ANDRE J ON SELF-EXPRESSION AS A SELF-LOVE PRACTICE

A-gender trendsetter and spiritual mentor Andre J shares how a lifetime of fearless self-expression has been the ultimate self-love practice …

I was raised by a single parent in the Projects of Newark, New Jersey. Our building was a shambles and the hallways had a foul odor, but the interior of my apartment was always spotless. I was a late baby, my mother was in her forties when she had me, so I was truly conceived out of love. However, I’m also an incest survivor, molested repeatedly by my older male cousin for years.

Raised by my mother I had feminine tendencies, and growing up I was called a fag and a sissy. When you live in the Projects, it’s easy to become engulfed by this air of unhappiness. People are always nipping and pulling things apart, because unhappiness only breeds more unhappiness, or hopelessness. But that was not my story.

I didn’t see people the way that they saw me. I only saw them through the eyes of love, because that’s what I received at home, despite the abuse I suffered from my cousin.

It was aged around 10 that I remember catching sight of my reflection in the bathroom mirror, and the words just fell from my mouth, effortlessly: ‘Andre, I love you.’ In that moment that I understood the importance of loving myself.

It was almost like the Universe was saying to me, ‘Baby, you have a choice. Either you will be an evil man, probably a pedophile yourself, a repeat offender. Or you are going to find an inner peace within yourself, and you are going to take this journey, and you are going to live your best life.”

I always had great style, even as a kid. My first job was in corporate America, and I would wear a twill blazer that fit really well, with high-waisted pants and snakeskin shoes. An ascot around my neck. But it was working at Patricia Field, in sales and then as the PR director, that Andre J came about, with the facial hair and the women’s garments.

It’s what the Native Americans call “two spirits,” to identify beings that embody a balance of masculine and feminine. It’s only Western culture that tells us that these things are taboo, that gives us these labels and names.

There was one point in my life where there was no one, in New York City or in the world, who actually looked like me. I had created a whole new idea of beauty. The British stylist Joe McKenna saw me and put me in V magazine. Then I was cast by Bruce Weber for the cover of French Vogue.

But I wasn’t trying to get on the cover of a magazine. Dressing the way I do is truly just about me expressing myself. And what I have found, is that to stick out like a sore thumb no matter where you are, walking down the street, or taking the subway to the airport, takes courage. It takes strength, it takes tenacity, and it really takes self-love.

You don’t really notice how many people are on the street, until all eyes are on you, yelling at you from a taxi cab, coming at you from every angle. ‘The fuck?’ ‘Oh my God.’ ‘Faggot.’ ‘Sissy.’ ‘Your father must hate you.’ ‘You must have disappointed your mother.’

To still walk with dignity, peace, and courage, and kindness—instead of building thick skin, it actually really softened me, because it taught me how to love others. It was because I was so happy and so free, that BS coming from some strangers didn’t matter.

And I began to realize, not only are you not free, you’re a hater, and I feel like I really just need to give you a hug! I saw that the fear was not of me, it was of whatever was going on within themselves. As I learned in the projects, if someone is unhappy, they want you to be unhappy too.

My journey has led to me working with LGBTQ youth, who are not getting acceptance from their families. A lot of them cannot look at themselves in the mirror. When they do, often they will sob, to the point where they have no control. And if there are eight kids in the room, and that one child is crying, we rise and we console this individual, and build a community around them. Because schools are not teaching how to build community.

To see everyone console this young lady or this gentleman who is going through this emotional imbalance, not only is it teaching them how to share their pain in community, but it is also teaching them how to feel empathy for someone else. An understanding of what compassion is.

My work is to have them look in the mirror, and actually acknowledge themselves for the first time as an individual, as an adult, as a person taking responsibility for their own life. To say to them, ‘Too many times we seek love outside of ourselves, and well guess what. If your parent hasn’t told you or if you haven’t heard it from anybody else, today you are going to give love to yourself.”

Most of them are closed, and frigid. The only emotion they have is anger. Anger, anger, anger. And I want these kids to understand that the anger is not going to get you anywhere. The anger is only going to kill you. That you cannot receive anything if you are closed. I want for them to understand that they can feel love.

For me, this work is helping to transmute all the name calling, and the incest from my past. It is dissolving. I have been able to show these kids that I am as loving as I am, BECAUSE I know what it feels like to be hurt. To be ridiculed, and to be truly counted out. To be disregarded, as if you are nothing. And that when you learn how to shift it, it is possible to realize that this has never been about me. This has been about what everybody else is going through.

The message I am passing on to them, is that my job is to focus on my journey. That my job is to focus on my path, and to focus on what my purpose is. And that not only do I need to focus on it, I need to live it. And not only do I need to live it, I need exude it from every crack and crevice of who Andre J is. I choose to give this service back to those that do not know. And I sleep very well at night.

Andre J will be speaking as part of a Numinous panel discussion on “Inner vs. Outer Beauty” at Soho House NY on December 4 2017 (members only, 7pm). Discover more about Andre and his work @andrejworldwide

COSMIC ANATOMY: ASTROLOGY FOR SELF-HEALING

With her new book, Your Body and the Stars, astrologer Rebecca Gordon has collaborated with Stephanie Marango MD to create a total guide for how to use astrology for self-healing…Images: Taylor Allen

We caught up with Rebecca to get the inside scoop on astrology for self-healing, and to learn how astrology is intimately related to your body. PLUS scroll down to do a cosmic body-scan by sign, and learn what practices and techniques can help you achieve optimal health and wellbeing…

The Numinous: What’s the first thing to know about astrology for self-healing?
Rebecca Gordon: As well as your personality characteristics, your chart speaks volumes about your body and soul disposition. This is because each Sign of the zodiac has rulership over a region of your body, and so the signs you are born under will tell a story of your physical strengths and susceptibilities.

In ancient times, medicine and astrology were practiced in concert together—and in fact, in most Universities of the middle ages and Renaissances, and in the Hippocratic school of Medicine, a physician would not be allowed to practice medicine without a prior knowledge of astrology.

TN: And how is your new book designed to be used?
RG: First of all, remember that each sign of the zodiac lives within you—since every sign is somewhere in your chart, and each sign is also represented in one part of your body. The condition of that region of your body can tell a lot about your character and life lessons at any given moment.

As such, the book is designed to give you deep insight into your emotions, mind and spirit through the lens of your body. You can strengthen your life force by simply looking up your Sun sign, learning about the lessons and doing the exercises. You can also do this for your Moon and rising signs.

But let’s say you have this reoccurring low back pain. Then you can turn to the chapter on Libra, and use it to assess where you’re at. On a more emotional level, if you have a big speech to give and you are mortified about public speaking I’d recommend focusing on Leo practices, and incorporating them into your life for at least a month prior—to strengthen a heartfelt sense of self-expression.

The recommended practices are meant to ‘tonify’ each sign and they will range from breath work, to physical exercises, Yoga poses, affirmations, and lifestyle routines.

TN: How have you used astrology for self-healing yourself?
RG: Whenever I feel a blockage in my body such as sinus infection or neck pain, I immediately ask myself ‘what else could this mean?’ Asking the questions related to the sign ruling these areas (Aries and Taurus) I always learn so much about myself, and often when any internal imbalances are addressed, my physical symptoms will also clear up. Not always in one day, and I am a huge fan of doing one practice for a 40-day period, the time frame required to carve new neural pathways.

TN: Besides your Sun and rising signs, which other planets can give clues to your overall health?
RG: Sometimes our Saturn sign will show where there can be tightness or blockages. It shows where there are deeper lessons to learn on the emotional, psychological and physical plane. The Jupiter sign can often show where there may be inflammation or an over-extended region of the body.

But every planet has its say. In relationship to overall health, I see the natal chart as a holistic map of the spirit, psyche and physical body. It’s really all the same thing, as the physical body is merely an interpretation of the spirit body.

Below, Rebecca shares a brief insight into the health issues commonly faced by each sign, as well tip for how to use astrology for self-healing. As well as your Sun and rising, read all signs so you can do a general body scan, and find much more explicit descriptions in the book! Get your copy here.

ARIES
Aries rules over the head and has a reputation for being headstrong in life. When the Aries in you is out of balance, you can often feel symptoms like blocked or runny sinus’s or headaches.

Tip for healing: Say “I am X” aloud, finishing with a quality you aspire to—i.e.: “I am focused and efficient.”

TAURUS
When the Taurus in you is out of balance, it can show up as neck tension, the urge to crack your neck often, sore throat, unsteady voice or thyroid imbalance.

Tips for healing: Try daily neck circles (refer to book for details), and making the seed sound Ham (say “h-a-r-m”) which will work to balance the throat chakra.

GEMINI
Gemini serves as a messenger of the illuminated mind. A scattered mind, fear of expressing yourself, or maybe there is arm and hand pain are signals that the Gemini in you is out of balance.

Tips for healing: Try making Uttarabodhi Mudra (directions in book), and figure-8 circles using hands and extending fingers.

CANCER
The chest is the body part ruled by Cancer so imbalances here can show up in the form of cysts, fibroids, slumped chest, excess phlegm or emotional eating.

Tip for healing: Three-part breath. Count a six-second slow inhale through the nose; hold the breath inside the low belly for another six seconds; then slowly exhale through the nose for six seconds. Repeat daily for 11 minutes.

LEO
Imbalance in Leo can show in the form of heart problems, tightness or weakness in the upper back.

Tip for healing: Sphinx pose and Camel pose can help you to open to the light of your heart (directions in book). Do these on a daily basis for at least a few weeks and note the difference in your feeling of openness.

VIRGO
When Virgo’s quest for purity is either absent or goes overboard, then the body can show symptoms like stomach ulcers, poor digestion, eating disorders, obsessive behavior and a weak core.

Tips for Healing: Forearm plank for core strength; Breath of Fire (see book) for purification.

LIBRA
When the Libra in you is out of balance, it can show as low back or kidney pain, limited range of motion or extreme S shaped posture.

Tips for healing: Sa Ta Na Ma mantra and finger Mudra (details in book).

SCORPIO
When the Scorpio in you is out of balance, this can show up as a urinary tract infection, menstrual irregularity, IBS, or a weak pelvic floor.

Tips for healing: Dance, swim, stand under a waterfall, declutter and throw things away; Cat & Cow pose with deep ujjayi breath.

SAGITTARIUS
When Sagittarius has fallen out of balance, this can often show up as tight hips, turned out hips, liver problems and a tendency to over-indulge in food and drink.

Tips for healing: Chair pose, Pigeon pose, hip circles.

CAPRICORN
Weak knees, tight knees, knee pain or excess fluid around knees can be a sign of a Capricorn kind of imbalance within.

Tips for healing: Saturn finger meditation, Warrior Two pose (descriptions in book).

AQUARIUS
When the Aquarius within you is out of balance, it may result in weak ankles, often sprained ankles, and stiffness and cracking around the ankles.

Tips for healing: Tree pose to refine and strengthen your stance.

PISCES
Hypermobile or stiff feet, growths like warts or bunions, inflammation of the feet or stubbed toes can often occur to signal an imbalance with Pisces.

Tips for healing: Try foot massage / reflexology, and either foot stomping or simply walking barefoot on the earth.

Rebecca Gordon is the resident astrologer for Harper’s Bazaar. Discover more about her Astrology School and book a reading here, and follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Your Body and the Stars: The Zodiac As Your Wellness Guide is out now.

 

MEDITATION ARTIST: AN INTERVIEW WITH BIET SIMKIN

The girl making meditation the new nightlife, Biet Simkin shares her spiritual practices and how her higher self embraces the shocks of life with Kiran Gill

Artist: Viki Forshee

The Numinous: You’ve experienced a lot of loss in your life, including the death of your parents and daughter, and you describe these events as shocks that have connected you to your higher self. How have these shocks aided you in your spiritual journey? What advice would you offer someone going through a similar experience?
Biet Simkin:
Life is beautiful, but it wasn’t created to be a whole experience. It was broken into millions of shattered parts for our exploration. This is why we sometimes see the beauty in the shattered glass, and at other times the grief and rage. My advice for anyone at any time is to listen, listen to that inner voice and stay close to it. “This too shall pass,” is what they say. And eventually it does, and you will realize it was all worth it. In my life I actually remember experiencing ecstasy around these shocks. My higher self does not want a boring life. Only my mechanics or what some people call “ego” wants it all to be easy. My soul is interested in challenge and loss. My soul is interested in heartache and fear. Get interested in what is breaking you, look closely, it is in the center of these things that your grace can be found.

TN: Your father was a shaman/psychotherapist from Russia. How did his work and beliefs influence you as a child? In your present work, how do your father’s beliefs influence you?
BS: As a child, his influence aided me in being lazy, poetic and curious. He always insisted that I do whatever I want. Being the sad and confused child that I was, having just lost my mother, I didn’t want to do much but sit around, make art, eat snacks and cry sometimes. Eventually, this lack of structure led to rock and roll, drug use, world travel and many lovers. And finally, his passing eight years ago led to a complete shift in being, rendering me a most disciplined and focused entrepreneur in a healthy relationship, with a healthy diet, sober life and perpetual tangos with joy. I am his daughter; I continue his legacy of mixing fun with art and spirituality. The real icing on the cake of his legacy was laughter, and I carry that on.

TN: You have previously described yourself as having a “strong sensual energy.” How have you cultivated this part of your identity in a society that frequently represses and condemns female sexuality?
BS: I do not pay attention to that stuff and consider myself rather masculine, actually. I never really bought into the whole gender thing, it seems kind of silly to me. There are so many feminine men and masculine women….what is gender anyway? I am sexual because sex energy is the highest energy we have on Earth. It is love energy and it is the force with which we create. I consider myself a creator, and to me that is about the sexiest thing a person can remind themselves to be. I think all people want to create, so when they see someone doing it they get excited!

Artist: Frej Hedenberg

TN: You advocate for a more emotional meditative experience that encompasses beauty and gratitude. Why is that? How does this differ from more traditional meditative practices?
BS: My work is more than that of just a meditation teacher. I am an artist who realized that utilizing meditation and space (artistic space or otherwise) could transmute the state of a human being, so the next obvious action was getting human beings into beautiful spaces where I could assist them in transmuting their state! Everything about my work differs from anything else out there because it is an experience created from my inner world. Just like a Kubrick film is different from a Spielberg film. In my film, my work is about exploring the emotional center in a super intellectual way. I like to marry these two, and I do it well. People often comment in their testimonials that there is wit in my work. I believe that part of what makes my meditation experiences so emotional is that I laugh a lot and don’t take life too seriously.

TN: Likewise, you speak of cultivating “divided attention” throughout your day. What is “divided attention” and how does one master it?
BS: Divided attention simply means placing your attention on many things at the same time. So, one would experience the music in the room, their hand on the tea, the tea itself, and perhaps the people around them, and do that all at the same time. This helps slow down time. As it is a difficult practice, it is the ultimate practice. It’s easiest learned in a group or from a teacher, but it must be done out in the world.

TN: What are some of your greatest tools in your spiritual tool kit? Do you have a daily spiritual practice/ritual? What is it?
BS: Listen to your inner voice. It is telling you what to do and you do not listen. When you listen, you will hear it give you clear direction. My daily practice is obedience to this voice. Come hell or high water I will pursue what serves this voice within me. This means I do all the things you would imagine someone does who guards their higher state: I meditate daily, I work out, I pray, I journal, I see friends, I help people, I laugh a lot, I make love, I eat sustainable healthy food, I sleep well…It sounds kind of boring I guess, but it actually sheer ecstasy! Also, I practice gratitude as a way of “being” not “doing.” It is in being in a state of gratitude all day that everything I experience gets transmuted into food for my higher self.

To learn more about Biet and her work visit BietSimkin.com, and follower her on Instagram @guidedbybiet. Biet will be one of the featured instructors at SoulLOVEFest in September.

MY MYSTICAL LIFE: WORKING WITH THE HIEROPHANT, AND MY FAVE NEW SMOOTHIE

Dream diaries, a past life regression, and how the Hierophant became my favorite new guide…

My new smoothie + current desk buddies: Chalcopyrite (Peacock Ore) and Pyrite

:: MONDAY ::
New week, favorite new smoothie (which is basically a high-vibe rip-off of the Truth Chakra smoothie at the Jivemuktea cafe – as in there’s no agave and they also use soy milk). Recipe (makes enough for 2):

1.5 cups home made hemp milk (here’s a post with my recipe)
1 cup filtered water
1/2 a frozen banana
2 tbsp almond butter (I use the Wholefoods fresh churned stuff)
1 scoop Sun Warrior Vanilla vegan protein powder
1 tsp psyllium husk
2 tsp ground flax seeds
Half a pack of frozen blueberries
An ice cube or two

OMFG

:: TUESDAY ::
With the Moon in dreamy Pisces, what better day for my friend Aly to tell me I really need to get into a dream diary practice – i.e. write down whatever I can remember from my dreams the minute I wake up. “But my dreams just aren’t that vivd,” I told her – to which she replied: “well don’t judge them!” And she’s so right. The way to get your dreams to show you more, is to pay more attention to them – by keeping a dream diary, for example. Aly’s been doing it for years, and she’s received whole book-loads of info about how the Universe works. You can read some of her dream wisdom on her new website.

:: WEDNESDAY ::
Moon in Pisces also meant perfect timing for my first past life regression, since Pisces rules our dreams and inner visions. I’d booked in with Morgan Yakus at Maha Rose (where they were also brewing the most incredible ginger, rose petal and nettle tea), who uses hypnosis to access past life information stored in the subconscious. Once we got down there, I retrieved some really good stuff – mainly about my mission and my karma in this lifetime. And yes I saw some past lives too – like being a kinda bohemian prophet in California in the 1960s, and meeting my husband for the first time in a Medieval court – where he literally appeared as a “knight in shining armor.” Hmmm. Sometimes in a trance state, it’s hard to say where cosmic consciousness ends and romantic fantasy begins…!

:: THURSDAY ::
I sent this email:

Hey Danielle – I just received my Starchild Tarot Akashic deck, thank you SO MUCH!!

I think “my” deck has finally found me. I am head over heals about these cards…(+ the fact it’s the 3rd time the Akashic Records have entered my field this week)

So of course I smudged them and pulled a card right way. Question: What will my book bring to this planet? What I am creating?

Only…The Hierophant!!

Thanks again for your beautiful dharma Danielle xxxx

:: FRIDAY ::
Goal for the weekend – work out how to get an “8-hour massage,” which my friend Deborah was telling me about over tea this week. Apparently, this was a treatment enjoyed by the Egyptian pharaohs – designed to bring about a kind of trace state, and access psychic information from deep, deep within the body tissue. “It’s totally doable, you just need to switch out the therapist every two hours,” said Deborah. Unless you’re Mariah Carey that is – who paid her masseuse $1500 for the treatment back in 2012!

MY MYSTICAL WEEK: IN SEARCH OF THE PLEASURE PRINCIPLE

In which I get prescribed a 30-day “self-pleasure diet”…

Confession. There has been a sad lack of the above (laughter) in my life lately, and this is a shout out, please, for some inspiration when it comes to the pleasure principle. Don’t get me wrong, life is pretty freaking amazing right now. I have somehow made manifest a career that reflects all the things I care about, and allows me total creative expression on a daily basis. I’m writing a book. I just launched the most incredible project with an iconic London department store, and moved into a super-cool new apartment in NYC. I’m in a loving relationship, I have a beautiful new nephew (okay thank you for indulging me in a much-needed gratitude list).

But still, and it’s written into very the DNA of entrepreneurship, life has been feeling very much all-work-and-no-play lately (I haven’t, actually, taken a day off this year I don’t think). And as was discussed with my friend Lucy in London last week, co-creator of spirituality un-conference Higher Selfie, what’s the point of dedicating yourself to your passion and your purpose, if your passion and your purpose then turns around and tries to make you its bitch?

The subject came up when I went to see Sandra Lanshin Chiu for acupuncture last night. She said she could tell from the way my tissue was “clinging” to my bones how hard I’ve been working, and how little room for pleasure, laughter, and FUN, this had left. “You’re all in your masculine energy, and that’s great for getting stuff done. But you’re a woman and you have a yin body, you need to create some space for flow,” she explained (kind of nailing it). Okay so her prescription? “A 30-day self-pleasure diet.”

As in, exactly what you think! Whether or not I decide to take up the challenge and schedule a 20-minute masturbation break into my daily routine isn’t something I’m gonna discuss here, but I will say this is by no means the first time the conversation has come up lately. According to Sandra, “self-pleasure is one of the jewels in a woman’s self-care toolbox.” Another friend in London is writing a book on the topic, while a self-administered orgasm had been suggested to somebody else I spoke to recently as a “grounding” practice.

But yeah, any other suggestions for bringing the joy balance back into my life would also be very welcome. In the meantime, you will mainly find me trying to carve out some good old fashion vacay days and keeping busy with my gratitude practice.

Or maybe the answer is meditation? This week I’m also giving a shout out to Numinous contributor Ellie Burrows, who opened her dedicated meditation studio, MNDFL, in Manhattan last night. Okay, wow, we first chatted about this project in the spring (I remember cos it was the first day she’d worn open-toe shoes this year), and six short months later, enter a beautiful, chic and cosy space in the Village offering a “space to breathe” seven days a week. (Although how much space to breathe this project will allow Ellie while it gets up and running remains to be seen – see above! And enter my acupuncturist’s other suggestion – “a slow-entrepreneurship movement.”)

Most classes are 30-45 minutes, with a few juicy two-hour workshops thrown in (like the one on Love & Justice next Thursday) – and are categorized along the themes in the image below. Read the MNDFL manifesto and check out the full class schedule here. Ellie Burrows, we love you!