In a lull at work I researched hikes, and decided to go once I got off the morning shift. Since I passed the six-month mark and got promoted to assistant manager, the shop started feeling like a normal job. The initial learning hill and uphill climb had been realized. Now the high-maintenance customers and their dietary restrictions annoyed me.
I was tired of talking up the benefits of natural beauty products and balancing herbs. I wanted to be in Nature and get the direct experience. Maybe what was making us imbalanced was our total disconnection from Nature and obsession with work?
The shop was empty and I looked out to the endless passing cars. Everything in America was enclosed in glass, air conditioned, and divided up into single portions. Everybody was working to get theirs. I wanted to take all the herb jars on the hike and liberate them back to the land. I wanted to pour myself out of the jar of who I thought I was or should be.
I got stuck in traffic on my way to the mountains and was disturbed by how few cars were in the carpool lane. All of us were alone in our own cars. Finally we started flowing and I could see the San Gabriel Mountains in their full glory. If you can withstand the frustrating slow downs, the roads will lead to pristine places. The thought cut through my crankiness and I snapped back into faith that synchronicity was still guiding me.
I had started working five days a week at the Juice Shop since I’d been promoted to Assistant Manager. I had been proud of the achievement and pay raise, but now I was feeling drained and lost. I had been too exhausted to work on music or promote myself as a healer online.
Why was I giving so much time and energy to this job that wasn’t my life purpose? This was a familiar struggle I’d had at other jobs. Doing something just for the money always feels soul sucking.
The new American dream is making money from your passion. I was tired of serving rich creatives. I wanted to be a rich creative. I wanted to get paid to be myself. I parked and breathed the higher elevation air. Nature is a relief because you don’t have to be anybody or anything. I saw footprints in the dirt, someone had been hiking barefoot. We all need a break from human society.
I followed the bushy, dirt trail that zig-zagged down the side of a mountain. White sage bushes burst with their sacred, purifying leaves. I was glad no one had picked it to bundle and sell. I sent the sage protection prayers as I passed and stroked it.
The plant has been over-harvested in our struggle to rid the world of negative energy. I don’t ever use the words “negative energy,” though. For me, the problem is ego, and I can detect when I’m trapped in my head, my sense of self struggling to assert itself, to make sense.
Nature is the healer’s healer: wild and pristine in harmony with the Divine. We fall in and out of tune with that rhythm, but being in Nature helped me reset. As I hiked, the bay laurel smell was potent, like mint soaked in whiskey. I wondered if I could make a cologne from it and sell it?
I caught myself again in the constant search for how to make money off something. Why wasn’t it enough just to exist? I wanted to learn to value things in their natural form, when they haven’t been packaged and promoted. I snorted in the bay laurel and brush smells to re-wire myself back to Nature.
The guidebook said there was a stream in the canyon. I could discern the distant sound of the stream, and got quiet to listen. I could notice the difference without my noisy intellect. I walked the rest of the way down in an observant, walking meditation. The plants were more lush down by the creek, like a happy trail, guiding me to the source of life.
A flat meditation rock on the side of the creek beckoned me. I sat down crossed-legged and closed my eyes. The constant gurgling sound guided my meditation. As thoughts fought for my attention the river sound kept bringing me back to just sitting. I blinked my eyes open and took in the lush creek bed around me. The Sun was glowing through the pine and laurel trees.
I kept practicing letting my worries go, feeling the breeze on my t-shirt. As I let myself be influenced by the vibration of Nature, it tuned me like a guitar, out of the ego chatter. I didn’t have to hold on so hard, I could be drawn like the creek, finding its way to the ocean. The thought sent me into quiet stillness, feeling the inter-relatedness of things.
At the end of my meditation I asked what my life’s purpose was. The feeling in my heart made me laugh. Like my soul was tickling me from inside my heart. “Bringing new energy to Earth” were the words. I realized, sitting there, that I got to do everything I loved at the Juice Shop—talk to people, make smoothies and tonics, listen to music, counsel people, stare out the window.
I could feel God laughing at me. When would I learn to trust the flow of life? I felt ready to go back and enjoy my life, armed with this new understanding and reconnection to my purpose and my essence, my vibe. It didn’t matter where I was, I was going to keep being myself and grow this energy that made me feel happy.
I stood up, sent Reiki to the water and thanked it for healing me. For holding space for me to let go and clarify my mind. I had never felt Nature so alive, and wondered if it was the herbs in my system from the Juice Shop? Walking back, the bare earth felt so much softer than concrete.
I took off my sneakers and walked barefoot. I felt in awe of the Sierra Anita Ridge plants, river and hills, as well as the juice and herbs in my system, their magical ability to realign us to the Earth. The biggest mystery is under our feet.
Venus Juice: When I Tried to Live in LA is out now. Find all the links to get your copy HERE.
Integrity starts with you – as in, by being honest with yourself about the truth of who you are. From there, it becomes easier to close the ‘values gap’ in the wider world, says Danielle Russell
Integrity is having a moment. You’ve probably read about it as alignment, authenticity, harmony, or wholeness. It is an important topic both personally and socially, because doing the work to become integral—all one—with ourselves first and foremost, is both healing and empowering.
With all the problems humanity faces today—from breathtaking inequality, to climate change, to the dire need to change the broken systems that have brought society to its knees over the past few decades—it’s more important than ever that we are able to remain true to our deepest selves, so we can genuinely connect and work on some of these problems together.
Integrity and Self
“Harmony is when what you think, what you do, and what you say are in alignment.” – attributed to Ghandi
Each of us is born whole, integral, and designed to act on our emotions and needs with no filter in place. As we mature, we learn how to conform to the elaborate social structures around us. Often this results in us overriding, or abandoning, our true selves, as we learn how to act in ways that win us approval, love, and belonging.
Belonging is a biological imperative. When we’re young and vulnerable the love of our elders directly translates into protection: our survival depends on it. But when this translates as an overpowering need to “fit in” as adults, it comes at a cost. One that has implications far beyond our individual selves.
In the drive to conform, we turn against our true selves, forcing our emotional needs and desires deep inside. Over time we become divided, two faced, with our “social selves” being the outward mask we wear to cover our true, authentic selves.
Often the parts of ourselves that we are most likely to cover up are the parts that make us uniquely us, yet that we deem unacceptable because of an “ideal” that’s been fed to us by industry, media, marketing, and popular culture our whole lives.
But the more we cover up our messy, unique shapes, voices, faces and identities, the more this upholds the status quo and perpetuates cycles of oppression.
Once these two identities are established, we tend to become further disconnected from our authentic self while fulfilling the needs of our social selves. We chase the things we think we want (in my case being a “good girl,” fitting the European standard of beauty, achieving success without ever coming across as “too ambitious”), but often overlook the things we truly long for (belly laughs, friends, the sound of wind through leaves, the feeling of deep inner peace).
At some point on this journey, we wake up to find ourselves addicted, exhausted, feeling lost, and wholly not at peace. This may manifest in our lives as broken relationships, failed careers, and feelings of purposelessness and being emotionally unmoored.
And because the oppressive message to act and be a certain way is everywhere we turn, impacting everybody on some level, when we look out on the wider world, we see a reflection of the divisiveness we feel on the inside. And so the cycle continues.
But there is a simple way to begin to right our ships: which is to begin telling the truth of who we are to ourselves.
We can start small: I don’t like how all the mindless scrolling makes me feel, and can work up to bigger, scarier truths: I’m in the wrong career, or, I put my comfort ahead of speaking out against that racist co-worker. By acknowledging what’s true for us, especially the things we think others will find unacceptable, we can begin to take actions that are in line with the person we truly are.
Once we begin the process of looking inside and being real about what we find there, we also begin to fine tune our moral compass. We’re more likely to stand up for what we know is right. We stop second guessing ourselves constantly, and at a soul level we feel free.
It takes time, and starts small, but once we begin this practice, we’ll begin to see bigger and more meaningful changes in our life—and the world we inhabit. Truth is the path back to integrity within ourselves.
Integrity and Society
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” – MLK Jr.
So what do we do when we’re trying to follow our truth, but it seems like we only have bad choices in front of us? Whether it’s what we consume (from goods and services to media), our decision to be (or not to be) active about issues in our community, or the kind of work we do, it often feels like any choice we make will bring us out of alignment with our integrity.
In our capitalist economic system, businesses are able to provide (relatively) cheap goods and services because of “externalities”—the technical term for any cost that has some kind of an impact on a third party that doesn’t have a choice in the matter.
The state of the world today—with climate disasters unfolding in greater numbers year over year, human rights violations constantly being exposed by the media, and biodiversity (and human fertility) in freefall—is shaped by these externalities.
Let’s use chocolate as an example. I really enjoy hot cocoa. It conjures fond memories and brings comfort when I need a break from reality. But then I discovered that most of the world’s cocoa is produced in West Africa, where child labor and slavery are rampant in the cocoa industry.
Not to mention the degradation of the land and the carbon footprint that are the true cost of this small moment of pleasure I experience in my home in California. My cup of cocoa hasn’t been quite so comforting since I learned these stats.
The same can be said for the majority of the choices we make as consumers today. So where do we go from here? How do we act in a way that is true to ourselves (in this example, self-care) without causing harm to others?
I could just stop eating chocolate. But how would this choice negatively impact workers at the cocoa farms, who have no other way to earn a living? I could encourage friends, family, and co-workers to only eat brands that have been verified as cruelty free? But how does this address the wider issue?
Often all we’re left with when attempting to answer these questions … is even bigger questions: Do we fight every battle? Can I really make a difference? Is it even possible to be a good person in such a broken system?
Living with integrity in a broken world
“It is in your hands to create a better world for all who live in it.” – Nelson Mandela
Seeking integrity in our own lives is one thing (whether this means owning up to a bad relationship and having the courage to move on, or calling out racism in the workplace)—but how to pay this forward in a world that’s full of bad choices? There are a few places we can at least start.
Live with less. When it comes to consumption of goods and services, the easiest way to cut down on our footprint (carbon, cruelty, or otherwise) is to simply consume less.
This raises questions about the knock-on effect of the people employed in the production and distribution of these goods—which is a whole other article in and of itself. I would argue we overemphasize GDP as an indicator of progress over happiness, health or welfare. With drastic enough reductions in consumption jobs will be lost, yes.
But degrowthers (an entire group of people dedicated to making this change a reality) believe that this shift will lead to economies becoming more “circular” (re-using and re-purposing what durable goods we have in our system already), local, and more akin to those seen in historic indigenous populations.
Know the score on your big decisions. Whether it’s grocery store staples, clothing, eating out, or travel (and especially travel), learn about the negative externalities where you spend your money, and do a quick cost/benefit analysis so you can adjust your choices accordingly.
If travel to a place is harmful to the people or ecosystem of that place, consider other places to visit or activities you can do. You will never escape all negative externalities; accepting the world we live in as it is does not imply approval of that world. But you can do your best to avoid the biggies, whatever those are for you.
Give back, get active. If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re sporting a little privilege. As you learn to live with less, also learn to give back more. Find ways to give time or money to causes that are the most important to you. And don’t forget to call out the bad actors. If you want to see your clothing more sustainably produced, call the manufacturer! Call your members of Congress, email the companies you buy from (and the ones you don’t), write op-eds, and generally have your voice be heard.
Given the state of the world, trying to close the values gap in our lives can feel demoralizing; how can my small contribution make a difference? But study after study shows that it takes only 3.5% of a population taking action to make a difference. By that rule, if we all started living with more integrity, day-to-day, we’d make an immediate impact.
As the famous Margaret Mead quote goes: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”
And it all begins with you. Every small decision we make has a ripple effect, and when we’re really honest about who we are, it is all of our nature to value peace and collaboration. Where we see the opposite, we are witnessing a misalignment of these intrinsic human values, brought about by fear—fear of otherness, fear of scarcity, fear of not being allowed to live as our true selves.
By living as your authentic self, you model to others how it’s done. Which is ultimately how we’ll find our way out of the broken systems we live in.
Danielle Russell is a writer and technologist with a background in Geology. She’s interested in all things environmental, feminism, and the arts. Danielle enjoys volunteering (currently climate advocacy) surfing, biking, live music, and books. She lives in California with her partner.
In this excerpt from her new memoir, I’ve Had One Too, Anna Wood explains why a abortion is an issue of equality …
IN THIS POLITICALLY-VOLOTILE, EVER-CHANGING, REACTIVE, RELIGIOUS, and emotionally stunted world of ours, a lot of people still seem to think the “answer” to abortion is to control women’s bodies. And as much as a world without abortion would be ideal, it is doubtful that the need for this procedure will ever go away—and certainly not because of a bunch of laws made by privileged, white men.
Further, Katha Polit, in Reclaiming Abortion Rights, explains that reproductive rights “are not a distraction from the important, economic issues. They are an economic issue: without the ability to limit and time their pregnancies, women will always be disadvantaged at work and subordinate to men.” Simply put, abortion allows women “to only have children they want and can raise well.”
For women to truly achieve economic equality, both men and women need to have equal stakes in child raising. Ideally, this would mean equal, paid, parental leave from work, as in Sweden, where parents are given a total of 480 days to split between them, of which 90 each go to the man or woman exclusively and cannot be transferred to the other partner.
As long as women are unable to plan their pregnancies, and men are not given more time off to care for children, women will fall behind at work and remain disadvantaged in the workplace. The secondary effect of this is that ultimately women will remain economically behind, which means we will continue to depend on men to some degree.
As long as there are unwanted pregnancies (remember, that’s 50 percent of all pregnancies in the US), women should have the right to do as they need—for their futures, for their bodies, and for their own security. How can it be right that this decision is forced on us by lawmakers and politicians, who know and care nothing for the individual circumstances of the human lives at stake?
The unborn children of abortion—the lives that are at the real heart of this issue—must also be counted in this equation. How many unplanned for children are born into lives of seemingly intractable inequality? When the Alabama Human Life Protection Act was signed in 2019, Governor Kay Ivy ended her statement on the draconian law (which aims for a near wholesale ban on abortion): “We must give every person the best chance for a quality life and a promising future.”
No matter that Alabama is the sixth poorest state in the US, with 17.2% of Alabamians living below the poverty line (the national average is 14%). Given that the people most likely to be affected by this law are also the poorest—those who lack widespread access to healthcare and birth control, leading them to abortion in the first place—many souls entering the world as a result of this bill will be pre-destined for a life of poverty-induced suffering.
And then there is the complicated, often contradictory debate about the role of race in abortion. In a New York Times article from 2019, John Eligon says, “(Some of) Those seeking to outlaw abortion lament what they see as an undoing of the fabric of Black families. They liken the high abortion rates among Black women to a cultural genocide, and sometimes raise the specter of eugenics and population control when discussing abortion rights.”
The article goes on to interview a reverend and a minister, both of whom are pro-life from a religious standpoint, but remain pro-choice politically. They are in lockstep with those opposing the Alabama Human Life Protection Act: that we as a society need to provide a life where women and children can thrive, “from womb to tomb.” A promise that bypasses communities of color in the US, where families are disproportionately impacted by poverty, mass incarceration, and institutionalized police brutality.
Now imagine a world where birth control is not only universally available, but exists in equal, effective measure for both sexes. And while we’re here, let’s expand this to envision a world where people of color no longer face the oppression and prejudice that results in racial violence and stereotyping at every turn. Where the a person’s gender identity does not impact their right to an opinion or a voice, giving women and non-binary individuals an equal say in how the world works.
Where, on a wider level, we recognize ourselves and our sexuality as a part of nature—our thriving on par with the lives of nonhuman animals and the earth itself. In a world where all beings truly are “equal,” would there be less anger and violence and hatred overall? Would incidences of emotional abuse and manipulation, domestic violence, and rape decrease, leading to fewer unplanned pregnancies and, ultimately, fewer abortions?
I still don’t know where my decision to terminate my pregnancy fits into this picture. Although I am white and heterosexual, I am a member of an oppressed class (a woman); and yet I made a decision for a nascent life that had no voice of its own. Does this make me the oppressor? Maybe. Or maybe by making a choice for the better of my own future—one that did not result in bringing a child into a familial pattern of emotional abuse—my decision will leave the world a little bit better off.
I think about an alternate universe in which I had kept my pregnancy and found myself the mother of a person of color. It makes me recall so many small moments with the broker’s family that were heart-wrenching: his seven-year-old twin nieces being teased at school for having dark hair on their faces; his ten-year-old nephew being told he wasn’t allowed to wear a hoodie out of the house.
But he’s just a child, I said to the broker. He shrugged—this was just the way of the world. I wanted to cry, to rage against a system that threatened the safety of any child, but it didn’t feel like my place. It felt like it was his grief, and I was on the outside.
Would my child have been “disadvantaged” like my friend was inclined to believe? Probably, yes. They would have faced an uphill battle in a system built to keep people of color oppressed. But just because society doesn’t respect the value of a person’s life, doesn’t mean that value is negated.
I would not have been able to protect my child from everything—no parent can. But my child would have been loved, by me and by my family. I would have done everything I could to make them know their value, as my parents did for me. In the end, this is the only shield we can offer in a world as violently oppressive to people of colors as ours.
I’ve Had One Too: A Story of Abortion and Healing by Anna Wood is out now with Numinous Books. Click HERE to get your copy.
Are you too sensitive for social media? If you find social triggering, Elyssa Jakim shares how sensitive types can make it work for you.
Last summer, I deleted my Instagram account. Because, I just felt awful on there. Every time I posted, it felt like a secret cry for help. A cry of “Please like me! Please approve of me! Please validate that I’m not too weird or too much for you.”
When I was growing up, I was often called too sensitive. I had a reputation for crying easily. This was doubly excruciating because when I cried, my face would get as bright red as my hair. It was like walking down the halls of my high school wearing a sign that said, “I just cried, and don’t wanna talk about it!”
Over the years, my sensitivity has paid off as intuition. Having a solid meditation practice and making a point to be extra kind to myself helps, and I feel less sensitive now than I did as a kid – but my empathic tendencies can still turn social interactions into triathlons. I know that I’m not the only one who’s feeling it these days. A tendency to feel things deeply, to overthink the effect you have on others, to use the phrase “I feel,” or to easily get sensory overload are all signs that you are a sensitive person. When mixed with social media, the effects can be disastrous.
My breakup with Instagram was simple, really. My husband noticed my habit of scrolling with glazed eyes while holding my breath.
He reflected back to me what he saw, “It’s like you’re in rabid panic mode when you’re on there.” He was right. My energy felt totally off when I interacted with Instagram. I’d hold my breath as I scrolled through the accounts of people I didn’t remember following. I’d obsessively refresh to see if I’d gotten another like. Shame poured in when a post I spent an hour on got two comments. It felt like walking back into my high school cafeteria with my bright red face. I didn’t feel like me.
So I deleted my account and really it felt like a solution! For a little while…
But it didn’t solve my problem, especially as an entrepreneur. For sensitives who use social media as a place to market their businesses and services, the imperative to remain on social media as a promotional tool poses a real challenge.
It wasn’t until I set the old way of doing things free—deleting my Instagram account and determining to reset that relationship—that new ways to engage with social media have opened up for me.
Read on for my tips on feeling strong as a sensitive on social media!
TIP 1: It’s not shady to be strategic.
Something that didn’t occur to me until I started a job writing social media captions for someone else is that there is a proven strategy at play. In fact, as a creative, intuitive person, it pained me to learn that if you’re not being strategic as a business owner on social, you’re very likely wasting your time and money.
“I sincerely believe that growing a small business on Instagram isn’t about being ‘cool’ or ‘social’, it’s about understanding how the platform works and learning to execute the activities that lead to growth at a high level.”
Once you learn how the system works, you won’t feel like you’re floating around on social media without a life-raft. Having a plan in place will also make you feel less sensitive and raw.
Even if you’re just using social media personally, there are ways for you to strategize. For example, listen to your natural rhythms. If there are days in the week or times in your monthly cycle where you feel more vulnerable or tender…those might be the days to avoid using it. Also understanding the tools and tricks other people are using there helps you take things less personally. Knowing IG’s rules for instance, and that most people are “playing the game” to a degree, keeps me from getting swept up in the comparison trap.
A key way to feel less sensitive on social is to see it less as an extension of you, a place to share your vulnerable authentic self, and reframe it as a tool to share your passions, spread the work about your projects, and (perhaps most importantly) build community.
A key question is to ask yourself what your goals/intentions are. Why do you want to use social? Think about incorporating a strategy that can help you to reach those goals or nurture those intentions.
As you define your rules for using social media, you get to have a kind of internal boundary with the platform. Having a plan in place will also make you feel less sensitive and raw. You can then come from a place of power.
TIP 2: You DON’T have to be everywhere
IMPORTANT: You do NOT have to be active on every platform. Pick one or two channels and focus on those.
“DO you need to be on every platform? Spending hours per week on social media? Heck to the mother-effin’ no. Find your core social media platforms and go hard on those instead. It may even just be one platform that you’re particularly active on.”
How do you know the best channels for you to choose?
There are many ways to go about this! Here are some ideas:
– Identify where your target audience and your community are hanging out. What platform do your ideal clients and customers love to use? That’s where you should be!
– You can also consider what platform you naturally feel most comfortable on. If you don’t jive with IR or Facebook for instance, maybe consider LinkedIn, TikTok, or Pinterest. This is particularly challenging if you don’t agree with the practices of certain social media companies. I don’t have an answer to this gargantuan issue, except to educate yourself about privacy policies and log out of platforms whenever possible. This article about IG’s privacy policies is an informative read.
– Look at where you might have a mini-following already, I realized that over the years I’d built up a big network on LinkedIn. Because I’m a service provider and mainly use social for work, it really makes sense to connect with people on there. Also, the algorithm sorts by “relevant’ rather than “recent”…so that means your epic posts get to stay on people’s feeds and continue building traction. A great thing if you want to put more bang into your written posts.
– Consider your natural communication style. If you’re super visual, maybe you want to play with Pinterest. If you’re a bit of a performer, get on video and milk those IG lives, Facebook lives, or create your own Youtube channel. If you’re a writer, you may consider LinkedIn, Medium, or Twitter.
Ultimately, choose the one or two platforms that feel easiest to commit to. Make it easy on your sensitive self.
Tip 3: Fall in love with Email Instead
If you’re an entrepreneur, this little piece of advice is probably the most literally valuable takeaway for your business. Don’t use social media to stay on social media. Use social media to connect with your people on email!
Why? For starters, the Return on Investment (ROI) of an email blasts away the ROI of social media.
“When you look at the effectiveness of email compared to social media and take a peek at the ROI of each, it’s pretty clear that email is the winner. By a lot.” Jacinda Santora tells us in this breakdown of email versus social media.
The ROI of email marketing as of February 2021 is 4200%, meaning for every $1 spent on email marketing, the average return is $42. This epic article by legendary copywriter Laura Belgray spells out exactly how valuable email marketing can be.
Emails are close to the investment, so they have a HUGE impact on the success of your business. Emails are the growth engine of your business and the bridge to sales.
The reason why you can rock email as a sensitive person? Email is all about an intimate connection. A great email has the feeling of being written just for you. Emails are also a place to hone your storytelling skills and develop your voice. Another winning feature? Email is way less public than social media!
If you begin to see social media as a way to invite people into more intimate conversations on your email list…you might just strike gold.
Email also answers the question of what to do if you somehow find yourself banned from social media. It is happening to many people…not only those who are being hate speech. Or if your account gets hacked and you lose all your followers overnight.
When someone unfollows you, it’s actually a blessing. Your audience is getting more targeted and more specific to people who do want to hear from you. Way to go!
So if you’ve been playing small or vanilla on your social, because you want to be for everyone, one of the best things you can do is be you more fully. Sure, some people might unfollow you. But let me repeat: that is a blessing!
If you’re a business owner, a gift that you can give to your audience is actually saying who your stuff is not for. It will make you feel way more clear and specific.
These days, because everything feels so polarized, it may seem natural to write a post anticipating someone else’s criticism. Here’s the thing. You can decide to use social as a way to cultivate a community of people who are kind and supportive. If someone justifiably criticizes something you have posted, the best thing you can do is lead with kindness and a willingness to learn. If someone is attacking you or is behaving in a way that feels completely immature, unkind, or even abusive… then they are no longer welcome in your community.
Here’s how Laura begins her caption as a way to set a boundary for what she will and won’t tolerate: “The caption begins “It tickles me when people write ‘Unfollowing’ in the comments. Or when they email to tell me they’re unsubscribing…There’s a button for that. Click it and bye bye! ”
Getting clear and communicative about what good behavior looks like on social media helps to define what we will accept from others on the platform. Take the opportunity to set the tone.
TIP 6: Post within your comfort level. And be available for the tough conversations.
In full transparency, when conceptualizing this article, Team Numinous and I spoke about how to broach the topic of racism and inclusion in social media.
We were asking: is it okay to be triggered and fatigued by discussions about race on social media? When is it okay to disengage and tend to self-care, and when do you just have to be okay with being uncomfortable?
I admittedly am not an expert in this area. I have deleted the sentence I’m now writing like 20 times while trying to find the right words. I don’t feel that I have the right words here. But I’ve decided to be okay with being uncomfortable.
There is a certain amount of pressure to speak about this issue publicly. But this can become a) insensitive and b) performative. Especially if we think a social post is equal to “doing the work” internally as well as behind the scenes.
The best practice, if you feel uncertain about how to address these issues, is to find communities who “call you in” as opposed to promoting public shaming. Find the people who are broaching these issues in a way that inspires you and feels genuine.
Also be sure to do lots of other research off social media so you’re more versed in and less triggered by challenging conversations. Listen to podcasts and read books that talk about these issues from various viewpoints so you can digest the information in your own timeframe.
TIP 7: Remember that we need your sensitive self!
People may have called you sensitive as if it was an insult. But your sensitivity can be your strength. Especially as a business owner. When harnessed, your sensitivity becomes pure creativity and intuition.
“You, in your introversion, in your sensitivity, in your empathic gifts are here to be a channel on this Earth. You are here to lead the way back to a more sane, heartfelt, and natural way of being. Beginning a business can seem scary, but it is also one of the most profound ways to shift the fabric of our reality. If we only stick with it, our businesses will show us the most precious thing of all— how to truly be ourselves.”
Being super sensitive actually makes you hard-wired to run a different kind of “business” than we are used to – one that moves to natural rhythms, one that creates its own rules, one that shapes society through the spirit of nurturance. As well as to grow a social media presence that feels fully authentic and right for you…whether or not you’re a business owner.
If the loudest most confident voices remain the only ones that get heard, then we forget that the world is FULL of sensitive people, who generally have a ton of love, healing, and guidance to give. And need your sensitivity on social media too!
Elyssa Jakim is a conversion copywriter and email strategist for coaches, course creators, personal brands, and conscious businesses. She focuses on marketing that is uplifting instead of anxiety-inducing. Elyssa just finished her M.F.A in screenwriting at UCLA. She’s also a confounder of NAMAH, biodynamic herb garden and meditation center devoted to the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda. Follow her on LinkedIn and Instagram. And if you want to join her love-filled email community, click here to subscribe.
Anna Wood’s brave, beautiful memoir is a story of abortion and healing—and a timely stake in the ground for reproductive justice. Here’s why I chose to publish it with Numinous Books … by Ruby Warrington.
I had my abortion at age 23. It was 1999; half a lifetime ago. I had been with my now husband, the Pisces, for just three months when I became pregnant, and I was fitted with an IUD at the time. I had also had my first period in years shortly after meeting him, my cycle having been disrupted by an eating disorder I’d grappled with for the duration of my previous abusive 6-year relationship. The hardcore birth control (since IUDs are considered to be more than 99 percent effective, I’d read somewhere that this made them the method of choice among female GPs) had felt like overkill; I had doubted whether my womb was even fertile.
When the second blue line showed up on the test, my first feeling was one of elation. I was sat, cramped in the tiny makeshift bathroom in the lower floor of my father’s house, where I was living at the time. I’d broken up with my ex, who I’d been living with, the previous summer, coinciding with my leaving journalism school and interning while I tried to find a job. I was broke, and while I was grateful to my dad for making space for me in his home, he had a new family now and I was there on borrowed time. My priority was finding work; the last thing I needed was THIS. But still I couldn’t stop smiling; in a fit of magical thinking, it was as if becoming pregnant against all odds was cosmic confirmation that this new person I’d been seeing was “the one.”
I knew I wouldn’t keep it. For the practical reasons: my income was minimal, I had nowhere to live, and I was barely out of the starting gate in my career. But, also, because I’d always just known I didn’t want to be a mom. I had been convinced of this since around age five, but now this knowing crystalized in me fully for the first time. When I told the Pisces, his response was shock; he’d never even considered becoming a dad (would, later in our relationship, share with me the time my father told him: “no man ever wants to have children, it just happens”). After after a brief discussion, he let it be known that he fully supported my choice. We were agreed; whatever our future together, it would not be ethical at this point in our lives to bring a child into the mix.
I made an appointment with Marie Stopes’ Reproductive Choices and was scheduled for a procedure the following month. It was free, covered by the NHS, and not once did I question my choice. In the meantime, I accompanied the Pisces to Paris, where he was DJ’ing at a party on a disused barge. His set was at 4am, and we went for fatty steak frites at midnight before heading to the club. I couldn’t tell if my belly was swollen from the food. Dancing later, as the sun came up on the Seine, I felt blessed, ecstatic to be alive; I was falling deeper in love with him by the day.
On the day of the abortion, both he and my mom accompanied me to the clinic. I was instructed to put on a robe, go to the bathroom, and place a pessary in my vagina which would help to open my cervix. Then I was led into an operating room, when I dropped like a stone into the anesthetic blackout. The next thing I knew, I was opening my eyes, as if waking from a dream about another life. As the anesthetic ebbed from my limbs, I experienced a pervasive sensation of absolute peace.
Only as I write this now, over two decades later, am I fully aware of how grateful I am for the circumstances of my abortion. For the fact my procedure was paid for in full by the NHS; for the nonjudgmental and loving care I received from the staff at the clinic; for my partner being fully supportive of my choice; and, not least, that ending my pregnancy was a completely non-conflicted choice for me. To this day, I have never felt so certain of anything in my life—and I also have the fact that in the UK, where I am from, abortion does not carry the stigma that it does in other nations, to thank for this.
We often don’t recognize our own privilege until we become aware of the choices and the resources that are not available to others, and the past 12+ months have shone a light on just how fortunate I was back then. When sensing the visceral fear among women in my circle that Amy Coney-Barrett’s appointment to the supreme court might be one more nail in the coffin for ready abortion access (already increasingly tenuous) in the US; when watching the nationwide protests in Poland, as hundreds of thousands took to the streets to oppose increasingly oppressive abortion laws there; and when soaking in the sheer joy and relief on the faces of the Argentinian women celebrating abortion being made legal in their country.
And all this against the backdrop of working with author Anna Wood on her abortion memoir, I’ve Had One Too, our second Numinous Books release. Anna (not her real name, more on this in a bit), was the first person to contact me about publishing her story with us—a story that is very different from mine. For Anna, electing to end her pregnancy was the hardest thing she ever did—and a decision that led to her questioning everything. What was the “ethical” thing to do? Could she have made it as a single mom? Did her choice make her a monster? And not least, why do women not talk about this?
It was only in the months and years following her abortion, that Anna opened up about it to the women in her life. She was shocked at what she learned: that so many of them—including the Catholic mother of three—had had one too, but had felt too ashamed to talk about it. The ensuing conversations with these women became an integral part of Anna’s own journey of reconciliation and healing. Eventually, she decided to write about her experience to encourage more women to speak up.
It is estimated that one-in-four women in the US will have an abortion at some point in their lives. Many are mothers already, stretched to capacity when it comes to their child-rearing abilities. And yet, increasingly, any person seeking access to abortion (it’s important to note that this issue relates to trans men and many non-binary individuals, too), will have to leap through numerous hoops—be they financial, legal, geographical, or a combination of all three—in order to receive the care they need. Since the ratification of Roe v. Wade in 1973, abortion access has been subject to obstruction after obstruction (as discussed succinctly in this episode of The Cut podcast). In short, abortion access in the United States is hanging on a thread. And at a time where a reckoning with systemic racism along with structural gender and economic inequalities—issues which Anna’s book reveals to be at the heart of the fight for reproductive justice—is tearing the nation apart.
When I agreed to work with Anna on her book, I was unaware of much of the above. All I knew, was that my own abortion had played an integral role in me being free to live my life on my own terms—and that this was something I wanted for every person who found themselves in mine or Anna’s position. Having sat in countless healing circles over the years, where I had offered deep listening to people seeking both solace and solidarity, I had also come to a deep appreciation for the importance of sharing our stories as a way to make peace with our pasts, to know that we are not alone, and to heal.
Since we began working on the project in the fall of 2019, my eyes have been opened to just how damaging the silencing of stories of abortion is. Until we can openly claim our right to this essential, ethical, and deeply personal part of our reproductive lives, it will remain inaccessible to those who need it most. Now consider this: roughly half of pregnancies in the US are unintended. Many of these, undoubtedly, are “happy accidents.” But how many children are being born into economic instability (currently, 38 million US families are living is poverty), and to mothers who do not have the material and emotional support they need, because of lack of access to and enduring stigma around abortion?
This is not to presume anything about whether or not these children will be happy or loved. Whether or not their lives will be worth living. But as bell hooks writes in All About Love; “An overwhelming majority of us come from dysfunctional families in which we were taught we were not okay, where we were shamed, verbally and/or physically abused, and emotionally neglected, even as we were also taught to believe that we were loved … Too many of us cling to a notion of love that either makes abuse acceptable or at least makes it seem that whatever happened was not that bad.”
Meanwhile, in The Body Keeps the Score, trauma specialist Bessel Van Der Kolk claims he believes that child abuse is: “our nation’s largest public health problem”—given that childhood trauma (including physical and psychological abuse and emotional neglect) is linked to higher rates of obesity, heart and liver disease and cancer, as well as higher incidences of depression, alcoholism and IV drug use, suicide, and domestic violence. We have the awareness and the science to end these toxic cycles. We are also tasked, as a priority, with addressing wider issues of economic inequality (not to mention environmental degradation). Don’t we owe it to future generations to ensure they are arriving here under the most supportive circumstances possible?
Perhaps most importantly of all, Anna’s book brings to light the fact that binary thinking about abortion—you are either “pro-choice” or “pro-life”—flattens the nuance that colors both the debate about and people’s experiences of abortion. After all, the term “pro-choice” includes the right to opt to carry a pregnancy to term, even when it makes little logical sense. Meanwhile, “pro-life” was originally coined by progressive educator A.S. Neill, who wrote in his 1960 book Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Parenting: “no pro-life citizen would tolerate our penal code, our hangings, our punishment of homosexuals, our attitudes to bastardry.” And I am certainly pro every individual having access to a quality of life that includes material security and agency over their own bodily sovereignty, not to mention where “life” does not refer to a sentence in the white supremacist prison industrial complex.
When this phrase becomes co-opted to apply to an unborn fetus in its mother’s womb however, as Sally Rooney, quoted by Jia Tolentino in The New Yorker, notes, this collection of cells is being extended “a vastly expanded set of legal rights, rights available to no other class of citizen.” That is, the right to “make free, non-consensual use of another living person’s uterus and blood supply, and cause permanent, unwanted changes to another person’s body.” In the relationship between woman and fetus, Rooney writes, the woman is “granted fewer rights than a corpse.”
Does agreeing with this make me a “monster,” a label Anna finds herself confronted with so often in her book? Her work has helped remind me that abortion is not a question of morality, it is a question of humanity—the humane choice, always, being not to cause or perpetuate further suffering. Also, that being human is nothing if not a treacherous slog through the murky waters of cognitive dissonance. Part of finding our way, so often, means embracing the fact that it is possible for many conflicting “truths” to exist alongside one another, both in our hearts and in the world, and making hard choices that it is on us to live with. I have written about my spiritual beliefs about abortion before, here, and while working on this book has found me questioning the deeper karmic consequences of my choice, not once have I regretted it.
It is with hardcore admiration that I am helping Anna publish her book. And, yes, under a pseudonym. The fear women feel about sharing their abortion stories is justified, and I am steeling myself for the inevitable abuse and harassment—often, ironic coming from those claiming to be “pro-life,” including death threats—that is pelted at those who speak up. But these attempts to silence us from speaking our truths are only more evidence that we must.
I’ve Had One Too: A Story of Abortion and Healing, is out February 16 2021. Subscribe to The Numinous newsletter HERE to be alerted when it goes on sale; and sign up for more essays from Ruby Warrington HERE.
Wishcraft by Shauna Cummins introduces a powerful practice for creating intentional change …
In her new book, Wishcraft, hypnotherapist Shauna Cummins explains that wishes should be said like prayers, affirmations, and blessings, all in one. Before you plant your wishes in your subconscious mind, read the below script out loud – either in a group, or to yourself – before entering into a wishing trance. Alternatively, you can record it and listen to it before you go to sleep or before you enter into the wishing trance or journey.
<< PAST PRESENT FUTURE NOW: WISHING SCRIPT >>
“Imagining myself in a peaceful place, I breathe in deep relaxation into my mind and into my body. Counting down from ten to one, breathing slowly and deeply. Ten, nine, eight, breathing, seven, six, five, deeper and deeper, four, three, two, one; allowing each and every breath to take me deeper into this intuitive inner space for relaxation and release, receiving even more of what I desire now. Breathing in relaxation and breathing out release. Breathing in deeper and deeper, into the intuitive inner space of the mind and body.Safe, secure and protected, just breathing. Remembering that, in my mind, I can give myself whatever resources I need: the ability to go deeper, to rise above and to give myself what I need, is my natural ability.
Now, in my mind, I find myself somewhere that brings me peace, a place in nature. I am experiencing this place with all of my senses. The colour of the sky, the sounds around me, the temperature of the air on my skin. Breathing in peacefulness and support. Drawing up courage and strength from the earth and into my body, into my mind, light and clarity from the sun and the sky moving into my mind, into my body. I experience those energies circulating throughout my body, empowering me to move forwards positively.
I now imagine myself from the perspective of my future self. I can feel or see my future self doing well, living, their wishes coming true. I step into my future self, moving around in their energy, feeling it now. I believe in myself; I trust in myself; I feel my whole mind and my whole body working with me now.
Through the eyes of my future self, I can see my present self and I notice what I admire about my present self now. I feel my present self, receiving that appreciation. I can feel those energies, from the future and the present, collaborating, working together and rising up and intuitively travelling over my life. I can look down as if I’m looking down from above, and I call out a few things I feel very proud of, things I accomplished or overcame throughout my life.
When I have those in mind, I drop down and travel to the past, to a time when I could have used more support. And I feel my future and present selves there with my past self as if I’m my own loved one or my own best friend. I give my past self whatever resources I needed, and I imagine my past self receiving those resources: protection, healing, safety. I look into the eyes of my past self and I remind them of, or share with them, what I admire about them. I share with them what they will go on to accomplish or overcome. I feel pathways of healing, releasing and receiving, flowing from the future into the present, into the past, and I can feel my past self now rising up out of that past, feeling an updated sense of love and support for who they are and who they are becoming; traveling through time and space with an updated sense of love and support for who they are and who they are becoming.
“I can feel myself in the present moment, moving forwards positively, and I can feel my future self here with me now, supporting me. Moving forwards, in my own way and in my own time, remembering how strong, resourceful and supported I really am, just being me. Enjoying myself and the process, in my own way and in my own time. I know that things take time and energy to accomplish, but I now feel an intuitive balance of focus and forgiveness, trusting in myself and the process. Each step forwards works with me, surrendering to the supportive forces within me and around me. Thank you for my positive present future now. My future dreams are a reality now.”
Now you’re ready to plant your wishes. Shauna has included wishes for healing, for giving, for receiving, and for different stages and phases in her book, as well as wishes for revolution. Use the below to wish for a better future for ourselves and for others.
<< WISHES FOR REVOLUTION >>
To be said like confessions, admitting to the wrongdoings of ourselves and others, in atonement or with the intention of coming into alignment with right action.
WISH FOR THE EARTH
May I awaken to recognize the Earth as a living organism. May I treat her like a divine mother and giver of life: the ocean’s waters, the trees’ air, the soil’s growth. May I begin to live my life by right actions to sustain a living future.
WISH FOR CHANGE
May I stand with love and respect for all life. May I listen, learn and act with compassion. May I embody the humility to admit when I am wrong and make reparations for deep, lasting, systemic change towards equality on all levels. May I learn to see others and myself as one, with generosity and grace.
In all my wishing, may I have the patience to let go of what no longer serves my highest good, moving like a river flows, surrendering to the supportive slipstreams, moving forwards positively, just being me. Trusting in myself and the process of learning and growing and becoming stronger, and more open and receptive to making my future dreams a reality now.
Wishcraft by Shauna Cummins is published by Hardy Grant on Jan 26 2021. Pre-order your copy HERE.
With her book, A Wild Kindness: A Psilocybin Odyssey, author Bett Williams chronicles her seven-year journey working with psilocybin mushrooms in New Mexico. The below excerpt gives a window into the healing portal this opened in her life …
IT BEGAN WITH a solitary trip by the fire three days later, with a cautious, less-than-three-gram dose. When there’s nothing to lose, there’s not a lot to worry about. It was easy to trust a mushroom—to trust anything outside myself and the twisted will that had landed me in this desperate clearing. I placed a small mound of tobacco at the base of a candle, a common offering I’d been practicing since I was a teenager, taught to me by herbalists and indigenous ceremonialists. I burned copal and flat cedar. Lying down on the couch under a wool blanket, I waited.
“You need to stop seeing yourself as a sick person,” the mushrooms said. They spoke to me like this, in fully formed sentences heard internally, like a memory. “In your female form you are the quintessential bedridden Victorian lady on retreat.”
“Yes, it’s true!” I replied. “I do come from a long line of sick women. My mother had polio, tuberculosis, cancer, diphtheria, and Graves’ disease. My grandmother had tuberculosis and a morphine addiction. Sickness is how I locate my ancestry.”
“Oh, I am so very sick!” the mushrooms echoed, mocking me.
“You don’t care that I’m sick?”
“We’re just waiting for you to stop pretending to be sick.”
“But I actually am kind of sick.”
“Take as long as you like.”
I wasn’t sick, the mushrooms said, but the Trader Joe’s frozen Greek yogurt I’d been eating daily was causing inflammation in my hips. What was going on in my hips was jacking my neck up and this somatic traffic jam was making me depressed and lethargic. The damage could be remedied with ginger.
“Yes, ginger. Will you let us show you?”
An intricate, multi-dimensional golden temple with a Moroccan silhouette arose in front of me. It was vast and bejeweled, with an empty throne at its center. As a lover of minimalist architecture, I find myself resentful of having to describe its attributes. I’ll just say it whacked me with its beauty so thoroughly I was hyperventilating from its splendor. The mushrooms must like me for such a thing to arise. Maybe I’m good at this, I thought.
Personal preferences were tossed in, like my favorite shade of aqua found only in paint made from Smithsonite and contrasting garnet reds and lapis blues set side by side, emanating a lovely resonant sound. And gold, tons and tons of gold, in chunks and flowing strands and the thinnest of threads, gold forming arches and furniture, walls and handrails, cups and hairbrushes.
“This is ginger? This palace?”
“Yes, and it will help you.”
“Ground or fresh?”
“Fresh is best. Keep it simple.”
The mushrooms speak to me, but I don’t hear words like you’d hear from another person talking. It’s as if language arises in my own body, though it’s nothing I’d come up with on my own. Sometimes I am aware of fully formed sentences. Other times, whole systems of knowledge present themselves, devoid of any coherent words at all.
The mushrooms told me addiction starts in the feet, for instance. Your position in the tribe has been injured. An old sheepherder set my leg on the ground. I was a foal, newly born, and my front left leg resisted contact with the earth. He stroked it until I allowed my hoof to lightly touch down. The earth’s subtle electricity flowed into the ley lines of my calf, up into my hips and my neck and shoulders, giving them relief from some long-held, useless question mark.
“You are alive now. There.”
“Thank you, sir. But I am kind of crippled.”
“Get into that loop as long as you like. But really?”
“Okay, I’m not crippled. I’m just a little bit sick.”
“Come as you are. But you’re not sick, just saying.”
“But what am I supposed to do in a healing ceremony if I’m not sick?”
I’m now living in the mushroom’s wordless answer to this question, continually.
I learned how to literally suck the sickness out of my body and spit it out. I was given poses—mouth wide open, tongue out, eyes rolled all the way up into the skull. This is how one’s own skull becomes that of an ancestor, ready for purification. Mushrooms showed me the resentments to which I was clinging and helped me to let them go. Sometimes I couldn’t let them go and I stewed in rage and self-loathing, observing its contours with equanimity, knowing these hard emotions are a thing shared by all people. Exploring these realms of discomfort and psychic pain, I built a storehouse of compassion for myself and all of us pitiful human beings.
There were times when I landed in a gray in-between, kin to a world of cheap plastic figurines and urban street grease, where random fractal gargoyles of childhood television shows visited only to transmit the essence of mediocrity itself into my tender consciousness. This never scared me. I figured such dislocation was one of three things: a psychic detox, bad digestion, or perhaps I really was that two-dimensional and mediocre, and I had just succeeded at being in denial. Whatever situations arose, I approached them with a strong work ethic that was often notably absent in my real life.
Unwanted images and language forms—usually pop culture detritus, unwritten tweets, random shapes, and creepy critters—always dissipated after I gave them proper acknowledgment, offered some tobacco, and calmly set my attention elsewhere. I attribute the ability to do this to dosage. I always did roughly three grams. With this dosage, a sense of ego still remains. You can steer your own ship. Over seven or eight grams, you might become the actual ship. A very high-dose mushroom trip comes with its own teachings. I’m not uncurious, but thus far, the mushrooms have not guided me to ingest a dose higher than seven grams.
In his essay, “The Mushrooms of Language,” Henry Munn explains that in the Mazatec worldview, it is important that a practitioner maintain “an ethical relationship with the real.” I have taken this as mantra to live by. It’s one that is likely dose-specific. Munn claims the Mazatec did not experience many hallucinations at all during ceremony, that their experiences were mostly somatic and linguistic. That is how it was for me, back when I kept it simple.
“The little children are to be eaten in pairs,” María Sabina said. “They are holy and a sacrament. Don’t do them in the daytime, they make you crazy. Only do them at night.” Okay, sometimes I did them in the daytime, but I tried to do them only at night. Staying close to this protocol served me well in the early days. It kept me humble.
Being a “conscious intuitive” means being aware of spiritual appropriation, says Natalie Miles …
Being a “spiritual” person in 2020 means something very different to what it did the New Age movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Back then, it felt okay to learn and borrow from spiritual traditions from all over the world, sparking an explosion of interest in Eastern and Indigenous healing modalities.
But fast forward half a century, and the world we live in has changed. These days, anybody on a spiritual path needs to practice what I call “conscious intuition”—that is, to acknowledge that we are each a unique expression of the collective energy of the planet, and that while we live our lives as individuals, we can impact and be impacted by the energy of the whole. Living from this place, we begin to understand that each and every action creates a ripple effect, and that the more aligned we are with our inner guidance, the more we can have a positive impact in the world.
This sheds a whole new light on the concept of “spiritual appropriation”—and how adopting, and especially profiting from, practices that are not in our own lineage can potentially cause harm to others. The dictionary definition of cultural appropriation is: “the act of adopting elements of an outside, often minority culture, including knowledge, practices, and symbols, without understanding or respecting the original culture and context.”
This is actually rife in modern spiritual communities, and being a conscious intuitive means doing your research and becoming aware of how you may unwittingly be exploiting the spiritual traditions you are borrowing from. For example, placing statues of gods and deities that aren’t from your lineage on your altar, or using sage or palo santo to “smudge” your home or your body of “bad vibes,” could all be labelled spiritual appropriation if not engaged in with reverence, respect, and honoring of the traditions that they come from.
For example, smudging is an Indigenous practice used for purification during ceremony and prayer. But it’s become so appropriated, that the traditional white sage used by Indigenous communities is becoming endangered, with bundles for sale in high street stores. While this is detrimental for the environment, the original sanctity of the Indigenous practice is also lost as white colonialist capitalism profits from a practice that has essentially been stolen.
In the US and Canada, Indigenous people have lost their lives to defend this practice, along with other spiritual traditions. It wasn’t until 1978 with the passing of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act that these people were even allowed to practice their own spiritual traditions. In this context, can you see how harmful it is for the descendants of white colonialists to engage with these practices without asking—and even profit from them?
Which is not to say you can’t borrow from these traditions respectfully. Ideally, find a way to participate in a cultural exchange where you gain permission to participate and learn from that culture, practice or ritual. And if smudging with sage, for example, is not something that’s in your lineage, you can engage with “smoke clearing” using other substances instead, such as rosemary, sweetgrass, and mugwort.
We must also be aware of cultural appropriation in the language used by spiritual communities. For example, the word “woke” is often used as a term for someone who is experiencing their Spiritual Reactivation—as in, somebody who has “woken up” to the true nature of the world and who they are.
But the word “woke” originated in the African American community, and was originally used to describe issues of social and racial justice. As far back as 1962, William Melvin Kelly wrote an article in the New York Times called “If You’re Woke You Dig It,” detailing how white Americans were appropriating black people’s phrases as their own. More recently, “woke” has been used by the Black Lives Matter movement to highlight the continued oppression of black communities, calling them to #staywoke and take action on the flawed political and social systems. So, using the word “woke” in the wrong context actually harms communities of color, as it bypasses and minimizes the struggles of their oppression.
The word “tribe” is also widely used in spiritual and wellness circles, but this is disrespectful, offensive and culturally appropriative to Indigenous people. We should only be using the word when referring to Indigenous tribes—and using words such as team, group, network or collective to describe non-indigenous communities.
If you identify as a white person, it may be triggering to read this. Which is a perfect example of being confronted by a collective shadow. While it might feel easier to brush off accusations of cultural or spiritual appropriation, and send “love and light” to all involved, can you see how this is also perpetuating systems of oppression and injustice?
ASK YOURSELF: WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?
Equally as important as considering the lineages of the rituals and practices we engage with to connect with our intuition, is the provenance of any “tools” we pick up along the way: crystals, plants, herbs, oracle decks, tinctures, and energy clearing sprays to name a few. Some important questions to ask yourself might be:
Where were these crystals mined or sourced from?
Were they ethically sourced?
Are they even real? (Yes, there are a LOT of fake crystals out there, just like fake Gucci handbags!)
Am I using local wildcrafted plants and herbs?
Am I buying from a reputable source?
Can I buy from a local, independent supplier, versus one of the big corporations?
Never has it been more evident that we each have a responsibility to Mother Earth. The same way we care about the province of our food, clothes, and other products, this means being super aware of the sustainability and environmental imprint of our intuition practice.
THE DANGERS OF SPIRITUAL LABELLING
Adding to this, it has never been trendier to label a brand or business as “Spiritual” or “Intuitive.” We’re in a time where everybody gets to be their own brand (myself included!)—and with this, there also comes the temptation to trademark “new” healing methods, modalities, products, and services. But nothing about spirituality and intuition is new. These are human tools, available to everybody, free of charge, that have been around since time began. This means Intuition is SACRED. But as spirituality becomes more and more mainstream, and develops into an even bigger industry, the power of the $$$ potential means the brand often becomes the priority.
As humans, labeling things makes them more accessible, for ourselves and our potential audience. But be aware of the spiritual labelling that is happening across social media platforms and businesses. Practice discernment. Ask yourself, “does this feel genuine? What does the energy of this brand/person feel like? Is it legit?” And remember, whenever someone says they have a “new label” to a healing modality, or have discovered a “new” way to work with Spirit, it’s just that. A new label. What we’re connecting to comes from the same source.
It’s exciting that more people are looking towards intuition and spirituality as an anchor during these shifting times. That more of us are returning to our inner power and connection. It’s also fantastic to see more people sharing their experiences and their intuitive gifts with the world. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that intuitive power and connection to Spirit are the property of the collective, and make it all about the label, the brand and the trademark.
Here’s to us all becoming conscious intuitives for the Now Age, and engaging with our spiritual growth and development in a way that benefits not just us, but the collective.
How to tell the difference between ego, fear, and intuition, is about learning to listen to—and differentiate between—the different voices in your head, says Natalie Miles.
It’s the question I get asked the most: “How do I trust what my intuition is telling me? How do I know it’s real? Is it all my imagination? Is it my ego talking? Am I making this all up?”
Learning to differentiate between the different voices in your head is often the key missing piece when it comes to trusting your intuition, as it will help you tune into and prioritize what it’s telling you. The thing is, all these voices sound just like you. Let’s take a closer look at the role of these three inner voices.
Your Ego Voice is the voice of your external identity, or how you see yourself in the world. It is also the part of you that keeps up a running commentary of the fears, worries, desires, needs and judgments you generate daily just by being a human in the world. When this chatter is running the show, it’s very hard to hear the softer, gentler voice of your intuition.
It’s easy to see why common wisdom in the New Age community is that the Ego is a “negative” part of us, and that we should do our best to try to transcend it. And it’s true that paying it too much attention can be the cause of so much suffering.But if we truly lived from a place of no Ego, we’d be denying the fact that we’re still humans having a human experience on this planet. Not to mention that when we suppress our fears, desires and the emotions connected to them, it ultimately causes us more pain and suffering. It’s actually when we accept the duality that lies within us, no longer viewing the Ego and its concerns as either good or bad but simply a part of our whole self, that we truly step into our authentic truth and power.
This can also be said for the Fear voice, which is the voice of our inner survival instinct. We are all programmed with a fight, flight, or freeze mechanism to help us respond to danger. The Fear voice is the Ego voice with the volume turned up, and it kicks in during times of panic and acute stress and discomfort. Although this mind is programmed within us to help us survive in these moments, more often than not, it can be hard to distinguish between what is real and our Fear mind causing even more chaos as we lose all perspective. This is why discovering how to use and trust your Intuitive voice during these times is a skill to relearn and master.
Meanwhile, your Intuitive Voice is here to support you and guide you. It’s important to stress again that all these voices will “sound” like you. You’re not going to suddenly hear strange voices from another realm or the “voice of God” in your head. But unlike the Ego / Fear Voice, which is like your personal trainer barking at you, your Intuitive Voice will sound confident, gentle, and calm. You’ll also hear it from the “back” of your head, while the Ego / Fear Voice will come from the “front” of your mind. The Intuitive Voice also isn’t hung-up on things happening on any particular time frame, or on any specific outcome. This can make it feel riskier to trust, as nine times out of ten we want the Intuitive Voice to show up when we need an answer quickly! What actually happens, is that your Intuitive Voice will deliver its message and then disappear —the skill being learning to listen when it speaks to you, versus trying to make it show up when you want. The Ego / Fear Voice on the other hand, is ever-present, chattering away in your head and urging you to act NOW.
This is actually a key way you can distinguish between an ego / fear based message and your intuitive guidance. Notice: what message has been playing on a loop in your head the past day or so? What would happen if you just let the need to act on this go, and trusted that the “real” time and course of action to pursue will simply let itself be known?
Now let’s look at some other ways to tell the difference between ego, fear, and intuition.
QUALITIES OF THE EGO VOICE
-You can’t stop thinking about something and the voice keeps going ‘round and ‘round in your head. Am I doing enough? Should I do something different? Is this going to work?
-The voice has an agenda, expectation, goal, or plan. When am I going to get that job? I need to know if they’re the one. My five-year plan says I should be doing this by now.
-There is a desire for a logical and obvious “solution” to fix a situation or get guidance. I must work out a detailed, step-by-step plan for how to proceed and make changes in my life
-It wants an answer NOW! I should have worked this out by now! I don’t have time to wait! I have a deadline to make a decision.
-The ego voice often uses the words “should,” “would,” or “must.” I should do it this way. I must act now. How would that be perceived?
The Ego voice comes from the front of the head.
In the body
Can make your body feel tense or tight.
Quality of Voice
QUALITIES OF THE FEAR VOICE
-Wants to control everything around them including the actions and emotions of others. The more control I have the “safer” I will be.
-Suspicious and paranoid. Wants to question everything and everyone.
-Kicks in during stressful events, conversations, relationships, uncertainty or trauma. It’s time to get into survival and protection mode.
-Fear of the unknown, uncertainty, and not knowing. What might happen to me? I don’t have a plan. What will this mean for the future?
-Feels like it’s missing out on something. I might miss out on that opportunity. I don’t want to fail at any cost. I want to feel differently from how I am feeling right now.
Location, Emotional Guide, and Quality of Voice
Just like the Ego Voice it comes from the front of the head. It will have the same voice quality and emotional guide as the Ego Voice, but amped up—like having a military general barking orders at you or the volume dial being turned up to MAX. Your whole energetic intuitive body feels like it’s on overdrive, and everything seems overwhelming, chaotic, and out of control.
QUALITIES OF THE INTUITIVE VOICE
-Guidance comes in and then disappears from your mind. Speak to this person. Listen to this creative idea. Do this. Go there. Take action. You will hear it once and it won’t keep niggling at you.
-Isn’t attached to any desire or outcome. Nothing is “right” or “wrong,” and it doesn’t matter what I think I “want.”
-Doesn’t feel forced or have an agenda. I surrender up energetically to what is happening or will happen in the future.
-Feels good in your body and energetic sphere. Something just feels “right” as if I know it to be true.
-Doesn’t feel fixed or logical but you want to know more. May offer up a different path or route that you had not thought of. What about doing it this way?
-Timing is flexible or does not factor at all. It doesn’t matter when it happens, my job is to stay on the path and trust where I am being taken.
-Feels like it wants to support you and guide you. Feels like a best friend or confidante that always wants the best for you. Feels like it has your back and wants you to succeed.
Deep in the back of the head or mind.
In your body
May be felt throughout your whole intuitive body, as body tingles, warmth, cold breeze
(There’s a whole chapter coming up on how you can identify the bodily sensations of your intuitive voice)
Are you starting to tell the difference yet? The next step is to consciously listen out for when your intuition is speaking to you—and then take action on what it says.
If you have a hard time hearing your intuition, chances are one of these blocks to intuition is getting in the way of you trusting your inner voice, says Natalie Miles.
Living as your true self essentially means living in alignment with your intuition. This means learning how to trust yourself and your inner knowing, versus what the outside world is telling you—which is the only way you can ever be fully empowered to make choices that are right for you. Sounds good, right? But while might not be consciously aware of it, you have been imprinted with deep programming that has taught you to fear your intuition. Ultimately, these blocks to intuition have been preventing you from trusting and accessing your gifts – and if you’re ready to take back your intuitive power, it’s important to look at the exact nature of what’s holding you back, so that you can move it out of your body and your psyche.
For starters, ancestral shame about our intuition has been passed from generation to generation under the control of the patriarchy, Western religious sects and colonialism. Stemming from a period in history when witches went into hiding and intuitives were murdered for using their gifts, the fear and shame associated with this mass execution has been passed on through your DNA without you even realizing. Not to mention it being reinforced by societal messages about this work being “woo woo,” not “real,” or not relevant to the world we live in today. Stored in your physical, emotional and spiritual body, this trauma is showing up right now as any fears, doubts and anxieties you may feel about connecting to your intuition.
In order for you to release this, we must first discover the nature of your personal fears, and the beliefs they are connected to. Until you go through this process, trying to access your intuition will be like buying a brand new computer or smartphone and discovering it’s got an outdated operating system that needs to be upgraded before you can begin to use it. Think of it like an intuition reset!
WHAT WILL OTHER PEOPLE THINK?
Whether you’ve never connected to your intuition before or you’ve already been experimenting with your gifts, some fears have most likely come up around what other people will have to say about it. Perhaps you’re afraid they won’t take you seriously, or that you’ll be judged as being weird and woo-woo by friends, family members and your wider community. During the witch trials many who were arrested and killed were turned in to the authorities by the people closest to them. This collective Ancestor Story manifests in a fear that our loved ones may turn against us or deceive us. Instead of shining our gifts brightly we hide them away, out of sight from others.
It’s also known that during this period of genocide, women turned on other intuitive women in order to save themselves. This ancestral patterning can still show up today as women being super mean and critical, and pulling each other down—a conditioned behavior orchestrated by the patriarchy as a way to keep women disempowered. Instead of one unified, powerful, force, who bonded together to support each other, they were turned against each other.
Sometimes the fear and shame instilled by this shared history manifests as a deep knowing in the body. A feeling that if you do put your gifts out into the open you will be ridiculed or judged. This might happen when you suddenly sense or feel something about a situation or a person but you don’t want to share it in case people think you’re weird. It might not make sense, but suddenly you feel a tightness across your chest, a block in your throat, or anxiety in your stomach. Triggering ancestral memories of being punished for using your gifts, in either scenario the body will block you from connecting to your gifts as a safety response.
-When have you felt judged by others or that you’ve had to hide your gifts?
-What does this fear/ block feel like in your body?
-Have you been hiding this book away? What are you afraid people might say if they knew you were reading it?
IS IT EVEN SAFE?
This is one of the biggest blocks to connecting to your intuition—stemming from religious teachings, ancestral memories of the witch trials … and good old-fashioned horror movies depicting evil spirits, haunted houses, and people being possessed and acting “crazy.” And let’s be blunt: yes, there are negative energies in the Spirit realm that you may be exposed to when using your intuition. But you can also learn how to protect yourself, set clear intentions, and, most importantly, trust yourself to use your own power to call in only what you want to connect to.
This fear is also a symptom of current societal programming that tells us we shouldn’t want to know or look at the more shadowy, scary parts of ourselves or society. That we should just focus on the “high-vibe, love and light” aspects of our nature and the world. But connecting to our intuition is about learning to work WITH all of our shadowy parts we try and hide away or don’t feel safe looking at. They co-exist together and we can experience a powerful transformation when we embody all parts of ourselves.
You may feel a spike in anxiety and fear just reading this. Perhaps you’ve had an experience with a negative energy or something freaked you out when you opened yourself up and now you’re afraid to go there again. Please don’t worry. The fact you’re even here shows you are ready to release this old programming, and that you are ready to access your gifts in a way that feels safe, empowered, and aligned with your true self.
-What are you scared you might connect to?
-What bad or negative experiences are you ready to release?
-What scary images come up when you think of going to the “other side” and what can you replace these with?
BUT, GOOGLE …
We have been trained to place so muchtrustin external guidance, especially with the advent of technology, that we have become fearful of trusting ourselves. When was the last time you drove or walked around your city without looking at the GPS on your phone? When you decided where you were going and simply trusted you knew the right way. Do you know by memory the road layout of your city? Or do you punch an address into your phone just to check the direction even though you know roughly where you’re going?
And then there’s good old Google. How often when you know something to be true do you still do a search just to check and make sure? Plenty of us also rely on Google to tell us the meaning of our dreams, as well as to decipher the signs and symbols that are actually our intuition in action. The same way some religions have taught us to believe that connection to Spirit exists outside of ourselves, technology encourages us to place our trust in external sources versus consulting with our own ancient intuitive technology.
Imagine what it would feel like not to rely on Google for answers. To navigate through your day using just your inner guidance system—just like our ancestors did as they connected intuitively to the stars in the night sky. Given the rapid advances of technology in the 21st Century, it’s something we’ve come to depend on very quickly, presenting a very modern block to us accessing our gifts.It’s so easy to type a question into Google, and the answer comes back instantly. We want answers quick and fast. But our addiction to instant gratification disconnects us from our power, as we don’t want to invest the time it takes to develop our intuition and trust our own truths. Yes, technology has so many benefits. But we need to remember that we also have access to deep inner knowing, and that if we don’t use it, we’re in danger of losing it.
-How do you feel if you leave the house without your phone?
-How heavily do you rely on Google and GPS for guidance?
-Imagine how you would navigate your day without these things. How does this feel?
There are so many blocks to intuition, which can prevent us living as our true selves, and the key to moving past them is to acknowledge what’s blocking you. The good news is that simply becoming aware of these blocks to intuition is the first step to consciously moving them aside, and stepping back into your power—free to follow your inner knowing and make choices in your life that are right for YOU.
Excerpted from You Are Intuitive: Trust Your Truth, Take Back Your Power by Natalie Miles, out September 29, 2020—click HERE to pre-order your copy today and sign up for the special pre-order bonus package. Learn more about publishing your book with Numinous Books HERE.
Following a year-long hiatus, we’re back as Numinous Books. Founder Ruby Warrington explains the process behind this evolution, and why she believes books are magic …
As regular readers will know, I put The Numinous on hiatus in July 2019. Since attempting a failed “comeback” in November (which I knew was gonna fail, put which I put us all through anyway!), I have been in even deeper reflection about the next evolution of this platform. A very tired and cynical part of me wanted to just walk away. I was exhausted from the constant churn of maintaining the socials, the newsletter, the podcasts, the blog—and I badly needed to focus on work that actually paid my rent.
We’d had seven good years after all, and what began as a project to help me learn more about the mystical arts, had also done its job, in a way: I had learned enough about astrology to develop my own personal practice, and along the way (surprise!) I found I had begun to heal the hurting, over-achieving “good girl” part of me that felt the constant need to prove myself. A journey that is documented in the three book projects I had also put out, beginning with the release of Material Girl, Mystical World in 2017—with Sober Curious (2018) and The Numinous Astro Deck (2019) telling their own parts of my story.
But also … I’d put so much time, and love, and passion into building this thing. Could I really just walk away? NO. At least … no so fast. And so I sat, and I waited, and I meditated on a question that I have come back to periodically since reading The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks: “What is my zone of genius?”
Hendricks defines the zone of genius as the state in which you get into “flow,” and find ceaseless inspiration as you engage with your natural abilities, rather than those you have leaned and perfected over the years (the latter being your “zone of excellence”). The theory being that the more time you spend in your zone of genius, the more energized, fulfilled, and successful you will be. What I landed on this being for me? Reading. Writing. Words. BOOKS. I’m always surprised when authors talk in interviews about the “torture” of the actual writing process. Not me! Put me in a room with a laptop and a big idea and I’ll be happy for days. I love editing other people’s words just as much, and even enjoy the intricate map-making of finding my way out of writers’ block. In short, making words on a page brings me the kind of satisfaction I imagine farmers reap from harvesting a bumper crop.
As soon as I turned my attention back towards WRITING, it was like the magic magnet effect the manifestation gurus talk about hummed into action. In my burnt-out state, beginning another book project myself was out of the question. But before I knew it, I was inundated with work helping other people craft, write, and edit their book proposals and manuscripts. And able to earn a living from it. By the time COVID came along, I felt like I’d cracked the fucking DaVinci code. I found myself actually getting paid to do what I actually love … with zero pressure whatsoever to look good in selfies or have something funny, deep, or provocative to say on Instagram every day!
Halle-fucking-lujah. I call this “book doula” work, I LOVE IT, and it is currently how I’m spending the majority of my time. Not that I haven’t been working as a writer and editor my whole career—but it’s the words-to-self-promotion ratio that’s shifted. The actual “making words on a page” part of my work (i.e. zone of genius) in journalism, for The Numinous, and as an author, has always been squeezed into the margins until now. The pitching of ideas, hosting of events, and growing of the socials (i.e. constantly trying to prove myself) having taken precedence. Too much time spent on “zone of excellence” shit—now that is what will burn a person out.
As for how this applies to The Numinous? In alignment with this new personal direction, the platform is back as NUMINOUS BOOKS. Ta-da! This is where my year of soul-searching has brought me. And it feels SO RIGHT. A natural extension of my book doula work, this means I am also working with a selection of authors to self-publish their books across this platform—meaning working with them to concept, write, and edit their books, as well as consulting on the design, marketing, and PR process. Each “Numinous Book” will also have its own launch across the Numinous blog, social media, and newsletter. And you’ll be hearing about the first Numinous Books project very soon!
Over the years, The Numinous has been home to so many diverse voices and perspectives on emotional and spiritual wellbeing in the Now Age. As I have also written about here, the fact that much of the deep wisdom that’s being made available to us thanks to the internet also gets boiled down into bite-sized, snackable, and ultimately throw-away chunks of social media “content,” has also never sat right with me. Which brings me back to BOOKS.
There’s a bookstore in Brooklyn called Books Are Magic—a phrase that has spun circles in my head since I first heard it. Because it’s true. Books are also meaningful, impactful, and a slow-cooked antidote to the pace of modern life. You can’t read (let alone write) a book in the time it takes to swipe up. It is the commitment asked of us by reading (or writing) a book that gives it the power to transport and transform us, to shape the way we think, act, and see the world. Reading a book—whether it’s a novel or memoir that allows us to walk in the shoes of the main protagonist, developing empathy for others along the way, or a text that teaches us something profound—is like having a deeply private and intimate conversation with the most essential and always evolving part of yourself. Put another way, books are both our mirrors and our mediums for communicating with our unseen selves.
It’s no wonder dictators and fascists like to burn books—just like they burned the witches back in the day. And it is also an act of resistance that The Numinous will continue to be a home for books and modern mystics alike, to both the “reading” and the “readers” that we turn to for answers when trying to make sense of ourselves and the world. Thank you for being here for it—and sign up for our newsletter and keep following @the_numinous for a bit of both each week.
They say everybody has a book in them. Might yours be a fit for Numinous Books? You can learn more about our publishing services here—and contact us to set up a discovery call to discuss your project.
Welcome the disco lights of Leo Season says Bess Matassa, in her sensory exploration of the current cosmic skies …
Dip your kitten heels in liquid diamonds and get ready to glow. Here comes a ripe and ready, fruit-flavored season for slipping into your gold lamé unitard and taking to the glitter soaked dance floor.
But the Leonine promise isn’t mere performance. Deep inside its shimmering magenta heart, the zodiac’s fluffy cosmic cat presents us with the challenge of becoming even more of what we already are and innocently leaping into the arms of the technicolored world that surrounds us, propelled only by the engine of an eternal inner flame that never burns out.
Wrapped up inside the most valuable of Leo’s pink-ribboned packages is the treasure of sparkling simplicity. Nowness. The radically innocent notion that it’s alright to trust this life. So strap your red-hot heart to your ruffled sleeve and fall head over diamond-soled heels in love with every last thing that surrounds you, knowing that it answers the sweetly pulsating passion inside you.
The bejeweled blood that runs through your veins courses through the runways of the whole wide world. Because baby, you were born this way.
The keyword: Heat.
The song lyrics: “Some are like water, some are like the heat/Some are the melody and some are the beat/Sooner or later they all will be gone/Why don’t they stay young?” Alphaville’s “Forever Young”
Check out Bess’ Leo Season Playlist, complete with babeliscous pop, sweetheart songstresses, and glamorous prom jams.
The color palette: playground primaries and rainbow sherbets—peachy pinks, red-hot cherries, and creamy lemons sorbets.
The scents and flavors: tropical treats and sun-baked snackables. Think mangos on sticks, sprinkles on everything, perfectly ripe avocados, Juicy Juice boxes, Cheetos, bubblegum Lip Smackers, and the simply succulent scent of suntan lotion.
The healing: being exuberantly present and sensationally sweet. Bedroom dance parties to your personal soundtrack, trips to the mall, overflowing pink bubble baths, stuffed animal pile ups, and all-night dress-up parties.
Sensuous Invitation of the Month: A MADONNA ANTHEM FOR YOUR SIGN!
Ruled by the Sun, vintage pop vixen Madonna is the quintessential Leo—a performer who’s hunger for the spotlight has lit up disco dance floors for decades, inviting us to heat up the whole party with our endless golden glow.
Below, your sign-by-sign guide to opening your heart, striking a pose, and returning to the virginal sensations of making it through the wilderness … all the way back to the innocent belief that life is always worth living.
Sun in Aries Leo season invites you to fluff and buff your hard edges, and delight in softer expressions of selfhood. Madonna Anthem: Lay down your weapons and return to fresh sensations with “Like a Virgin.”
Sun in Taurus Leo season invites you to trust in the security of your jewel box and utilize what’s already on hand. Madonna Anthem: Delight in the emotional costume party of existing resources with “Dress You Up.”
Sun in Gemini Leo season invites you to plunge heart-first into the more difficult parts of your story and let your feeling nature lead the way. Madonna Anthem: Release the tangled tales buried inside your softly-lit soul with “Live to Tell.”
Sun in Cancer Leo season invites you to honor all shades of creative birth and to validate your own feelings, no matter how strange. Madonna Mojo: Get wild and free on your own private tropical isle with “La Isla Bonita.”
Sun in Leo Leo season invites you to generously share your heat with the trust that your flame is eternal. Madonna Anthem: Step into the center of the dancefloor and strike a pose like there’s nobody watching with “Vogue.”
Sun in Virgo Leo season invites you to fully celebrate your self-contained integrity and the subtle sensations of beauty in your environment. Madonna Mojo: Find your footing and honor what’s unfolding with the sensitized sounds of “Rain.”
Sun in Libra Leo season invites you to balance your urge to relate with a celebration of your one-of-a-kind perspective. Madonna Mojo: Know when to compromise and when to assert your boundaries with “Borderline.”
Sun in Scorpio Leo season invites you to snack on your own intensity and know when laughing at yourself can be a radical form of power. Madonna Mojo: Apologize for nothing and wear your primitive feelings like a badge of honor with “Human Nature.”
Sun in Sagittarius Leo season invites you to lose yourself in adventure once again with no endgame in sight. Madonna Mojo: Set off on an epically romantic voyage with “Holiday.”
Sun in Capricorn Leo season invites you to inject your traditional approach with some healthy rebellion and seize the power of creative play. Madonna Mojo: Challenge existing structures and your own internal status quo with “Papa Don’t Preach.”
Sun in Aquarius Leo season invites you to shift from the universal to the personal as you allow what’s inside your pumping heart to propel you forward. Madonna Mojo: Mix panned-out perspectives with close range emotions, and let your feelings skyrocket you all the way back to a brand new home with “Ray of Light.”
Sun in Pisces Leo season invites you to revel in the sweet sensations of standing alone. Madonna Mojo: Risk surrendering to the mystery, and finding faith and fortitude in solitude with “Like a Prayer.”
Bess Matassa is available for private readings and astro-themed events. Connect with her at Mojaverising.com
As long-time followers of The Numinous will know, this platform has been in a period of profound transition since summer 2019. If you’re new, you can find a series of posts HERE that explain the reasons for this. Now, as our global community moves through its own period of retreat in response to the coronavirus pandemic, I will be taking this time to focus even more deeply on laying the foundations for what comes next. Much continues to shift, and service will resume in due course. The following writing is an invitation to use this period of enforced exile from everyday life to become equally present to what is unfolding for you at the deepest level. It is also a reminder that self-isolation isn’t selfish—and that learning to be fully with yourself is perhaps the greatest gift that you can bring to the collective in these times.
Whenever somebody has asked me how I’m feeling lately (like they really mean it, as is our new normal) this has been the word that most sums up my current state of mind.
I am present with my anxiety. I am present with my not knowing. I am present with my wellbeing in this moment. I am present with my gratitude for all the little things, and I am present with my privileged, survivor’s guilt for all the big things I am able to take for granted. I am present with the reality that should either of my elderly parents in the UK contract Covid-19, I may never see them again. I am present with it all. Because there is nowhere else to be.
There’s a saying in yoga circles: “hold the pose.” And this has been the mantra flashing in neon in my mind as our world has contracted, feeling simultaneously more connected and more isolating with each passing day. A directive levied at students struggling with the discomfort of maintaining a posture, the challenge is to remain still, balanced, and focused, even as muscles burn, everything shakes, and the mind screams for release.
What we are cultivating when we hold the pose, is patience, resilience, and steadfastness. A core of inner durability that becomes impervious to the shocks and triggers of the external world. Not that we don’t feel them, and not that our material safety is not compromised. But through it all, we are able to depend on ourselves to remain resourceful and intact. In turn, our energetic frequency becomes an unspoken signal to others that they can depend on us. In the words of my friend Worthy, this is how we let others know: I safe you.
In the days of coronavirus, holding the pose for me has meant resisting the urge to play out worst case scenarios on a loop. It has meant steering clear of the noise and clamor and opinions of social media and instead committing to one carefully timed dose of “real news” per day. It has meant noticing my addiction to busyness creep in as a trauma response and disrupting this with pockets of time to just be still and to feel.
It has also meant being okay with thinking I’m not doing enough to “help.”
Because the instinct, in times of crisis, is to ask: what can I do? Especially as a healthy, relatively wealthy, low-risk individual currently residing in the city (NYC) with the highest infection “attack rate” in the United States. This question has tormented me for the past two weeks, listening to the subway trains rumble past on the Williamsburg bridge, carrying already overworked and underpaid service workers and medical staff to their jobs on the front lines of the outbreak.
It has stalked me as I have intuitively closed off from my social media “community,” even as I have watched friends and colleagues issue forth endless online offerings and missives of support. It has weighed heavy on me, as I have succumbed to my instinct to retreat even deeper into my already introverted shell, to a space inside where I now realize I have found comfort in self-isolation my whole life.
The irony being that to stop the spread the virus, the first and most “helpful” course of action—in order to prevent more deaths, and to help the economy recover as quickly as possible (although it is likely that the ways we work, live, and support one another will be forever changed)—is doing nothing, being nowhere, and retreating within.
Yes, we need to pressure our governments to step in with unprecedented aid. Yes, we can also donate whatever financial resources we have to spare. No, it is not our individual responsibility to fret over the wellbeing of each and every person being affected. And, yes, while we need each other more than ever, we also need time and space and peace and quiet, to process and assimilate our individual feelings about what my mother (a psychotherapist) reminded me is: “a sudden and extreme demolition of life as we have known it.”
One which we have had no psychological preparation for, leaving us “stunned,” she went on in an email to me last night. “Withdrawal in an attempt to assimilate an understanding of circumstances beyond our control and which up until now have been unthinkable,” being another necessary next “action.” The same way that animals, in times of distress, retreat from the world as a form of self-protection, “we must conserve our own energy to make sense of and process what has come about.”
Processing our emotions is a silent, felt, bodily, and highly individual thing. No listicle with “tips for successful self-isolation” can tell you how to do it. No online seminar with this or that thought leader will give you the playbook on what you, and you alone, need right now. If anything, over-consumption of external “advice” (no matter how well meaning) can become a distraction from this process and course of anxiety. What’s needed is the space to conduct an internal process of self-soothing, of grieving, and, ultimately, of acceptance.
The message? Please give yourself permission to be feeling whatever you are feeling, and to need whatever you need. Please do not feel pressured to “join in” with online activities and gatherings if you feel it may be a drain on your inner resources. Please do reach out to the people in your life who feel safe, and stay in regular contact with them, ideally with voice calls. Please let others know you are here for them if needed. And please wait to be asked for help, before rushing in to offer assistance before you have steadied yourself.
Which brings me back to the practice of presence.
Learning to be present, with ourselves and with all that makes up our inner and outer worlds, is a foundational principal of the spiritual human experience. It’s why “holding the pose.” It’s why meditation. It’s why ritual and sacrifice. It’s why vipassana. It’s why the Buddhist “dark retreat,” a 30-day period of total self-isolation in a space completely absent of light, is considered the ultimate preparation for navigating the “bardo”—the liminal space between life, death, and rebirth, and a space we are moving through as a collective right now.
It’s also why Sober Curious. So much of my own ability to be present has come from the process of removing alcohol from my life. From opting out of a substance and a drinking culture that offers a seductive and highly-glamorized escape from reality, to learning to stay with each and every one of the uncomfortable feelings I used booze to numb out from. What I have learned, more than anything, is that time will always take its own time. And that all we can do when we are in it is breathe and hold the pose.
I’ve also learned that, in times of discomfort, asking questions and listening deeply to our own inner knowing, is often more helpful than looking for answers on the outside. Some questions to ask of ourselves in these days, and to discuss among those we hold dear, might be:
-What is this enforced putting down of “stuff” making space for in our lives?
-Who and what is truly important to us?
-What gifts do we now have the opportunity to give oxygen to and allow to flourish?
-What does it mean to mourn and how can we support each other in our grief?
-What kind of a world do we want to be part of when we emerge from this into the What Now Age?
The truth, in a sea of experts, is that only nature has the answers to how this crisis will unfold. That only history will show us the deeper meaning of this pandemic, and its role in our collective evolution. In the meantime, it is our job to practice being present with what is. And to trust that without “doing” anything at all, we are already playing our part.
Meditation: Get an accountability buddy (game-changer) and text each other each time you complete your daily sit.
Book:Tribe by Sebastian Junger. A reminder that not only are humans built to thrive in times of adversity, but that throughout history global catastrophes have brought us closer together.
People: Find your “pod.” Think of the 3-5 people you feel you can trust the most, and maintain regular, offline, contact with them through text and voice calls. Prioritize these connections over wider social media communities.
Therapy:Open Path Collective is a non-profit offering affordable ($30-$80 per session) online therapy for people of all races, religions, sexual orientations, genders and gender expressions, countries of origin, ethnicities, and abilities.
Food: Soup. Meditative to make, easy to digest, and a great way to use up random refrigerator leftovers.
Watch: The sky, the birds, the trees. Nature documentaries. Anything that makes you laugh.
Listen: My Sober Curious podcast with Toko-pa Turner on Practicing Belonging—a timely conversation for how to be with and come home to our whole selves.
When in shock or panic: Put your hands on your body and sit quietly until you feel yourself come back. Practice deep, even breaths, by imagining you are blowing bubbles.
If you want to support those who are being immediately affected by the coronavirus pandemic you can donate to the Global Giving Coronavirus Relief Fund HERE. As well as sending doctors, nurses, and other frontline responders to communities in need, your donation will help the most vulnerable members of society, including those with pre-existing medical conditions, older adults, individuals experiencing homelessness, refugees and migrants, wage workers, and those with inflexible jobs.
Last week I had the honor of an audience with a 350-year-old tree. Anchoring the island of Vieques to the ragged, rustic Puerto Rican coastline, the landmark Ceiba tree (or Tree of Life) stands solid as a rock, its elephantine grey trunk rooted as firmly into the earth as Everest. Since reading Richard Powers’ The Overstory, I’ve developed a newfound understanding of trees as living beings, possessing perhaps unsurpassed wisdom on what it means to sustain oneself over decades, if not centuries, of evolutionary change. And this majestic, great, great, great, great, great, great Grandmother Ceiba (below), is no exception.
It wasn’t like I came to her with a bunch of questions. Rather, sat in the circle of her presence, the gentle Caribbean trade-winds lapping at our skin, a few drops of rain curling my hair into salty tendrils in the cool, quiet shade of her branches, she took the lead and spoke to me. And this is what she said: “Slow down, my love, and look at me. This is how you do it. You focus on doing ONE THING and doing it really well.”
Wow. First of all, could she get any more Capricorn season?! It was as if the tree had looked the all-knowing part of my own being in the eye and delivered the one piece of advice I needed to wrap up what has been a year of intense anxiety, instability, procrastination, and self-doubt.
As I wrote here, 2019 was the year I crashed and burned, right where my type-A personality collided with an increasingly frantic media landscape, leading to me taking a four-month Numinous “sabbatical” over the summer. I followed up with this post, detailing what had been going on behind the scenes: writing, publishing, and promoting three books in as many years, launching two podcasts, coming to terms with my discomfort with being a “public figure,” while simultaneously trying, and failing, multiple times, to turn The Numinous into a sustainable (meaning rent-paying) business.
And what follows here—thanks to the wisdom of a 350-year-old tree, some Capricorn New Moon Eclipse clarity, and a dose of end-of-decade reflection—can be read as the culmination of what, it turns out, has been a year-long process of reconnecting with why I’m here.
The last time I experienced this level of burnout—the kind that grabs you mid-stride, pins you to the wall, and forces you to drop everything you’re doing “or else”—was in 2007. Which, incidentally, was also the last time Jupiter was in Sagittarius and transiting my ascendant. I was working for a free daily newspaper at the time (these were the days before all media was free, more on which in a bit), and had four pages per day to fill with “copy” to balance out the ads. Since the paper relied solely on advertising for revenue, our journalistic integrity was also severely compromised—and soon I’d coined a new term for this constant churn of throwaway content: churnalism.
This was also the last time I threw my hands in the air, dramatically stated something along the lines of “I CAN’T FUCKING DO THIS ANY MORE!”, quit my job, and took a summer off (which this time also included taking a break from my marriage). I had no backup plan, no family money or savings to fall back on, and my decision defied all logic. But as it turned out, that was the point. My leap into the unknown led to the luckiest and least foreseeable opportunities of my career to date. Within months, I was being paid fat wads of cash to edit the coolest magazine in Ibiza—a gig which also led, in a roundabout way, to me landing a job as Features Editor at the UK Sunday Times Style magazine.
My disillusionment with writing for fashion magazines is well-documented in my first book, Material Girl, Mystical World. But what had not registered fully with me until this year, is that the vast majority of what we used to call journalism has, in fact, morphed into churnalism. Since all media outlets now operate primarily on the advertising-as-revenue model, including and in fact precipitated by the advent of social media, a constant stream of throwaway content is now required to balance out the ads. Enter the era of click-bait, listicles, and bait-and-switch newsletter subject lines, all of which are designed to grab your attention for long enough for somebody to sell you something.
Which has got what, exactly, to do with what the 350-year-old tree told me about reconnecting with my life purpose?
Here’s the thing. I went into journalism because I love to write. Meaning, writing gives me more satisfaction per minute of effort expended than anything else. But there’s a big difference between the kind of writing I love—the kind where I get to make meaning out of the world I see and, hopefully, provide insight and inspiration for others with my words—and … the constant churn of throwaway content that’s become a requirement of running an online platform. Which, if I am going to take the Ceiba tree’s advice, means focusing on writing going forward, and taking a step back from making content for content’s sake.
When I launched The Numinous in 2012, it was because I wanted my own “magazine” where I could write about the things I really cared about.
My readership grew organically, and somewhere along the way (possibly during my brief friendship with Gabby Bernstein) I absorbed the idea that I should start sending out a regular newsletter as this would become my “most valuable audience” (meaning, the readers most likely to buy stuff from me). Instagram also took off, and I learned that posting “the kind of content your readers love” (note: this is not the same as “the content I love making”) a minimum of three times per day was how I’d grow my following there. The implication this time being that these “followers” would make my platform more appealing to advertisers, who would then pay for whatever scraps of your attention I could use my words to wangle their way.
Not that I ever capitalized on these audiences (meaning: your attention) in a meaningful way, as it turns out that I have absolutely zero interest in or aptitude for what is essentially network marketing (as detailed, again, here). Granted, the content-for-content’s sake has been part of the “platform building” that helped me land my first and subsequent book deals (oh, I also have many thoughts on the fact that you have to have a platform to get a book deal these days, too. I’ll expand on them another time). But in terms of actual “capital” (i.e. rent money) we were wayyyy off the fabled and much lauded “six-figure salary” promised by the digital marketing gurus.
And in the meantime, it turns out I only have so many words in me per day. Which meant all the words I now found myself churning out for the newsletter and the socials, were eating into the supply I needed to write about the things I really cared about. To the point, right before my sabbatical, where every time I sat down to write a post or a caption or an event description or even an email, it felt like I was scraping the dregs of my soul. Like I was literally spent, done, ALL THE FUCK OUT, when it came to words.
For somebody who has always written for a living, this was devastating. Maybe I wasn’t really a writer after all; or was just a dried-up old ink-well who couldn’t keep the pace with changes in digital media. Maybe I’d simply reached the bottom of my “good ideas” barrel, and it was time to reconsider the second career as an author I’d thought was only just taking off.
Or … perhaps it was time to LISTEN TO THE TREE and apply the age-old (for a good fucking reason) adage of quality over quantity, take a long hard look at all the places I was leaking my writerly energy, and make some adjustments accordingly. I’m going to go with the latter.
Sadly, in the first instance, this means cancelling the Numinous subscription I launched JUST LAST MONTH. Oh man, I’m so embarrassed about this! The idea was that I’d get enough subscribers to cover paying a social media manager, freeing me up to focus on … writing. But just 45 (beautiful, generous) humans signed up (and if you were one of these 45, know that I praised the Goddess and sent multiple blessings of thanks to each and every subscriber)—roughly one fifth of the number I needed to make it work.
Which is where I could beat myself up, again, for my lack of marketing savvy, and let my self-esteem get eaten away by doubts about my “likeability,” and the quality of my content. But what this experiment has actually shown / confirmed for me, is that … running an online business is … just not for me! Is NOT the “one thing” the Ceiba tree was telling me to focus on, and to focus on doing really well, if I want to create lasting security for myself going forward.
Because that one thing is writing. And not just any writing, but the kind of writing that requires lengthy periods of contemplation. That is is the result of weeks, if not months, of reading and research, and the assimilation of multiple ideas, instinctual hits, and incidental discoveries. The kind that keeps me semi-awake at night, searching my subconscious for just the right sentences to make sense of whatever Big Idea is currently romancing me. None of which is possible when I am churning out words to keep algorithms, and advertisers, and subscribers, happy.
For example, this post took me a good six hours to write. Plus editing time. Six hours which have also been preceded by several weeks, if not months, of reading, thinking, noticing, and mental-note-taking on the subject of “why the fuck am I so burned out.”
Which means this post is also the result of applying the insights of Jaron Lanier’s 10 Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now to my own life; of finding, and reading, Gail Sheehey’s 1992 book on menopause, the emphasis being on pause, on the beach in Vieques; of listening to Lisa Taddeo describe the 8-year process of writing her book Three Women on Elizabeth Day’s How To Fail podcast; of an hour-long phone-call discussing the kind of careers we want by the time we’re in our seventies with Alexandra Roxo; of the lasting imprint of a passing comment from a coaching client on how “not everybody who wants to be an entrepreneur also wants to run a business”; of noticing the panic / disgust I felt on discovering Gary Vee’s post on How to Create 64 Pieces of Content in A Day; and of paying actual attention to the teeny nips of tension that grip my shoulders each time I sit down to compile another newsletter or Instagram post.
The kind of focus it takes to put all of that into a post like this, is the kind of focus I think the Ceiba tree was talking about. It’s the kind of focus it takes to write books (and to help other people write theirs with my “book doula” work). The kind of focus that digital media is the thief of, and which it takes practice and patience and quiet and resistance to cultivate.
Alllll of which is to say, I will still be creating “content” on The Numinous … just maybe 3 or 4 times a year. And that this content will look more like books, and promo for books, mine and other peoples, as THIS is the one thing I’ll be focussing on going forward. Turns out my 2020 intention is to bemore like the tree (and Lisa Taddeo), in the name of my own majesty, and ultimate sustainability.
For more information about my book doula work and publishing with The Numinous contact [email protected]
Learning to read your own Birth Chart is a practice of self-discovery. It unlocks a whole language with which to describe the numinous parts of the human experience—and understanding the meanings of the different Houses of the Zodiac is an important piece of the puzzle.
The Houses represent the different areas of life that we move through in our lives, and show where the planets in our individual charts are doing their most powerful work with us. The Numinous Astro Deck is a tool to help you fully understand this interplay of energies, but you can find a brief overview of each House and its area of influence here. ***The journal prompts are from the Astro Deck.
FIRST HOUSE: Personality, Ego, Physical Appearance.
Journal prompt: Write down 10 words to describe yourself and 10 words for the way you think people see you. What steps can you take to align the two lists?
SECOND HOUSE: Assets, Material Values, the 5 Senses.
Journal prompt: “My idea of luxury is …”
THIRD HOUSE: Thoughts, Ideas, Communication.
Journal prompt: List your favorite ways to distract yourself and post it somewhere to remind you not to engage with them.
FOURTH HOUSE: Home, Family, Roots.
Journal prompt: Create a written vision board of your dream sanctuary space. Think ideal fabrics, scents, music, lighting, locale.
FIFTH HOUSE: Passion, Creativity, Play.
Journal prompt: List things you loved to do when you were five years old and what the adult version would be.
SIXTH HOUSE: Craft, Contribution, Wellbeing.
Journal prompt: A shopping list of “ingredients” (movement, media, food) that can support your body today.
SEVENTH HOUSE: Relating, Partnerships, Others.
Journal prompt: The qualities of the people you connect best with are …
EIGHTH HOUSE: Intimacy, Investments, The Occult.
Journal prompt: Write down everything (facts and feelings) about a situation you are currently obsessed with and then burn the paper.
NINTH HOUSE: Seeking, Travel, Higher Learning.
Journal prompt: Write about the teacher you have learned the most from and how you are embodying their wisdom.
TENTH HOUSE: Reputation, Career, Legacy.
Journal prompt: Write a list of guidelines and best practices for Brand Me.
ELEVENTH HOUSE: Community, Revolution, the Future.
Journal prompt: List 5 things you could do completely differently today. Think reading, route to work, dinner plans, and exercise regime.
TWELFTH HOUSE: Surrender, Healing, Spirituality.
Journal prompt: A list of all the things in your life you can and cannot control …
For a full description of each House of the Zodiac check out The Numinous Astro Deck, which is an illustrated tool for learning the art of birth chart interpretation. You can also learn all about your individual house placements in a 1-2-1 Astro Coaching session with Numinous Founder Ruby Warrington. Book your session HERE.