creamy digit aimed in my direction, but moreso the assumption that my holy vag was this random guy’s for the stroking.
When it comes to touching my vagina, the list of those who qualify for the privilege is short, and contained – lovers, gynecologists, the occasional nurse practitioner, and the Russian lady who waxes my bikini line. Hired tenders aside, it’s a highly restricted area, reserved for those I deem special/worthy enough to handle both the sacred wonderfulness that is my labia, as well as my heart, because – like so many people in our culture and maybe on the planet in general, I am programmed to believe that the regions are inextricably bound. As such, unless I’m in a relationship, my pussy doesn’t get much play.
Thus is the beauty of the OM – once she who is grossed out by the culture figures out how to meander her way around its ickier aspects. Hanging out at Jamie’s, as I’m now realizing, is a fantastic method to this end.
“Yes, please,” I say.
“When?” asks Josh.
And so it is that I’m dropping chlorella-stained trou in Josh’s room, while he places a washcloth in the center of “The Nest” – which is really just a yoga mat surrounded by half-moon meditation cushions strategically placed for my head, my thighs and his ass, but which will be honored as holy, and thus entered with the implicit understanding that while so cradled, there will be no canoodling, and no reciprocity. Just pussy-stroking. For fifteen minutes, no more, no less.
“Are you comfortable?” Josh asks, pulling my leg over his thigh, and arranging his foot so that it’s flat against mine.
I catch myself before asking How are we defining our terms? Because, while sure, I’m enjoying a semblance of ergonomic ease, I am also naked from the waist down, lying with my legs splayed to reveal my six days un-groomed pussy as a relative stranger dangles his arm over my thigh. Which – while fine – has me feeling more than a little vulnerable. Plus, there is the matter of warm-blooded man hands touching my inner thigh, of palm against flesh, and – um – the novelty of the connection and the alchemy on this unique, raw and dense plane of purely physical exchange. Which is all to say, comfortable isn’t the first descriptive that comes to mind.
“Uh-huh,” I chirp, because now is not the time for heady unravelings of my mental state, and because Jamie got me stoned while Josh arranged the pillows, and I’m just blitzed enough not to give a shit what he thinks of my spread eagled lady bits.
“Okay, I’m going to ground you, now,” Josh says, mashing his palms along the surface of my thighs.
It’s standard, The Grounding, as is the practice of announcing whatever touch is about to happen. It lends a sterile, business-like vibe to the exchange, which I happen to appreciate. As impersonal as we can keep our interaction, the better, I say. Josh is not my lover. Josh isn’t even a friend. Josh is the guy attached to the hands that are right now mashing my thighs, and my pelvis, and is getting ready to—
Oh fuck, I think, just now remembering the sequence of events, because it’s been a while.
Please don’t do The Noticing, I think, suddenly observing mild sensations of panic. Please don’t do The Noticing.
It’s my least favorite part of the practice, The Noticing, wherein the stroker ogles the vag in front of him and then shares his visual observation. Out loud.
“I’m noticing that you have one pubic hair that’s really straight, and poking straight up towards the ceiling,” a stroker once told me, as I wished a hole would open up in the ground beneath me, and swallow me at once.
“The outside of your lips are, like, a really dark pink, almost like cranberry juice,” noticed another, as my cheeks turned a similar shade, and I stared at the ceiling and wondered why any and all references to my vaginal “lips” creep me out so hard.
Please don’t do The Noticing, I psychically beg/command.
That Josh actually skips The Noticing is as much a testament to the anti-Noticing trend Jamie will later tell me is sweeping the community at large as it is to my psychic authority. No matter. Noticing isn’t happening. I’m golden, I think, grateful to have escaped the humiliation of Josh’s take on the whitehead lodged inside my inner thigh crease, as he starts the timer on his smartphone, snaps on a pair of latex gloves, and goes about sliding a hand underneath my ass.
“I’m going to touch your introitus now.”
Safeporting, they call it, the resting of the stroker’s thumb against the vaginal opening. I guess it’s supposed to help the strokee to feel held, to quell any lurking fears of floating up and toward the ceiling, of slipping through the cracks of an air vent and being forever lodged in the crawlspace with no pants on. Jamie has developed this annoying habit of rolling the term into her everyday lingo to reference any sort of safeguarding.
Like the time we were invited to our friends’ house for dinner, after a particularly awkward series of texts and naked hot tub gropings, and she said: “I know Michael and Katrina keep trying to fuck you, but don’t worry. I’ll be right there, safeporting you the whole time.”
I appreciated the sentiment, but, the languaging? Um…ew.
“I’m going to touch your pussy, now,” Josh announces as his lube-globby finger makes contact with my clit.
They’re big on the P-word, these Orgasmic Meditators. On the one hand, it’s refreshing, especially given how many Tantra intensives I’ve attended wherein the words yoni and punani are tossed around like so much New Age-appropriated Far Easterly exotica.
Still, if one more soft-eyed dude wearing three-day beard scruff and a rudrakshra mala wrapped around his sacred geometry tattooed wrist greets me by mashing his hands together at his curiously hairless heart chakra, bending at the waist, and purring Namaste, I might have a stroke. To this end, I’m all for the P-word. And yet, I find something slightly confrontational about its ubiquity, as if those who OM are wielding the word in the hopes of inspiring discomfort, verily daring those within earshot to take issue with their languaging, and their lifestyle.
“Okay,” I sigh, narrowing my focus of attention to the point of contact between Josh’s finger and my clit, while expanding my awareness around all the sensation said contact is generating.
“Why can’t you just do it yourself?” my mother prods when I meet her at Pilates a week later, wanting to not be disturbed by this, yet another comfort zone-challenging ritual in which her daughter is dabbling, and yet still not getting it.
It’s not that I can’t; it’s that I don’t. I tend to forget that a) I have a bundle of nerves in my vagina that tingle when stimulated; and b) I can stimulate them whenever I want to. I’m a heady gal – “an upper chakra creator” as Trish, my go-to psychic, likes to say. More often than not, I forget I even have a body, let alone that caressing it is an option. But, even if I chose to remember, OMing and masturbating are not the same thing.
“Ooohh…” Josh groans, clearly navigating a surge of arousal as the tip of his finger waggles up and down and up and down and up and down along the top of my clit.
OMing is an exchange – of trust and vulnerability, and of grunts and desire, but mostly of the electro-chemical polarities that attract masculine and feminine.
“I felt this electrical jolt – like a lightning bolt – shooting out of your clit and into my finger, where it traveled up my arm, across my chest, into my heart, down into my cock, and out my other arm, like a circuit, and then it just kept circulating for the rest of the OM,” said Lance, a guy who once stroked me while I was crashing at Jamie’s, and we were Sharing Frames after the stroking part, which isn’t quite as cringey as The Noticing, but is sort of in the ballpark.
The point is that something larger, magnetic and infinitely more mysterious happens when fingertip strokes clit in this specific way and inside of this container – something that doesn’t happen when I’m jerking myself off.
It’s the electro-chemical exchange that inspired me to try Orgasmic Meditation in the first place, back when I was cozy in a monogamous love thang, and my partner and I read Slow Sex together at a Colorado hot spring, and thus grooved on Nicole Daedone’s whole down with stimulation, up with sensitivity/awareness philosophy, and took to a daily OM practice.
“Achoo!” sneezed then boyfriend.
“Wow!” I said, shivering, because I felt his sneeze in my own body as palpably as if it were my own.
I liken it to Vipassana meditation, wherein the prolonged practice of scanning the body for sensation strips away the walls and shadows that obscure our hearts and our light and our genius. The practice of OMing strips away the walls and the density that obscure not only our connection to our own feeling nature, but to the shared feeling nature that conscious sexual exchange inspires when we know how to work with it.
“Ooh,” boyfriend said, when he hit a particularly sweet spot with his tongue during a post-OM canoodle. “I felt that one in my toes.”
“Do…more…that…” I instructed, palming his skull, trying to catch my breath, “…hnnnh!…”
But, it’s not just instances of Freaky Friday-like feeling-sharing that differentiates OMing from diddling myself. Orgasmic Meditation isn’t goal-oriented – there is no race toward climax. In fact, it’s not even a destination. Sure, it happens; I hear. I’ve yet to climax during an OM, and I have all of zero interest in doing so, and not just because I think it would be thoroughly embarrassing.
The magic is at the edge, which is where all magic lies, and – for me – OMing is the perfect set-up to play with that edge, to redirect the energy that threatens to undo me in a fit of trembles, spasms, shrieks and sensation, and to instead redirect it up my spine and into my head, where it dances between my third eye and my crown, and animates my entire body with a thousand and one lightning bolts exploding behind my eyelids and across my every meridian in fractalized bursts of psychedelia.
“UNNHHH!!” Josh sucks in his breath at the very same moment a jolt of electricity explodes in my upper cervical spine, and then mutters a thoroughly floored: “Whoah.”
“And, what’s in it for the guy?” Mom presses.
I can’t really say, not being a guy or having ever stroked, but that doesn’t stop me from rolling my eyes, and snorting, and saying “Mom, I already explained this,” because even though I’m a grown woman, there’s something about sharing time/space with my mother that inspires adolescent histrionics. “It strips away the layers of calcified density, and renders them more sensitive and available to experience their own sensation through less and less stimulation.”
Also, a lot of the guys in the community are spazzy dweebs who, if it weren’t for One Taste, wouldn’t likely see much pussy, let alone get to touch any, unless they were paying for it.
“Two minutes,” Josh says, alerting me to the impending close of our session with a pronounced shift in his touch – Downstroking, they call it, which is totally applicable when spread eagle and doused in coconut lube in The Nest, but kind of annoying when chatting with my friend over kale smoothies.
“You probably want to downstroke her before telling her you don’t want to work with her anymore,” Jamie advises.
I roll my eyes and vomit just the tiniest bit in the back of my throat, not because it’s not good advice, but because I’m still having a hard time getting used to my friend’s tendency to talk like a cult initiate.
“Time,” Josh says with a massive exhale, removing his hand from very, very tingly pussy, despite my clit’s silent pulsing pleas for him to come back, to stay awhile, to keep doing that thing he was doing with his finger for – like, I dunno…ever?
I exhale as Josh grounds me back into my body, and into the room, again mashing his hands atop my only slightly trembling thighs. He helps me up to a sitting position where I drape the now damp washcloth over my lady bits, and avail myself to the grand finale – the Sharing of Frames.
“There was this moment, when I saw, like, a drop of – um…well, your juices on the edge of your pussy, and – uh, well – when I did, I felt a lot of sensation in my cock.”
I think the point is to get us in the practice of communicating our turn on, and our feeling experience. It’s gotten easier, the Frame-Sharing, minus the moments when I realize, mid-OM, that I’m going to have to do it, and then I retreat to my head, scanning the practice for something noteworthy to speak to. That, and the fact that I don’t love talking to strangers about my turn-on, but – whatever – I’m a grown-up; I can deal.
“There was a moment when you pulled back on the pressure, and I found myself wanting to chase it, but instead chose to inhale into my clit, and found the connection I was craving through my own breath.”
And with that, we are complete.
It’s actually my favorite part of the whole experience, the leaving, the absence of lingering eye locks, of nervous heart flutters, of carefully couched farewells that may or may not allude to a deepening intimacy, and to future dalliances that so often never come to pass. I love the none of that. It’s honest. It’s clean. We have accomplished the business at hand – the touching of my pussy – and now that we are finished, I will be on my (way merrier) way.
Back in Jamie’s kitchen, dinner is ready – kale salad with pumpkin seeds and tons of nutritional yeast.
“How was that?” Jamie asks, knowing smile hijacking her perpetually radiant face.
“Best. Friend. Ever.” I gush, proffering the world’s most grateful hug, feeling infinitely less suicidal and – dare I say – pretty darned good.
Dani Katz is the creator of the I Am Calendar 2015, a total astro/affirmation/badass birthday fest of all ’round awesomeness. You can find out more about her work here.