MY MYSTICAL LIFE: LIFE LESSONS FROM THE ROAD

From Austin, TX, to the West Coast…it’s been a week of life lessons from the road.

:: MONDAY—WEDNESDAY::
Anybody who follows my Instagram feed will know the Pisces and I have been on a road-trip the past two weeks. Schedule: Austin—Marfa—Santa Fe—Sedona—Grand Canyon—Vegas—Palm Springs—Joshua Tree—LA. And it has been a TRIP—meaning the daily checking off of bucket list items, AND the deep and thorough examination of the contents of my head / current situation.

As I’m back in NY for a few days this week (yep there’s more to come!), I wanted to take the opportunity to record a few spiritual lessons from the road. Here goes:

Even your soul project / true calling / dharma work can become a ball and chain if you let it. In fact, there’s perhaps an even stronger likelihood of it taking over your entire life than a “regular” job where you clock in and out every day, since it’s what you were “born to do.” Like breathing. And so it feels natural to do it ALL THE TIME. Getting away from my desk and onto the open road gave me some invaluable perspective on how, with so many projects bubbling (book, sweatshirt line, live events, Club SÖDA NYC, etc!) I have allowed The Numinous to become my everything this year, to the point that there was no space in my life for…ME. Let alone for it to still feel like fun. This realization hit has I found myself trying to get a WiFi signal hiking somewhere in the Sedona red rocks, and suffering extreme bouts of anxiety at the number of unread emails that were building up while I “wasted time” checking out the Grand Canyon. I mean WT actual F?

A road trip is the perfect crucible from some honest self-reflection. Since your driving buddy essentially acts as a giant mirror for all your shit—kind of like your higher self observes your ego mind running rings around itself in meditation. In my case, the Pisces was the voice of my higher self—my fretting over where to do the conference call I had scheduled in TWO DAYS TIME, my fearful monkey mind trying to stay in “control” as my external environment shifted on an hourly basis. “You don’t have to do any of it if you don’t want to,” he reminded me. “You chose all this.” And what a fucking privilege too! The key insight being, that if I chose this work, then it is absolutely in my power to un-choose any bits that are no longer working for me. Like responding to every email I get within the hour. And same goes for all of us, in ANY situation, actually. YOU get to chose where your energy goes.

I do not need any more crystals, animal totems, oracle decks, or bunches of sage. A.k.a. all the trappings of “spiritual materialism”—a term that’s come up a few times lately, and so obviously was asking to be pondered. Not to mention my go-to on every stop of our trip being to seek out the best esoteric book store in town—which began to feel a bit like bypassing the art and going straight to the museum shop. As you can imagine, my house is FULL of spiritual paraphernalia—a Ganesh here, a clutch of crystals there. And it’s all very pretty. But I can’t honestly say I feel a true connection to most of it. And what become so clear on my trip was that all that “stuff,” for me, is simply a collection of talismans for the real spiritual work (the “art,” if you like) that’s happening on the inside. What I would define as the honest self-inquiry into WHO I AM and WHAT I NEED be the most fully me—as in, the truest expression of my spiritual self. Example: a healer I worked with recently told me a could use some Malachite in my life. But as I found myself returning lump after lump of the pretty green rock to its shelf in various esoteric stores along our route, I was also coming to the realization that what I truly need to develop spiritually is less time responding to emails, and more discernment on where I’m placing my energy (see points no. 1 & 2).

My email / work addiction is way worse than my alcohol addiction. As I explained when I wrote out my sober curious story a couple of weeks ago, my path to a more sober life over the past few years has meant a lot of sober firsts. And besides a few beers at the Austin City Limits festival on the first night of our trip, this has been my first ever (well, since the age of 15 or so I guess) sober vacation. “Holiday drinking” had always been my sobriety hall-pass (“I’ll only drink on holiday”), and so stepping outside of this has allowed for plenty of opportunity to witness my alcohol cravings and where they come from. And—ta-da!—the majority of the time I find myself fantasizing about a cocktail, it’s to flick the switch from work to play mode. Or rather, numb out the constant desire to…numb out with work and email! Being off my laptop has meant being fully present with my (not always exactly carefree, vacay-ready) self—showing me the extent to which I use work / being productive and busy, as a way to NOT just be with me. Which is what vacations are all about…which is why I now see I always held booze (believing it to be the most effective off-switch from work) as a vacay staple.

Hugging trees is the best. The hippies knew it, and every time I remember to do it I’m reminded how good and grounding, how calm, regenerative, and holy it feels to put your arms around a tree and really squeeze. Cut to Joshua Tree, where I found myself doing some filming with my boo Alexandra Roxo for a VERY EXCITING PROJECT (yes, another one!!) we’re launching on your asses next month. At one point, Roxo whips off her shirt and grabs the nearest trunk—the naked part not so natural for me, but my own tree-hug just as heartfelt. Our mutual friend Madeline has got into it lately too, “and she says it’s like doing a drug deal,” Alexandra joked. “In the city, you have to look in all directions and then go for it while you’re sure no-body’s watching.” Well, I say screw that! Who cares if they see? Tree-hugger and proud. A part of me I’ve been happy to re-connect with on the road.

Scenes from The Softer Image. Behind me, there was wild dancing and kava shots…

:: THURSDAY ::
I have to make some space here for beautiful Luke Simon’s nightlife experiment The Softer Image, a substance-free “high-vibe lounge” that debuted in NYC tonight. So happy I was back in town for this!! Said vibey “highs” were supplied by the equally divine Sah D’Simone‘s alchemical elixirs and tonics, a group trance to kick the evening off by talented hypnotherapist Shauna Cummins, and THE BEST old school housey soundtrack from DJ Bryce Hackford. There were hugs, wild dancing, impromptu reiki sessions, and my clock read 11.11pm before I knew it. Held in a Chinatown loft, maybe it was the kava shots, but the feel I kept getting was 4am-loved-up-after-party—only it all ended by midnight and everybody was completely sober. Thank you, Universe (and Luke), for hearing my pleas—and delivering a new way to switch off from work and have FUN. No alcohol required!

:: FRIDAY ::
I hate the rain. But today I love the rain. Since I’m my own boss, I shall be choosing to mainly work from underneath my duvet. Which will mostly mean reading the early proofs of Guru Jagat’s new book Invincible Living, ahead of my live Q&A with her at tomorrow’s Numinous Presents event in Brooklyn. I bet she has a thing or two to say about email addiction…since Kundalini yoga was developed by Yogi Bhajan as an antidote to what he saw (way back in the sixties) as the onset of “technology sickness.” Intrigued? There a still a few spots left—click here to discover more and sign up. 

 

COMFORTABLY NUMB: JUST SAY NO TO PEOPLE-PLEASING

Used to numbing out her own needs by being hyper-helpful, Kate Atkinson has been learning how to just say “NO” to people-pleasing…

“We’re all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.” – Charles Bukowski

People have asked a couple of things of me this month. You know, the usual friend favors. It happens daily right? Do you think you could walk my dog? Can I borrow some cash until the end of the month? Hey, would you mind checking over my resume? I’ve done it myself plenty of times, and given these small acts of good will in return. Natural right? Favors and back-scratching are a part of life…except that recently, I haven’t felt so accommodating.

In fact, there have been a few requests in lately where I’ve felt like saying: “do you know what actually—no.” Except that I won’t. Instead, I will let the emails fester in my inbox until they’ve burned a hole in my psyche, turning them over and over in my head until I think I am going to explode.

That’s right, I’m a “yes” wo(man). As in, I really don’t know how to say “no.” Like a narcotic, I get high on my own hyper-helpfulness—every email a ping of serotonin: “I got this.” Except that running on a treadmill of responsiveness has become exhausting, and these days I don’t know who I’m running the race for.

My “yes” complex has also proven to be a useful numbing strategy, when I’ve got sucked so far down the vortex of helping and fixing I fail to see things as they really are—acting so quickly to keep others happy that my own, likely un-met, needs become irrelevant. There’s an old adage that resentment is like letting someone live rent free in your head. And if that’s the case, I’ve been letting out an entire Brooklyn apartment block to a bunch of freaks.

In my research about how to get better at saying “no,” here’s my number one discovery—the modern way of affirming negative goes something like this: say nothing at all. Repeat.

In this always-connected age, the pretend-I-just-didn’t-get-the-memo is what comes out trumps. Ignore it, and hopefully it will disappear. But what’s it doing to us, this radio silence? And like, why can’t we just be fucking honest with each other? What I want to know is, when was the last time you said “no” to someone, guilt free?

Try it:

“No, I am not coming to that dinner because I think the people are extremely shallow and self absorbed.”

“No, I won’t head over when your boyfriend’s out of town because you didn’t answer my call when I needed you.”

“No, I won’t work for you for free because actually—what the blimmin’ heck have you done for me lately?”

Feels great right?

This is because, as Melodie Beattie writes in The Language of Letting Go: “When we learn to say no, we stop lying. People can trust us, and we can trust ourselves. All sorts of good things happen when we start saying what we mean…(and) we don’t have to offer long explanations for our decisions.”

Rewind to a me watching a talk by the inimitable Marina Abramovic. The outspoken Russian and her pal Laurie Anderson both had a fair bit to say about living vs dying, and both were riffing on codes to live by…how we are to get the most out of our lives in the limited time that we have on earth.

The theme that came through loud and strong was the importance of marching to the beat of one’s own drum. To cut it with the people-pleasing, and find your own voice. Because, to put it simply: YOLO.

Words that have sunk in, this past month, to a backdrop of several people in my circle suddenly dropping like flies. No morbid details, rather to say that sometimes, suddenly, you are served a brutal reminder that our days in this life are limited.

So how can we stop people-pleasing, and spend our precious hours crafting a life we want?
By getting comfortable that you’re going to miss out. By getting down with the fact that it’s okay to not show up when people “need” you sometimes. By realizing that you only get one life, and that while friends and intimacy are important, not for one second are you here to live your life for someone else. By realizing that while some people might bitch you out, your real mates are going to stick around.

N-O. Say it. Say it louder! Time to stop pepping with the yes pills. And settle into the headspace that comes from realizing that less can most definitely be more.

SOBER CURIOUS: GET HIGH ON YOUR OWN SUPPLY

Join The Numinous & Guided By Biet for SOBER CURIOUS, a social experiment to discover what it means to get high on your own supply…

 

“Numbing vulnerability also dulls our experience of love, joy, belonging, creativity, and empathy. We can’t selectively numb emotion. Numb the dark and you numb the light” – Brene Brown

There’s a reason sobriety is in, and it’s because it feels amazing. Blissful, even. Within days of alcohol leaving your system, you become aware of how much more at peace you feel in your body. A little longer, and you’ll notice how even a friendly text sends a tingle of physical pleasure along your limbs. Give it a few weeks, and you may find yourself breaking into spontaneous laughter at the sheer ecstasy of being alive.

This is what it feels like to get high on your own supply. But modern drinking culture makes it easier, often way too easy, to choose booze as our go-to method for feeling good (by simply numbing the “bad”). The price? We’ve all been there.

And so SOBER CURIOUS is a social experiment from The Numinous and Guided By Biet – a new space for the sober curious to investigate just how good life can get when we re-frame our relationship with alcohol. Far from “boring” (an accusation they love to levy against non-drinkers), what if choosing sobriety meant being “high” all the time?

This might not mean total abstinence from alcohol, either. The power of positive drinking can be a beautiful thing. A sacrament, even. But an occasional cocktail to celebrate life can also be a slippery slope into the kind of habitual drinking that becomes a substitute for sustained, self-generated joy; that dulls our awareness; that only exacerbates feelings of anxiety and emptiness; and that ultimately separates us from a true sense of self.

A proposed series of meet-ups, talks, workshops, and other events, SOBER CURIOUS could be for you if:

– You drink to feel good, but it often leaves you feeling worse (and it helps to talk about it)

– You want to drink less, but think this will mean the end of your social life

– You want to drink less, but think this will mean the end of DATING

– You want to cultivate a healthier relationship with booze

– You want to attend high-end, high-vibe events where alcohol is off the menu

– You love how good life feels when you don’t drink, and want to connect with other people who’ve discovered this too

– You want to experience getting crazy high on your own supply

Sign up for the Numinous newsletter to see how the conversation unfolds.

And a caveat: SOBER CURIOUS is NOT an addiction recovery program – although it may be a stepping stone to AA for some people. If you think you might need a higher level of support to address a drinking problem that’s negatively impacting your life, or in dealing with any underlying emotional issues that may be part of this, we also have the resources to connect you with people who can help.

COMFORTABLY NUMB: AN AMNESTY ON COOL

Enough with the hiding your real self behind your artfully composed selfies. It’s time to call an amnesty on cool, says Comfortably Numb columnist Kate Atkinson.

 

I want to declare an amnesty on modern cool – realizing this is one of the most uncool statements I could write, and more than aware that several people will probably be cringing reading this. If you are, call me anti-millennial and grind away. But if you’d have hoped we’d left it behind in high school, it seems like “cool” is an extremely contagious epidemic no thanks to the digital revolution.

What exactly is cool anyway? It’s an intangible phenomena that you can’t really touch, a state of being that defines the way you walk and talk, what you wear, the music you listen to, where you’re eating, and whether something is on trend – that is, worthy of likes on Instagram. It’s visceral. You can just feel it. And when it comes to true self-expression, I have to say, the modern version is a straight-jacket.

I also want to preface this story with the fact that while, yes, I do have tattoos, by no means am I an expert on cool. I was on the debating team at school – enough said. But I have got up close and personal enough with this insidious contagion to know how it works, and the more I examine its motives, it’s beginning to feel like cool is the root of an identity crisis that’s plaguing our generation.

A girlfriend put it perfectly when I asked what it means to be cool: “it’s the desire to be accepted, the need for validation, the urge to seem radical, despite longing to fit in.” And so it goes. Oh, the dichotomy of being human. Our narcissistic tendencies AND our insecurities are fuelled by cool, especially at a time when platforms for inclusion and exclusion are at an all time high.

Are you aspiring to be an “influencer?” This breed is all about being seen and accepted, “liked” on the interweb. For them, Instagram is basically a digi-friendly version of the high school cheerleading team. Things are sold to us now by “seeding” them with cool people. Brands, celebrities, and destinations are made by their manufactured “cool factor.” What I want to know is, what happened to under-the-radar cool of yesteryear?

In his 2013 book “The Cool School”Glenn O’Brien talks about the new tastemakers. But his cool  “squad” were, put simply, incredibly creative weirdos. Homeless Jazz beatniks, bohos and roaming beat poets. Anyone who made people uncomfortable basically. Something tells me that they wouldn’t be invited to Kim and Kanye’s dinner party.

We live in an age of such style over substance that it’s incredibly hard to rage against the machine and do your own thing. In fact, a study commissioned by smartphone maker HTC late last year revealed that 52% of the approximately 1000 Brits surveyed admitted to posting images of possessions and items with an intention of making their “friends” jealous. What the hey?

Wasn’t this cool thing supposed to be people going against the grain? Rather than just sticking up photo-shopped images captioned: “I ate, I pooped, I wore Celine!” Now pardon my French, but WTF? If this isn’t numbing what’s going on in our down and dirty daily human reality, I don’t know what is.

Because cool these days is about hiding the “sad” half of your life and projecting the best bits. Ambivalence is also key – pretending not to care, even (especially) if you do. Which is basically saying to your soul that your true hopes and aspirations count for nothing unless they fit with whatever’s trending this month. And yet, as the late Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character puts it in cult classic Almost Famous: “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.”

A moment please to consider this: when the cool castles in the sky come crashing down around you and you’re left with the reality of your life, who out of your carefully curated online “tribe” will actually be there to help cushion the fall? Because what you’re really doing when you shield the real you with a glossy veneer of cool, is construct a bulletproof force field that deflects true intimacy.

So beside a total social media detox and cancelling our memberships to Soho House, how can we wake up from this aspirational bullshit existence that we’re creating for ourselves? By taking the time to get conscious to how we while away our days, and creating meaning in every interaction. By walking our talk, with our roots firmly entrenched in reality.

It sounds so obvious, but social media is the great distractor when it comes to following your own expressive intuition….and it’s there for seeking approval when you do actually create something. The old greats weren’t preoccupied with showcasing their creativity, they just did it.

It’s a mythic delusion and a safety net to communicate and earn accolades in this way – as well as a way to mask what’s actually going on. Surely giving away change on the subway is also worth a few “likes” – so why aren’t we posting on Instagram about that? “Saw a nice guy dish out change today on the subway – what a dude!” Shouldn’t he be the real “influencer?”

These stories DO come up on social media – and when they do it’s meaningful, the positive slant on modern technology. But too often, they’re engulfed in a stream of exclusivity: “I ate this, my bae wears that” – with resulting countless digital high fives and @s to follow.

I know my feed rarely delves beyond the aesthetics. And yes, fashion week happens, and friends stay in epic mansions. There are days at the beach with the clearest water ever. Again, I am not counting myself out of ANY of this malarchy, I am as partial to a well-posed selfie as the rest of us. But the lack of reality is what’s wrong with this whole picture, and it’s beginning to be all I can see.

Can’t somebody invent “Unstagram” for the days you’re feeling a bit off? For when you get dumped, you spent the last two days in tracksuit from Target, or you have an embarrassing medical problem?

Because you know what’s really cool? Being real. Not some projection of me me, me, me, I’m so fabulous, watch me eat, watch me sleep! Watch me break my arm! Look at me tagging historical references to show how tapped in and culturally aware I am.

Are we really this dumb? Is there no end to our ridiculous need for validation? This is the worst kind of cool that there is, and what’s more, this culture of exclusion is not social by any means. It’s actually scientifically proven to be making people chronically depressed.

So in a recent discussion with a friend on a rather significant life choice that involved making a potentially un-cool move, when she advised me to: “Fuck cool” – I decided I whole-heartedly concur.

NOT by Ernest Hemmingway

You are not your age,

Nor the size of clothes you wear,

You are not a weight,

Or the color of your hair.

You are not your name,

Or the dimples in your cheeks,

You are all the books you read,

And all the words you speak,

You are your croaky morning voice,

And the smiles you try to hide,

You’re the sweetness in your laughter,

And every tear you’ve cried,

You’re the songs you sing so loudly,

When you know you’re all alone,

You’re the places that you’ve been to,

And the one that you call home,

You’re the things that you believe in,

And the people that you love,

You’re the photos in your bedroom,

And the future you dream of,

You’re made of so much beauty,

But it seems that you forgot,

When you decided that you were defined,

By all the things you’re not.

COMFORTABLY NUMB: WHY ARE WE ALL AFRAID TO FEEL?

Dry January opened my eyes to how I’ve been comfortably numb, so this year I’m committing to feeling it and healing it, says Kate Atkinson.

‘Hello, is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me.” Ringing an opiate bell in your psyche? If you’re a borderline millennial like me, you’re shamefully more likely to recall the Scissor Sisters version before the much more pleasant, sedate and, well, numbing, Pink Floyd original of the track “Comfortably Numb.”

But this song bears a special significance in my world right now. Having completed my first ever dry January I, like I suspect many Instagramming, Malbec-drinking, Bumble-ing, Happn-ing global citizens, have realized to what extent I’ve been moving through my life in a similarly cozy but numbed-out state.

The Oxford Dictionary defines “numb” as depriving us of the power of sensation. So to do so in any capacity means more or less living and feeling at a fraction of our capabilities. Or in Numi speak: “vibing at a lower frequency.” By CHOICE. How depressing is that?

And it’s not just the booze. NYC might be a cultural smorgasbord, but it also offers ready access to all the compulsions that can take you down a rabbit hole of distraction and, eventually, longing.

Rather than dealing with our shit, we drink. Opposed to being alone, we over engage on social media (no wonder “Digital Addiction” has become an actual “thing”). Others get high on the rush of success and pepped on promotion. There’s addiction to substances, of course – legal medications, essential oils, cocaine. Addiction to online dating.  Addiction to people. Addiction to pizza. Addiction to tattoos. Addiction to solitude. Addiction to sex.

The list is endless, and the more you get to thinking about it, the more it feels like anything can become an obsession when you’d rather numb-out than feel…and deal. Then there’s the replacement of one addiction with another. Partying for yoga. Work for a relationship…and so it goes.

Without booze to cloud this revelation, I’ve only become more aware of back-to-back evenings of time wasting on Facebook; the getting obliterated after a bad day at work; the 18 nights a month I eat pizza. And many more obsessions I don’t care to list in a public forum.

And I’ve decided this is no way to live. Along with this newfound awareness, I’ve realized how sick I am of the “terrifying Tuesdays,” the hours spent staring at my phone, of saying I’ll do things I never do, and spending my precious hours on mind numbing, opposed to mind-expanding activities.

So what’s the alternative? Bottom line is it’s tough to to feel the full spectrum of your emotions. It is hard to stay at home and sit with your loneliness, when grappling with an overwhelming desire to put it all behind you, just for one night.

Personally, that social itch and need to be surrounded by others is a compulsive distraction, and when I obey it and ignore my calmer (and undoubtedly more vulnerable) intuition, generally the more disasters head my way. The thing with numbing is it becomes a cycle. Drink too much. Make bad dating decisions. Attack your liver again with Advil. Waste $40 on breakfast. And so it goes.

With this in mind, I’m accepting you have to “feel it to heal it” – which means, for now at least, I am committing to a time of being UN-NUMB. And what this will entail exactly I don’t know, since I’ve been living comfortably numb for well over a decade.

Nonetheless, I want to commit to it this year. I have no idea what I’m doing – and already I’m finding myself interested in activities I would have laughed at this time last year. So welcome to my blank canvas of withdrawal…which right now seems to be manifesting into this column.

Signing off until next time, with one of my favorite quotes from Anais Ninn:

“You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book…or you take a trip…and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating.

The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death.

Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death. Some never awaken.”