WHY SKINCARE IS A SPIRITUAL PRACTICE

Fed up with the beauty industry’s impossible standards, Giselle La Pompe-Moore set out to heal her relationship with her skin at soul level. She explains why skincare is a spiritual practice …

Giselle La Pompe-Moore

Have you ever thought about your skin beyond aesthetics?

We can spend hours in front of the mirror analyzing every pore and perceived flaw, but we rarely see beyond this. But on a deeper level, our skin is a barrier between our internal and external worlds. Something both public and deeply personal at once.

This skin allows us to experience the universe around us, to touch and be touched in return. This is why skincare is a spiritual practice.

The color of my skin was different from most of the people I grew up with, and from the women I saw in the media. I loved my skin, but as a black woman I always felt like an “other.” Was always comparing my skin to that of somebody else. The black women I DID see on TV and in magazines seemed hyper-real, with flawless, perfect skin. In an attempt to replicate this for myself, I pursued a career as a beauty editor, drowning myself in products.

Over the years, I began to notice that while creams and treatments can heal the skin externally, they do nothing to address feelings of not being good enough, of shame, and of endless comparison.

And so I took a step back to shift my focus from how skin looks on the outside to what it reflects about our inner life. To investigate the impact of spiritual tools, such as reiki, meditation and tarot, on our relationships with the skin we are in.

Now working as a healer specializing in skincare, I’ve seen how acne, psoriasis, dermatitis, and eczema have impacted the way my clients move through the world. I’ve listened to stories about what they’ll do once their skin is “healed, better, or different,” while denying themselves of the life they could be living right now. I’ve also learned that our skin is the physical embodiment of our innate self-worth.

Whether you’re working through a skin condition, are struggling to accept your physical appearance, or want to add some spirit to your skincare, here are the tools that I’ve used on myself and my clients to help shift our skincare mindset …

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1// Give yourself a crystal facial massage
Crystals can work wonders helping to set intentions around your skin—and one way is with a crystal facial massage. Here’s how to do it:

  • Choose a crystal that symbolizes your skin intention. Pink Transparent Calcite (for non-judgment and comparison), Apatite (willpower for shifting your skin mindset) and Malachite (forgiveness, committing to this journey) are some of the crystals I’ve prescribed to clients.
  • Get comfortable, cleanse your space, and connect to the crystal. Hold it in your hand and feel its energy. As you hold it, visualize your intention. If it’s to help you to forgive yourself for the unkind words you’ve said about your skin in the past, imagine this forgiving energy passing through your body. Then ask the crystal to offer you support and guidance in achieving this.
  • With the crystal in front of you, start to massage all around your face in upward and outward strokes using a face oil. With each movement, feel your intention sinking into your skin at the same time.

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2// Journal to go beneath the surface
A lot of our limiting beliefs about our appearance reside deep below the surface. Use journaling to investigate your relationship with your skin and unearth subconscious beliefs.

Here are a few questions to start with:

-How would you describe your skin? Think about the language you use, is it positive or negative?
-What does the word ‘comparison’ bring up for you, in relation to your skin?
-What memories do you have where someone made a comment about your skin or appearance and how has this had an impact on you?
-What has your inner critic said to you today? Do you believe what it told you? How do you usually talk to yourself when you’re in front of the mirror?

Through journaling, I realized that I used only negative words to describe my skin and would skip past the features I liked. So I decided to start accentuating the parts of my face that I did love, like my lips. See what comes up for you and what tools you can use to release and heal these limiting beliefs. I’ve used tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique), binaural beats and visualization in response to what I uncovered in my journal, and written letters to my skin.

Giselle guides a client

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3// Synch your skincare with the Moon
The phases of the Moon phases can provide a mirror to examine our self-image triggers, and a framework for charting our inner work and emotional landscape over a period of time. Here’s how to incorporate each phase into your skincare routine …

New Moon. Use this time of new beginnings to set an intention for your skin. It could be to reconnect with your skin. Start with self-massage, simply feeling the skin beneath your fingertips. This is also the time to add any new products in to your beauty routine.

Waxing Moon. Check in with the intentions you set at the New Moon, examining how you’re feeling about your appearance now, and thinking about how you can move closer to growing your intentions and reconnecting with your skin. Your skin is also the most absorbent and receptive to nutrients now, so add in a serum with hydrating properties or a nourishing face mask.

Full Moon. Take a moment to celebrate yourself, thanking yourself for all of the work you’ve been doing to shift your skin mindset. There can be heightened emotions and energy at this time, so make sure you’re filling your cup back up with restorative baths or an Ayurvedic abhyanga massage.

Waning Moon. Use this phase for journaling and exploring the limiting beliefs that might have come up for you over this cycle, reflecting on what you need to release in order to grow. To support this internal cleansing and shedding, use an exfoliating body scrub, try body brushing, or add in a detoxifying charcoal soap to draw out impurities and toxins.

Dark Moon. Give yourself a break! It’s easy to end up with spiritual overload, I’ve been there many times – digging into shadow work, past life astrology, and the deepest crevices of my psyche all before lunch ain’t easy! Allow yourself this time to restore, heal, imagine, and to press pause.

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4// Use the tarot to talk to your skin 
The tarot is a powerful tool for working on your mindset and self-worth, and I use it daily for both myself and in my rediscovery: skin sessions. You can start with a single card pull, asking the deck to show you how you can work on your self-image. Use the cards to start a conversation with your skin and listen to what it needs.

Example:
In the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, the Two of Swords depicts a blindfolded woman with two swords crossed over her. The moon is above her and a body of water lies behind her. This card is all about taking the time and space to be still and look inwards. To embody this card, think about how you can create a boundary that allows you to dive into your own self-care. Allow this stillness to offer you intuitive guidance as to where you’re in need of healing and any areas of low self-worth. Use this as an invitation to see through your third eye rather than your physical eyes.

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5// Meditate for both mind and skin
Meditation is a powerful tool for shifting our skin mindset, and for relieving the stress that can trigger or aggravate neuro-inflammatory conditions such as acne.

In sessions, I guide my clients through a skin-focused meditation, which fosters gratitude, forgiveness, acceptance, and kindness, and includes a simultaneous facial self-message that creates physical connection with the skin.

*You can download a version of this meditation HERE. You’ll need cleansed skin, a comfortable space, and a facial oil in easy reach, then plug in and tune out.

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Giselle La Pompe-Moore offers one-to-one rediscovery: skin sessions that guide you to shift your skin mindset to a path of acceptance and gratitude. Her rediscovery: soul sessions incorporate reiki, tarot, and meditation. Both are held either virtually or in-person in London. She also hosts monthly Mirrorscope skin healing circles

WHAT I LEARNED AT PRIESTESS SCHOOL

Seeking to reawaken her innate magic, Ani Ferlise enrolled in Priestess School. She shares how you can embody this ancient vocation …

Graell Corsini and The Goddess Temple of Ashland

Four years ago, I was feeling alone and unfulfilled. I was dissatisfied with the way I’d spent my college years, and I was frustrated with what was expected of me. And so, seeking more of the magic I had always felt in my heart, I left New York and moved to small, magical, Ashland, in Oregon—and it was here I first heard the word “Priestess.”

I had found my way to Graell Corsini, a loving, fiery, pixie Priestess, and founder of the Goddess Temple of Ashland. The Temple itself, a beautiful dome, is surrounded by gardens, flowing mineral springs, beehives, and tall oak trees. Inside, you are greeted by a wood stove and an altar, decked with Samhain decorations and offerings. Immediately on arriving here, I felt something nostalgic and familiar awaken inside of me.

I began my working for Graell at temple “melissae,” cleaning the temple, organizing, sprucing up the altars, and clearing the space. One year later, I asked Graell if she would be willing to do a one-on-one apprenticeship with me and teach me how to Priestess for myself. Over the course of a few short weeks, I immersed myself completely in this ancient vocation.

What I learned totally blew me open, while new insights continue to unfold every day. This is what I have learned so far about the Priestess way …

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A Priestess brings magic to the mundane
Graell told me how part of her practice was to make places more beautiful than when she arrived. If she goes into a bathroom that’s dirty, she cleans it. Graell sees this act alone as a living prayer, bringing the sacred to something so everyday. That’s just one example. Taking a shower can become an energetic cleanse, with lavender or rosemary soap, as you visualize the heaviness of the day going down the drain. Cooking can become kitchen witchery when you say, “Thank you for nourishing me,” as you stir intention into your split pea soup with a wooden spoon. The way you Priestess will be as unique as your fingerprints.

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A Priestess honors the darkness along with the light
Focusing only on the light is a major imbalance in the spiritual world—for we are made of love, light, AND a deep, deep darkness. We are all born from the darkness. The womb-space, the unknown, the place of rebirth. We confront our darkness every day, and to deny this is to deny yourself of your humanity. The deep, dark unknown must not only be looked at but loved. To honor the darkness, the unknown, the places that scare us in ourselves and in life, is sacred.

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A Priestess does not have to be perfect to be in service
We are all capable of manipulation, of stretching the truth a little too much, of judgements, of ignorance, and more. We are always going to be exploring our motivations. Being of service doesn’t require ridding yourself of these human parts. The Priestess approach is to muster up your strength, vulnerability, and courage, and instead of trying to rid yourself of imperfections, to nourish and be gentle with yourself, so that you are overflowing with love. Everything that is not in alignment will then flow out of you naturally.

The Temple

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A Priestess creates sacred space
Holding sacred space is a beautiful opportunity with a lot of responsibility. This space can be energetic or physical. You can push your cart into the cereal aisle at the supermarket while a toddler is throwing a tantrum, and you can ask the mother how she’s doing. Or you can be in ceremony, looking each person in the eye, letting them know that you hear them. You never know when the opportunity to hold space will show up!

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A Priestess nurtures self always
Being a Priestess means creating a (literal) sacred space for you, too. This space is used to pray and to nurture yourself—a place, when something is too big for you, to give it over to the Higher. Natural disasters, terrorism, and societal injustice, are impossible to take on by yourself, nor are you supposed to. You are here to do your part, and whatever is beyond you needs to have a place to go. So create that space. Organize, clean, and beautify it, so you can show up AND feel held.

Whether it is a home altar, a spare room, dresser drawer, or even your car dashboard, use whatever is accessible. My altar has each of the elements represented, and I use the Wheel of the Year for my inspiration. I keep it beautiful and divinely scented with flowers and plants based on the season, with candles and oils to match, and with crystals and incense to set the tone.

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A Priestess celebrates life with ceremony
Every life event can have a ceremony or ritual. Going through a breakup? Moving into a new home? Feeling grateful? Needing to cut ties from a person? Yearning to honor a loss? Ceremony is key to bringing the mythic to the seemingly mundane. Ritual is an invitation for the sacred to come in. While there’s nothing like having a trained guide for major life gateways, there are many opportunities to support yourself during times of transition. For example, if you just experienced a break up, take a cleansing bath with rose quartz, and drink a heart-opening and nourishing tea like Damiana.

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A Priestess is a part of nature
When you begin to pay attention to the transitions of the seasons, the shifting of the Sun from sign to sign, and the phases of the Moon, it’s hard to understand how we are supposed to operate separately from nature. Like the Moon and the tides she turns, our lives ebb and flow. From socializing to solitude, from sadness to joy, from confusion to certainty, and from giving to receiving—a Priestess understands that we too are constantly cycling. Be gentle with your tides.

My life has changed significantly since becoming initiated as a Priestess. I came to Graell searching for meaning, and what she taught me is that we find this in making the world better than when we find it, in ways big and small.

Ani at Priestess School

Embracing the magic in the mundane lights a fire in my heart like nothing else has. Turn toward those who have walked this path before you, for more guidance on living a sacred life. If you have any questions, you can find me at kozmicryder.com or @kozmicryder on Instagram, and Graell Corsini at the Ashland Goddess Temple and at priestessgraell.com.

MANIFESTO FOR AN INCLUSIVE WELLNESS INDUSTRY

After discovering that there was nothing “wrong” with her body except conventional health messaging, Jillian Murphy shares her manifesto for a more inclusive wellness industry …

Photo: Samantha Santy

I had put on 40lbs in my second pregnancy and they seemed to have nestled in for good. I was eating well and moving my body religiously but I just couldn’t lose the weight.

Every well-intentioned health care professional I worked and interacted with as a naturopath was happy to offer up advice about what must be wrong with my adrenals, thyroid, hormonal health, sleep patterns, food combining, mindfulness, sugar intake, etc. etc. etc. and I had worked on it ALL. But to no avail, and I was exhausted from the effort.

Frustrated, I hired a body image and emotional eating coach and, after explaining my long and convoluted health and weight story to this new mentor, she told me something I was wholly unprepared to hear:

“There is nothing wrong with you except for your belief that your body is wrong. You are exceptionally healthy: you don’t have a food problem and your body is exactly, happily, where it needs to be.”

It was one of the strangest, most revolutionary things I’d ever heard. It simultaneously crushed and liberated my soul. Crushed, because, OMG! All the lost time I’d spent trying to “fix” my body. Liberated, because I’d finally been given permission to shed the physical expectations of our culture and just live my life.

The mere suggestion that my body weight and shape may not dictate my health nearly blew up my brain. It set into motion a 7-year journey of critical thinking, self-discovery, and research that would ultimately serve to heal my relationship with food and my body and revolutionize my understanding of health.

What I realized was:

Conventional health messaging flattens beautiful, complex, and biodiverse individuals into 2D facsimiles. Squishes us into mathematical equations, diets, and wellness checklists that promise abundant health and complete control over our bodies.

This messaging makes us believe that if our bodies don’t fit, we are at fault – too lazy, not enough willpower, intelligence, or effort. And in our attempts to conform, we offer up our emotional and spiritual wellbeing, our peace of mind, and sometimes our sanity.

Now, we in the wellness industries are being called to dismantle and challenge outdated, oppressive, and limiting beliefs about food, movement, weight, and health. To present a model for inclusive wellness that is respectful of ALL bodies; critical of information that leaves us feeling confused and in lack; and that offers alternatives to restrictive and prescriptive health ideologies that ignore the lived experience and values of the individual.

This is my manifesto for a more inclusive wellness industry ….

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1// Pursue physical health without compromising your mental, emotional, and/or spiritual self.

When we exercise though our body is asking for rest; when we cut carbs or calories despite our body begging for sustenance; when we skip dinner out for fear of not having the “right” food options; when thinking about food and health consumes our every thought – we sacrifice our sense of peace, connection, and joy in the pursuit of physical “health.” The outcome is a feeling of depletion despite doing “everything right.”

The shift: Put physical health back in its place, as one piece of the health puzzle and not the whole picture.

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2// Respect and appreciate the diversity of human bodies. 

All bodies deserve access to quality healthcare and health resources without judgment or shame. Current body type and weight ideals are problematic and unscientific (including the Body Mass Index or BMI). They negatively impact our relationship with food and movement, and encourage the stigmatization of all but a small percentage of bodies deemed “appropriate.”  Those in bigger bodies are judged harshly and mistreated in every sphere of society, from the workplace to medicine.

The shift: We must shed the belief that losing weight is the #1 path to health and wellness and work instead to pursue behaviors that have been proven to have a positive impact on health – whether we lose weight or not – while developing a much broader and inclusive definition of bodies we deem healthy, attractive, and worthy.

Photo: Samantha Santy

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3// Define “health” and “wellness” for yourself. 

These terms are social constructs that differ across communities and cultures. It’s also important to recognize that many people don’t have the privilege of prioritizing wellness, even if they want to. We can own our own investment and interest in health and wellness without projecting it onto others. Imagine how many hours a day/week could you free up if you let go of food, body control, and worry.

The shift: Consider what aspects of health and wellness actually light you up. Can you think of moments when you’ve judged the health and wellness choices of others? Begin to think about how our narrowly drawn ideas about these concepts impact the overall health of our society.

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4// Become the leading expert on YOU.

We have been taught that we must rely on externally devised, highly moralized food plans telling us how much to eat, what to eat, and when to eat. The Now Age way is to turn to models for nourishing ourselves that put us back in touch with our innate ability to regulate food variety and quantity. These models consider the needs of our physical bodies, while also taking the mental, emotional, social, cultural, and spiritual aspects of food, movement, and health into account.

The shift: Promote eating based on our bodies’ internal cues instead of following fad diets or parroting somebody else’s food rules. (ED: read Jillian’s tips on using body positivity to unlock your intuition).

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5// Cultivate a sense of purpose and worth beyond your physical form.

The exhaustion, digestive issues, inflammatory processes, and body concerns I see in so many of my patients are one part physical, two parts spiritual/emotional. We feel disconnected and the stress of floating through the world unsure of where we belong, what makes us worthy, and what our purpose is shows up as dysfunction in our thought processes and bodies. We then cling to the rituals, routines, and ideologies of wellness and weight that serve as the ultimate distraction.

The shift: Replace diets and health “regimens” with rituals that connect you to the moon, meditation, talk therapy, dance parties, ditching toxic relationships, eating mindfully, speaking up, saying no, walking in nature, swimming in the ocean, lighting a candle, giving back. Anything that reminds us that our worth is inherent, we are more than our bodies, and we are connected to everyone and everything.

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6// Work to change the systems in place that deeply affect the health and wellness of our culture and community.

Socioeconomic status is the leading determinant of health. Accordingly, we must work to shift these issues on a systemic level if we truly care about our health and the health of those around us. There are systems in place that can’t be “love + light”ed away, and we all have a responsibility to pull apart our own oppressive beliefs and work toward amplifying the perspectives of those who experience this system differently.

The shift: Realize that representation matters – if we want to feel normal and acceptable in our various forms, we need to SEE those forms and diverse paths to health. Start with your social media feed by including a wide range of body shapes, sizes, races, abilities, and gender expressions, and enter into those spaces with the intention of listening. As you learn, commit to engaging those who share your social identity in conversations that question your current health and wellness beliefs. Be an active catalyst for change.

HOW TO MARRY YOURSELF

Want to take self-love to the next level? Find out how to marry yourself with poet and activist Lisa Luxx’s guide to pledging your solo spiritual commitment …

In 2016, I married myself. Legally taking the name of my higher self, I became Lisa Luxx, had the initial of selfhood tattooed on to my ring finger, ‘I’, and vowed to always come home to me.

It’s been two years since then, a period of time that has burgeoned with political chaos, which continually leads us back to ourselves to question our position within the greater whole. So in 2018, I decided it was time to re-meet my commitment in ceremony, an act that I intend to re-visit every couple of years to steer the course of my affections for both myself and the wider world.

Here are my top tips on how you can hold your own marriage to your self, because 2019 just might be the year for that … 

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1// Pick a date that’s meaningful
When I initially planned to renew my vows it was due to be on the 7th of December. But I hadn’t had my eyebrows done in time and I figured if I’m not going to start turning up for myself now, what chance does this marriage stand? It wound up being on the 21st, which has been my favourite number since I was a young child. An auspicious one, at that. Actually 7 is a number I always associate with my ex; now I’m sure my lazy beauty routine was actually divinity intervening.

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2// Choose your witness/es
The idea to renew my vows in a ceremony came up during a therapy session. My therapist/life-facilitator is one of the few people who really speaks my language, so I asked her to be my sole human witness. However, I also had the four elements present to witness. I filled a very small corked jar with soil from my parents garden, placed two green candles on my Tata’s old gold candlestick holders, took a homemade smudge stick to bring forth the air and lashing of local Yorkshire water. I sat the elements on a mirror in front of me as I read my vows.

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3// Get yourself sexy
On the morning of my ceremony, I soaked myself in a rose water, almond oil, lavender, and sandalwood bath. Rubbed coconut oil into my warm skin. Danced with myself naked in front of the mirror before spritzing my fave Diptique perfume and slipping into my Dalmatian suit. Serve the best of yourself to you. Your beauty is for your pleasure first and foremost.

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4// Write your vows in the mirror
My vows were a mix of everyday bona fide daily lifestyle choices, such as always putting my actual body before my mind’s desires; ‘I will not finish catching up with Whatsapp’s or reading to the end of my page when the rumble comes, when the thirst coarsely reminds me of my physical needs.’ And commitments for how I’ll manage to make myself a better person in community; ‘I’ll actively practice unpicking and dissipating insecurities, as my duty to our world. So that I can see the world as it is, not as it could hurt me. So I don’t hurt myself through my fear of being hurt. So I don’t hurt others through fear of pain.’

While rehearsing my vows, I caught my reflection, laughed and said “hey, you’re not supposed to be hearing these yet” – getting so used to spending time with my reflection until I reached a point of comfort where I could have fun with it was a melting point.

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5// Say the vows in the mirror until it sinks in
Loving yourself in front of a witness won’t always come easy. It will feel awkward at times and you’ll be in head mode rather than heart mode. That is to say if you’re like me you’ll be feeling so self-conscious at times, you’ll notice you’re not embodying your words. To counter this I repeated a vow numerous times, looking directly into my own eyes in a mirror, until I felt what I was saying sink in. Take your time, speaking your promises to you until they become a physical sensation. The unexpected outcome of this is that now, whenever I’m feeling low or anxious, if I can find my reflection I can bring myself back to a place of loving comfort.

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6// Find a charitable cause to support
I requested wedding gifts from friends and family in the form of donations to The Syria Campaign, an organisation that means a lot to me. Marrying yourself is not an insular act, it’s about mobilizing yourself to be a better link in the chain of ‘we.’ A very overt way of setting that in motion from the get go is to encourage your friends and family to support your love for you and your simultaneous commitment to them all by making a donation to an NGO, delivering bags of shopping to a food bank, or volunteering at a local grassroots initiative for a day.

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7// Prepare for pain
I’d love to say that since the ceremony I’ve been doing exactly as I promised in my vows and ‘never forgetting how much I love to dance with you [me].’ But no, it has been uncomfortable. I cast my mind back to that day and sometimes feel an urge to delete it all from my therapist’s memory and mine; I feel shame, I feel pain. No good rebirth comes without a death. Let yourself feel that, let it exist within that day as much as the joy will.

In becoming the best of you, you are becoming a human complete; this is about owning your responsibility to the world through commitment to self-observation. See yourself without interfering. Don’t cling on to the parts that are breaking off.

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8// Consummate the ting
I have a practice that I like to call ‘astro-masturbation,’ whereby I make love to apparitions of myself. It can be me as I am, me with a better haircut, me in my trans dreams, but it’s always me. Sometimes there’s two of me, sometimes there’s three, four, five of me, but they’re all visions of me making love to me. I get to switch between giving and receiving endlessly and equally, and they’re the best orgasms I’ve ever had.

Lay down your favorite blankets, light that incense, and make sweet love to yourself while listening to Banks sing ‘I fuck with myself more than anybody else.’ My vows promised, ‘I will make love to you not because I want to use you as a tool of pleasure but because I love you, because you turn me on, because your body, my body, is my favorite body of all the bodies on earth.’

If you feel moved, Lisa asks for wedding gift donations to The White Helmets, unarmed volunteer rescue workers operating in Syria’s most dangerous zones, risking their lives daily to save the lives of others.

BEST OF THE NUMINOUS 2018

This year rocked us to our personal and collective cosmic cores. From sex tarot 101 to the future of masculinity, our Best of the Numinous 2018 charts the course …

Photo: NordWood Themes

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1// Spread ‘Em: Sex Tarot 101: Alessandra Calderin gave us a crash course in casting cards between the sheets …

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2// Healing From Trauma With Psychedelics: Psychiatrist Will Siu, MD, shared insights into a very human way to heal …

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3// How To Work With Your Lilith Sign: Rebecca Farrar’s astrological guide led us back to our unbreakable inner wildness, during a year when we needed it most …

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4// Is Visiting Mexico City’s Sonora Market Spiritual Appropriation?: During a journey of spiritual self-discovery, Danielle Dorsey shared why she decided not to visit the famously witchy landmark …

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5// How Body Positivity Can Unlock Your Intuition: After a lifetime of food issues, Jillian Murphy discovered that living fully in her own skin was the key to her magic …

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6// Work Your Saturn Sign & Feel Solid As A Rock: As Saturn transited its home turf of Capricorn, this astro guide helped us harness our biggest growth opportunities …

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7// Coming Home To My Hoodoo Roots: Growing up British but with her family history in Mauritius, Stephanie Victoire’s journey to reconnect with her Hoodoo roots finally led her home …

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8// Why Radical Dharma Is Your 2018 ‘Must Read’: This incomparable text tapped eradicating systemic racism as THE healing issue of our times …

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9// Holy F*ck: How To Reach EcstasyAlexandra Roxo revealed that experiencing ecstasy is the key to strengthening our channel …

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10// How To Explain Your Spiritual Awakening To Your Religious Family: In a deeply polarizing climate, Fundamentalist turned Now Ager, Kate Forristall, gave us a primer in navigating the spiritual-religious divide …

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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 …

SEX DRIVE: A JOURNEY TO THE CLITORIS OF AMERICA

In an excerpt from her new book, Sex Drive: On the Road to a Pleasure Revolution, which chronicles her cross country search for a lost libido, Stephanie Theobald embarks on an “ecosexual” nature walk led by porn star-turned-performance artist Annie Sprinkle

Photo: Jan Phoenix

Annie Sprinkle christened San Francisco’s Bernal Park hill “the clitoris of America.” Researching my new book, Sex Drive, I knew I had to visit for myself, and so Sprinkle and I met in a local diner for breakfast. After demonstrating her ability to have an “energy orgasm” on the spot (think Meg Ryan’s infamous turn in When Harry Met Sally, but for real), she promised to take me on a Bernal Park “ecosexual” nature walk, where she would show me how to do it too …

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An X-rated nature walk 
By this time, I’m quite keen to get up onto the Clitoris of America and try it all out myself. So off we set on a climb up the hill to Bernal Park and an X-rated nature walk begins. It’s not X-rated because Annie’s going to take her clothes off. The plants are going to be doing much filthier things. “Look at that,” she says, stopping in front of a cherry tree in full bloom. “Flowers are tree genitals. Basically, you’re looking at porn.”

We walk on until the siren call of another tree brings Annie to a halt. “Look at this trunk, it’s like a big penis. Isn’t it beautiful?

Hockey pitch nature walks with Miss Corbett at the convent were never like this. Annie says that I need to find my “E-Spot,” her ecosexy take on G-Spot. (She’s great at coming up with new words). I’m drawn to an exuberant hibiscus flower. “Oh yeah!” she says approvingly in her raunchy porn voice. “Hibiscus stamens!”

I wonder if David Attenborough shows ever give her that Deep Throat feeling. We approach the hibiscus and she says, “You can smell it casually. Or you can imagine this plant is a lover and it wants to give you a gift.”

She smells her new lover, pulls off one of its genitals and sticks it on her third eye. She sticks one on me too. None of this strikes me as stupid or odd. Cornwall isn’t a million miles away from California in terms of country weirdness. My eco or “E-Spot” as she calls it, kicks into action as I notice that a tree we’re passing looks a bit droopy.

“Don’t you think this tree looks a bit sad?” I say.

“It is a little heavy, isn’t it?” she nods.

She knows immediately what to do. “You just need a hug,” she tells the tree enfolding it in a bosomy embrace.  “Oh, love you.” I participate in the love-in, realizing only afterwards that I have just hugged a tree in California. This is the sort of thing that people make fun of back at home, but American Stephanie doesn’t care. Annie looks wistfully at the tree then mumbles something about, “I may be projecting…” She slaps the tree’s butt. “You’ll be OK,” she cracks. “Hang on in there.”

It’s fun going on a nature walk with an ex-porn star. She’s not great on the names of flora and fauna, but she does things like saying hi to her favorite Eucalyptus tree. She plucks a leaf, thrusts it under my nose and chuckles, “Sniff that pantie!”

The sap must be rising from the ecosexy nature walk because I soon have a sort of sexual panic attack. I start gabbling about how I want to check out some seedy places in San Francisco and how I really want to get laid and, “you know that feeling when you want to have sex and you’re not having sex and…”

“Stay in the moment,” she puffs as we carry on up the steep road. They’re magic words and I immediately calm down. I think back to my interview with Barbara Carrellas back in New York a month ago. I arrived too early for the interview and the prospect of writing a book about masturbation suddenly overwhelmed me. What the hell was I thinking of?! I wasn’t even sure what I meant! So I just experimented with letting go: dropping into my body, unsticking from the world so that for a few moments I was just snow and boots and crunch. When I came ‘back’ a few seconds later, it felt like a shot of a week of the best sleep ever.

The author heads into the wild …

And then suddenly Annie announces that we’ve reached “the urethral sponge” i.e. we’re in Bernal Park but not quite on the clit. My main feeling is that the Clitoris of America has had a bit of a bikini wax. Its green pubic hair is a bit patchy. There’s a lot of uncovered soil. Maybe the dog walkers nobbled it. There are a lot of them. Annie says it’s the drought. It’s been a serious problem in San Francisco. Annie has actually married the main culprit along with a group of ecosexy friends.

“If you think about it, right now the sun is penetrating your pores,” she says in her incantatory broad-from-the-1950s voice. “They’re fucking your whole body.”

When I ask her how she knew the sun wanted to get married, she says, “We can only assume that things respond well to love and appreciation. Like, if you cruise a bunch of girls or guys, you’ll get the message who’s available.”

She and Beth have also married the mountains, the snow, coal and the ocean. I try and impress her by saying, “My favourite drugs are sugar and the sun.” She enthuses, “Oh, I love sugar too,” but adds that she has to lose weight for the filming of her and Beth’s upcoming ecosexy tour. “Saying it’s OK to be fat, it’s the one thing about feminism I don’t agree with.”

By now we’re sitting on the very top of the park, a bumpy grassy area that slopes down with massive views over the city on every side. Looking at the view, it suddenly strikes her that, “Maybe the earth is the clitoris of the universe.” She laughs. “Betty would say, ‘Oh that’s bullshit!’” She tells me that we’ll do the energy orgasm right here.

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Meditation + masturbation
She describes the technique as similar to something she used to call “medabation,” meaning a combination of masturbation and meditation. But mainly, she says, it’s like learning tennis because, “It’s a technique and at first it’s confusing and you’re like, ‘Woah! How do I hit it and how hard?’” She confides that it took her three years to learn how to do it properly.

I realize that this “energy orgasm” is her take on the heart wank that Barbara Carrellas told me about back in New York. Annie explains that the idea came about when she and Carrellas were investigating more spiritual ideas about orgasm during the AIDS years. “All of us had lovers who got HIV, so we had to figure out how to have safe sex.” They adapted the breath technique from a method taught by a Native American called Harley Swiftdeer. He calls it “Firebreath Orgasm,” but Annie doesn’t “because I didn’t take the very expensive training that initiates you.”

And so my tennis lesson begins. She starts by telling me to, “Say, ‘Yes’ to erotic energy. You have to allow it because it’s there just for the asking.” She points to the tree in the near distance and says that the ideal would be to, “Start feeling sexy and then direct your energy to the tree and see what happens.” She tells me to do some kegels (clenching of the vagina as if you want to stop a stream of pee) and undulating movements of the pelvis. “That’ll stoke the furnace.” After that comes the most important thing of all: the breath.

“You’re really sucking the inhale and relaxing the exhale.” She advises to make noises because that helps shift energy in the body. “The idea is to bring in energy through the feet and end up shooting it out of the top of the head. Fake it til you make it,” she quips in what she tells me is jargon from the porn world.

Annie Sprinkle on the path to “the clitoris of America”

It’s a great lesson. It reminds me of the Transformational Breathing technique I tried out in my hippie journalism phase with the British teacher Alan Dolan. Basically you breathe quickly in and out, taking in more than usual amounts of oxygen until a wave of euphoria hits you.

And then there I am, lying on a hillside in San Francisco as the woman once dubbed “The Golden Girl of Porn” makes sounds ranging from deep Witches’ Sabbath to mid-range horny-bitch-on-heat to high-pitched damsel-in-distress to glass-shattering Kate Bush on the moors. “Wooo! Woo!”

Listening to the tape afterwards, I do sound a bit stuck in Witches’ Sabbath mode. Clearly I need to work on moving my energy up to more damsel-in-distress mode. Meanwhile, I am in the ludicrous position of lying with my feet towards the top of the hill and my head towards the bottom because I want to face the sun. But something is definitely happening. I get to the state where I forget to worry about what the dog walkers must be thinking of us.

I have a flash of some of the boring-looking dog walkers I’ve seen in Presidio Heights. I want to unzip them and show them some love. Tell them it’s OK. Occasionally I get distracted by the fact that I’m not feeling anything remotely like an orgasm although Annie is now sobbing. Wailing almost. We get in breathing synch. I try and keep up with her her “Ah! Ah!”s until finally she makes a prolonged, “Oh yeeeeeeah!” presumably when the energy passes out of the top of her head.

I open my eyes and the sky is indeed bluer. There is also dog shit on the bottom of my right boot. I think I won’t say this to Annie. She’s clearly having a moment.

“When I masturbate like this, I feel the pain of the world, I really do. The Boko Haram, The Charlie Hebdo shootings. The animals, everything.  I become a channel sometimes. I just need to release the pain. It’s like truly connecting. It sounds really strange.”

“No, it doesn’t sound strange …” She’s right that the concept of words becomes shaky after this kind of tennis. I struggle to speak.

“We can’t really experience pleasure on a really grand scale unless we can feel the suffering and the blocks and the disconnect somehow.”

Watching Annie with tears streaming down her face, it strikes me that this is what a modern-day nun looks like. Sending an orgasm to promote peace in Nigeria and Paris isn’t that weird. Christians and Buddhists send off distilled thoughts known as “prayers” to try and alleviate world suffering every day. Yet the kind of energy generated during orgasm is jet fuel compared to the economy petrol that comes from a morning at mass.

Stephanie Theobald’s Sex Drive: On The Road To A Pleasure Revolution is out now. Join Stephanie in LA for the launch party on December 7th from 6-9pm at The Pikey 7617 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, and follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and check out mysexdrive.org  for more details. **And discover more about Annie Sprinkle’s SexEcology HERE!

HOW TO EXPLAIN YOUR SPIRITUAL AWAKENING TO YOUR RELIGIOUS FAMILY

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 …

Photo: Diana Vargas

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Kate Forristall is a writer, actor, mother, and lover of stories. Connect with her at #IRL Project, and on Twitter and Instagram

HOLY F*CK: HOW TO REACH ECSTASY

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.

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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. 

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A dating app for ecstasy? 
I am drawn like a fly on honey to people who know and experience ecstatic states without drugs.

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?

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

Japanese “Shibari” rope bondage

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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!!

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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.

COMING HOME TO MY HOODOO ROOTS

Growing up British but with her family history in Mauritius, it was reconnecting to her Hoodoo roots that helped Stephanie Victoire finally feel at home …

My grandmother always said that bad luck could never follow you across water, the oceans would purify you anew. That the ocean could take away spirits who wanted to join you for the ride, and you’d land on the other side of water, cleansed and blessed.

Flying every few months back and forth from England to Mauritius as a child, I was always set to start anew. On hot tarmac I’d step with tiny feet in jelly sandals, my hand in my Nana’s, and my English tongue would immediately be lost, Creole nestling itself into my small canon of words. Crossing the Indian Ocean back, somewhere over the Sahara desert I’d leave that language behind again, which at the time had no dictionary—no official place in the world. And, just like that, I’d become English again.

I acquired a nickname with my Mauritian relatives: Ti Anglaise, “Little English One.” With English-born island friends at school, we’d laugh that I was a “coconut”—brown on the outside, white on the inside. But I also remember how confused and disconnected from myself this made me feel. I was two different things, rather than one whole. I was being mocked for my Englishness, while being called out as somebody who looked like she had roots elsewhere, but was actually clueless as to what they were. From a very young age, I had no idea who or what I was—something I would grapple with well into my adult years.

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My parents are both Mauritian, my mother white with green eyes, my father dark-skinned with brown eyes. It was hard to explain to people that I wasn’t ‘mixed-raced’ as they classed me. The simple fact was, the French somewhere in our lineage had milked our tea-colored skin and heavily creamed my mother’s. I wanted to look like her, to be her child in the eyes of strangers as we walked down the street together.

But there’s no denying I was birthed of my grandmother’s line. Even though her skin is also pale—more European-looking than Mauritian—there’s no question that she is Creole. It’s a glint in her eye as she bites into her chilies, the way she fries up salt-fish, kneads flour for roti. Her Creole is in her accent; thick, warm, and wise. She is full of phrases and double-entendres that only hold meaning in the language they were first created in. There is magick in everything she does and says, in the way she speaks to God under her breath.

Mauritius humbly hosts a multi-religious population. A Hindu temple is built next to an Islamic mosque that’s built next to a church. Be them Hindu, Muslim or Catholic, all will tell you that they are Mauritian. I learned very early on that I was not Indian-Mauritian or Chinese-Mauritian, or of any other Asian heritage. We were Creole people, descendants of African slaves, the first people to inhabit the island when it was colonized. We had grown with the sugar cane fields from the ground up, with the papaya and lychee trees. We were the ones who sang sega songs to feel some small piece of freedom in our voices, beating our cries into the Ravanne drum.

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I was sent to Catholic school in London, with my very English packed-lunch of ham sandwiches, crisps and yoghurt. But Mauritian Catholics are not exclusively Catholic. Sure, they feel connected to saints and enjoy the ritual of prayer and church service—but they also believe in hexes, ghosts, omens and witchcraft. And I had all this knowledge with me, too.

But I had no translation for what I witnessed growing up, playing in the tropical gardens of my Mauritian kin: the incessant sweeping, the lighting of candles at the mini mausoleums, which to an outsider seemed like a prayer space. I did not know back then that these shrines were for keeping the garden protector spirit, Gardien Lakour, appeased, with offerings and prayers in exchange for keeping ‘evil’ spirits away from the house.

I also learned that if you sweep a bachelorette’s feet with a balyé—a makeshift broom traditionally made of twigs and vegetable matter—the single lady will never be married. If you throw salt under the chair on which an unwanted guest is sat, they will not return to your home; another handful on the doorstep after they leave will ensure they’ll never darken your door or your life again. If I had a rupee for every time I heard such superstitions from my grandmother, I’d have enough to buy myself a villa on the beautiful Northeast coast. Except these were not superstitions but traditions, brought from Africa, the same way they arrived in Haiti or New Orleans or anywhere else the magick found itself.

Stephanie with her grandmother, Giselle, in Mauritius

Rebelling against everything I was taught in my teens, I left my ‘Mauritianess’ alone, confused about whether I’d really had it anyway, and certain I didn’t want to be Catholic. But after a brief spiritual hiatus, witchcraft found me. Just as Mauritius is a patchwork of different nations and different religions, I developed my own blend of spiritual truths, mixing in Pagan, Hermetic, Native American, and Eastern ideas and practices. Along the way, I’ve worked on healing my confusion around my identity. But I’ve still never felt fully in my skin—more one with the cosmos than with life here on Mother Earth.

Mother. The very word can knock me unsteady, see me crying on my knees. I’ve wanted so much to feel I belong here, I’ve dug my hands into cold, loose soil just to see if I could feel a heartbeat. I’ve travelled the world to try to make the whole planet my home. And it was during a trip to New Orleans last summer, I discovered there was something I’d overlooked.

The Creole words, the Creole faces. Similar to those of my family’s island, but not quite, still I was asked to explore it. I felt it in puddles of rum, the worn wooden doors, the whispers of ghosts. Something was being recalled in my blood, and I warmed to the sensation of ancestral spirits drawing close. It was powerful and overwhelming, a feeling that I was being called back to something I’d find depth and beauty in—the depth and beauty of where I truly came from, that was the makeup of me.

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I started to read books on Hoodoo, and as I read through conjures and fixings, I heard these stories in my grandmother’s voice. Because of course there was Hoodoo in Mauritius. We had come from the same place as the Creoles of New Orleans. Brought our magick down generations with the teachings of the tongue, the ways of the elders, and my grandmother was no different. Old tales told under the moon on a balmy island night; the properties of herbs explained in the kitchen; candles lit for prayers; curses broken with salt, heart and will.

She is a witch, a priestess; a spirit woman, just as I am growing to be. As I recovered memories of the magick in my family, something in me shifted. I had found the roots I was looking for. I stepped further into my power, shedding from myself a fragmented identity, and in its place claiming one that feels like the entire Universe itself. Each star, each planet, each galaxy is a piece of me—a complex and powerful harmony I can feel as I walk the land of this great mother we call Earth.

All of it is mine to belong to, and all of it is me. This magick that Mauritius possesses so quietly finds its voice in me. A witch, a priestess and a spirit woman. This has been my birthright to claim all along. I feel blessed to have been born in England, to speak a language that can share with the world the stories I have stored in my Creole blood. I will tell them with pride.

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Stephanie Victoire is a London-based writer and author. You can discover more of her writing HERE, and follow her on Instagram @petalandmossapothecary for more about her HEALING WORK.

CHOOSING COMPASSION IN A CALLOUT CULTURE

A former social media “comment crusader,” diversity and inclusion specialist Aaron Rose is committed to moving beyond the “us vs. them” callout culture. PLUS Aaron shares 7 ways to upgrade your spiritual activism by choosing connection and compassion over fear …

Photo: Alberto Vasari

With 15 years working as a facilitator, educator, and consultant in the field of “Diversity & Inclusion,” my overarching mission is to heal our world’s generational patterns of separation so that we can all thrive as our authentic selves. Though always important, this work has of course taken on even more urgency in the escalating polarization following the 2016 election.

But in the last few years I have had to rethink some of how I was originally trained to approach this work. Namely, that relying on a callout culture of shame and dehumanization—however subtle or justified—as motivating tools of change, will never resolve the isolation and exclusion we ultimately seek to address.

Historically, my work focused on explaining the history of institutionalized oppression and practicing “dos and don’ts” for interacting with different groups. The premise—albeit often unspoken—was that we were there to help the privileged people understand how to treat the marginalized people better. Many people did indeed leave feeling more informed and better prepared to work with people different from themselves. However, when others would express feeling upset, confused, or silenced, I knew something was missing.

Many of my colleagues wrote this off as collateral damage—some people would just never get it, they said. And if a white man left feeling upset, maybe that was a good thing, because lots of people have been upset for a long time. I understood the logic, but this theory of social change felt incomplete to me. It’s a dynamic that has become all too familiar in social media interactions in which people are called out for offensive or exclusionary behavior and summarily “canceled” or rejected without any space for recourse or repair.

Back then, my life mirrored my work. I genuinely saw light and potential in everyone—and wanted to help us all understand each other better. But, truthfully, I usually meant, you (a person with historically more access and power than most) needed to understand me (a trans and queer person with experiences of violence and marginalization).

My approach was that of a pretty typical East Coast liberal. I would passionately launch into Facebook comment monologues, determined to get people to understand how they were hurting others, while distancing myself from people based on their presumably more privileged identities. My tone was condescending at best, and vitriolic at worst. I wanted people to understand the harm they were doing, and I wanted it to stop. Now.

Deep down, I, like so many others, felt scared and misunderstood. In most of the jobs I’d had as a young adult, I’d experienced harassment and discrimination—from prying questions about my transgender identity, to constant misgendering, to sexual harassment and violence—and the pain of my own marginalization kept me in a defensive stance.

I was quick to judge people’s politics, and even quicker to let them know about it—when separated by a screen and a keyboard. In most cases, there was little hope for redemption once someone had acted in a way I deemed oppressive, racist, heterosexist, transphobic, or more. But for all my accusations of division and dehumanization, I too was compartmentalizing people, saying things like “I could never be real friends with a straight guy … he just wouldn’t get me.” It hadn’t occurred to me yet that maybe I didn’t really get him either. I had never thought to ask.

While doing the work of humanizing historically excluded minorities, I had been unwittingly dehumanizing others. It seemed natural to view my work as an us vs. them quest to change some people’s minds on behalf of others. But I’ve come to understand that this approach will only continue to amplify the feeling of uneasy disconnection that characterizes so much of modern life, particularly online: the fear of being judged, the fear of being harmed, the fear that saying the wrong thing will result in excommunication.

The work that many pioneering LGBTQ people, people of color, women, and other historically marginalized people have done to legitimize the acknowledgement of our individual pain and institutionalized discrimination is important and invaluable. That kind of self-expression and community accountability is indispensable. But if simply being able to recite our personal and collective histories of oppression back and forth to one another with flawless terminology was going to create true progress, we would not be in our current accelerating state of political polarization and identity-based isolation. If we truly want a more just and connected world, we all have to go a step further.

Today, I no longer take to social media with fear and contempt to catalogue the ways in which others are letting me down. I’ve shifted my focus from what we’re tearing down to an approach that does not calcify divisions but instead catalyzes connection. This does not mean releasing people from accountability or never speaking up against injustice. It simply means setting the intention to treat no human being as if they are disposable, even if they are failing to honor our humanity. It means creating the conditions in which we can, as adrienne maree brown writes, “default to trust on a community level.”

Below, I share 7 ways we can be stewards of this paradigm shift:

Photo: Gwendolyn Rodriguez

1// Heal yourself to heal the world. Your work starts with you – owning your story, and releasing the blocks that stand between you and truly recognizing yourself in another. Regardless of your identities, our conditioned social autopilot reinforces the idea that connecting with people from different backgrounds puts us at risk in some way. For those of us (read: all of us!) who have felt minimized or unsafe because of who we are, leaning into even more discomfort can feel scary. But the more we connect with our own sense of humanity, the more we can extend that to others.

**Action Step: Take some time to meditate on welcoming feelings of safety. The more you cultivate a feeling of security within yourself, the more you will be able to welcome others into your world. You are safe, you are resilient, you are here to thrive and make space for others do the same. This meditation is one of my favorites. You can also check out my meditation series here.

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2// Redefine how you love. We are all called to love each other now as if our lives depended on it. Because they do. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke often about agape love as the driving force behind all his work. He said, “And this is what Jesus means … when he says, ‘Love your enemy.’ And it’s significant that he does not say, ‘Like your enemy’ … There are a lot of people that I find it difficult to like. I don’t like what they do to me. I don’t like what they say about me and other people … But Jesus says love them. And love is greater than like. Love is understanding, redemptive goodwill for all men, so that you love everybody, because God loves them.”

**Action Step: Practice silently blessing every person you encounter and wishing them peace and happiness. Your world will begin to transform before your eyes, from the inside out.

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3// Meditate for real. Meditation creates space between external stimuli and our responses, allowing us to act as we choose, versus on autopilot. In the same way that  we cannot change our world unless we face the truth of it, we cannot embody a new energy of love unless we retrain our nervous systems. Meditation is the path to this change.

**Action Step: Practice the Buddhist metta, or loving kindness, meditation. A common mantra is: May you be happy, May you be healthy, May you be safe, May you live a life of peace. Extend this blessing first to yourself, then to those you love, then to the world around you, and finally to the people who you find it hardest to love. This practice is a gift you can give yourself anywhere, anytime.

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4// Know our history, know yourself. We make it a lot easier for others to trust us and give us room to grow when we show up fully. In the context of identity and social change, this means understanding our world’s historical patterns of exclusion and violence. Acknowledge your part and make amends, for yourself as well as your ancestors. Understand both your access and power, as well as your history of pain and struggle. Recognize that we all have inherent biases, and be prepared to acknowledge them as they surface. Learn bystander intervention protocol and be ready for action.

**Action Step: What are your identities? Where do you fall toward the margins and where do you have more access? Explore Kimberle Crenshaw’s work on intersectionality to develop a deeper understanding of how our combination of identities shape our experience of the world.

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5// Release perfection, embrace integrity. We will all make mistakes along the way. Doing this work is about integrity: staying in alignment with your values and maintaining your sense of wholeness in the process. No one comes from the same perspective, and many of us do not have an academic foundation in theories of oppression and liberation. Despite our commitment to love, none of us will have the perfect word every time.

**Action Step: How will you respond when you or someone else messes up? What are your go-to phrases for communicating when a boundary has been crossed? How will you apologize and repair? Practicing ahead of time allows our brains to find the right words when our bodies are in fight or flight.

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6// Reframe callouts as opportunities for connection. When someone tells you your words were offensive, it’s easy to get defensive and push back. And to build a culture where everyone can thrive, we need to reframe how we perceive negative feedback. Humans don’t often take the time to let somebody know they feel hurt unless some part of us cares about being understood by the person who hurt us. Framed this way, each callout is a gift in service of our collective healing and evolution. Show the same investment in the connection by showing up to learn and repair together.

**Action Step: Practice responding to call-outs with grace and integrity. Pick your go-to phrases. Some options: “Thank you for letting me know how my words impacted you. I’m committed to building a community where everyone feels welcome.” “I hear what you’re saying and I will shift my words in the future. I’m sorry I used that hurtful language.” P.S. You really have to mean it, so align your energy with your words before pressing “share.”

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7// Redefine the personal vs. political binary. Who actually benefits from the idea that there is a difference between the personal and political? Certainly not you and me. Taking responsibility for caring for all life on Earth is the most profound investment we can make in our own self-care.

Action Step: How can you realign what is best for you as being what is best for all sentient beings? For example, is your meditation or intention-setting practice exclusively about your individual life? Set intentions not only for personal wealth and happiness, but for white people’s capacity to release our dependency on white supremacy, for example. For the renewing of our healthy relationship with planet Earth. For men’s commitment to repairing the wounds of the patriarchy. And for ongoing guidance about your role within the larger process. The support is there. You need only to tap in and ask.

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Aaron Rose is a writer, speaker, and diversity & inclusion coach. In his spare time you can find him waxing poetic about quantum physics, boy bands, and healing intergenerational trauma. Follow Aaron online at @aaronxrose and learn more about his work, including his upcoming healthy masculinity intensive for conscious men, at www.theaaronrose.com

HOLY F*CK: FINDING MY SPIRITUAL PRIDE

Spiritual and queer? It’s on us to create places to practice that reflect every shade of spiritual pride, says Alexandra RoxoPLUS 3 ways to create more inclusive healing spaces.

Some of my favorite summer memories were in my first Pride month in New York City in 2009. I was falling in love and my girlfriend was ecstatic to be bringing me into her community. It almost felt cliche to fall in love during Pride! Finally coming out as bisexual/queer, after years of closeted same sex encounters not deemed appropriate in Marietta, GA where I grew up, I finally was able to be the whole me.

During this time though I veered away from some of my spiritual growth. Not because I actively thought I couldn’t be in a lesbian relationship and also be spiritual, but on a subconscious level I had internalized this belief. Why? Because none of the spiritual traditions I’d studied said anything positive about same sex partnerships or sexuality. When I asked some of my yogic teachers about this, they frowned and avoided the question.

There also weren’t any spiritual leaders I looked towards who were openly queer. So in a sense, during those years I shunned my own spiritual devotion in order to express my true sexuality.

It is difficult to stay committed to a spiritual practice when your leaders and teachers don’t reflect your experience. Deepak wasn’t queer. Yogananda wasn’t. Marianne wasn’t. The tantra books I was reading all featured hetero couples so I stopped reading them. In spiritual circles or in yoga communities and retreats I felt out of place. So I nixed them for a while and made plant medicines and gay nightclubs my church.

Alexandra at her first Pride

As I matured however, I realized that just because Krishna and Radha aren’t gay, or Jesus and Mary Magdalene, that being queer doesn’t make me less devoted. I turned my attention inwards and began to focus again on my practice. Even though the retreats and spiritual communities I was in remained mainly straight and white, I stopped giving a fuck and showed up anyway without looking for a validation of my experience there.

When teachers assumed hetero preference as we discussed sacred spiritual sex practices, I would get hot and nervous and want to speak up. It always took me a moment to raise my hand and say I was bisexual/queer identified, but it was always worth it. And not only for me, but also so the teacher could consider including diverse experiences in the class.

On my path, I’ve also been deeply inspired by every other person who shows up to retreats, yoga classes, and ceremonies despite not seeing their experience reflected in the people there. Who raises their hand and stands up for their experience, too. Not to prove a point. But to feel seen. To begin to shift an outdated paradigm and create change. It takes a brave soul to willingly highlight your difference, but it is worth it—for each of us personally, and also as a collective.

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The below queer leaders and teachers are going one step further by shifting the face of wellness to open the gates for way more inclusion and love in the spiritual scene. Here they are offering some words of wisdom, spiritual teachings and personal experiences for you this Pride month …

BUNNY MICHAEL. @bunnymichael. They / them.
“When I think about it now, coming out queer at age 15 in Texas was probably one of my first spiritual experiences. It was the first time I had to trust what my heart was telling me, not what I was conditioned to believe in. It was the first time I had defined for myself what Love was. It was the first time I was truly afraid. Afraid to lose the people who were most close to me. It was the first time I questioned my worth. Being queer gave me an early insight that the spiritual path isn’t always easy … and it’s not supposed to be. It shows you your limits and how to break free of them. It challenges your foundations and builds a bridge to step into a peace within yourself. It shows you that in every space you walk into it is your responsibility to stand up for Love.”
Bunny is a healer, writer, musician, activist and artist.

SAH D’SIMONE. @sahdsimone. He/ his.
“A little residue of the collective prejudice [on being queer] still creeps up in my mind once in a while, and in the past it would leave me with a knot in my throat, followed by thoughts of guilt and shame around being myself. Now after 6 years of spiritual work I can see that unconscious reaction taking place and I can pause the downward spiral — breathe it out, and wish myself and everyone that could be getting hooked in this collective trauma to heal and be okay with being themselves so fully! Truth I stand by is that when we are truly ourselves without the baggage of shame that was passed on to us, we are actually inviting other people to be themselves fully too. And wow that’s a powerful spiritual gift you’re sharing with everyone around you.”
Sah is a gay identified meditation teacher and transformational coach.

DANNY BRAVE. @hellodannybrave. He/his.
“Spiritual practice allows me to get into alignment with my soul, and sexuality is my favored way of embodying that soul with the fullest pleasure and power. Being queer, as it turns out, means just being me. It means I don’t follow the ‘rules’ with gender, with relationships, with clothing, or with essentially anything. It means I am just me.”
Danny is a trans identified healer, writer and activist.

LISA LUXX. @luxxy_luxx. She/her.
“My sexuality IS my spiritual position: I’m daughter of our elemental earth, all my relationships are seasonal, and I desire women who view all levels of intimacy as a conscious practice where we can exercise our subconscious and unconscious paradigms, ultimately making every connection a space to grow in …”
Lisa is a queer writer and activist and poet living in the UK.

AARON ROSE. @aaronxrose. He/him.
“My gender & sexuality have been evolving my whole life. The more I heal, the more I develop my spirituality, the more me I become. These days I identify as a gay trans man. When I was 7 years old I was obsessed with Leonardo DiCaprio and I always wondered: do I want to be him or date him? Turns out the answer is both!I feel deeply that there is a very specific reason that I am a man who experienced socialization & abuse as a child who the world saw as a girl. Those experiences have allowed me to grow up into a healed and whole man, with a deep capacity for nurturance and emotional presence. I am called to celebrate both the divine feminine and masculine within myself and lead from that place of integration.”
Aaron is a gay trans identified coach and leader who works on diversity and inclusion strategies for businesses and individuals.

Alexandra and Sah D’Simone

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Ultimately, it’s up to us to revolutionize the modern spirituality scene to become more inclusive, diverse, and celebratory of healthy sexual and creative expression, dialogue, and freedom. Regardless of your own sexual, political, or romantic preferences, here are a few things we can all do to make spiritual spaces more inclusive:

– No assumptions! You can’t assume someone is male or female or gay or straight. Ask! If they wanna answer then great, if not all good. Respect the boundaries.

– Take out gender referential language. You can still honor masculine and feminine of course. But saying directly “hi ladies!!” Or “hey guys!” Or “hey goddess!” Can hurt hearts if this does not speak to the experience of someone in the group. Claim what works for you.

– Update for the Now Age. If you’re leading or teaching from ancient texts consider modifying language for 2018 to be more inclusive.

Thank you to everyone out there stepping up, stepping out, shining bright, risking, shouting, asking questions, listening, and shifting the old paradigm of spirituality and wellness into more inclusivity and diversity to reflect the world we live in.

ASK A SPIRITUAL CEO: 6 WAYS TO GET REAL ABOUT GROWING YOUR BUSINESS

Overwhelmed by the nuts and bolts? Maha Rose founder Lisa Levine shares 6 ways to get real about growing your business without losing your magic mind …

Photo: Kinga Cichewicz

QUESTION: I am super creative and intuitive but have major blocks when it comes to planning, structure, and managing the financial side of my business. That stuff literally makes me fall asleep! How much of this should I try to do myself, and what should I try to outsource? I also want to allow my business to build organically, and worry that too much planning will get in the way of this. What’s a good balance to strike?”

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LISA SAYS: 

#1 Let it grow organically. You can’t rush spirituality. You can dedicate yourself to building your business but there is still a natural evolution that you must flow with.

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#2 To partner or not to partner. When I had my jewelry business, I really wished I could have had a business partner so I could focus more on the creative side of things. But in the end, I never found that person. The same goes for Maha Rose. I have lots of amazing people I work with but at the end of the day, I am the end of the decision making chain.

But it all depends on how you work. I love working with people but I also like having the final say. Actually, God(dess) is making the decisions and I am putting them into action. If I had a business partner, what would happen if the message they were receiving was different from the guidance I was receiving? A business partnership is like a marriage, and I’m in one of those already! So I choose to work on my flexibility and compromise in my personal life instead of at work.

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#3 Get help! Definitely and no matter what. We can’t and don’t need to do it ALL alone. So think about what that help could look like. Try to get as organized as possible and really visualize where you need help so you can ask for exactly this. This is actually still a challenge for me. I know I need help and lots of it all the time, but because I do so many different things I’m not always sure where to ask for help first. Sometimes it seems like it may be more work to train someone else rather than just do it myself—but this is rarely the case. Help can also be someone who assists you in structuring it all. Every type of help exists.

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#4 Get MORE help! I have a few very talented healer and artist friends who operate so much from their right brain (the non-logical side) that it would be hard for them to really succeed on this earthly realm without help. If this is you, it’s good to recognize this without judgement, and to allow people help you in all areas requiring left-brain logic. So may differently-minded people are embracing spirituality now, you don’t have to be a one person show. Operating within a bigger structure means you can focus on the parts you are good at.

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#5 Engage with your community. This is another reason healing centers exist. In this day and age of social media and online connections, real life experiences are still so powerful. Sometimes when we are engaging in just the digital side of things it is hard to find inspiration and connection to the people who can help us grow the most.

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#6 Have fun and eat the frog! No matter what your business is, and even if you are choosing to focus on the creative side, there will still be a certain amount of “nuts and bolts” things that you have to do. Eat the frog, means … do the thing you are avoiding doing! Do it first thing in the morning to give you the feeling of having accomplished something big. Once you’ve done that one difficult thing, you can play in the magic for the rest of your day …

Got a question for Lisa’s monthly “Ask a Spiritual CEO” column? Email [email protected] with the subject line: “Spiritpreneur Questions.” 

HOLY F*CK: A DARK MOON PRACTICE TO LIBERATE YOUR SPIRITUAL ESSENCE

Stuck under layers of conditioning and aching to break free? Alexandra Roxo shares 5 ways to liberate your spiritual essence …

Photo: Caitlin Mitchell

I’ve been doing stripteases since I was 12. In 1996, in Marietta, Georgia, my friends and I dressed in Victoria’s Secret matching leopard-print bra and panties sets, and knew all the moves to Elizabeth Berkley’s routines from Showgirls.

But the striptease I wanna share with you here is FAR sexier. FAR juicier. FAR edgier. It’s one that will have your heart racing. Your panties wet. Your knees trembling.

Because it’s time for us to bring it back to basics and get spiritually NAKED. We live in “apart”ments. We stare at screens most of the day. The way we eat, shit, talk, walk, dress are all programmed for us by the dominant schema that we are born into. A return to our spiritual essence is a deep call for each of us. One that could possibly change the course of history. Of Mother Nature’s well-being. Our grandchildren’s lives. The health of the ocean. The future of fashion magazines. Of culture. Of REALITY as we perceive it.

This means peeling away, layer by layer, of all the baggage we have inherited. The stories. The conditioning. The things that weigh on us everyday. Stripping this away and getting down to our spiritual essence is part of our individual and collective awakening.

You began taking on your family’s shit in utero. Your mom’s anxiety. Depression. Her busyness. The way her heart sank when your dad didn’t come home til late or just flipped the TV on after work. The pain at seeing her old body slip away. The abuse she endured perhaps. Or her mom’s or her grandma’s. From the moment you were the size of a pea in the womb you began to be clothed in layers. Your spiritual essence began to be shrouded.

When popped out you inherited a specific culture. The pressure to look a certain way, talk a certain way,  dress a certain way. Coats and veils of other people’s ideas and customs and ways of being.

As a teen, this led you to feel confused about your body. Why did it not look the way it was supposed to? People were mean at school. Boys touched you. You weren’t allowed to be gay or queer. So you put on some more layers. You hid yourself. You were too weird. Too much. Too sexy. Too fat. If people didn’t notice you they couldn’t hurt you.

Perhaps there were traumas. Date rape. An eating disorder. Abandonment. Neglect. Health issues. Things that forced you deeper into hiding. Further masked your wild, loving, utterly unique spiritual essence.

And now here you are today—wearing enough layers to survive an antarctic freeze of the soul! True healing? The ultimate liberation? Learning how to peel them back, one by one, until you are bare. Naked. Vulnerable and WHOLE.

Below are my tried and true tips for freeing yourself from those layers and living in alignment with your spiritual essence …

Photo: Ed Herrera

1// Learn to feel your feelings. You may think “Well of course I know how to do that!” But we all have days where we think we’re feeling but are actually THINKING, which prevents us knowing our soul’s truth. To learn to FEEL more, breathe into your belly all day. Stay soft. Pull your car over to cry when you need to. Start sentences with “I feel …” instead of “I think …”  and before you make a decision FEEL into it with all your being. Soon you will start to feel more of YOU.

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2// Begin to hunt for your true essence. Look for it in books, works of art, libraries, operas, films, museums, national parks, oceans, fields, and albums. As you do these things, BREATHE into your heart and FEEL. Did that book make me wanna jump for joy? Scream? Did it feel like a wildfire broke out in your veins? Then THIS my dear that is a KEY to your TRUTH and your ESSENCE! Keep it close.

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3// Speak up when something hurts or doesn’t feel right. This may seem obvious, but it’s the microhurts that betray our soul’s essence. If someone cuts you off in line for the bathroom than say “Excuse me. I’m in line.” If you’re in a class and the teacher says something inappropriate, stand up and say, “Excuse me. That didn’t feel appropriate to me.” This demand for integrity will tell your soul you are SERIOUS about your devotion to yourself. You’ll notice how often these little things happen. You think “Oh whatever. No biggie.” This puts you into complacency and is literally like an ice pack for your JUICY fire. Once you stop you doing it, you’ll begin to feel a POWER beyond words emerge from you.

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4// Dare to pave a new way. Notice how many times a day you do and say things because that’s what others do. Now try something new. If all the other wellness people on Instagram are taking photos with white backgrounds and green plants but it feels more “you” to do it in a vintage car on a deserted highway, then why not? Notice where you follow the status quo out of habit. When you feel afraid to shake it up, look to people who have not followed; Frida. Anais. Albert Einstein. There is a huge payoff for taking a risk that’s aligned with your truth.

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5// Surround yourself with Souls who are unafraid to bare their love and truth to the world. You are who surrounds you. Your community should feel like Butter Love, Fire Love, Honey Love, warm tea, firecrackers in your Soul. When you leave hangouts notice: Do you feel more YOU? More alive? More loved? If not, find the community that does make you feel this way.

**Bonus: Take this a step further with an actual striptease class or simply strip in the mirror with your sexy self. As you remove layers of clothes, imagine that you are removing “Mom’s catholic shame,” “my fear of being too big” or “society’s gender impositions” so that you’re stripping on all levels at once—multitasking your way into your Soul’s Grand Reveal to humanity.  

 

Alexandra offers one-on-one transformational coaching programs globally online, and in NYC and LA. She also is the co-founder of Moon Club where she guides group coaching, leadership training, and mystical moon school.  Find her @alexandraroxo and alexandraroxo.com

MY MYSTICAL LIFE: MANIFESTING SUCCESS WITH CANDLE MAGIC

Would last weekend’s Club SÖDA NYC urban retreat have been so successful without a little candle magic?

With co-presenters Siri Rishi and Sah D’Simone

When I started this platform, I had literally zero idea—or desire—to become an event organizer. And yet when it comes to all things numinous, it’s been proven to me time and again that there is no substitute for real-time, human experiences to bring the magic to life. And so a LOT of what I do now (introverted, bookish, solitary, me), is producing and hosting events. And last weekend’s Club SÖDA NYC urban retreat with Kin Social Tonic was one of the best yet!

It was a tall order. Ambitious. A day-long takeover of new NYC members’ club Habitas, with nine workshops, family-style lunch, a panel discussion on the Future of Alcohol, tarot readers, sound and reiki healing sessions, and a Kundalini Disco to round it all off. And the way things worked out, my SÖDA co-founder Biet Simkin and I also only had 10 days to promote it. But we pulled it off AND THEN SOME.

Over 150 people showed up to celebrate with us. Yes, celebrate—since it was also mine and Biet’s birthday weekend, AND the 2-year anniversary of our first Club SÖDA NYC event. But mainly it was a success because of the feedback we got. Happy faces all day long. Revelations had. Friendships made. “Please can you do another day like this again soon!”

Yes, we had a killer line-up. Had called on some of our favorite and most talented guest presenters and co-hosts. Yes the mocktails from Kin got people just the right kind of buzzed. Yes, people are craving ways to connect and experience joy and transcendence without using booze. AND I called in some extra assistance behind the scenes!

A few weeks back, I received a pair of Conjure Fixed Candles from Haus of Hoodoo (a.k.a. modern mystic Jessyka Winston). When I lit the Crown of Success candle the Thursday before our event, my intention was for this project to bring happiness, healing, and new possibilities to all who come into contact with the Sober Curious movement I am spearheading. Leaving it to burn over the course of the weekend, continually checking in and praying over it, I could feel the candle magic working!

I’ll definitely be using Jessyka’s candles again. Not that I don’t trust my own ability to make magic, or the necessity and the power of my message—but when it comes to stepping up, loud and proud, and sharing my work with the world, introverted, bookish me will take all the help I can get.

Below, Jessyka explains the method and the myth behind her candle magic. And scroll down to the bottom of the post for some pics from our event!

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RUBY WARRINGTON: Where does the concept of fixed candles come from and how did they become part of your practice?
JESSYKA WINSTON: The term “fixed” comes from Southern Conjure/Rootwork/Hoodoo. Other traditions called them “dress” or “anointed.” A candle is “fixed” or “dressed” with oils, herbs, and minerals.

RW: How can you explain how they work?
JW: I consider it a form of alchemy used to manifest a certain outcome or change current conditions. The ingredients added into the candle fixing hold their own spirit energy that is activated by breath and fire. These aren’t just candles you light and leave. There’s a connection, reverence and devotion that comes with this work. We communicate with our candle and pray over it daily. It is a ritual of its very own. The more faith you put into the ritual, the more devotion you give your candles the stronger the connection. Therefore, the more successful the outcome will be.

RW: What does the fixing involve? What spirits are you working with?
JW: I have my own spirits who work with me and bless my work. My ancestors, my guides, angels and, of course my Vodou, since I am initiated in both West African Vodoun and Hiatian Vodou. I work in my shrine room in front of my spirits surrounded by their altars. The spirits in the fixing are nature spirits. The spirit of each individual herb, the spirit in the minerals, the spirits in the oils, which are made of herbs and essential oils, as well as the spirit of fire. All these elements come together to make this work happen. In addition, the candles are blessed with prayer and intention. I pray over my candles and speak to them as I’m fixing them. The connection begins with me and then it is carried out and continued by the client receiving and lighting the candle.

Conjur Fixed Candles, $29, Haus of Hoodoo. Jessyka re-stocks her online store every Saturday at 6pm CST.

RW: Can anybody learn / use candle magic, or is this something you need to be initiated into?
JW: Yes, candle magic is for all! No initiation necessary. Candle magic is something you’ll most likely find in all spiritual practices and traditions. Even in Catholicism. Every traditions does it differently. It is a practice that can be used by all and learned by all who wish to learn about it. But I do believe it is something that can take time to master and perfect.

It’s not as simple as throwing some herbs and oils on a candle. A connection needs to be established between you and your craft. Learning which ingredients go well with each other. Also, which herbs and elements respond to you most. Though I work with hundreds of herbs I have my go-to herbs that I know will always do the trick. Each herb is a spirit and just how we connect with some people’s energies and not with others, same happens in this crafts. There will be herbs, ingredients you connect with more than others. Which is why this craft takes time. There is wisdom to be gained before you can master this work.

RW: When are the best times to use these candles – and what are they NOT for?
JW: My Fixed Candles come with instructions advising on which day of the week and time of the day to light your candle and begin your work. It is always best to be in good energy when doing any ritual or any other spiritual workings. If you aren’t in the best of energy, or are feeling ill it is best to skip lighting your candle until you’re in better spirit.

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Below are some images from our Club SÖDA NYC urban retreat. A success indeed! Sign up for our FREE weekly magazine to be the first to know about upcoming events, and join the Club SÖDA NYC Facebook group to connect with our Sober Curious community. 

Pre-Kundalini Disco warm-up

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Gathering for our plant-based family style brunch

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My SÖDA co-founder Biet Simkin with keynote speaker Hawk Newsome of Black Lives Matter

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Biet leading a meditation before our panel discussion

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And thanks to amazing Kin Social Tonic for the adaptogenic mocktails!

ASK A SPIRITUAL CEO: 9 STEPS FOR TURNING YOUR SPIRITUAL HOBBY INTO YOUR HUSTLE

Longing to work your mystical magic on more than just nights and weekends? Maha Rose founder Lisa Levine shows us how to turn a spiritual hobby into a main hustle, and start sharing our super powers every day …

Lisa Levine at Maha Rose South in Mexico

QUESTION:  “I recently started opening up about my empath side on social media and have been warming up to the idea of pursuing my reiki healing as more than just a hobby. Ultimately, it would be ideal to get paid for my services. But how do I even get started?” 

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LISA LEVINE: You’re in the process of waking up. You’re discovering your spiritual powers. Others are discovering your spiritual powers and gifts. You feel called to share them. Other people are asking for them! taking the leap and working out the best way to go about monetizing this process and transitioning into a full time mystical business can be daunting and confusing.

Read on for my tried-and-trusted 9 steps in turning your spiritual hobby into your main hustle .. 

#1 Make your own path. Your route is unique. Follow your intuition. The answers and the guidance live within you. Don’t worry or model your route after others’—your path is unique and yours only.

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#2 Give a lot! And be open to receiving. The best way to gain confidence in your work is by doing a lot of sessions. I’m talking hundreds. Exchange is important but don’t get stuck on it: give, give, give. When we are starting out, the experience gained is a big part of the exchange. That said, let there be an exchange. Be open to receive! Your clients/friends can make you dinner, take you out for tea, give you feedback—not just “that was amazing,” but ideas about how could it be even better. Allow constructive criticism to be your friend so you can constantly improve the services you are providing.

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#3 Take cues from the Universe. When people start wanting to pay you for your services this is a tip from the Universe that you’re ready to start charging for your work. Accept the money graciously and begin to price out your services. Many practitioners I know have a hard time receiving money in exchange for spiritual work, so find a price that may make you slightly uncomfortable but that you know is right. This is how we up-level. Get comfortable with this discomfort.

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#4 Become your own marketing department. First off, let people know what you are doing. I recommend emailing your friends and family for starters: “I just finished this course in Reiki, crystals, etc. and am ready to begin offering sessions. The first X number of sessions will be offered at a special rate of X.” Get people in the door and onto your table.

Secondly, gather feedback and testimonials. When someone tells you something amazing about their experience with you, ask them if you can share what they’ve said as a testimonial. This is better than gathering testimonials way after the session happened. Even if the client was to say the exact same thing it won’t have the same vibration as when they share with you fresh after the experience.

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#5 Be organized: you are your own manager. Call out your inner Virgo! Gather emails, keep client lists, get on top of session dates and times, and other important information. If you are looking to turn this hobby into a full time hustle, then act like it’s a business even before it IS your business by being organized. Then you won’t have to add the foundation after you’ve already been in business for some time.

Lisa balances her hustle with flow

#6 Stay in touch, a.k.a. don’t be a stranger to social media. Totally necessary. But keep it fun and keep your unique expression. We are all artists—see social media as a way to create a 4-D picture of your business. Have fun and share from the heart. Don’t let it own you, and don’t obsess over numbers. If it isn’t feeling like a healthy relationship, take a break!

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#7 Get out there LIVE. This is still the best way to meet people and perspective clients. You live is better than you on social media. Call me old fashioned, but I still believe real, live interactions are the best way to form lasting and meaningful relationships—including client relationships.

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#8 Be patient and let it grow organically. Quitting your day job can put too much pressure on your new found hobby/hustle. Like a garden, allow it to grow organically and be patient. It takes time to build our strength and ability to hold space for many people. Feel into how many sessions a week that might look like for you now, and imagine how many people that would be in a year and in five years.

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#9 Have FUN! We have spiritual businesses because we are connected to the Universe and we want to be of service and do good in the world. Let’s imagine a new paradigm of doing business: without stress, powered by the Divine as the motor , and with the Universe as CEO. What if we were just along for the magical ride?Business can be beautiful!

Got a question for Lisa’s monthly “Ask a Spiritual CEO” column? Email [email protected] with the subject line: “Spiritpreneur Questions.” And make sure to check our her Intro to the Art of Running a Spiritual Business on March 22nd at Maha Rose for some in-person wisdom!