11// What Is The Future of Masculinity?: As we grappled with how to dismantle patriarchal oppression, trans man and diversity and inclusion activist, Aaron Rose, shared his vision for the future of masculinity …
When Fundamentalist threats of Hell left her wanting more, Kate Forristall turned to Now Age practices. But how to explain your spiritual awakening to your religious family? Kate shares her top tips for making the holidays less hellish …
Christmas 2017. Reaching for a beautifully wrapped present (the gene I didn’t get, sigh), I notice my sister Sally give our mother a nervous glance. Given my family’s tradition of one-at-a-time unwrapping, there’s no hiding what’s inside, but I have to smile as I open my package and see an intricately carved wooden box … with a pentagram on top.
I steal a glimpse at Sally’s face and feel her telepathically communicating with me in a desperate Tim Gunn voice, “MAKE IT WORK!” I lift the new repository for my tarot deck (pentagram covered by my palm) and wave it quickly, “A wooden box!”
“Who’s next?!” Sally chirps, as we simultaneously head into the kitchen to get coffee and put my gift away. When it comes to the spirituality we now embrace, we’ve decided pick our battles.
Finding a faith to set me free … At the age of 15, I began attending a church youth group known more for fun and community than hard line theology. Leaders preached the Gospel, but it was as simple as the original version (appropriate for humans without a pre-frontal cortex). The Jesus People movement had paved the way for a faith that was about loving God and loving each other, and I was happy to go along for the ride.
Unfortunately I got hijacked on the way.
In college I met Christians who could recite whole passages of the Bible and never seemed to struggle to obey all the rules the way that I did. They let me know that I wasn’t doing it right and by the time I graduated, the shame I felt over my failings was enough to send me right into the arms of Fundamentalism.
There were no sermons about the messiness of life, no Young Adult Group talks about how hard it was to be in your 20s. Floundering was considered moral failure and the threat of Hell was always looming. My goal became security, for myself, and eventually, my growing family, and I lost the delight and wildness of the God I’d met as a teenager.
In other words, I can help you explain things to your conservative mother, because I’ve been her. But while I forgot the kindness of the Divine, it did not forget me, and over the past 20 years I’ve managed to unload the toxic institutional religion that held me captive, while finding a faith that set me free.
Such faith means changed opinions about almost everything in life – politics, sexuality, social justice, capitalism, feminism – topics my family has often been less than thrilled that I brought up at the Thanksgiving table. But they were small potatoes compared to announcing I’d fully embraced New Age practices that we once believed were nothing short of demonic.
The new practices of my faith—meditation, spiritual direction, energy healing, multiple sacred texts, astrology, body work, and tarot—came from a period of darkness and spiritual searching, a time when I lost the ability to hear God and believed I’d been abandoned.
Now I can see that I was never alone, that my unknowing was, in fact the gift that pushed me through the Life-Death-Life cycle and into a belief that now sees the Divinity of all things.
So as you prepare for Thanksgiving and the inevitable questions about why your life looks different than it used to, here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way …
1// “Preach … at all times. When necessary, use words.” This advice from St. Francis is the best wisdom I’ve ever found for sharing experiences that have changed my life. If your example is one of serenity, service, love and hope, you’ll have no better evidence for the truth of the New Age spirituality you’ve embraced.
2// The Bible is your friend. Really. I know, right? Whether it’s the Wise Men who used the stars to find Jesus, God noting the wheel of the Zodiac when conversing with Job, or Jesus feeling the energy leave his body when a hemorrhaging woman touched him, the Bible has an awful lot of examples of “New Age” faith. The word meditate is mentioned 20 times and if you do a Google search you’ll even find phrases like “centering prayer” from many corners of traditional Christianity.
3// Because science. Meditation’s benefits are now proven by so much data that if your loved one can’t handle it, they probably believe in a six-day creation. Measurable energy fields of everything from the flowers in your garden to the heart in your body have uncovered a universe way weirder than science fiction. Neuroscience has revealed that our brains are supercomputers capable of affecting objects miles away (hello, pray much?) If none of that lands, find an empty room, light a candle … and meditate. At least you’ll feel better.
4// Try not to brace for impact. This phrase has carried my family through many an anticipated rough situation. Neural communication studies show how much we convey before we ever say a word and I can tell you from experience that if you are telepathically shrieking, “I fucking dare you to make fun of my Tarot practice,” someone is going to comply. Moments like these are when the rubber meets the road. The Buddhist practice of accepting suffering while trusting its transitory nature has completely changed my life.
5// Baby steps. I’ve always been an evangelist. Whether it was Jesus or toasted pecans in chocolate chip cookies, if I love something, I can’t wait to tell everyone I know. But when asking people to expand beyond a fear-based bias, I’ve learned that you need to move like an acrophobe in a skyscraper – one floor at a time. My mother now knows that I own a tarot deck. We’ve discussed the astrology of the moment on multiple occasions, and for her birthday, I gave her a book about manifestation. But it’s been seven years since I began this journey and my goal isn’t conversion. It’s that she too would find the path of greatest freedom for her life, no matter what it looks like.
My resistance to the New Age movement wasn’t because I hated everyone outside my church. It was because I was terrified that it could destroy people I loved. Those who cling to fundamentalism are inordinately motivated by dread – circling the wagons to protect a God they can’t imagine being bigger than their sanctuary. Considering how vast and unknowable the Divine is, that’s a pretty sad perspective and I’ve given my kids unlimited permission to make fun of me forever for all the dumb stuff I did that was driven by fear.
Ironically, the greatest thing my New Age practices have taught me is how to deal with the fear I meet in this life. “If I go to the depths of the sea, You are there,” says the Psalmist to God, an understanding that no circumstance can separate us from Them—including, no matter how scary it is, spending the holidays with your family.
Want to have Divine on speed dial? In her latest Holy F*ck column, Alexandra Roxo reveals that experiencing ecstasy is the key to strengthening our channel …
People have been seeking ecstasy for a long time. Whether it’s through herbs and psychoactive and psychedelic substances, or through ritual, prayer, meditation, fasting, sleep deprivation, pain, sex, and extreme temperature baths, most cultures have rituals and celebrations that invoke deeply ecstatic states.
From Greek rituals involving mind-altering substances, to the Sufis’ dance into ecstatic bliss, and the tantrikas’ journey into oceans of “samadhi” (ecstatic union with God/Goddess), religious texts usually speak of this search. In Norse mythology, the berserkers would enter into an altered state to be able to fight. And even animals have sought out herbs and fermentation that brought about some sort of consciousness shift.
These exercises can allll produce states of BLISS that allow the participant to commune with “God” or the Divine. And, well, who wouldn’t want that?
I’ll tell you who! A culture that DOES NOT want its people to be empowered to know the Divine on our own terms. That would prefer us to have to pay into the Divine via tithing (offerings), and bow to the leaders of a church. This being one of the epic reasons WHY ecstatic states became stigmatized in the U.S., specifically, and in the Western world in general.
Personally, I blame the Puritans for labelling seeking ecstatic states as scary, transgressive, or somehow shameful. If people, and women especially, had the Goddess on speed dial, than what would they need the church for?!! SO, they got the ax. Or rather, in the case of the Witch trials, when women would dance themselves into states of ecstasy, the noose.
What exactly is an “ecstatic” experience? In my terms, it is an experience that overrides the default mindset, the internal and external conditioning, and allows for a mind/body/spirit connection that transcends the normal, the typical, and the everyday.
This can result in waves of bliss, with senses ablaze and alive, heart open to a massive flow of love. Where the normal perception and experience of reality is transcended and expanded into a massively blissful, joyful, and loving one that shakes you at the core.
I’ve been exploring this for many years. At age 12, I was attempting to speak in tongues and faint on the floor at Baptist Church camp. And I experienced my first waves of sexual ecstasy around the same time. Since then, I’ve experimented with meditation, prayer, fasting, ritual, dance, song, pain, sex, and psychedelics. Each produces a different type of ecstasy.
Now, I take other people on journeys in my work through ecstatic states that can reframe and contextualize trauma, release stored emotions, and promote a deeper connection to self. Within a safe space, this process of finding ecstatic states can be very, very healing.
A dating app for ecstasy? I am drawn like a fly on honey to people who know and experience ecstatic states withoutdrugs.
A few years ago, I met two men who had participated in the Sundance ceremony, which involved piercings on the chest, and days of dancing and fasting. To me, these were the HOTTEST men alive! “Um, you spent multiple days with flesh wounds on your chest while fasting and dancing and singing, in the name of uniting with Divine energy and helping save the Earth?! Sign me up!!!”
There is nothing sexier to me than someone who sees and understands the value of finding ecstatic states on the regular without having to pop a pill. Someone so adept at meditation that turning their body to light is NBD. If there was a dating app for this category of human, it would make my life a lot easier!
It’s not Burner vibes. It’s not adventures with psychedelics. I’m talking about people with a thirst for ecstasy that comes from wanting to know the Divine. Wanting to know love. From a remembrance of a state that your soul knows, and longs for.
Anybody else with me on this one?
5 paths towards ecstasy for the Modern Spiritual Human **A disclaimer: When you enter into ecstasy, you are opening yourself up massively, so you want to allow for this shift in your reality, perception, and internal state to happen in a safe setting. If you enter into an ecstatic state in a train station for instance, you could get taken away to a mental institution. So set and setting are key! You want be in a safe space. Surrounded by people you trust. Or alone. Remember you are opening ALL the channels and you want to do this with care. Especially if you are new to it.
1// Start simply. If you want to start safely, you can explore ecstatic states through something simple like chanting or ecstatic dance. Many cities have “Ecstatic Dance” communities and classes. Places with DJs and it’s sober and you just shake it out.
If you’re a yogi, chanting mantras in Kirtan could produce these states. You can seek a Bhakti yoga practice. Many cultures and religions have their own styles of song, and some may take you into ecstasy. Some not. When I used to go to the Agape Church in LA, their gospel choir had me in tears and I sang and danced til I lost myself.
2// Explore your blocks. Because it can take years to release your default programming and open to the ecstasy available through song and dance, many people reach for a psychedelic or drug—because it offers a quick way in! But that also means it may have the most emotional, spiritual, and physical hangover, since you are literally stretching into an expanded state very quickly, flooding your body, and then snapping out fast.
You can micro dose different plant medicines if you want to go slowly. But beware; before you are granted ecstasy, you will likely first be shown any blocks you have to ecstasy! If you take MDMA, for instance, you may be opened quickly, but will likely be asked to deal with some spiritual and mystical pain the day after from that flood of chemicals and expansion, and the ensuing lack thereof.
3// Ease in with meditation. It may take years before you get to ecstasy this way, but it will happen. Trust me! I’ve been meditating for 15 years and it happens often now. I feel like I am being made love to by an invisible force (consensual of course!) and it is amazing.
If you want to reach ecstatic states in meditation and not wait 10 years, you can try White Tantra or a Vipassana retreat. Both are in-depth practices and you’re likely to access ecstasy faster. But no guarantees of course!
4// Get it on (consciously). If you establish trust, a deep connection, and emotional and physical safety, you can achieve insane ecstatic states with sex. Again though, if you open too fast, without a safe container and the spiritual and emotional components, you will suffer the repercussions. Chances are, you will feel depressed, anxious and shitty for days after. Perhaps you will feel guilt and shame as well.
Conscious BDSM is an amazing way into ecstasy in a safe space. Set the intention to open to the Divine before you begin. Japanese rope bondage and suspension work in particular has taken me to great heights of ecstasy, and I led two retreats last year that took women into that space for transcendence, ecstasy, and healing.
Pain can be a tried and true portal to ecstasy. Again, within a safe container, an intense consensual pain session with spanking or flogging or whipping or caning can produce deep and ecstatic bliss. Some religious sects also used pain as a portal to divine and ecstatic bliss. Light spankings are a safe place to start!
You can also start a self-pleasure practice that opens you to ecstasy. It will take time. Practice. A safe space so you can let go and scream and cry and release. At dinner the other night with my two besties, I was talking about my magical rose quartz wand and the orgasmic bliss I have with it, and their jaws dropped. It’s profound!
5// Remember that integration is KEY. Integration means the time you take in between practices to process, rest, release, and allow your system to recalibrate. If you mix drugs and sex and pain and all of it you may go into wild ecstasy, but have a “WTF did I just do?!” the next day, feeling like you got hit by a train.
Unless you have stretched yourself internally to hold some levels of ecstasy over time, you will fuck with yourself psychologically, spiritually, emotionally and physically if you rush things. Seriously. I’ve learned this the hard way.
If you don’t have the skills or tools to integrate ecstatic experience into your life, you can blow a fuse, go back to exactly where you were before, or contract even smaller. But if you integrate your experience fully, you can allow the ecstatic experience to expand you. And you can STAY expanded, therefore experiencing levels of ecstasy OFTEN.
Begin by simply noticing when you feel ECSTATIC and take note. Breathe it in. Don’t zip by. As you notice, your capacity will grow. As you practice, you will stretch into holding more.
Rest. Be gentle on you. You’re re-teaching your system that’s its safe to feel this good. After centuries of being told that IT IS NOT. Write. Journal. Take salt baths.
Start slowly, but be diligent and don’t give up on finding this KEY and GIFT to your human system!!
Stay tuned for more Holy F*ck from Alexandra. Over the next few months, she will be interviewing women who learned how to access deep healing and ecstatic states during her yearlong program. Learn more about Alexandra and her work HERE.
Channeling the Divine through the decadently bejeweled, artist and mystic Joy Smith is raising the mystical-material vibration ever higher with her transformational talismans.
Sculptress and seer Joy Smith believes that adornment is an intimate conversation—between the creator, the wearer, and the Divine.
Inspired by nature’s potent mysteries, and the light of Divine beauty that resides in every being, the artist’s ethically sourced, recycled gold pieces spark an emotional exchange between the the universe and each of us.
For Smith, connection to the Divine is always available, and through our talismans we can bring our personal conversation with the heavens all the way down to Earth.
With her newly-launched Light Sessions, Smith is raising the material-mystical vibration even higher. During these custom experiences, she uses song, meditative chants, and Reiki to channel a one-of-a-kind talisman that supports your distinctive transformation and growth.
Spirit is absolutely everywhere. Why not dress her in radiant gold?
(Hint: Start decking out your Divine with some inspo from Joy’s jewel-drenched Instagram feed!)
Ruby Warrington: What are your own personal talismans? Joy Smith: I wear pieces according to what I need—so I can beam my light out everywhere. I have different pieces that embody different feelings for me.
For example, I have a custom piece I made for myself that’s super special. In Milan, on a retreat with Deborah Hanekamp, we hiked to a pagan ritual place, where I found what looked like a piece of a ceramic vessel glinting in the grass. I could feel that it was infused with a spirit that wanted to help me with my healing work, and so I set it into a ring, which I wear when I’m creating pieces, and during my Light Sessions.
Even talking about it takes me back to that place. In the future, I’d like to go on pilgrimages to sacred sites to source similar pieces as part of my work.
RW: Your pieces have a strong spiritual essence. What’s your relationship to organized religion? JS: The dogma of different religions can get messy, but the essence of spirit is what’s precious to me. I connect to the idea of the Holy Spirit, which I think of as our connection to the Divine—the spirit in us. My work is about activating that in others. I’m also super interested in world religions. I see the common thread and that’s fascinating to me. All the stories are the same, just different characters.
Having grown up Catholic, I still connect deeply to the iconography. I see the etchings in my designs as radiating light, and my goal is to elicit the idea of “heaven,” which I define simply as the place where great spirit lives … bliss.
RW: What do you see as the intersection between spirituality, craftsmanship, and art? JS: I never thought I’d make jewelry. I knew I loved art history, and wanted to be a painter. I also connected to artists, as I felt they were connected to something spiritual with their work. I wanted that connection to come through in my work, too. I also love fashion because I see the spirit of the designer in it. It’s like art to me.
I fell into jewelry through the sculpture of making it. I initially wanted to be a fine painter, but didn’t think I was good enough and I couldn’t relay my message effectively at that time in that medium. Now, I express myself spiritually through my pieces as they relate to how I feel on the inside. I want them to be infused with feelings of beauty and light, and for this to be reflected in how I adorn myself on the outside.
I believe God, spirit, etc., created us as an expression of the beauty of the Divine. I make it a point to meditate and pray before I make my work. When we work in this way as creators, that’s spirituality to me.
RW: What do the concepts of God and the Divine mean to you? JS: I believe God and the Divine are forms of the highest spirit, a spirit greater than ourselves that also lives within us and is part of us. That guides and protects us and loves us unconditionally. Neither are religious terms for me- I see them as a universal Spirit.
My own spiritual breakthrough came in my early twenties, when I had a very severe panic attack, and found myself debilitated by anxiety. My first teacher asked about my spiritual practice, and she gave me my first spiritual book, Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Prayer. I still read it every day. It helped me remember how to pray—how to connect to God—in a spiritual way.
RW: “Light Language” is such a glorious phrase—tell us about learning to speak this language, and how clients experience it during your “Light Sessions.” JS: “Light Language” is how I describe my conversation with the divine, something that comes out in channeled melodies, or prayer. The term came to me via my guides during an Akashic records reading—and this really is how I feel about my conversations with God. The Light Language also comes through as automatic writing, which I carve into my talismans and artwork.
I came up with the Light Sessions since my work can be very solitary and I knew I wanted to connect with people on a deeper level. And my Light Language becomes vocal, as if I’m speaking in tongues, during one-to-one with my clients. I see it as the language of love, as expressed in my creations.
The Light Sessions are about channeling creations for transformation. We talk about stones and the style of the piece, and then my clients give me their intention and lay on my table, and I’ll either sing melodies of prayer or do Reiki and channel messages that come to me.
Afterwards, we create an intention candle together and they go home with their candle to pray / meditate with their intention in mind, and I go home and channel that energy while creating the piece for transformation. The plan is to also make this available to couples as a custom ring engagement ceremony.
RW: Who is the “Communion Woman”? JS: Women who wear my jewelry have a strong sense of self. The common thread is that they have a connection to spirit, and that they’re all powerful in their own right. A lot of my clients have often been through a lot emotionally.
Having experienced challenges in their lives, they have been led to work on themselves spiritually, in order to connect more deeply to themselves and to the Divine. They’ve already found this connection, and want to explore more deeply what it means for their lives. A lot of their work is in service of the greater good. They have that depth.
Discover more about Communion by Joy’s sumptuously sacred jewels HERE, and book a custom Light Sessionwith Smith in LA.
Reclaiming your sexual power and potential is part of the collective awakening happening now. And it’s never too late, says Alexandra Roxo…Portraits: Alexandra Herstik
I’ve taken a few months off from really diving into topics of sex, eroticism, and partnership here in my column. Why? I must admit, I’ve been distracted by politics and found myself thinking: “How can I dare talk about sex, as the world is seemingly in dire need of discourse about so many other things?!”
Well, as my passion for sharing about love and sex wandered around my brain like a disenfranchised child with no home, who else but Sigmund Freud swooped in to validate it—and shove it back into the world!
Freud said that sexual repression is the chief psychological problem of humankind, and the root of many crimes, illness, war and woe. As if I need a dead white man to remind me of something I already knew! But I did. Touché Dr Freud, touché.
And his theory reminded me that it’s okay to continue sharing about love, sex and partnerships—even in a time when ICE raids are being done to innocent people, families are being separated and deported, and the whole structure of a country that felt like it was moving towards progress is being threatened.
Because this includes LOVE and SEX.
THE SEXUAL LANDSCAPE YOU WERE BORN INTO
Let’s take a very brief tour of history. Some say that we once lived in a “partnership” society, where people co-existed in some states of harmony. This shifted into a “dominator” society. Have you seen the movie or read the book “Mists of Avalon?” In the book there is a battle between the “old” religion—a religion honoring nature, The Goddess, the many faces of the Divine—and the “new” religion, a religion honoring ONE man.
Pantheistic to monotheistic. This shift changed everything for humanity. When the Goddess religion/pantheistic religions went out, so did our connection to nature, to ecstatic states, to sex, to the Feminine. By denying sex we denied nature! As Terrence McKenna said in his book Food of the Gods: “The dark night of the soul for planet Earth began.”
The “Wild Woman” (seen as a reflection of nature herself) was then sought to be tamed. We saw the literal possession of women. Burning of witches. Corsets. Chastity belts. Women’s rights being taken away in many many cultures. The polarization of “the virgin” and “the whore.” And this, my dears, is what YOU were born into.
Fair enough, in this country we got it about the LEAST bad—we are able to vote, get an abortion, wear what we want. BUT this also created a dichotomy that can be VERY confusing.
You were told you can speak up and be you. But you must also be sweet and pretty and skinny. You were told it was slutty to enjoy lots of sex. But you were told also “Claim your sexuality!” You were told you could wear what you want. But when you wore it you were treated differently. At least when it was scandalous to show an ankle it was very clear. ANKLE = SLUT. Now the dial is all over the place.
If you were born into any religion that is monotheistic and patriarchal then whether you want to accept it or not, you probs have internalized all kinds of sexual repression with a side of shame, and a dash of guilt on top. (If you somehow escaped all this then…GODDESS BLESS!)
SO, HOW THE HELL DO WE MOVE BEYOND THIS?
It’s going to take a lot more work. See my piece from last year about “Sexual Healing” for a refresh and jump start.
The biggest thing we can do is keep QUESTIONING. Everything. In sex. Redefining our experiences as our own. Making our own rules. Reclaiming what is our human right.
FOR EXAMPLE. Perhaps by society’s standards it’s not acceptable to sob uncontrollably during sex. HOWEVER, the energy of sex is MAD powerful, and when used to it’s full conscious potential can be a shamanic experience. So, if you are having conscious deep deep sex, and start releasing trauma or shame or guilt from your body you will probably sob. This can cause more shame because we’ve been taught that’s not okay.
My first girlfriend was a shamanic mover of energy and she knew it. The orgasms I had with her moved massive amounts of shame I had internalized growing up in the Christian south, out of my body. She held space for me. Made me feel safe enough to completely release into my body and use the energy of sex for deep healing. Sometimes that meant opening further and further when I thought I couldn’t anymore, but she helped me keep going, much like in a plant medicine ceremony, or even running a marathon. The altered state that one enters during sex can be a place where so much work can take place.
So how do you allow yourself to let go enough to work with the energy of sex, or even love or partnership, for healing and ecstasy?
HOW TO LITERALLY RECLAIM YOUR SEXUAL POWER
Create a conscious container. By container I mean a defined space. Whether you are coming together just for sex or also for a certain amount of time weekly for sexual exploration define the rules, the terms. How long? What do we do if someone wants to scream or cry?
Communication! If you want to have a soul sob with a deep cervical orgasm you have to make sure your partner can “hold” you through it. Instead of saying, “Hey babe. What’s wrong? Don’t cry,” educate them to hold the space for you, and say instead: “I’m here. Let it out. Stay with it. I love you.”
When you release some of the pain in your body that’s hidden deep within your cervix or womb of COURSE there will be tears, shouting, laughing—ALL OF IT! But you will feel so much lighter and freer afterwards if you let those emotions come out and you don’t hold them in. Not worrying about what you may look like or sound like. Instead, being like a raging river, embodying Kali, embodying Venus, the rivers of Oshun, the energy of a storm, the energy of the ocean. She is never ashamed for her moods and needs. She just IS.
If you look at sex as expansion beyond the “get in and get off” vibe we’ve been taught by movies and TV our whole lives, you will see it has massive healing potential to clear through chakras and move blocks—while increasing your radiance and attraction levels in a major way! It’s a super power and that’s why it has been repressed and controlled for so long.
If you think back to how you “learned” sex it was probably mostly through media. Women “sound” like this or that. They make these faces during sex. They lay on the bed in this or that way. What if that was all learned behavior and in order to reclaim your full sexual potential you get to go on the journey of FINDING OUT what your natural sexual state is?
What faces you make. What sounds. Maybe you sing when you cum! Or make low guttural grunts. Maybe you sob uncontrollably for A YEAR as you release shame from your body. Does that mean something is wrong with you? NO. HELL NO. Maybe you find your fantasy and realize you like to be flogged or spanked. Does that mean something is wrong with you? NOPE.
It’s a choice. You make the choice to embody Bridget Jones. Or Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Or Carrie in Sex and the City. Or…Venus emerging from the ocean. Kali emerging from a fire. Persephone diving into the Underworld and coming back renewed. You choose.
RE-WRITE THE SEX SCRIPT
Here are some practical ways to begin to rewrite some of your sexual programming…
– Be Curious! Read books. Listen to podcasts. Don’t be ashamed if you want to learn about polyamory. Or multiple orgasms. Or whatever the hell you’re into. Nothing is too strange. Nothing is too weird. As you begin to delve, protect your little seed of curiosity before sharing with everyone. You don’t need anyone’s opinions about your desire to learn about 1950’s Occult Sex Parties or prostate massage. It’s your exploration. Keep it sacred.
– Look at your demons. Your shadows. Your shames. Have you engaged in healing around your sexual history? Chances are your first sexual experiences were rather “unconscious,” maybe with alcohol attached and not centered around heart opening and connecting. And if not, well, kudos to you! (Mine were pretty dope with candles and a fountain and fairy lights and soft music and eye gazing even when I was a preteen cause I was #BornThisWay. But then I’ve also had about 100 that were NOT like that at all…) If you feel you have work to do around love and sex then start journaling about your programming, stories, traumas. Engage in conversations. Do the healing work with a coach or in a group.
– Create the space to explore. If you’re in partnership then consciously communicate with your partner about wanting to make the sex more conscious and expansive, and work to bust through some of the cultural norms together. Perhaps this means engaging in some connecting work before sex. Eye gazing. Doing some tantric breath. Giving each other space to hear fantasies without judgement. That means if your lover says “I’m turned on by watching horses fuck” you have to listen and hold space for that and not be like “EW!” immediately. Trust is very important when opening in this way. If you’re solo then start getting in there and doing your own exploration work with your self. Learn your fantasies. What feels good and what doesn’t.
– Be aware of your words. Stories you perpetuate with your words which can cast magical spells. Sometimes I catch myself talking like Samantha from SATC and I stop myself. Some of that languaging and programming is NOT conscious at all. Sure, it’s fun, but it’s creating a reality that I picked up from TV. Not my own heart.
– Question everything. This can be fun! “Do I actually like to wax my puss? Or do I do it cause someone told me to?” Hmm well for me honestly I think it’s the later. “Do I actually like lingerie and Agent Provocateur?” Resounding YES for me on that one! “Where is my sexuality at on the Kinsey scale?”
– Talk to your friends. THIS IS HARD. One time when I brought up the transcendental power of fisting to catapult you into an altered state in a car of women there was RADIO SILENCE. It was awkward. But without discussion things continue to be taboo Unspeakable. Hidden away in dark corners. So moving past that awkward silence with some laughter and humility is enough to open the floodgates. Before you know it someone will be sharing how they once used a cucumber as a dildo and you won’t feel alone.
If you want to work with a group on this, I’m doing a monthly HOLY F*CK workshop starting on the New Moon of 2.26! This is a little different than the salon I did last year as this is deeper work, and enough to keep you busy exploring and reprogramming and rewiring your sex energy until the next month’s workshop! Sign up HERE. And as always I do one on one mentorships and coaching sessions which you can book HERE.
It’s time to stop using spirituality as an escape—and embrace our humanity, says Alexandra Roxo…
In times likes these—where we have somehow managed to elect a president with terrifying beliefs and judgements, where Native people are still fighting to protect the Earth while most everyone else walks around trying to protect money—I feel like it’s so obvious. As a culture and a people we need to get out of our heads and into our feet. Into our wombs, our pussies, and THE EARTH.
We’ve become so focused on “success,” making money, how we climb and grow. All masculine principles. All in the mind. Goal oriented. We barely notice when animals become endangered. We forget to talk about climate change.
It’s not our fault, it’s what we were born into: a consumerist, capitalist culture. When I ask my clients about how much time they spend focusing on their sexual energy or creative energy or with their feet on the ground, it PALES in comparison to how much time is spent in the realm of the computer. Money. Capital. Thought. Even meditation. It’s all up, up, up, into the Cloud.
But the way I see it, we need to go down, down, down! Get back into our bodies. And it turns out spirituality, just like work or booze, can become an escape from the pains and earthy work of being human.
Speaking as somebody who can be a spirituality abuser myself, I think it’s time we stop using it as such. Let me tell you a story about why.
When I was 13 I had a bad year. 1: I got held down by a bunch of boys and sprayed with red super soaker guns in 30 degree weather while calling me names. I punched one of them and everyone hated me. 2: My bestie’s parents called us out for being gay after she told them we had innocently experimented sexually together and forbade us to be friends anymore. I was DEVASTATED.
So what did I do? I went to church to get SAVED. This was my first bout of checking out of human life by saying: “God I can’t take it down here! Beam me up!” I spoke in tongues, got saved like 100 times. And even wore Abercormbie. (No offense.) My New-Age-psychic-seeing-Angel-lovin-Enya-listening Mom got worried.
Eventually I went back to feeling like I could manage down here. I did theatre, volunteer work/built homes for homeless, wore 4-inch cork wedges to school, flirted with boys, and learned all the dance moves to “Bye Bye Bye.” But my spirituality abuser didn’t go away. I always found some new practice to dive into. Some psychic to look to for the answers.
By age 19 I found myself sitting on a spiritual pedestal feeling like I was “special” and that others “weren’t awake.” While doing an acting exercise in college my teacher called me out in front of the class: “You are using spirituality a mask. It’s keeping you from feeling things and being here. Go back to your seat and come back when you want to be real.” DAMN. I was crushed. But I took her words wisely and went home, cried for about three days, painted, wrote love letters, laughed with friends and gently got down off my spiritual high horse.
It happened again though. Only two years later, after a trauma abroad, I was ready to sign up to be a monastic in a commune in Italy where I had been meditating in caves, sitting on cold stone floors, and wearing communal Cosby sweaters. I renounced sex, alcohol, or anything “of the flesh!” Mom got worried again.
I found my way back to humanity again. But my spiritual extremist rears her head every so often. I see her spending more time reading horoscopes than DOING things that can help. Talking more to other realms than folks in Trader Joe’s. Diving into days of plant medicine ceremonies and shamanic journeys. And avoiding the harsh pains of reality. Any of this sounding familiar?
As wonderful as it it to wake at 6am and meditate every day, to read all the articles and check the horoscopes and pull a card from all the decks, I am trying to refrain. In the name of balance.
My aim is to cultivate as much of an EARTH practice as I have a SPIRITUAL one. Which means for every meditation or journey to the spirit realms, I better be doing something here here on Earth. CAUSE I WAS BORN A HUMAN. And the Earth needs me. Head out of phone. Feeling my toes in the dirt. Pussy alive with energy and life force. Does ALL LIFE originate in my brain? NAH, IT’S IN THE PUSS.
I don’t think it’s enough to just pray and send love and light to Trump, or anyone for that matter. Pray for peace, yes. For love, yes. But I think we also need to get dirt under our nails and be humble and immerse ourselves in what’s happening out on the streets.
And so I urge you, like I urge ME, to embrace your humanity!
Get in the pub and talk to old Latino men and share food and drink with them.
Instead of reading another self-help book (like me!) go to the rally. Sign up to volunteer. Watch documentaries and educate yourself. Go to open mics and comedy clubs in areas that are new to you and mingle with people who aren’t like you.
Let’s look at how much we’re spending on “spiritual” paraphernalia, and re-balance the books! How about a pole dancing class instead? Donations to planned parenthood? Community gardening?
Let’s admit that we don’t know the answers. It’s not fair to all the other folks who have been working tirelessly for years if we pretend we know how to save the world with our ascension ideas. (I mean would you say that to an 85-year-old Native woman? Nah, probs not.)
And remember. If and when we need a strict practice to get us through a hard time, it will ALWAYS be there. You won’t lose it. Because it’s in you! “Spirit” won’t get angry and turn its back on you. I promise.
But for now the world needs YOU and your humanity. Out there. Off the mountain and in the streets.
I love you.
Moon Club co-founder Alexandra Roxo is a filmmaker and intuitive coach living in LA. Read more about her work at www.alexandraroxo.com and follow her love and sex and life woes and victories on Instagram.
We’re living through a time of intense political climate change, as reflected in the Cosmos. Five of our favorite mystics unpack the signs of the times…and weigh in on the way ahead. Artwork: Sammy Slabbinck
Here on The Numinous, astrology is not a tool for “predicting” future events, or explaining things away while abdicating our role in shaping how our lives play out—both individually, and as a society.
Rather, we see astrology as a language of symbols that speaks to our collective human experience on Earth, offering valuable perspective and allowing us to examine the bigger picture—especially useful at times when emotions are running high, clouding our judgement and making it difficult to choose the next right course of action.
As in the case of Britain’s recent referendum to leave the EU, the shock results of which have seen a nation spiral into panic and chaos. Made all the more vertigo-inducing against a backdrop of unrelenting terrorist attacks, and an emotionally fraught US election campaign.
Last month, in an eerie foreshadowing of the central issues to Brexit, New York magazine described the Clinton-Trump race as: “kind of a civil war. It’s a referendum on the country’s feelings about inclusion, about women, people of color, and their increasing influence…how it edges out the white men who have long held an exclusive grip on power.”
In short, it’s safe to say we are living through a period of intense political climate change—as written in the current movements of the celestial bodies. Skeptical? Since the political polls leading up to the Brexit referendum were woefully misleading (echoing the last general election in the UK), the wisdom offered by our resident astrologers below—including commentary on what will be needed of us moving forward—feels as relevent as anything the political scientists have got to say…
PLUTO IN CAPRICORN by Ash Bonelli We are in unstable times, and have been financially since 2008 when Pluto, the planet of wealth/power, moved into the structural sign of Capricorn—and the extent of financial corruption in the world began to come to light. We’re currently half way through this cycle—during which we have seen a growing divide between rich and poor with the emergence of a super-elite, as well as major differences in values between the generations. (NB. “Even eerier? The last time Pluto was in Capricorn was 1762-1778, the exact time when the U.S. was fighting for its independence from England. It was also during this transit that Thomas Jefferson sounded the rallying cry for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and helped author the U.S. Constitution.” – Ophira Edut)
SATURN SQUARE NEPTUNE by Ameila Quint The Saturn-Neptune square, currently occurring November 2015 through September 2016, is shifting cultural philosophies on a global scale. To give you the big picture, this alignment has caused ideological clashes for centuries in a looping cycle that goes back as far as the Salem Witch Trials and the Crusades!
Saturn is in Sagittarius, the sign of foreign affairs, expatriates, and immigration—all issues at the heart of the Brexit referendum. Sagittarius also rules expansion, so we’re being called to open our hearts and minds to new ways of relating and thinking. Unfortunately, this change won’t come easy with tough Saturn in play.
On the other hand, Neptune is in Pisces, his home sign. This magnifies the energies of compassion, healing, and spirituality. It’s a call from the Universe to ask, on a societal level, what you believe and why. The Brexit referendum did just that. It’s also interesting that Saturn and Neptune are both associated with karma in their own way, because the reverberations of this vote have certainly been karmic in scope.
JUPITER TRINE PLUTO by Ophira Edut The announcement of Brexit also coincided with the June 26 barrier-breaking Jupiter-Pluto trine, a rare meet-up between global connector Jupiter and powerhouse Pluto. Trines are generally positive and harmonious—but they can also cause things to move quickly, and this massive upheaval happened in the blink of an eye, or so it seemed.
Jupiter is an excitable, optimistic planet that can quickly overshoot its mark. The hopeful populists did not wake up the morning after Brexit economically or politically empowered, but rather, to a currency that plunged to its lowest value in 31 years overnight.
Jupiter is also the “armchair philosopher” of the cosmos, whose starry-eyed visions don’t necessarily translate into reality. Stateside, we hear echoes of Trump’s “Make America great again” slogan. Um, perspective please? If anything, Trump—with his Plutonian land grabs and abuses of power—is making America hate again. And that’s the last thing this world needs now.
MARS DIRECT by Hannah Ariel With warrior planet Mars about to go direct in controlling Scorpio (June 30th 2016) our urge to define, defend and protect boundaries is intensified to extremes. Mars in Scorpio demands that our actions reflect our integrity—and as it resumes direct motion, what we “yes” and “no” to becomes an act of personal empowerment.
This is a period of cutting ties, creating new bonds, and ultimately realizing from whence we draw our power—and what we must do with this power once we feel we have it. Scorpio rules creation and re-creation, so there is nothing being destroyed at this time that cannot be re-created.
THE UNIVERSAL 9 YEAR by Felicia Bender In numerology, 2016 is a Universal 9 year—the number of completion, of letting go, transition, and transformation. It is a year of surrender, in it’s truest sense—a positive, intuitive way of living, that grows we learn to develop trust.
Trust that’s needed in a time where old paradigms are crumbling, dissolving, going up in flames or coming up for serious review. We can see this everywhere, from Trumpmania, mass violence, and displaced refugees, to the spotlight on rape culture, and the Brexit referendum—to name just a few boiling points. Numerologically, this is right on time.
This is the end of a cycle, and we can’t move into the next phase without a sobering and stark look at what has been (since the cycle began in 2008—the last universal 1 year) and where we’re at. The task at hand is to then let go of all that’s no longer serving all of us. This isn’t easy. It’s terrifying. It incites anger and fear and every other possible emotion.
THE WAY AHEAD… “We can use this Saturn/Neptune square for the overall good. We must work on building a solid foundation (Saturn) that is created from a place of justice for all (Neptune). A place where everyone has their needs met. A society where equality becomes commonplace. But it will take time, patience, respect and dedication to achieve these Neptunian dreams.” – Ash Bonelli
“Saturn rules authorities while Neptune rules visionaries, and these groups were very much square to each other in the Brexit polling results. Still, the only way to make this transit work is to find a balance. In this case, this means steadying dogma with compassion, and laws meant to protect with laws that truly heal.” – Amelia Quint
“If anything, Brexit and Donald Trump’s shocking success is exposing an inconvenient truth: Despite the gains of social policies such as marriage equality, there’s a hate-filled Orlando shooter, a Brock Turner getting a tiny slap on the wrist in the Stanford rape case, millions of scared and small-minded people who would rather tank their economy than allow a Muslim or a Mexican to cross “their” (in some cases stolen) borders. We can’t sweep this under the rug or look the other way much longer…which, while also inconvenient, is a wakeup call we can’t ignore.” – Ophira Edut
“The key? Understand that what must fall away must do so without a net, leaving behind a liminal space—a gap. Understanding that we must make friends with this vortex of uncertainty while the old is cleared and the new is being created. And despite all of our impulses otherwise, we must enter into this space with optimism and a sense of excitement, because here is the opportunity of a lifetime to create something new on a massive scale. This process is not for wimps. It’s easier to criticize and despair. Yet it’s our challenge and our charge to visualize and create a now and a future that is more evolved and humanitarian across the board.” – Felicia Bender
“Stay tuned for how this plays out, as the Sun in Cancer will come into its yearly opposition to Pluto in Capricorn July 1st, reminding us that what brings us comfort can also at times hinder out ability to grow. No matter how much is perceived to be at stake these days, the astrology of the times reminds us that it’s all for the sake of transformation.” – Hannah Ariel
The Saturn square Neptune astrology of the 17th century Salem Witch Trials is currently repeating. But beyond the cultural tension in the air, there is potential for great progress now too, says Amelia Quint…Artwork: Silvia Coco
For better or for worse, 2016 has been a year of change. With tragedy after tragedy it can feel impossible to make any sense of the zeitgeist, but this cultural climate has been building since 2015. Thanks to an astrological alignment of Saturn square Neptune, we’re all revising our belief systems.
What does that mean for you as an individual, and for our society as a whole?
:: WHAT IS SATURN SQUARE NEPTUNE? ::
Saturn and Neptune are both very powerful in their own rights. Saturn is the ruler of structure, responsibility, and karma. His mythology is complex, and he also had power to subvert social norms.
Meanwhile, Homer referred to Neptune’s Greek counterpart Poseidon as “Shaker of the Earth”—because the god’s volatile temper was known for causing earthquakes. Neptune was also “god of the deep”, and is associated with the unknown and unknowable aspects of life, including magic and spirituality.
Right now, Saturn is in Sagittarius. Sagittarius is associated with all forms of expansion—and so overseas travel, foreign cultures, philosophy, and religious beliefs are all Sagittarian pursuits, given take you outside your comfort zone in one way or another.
Saturn here is challenging the way we as individuals and a community view our own ideologies and those of others. He asks, “What do you believe in, and why?” Sometimes, we may not like the answer.
In addition, Neptune in Pisces is putting pressure on Saturn in the form of a square aspect. It’s a tough aspect, to be sure. And as a backdrop to current political and world events,it can feel like one step forward and two steps back. But history shows us this is not the case…
:: SIGN OF THE TIMES ::
Saturn square Neptune has been causing ideological clashes for nearly a millennia—and the 17th century alignment of Saturn in Sagittarius and Neptune in Pisces saw the Spanish Inquisition and Salem Witch Trials, both brutal regimes carried out in the name of religious belief. (An aside: It’s curious that Robert Eggar’s The Witch, set during that period, has had so much success during the same astrological lineup centuries later!)
Certainly ideology is a vital topic of discussion now. There has been progress and there has been adversity. As a resident of South Carolina, I felt the unspeakable sadness of the AME Church shooting in Charleston and celebrated the great victory for the black community that was removal of the Confederate flag from the SC Capitol grounds.
Only a few months later, the US Supreme Court ruled laws banning same sex marriage to be unconstitutional, effectively legalizing same sex marriage—something I thought might never happen in my highly conservative state. Outside of the US, Ireland legalized same sex marriage as well.
Then there are the acts of violence that we have become all too familiar with—the Charlie Hebdo shooting, the ISIL shootings at Bataclan and throughout Paris, bombings at Brussels airport in Belgium, and most recently, the shooting at Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando.
To list them all at once is a pain too acute to bear, but is necessary in order to acknowledge the common thread: that these are attacks on and because of belief.
They are intended to instill fear and feelings of otherness. But what we have seen at every turn is that humanity refuses to succumb to fear and doubt, and holds instead to the belief that “love is love is love”.
Truly, this is the axis of Sagittarius and Pisces in its most heart-wrenchingly beautiful form—a invitation to use the Sagittarian freedoms of speech, religion, and love to conquer hate and to heal the world around us with selfless Piscean empathy.
:: CULTURAL METAMORPHOSIS ::
If you look just beneath the conflicts, you’ll see that Saturn square Neptune is also a catalyst for incredible advancement in culture and spirituality. The 14th century Saturn in Sagittarius square to Neptune in Pisces saw the denouement of the High Renaissance in the West, including the building of the Royal Library at the Louvre in Paris.
Petrarch also wrote his collection of sonnets during this time, altering the poetic form for centuries to come. In the East, the powerful Ming dynasty assumed control and began construction on the Great Wall of China, one of the great wonders of the world.
These squares are also known for being portals for mystical revelations and supernatural events. An extremely rare alignment of Venus and Jupiter called an “occult” occurred during the 12th century square, and Halley’s comet was observed during the 16th century square. During last year’s square, NASA announced the existence of liquid water on Mars, which brings the possibility of life beyond of Earth closer than ever.
The Divine Feminine also seems to resurface during Saturn-Neptune squares, despite being suppressed throughout much of Western history.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, perhaps the most famous Marian apparition in the history of the Catholic Church, appeared during the 16th century square. In that same period, famous occultist Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa wrote De nobilitate et praecellentia foeminae sexus (On the Nobility and Excellence of the Feminine Sex), making a huge contribution to the modern magical understanding of femininity.
In the same way, feminine spirituality has experienced a massive renaissance in pop culture and fashion over the last year—and, for the first time, in America we have the opportunity to vote in a female President.
:: HOW TO WORK WITH THE ENERGY OF SATURN SQUARE NEPTUNE ::
The best way to collaborate with this vibe is to know where Saturn and Neptune are transiting in your natal chart. If you don’t know where Sagittarius and Pisces are in your chart, you can calculate your chart here.
Once you know what houses are being activated for you personally, focus on transforming your beliefs in those areas for amazing results.
Wherever Saturn is transiting is where you need more structure and stability. Are your current methods and belief systems working for you? If not, how can you realign them to feel more free?
Wherever Neptune is transiting is where you need to heal and take a spiritual approach. Is there a dream, message, or vision you want to share with the world?
Finally, give yourself the time and space you need to process any feelings that come up. These are challenging times, and an extra focus on self-care is required. Write, rest, or do whatever else helps you feel whole again. While you’re at it, see if someone near and dear to you needs some extra love too.
The exact dates of Saturn in Sagittarius square Neptune in Pisces are: 26 November 2015, 18 June 2016, 10 September 2016.
A few years ago, I was flipping through a celebrity magazine, and on one of the pages, they’d asked different celebs what their guilty pleasures were. Most gave the typical answers like wine, chocolate, or online shopping, but one person, I wish I remembered who, wrote: “I don’t have any because I never feel guilty about my pleasures.”
The perfection of this caught me off guard, and it had such an impact on me. I’ve actually seen it quoted by a few different people since then, but the origin isn’t important. What’s important is how profound and amazing a concept this is.
Living things are hardwired to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Obviously, right? It’s a survival mechanism, but also, what would be the point of living if it weren’t for pleasure? Somewhere along the way (many would blame organized religion, but that’s a whole other topic), the idea arose that pleasure was to be avoided and that to “indulge” in pleasure must require a healthy dose of guilt.
The message this sends is that we can’t be trusted around pleasure as if it will derail us, or something. In this scenario, guilt acts to protect us from ourselves and keep us “safe and in line.”
I’d like to propose though, that instead of only occasionally indulging in pleasure, while also feeling guilty about it, we just fully own it and make our lives as full of pleasure as possible. I think if we made pleasure (which translates to happiness) a priority, the world would be a much better place.
Because we’re so stingy with it, we’ve come to associate pleasure with selfishness or greed. But if we were more open with it, we’d see that it’s the exact opposite! Pleasure is like rocket fuel for our lives and the more we embrace pleasure, the happier and more loving and generous we can be.
How do you feel after a day of hard work, having also denied yourself delicious food, rest, or play? Are you full of energy and ready to help others? Or do you want to simultaneously cry, sleep, and eat a tub of ice cream? Now compare that to how you feel after a day of chatting with friends, eating delicious food, being outside, and having some great sex (or whatever it is that you find pleasurable). You probably feel happy, at peace, and more open to helping others.
Pleasure doesn’t have to be an expensive or lengthy process (i.e. it doesn’t need to involve a trip to the spa or a five-star resort). It can truly be as simple as taking a few deep breaths, making yourself some tea, or hugging someone you love. The beauty of pleasure is its simplicity. Pleasure means caring about yourself and offering yourself the love that you deserve.
While I write this, I keep pausing to check in on my breath and any tension in my body. The more I breathe and relax, the more pleasurable anything and everything feels. Practicing presence is practicing pleasure.
I also believe that we should be able to eat chocolate, drink champagne, take mid-day naps in the sun, go for 2-hour massage appointments, and buy ourselves beautiful things. We are spiritual beings living in a physical world, and the best way to celebrate this is by diving head first into the pleasures that this physical world can offer. We are here to have fun!
Most importantly, I think it’s important that we don’t see these as guilty pleasures that we only earn by putting in a hard day’s work. I want us to see pleasure as our prerogative, our birthright, and a celebration of what it means to be alive. I want us to know that pleasure doesn’t have to be earned.
I used to take life so seriously and having fun just didn’t seem overly important. But life changed for me, not all at once, but gradually, when I changed my perspective on pleasure. It got a whole lot more fun and a whole lot more amazing. I’ve made fun and pleasure my spiritual practice, and I am never looking back.
When I did the Landmark Forum, I was following in the footsteps of the most badass people I know – and I learned some invaluable life lessons. So why did I find myself asking; ‘is Landmark a cult?’ By Ruby Warrington. Images: Alex Prager for Garage Magazine.
Half way into day three at the Landmark Forum, I was ready to run for the hills. Along with 150 or so other people, from every walk of life, I had been cooped-up in a windowless basement in midtown Manhattan for almost 13 hours a day straight, whilst being told that everything I knew about myself, about my beliefs, and about the world, was an illusion. An illusion created by my “always listening” mind (Landmark speak for the ego) to avoid taking full responsibility for my life.
The course leader was busy psyching the crowd up for the “big reveal” – the key teaching of the Forum that would come later that day, embracing which, we’d been promised, would lead to a life of “infinite possibilities”. So long as we “enrolled” everybody else we knew into the Landmark conversation too (at $600 a pop), and then committed to an on going ($900+) study of their “curriculum for life”.
All around me, people had already been having life-changing epiphanies as they’d worked the course – coming out from behind their “rackets” (“fixed ways of being that result in persistent complaints”) and calling friends and family members they had been “pretending” things were cool with to “cough up the fur-ball” of their most shaming truths (‘Mom, I never come visit because actually it felt like you never really loved me’).
Encouraged to publically share their breakthroughs, there had been tears, and there had been cheers. And here I was, feeling an almost physical repulsion to the teachings. Earlier, we’d been asked to identify our “strong suits” – coping mechanisms we’d adopted at key points of trauma in our lives, which had become “ways of acting and being you rely on to produce results and make it in life.” Which, obviously, had to go, along with all the other “stories” you told yourself about…yourself.
I’d identified one of my strong suits as what I always considered a healthy degree of scepticism, or discernment. It’s what made me a good editor. But now it felt like a straight jacket. I’d paid my money and I wanted a breakthrough too! But all I could think, as I took in the scenes around me, was; “OMG this is actual brainwashing in action. Why did nobody warn me Landmark is…a cult?!”
The “c-word” hit the headlines last week, in the aftermath of the HBO documentary Going Clear – an inside expose on the Church of Scientology. And watching the opening scenes, in which they described the Church’s central process of “auditing” members in order to process their limiting beliefs, I was taken right back to that basement room in the Landmark HQ.
Was Landmark Scientology lite?
The dictionary definition of “brainwashing” is; “to make (someone) adopt radically different beliefs by using systematic and often forcible pressure”. True, nobody forced me to do the Landmark Forum – I actually decided to sign up because I knew so many amazing, go-getting, and seemingly highly-evolved individuals who’d done it, and I basically wanted a piece.
But the constant pressure throughout the course to “enrol” our friends, co-workers, and family members definitely crossed over into coercion territory in my book – echoing the way Scientologists are asked to “disconnect” from any people in their life who don’t adopt the teachings of the church. It’s also the kind of behaviour that gets organisations labelled “cult”, opposed to simply “community” or “club”.
The fact that during Landmark I was also confined to that one windowless room for three consecutive 13-hour days, with minimal breaks for food, and asked not to take notes or go to the toilet (this used to be enforced rigidly, but nobody actually stopped me when I did sneak out for a restroom break), also felt a lot like “systematic” pressure to adopt their teachings.
Then there was the bizarre lingo and double-talk they used to scramble my synapses and “re-program” my thinking. Overall, by the time I left, my scepticism very much intact, it felt simultaneously like a narrow escape…and like there must be something really, really wrong with me.
Watching Going Clear (named for the ultimate goal in Scientology – a mind that’s completely “clear”, or washed, of negative beliefs), the phrase that kept returning to me was; “the Emperor’s New Clothes.”
You know the story right? About the sneaky tailor who convinces the Emperor his “invisible” new suit is actually made of the finest cloth. In fear of questioning their leader’s beliefs, the Emperor’s subjects go along with it – complementing him on his beautiful new clothes, despite the fact they can see for themselves he’s naked.
And this desire to conform is something I felt they played on at Landmark, too. Deeply rooted in our most basic psychology, human beings are pack animals after all. Positioning yourself as the outsider is also something akin to suicide on a primal level. In ancient times, distancing yourself from the tribe was a sure-fire way to get killed by predators, or die from lack of food and warmth. Going along with what’s being indoctrinated therefore is not only preferable, it’s the only truly “safe” option.
Did that explain why everybody around me was whooping and cheering when the “big reveal” finally occurred…while it seemed to me like the biggest “racket” on the planet?
Coming out of Landmark, I immediately wanted to speak to the switched-on women I knew who’d done it too. I was desperate to know if they’d felt the same as me – or if I was, in fact, a hopelessly repressed freak-a-zoid, too scared of facing my own demons to even acknowledge their existence. The overarching response I got was that yes, it was a huge shame that there was so much cult-like emphasis on “enrolment”, and the accompanying financial hard sell. Because the teachings in and of themselves were awesome…right?
And here comes the really interesting part. Seven months on, I can see that they were absolutely right – and that the Landmark Forum was one of the most pivotal experiences on my inner journey to date.
We are all slaves to our monkey minds; we do self-sabotage with the stories we choose to believe about ourselves; and we do have to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to “look bad”, and to see beyond the illusion of reality, in order to evolve into the highest expression of ourselves. It is in this place of ultimately authentic self-expression that a life of infinite possibility lies.
Behind all the crazy linguistics and mental manipulation, these are the central teachings of Landmark (and of Scientology, from what I’ve read, not to mention Buddhist philosophy!). With hindsight, I can see how having them strong-armed into my psyche over that one mind-bending weekend last September forced me, on some deep level, to accept and work with limiting parts of myself I used to believe were unassailable.
I’ve since had the kind of searingly honest conversations with my mother that have taken our relationship to a whole other level. I no longer blindly accept what my belief system tells me, and look instead to the cold, hard facts of life.
And if I railed against actually calling any people in my life to “get complete” during my Landmark weekend (I had a lengthy email exchange with my mom, and called a friend to confess a very innocuous white lie), I have since embraced the concept of not sugar-coating stuff for fear of upsetting people, or getting a bad reaction – and seen massive benefits. All common sense stuff, actually, “but delivered in an environment of startling intensity,” as another journalist wrote about Landmark.
As for the “big reveal”? You’ll have to do the Forum and find out what it is for yourself. And if that means I’m now “enrolling” you – well, there must be some chinks in my sceptical strong suit after all.
Have you done the Landmark Forum? What did you get out of it? Connect and share your stories on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook
Hipster angel whisperer Kyle Gray is on a mission to shift the perception around our celestial messengers. Will skeptic Lisa Luxx be convinced?
Angels. The first time I heard them spoken about in a serious yet non-religious context was two years ago. A friend carried a white feather around on the handlebars of her bike. She said if you found a white feather on your path it meant an angel was present. And I thought, what good is that?
Then I went to meet Kyle Gray, angel whisperer, and while my heart was open a strong gust of skepticism kept trying to slam it shut. We were at the Hay House conference where it seemed like everyone else definitely knew what angels were. But see the problem is, as much as I dig the vibrations of all these now-age ideologies, angels were always just a bit too wishy-washy and indefinable for my liking. So I was quite surprised by Kyle, once the youngest clairvoyant in the UK and now the hippest angel reader ever.
It’s easy to imagine an angel reader turning up barefoot, beaded from head to toe and floating in an effluvium of loose material and harem pants. But Kyle is mostly made up of tattoos, Vivienne Westwood and a good-natured pout. His soft Scottish accent carries an air of naivety, which acts as a sweet welcome mat into the temple of his experience.
His first successful angel reading was at a family party when he was fifteen years old. He has since become the fourth generation of psychic in his family, not exactly unexpected since his mother was summoned to a psychic night one evening when Kyle was six. “The psychic refused to see anyone until my mum arrived. When she went in, this lady sat her down and told her, ‘By the time your son is seventeen years old he’ll be known nationally for being the same as me.’”
But back to that first reading; “I closed my eyes and heard Destiny’s Child’s Survivor in my head.” Enter another almighty gust of skepticism. But I sit tight…and he continues; “I said, ‘if there is an angel present, thank you for revealing a message to Joe’ and suddenly I heard a voice saying ‘tell this man he is a survivor’. When I opened my eyes there was this great gold light, with black eyes, standing behind Joe…I almost shit myself!”
Kyle recalls how cool it was to discover that following their meeting, Joe went on to overcome a depression that had hitherto led him to five suicide attempts, each of which had failed drastically with an uncanny, almost divine, intervention. It turned Kyle on to the power of angel work; surrendering himself to becoming a messenger between the divine and the human. Although it meant he spent most of his teenage years listening to middle-aged women talking about their affairs, which he reflects was “way too heavy.”
But “Angels are always present,” Kyle explains to me. “Every space you look, there is an angel waiting.” And…jackpot! Without warning, I’m ten-years-old again, the moment I realize talk of angels and the like stopped making sense for me. I’d forgotten it had actually been a choice to stop believing in the “make believe.”
At age ten I was exploring things I wasn’t supposed to, like masturbating and smoking my friend Kayan Chan’s mum’s cigarettes. My grandma, who had raised me, had just passed away and I didn’t understand the distinction between angels and spirits. So ten-year-old me was so nervous that I was being watched by Grandma, I was busy talking myself out of that frequency despite having had what I now recognize as vivid experiences with the spirit world up until then. But now here’s Kyle Gray telling me that when it comes to angels; “its your job to turn up, not theirs.”
Ironically, Kyle explains, “when you work with angels they help you understand who you are, help you return to love and help you get away from the fearful stuff in your life. Angels are like guardians, these beings that forever love you, no matter who you are or what you do.” If I’d know that when I was ten, maybe angels could have helped me explore my grandma’s death in a healthy way, rather than running from it and pretending it didn’t exist (much like the angels themselves).
Kyle has been distracted a few times since we began talking by things happenings around me that I can’t see, but he insists that spirits are more distracting than angels – although angels do like to remind you of their presence. And for the record, if a spirit is a loved one in heaven who’s passed away, an angel, he says, is like a divine entity. “If God was to exist and God was to think, that thought would become an angel.”
So perhaps our angels are more like the thoughts we have. Thoughts that grows wings; our intentions. When Kyle first discovered angel power, he says had a lot of fun writing prayers to them. And though he speaks to angels and often hears a response, his practice still is the sacred act of writing prayers. At first this meant prayers to manifest new cars and free holidays, before he realized he could use angel power for internal growth. “Instead of asking for money to pay my bills, I started to ask how I could share more, how I could be more present. The rest of the stuff started to take care of itself.”
Kyle spent much of his adolescence wondering why he was special enough to see angels; “but when I look back now, it was just about the willingness to see.” We agree that it’s a frequency the majority of us are conditioned out of. I’m starting to get that the important thing about angels is having “the open heartedness to experience without judgment,” as Kyle Gray puts it with a nod.
With that, it’s clear that it was only me doing the judging when I was a kid, not the angels after all.