Sushma Sagar pursued a high powered career in fashion, but always practiced reiki on the side. She shares how she finally found herself coming out of the spiritual closet at work.
“I’m a closet hippie” I used to jest to my close friends. “She’s doing her witchy stuff again” they would say, all tongue in cheek, making a silly joke. It was no joke.
I’ve been practicing reiki healing on the sly for around 16 years, and only now do I feel like I can admit it freely. It’s not the middle ages, I’m not going to get burned at the stake, so why has it taken so long to come out?
Of course you must always look back to look forward. As a kid, I played with the other children and got along just okay, but was always a bit on the outside. A little misfit who would hang around with other misfits to fit in. Fitting in, being what you thought others wanted, was what you did. A child of Indian doctor immigrants, with success and achievement drilled into us from an early age, assimilation was the most important thing.
Childhood passions were quashed one by one – dance, theatre, art, textiles- and I grew up to find myself working in marketing for well-known fashion brands like Diesel, Ted Baker and Ben Sherman. It was fiercely competitive, and as for fitting in…well that goes without saying. I was so desperate to prove myself and to get along, shape shifting became natural.
But quietly, outside of work, I was developing other interests. The catalyst of heartbreak saw me visit a healer who used acupuncture and reiki to calm my heart and make me smile, when I believed I could not. Astonished and intrigued, before I knew it I had done a course and had been initiated into this, then secret, world.
And as anyone who’s experienced their reiki initiation will know, once on the path, it slowly changes you; your trajectory shifts and, whether you want to or not, you move towards your personal truth. As did I…but on the weekends only!
So my double life continued. By day, corporate world, shallow dreams, and fickle desires. On evenings and weekends, I was back to my private world, filled with magic, loving energy, and heart opening activities. As far as I was concerned these worlds were mutually exclusive, and I felt more comfortable keeping them that way too.
But then holistic therapies began to gain interest; LA’s healthy living and New Age thinking was becoming popular in London. Celebrities and their holistic entourage were being reported in the press, spa and yoga retreats were all the rage. I ploughed on, reading and practicing until I finally completed my master reiki training. Simultaneously, my corporate life was also going from strength to strength.
And all around me, I could feel attitudes changing, judgments becoming less harsh, and ideas about “alternative” healing finally entering the mainstream. By now I had also joined a wonderful fashion brand, that celebrated interesting women. And yet still I didn’t let on to anyone about my “interesting” side.
But then, heartbreak yet again, and some serious healing was needed. I called in the big guns and found a shamanic practitioner in London. Together we journeyed back in time, healed some karmic contracts and made my soul whole again. Delighted, I trained with him to learn these skills for myself. As a result, I now felt so fully and completely me, that hiding “myself” seemed impossible.
Life was improving fast now on every level. My heart was healing after all I’d come through romantically, and I felt whole, settled and happy in my skin. I got promoted at work, felt inspired again, and began working on all the creative side projects I’d been afraid of starting.
The last piece of the puzzle was to find a way to bring my two separate worlds together. To cause a synthesis of my spiritual self and my life in the fashion world – something I’d never felt a need to do until now.
Then, when I was invited to give reiki taster sessions to professional women on a retreat hosted by a friend, the fact I understood their life turned out to be an empathetic advantage. I realized you can have one foot in the material and one in the spiritual!
Monday morning at the office following the retreat, the conversation began as usual: “so what did you do last night?” asked my boss. Me: “OH, I did a healing exchange, I gave a friend some reiki and he did some energy work on my knee.” “You do reiki?” she cried, “That’s amazing, you never said.” Me: “Didn’t I? I’ve been doing it for years, I must have mentioned it. Anyway about that budget…”
And just like that, I came out the spiritual closet. I haven’t looked back.
This week, I learned a new way to say grace, and got some Spirit Junkie teachings…
I created a rainbow blessing code. Last night I went to the official launch of my friend Raquel’s coaching program, 7 Vibrations. I was actually with Raquel the week she began testing the program on herself – and the methodology went something like this: We have all these amazing spiritual and wellbeing tools at our disposal. What would happen if we used all of them, at the same time, intensively and with intention, for a whole week?
As in do a juice cleanse (or similar), while you do daily affirmations + coaching + reading of spiritual texts, and you incorporate a daily mind-body-soul movement practice. The results create a state of what she calls “living vertically” – or being able to navigate life with “a Penthouse state of mind.”
She’s since refined the program a whole lot, and also created 7 Vibrations yoga, which is essentially a vinyasa practice that also incorporates affirmations, breath work, some kundalini kryas, and which is also customized for each and every client. Wowzer.
One fun takeaway from the night, which I will share with you here, was also the idea of creating a “blessing code” for the food you eat, to raise the vibration of everything you eat. A bit like saying grace, but WAY COOLER.
– First, think about all the parts of the process the food went through before it got to your plate. The people who produced it, the way it was transported, stored, and perhaps prepared. Some of this was likely pretty low vibe. – So okay, now you want to spend a bit of time blessing every step of that process. Raquel suggests writing it down so you don’t miss anything. – Next, because you’re not exactly going to wanna go through this every time you grab a quick bite at Sweetgreen, choose a symbol that represents, or becomes a sort of shorthand, for this extended blessing. – Raquel gave the example of a star – and this then becomes your blessing code, to energetically be “placed” on your food every time you eat!
Love, love, LOVE IT. And since I’m still boarder line obsessed with them, I’m making mine a rainbow 🙂
Raquel’s intensive 7-day 7 Vibrations coaching program, including a custom high-vibe diet plat, custom yoga practice and daily coaching, usually costs $1350 – but she’s offering Numinous readers a friends and family rate of $995 if you sign up before September 24th 2015. Contact [email protected] and just quote “NUMINOUS”
I asked what it takes to teach. So a lot of people I know have been doing my friend and spirit sister Gabby Bernstein’s Spirit Junkie Masterclass – a course on how to become a leader, a teacher like Gabby, and set up your own spiritual business. Just like Raquel’s done with 7 Vibrations!
You can get a taste of the teachings from the Masterclass in this free video, in which Gabby explains what she considers the three essential elements that helped her launch her business.
And the message in the vid has really got me thinking – what does it mean to be a teacher in the Now Age? Well for starters, we can’t all be Gabby Bernstein. We don’t all – myself especially! – have what it takes to stand up on stage in front of hundreds of people and, well, preach. That’s Gabby’s gift, and she uses it to beautiful effect.
We can’t all express ourselves authentically, and with meaning in the written word (which is what I hope I am able to do); we can’t all guide others to elevate their yoga practice to another level; we can’t all heal using sound, or food, or the wisdom of our spirit guides.
But what we can all do is teach by example, right? It’s what I’ve heard Gabby call “being the light.” And to me this means working on ourselves to get clear of all the c*** and all the conditioning that’s stopping us from identifying our own unique and inspirational gifts. I’d love to know your take on this conversation – can we all be a teacher in the Now Age? Watch Gabby’s video and comment below, or connect with me and share on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
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.