PEACE ON EARTH: A PRAYER FOR THE PLANET

Recorded for The Numinous in August 2015, during Guru Jagat’s RaMa Glastonbury Retreat, Rebecca Campbell‘s Prayer For The Planet is a chanting meditation designed to raise our collective vibration and send peace to the world. Visuals: Christel Chaudet

Mother Earth doesn’t need us in order to survive but we need Her.

After launching my book Light Is the New Black last summer, I found myself feeling exhausted and depleted. No amount of meditation or Netflix marathons could fill up my well. And when I listened, what I heard was my soul was calling me to return to the mystical land of Avalon (in the UK’s Glastonbury) to be nurtured by Mother Earth. It didn’t make sense at the time, but knowing my intuition when I hear it I cleared my over-spilling diary, packed a bag and set off – for what would become a magical mystery tour of the region’s ancient sacred sites.

24 hours later I found myself laying star shaped in the long grass and roses of the Chalice Well Gardens. My body felt replenished, as my own well filled to the soundtrack of the red springs bubbling eternal from the depths of Mother Earth. And just ten minutes later, while back in my B & B playing kundalini mantras, there was a knock at my door.

I opened it to find a white-clad yogi standing there, asking me if I was here for the RaMa retreat starting the next day. “I must be,” I thought, and soon found myself joining a group of 30 yogis (including the Numinous’ Ruby Warrington, Guru Jagat and Madeline Giles) chanting our way around the sacred sites of England (more on this here).

The magical thing about returning to sacred lands our soul once trod is that something is unlocked, not just in ourselves but in the land too. It’s as if the Earth has called us back to remind us of things once forgotten.

I realized this visiting a Vesica Pisces crop circle near Avebury. The moment I stepped inside, it I was overwhelmed by an sense of being held. It was subtle yet extremely significant and powerful. As the group formed a circle in the center of the sacred symbol, it was as if Mother Earth was welcoming us into her arms, rocking us back to a place of deep receiving, healing and surrendering. As we began to chant I hit record on my iPhone, knowing that this moment was not only for those of us who had physically journeyed there.

And so I offer this sacred chant up to you. May it soften your heart to receive all of the love, healing and wisdom needed as you navigate the next portal of your journey. For as we each soften, awaken and heal, our magnificent planet does too.

COMING OUT OF THE SPIRITUAL CLOSET

Sushma Sagar pursued a high powered career in fashion, but always practiced reiki on the side. She shares how she finally found herself coming out of the spiritual closet at work.

 

“I’m a closet hippie” I used to jest to my close friends. “She’s doing her witchy stuff again” they would say, all tongue in cheek, making a silly joke. It was no joke.

I’ve been practicing reiki healing on the sly for around 16 years, and only now do I feel like I can admit it freely. It’s not the middle ages, I’m not going to get burned at the stake, so why has it taken so long to come out?

Of course you must always look back to look forward. As a kid, I played with the other children and got along just okay, but was always a bit on the outside. A little misfit who would hang around with other misfits to fit in. Fitting in, being what you thought others wanted, was what you did. A child of Indian doctor immigrants, with success and achievement drilled into us from an early age, assimilation was the most important thing.

Childhood passions were quashed one by one – dance, theatre, art, textiles- and I grew up to find myself working in marketing for well-known fashion brands like Diesel, Ted Baker and Ben Sherman. It was fiercely competitive, and as for fitting in…well that goes without saying. I was so desperate to prove myself and to get along, shape shifting became natural.

But quietly, outside of work, I was developing other interests. The catalyst of heartbreak saw me visit a healer who used acupuncture and reiki to calm my heart and make me smile, when I believed I could not. Astonished and intrigued, before I knew it I had done a course and had been initiated into this, then secret, world.

And as anyone who’s experienced their reiki initiation will know, once on the path, it slowly changes you; your trajectory shifts and, whether you want to or not, you move towards your personal truth. As did I…but on the weekends only!

So my double life continued. By day, corporate world, shallow dreams, and fickle desires. On evenings and weekends, I was back to my private world, filled with magic, loving energy, and heart opening activities. As far as I was concerned these worlds were mutually exclusive, and I felt more comfortable keeping them that way too.

But then holistic therapies began to gain interest; LA’s healthy living and New Age thinking was becoming popular in London. Celebrities and their holistic entourage were being reported in the press, spa and yoga retreats were all the rage. I ploughed on, reading and practicing until I finally completed my master reiki training. Simultaneously, my corporate life was also going from strength to strength.

And all around me, I could feel attitudes changing, judgments becoming less harsh, and ideas about “alternative” healing finally entering the mainstream. By now I had also joined a wonderful fashion brand, that celebrated interesting women. And yet still I didn’t let on to anyone about my “interesting” side.

But then, heartbreak yet again, and some serious healing was needed. I called in the big guns and found a shamanic practitioner in London. Together we journeyed back in time, healed some karmic contracts and made my soul whole again. Delighted, I trained with him to learn these skills for myself. As a result, I now felt so fully and completely me, that hiding “myself” seemed impossible.

Life was improving fast now on every level. My heart was healing after all I’d come through romantically, and I felt whole, settled and happy in my skin. I got promoted at work, felt inspired again, and began working on all the creative side projects I’d been afraid of starting.

The last piece of the puzzle was to find a way to bring my two separate worlds together. To cause a synthesis of my spiritual self and my life in the fashion world – something I’d never felt a need to do until now.

Then, when I was invited to give reiki taster sessions to professional women on a retreat hosted by a friend, the fact I understood their life turned out to be an empathetic advantage. I realized you can have one foot in the material and one in the spiritual!

Monday morning at the office following the retreat, the conversation began as usual: “so what did you do last night?” asked my boss. Me: “OH, I did a healing exchange, I gave a friend some reiki and he did some energy work on my knee.” “You do reiki?” she cried, “That’s amazing, you never said.” Me: “Didn’t I? I’ve been doing it for years, I must have mentioned it. Anyway about that budget…”

And just like that, I came out the spiritual closet. I haven’t looked back.

To book a shamanic reiki session with Sushma contact [email protected]

How did you come out of the spiritual closet? Share in the comments below!

WEEKLY TAROTSCOPE: NOVEMBER 16-22

The Hermit card gives us permission to retreat to a place of personal safety this week, so we can respond opposed to react to areas of difficulty in our life. By Louise Androlia.

You can watch last week’s weekly tarotscope at the link – did Louise’s message resonate with you? Share in the comments below, and connect with us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!

LIGHT WORKER: THE HEALING JOURNEY OF JODY SHIELD

London-based Jody Shield has gained a reputation as the healers’ healer, and signed as a Lululemon meditation ambassador. She shares her journey with Ruby Warrington

“Quit your job.” It was back in 2013 that Jody Shield heard the voice, subtle and yet insistent. “The sensation that came with it was one of, ‘it’s fine, you’ll be supported, don’t worry, trust’,” she remembers. “But still I was like, ‘no, no…what’s going on?’ And it just kept repeating, ‘quit your job, quit your job, quit your job’…”

Until this moment it had been a regular day in the office at the London ad agency where Jody had worked since 2005, rising through the ranks to become Business Director. Sure, she’d suffered a degree of burn-out in the role, had taken a sabbatical to Peru to “find myself.”

Since her return, she’d been dabbling in alternative therapies, and quietly working to develop what she felt were her natural healing abilities. But she’d found a happy medium, or so she thought. Her newfound skills were simply tools to help her navigate the demands of her own life in the “real world.” But now it seemed as though Spirit had other plans.

“I realized I couldn’t ignore what I was hearing, and almost as if some external force was pushing me to my feet I found myself walking into my boss’s office to tell him I needed to talk. I resigned on the spot,” she remembers.

Within three months, “I had a business as a healer. People had actually already been contacting me about sessions, and I’d been seeing family and friends at weekends. Once I made the decision to focus on it fully, people just kept coming back, and I was like, ‘okay!’”

In the two years since, Jody has become one of the most sought after alternative therapists in London, also gaining a reputation as “the healers’ healer.” This fall, she was signed by Lululemon as their first ever European meditation ambassador, and with a busy public speaking schedule to boot she’s become a leading voice in the Now Age movement. For anybody seeking a similar transition to a career in healing, her journey is a lesson in surrendering to your calling.

Born in the North of England, “growing up, I always had a sense that there was something bigger out there and that I was going to be a part of it. I used to look at celebrities and think, ‘they’re no different to anybody else, they’ve just got big energy’. And I felt that way about myself, too,” she says.

As far as connecting to Spirit, “I had a sense of the different energies in our house, and would get goose bumps when I walked into certain rooms. I’d drag the dog in with me for ‘protection’,” she laughs. But like so many psychically-developed young women, “I shut it all down when I hit my teens and began to discover boys…”

The first indication that she would one day be asked to use her gifts blew into her life on the winds of tragedy – after an ex-boyfriend was brutally murdered. “I woke up in bed one night not long after it happened, and there was an outline of him next to me on the matress. I realized his soul wasn’t able to pass to the other side, and I so I just told him, ‘it’s okay, be at peace now. You don’t need to worry about anything.’ And he just left.”

Back in real life Jody was focused on climbing the corporate ladder – even if the incident with her ex had left its mark. “I was emotionally burned out, and self-medicating with drugs and alcohol to the point I had to take time off work due to ‘stress’,” she says. Eventually, she set off for South America for what she thought was some much needed R & R. Instead, she found herself on an intensive plant medicine retreat.

“Nobody was talking about Ayahuasca back then, so when I heard about it in Peru I really had no idea to expect. Even on the boat to the retreat center, I remember wondering what on Earth I was doing there, and thinking I would probably just be an observer,” she says. In the event, her 12-day shamanic immersion would prove absolutely pivotal in her journey to becoming a full-time healer herself.

Not least because she was immediately confronted with a truth she’d been hiding for years, even from herself – that she was living in the grips of bulimia. “When we arrived we were asked to drink something to make us vomit and purge the toxins from our system. The potion didn’t work on me, and the facilitator told me to stick my fingers down my throat. My immediate reaction was, ‘but you can’t do that in public!’ I’d kept my eating disorder a secret for a decade.”

In ceremony, having drunk the Ayahuasca itself, “it felt like being cradled in the arms of the Mother, looking down on me and loving me, but going; ‘you’ve got something to confess, and you have to bring it up so I can help you with it.’ When I shared about this afterwards, it was the first time I’d spoken about my eating disorder to anyone.”

Jody took part in seven ceremonies over 12 days, sharing her little jungle hut with giant cockroaches and spiders, and emerging with an unshakable sense that her bulimia was behind her. “It was as if my brain had been re-wired and I couldn’t even remember the physical process of the illness. I had also made a contract with the plant to never eat meat or take drugs again.”

Further, “I had been recognized by the indigenous tribe as one of them. After one ceremony, they all made a bee-line for me, calling me “doctor, doctor, doctor.”

It’s testament to the grounded nature that makes Jody so approachable as a healer that she was able to pack this experience away with her guide books and resume her “normal” life back in London. Albeit with a desire to discover more about the healing arts, and her own abilities in this area.

It began with the study of EFT, or tapping, but it was discovering the work of Damien Wynne that tapped Jody fully into her gifts. Having developed a system for karmic, emotional and energetic “clearing” called Light Grids Therapy, “for me Damien was the whole package – a very expansive spiritual channel, yet very, very grounded in his human experience,” says Jody. She decided to travel to Germany to train with him; “My mum insisted on coming with me though, to check I wasn’t being indoctrinated into some cult,” she laughs.

“I connected to the work instantly, which centers on the mantra ‘I am that I am,’ and is essentially about allowing you to fully claim your ancestral seat in this lifetime. After five days of working intensively on healing and opening up my own emotional body, noticed quantum shifts in my perspective on my own life and purpose,” she claims.

“But I was afraid. I was like, ‘if this IS my path, how do I bring this to London, and how on Earth do I explain this to people?!” she says, echoing what must have been the thought process of so many great healers before her. But it was shortly after this that she heard The Voice, while experiencing the sensation of being fully supported by the Universe on her journey.

The rest, as they say, is history. And with with London’s creative and business leaders lining up to work with Jody, there’s a sense of her childhood awareness that “something bigger” was out there waiting for her having been fulfilled.

To find out more about Jody Shield and her work and to book a session visit Jodyshield.co.uk

PIECES OF ME: WHAT IS A SOUL RETRIEVAL CEREMONY?

Maggie Harrsen of Puakai Healing explains how our soul can become fragmented when we experience trauma, an what exactly happens in a Soul Retrieval ceremony. Images: Prince Lauder

 

HOW DO I KNOW IF MY SOUL NEEDS RETRIEVING?
To first understand if a Soul Retrieval Ceremony may be beneficial for you, it is important to know the signs of Soul Loss (see below). During Soul Loss a piece of our soul, our light essence, flees the body in order to survive a traumatic or shocking experience. Examples of situations that may cause Soul Loss are: all forms of abuse (emotional, physical, sexual), death of a loved one, divorce, separation, natural disasters, accidents, surgery and any distress during rites of passage.

THAT SOUNDS PAINFUL…SO WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF SOUL LOSS?

Soul Loss could manifest in any of the below:
A feeling of being lost or incomplete
Chronic depression, anxiety or grief
Feeling disconnected from all of life
Feeling “out of body”
The sense that you haven’t been “the same” after a certain event
Chronic illness and ongoing misfortune
Blocked memory
Lack of joy
An inability to make decisions
Addictive behavior patterns
Being disconnected from your intuition
A loss of energy

IF OUR SOUL FRAGMENTS WHEN WE EXPERIENCE TRAUMA, WHERE DOES IT GO TO RETREAT?
According to the Qero paq’os (healers) of the Andean mystical tradition, when a soul part flees our body it goes to the Ukhu Pacha, the place of the underworld where Pachamama, our Cosmic Mother lives. Being our Earth Mother, she is able to keep these parts of our soul safe until we’re ready to receive them back. It is my belief that in order to fulfil our soul’s particular mission on Earth, we need all of our soul parts restored and within us!

It is also interesting to note that in indigenous cultures, if a little one falls and breaks a limb or witnesses the death of an elder, the healer will perform a ceremony on their behalf right away. In Western culture, the understanding of our energetic body and the spiritual causes of illness are not so recognised or well understood, so restoring all the parts of our soul can often mean going back decades.

HOW SHOULD YOU PREPARE FOR A SOUL RETRIEVAL CEREMONY?
In the Soul Retrieval Ceremony we are working within the luminous energy field (the energy bubble that surrounds and informs the physical body) so the only preparation is in our intention, as this is what drives energy. And in a Soul Retrieval Ceremony our intention is simple – we are calling back any lost soul parts that are ready and willing to return to the individual right now.

When we create sacred space and have an openness and willingness for healing to occur, it simply happens. My role in ceremony is holding this space for individuals to heal themselves. The most important element for me is trust – to build trust with my client and create a space in which they feel safe to completely open, like a blossoming flower. It is through our own courage and will that we are able to heal ourselves and, in turn, heal the Earth.

WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENS IN THE CEREMONY?
The ceremony takes place either inside a space or outside in nature. The client will lay comfortably on the ground with blankets and pillows and I will sit at their side. I will begin by preparing sacred space, using the smoke of the Palo Santo wood and other various rituals, and then I will gently guide the client into a relaxed place of stillness. They will remain laying down – resting and focusing on their breath for the duration of the ceremony.

Together we will set our intention and go into an altered state of consciousness through the sound of various instruments, including a rattle, drum and bells. As the healer, I journey outside of time and space to my guiding spirits who assist me in locating and understanding why these light essences, or soul parts, originally left.

They are then brought back and restored to the individual through my breath, as I blow them into their heart center and crown of the head. We then move into the transmutation sequence of the ceremony, where the client absorbs the light of their soul into every cell of their being. During this time, I play various high vibrational instruments and music. To complete the ceremony, the client gently sits up, sipping a glass of water and I share my healing story, focusing on the gifts that were restored. The client may also share any visions, sensations or experiences they had during their ceremony.

AND HOW DO PEOPLE FEEL AFTERWARDS?
Since we are all unique as human beings, everyone feels differently after a Soul Retrieval Ceremony. Some individuals may feel sleepy and some are buzzing with energy. Some feel emotional. Some feel a shift in physical sensation and perception. Some feel nothing. Many feel deep peace and relaxation, and most individuals report a sense of being grounded and “in their body”. Individuals often express they feel at home again. In the days and months after a Soul Retrieval Ceremony most individuals report significant life changes.

SUCH AS…
I have heard people report all of the following:
A sense of spiritual harmony
Greater wellbeing and vitality
Healing of physical dis-ease
Clarity/remembering of the soul path
Unconditional love for the self
Restoration of individual gifts
Depression replaced with joy
Renewed relationships
An ability to be their authentic self
Courage to follow their dreams
A deeper connection to the natural world

Find out more about Maggie Harrsen and Puakai Healing here, and check out the details of her upcoming Hamptons retreat, which takes place July 27 and 28 2015

FIND THE RIGHT THERAPY FOR YOUR SIGN

Thinking about which form of therapy will suit your unique needs? Wolf Sister has some suggestions for every sign of the Zodiac…Image: Karolina Daria Flora

When checking out the right therapy for your sign below, remember your Sun sign only represents one aspect of your total being. Read for your rising sign (the outer you) and moon sign (the inner you) too to see what resonates. If you haven’t done so already, you can click here to enter the date, place and time you were born and generate your chart for free.

:: A R I E S ::
Mars is the ruling planet of this sign and is associated with the head. Aries tend to be over thinkers, thoughtful by nature but with wandering minds that can lead them to anxiety and overwhelm. Meditation would be ideal to calm those overactive thoughts but to sit still for any amount of time may not resonate with many rams!

Yoga literally translates as union of the mind, body and spirit, and this active meditation is the ideal remedy to balance and recalibrate you when overwhelm takes over. With this holistic practice, free spirited Aries gets to stretch, focus and bring you into the NOW.
Find it: Book a trip to one of the Wanderlust festivals and get your yoga fix with a side of Aries-style adventure! Wanderlust.com

:: T A U R U S ::
This earthy sign loves life’s comforts. Ruled by Venus, a planet of sensuality and luxury, the body parts ruled by Taurus are the neck, throat, thyroid gland, larynx, chin, lower jaw, ears, tongue, vocal chords and tonsils. When Taurus is experiencing a mind/body/spirit disconnect, it may physically manifest in one of these areas.

Aromatherapy Taurus loves to be pampered, and making some ‘me’ time with an aromatherapy massage while channeling the earth’s essence through the power of natural fragrance will soothe your spirit and bring you back down to earth (where your energy feels most at ease).
Find it: Get all the information you need at the National Institute for Holistic Aromatherapy.

:: G E M I N I ::
The sign of Gemini is articulate, busy, charming, adaptable, lively, indecisive, intelligent, sociable and spontaneous – in fact ‘change’ is a constant theme for Gemini. Ruled by Mercury, this planet governs the hands, fingers, arms, shoulders, upper ribs, lungs, nerves and nervous system. It may be hard for some of you Geminis to relax!

Qoya is a movement practice for expressing oneself through dance. This practice encourages creative expression through the body, by connecting to your essence and embodying your divine feminine and sensual nature. This practice is a great way for Gemini to channel your exuberant energy.
Find it: Qoya founder Rochelle Schieck runs retreats all year long. Visit Loveqoya.com for more info.

:: C A N C E R ::
This sign is highly intuitive and emotionally charged. Naturally empathic, those born under Cancer may have a tendency to over-eat (subconsciously) to protect themselves from harsh energy and stresses around them. When feelings aren’t channeled correctly and buried away, this disconnect may manifest as a digestive imbalance – indigestion, food intolerances and other issues with the Cancer-ruled gut.

Nutritional Healing will help you learn more about how food affects your body. It’s also important for Cancers to understand how our emotions affect our food choices and how the body processes food when we’re in different emotive states. With mindful eating, emotional and physical stress can be reduced. It isn’t about prescribing a ‘diet’ but developing a relationship with food that nurtures and nourishes holistically.
Find it: The Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida is dedicated to healing through diet and runs programs all year round. Hippocratesinst.org

:: L E O ::
Leo is ruled by the Sun and is associated with the most powerful organ in the body – the heart. Very independent, it’s important to feel like you are in charge. Leo’s love to rule, your mantra is ‘I WILL’. A big theme for Leo is pride. Your ego may demand respect and adoration, and when you’re feeling ignored or less than, this may manifest physically as back problems, heart ailments and lethargy.

Loving Kindness Meditation (Metta bhavana) is a meditation practice for developing compassion. This practice comes from the Buddhist tradition, but it can be adapted and practiced by anyone, regardless of religious affiliation; it is essentially about cultivating love. This meditation will help tame your determined and sometimes domineering nature, using the practice of compassion to go with the flow and call more love into your life.
Find it: Just log on to YouTube! There are many metta meditations for you to explore and experiment with here.

:: V I R G O ::
The Virgo mind is extremely organized and analytical, as Virgos have a strong need to understand themselves and the world around them. You prefer to channel your energy practically than through your emotions. The earth in this sign can make you relentless when it comes to solving a problem and getting a job done, which means sometimes you can forget to make time for self-care.

Counselling/psychotherapy will appeal to Virgo’s analytical side, and a good therapist will encourage you to tune into the psyche to understand yourself (and your emotions) better. This practical approach to removing personal blocks by gaining insights into the subconscious is a way for Virgo to be guided to a place of deeper self-realization and empowerment.
Find it: Talk Space is a new service that allows you to connect with a therapist instantly via text. Check it out at Talkspace.com

:: L I B R A ::
Libra is the sign of peace and harmony, diplomacy, beauty and aesthetics. Ruled by the planet Venus, Libra tends to play the nice guy and can refrain from speaking their truth in order to keep the peace. The body parts ruled by Libra are the lower back, kidneys and adrenal glands.

Art therapy is a creative method for self-expression, where the therapist interprets the symbolism that is communicated through the art created. The idea is that allowing yourself to get lost in the moment creating your beautiful masterpiece, your subconscious is freed to communicating your inner most feelings and thoughts. Art therapy is a great way for Libra to channel energy into creating something beautiful, while receiving insights from your subconscious for personal development.
Find it: You can find out more and locate an art therapist near you at Arttherapy.org

:: S C O R P I O ::
Scorpios are known for being mysterious, deep, magnetic and determined. A theme for Scorpio is self-mastery. Scorpio is ruled by Pluto, and this planet can influence the energy flow of the reproductive organs, as well as with the kidneys and bladders.

Kundalini yoga The word Kundalini translates as ‘coiled’, referencing a ‘serpent’ of energy at the base of your spine. The intention of Kundalini yoga practice is to uncoil the serpent and release the energy within – starting at the base of the spine (the root chakra) and moving it up through the top of the head (the crown chakra). Focusing on breath and movement, it is a mental and physical challenge Scorpio will find strength in committing to.
Find it: The RaMa Institute in Venice, CA, is a hub for the thriving Kundalini community and you can take classes remotely at Rama-tv.com

:: S A G I T T A R I U S ::
Sagittarius is known for being adventurous and optimistic, always in pursuit of higher knowledge and experiences! As an active fire sign, you would rather be doing something interesting than wallowing in your emotions for too long. Ruled by the planet Jupiter, the body parts associated with this sign are the liver, hips, thighs, pelvis and femur.

Light Grids is an energetic therapy that encourages you to release blocks in your life helping you connect to your authentic self. Working on a subconscious level to bring deep change and empowerment, Light Grids therapy tunes into your energetic blueprint and targets your core belief systems. Facilitating healing, alignment to your highest self and giving you a deeper understanding of your life.
Find it: Jody Shield is a UK practitioner bringing Light Grids therapy to the masses! You can also book a Skype session with her at Jodyshield.co.uk

:: C A P R I C O R N ::
Capricorn is one of the most driven and dedicated signs of the zodiac. An earth sign with a strong work ethic, Capricorn is led by Saturn, the planet associated with the skeleton, joints and teeth. When you are overworking yourself, self-care may fall by the wayside and tension may build up in these areas.

CranioSacral therapy is a hands-on technique that restores the flow of energy in the body. It facilitates the release of blocked energy and tensions stored in the body, relieving pain and associated dysfunction. Often used in conjunction with osteopathy, the light touch in this therapy encourages the body to relax and rebalance, enhancing flexibility and well-being.
Find it: The Breath of Life clinic in London runs regular retreats internationally, which incorporate CranioSacral therapy with yoga and other body work. Breathoflife.co.uk

:: A Q U A R I U S ::
The free spirit of the zodiac, Aquarius’s purpose as a humanitarian is to break the outdated paradigm and call in the ‘nu’! You are independent and may come across as detached, but it’s just because you like to do things in your own Aquarian way. Your ultimate dream is to always being true to yourself, never to anyone else’s standards. Aquarius rules the circulatory system, ankles, Achilles heal, calves and shins.

Sound healing facilitates healing on a physical, emotional and spiritual level with the intentional use of various different interments – crystal singing bowls, drums, chimes, bells and gongs. The frequencies emitted work on a cellular level, and with this form of healing you are lulled into a relaxed state while the sound frequencies wash over and through you with their healing effects.
Find it: Eileen McKusick is one of the leading practitioners in sound healing. Find out more about her work at Eileenmckusick.com

:: P I S C E S ::
The dreamer of the zodiac, Pisces straddles both the material and the mystical worlds – and sometimes this can mean interpret what they want to see. Pisces may be vulnerable to disappointment because they are so idealistic. Even with the talent and resources that they possess, their limiting self beliefs and low self-esteem may hold them back.

Tarot therapy may appeal to your ethereal nature. When life is mirrored back to you by the magic of the Tarot, it can be easy for your imaginative and artist sign to recognize the bad habits and destructive cycles you keep finding yourself in. Insights from a talented Tarot therapist can encourage and inspire in all the right places.
Find it: Our very own Louise Androlia is available for Skype readings internationally! Connect with her at Louiseandrolia.com

What therapy have you found works best for you, and why does it chime with your chart? Connect with us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and share your story

BOYS TO MEN: A NEW VISION FOR EMPOWERED MASCULINITY

In the age of the Divine Feminine…what about our men? On the eve of the publication of his new book on the subject, Ruby Warrington talks to David Harshada Wagner about his vision for empowered masculinity. Images: Rainbow Gathering by Benoit Paille via Behance.net

“It’s like a guidebook for men to be more happy and free, but in a way that’s still masculine. And part of it is by owning their role as a male.”

When did you decide to make men and spirituality a focus?
I’ve been totally steeped in the Eastern spirituality thing for decades, but the men’s work was always in the background. Then I got into my 40’s, went through a divorce, got into another relationship, and all of a sudden I’m having a son. And it all just came home.

How does spiritual work look different for dudes?
It’s about practicality. For most men there really needs to be some kind of pay off, where the rubber meets the road. Most men wouldn’t be caught dead in a meditation class or a retreat, unless they knew it was going to help them with their work, their relationships with their loved-ones. They just won’t even do it.

Don’t men sometimes just feel out of place? There’s so much talk about ‘divine feminine’ this, and ‘Goddess energy’ that. I kind of feel like men must be thinking, ‘okay, so are my urges and drives redundant now?’
I don’t think it’s so much that men have that whole thought, like, ‘where do I fit into this?’ I think they just think ‘this is not for me. I’m going to sit home and drink beer and watch the game while my wife goes to the yoga retreat. Because that’s just not something that would be of interest to me at all.’

So part of it is about honoring the masculine energies as sacred too. On the Eastern spirituality scene the energy is predominantly feminine. And even anti-masculine, in the sense that it’s all mostly about peace, compassion, and softness. The average person, when they hear that I’m doing a spiritual book for men, they’re like, ‘Oh, good. You’re going to teach them to open their hearts.’ It’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to teach them to open their hearts, but the book is really about growing a backbone and balls.’

Ha! So should women be encouraging men to go on the yoga retreat with them?
I don’t think most men will necessarily get what they need from bending over in a room full of women. Of the 8% of men that will go, there’s an even a smaller percent of heterosexual men. It’s kind of like we have to go into our feminine to be able to be in that. Or at least fake it. And that’s when you get the yoga teacher who ends up in some sex scandal – because they feel like they can’t just say, ‘Hey, I think you’re really sexy, and you’re my student, but why don’t we go get a drink?’ Instead they feel they have to be like, ‘Yeah, I think you should come for a private session because I need to open your hips’ or something. You know? The heterosexual desire is made illegitimate.

So what are some spiritual exercises that you do with guys?
In my book there’s a big chapter on the ‘father wound,’ and it’s a real central thing for most men. He was my teacher on what it means to be a man, so did I learn from him? I also like to connect men to a sense of vision, because men without a vision are really lost. They need to have a mission. They need to know what they’re moving toward and be able to say, ‘Yes, I’m still moving toward it, I’m getting closer, or I’m going the wrong direction.’ So I try to help men find that. The other thing is to just get them used to being in a conversation with each other.

Without any beer. Because that’s often what it takes, right?
Exactly. And in my experience, men tend to communicate a lot better shoulder-to-shoulder than face-to-face. I had one veteran that I worked with a lot, and often times I would go sit at the bar with him, with the bartender there washing the glasses or whatever, and we’d do a session. My office, with the chairs facing each other, felt awkward – maybe too intimate.

Who are your typical clients for this kind of work?
What I get a lot is the partners of my female students, and partners of women who are already involved with spirituality. They either see my stuff as a safe way for their man to get involved in it, or sometimes they want me to fix their man. At my Kripalu weekend last year, half the men were there because their wives had given them a father’s day gift, in hopes that somehow they would get fixed.

And…what happens if the wife is part of what needs fixing?
This is actually quite typical. A man comes because his wife tells him he’s too angry, and society has told him that he has an anger issue. So he comes, thinking I’m going to teach him to breathe and not be angry. But instead I break down anger from the point of view of the Bhagavad Gita, which says anger is there when a desire is thwarted. So then I say, ‘Okay, man, you’re angry, and that’s beautiful. What are you wanting that you’re not getting? Like at a deep level.’ And I unleash them to go after what they want in their life. And sometimes that means they go home and they divorce their wives.

I know you have a theory about the difference between a boy, a guy, and a man. What’s that about?
The distinction I’m trying to make is that a man is someone who’s done some work on himself, and I think there’s definitely a sense of honor and sacrifice and strength. A man is ready to protect his world and serve his world, whereas a guy is just mostly about himself. A ‘dude’ is usually like a hipster, even more self-absorbed. Males in our society get into this really immature self-absorption thing.

How does that ‘man’ifest (ha)?
It looks like; ‘he’s not living his truths.’ He’s either living what his father wanted him to do, or he’s trying to live the opposite of that. He doesn’t really want to sit in this job and work in this job; he wants to be an entrepreneur, but he’s too scared. Or he doesn’t want to be in this marriage because he doesn’t get anything out of it, but he just doesn’t feel like he’s empowered to leave.

And so he makes excuses; ‘But I’ve got to bring home the bacon.’ Or, ‘it doesn’t matter. I’ll just watch some porn, beat off, just try to entertain myself a little bit.’ What I’m interested in is training men to be on fire with passion and vision, so they are bringing those values to their family and bringing that masculine energy to the house so that their woman can be in her feminine energy and not feel like she has to be the brains of the operation all the time.

You can be totally gluten free and only think nice thoughts, but if you’re a terrible lover or you don’t know how to make money, or you don’t know how to take care of your kids, all of that is for naught in my point of view.

What do you wish you could tell the average man in the street about spirituality, and how to tap into his spiritual power in a masculine way?
That they don’t have to do it alone. A lot of men just don’t have other quality men in their life in a quality way, and so they put all their emotional care in the hands of their women. And oftentimes they’re really isolated from other men. One of the first questions I ask any man who’s suffering, is; ‘Do you have good men in your life?’ And the answer is almost always no. Men need a network of other men that they can really talk to about their fears, but also about their strengths.

How are the men in your life getting in touch with their spirituality? Connect with us and share your stories on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Backbone: The Modern Man’s Ultimate Guide to Purpose, Passion and Power by David Harshada Wagner will be out May 5 2015. David’s next retreat at Kripalu, Wild, Deep, Masculine and Free: A Weekend for Men, will take place May 29-31 2015.

 

MATERIAL GIRL, MYSTICAL WORLD: ROCHELLE SCHIECK

Total lifestyle envy alert! Just wait until you read about Rochelle Schieck’s Mystical World…PLUS shamans and Liquid Sunshine in the round-up of Ruby’s Mystical Week.

Qoya founder Rochelle Schieck

Almost everyone I’ve spoken to this week has been experiencing the change of seasons like a wall of water to be waded through, or a heavy cloak of fog obscuring all hope and light – myself included. Hibernation season incoming! As a spring baby, I always find this downshift into darkness pretty hard to handle, which can only mean one thing – time to ramp up the self care and dive into my spiritual practise…

It’s also the week I’ve been sunshine dreaming about a January trip to Costa Rica :: drinking Liquid Sunshine from the Montauk Juice Factory :: talking chakras and conspiracy theories with my shaman, Manex Ibar (yes I have a shaman now, full report coming soon) :: mixing Meditation & Margarita’s at Danielle Mercurio’s mystical monthly NYC meet-up :: interviewing the gorgeous Felicity Jones, star of Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything :: and thanking the all-seeing creator for my new Isabel Marant Etoile flight jacket (seriously, TF for Isabel Marant)

Isabel Marant Etoile Benny jacket, available at Matchesfashion.com

So I first met this week’s Material Girl on the Astro Twins’ Become Your Own Astrologer retreat in Tulum last year. As creator of sensual movement class Qoya, it was Rochelle’s job to get us out of out astro-addicted minds and back into our bodies – which loosely translates as: “host an awesome dance party every night.”

I’ve since come to realize (main via her brilliant Facebook posts) that this is pretty much what Rochelle’s life looks like. Based mainly in Venice, CA, she seems to spend most of her time tripping from retreat to delicious retreat, all in the name of spreading the girl-empowering message that: “our essence is wise, wild and free.”

Rochelle Schieck, we want your life! Here’s what makes her Mystical World go ’round…

:: MATERIAL GIRL ::

My Look I led a Qoya workshop in Woodstock, NY last weekend, and as I was walking through the forest, smelling the fresh air and seeing all the leaves changing colors and gracefully falling to the ground, I felt a thrill noticing the temperature had dropped low enough to pull out my favorite piece of clothing – my Pendelton poncho! I wear it religiously as if my soul is expressed through its fabric and design, which honors all of our indigenous roots. I wear the poncho with black leggings and heels to dress it up, or, to keep the shaman chic vibe going, with my Minnetonka Moccasin booties.

Rochelle in her Pendelton poncho, $399

My Fragrance I live in Venice, CA, most of the time, but after my time in Woodstock last week I went to stay with a friend in NYC. She laughed, commenting that whenever I come to visit, my scent of rose and sandalwood fills up the whole apartment. It’s Amma Rose Oil and it is intoxicating. I like to put it on my wrists and neck, but since I’m 5’2, I also put a small amount on the top of my head as a gift to all those I hug that day.

Amma Rose Oil, $35

My Pampering I couldn’t go to NYC without making a pilgrimage to Spa Castle in Queens. Four floors. There’s a gold sauna, a salt sauna, a jade sauna, an infrared sauna…even an igloo!! The quintessential Korean spa treatment is to get a scrub and massage that feels on the verge of too aggressive, but leave you feeling like polished gold for the next 72 hours. Rumors are there is a new location opening in Midtown Manhattan in the fall!

My Jewels My best friend since college, Becca Kannapell, started Pound Jewelry with her mom and sister, and they make my favorite pieces on the planet. Right now I’m really into their pendulum pendants – which are completely gorgeous, and double as a divination tool. I even wrote a piece on how to swing a pendulum inspired by my love their jewelry!

Pendulum pendants, $85 each, Pound Jewelry

My Food Whenever I’m in NYC I end up traveling around the city seeking different variations of a macrobiotic bowl that has rice, steamed kale and vegetables, seaweed and a large amount of Tahini sauce. My go-to’s this mission are Souen (for their Macro Bowl), Jivamuktea Cafe (Yogi’s choice) and Anjelica Kitchen (Dragon Bowl).

My Gift to Me I recently booked a Boudoir photo session with Lori Berkowitz, who specializes in capturing the beauty of a woman in her sensual essence. Sensual energy is life force energy. The stronger one is, the stronger the other. But this doesn’t have to be translated into the framework of sexual relationships with others – it can also mean reclaiming the physical sensation of the divine in your body, and honoring that sensation and the body itself as sacred, whole and holy.

 

:: MYSTICAL WORLD ::

My Morning Ritual On wakening, I immediately roll over into child’s pose to count on my fingers ten things I am grateful for. Then I slide into half pigeon and feel something I want to celebrate about my life on each leg before laying back into Vajrasana (hero’s pose) and imagining what I’d like to co-create with the divine today. Here’s a free video on YouTube I made for anyone to follow along Bed Yoga

My Sign I AM a Gemini. Gemini Sun. Gemini Moon. Gemini Venus. Gemini! Also Taurus rising, which explains my passion for the body and the sacred work I do in the world focusing on embodying the soul through a movement system I created called Qoya.

My Mantra In a sentence (and a hashtag): “#dancemakeseverythingbetter”

My Healer My favorite healing has always been collapsing or resting into the embrace of Mother Earth. Every jump in the ocean restores me. Every moment of relaxation while sitting next to a tree, softens my body into trusting the cycle of things. Every breath of fresh air in the mountains calms my thoughts and invites me to remember all I have to do is be here now. Every dance around a fire helps me feel the pulse of my own heartbeat and recognize it as the same heartbeat that dances through us all.

However, if my access to nature is limited, my team of healers includes several astrologers, body workers, shamans, intuitives and the occasional impulse call to Californiapsychics.com. I recently had my world rocked (again) by checking in on my favorite Shamanic Astrologer Sao. He is a passionate man put on this earth to assist with the awakening of the divine feminine and the way he gives a reading, it goes into the center of your soul. For daily inspiration, weekly and monthly horoscopes and yearly readings, I love to check in with the AstroTwins who help make everything make sense in the most intuitive and simultaneously scientific interpretation of my chart. And for chart readings assisted by akashic guides, I am grateful for Virginia Rosenberg and Heavenly Bodies.

My Reading With all the Gemini in me I read a lot, and many books at the same time. The novel that soul stirred me recently is Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak, about the true story of Rumi and his soulmate happening concurrently to a modern day 40-year-old woman on her journey to learn the forty rules of love.

I also just finished an advance copy of my friend Betsy Blankenbaker’s first novel, Autobiography of an Orgasm. A nod to Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, it’s the most honest account I’ve ever read of a woman’s sexual journey, dealing with childhood abuse, confusion as a young woman, marriage, giving birth to four children, and then the unexpected turn of events that led to her turning fifty and exploring the connection between the sensual and sacred by researching her relationship to orgasm. It’s part erotica, part informational “how to” and completely compelling.

My Mission The intention behind Qoya, the movement system I created (or rather, is creating me), is to share the idea that through movement, we remember that our essence is wise, wild and free, and to follow the feeling of truth when we experience it in our body. Through my Qoya classes, workshops, retreats and teacher training, we remember that the body is a portal to those sacred moments that can rarely be explained, but must be felt and experienced. To the Numinous!

To find out more about Rochelle’s work and experience some Qoya for yourself, sign up for her free 10 Days to Love Qoya and receive a short video embodiment exercise.

You can also connect with Rochelle on Facebook.

SILENCE, PLEASE: DIARY OF A VIPASSANA MEDITATION RETREAT

Man it can get LOUD out there. Have you ever considered shutting down the noise and embarking on a 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat? Sarah McKinney shares the experience that left her “more integrated, and whole.” Images: Karolina Daria Flora.

I’d always been fascinated when people said they’d gone on a 10-day silent meditation retreat, in the same way I’m fascinated by people who tell me they run marathons, my usual reaction being: “That’s so awesome — for you.” But this past October, when one of my yoga teachers strongly recommended Jack Kornfield’s 37th annual spring Vipassana, something inside of me sparked, and I knew it was time for me to experience it for myself.

I’d been trying to “should” myself into establishing a daily seated meditation practice for a while, but couldn’t get it to stick. I’d rationalized that yoga was a moving meditation. I’d done maybe a dozen or so 30-minute guided meditations, and had sat quietly for five-minute meditations countless times.

But I knew that meditating in silence for hours every day, for 10 days in a row, would be like learning to swim in the deep end. I felt a little nervous, but also confident that I had the tools needed to process whatever thoughts or emotions might come up. And I was comforted by the fact that Jack’s retreat didn’t require 100% silence.

We were allowed to talk during three different meetings with teachers — one small group, and two one-on-ones, when they would check in on how we were doing and offer some perspective and advice. There was a brief Q&A period at the end of one morning and one afternoon sit each day, giving students the opportunity to ask questions that pertained to their practice. And during the working meditations we could exchange words related to our jobs.

We were also told it was okay to jot down some notes if we felt the need — particularly permissible during the Dharma talks every night, when the teachers would share various lessons from the Buddha. But we were told to avoid eye contact whenever possible, the point being to help us stay focused on our internal experiences. There would also be no reading or use of technology, and any kind of sexual conduct was disallowed.

I’d been warned that the first few days on retreat were often the most difficult — the “settling in” period, they called it. I’d assumed this was because people had repressed traumatic or abusive experiences from their past that suddenly rose to the surface, and I half-hoped I’d be gifted with something surprisingly dramatic and juicy. But instead what I experienced was intense boredom, impatience, fantasy thinking, planning, sleepiness, and intermittent frustration that there wasn’t more instruction given.

The teachers said they were intentionally keeping it simple to start us off, telling us to just keep coming back to our inhale and exhale, and our right and left foot, as we alternated between 45-minute sitting and walking meditation periods.

The walking meditation was not like walking for exercise, or even walking to get from one place to the next. The point was to maintain single minded focus — feeling the weight shift from heel to toe, or from the left to right side of our body, stopping if we noticed something in our surroundings to really observe it before returning to our footsteps.

By afternoon I could hear the cars zooming down the nearby highway and pictured myself running across the desert, yelling; “Save me! Take me away from the land of the slow, where people walk like zombies of the night!” I was entertaining myself — preferable to maintaining single-minded focus, apparently.

When the teachers would release us from sitting meditation saying, “enjoy your walking period” with their Buddha smiles, it felt mildly torturous. Like being told to go enjoy just one sip of wine, or one chocolate chip. But I practiced contrary action, and tried to do what I was told.

On the second day we began receiving more instruction — my thirst for guidance, quenched! During one of the morning walking meditations I became momentarily captivated by the most beautifully bright little yellow flowers growing on a tree, surrounded by soft white fluff. And then a few steps later, by a delicate purple flower growing out of a brittle cactus — the symbolism made me smile.

I sat on a bench during lunch, mindfully chewing and savoring the different textures and flavors per the teachers’ suggestions, and noticed that the Koi pond I was gazing at was particularly green — like a Matcha green tea latte. Looking up I observed a large bush covered in white flowers, and then another one with pink flowers. How had I missed all this the day before? I watched a tall narrow tree bend in the wind as I listened to the chirping birds, my hand clasping a warm cup of tea. I felt the weather beginning to shift.

My working meditation was breakfast set up from 6 — 6:45am. I was grateful for something to do. My working partner was a woman named Margo who I had an immediate affinity for. She was in her late 60’s and (I later learned) a poet, and a writing teacher. She had a son around my age and lived in San Diego with her husband — a man who’d been going on silent meditation retreats for decades. This was her fourth.

We’d occasionally break the rules and whisper to each other; “How are you doing?” Knowing she was having a hard time with the meditations too made me feel less alone. Margo felt like my version of that guy in Eat Pray Love who called Elizabeth Gilbert “Groceries” — she was my friend. Occasionally we would make accidental eye contact when passing each other on the grounds, and sneak smiles.

Throughout my entire life people have commented on how cold my hands are and my go-to response has always been; “cold hands warm heart!” But during the seated meditations I could feel my hands burning with heat as they rested on my thighs, and I remembered an energy worker telling me once that the hands become warm when you are in your body and out of the analytic mind.

And so I began using my hands as my barometer for how much I was “dropping in”, and allowing myself to feel. As that was apparently what we were here to do. “How does that feel in your body?” the teachers frequently asked, when students would share their various mind states, and laughably relatable neuroses. The goal was equanimity, which merely means  to observe our feelings with a balanced perspective, to enable us to respond appropriately.

I was less sleepy by day three, but still pretty bored, and the fantasy thinking had been going into overdrive, carrying over into my sleep. I dreamt I was having sex with someone I’d though about going to bed with, and quickly thanked my subconscious for having taken note before realizing some old familiar feelings were present  too— insecurity, performance, validation seeking. Leftover residue from a life so busily lived that not everything can be fully processed.

Lying in bed, I decided to envision how I’d like to feel having sex with this person — safe, comfortable, playful, fully in my body, ripe with desire, generously giving, the embodiment of “yes.” “Much better,” I noted to myself, as I reached down to my suitcase for some clothes, and then began my walk to the dining hall.

I was surprised that I didn’t miss technology at all, given how obsessively I tend to check it at home. Or exercise. We did have Qigong at 3:15 every afternoon, which gave us a chance to move our bodies, albeit slowly. It was taught by a German man named Franz Moeckl who was so charismatic that all the ladies started giggling the moment he appeared, and then again when he spoke. It became one of my favorite parts of each day, but after about 15 minutes I was still checking my watch — what’s next.

I came to enjoy the simple foods. No seconds. No desire for more. Though I did find myself hoarding a bit — taking an apple at breakfast in case I wanted it later, and one night I wrapped three dark chocolates in a napkin and slipped it into my bag, anticipating a future desire for sweetness, or simply something to look forward to.

I placed them in the freezer of the mini fridge in my room, and took some comfort in just knowing they were there — like an active alcoholic stashing bottles around the house, or a smoker who’s trying to quit but keeps a few cigarettes in a secret drawer, just in case.

I also discovered that one of my roommates was from Australia, due to her being an active sleep talker — it’s like her subconscious found a loophole and was going to town. She had full on conversations that began around 4am, and one morning I nearly laughed out loud when she blurted out in her thick accent; “Well yes, that’s a very large hemorrhage.”

As for the internal work I’d been expecting? On day five I was greeted with an onslaught of anger and resentment, and found myself intensely preoccupied with planning a conversation that I’d decided I needed to have with a friend about how I couldn’t show up and be authentically supportive of her recent decisions.

I explored every angle, and couldn’t seem to find a way to say it that wasn’t charged with judgment and righteousness. In the afternoon we were guided through a forgiveness meditation, and it became clear that the person I’d been planning to “de-friend” was actually an undeniable amalgamation of all of the wounded parts of myself that I’ve worked hard to heal.

She was all of my jagged edges and broken pieces hanging in a wind chime, clanging just outside my door. The walking instruction given was to silently say with each step; “I forgive you. Please forgive me. I forgive myself.” The anger dissipated.

By now I couldn’t seem to access the fantasy thinking anymore — I missed it, and even when I reached out for it, there were no hooks to reel it in. Instead I was left with a near-constant internal narration of my present-time experiences. A ladybug would crawl on my shoe and I’d hear myself say; “Today, a ladybug crawled on my shoe.”

The voice sounded a little bit like that of an older man, maybe Billy Collins or Garrison Keillor — someone with a lot of time on their hands, and a keen attention to detail. It kept me company, but was also kind of annoying.

I also found my mind frequently drifting to things I’d written — poems, mostly — or ideas for new things, based on what I was experiencing on retreat. I’d notice their presence and label them “reciting” or “writing,” letting them float away like clouds so I could return to my breath, or footsteps.

I mentioned this pattern to a teacher during one of my meetings and she asked me to explore how it might feel if I didn’t write about my retreat experience. Little daggers shot out of my heart; “No, I’m not interested in not writing. This is my first silent retreat — maybe next time,” was my response.

She asked me to explain why, and it really came down to a feeling that all of my experiences must be productive. Who am I, and what is my value, if I don’t have anything to show for it?

I smiled when trying to imagine any of my family members doing this retreat. Particularly my Dad — a man who attempted to weed my Grandma’s entire front garden while we were locked out of her house for 20 minutes once. I sat on the front step and watched. He eventually looked up at me, both hands filled with weeds, and evaluated his work, saying, “Well, I’m not sure how much I’ve really accomplished here.” I responded, “But at least you kept busy, right?”

I tease them all for being so Type A. In our family, the question, “How are you?” is most often answered with a list of things you’ve done since you last spoke, followed by another one of everything you plan to do in the immediate future.

Both my parents grew up in households that were very unpredictable so they’ve created a pretty structured approach to life, and it’s worked well for them. I on the other hand, grew up in a household that was very predictable, so have been left craving less structure and more fluidity — the pendulum swings.

By now I was beginning to experience some pretty blissed out states — my body nearly always tingly and pulsing with my heartbeat. Like when you just wake up from a deep sleep, and just lie there, too peaceful to move. I could also feel a strange pressure in my forehead, like it was opening up and pushing dense material off to the sides.

I still refuse to call this my third eye, but I know enough about energy centers to understand that’s what it was —and that I  was tapping in to that concentrated spaciousness, a dark expansiveness, the limitless sea of consciousness.

As the retreat began to inch closer to the end, and my excitement about returning home reignited my planning mind, the mantra I kept repeating to myself during the walking meditations was simply; “I love you. Keep going.”

One day during a sit I decided to kill some time by scanning my entire body, starting at my toes and traveling all the way up to my head, and apologizing for what I’ve put it through — the pounding, twisting, spraining, scratching, bruising, burning, devaluing, starving, pushing, prodding, betraying, withholding, criticizing, ignoring and abandoning — and then thanking it for continuing to be there for me. Tears welled up in my eyes.

The mindful eating was also very healing. Being able to really tune into my body and feel the various stages of digestion, I realized that I often misinterpret digestion as hunger — back in my life of busyness — and don’t wait for it to pass. But in meditation, I could sit with those sensations and feel them as they moved through me. I was eating plenty, but my body continued to feel lighter, healthier and more free.

We broke silence the afternoon before our final day. We were told to partner up with someone and take turns listening and talking for three minutes each. Apparently I had been developing a silent friendship with the woman to my left over the course of the retreat, because once we spoke there was immediate comfort. She was here with her husband, and was four months pregnant. She’d had a hard time, and wanted to know how it was for me.

I struggled to adequately articulate what felt like such a diverse and detailed experience. “It was good,” I started in with, “It felt like a detox, and a self-amends. It was very healing, and very challenging at times, too.” We chatted on a bit more and were then asked to sit in silence again, and to feel the buzzing energy in our bodies that the talking had produced.

We were allowed to continue talking during dinner that night, but then it was back to silence for the 6:30pm meditation, the final Dharma talk, and through breakfast the next day. After packing up our rooms we all met one final time in the meditation hall for a closing ceremony — the teachers each giving us some advice on how to have a smooth re-entry, and keep our meditation practice up.

We were each given a red string, and asked to tie three knots in it — one to represent where we take refuge, one to represent compassion, and one to represent a promise we were making to ourselves. We then partnered up to tie them on for each other, and exchange a blessing.

Before heading back to Los Angeles I asked someone to take a picture of me standing out in the desert, so I could have something visual to remember the retreat by. I had the same dress on that I’d arrived in 10 days prior, but the woman wearing it felt different — more integrated, and whole.

I realized after driving away that I’d left the chocolates I’d taken from the dining hall in my room’s mini fridge. I guess I found the sweetness I expected to crave somewhere deep within myself instead.

Sarah McKinney is a poet, entrepreneur and songwriter, and the founder of Amp, an online directory of sustainability resources. She lives in Los Angeles. Follow her @sarahmck

For a full diary of retreats at Jack Kornfield’s Spirit Rock Insight Meditation Center click here.

TO SKINNY DIP OR NOT TO SKINNY DIP: KNOW YOUR YOGA RETREAT ETIQUETTE

Yay, you’re going on a yoga retreat! You want to get the most out of your experience, right? Who better than Heather Lilleston and Kumi Sawyers from Yoga For Bad People to lay down some summer retreat etiquette. We’re talking less freaking out, more more F.U.N.

Respect your roomie. Adults sharing accommodation is basically a very tricky situation, so when you’re sharing, let them have their space. We’re not here to make best friends, and if that does happen it should be a natural thing. You don’t need to hit the beach together every time.

Now give everybody else their space. The first day is always hardest and weirdest because everybody is landing. Maybe you’re dealing with some travel issues – your luggage gets lost, you can’t poop. Whatever it is, just know that you need to give yourself and everyone else the time and space to deal.

Be present with your packing. On a retreat in India for example, of course bring your yoga clothes but be prepared to honor local dress codes and maybe wait until you get there to buy something to wear. But Brazil is all about spandex and booty shorts. Also bring enough yoga clothes so you won’t need to wash them. Nobody likes a stinky yogi.

Don’t list your shit in the sharing circle. Sure it’s one way to get to know each other, but telling a 20-minute story listing the injuries you’re here to heal is too much. Choose your moments, and your listeners. Often people are blind to being the talkers, so practise a little self-awareness. Be responsible for your own situation.

Respect the property. It the place has a homey vibe, it can be a fine line but it’s not an open kitchen. You’re getting two meals a day and possibly some snacks, and no, it’s not okay to just go and open up the fridge.

Bring your own props. Check with the teachers about what’s available, and pack a block and a strap if you need them so you’re not shorted in your practise.

Remember this is not a private. If the classes are either too advanced for you or not fast enough, complaining to the teacher is not the way to go. But do ask, “how can you help me modify?” – it’s why we’re here. Don’t just slam your yoga into an hour like you do back home. When your teacher is there at breakfast with you, don’t waste the opportunity to use us. We chose to do this work because we love it.

Let the teachers be the leaders. If you speak the local language, by all means step in when it’s useful, but part of the whole lesson is; “this is your time to retreat, not to run the show.” Especially you, men. You may see two female yoga teachers and feel like you need to be the man – but you know what, we have this. Chill out.

Don’t be too schmoozy. When people come out of savasana, especially after a few days of yoga, they’re in a calmer space than usual and might not want to talk. If you’re in the mood to chitchat, feel out where everybody else it, and give people a little transition time.

Be tech appropriate. We have no problem with people using their cell phones or computers, we’re equally addictive about technology, but on other retreats that might be really annoying. Also, ask before you Instagram.

Show up, whatever the weather. Rain can ruin an entire retreat – but only if you let it. Don’t let it. If the forecast is bad, how about you just don’t look at it. Now is the time to remember your meditation teachings. We don’t angst about the things we can’t control, we just let them be.

Hook up with your fellow yogis. Why not? You’re on vacation and it’s cute. But if you end up in a couple or you’re travelling with your partner to begin with, maybe keep the PDAs to a minimum (#smug)

Enforced skinny-dipping? No.

Yoga For Bad People’s next retreat will take place in Turkey, August 18-25th. For more details and booking information click here.

@yogaforbadpeople

 

MY MYSTICAL LIFE: LYNNE FRANKS

1980s fashion publicist Lynne Franks, was famously the inspiration for the character of Edina Monsoon in the hit TV show Absolutely Fabulous. Now a self-styled ‘Women’s Empowerment Guru,’ she’s, like, the godmother of Material Girl, Mystical World. Based between Deia, Majorca, where her company Bloom regularly hosts retreats, and London, she talks altered states of consciousness and doing business with a cause to Ruby Warrington.

IN WHAT WAYS HAVE YOUR OWN SPIRITUAL BELIEFS MOST INFORMED YOUR WORK?
My spiritual journey has influenced my work immensely, particularly when it comes to understanding the basic karmic law of cause and effect. Plus my close relationship with the Brahma Kumaris has kept me very values-focused.

WHAT ARE THE FIRST QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF WHEN CONSIDERING YOUR ‘HIGHEST POTENTIAL’ IN BUSINESS?
The first questions I always ask are; “is this of service?” and “Am I being true to my values?”

WHAT DOES AN ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS LIFE LOOK LIKE TO YOU NOW?
A happy life looks to me like one based on healthy, loving relationships; a close community of friends; health and wellbeing in all areas of my life; a beautiful view when I open my door in the morning; lots of walks with my dog in nature; the happiness of my children and grandchildren; living my life purpose of working with women and girls on creating a better world; lots of laughter and lots of fun; lots of dancing and great music; good food. I could go on…!

WHAT TECHNIQUES CAN YOU SHARE FOR ATTRACTING SUCCESS TO ANY VENTURE?
I don’t believe in techniques but I do believe in tools. A CIRCLE OF WOMEN for support and to share with. Staying true to your vision. Vision boards and books bring your project alive. Technological know-how. Reading everything relevant and keeping an open, enquiring mind. I also write poems, meditate, paint, dance, and love.

WHAT DOES YOUR DAILY SPIRITUAL SELF-CARE ROUTINE LOOK LIKE?
Daily self-care starts with meditation and chanting first thing, the earlier the better. A minimum of one 5Rhythms class a week. Working out and boxing in the park. Long walks with my dog in nature. Making green juices. Laughing. Sitting in my hot-tub first thing in the morning when in Deia. Sitting in my infra red-sauna when in London. They really clean me out.

WHO’S THE HEALER YOU HAVE ON SPEED-DIAL?
My Bloom colleague in Deia Monika Evans for Reiki; Amanda at Spa at Home in Deia for craniaosacral work and Robin Johnson, also in Deia, for a brilliantly healing, Californian-style massage, as taught by the Esalen institute in Big Sur. These three all put me back together when I return to Majorca from the intensity of London life.

WHAT’S THE CRAZIEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE IN THE NAME OF PERSONAL GROWTH?
Probably drinking my own urine – although not so uncommon these days, and there’s a lot to be said for the results which makes it not crazy at all in my eyes.

AND WHAT HAD THE MOST PROFOUND EFFECT ON YOU – WHY?
Endless experiences have had profound effects on me – taking Ayahuasca in the Amazonian jungle; dancing with Gabrielle Roth at Esalen; experiencing altered states with Denise Linn’s meditation and seeing visions of the Great Mother; doing 4am meditation with the Brahma Kumaris at the top of a mountain in India. All these experiences have led to altered states of consciousness, which, at different times of my life, have had a huge influence on me. I consider myself very lucky. Also just being in my beautiful home in Deia – my personal piece of paradise – where I connect with nature and welcome other women to join me on retreats where we support and learn from each other.

YOU’RE AN ARIES, IN WHAT WAYS DO YOU MOST EMBODY THE TRAITS OF YOUR SIGN?
I’m a very typical Aries – full of creative ideas, passionate,  and a self-starter who makes things happen. But can equally be very naïve at times in a child-like way, and definitely over-sensitive.

DEIA IS THE NEW IBIZA. DISCUSS…
Deia is not the new Ibiza! It’s far more interesting, with a long-time heritage of writers and artists from Robert Graves onwards who have made this beautiful village one of the most interesting local and global communities in the world.  It’s much more private and community based. It certainly gets very fashionable in August, but it’s always been somewhere where celebrities, artists and hippies can enjoy each other’s company with no cameras in sight.

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST IMPORTANT MESSAGE FOR LEADERS IN THE WORLD TODAY?
Only when there is equality and co-operation between men and women, boys and girls, human beings and the environment across the world will we see a balanced, loving and safe society for all. There is enough abundance available for everyone – food, shelter, education and happiness – and we need to ensure that all human beings on the planet have access.  Please, please let us change the desperately sad course we are currently on and create a sustainable future for the seven generations to come.

The Bloom 2014 retreat programme begins in Deia in March. For more information go to www.bloomretreats.com
@Lynne_Franks