11// What Is The Future of Masculinity?: As we grappled with how to dismantle patriarchal oppression, trans man and diversity and inclusion activist, Aaron Rose, shared his vision for the future of masculinity …
Psychiatrist Will Siu, MD, is an advocate for healing from trauma from psychedelics. Currently a therapist on clinical trials using MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to treat PTSD, he shares his insights into a very human way to heal …
When we think about trauma, we often go straight to war, physical, or sexual abuse. But as important, are the traumas of neglect, of feeling un-safe, of feeling un-loved. People think: “I don’t deserve to say, ‘I’ve suffered trauma’. But that’s BS. All of us have suffered numerous traumas in our lives.
When this trauma is unhealed and unresolved, this manifests as suffering—in our bodies and in our beings. And so we find strategies to cope. Depending on our genetic make-up, our family history, and our place in society, this might look like a cluster of symptoms that we call OCD, PTSD, or addiction. I don’t think about these as disorders. They are simply what our body and mind are doing to try to protect us. There’s nothing wrong with us—these symptoms just show us that there is a trauma to be healed.
We’ve been throwing medication at this for years, and it doesn’t work. When it comes to mental health, Western medicine has seen most success with SSRIs like Prozac for treating depression, for example. But they only work slightly better than a placebo. It’s silly when physicians say this is the answer.
In contrast, the data from trials on MDMA for PTSD, psilocybin for alcoholism, psilocybin for end of life anxiety, and MDMA for social anxiety, is better than anything else we’ve seen for mental health. But there’s still a lot of resistance to integrating these therapies, which I believe stems from a fear of these being dangerous or addictive drugs.
I also want to emphasize that the studies being done are using these substances to facilitate the psychotherapy process. It’s not the molecules themselves that are doing the healing. Rather, they are assisting the interpersonal healing process that we call “psychotherapy.”
When it comes to healing trauma, I think of the concept of “catharsis”—and old psychology term for the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions. And three things need to happen for our bodies and our minds to release us from our traumas. There is a need for the intellectual memory of the trauma to be coupled with the emotional memory of it, and for this to happen in an empathic setting. Empathy is different from sympathy, when we might hear: “oh, that must have been hard for you.” It’s about really feeling that the person in front of you understands your experience. In many cases with empathy, there isn’t even a need for words.
What you’ll notice in my recipe for catharsis is that psychedelics are not in the equation. That a therapist is not in the equation. That a shaman in white linen a warehouse in Brooklyn is not in the equation. This is because we’re capable of doing this work by nature of us being human. Not that these things can’t be helpful, but thinking that one or more of these modalities themselves is going to heal you, is a mistake.
I believe that because of the way that Western culture has developed—with the breakdown of community, the breakdown of family—we’ve created the need for mental health professionals. It is possible to do this work on our own. When people are trained, there is a higher chance of healing the deepest wounds, but I don’t think it’s necessary. There are people who’ve been doing underground therapy for a long time—not that everybody does it well, including people who are trained to do psychedelic therapy. The key is to trust yourself and the way you feel when you are working with someone.
A psychiatrist named Stan Grof, who was friends with Albert Hoffman, who discovered LSD, has said: “The full experience of a negative emotion is the funeral pyre of that emotion.” This is an important way to think about healing from trauma. With psychedelic therapy, we’re talking about enhancing “negative” emotions and memories, whereas the Western approach has focused on suppressive therapies. Look at the categories of medications we use: anti-depressants. Anti-anxiety meds. We’re really doing the opposite of trying to feel every emotion through to its “funeral pyre.”
Western medicine and psychiatry are not to blame for this. It’s also an approach that represents our culture and where we are as a society. The emotions that we tend to suppress are sadness and fear. Interpersonally, and in self-help memes on social media, they’re thought of as signs of weakness. Something to be ashamed of, as if there’s something wrong with us for feeling or expressing them. I think the way we treat them medically is a result of this cultural treatment of them. Emotions like joy and anger, meanwhile, are very, very acceptable. We need to shift this if we’re going to do any real healing.
Using psychedelics as part of the Western medicine approach in doing this work is also going to take a change in society. These are evocative therapies. They’re the opposite of suppressive therapies. They evoke emotions, they evoke memories, they evoke physical symptoms. Hopefully in an environment that is conducive to healing. The term “set and setting,” coined by Timothy Leary in 1961, speaks to where you’re at personally, who are you with, and what is the physical space like. All of these elements have an impact on your overall experience.
Of course, some of these consciousness altering molecules can also be used to escape from our problems, including ketamine, marijuana, alcohol, MDMA, and nicotine. Again, it comes back to set and setting as to whether these things can be helpful or harmful. I’m also not saying these substances can’t be used for recreation, for fun, for creativity. We just need to not be fooling ourselves when we’re trying to do healing work with them.
The final piece I want to mention is integration. People aren’t focusing enough on this part of psychedelic healing, which I think of as the work that is done in the days, weeks, and months after the experience itself. In my opinion, the majority of the long-term benefits of psychedelic therapy is in the sober work that follows.
Real bravery doesn’t come from taking a third of fourth cup of ayahuasca, or five or six tabs of acid. It’s really about going back to work the following week and seeking to make peace with the coworker that irritates you. It could be calling a sibling you haven’t spoken to in nine months because you felt they aren’t as “enlightened” as you, and choosing to love them anyway. These healing interactions are truly where we find the long-term benefits of this work.
Will Siu, MD , DPhil, studied medicine at UCLA, the National Institute of Health in Washington DC, and Oxford University. In addition ton addition to his private practice in NYC, he is a therapist on clinical trials using MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to treat PTSD. Learn more about Will and his work HERE and follow him on Instagram.
In the wake of Jupiter’s transit through Scorpio, sexual trauma has been brought to light over and over again. In his latest “Queer Hero” column, survivor and healer Danny Brave shares 7 ways to process the deep pain and move from #Metoo to I AM … Photos by Tal Shpantzer
The #MeToo movement exploded onto social media on October 15th 2017, only four days after Scorpio’s transit into Jupiter (the sign of intimacy, sex, secrets, and power). The hashtag was created by Tarana Burke, the black woman whose brilliant activism started the movement all the way back in 2006. Her decade of advocacy reached mainstream awareness when Alyssa Milano tweeted #metoo in response to accusations of sexual assault & misconduct in Hollywood.
Whether or not we wanted to deal with it, molestation, rape, and sexual trauma was being brought to light over and over and over again. Some of us felt ready for this darkness to reveal itself so dramatically and intensely, while others of us felt ill-prepared for all of the undigested emotions and traumas that these women were bringing to the forefront of our consciousness.
With Jupiter still retrograding through Scorpio, and April marking Sexual Assault Awareness Month (S.A.A.M.), I have been reflecting on all that has transpired since the initiation of this powerful planetary movement …
Widening the sexual trauma narrative The stories of who is sexually assaulting who are as varied as the number of people on earth. I know white cis gender men who have been assaulted by cis white women, and I have met men who were molested by their mothers as boys. Sexual violation has been perpetrated by gay men to other gay men, by queer POC to other queer POC, by fathers to girls who come out later in life as non-binary or trans men, by white people to black people and vice versa.
The list of race, gender, sexuality, body type, and age variable narratives continues, as is reflected by the statistics:
– 47% of transgender people are sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime – Of trans people of color: American Indian (65%), multiracial (59%), Middle Eastern (58%), and Black (53%) have experienced sexual assault – American Indians are twice as likely to experience rape/sexual assault compared to all races – 1 in 3 women experience sexual assault – 1 in 10 men experience sexual assault – 44% of lesbians experience rape – 61% bisexual women experience rape – 26% of gay men experience rape – 37% of bisexual men experience rape
And the effects are staggering. From persistent and debilitating anxiety and/or depression, to the shutdown of one’s sexuality, and a sense of complete worthlessness and suicidal thinking, the wake of this abuse’s devastation goes on and on.
For the sake of everyone’s healing, we must not confine this widespread epidemic to old stereotypes and the rigidity of the gender binary.
7 ways to heal your sexual trauma … To provide some solutions, below is a love letter—a list of tools, rituals and advice that have helped me and my clients reclaim our lives, sexuality, and bodies in the aftermath of sexual trauma …
1//Make art. Whatever your creative medium, express it! You don’t have to show what you create to anyone at all (unless you want to!), you don’t have to be good at it, and you don’t have to spend much money (writing, for example, costs about $3 for a cheap notebook and pen). The purpose is just to get the energy moving.
Creativity is governed by the sacral chakra, located in the pelvis, genitals, and lower back, and connected to sexual energy. When you are being creative, you are helping to unearth, clear, uplift, and release some of the stagnant or painful energy that got planted there during moments of abuse.
If you are struggling with depression in particular, making art makes you active again. It puts the ball back in your court and helps you remember that life can be beautiful, and that it is okay to feel. Become the transmuter of your own pain through your creativity and I promise you catharsis will be there, and that this will eventually (if not immediately) lead to feeling better.
2//Tell someone who makes you feel safe and who you know will believe you. One of my mentors taught me that the lips of the labia and the lips of the mouth have the same nerve endings—they are connected. What this means is that sexual trauma silences us; it makes us somehow incapable of voicing our truth, standing up for ourselves, and asking for our needs (emotional or otherwise) to be met.
Telling our deep dark truths to someone we can trust can be one of the most healing experiences. Here’s a loose structure to get you started:
1 – Contact the person you are going to meet and ask them, in your own words, if they will meet with you in person so that you can vent and get something really difficult off your chest.
2 – Tell them exactly what you need from them afterwards. Is it a quick hug? To be held for a while? To say “I’m sorry that happened to you,” to say “thank you for telling me your story”? It can feel weird to make such a clear and specific requests, but people aren’t mind-readers, and our abuse stories are so intense that we often require a very specific type of support to feel just that: supported.
3 – Tell them your story and provide as many details as possible. I am talking about the date and time, who did it, the location of the abuse on your body, how you felt—the whole thing. If it makes it easier, you can write this out all out in advance. Notice the resistance to doing this and try to push through and speak your truth anyway.
4 – Set up something really lovely to do for yourself afterwards—something that makes you feel comforted, brings you back to the present moment, or brings you joy. Do you love to go see movies? To plant a garden? To paint? To go for a joy drive and blast music? After unleashing your powerful truth, make sure you engage with this activity for as long as it takes to get you back to the present moment.
3//Realize that what happened to you is NOT your fault. Something that tends to get built into the experience of sexual abuse is that we, on some level, caused or created it.
The mind of a child is more straightforward than the mind of an adult, and it does not understand that bad things that happen are not caused by them. If the abuse is being perpetrated by an adult to a child, the child knows that the parent is the one feeding and clothing them and therefore will do any and all mental gymnastics to repress, imagine, or self-blame the abuse away by taking on and in all of the pain and blame.
If you were an adult when the abuse happened to you, it’s still easy to think: “If I hadn’t been drunk, if I had been wearing something different …” If we are spiritually-inclined, we might even torture ourselves with spirituality and the law of attraction, asking ourselves ridiculous things such as: “Why did I create this experience? Maybe I wasn’t thinking positively enough … I wonder why I attracted this abuse?”
Why do we try to make something as awful as this our fault? The truth is simple: it is easier to blame ourselves and engage in self-hatred then it is to deal with the fact that what happened was not in our control and not our fault whatsoever. Doing this also prevents us from having to deal with the emotional reality of holding someone else accountable for their actions.
Hating ourselves or trying to make ourselves responsible for something we clearly didn’t cause or do is an incredibly effective defense mechanism to either defend the memory of our parents because we want to maintain a relationship with them, and/or to avoid holding the perpetrator fully accountable for the painful emotions associated.
It is because of this that I cannot stress enough: what happened to you was not your fault. What happened to you was not your fault. What happened to you was not your fault. What happened to you was not your fault.
And coming to terms with this is an all-too-necessary step that needs to happen before forgiveness and letting go (after all, if we don’t hold someone accountable to begin with, then what is there even to forgive?)
4//Perform a releasing ritual. Ritual is a powerful way that we can find closure and healing for experiences and situations that seem impossible to ever gain closure from. By doing something physical, ritual provides a concrete moment that serves as a bridge for us to walk over and into the next phase of our lives.
Here are a couple of suggestions for releasing rituals that I have found to be incredibly powerful in healing my own sexual trauma:
1 – Write a letterto the person who did it (and don’t send it). I know, it’s intense. The thing is … if you have not done something like this already, it is likely that the thoughts and feelings you would communicate directly to this person are rolling around in your head and your body, anyway, and without an outlet.
What we are looking for here is catharsis and closure. It is not meant to be sent to the person, and that being said, it does not have to be respectful or kind in any way. Get it aaaaalllll out. And then, safely destroy it! Rip it up, or light it on fire. Afterwards, make sure you set yourself up with some really lovely after-care: a relaxing walk alone or with a friend, a gentle movie that makes you feel comforted, etc.
2 – Go somewhere in nature. Preferably a body of water (and especially the ocean). Take a stroll to find either a seashell or rock, and place it in your hand. With the object in your hand, charge it up with all of the feelings and experiences of the abuse, and all of the things that have happened as a result of it.
Take a moment to really feel all of that energy and pain moving through and out of your body and into the shell or rock. Then, THROW IT IN THE OCEAN! Boom: it’s done, it’s over. Give yourself some time to sit and have a leisurely walk or maybe even journal after you release this- again, with everything involving your recovery, taking the time for gentle after-care is important.
5//Adjust your sexual expression accordingly. While it may not be the case for everyone, it has been my own, and many of my clients’ experiences that sexual abuse tends to create a polarity of subsequent sexual expression: either way too much, or way too little (basically non-existent).
This is not an invitation to judge yourself, rather to become self aware of your sexuality and sexual patterns from a place of unconditional love. Remember, the extremity is not your fault (re-visit bullet point #3 if you’re beating yourself up).
*For my way too much-ers: Take a vow of celibacy for 3 months (it’s ok: you can still masturbate). During this time, when you do masturbate, take a few breaths and ask to connect to God/Spirit/the Universe (whichever term you prefer) through your sexual energy (and prepare to be blown away!!)
Make a list of 10 other ways to feel loved, outside of engaging in sexual activity with another person, and commit to exploring one of them each week during your temporary celibacy.
*For my non-existent/way too little-ers: Make it a non-negotiable commitment to exploring your sexual nature and opening up to sexual experiences on a bi-weekly basis, working up to sharing yourself with a consenting partner, if it feels right.
Also, dance. Yes, DANCE. Take dance classes that bring the energy down into the lower chakras: African dance, hip hop, pole dancing, etc. Get out of your comfort zone!
6//Invest in healing that is holistic and takes your body into account. We know that the conscious mind governs only 10-20% of the totality of our consciousness. Traditional psychotherapy is typically working with the 10-20% of the conscious mind to try to get to the 80-90% that’s less conscious. Unsurprisingly, I prefer methods that go straight to the 80-90%: reiki, shamanic healing, and meditation. You might also try sound healing, hypnotherapy, tapping, somatic experience, or any other mind-body practice you feel drawn to.
The site that is typically inflicted with a sexual trauma wound for women, trans men, and those assigned-female-at-birth is the vagina, or “yoni.” Mystics and shamans know this place to be the gateway to the universe, and the key to creation of life itself—not only human life as in childbirth, but also the creation of all things, such as personal dreams and manifestations.
In my personal shamanic healing practice, I use a tool called a shamanic extraction, which uses the intelligence of crystals to safely extract pain, fear, and any other energy intrusions that were inflicted on the individual’s yoni during the time of abuse out, followed by the channeling of reiki healing energy into the area. This allows the individual to have agency over their yoni, one of the deepest and most powerful tools for us to create our lives from this place- a place of health, clarity, and integrity.
Another incredibly effective tool I use is shamanic cord cutting, which is a powerful ritual in which we take the cord of energy that is usually still subconsciously or unconsciously connecting the client to their abuser via a vibration of pain, and we release it, and follow up by channeling reiki or healing energy into the area for deep healing.
7//Connect with community. The patriarchy thrives off of separation. Pain and darkness prevail when we are in isolation. This is not normal or natural, and we need matriarchy now—a matriarchy that is for all genders, races, body types, and ages.
It is imperative that in your healing journey, you find some sort of community to join where you feel safe enough to be seen. It can be a shamanic community, a monthly women’s circle, AA, a hiking club—there are tons of things to do and join in this world, both in-person and online.
Don’t do this alone. You can’t do it alone. Other people need you and you need them, and that’s okay. My hope is that we start to live in a world where our emotional needs are no longer judged as being “needy.” We all need each other, and we all heal each other. So let’s do that.
The Tarot is both a mirror and an evolutionary invitation towards change. Lindsay Mack offers us a guide to the so-called “scary” cards and reveals how we can use our decks to turn fear to medicine …
Fear is a highly unpleasant, but profoundly important emotion — one that deserves a place at our table of feelings.
Fear, when considered for what it is, can offer information, wise counsel, direction, and clarity on our deeper feelings. We don’t have to believe everything our fear communicates to us, but it can be transformative to hear it out. By doing so, fear can become an ally, especially when we understand the strength that can arise within us through working with it.
Fear has always been a very deep teacher in my life. I live with a long term brain condition. I’m a healthy and joyful survivor of extreme childhood abuse, and have worked through complex PTSD for most of my life. I have traveled through some of the darkest places a person can experience, and every time I take one of those journeys “through the woods,” I am shifted for the better, having gained deeper strength, trust, and faith, my fear shifting into medicine with wisdom to offer me. The more wisdom I cultivate through those paths of darkness, the more I have to offer to myself, my students, and my clients.
The Tarot is a profoundly useful tool to turn to in moments of fear, trauma and stress. It can help to contextualize what’s happening underneath our fear, and how it is trying to help us evolve. It can also bring a visual landscape to something that we may not be able to communicate or understand with words. Whether you are a reader or not, The Tarot can be a deep aid in moments of darkness.
There are six Tarot cards in particular that, when we look at them through a soul centered lens, offer a beautiful invitation to evolve through fear.
Read on for how use them as guides in our own journey, exploring what it means for us to shift from fear to medicine. You can also check out my brand new course, From Fear to Medicine: A Six Week Journey into the “Scary” Cards of the Tarot. The first class begins on April 22nd – find out more HERE.
// THE FOOL // Trusting The Invisible Have you ever been called to take a giant leap of faith with hardly any proof that it will pay off? If you have, you’ve been in the energy of The Fool. It is the invitation to jump into the unknown, and begin a whole new cycle of our lives. We are drawn to the edge of a cliff in this card, but it is up to us to jump off of it. The soul work that we are asked to do in this card is to trust ourselves, and trust the invisible.
To our brain chemistry, The Fool can feel like death, a loss of control for the ego. If we can move through this deep contraction with mindfulness, leaping into the unseen, the treasures we will gain will be priceless. We will begin to truly know that when we jump in The Fool, we will be supported. We will begin to trust our intuition, and we will be a co-creator in our own evolution and growth. Trusting the invisible takes deep work. The Fool is here to help us learn.
// WHEEL OF FORTUNE //Centering in the midst of change The Wheel of Fortune heralds the coming of great change, the marriage between our choices and our destiny. The change that Wheel of Fortune brings is always for our good. There is no “bad” turn on this card, and there is no reversal.
When we work with the Wheel of Fortune, we can never see the change that’s coming. It teaches us to root into the unknown, and to stay centered in the Wheel, rather than flailing on the outer edges. When we work with this card, we get to learn how to root into ourselves in times of change, staying calm in the eye of the storm. Beautiful wisdom for life.
// DEATH //Sacred Compost There is no greater metaphor for the Death card than that of composting. I eat you, then you eat me. Nothing truly dies in the Death card, just like nothing ever truly dies here on Earth. It merely changes form, becoming a different version of what it was.
The Death card is the transformation of something – a relationship, a thought pattern, a belief – into something new. When we work in this card, it is a signal that we are no longer being fed by something growing in the garden of our lives. It lets us know that it is time to pull the weeds up and allow it to become sacred fertilizer, encouraging the new things in our lives to grow. The work we do in this card is profound ego surrender, letting go of the things that are ready to go.
// THE DEVIL //Blessing the Shadow The Devil is an opportunity to look deeply at our shadow. Are we judging ourselves? Believing that there is something wrong with us? Are we spiraling into an old, destructive pattern out of fear or contraction? If we are, The Devil will let us know.
If we pull this card, it is a sign that we are doing everything right. The Devil always shows up as a little mindfulness bell around our expansion, letting us know that the brain is trying to pull us into some old, limiting patterns to keep us in what it perceives as safe and known. We get to drop into these patterns and say no thank you to the invitation, whatever it may be. By doing so, we liberate ourselves from believing that we are “bad” or “wrong,” to thinking that there is anything adverse about us for our desires or our anger, and allowing all parts of ourselves to just be there.
// THE TOWER //When Things go Wrong Everyone has experienced a Tower moment in their lives. It is a moment where it truly feels like everything has gone wrong – it can feel like we are living in a nightmare. A beautiful metaphor for The Tower is a forest fire. We watch everything burn, knowing that it is clearing the soil for new growth.
It is an intentional shaking of the foundations underneath us, all to help us grow, and shed some part of ourselves that is no longer aligned with our expansion. The Tower can be intensely uncomfortable, or it can be a very minor, internal experience. When we survive and move through Tower experiences, we emerge stronger, clearer and transformed, our lives shifted on its very axis.
// THE MOON //Floating in the Darkness In The Moon card, we learn how to hang out in the Void – no easy feat! Ruled by Pisces, this card goes as deep as it can go. It is an experience of truly not knowing where we are going next, not having any answers, and feeling like we are floating back into old, shadowy feelings and emotions. To experience this can be very uncomfortable, and can make us want to really swim to shore, to find the light, to get some semblance of clarity and direction.
But, the more we kick, the deeper the waves become. We eventually learn the most profound surrender in The Moon card, letting the darkness become an ally, learning from the quiet, tuning in with ourselves beyond the din of our ego. When the light finally dawns, we learn that we have been moving all along, allowing the currents to take us to our next destination.
Want to go deeper into these energies, and learn how to work with your own fear in a mindful, empowered way? Please join me for my brand new course, From Fear to Medicine: A Six Week Journey into the “Scary” Cards of the Tarot. The first class begins on April 22nd – find out more HERE.
In the first official installment of his monthly column, Queer Hero, Danny Brave shares his journey to discover the name that reflected his true identity. PLUS how you can cast your own name spell …
Over the course of my journey as not only a transgender man, but also as a shamanic healer, I’ve discovered the power of our own names (both given and chosen).
I lived most of my life being called Katie Greene, moving through several different iterations and identity crises, only to discover, or rather re-member, that I am Danny Brave. Now when I say “re-member,” what I actually mean is the opposite of dis-member: to put myself back together, to become more whole.
Read on to discover my name changing story, and discover how you can cast a name spell on your own life …
Releasing my ancestral line In the Fall of 2015, “Katie,” first started to feel like it was not really me any more. After remembering the sexual assault I experienced as a child (read more about my sexual reclamation after incest HERE), the name was feeling more and more like a fake smile—something that I did often when I was living that identity. If you say “Katie” out loud, you’ll notice your mouth even takes the shape of a smile at the “ie” part.
After remembering what had actually happened to me as a kid, there was, not surprisingly, no more fake smiles left in me, and my full birth name “Kaitlin” began to feel more appropriate. This name felt darker, more serious, and more powerful—a reflection of my energy at the time. This was the name I was called when the abuse happened to me, and it facilitated me in re-membering and reclaiming some of the darkest moments of my life.
With “Kaitlin” in place, I started to search for a replacement for “Greene,” a name that belonged to my father and his father—a name that to me denoted false Irish family pride, toxic Catholicism, and all of the lies and abuse that had been passed down my ancestral line. This line would decidedly end with me, and it would end via the ritual of literally releasing this last name and claiming a new one for myself. This change-of-name spell happened gradually over a long period of time …
Was I “Brave” enough? “Brave,” first came to me in December 2015 at the Barnes and Noble in the town where I grew up, where one fateful night I noticed a little green book with the gold shiny words titled “Brave Enough” by Cheryl Strayed winking at me from the shelves.
Strayed’s memoir “Wild” had come to me a few months prior, shortly after the volcanic repressed memory eruption and was like a little twinkling ray of hope from God, a love letter to my soul. It was a story that had a lot of trauma, death, and addiction—that was totally true, and often brutally honest. In her memoir, Cheryl literally gives herself the last name “Strayed” and changes it legally to reflect more honestly whom she knew she really was. Someone who had, in more ways than one, strayed.
I opened “Brave Enough” and read: “Hello, fear. Thank you for being here. You’re my indication that I’m doing what I need to do.” I wasn’t leaving without the store without it.
Dancing in my own words … “Brave Enough” came with me in my bag to India a month later, where I was attending a women’s dance-healing retreat, and a self-imposed writer’s retreat.
Every morning I would dance for 2-3 hours with a beautiful group of women, and every afternoon I would write alone, mostly poetry, and sometimes for hours and hours. It seemed like the energy of “Brave” had already started working on me, giving me the courage to re-claim my authentic voice, and I wrote and wrote about everything as honestly as I could handle at that time. I transmuted abuse memories that spontaneously arrived in the morning dance class, channeling those feelings and vibrations into words, vomiting the poison out of my system.
During my time in India, without thinking much about it, I switched my email address to reflect the last name “Brave.” My old last name just kind of slipped off—like the wind blowing a piece of fabric off of a rock. It was just so ridiculously obvious that “Brave” was my name, and that it now belonged to me.
As I prepared for the journey back to the States, I realized I could never go back to my parents’ home. No longer sharing a last name with any family member, “Brave” carried me onward, forcing me to individuate myself from my family and preparing me to stand on my own two feet.
Becoming Danny Brave When I started to realize that I was a guy (which is really a whole other story), I was initially so uncomfortable with myself and scared that I wanted to die. At the same time, there was an immediate ease with which my first name arrived—it was Danny. I just kind of knew, it was a lightning bolt that zapped the crown of my head in meditation.
But the name and my body and life at that time felt too at odds, and I was living too far away from where I knew I could feel supported enough to transition. Desperate for some sort of change, but not yet able to feel safe enough to fully step into Danny, I switched my first name again, this time to “Kate.”
I took a part-time gig as an assistant to a jewelry designer. “Ooo, I love your last name … I think that ‘brave’ means a female warrior” the woman I worked for told me. I Googled it and discovered that it in fact meant MALE warrior. “Oh dear god,” I thought with terror. I was being called out, pushed out of the closet, by my own last name! As I started to prepare myself to face the fact that I was not, and never have been, a woman, I knew that “Kate,” a female name and the one my dad would use whenever he yelled at me, would have to go.
When I showed up to my first trans-masculine support group, late and shaking, I simply said “I’m Brave.” As I would to the random barista, just to practice having a different name with no clear gender. Just to have to say it out loud to remember I was courageous, to cling to the one true part of me over which I had ownership.
The affirmation of my last name would eventually lead me to admitting to the real first one, Danny, a month or so later in my support group.
The vibration of Danny has lead me home to my ultimate truth: that of a flamboyant little gay boy who loved to play dress up, loved watching figure skating, loved to paint, draw, and dance. The real me, only now a man. Sometimes the most loveable parts of ourselves are the most hard-won.
I was recently joking with a new friend, saying to her that I gave myself the last name of “Brave” so that I would constantly have to strive to live up to it. “I don’t think that’s true,” she said. “Names are spells. You don’t even have to try, it’s just you now, and it’s how your life will unfold.” Looking back on this story, I can see that she was right.
How to cast your own name spell Your name(s) (past and present) carry a meaning and vibration that is worth exploring! Being curious about what is underneath your name may lead you to a deeper understanding of your family dynamic, about what remains to be healed within you, and about your life path and purpose.
The following exercises are for you to explore your true feelings about your name(s) so that you can either reclaim it with your own meaning, intention, or vibration, or maybe even choose a new one for yourself!
1// Call your own name Start with either your first or last name—whichever one you want to explore and play with first. Then, if you wish, you can follow up with your second name:
Close your eyes. Put your hand on your heart. Take a few deep breaths. Say your first name three times. What do you feel? Does this name feel like you? What do you feel in your body when you say it? What comes up for you? Honor whatever it is and trust your feelings. Know that if your name doesn’t feel like a match for the real you, there is one that is.
2// Free associate You can do this with your current name, or play with a different one that you have in mind.
Take out a piece of paper and a pen. At the top, make two columns if you don’t have a middle name, and three if you do. Under each column, without thinking, write stream-of-consciousness based off of each of your names (if you are trans-identified, I recommend you do this with both your birth name and your chosen one). Then, take a moment to read your associations. Our names carry so much energy, don’t they?!
3// Take an inner child name inventory You may want to use a pen and piece of paper for this one as well:
Consider or write down answers to the following: Was there a name that you really loved as a kid? Is there a name that you really love now? What did you name your pets, your dogs, your dolls when you were little? Is there a celebrity or friend whose name you admire? Is there a name you have always loved and wish that you had? What would happen if you tried it on for a minute, like trying on a new dress or shirt?
4// Play with your gender identity Don’t take this one too seriously or freak yourself out—try to have fun and maintain an attitude of light playfulness! Now, let’s do some name-drag:
If you identify as a woman, imagine for a moment that you are a man. What would your name be? If you are a man, imagine for a moment that you are a woman. What would your name be? What does it feel like to call yourself by this pretend name? What spell would this name cast on your life?
5// Know that you are worthy of your real name In the USA (in the larger cities in particular), we are so privileged to live at a time where we can exercise our free will to become more of the person that we really are. Know that if you are unhappy with your current name, or if you don’t feel like it is truly yours, you can, in fact, change it. The same goes for your life! If you don’t like it, you do, in fact, have the power to change it.
Beyond gender identity, I hope that you feel you are worthy of the real you. You deserve to love your name, which is to say, you deserve to love yourself. I know that if you follow your heart and trust your gut, you will find (or re-member) your real name.
**If you are a transgender individual living in the U.S., please visit my list of resources for trans individuals HERE
Danny Brave is a shamanic healer, writer, public speaker, and artist. In his private practice, he specializes in helping women and individuals assigned female at birth overcome the affects of sexual trauma. He conducts monthly LGBTQIA Shamanic Healing Circles at Brooklyn’s Maha Rose (sign up for the next one HERE) with the intention of creating safe, sober spaces for queer people to heal, and to amplify marginalized voices. He loves to paint, dance, and spend time in nature.
As the 2018 Leo Lunar Eclipse asks us to stand up in our fire and be truly seen, childhood abuse survivor and joyous healer, Danny Brave, shares his journey and reveals how it feels for a trans soul to come home …
“I remember the moment when I came home to my body
what a lovely reception that was (though emotional) . . . ”
While working with a sexual empowerment coach in 2015, this was the beginning of a poem I wrote entitled “coming home.” In the exercise that inspired it, I visualized that pieces of my soul were perched over my head.
My coach then instructed me to reach up with my hands and pull these pieces of my soul back into my body with my hands. After a few minutes, the coach then instructed me to call my soul back into my body by placing my hands on my heart and saying my name out loud, three times: Katie. Katie. Katie.
And I burst into tears, because I felt in that moment a tiny piece of me came home, along with a deep knowing that I had never actually, up until this moment felt at home within my body. Not once in 28 years.
:: MEETING DANNY BRAVE :: This session took place just a month after recalling memories of my father sexually assaulting me as a child, an event which completely altered the course of my life. The memory shattered the fabricated reality of the cheerful, healthy relationships I thought I had shared with my immediate family members up until this point.
As a result, my journey home into my body has also felt, and still sometimes feels, extremely challenging. In fact, at times, this would be an extreme understatement.
Between July of 2015 and now I have, almost relentlessly, uncovered countless repressed memories of being sexually assaulted and abused in a multitude of ways. Not only by my father, but also my mother and grandfather, along with some deeply questionable evidence that I was not in fact a woman.
I remember being in the thick of my repressed memory recall and looking in the mirror and talking to myself, and hearing a voice in my head say to myself, “I want to be a boy.” I thought I must be insane, and shut that voice down for an entire year before I would allow it to re-emerge and accept it as truth.
Fast forward to today. I now know that my true name is Danny Brave, and I am a gay trans man. I discovered the trans part in June of 2016, but was too terrified to come out until that November. And the gay part I wasn’t even too sure about until about a week ago.
:: I WANT TO BE A BOY; I AM A BOY :: The reality of my gender identity came crashing down that June, when I decided to, once again, look my inner child in the mirror and have a conversation with them and really listen this time. This is a practice I had adopted from the amazing work of Louise Hay as I found it to be deeply healing (and for those who are brave, I cannot recommend it enough!)
I asked my inner child what was wrong, as I had been feeling deeply depressed, and I had long hair at the time that felt droopy and heavy. I asked what I could do to help them feel better. In response, I heard the voice of my inner child scream: “I want to be a BOY!! I AM A BOY!! I want to cut off all of my hair!”
It was that same voice I had heard a year ago, a voice that I could no longer ignore or discredit as crazy: this was the real me, the one who as a kid tried to pee standing up, who felt confused about why he did not have a penis, the one who loved dancing, singing, and fabulous shoes, and had dreams of being a visual artist.
This moment in the mirror was the moment I finally decided to listen to myself. Two days later, I cut off all of my hair and immediately felt so much better, so much more like me. I began to realize that I could not visualize myself in the future as a woman without wanting to die.
:: FROM TERROR TO TRANSITION :: At this time, I had dug myself into a hole by moving to a small town an hour and a half outside of Los Angeles, where I was making little to no money, had no car, and no health insurance, let alone access to trans health care or support groups.
I was terrified, and had created this situation out of that same terror. I knew I had to get back to a city to gain access to support for figuring out my transition. I thought my choice would be Los Angeles as that would be the most convenient, but shortly after moving to LA and not being able to land a job with decent pay, I took the little money I had left and moved back to NYC in August of 2016.
It was in NYC that I was able to take my old job back, and gain access to the support I needed to come to terms with myself and transition: trans masculine support groups and free therapy via the Center on 13th Street (for which I am forever grateful). I came out in October 2016, and lost a majority of the “close” friends I had at the time.
In the winter of 2016, I met up with a friend from one of my support groups and told them I was having suicidal thoughts and that I couldn’t get out of bed. They gently pointed out to me over a cup of coffee that not being on testosterone was “not working for me,” (to put it mildly) and I started hormone therapy shortly thereafter, in January of 2017.
Every week since then (with the exception of one month during which I completely panicked) I have been injecting myself with a needle filled with testosterone (also simply referred to as “t” within the trans community).
This simple act is slowly but surely transforming me externally into the person I have always been internally, which feels a bit like becoming sane and going crazy at the same time. I am going through a literal and a figurative process of transformation in order to become the person who I have also always been. Quite a trip!
:: WHOLE, LOVING, JUICY :: Last week I had a more triumphant and joyful moment of homecoming, when I attended a dance class with my loving partner (who is also a trans man) shortly after having anal sex for the first time (for hours on end, I might add).
Something so essential about who I was clicked into place while with him: I felt like my soul actually landed it my body. It felt really good, and really whole and loving.
Running late for the class, I looked into his big, beautiful eyes on the train on the way to class and felt he was really seeing me for the first time, and I him. Beneath the boobs, we were, and are, two gay men, despite all of the “ma’ams” and “misses” and the lifetime of being perceived differently by everyone, including ourselves. Our truth felt so simple in that moment, and I felt truly beautiful in his eyes. Really real, and really me.
Looking in the mirror in the dance class, I could see how recently my arms, wrists, and fingers had gotten so much more masculine looking, and how flat my chest looked with my binder and the grey t-shirt I was wearing. This made me smile, as did acknowledging how much I love to dance—always have, always will.
I glanced over at my partner in the mirror, and saw a beautiful person who was somewhat scared to be themselves out in the world, but who was doing it anyway, just like me. I saw someone who was willing to go outside of their comfort zone to try something new, something they always wanted to do, like take a dance class, or write this article, and the simultaneous nervousness and courage behind his eyes made my heart swell.
Then I looked at his juicy butt doing the warm up and felt my genitals wake up once again in my stretchy pants. This also made me smile. I realized and accepted in this moment that I was gay—that I REALLY was a man who liked men (cis and trans). Always have been, always will be. And that despite all of the incest, I always have been and always will be a deeply sexual person (after all, my Venus is in Scorpio).
:: IT TAKES COURAGE TO ENJOY IT :: It has taken years, a village of trans allies, sensitive artist friends, therapists, Reiki attunements, shamanic healers, dance/movement therapy teachers, sexual alchemy teachers, yoga trainings, sexual empowerment coaches, random acts of kindness from strangers like the lady in the Starbucks who told me that who I was was really beautiful and that the world would love the real me, and thousands of dollars worth of credit card debt to get here. But damn, I did it. I’ve done it. I’m here.
And I love sex. Yes, I love sex! says the man who had his first orgasm from masturbation when he was 27 years old, because he thought sexual energy meant being hit, yelled at, and penetrated without consent. Says the man with a female body who didn’t want to look down or touch himself there because it would mean realizing that my mind and body did not match. Says the man who was, as a child, anally raped by his father and grandfather and molested in a bath by his mother, and taught by the Catholic religion that sex was a sin and that my body was something to be ashamed of. Says the man who was not allowed to share a bed with his boyfriend when he visited his parents’ house at the age of 26, being not-so-subtly shamed that they lived together before marriage.
Yes, I love sex. And I have reclaimed sex to the extent that it now makes me feel alive, loved, present, powerful, and best of all, real. What once made me feel terrified now allows me to feel safe. It takes me from that idea of myself in my head perched above my body to actually being an embodiment of self. It is teaching me to trust life again.
In the words of Bjork in her song “Big Time Sensuality”: It takes courage to enjoy it. I hope that everyone who has been through what I have gets to experience this particular kind of courage.
I hope that everyone gets to experience the pleasure of coming home into their own sexuality, their own body.
Danny Brave is a Writer/Public Speaker/Educator on the subjects of Gender/Transgender, Overcoming Trauma, and Ascension/Spiritual Living. He is a Master Shamanic Reiki Practitioner/Psychic Healer specializing in helping people of all genders, ages, body types, and races overcome the effects of child abuse/sexual assault via various healing modalities which he has come to term “Brave Healing Arts.” He conducts monthly LGBTQIA & Allies Community Healing Circles at Maha Rose in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (1st or 2nd Wednesday of each month). He is 100% sober, vegan, and loves to paint, take photos, dance, and pet dogs.
Tired of disembodied meditation and higher chakra holiness? Alexandra Roxo tells us it’s time to get down and dirty with our healing, and realign sexuality and spirituality …
How many times have you walked into a yoga class and had the teacher speak to your womb or your balls or your anus?
While you can find cute articles about sacred sexuality, breathing with your partner, and yoni eggs, the nitty gritty WHOLE body is largely left out of the modern spirituality and wellness conversation. And of our healing journeys as a result …
:: Sacral Shutdown :: Right now, many of us are caught in a cycle of closing our “lower” chakras (a.k.a. our connection to Mama Earth and the body), as we focus on higher ones. This cycle often looks like:
PHASE 1: Make unconscious choices around sex, the body, and pleasure for a certain period of our lives (i.e. eating unconsciously, using sex for self worth). This phase is often impacted by everything from sexual trauma to eating disorders, which affect our ability to receive joy and pleasure.
PHASE 2: We find comfort as we begin our spiritual paths, manifesting in attempts to “transcend” the body with meditation, mantras, and other external spiritual tools (astrology, tarot etc.)
PHASE 3: Once “woke,” we wonder, why do I still not feel whole? Why am still not able to experience pleasure, and feel JOY on a regular basis?
:: Returning to the Raw :: With millions of women coming forward as sexual abuse survivors through #metoo, many of us are more painfully aware than ever that trauma and shame live in the BODY, not just the mind. This means that more than ever, we have to figure out how to include sexual healing and a return to bodily pleasure in our modern spiritual journeys.
But this integration can’t come in a neat and fragrant package; we need to welcome the body and sexuality to the door in all its messiness—raw and bloodied, awkward, weird, and slightly unsettling. Because the conversation around sexual healing IS unsettling. IS raw. IS painful.
How do we start bridging this gap? I’m not suggesting you start masturbating on the meditation cushion (through you can if you want … I have!) But we do need to get more fearless and more courageous in our conversations about the body, sex, pleasure, and pain, and in the way we heal.
Here are 4 ways to start integrating your sexual story with your spiritual one, right now …
1// Woo your body back from numbness. If you spend 90% of your time on the computer and the rest in a seated meditation practice, most of your life is disembodied. I prescribe the Sofia Loren/ Italian housewife style of medicine, where you eat and dance and dress and fuck with such joy, that your pleasure begins to heal the Earth—because she’s so happy you’re enjoying her gifts!!
Practice: Make a Pinterest Board with your fave women who embody RAW pleasure. I love Penelope Cruz in Almodovar’s films, Brigitte Bardot, and Sofia Loren. Eat food as if it’s your LAST meal! Feel how amazing it can taste when you slow down and savor every bite.
2// Explore. Last month I lead a retreat in Los Angeles that combined Japanese rope bondage and sexual healing (more on that here). And if you follow my work you know I dance with snakes too which awakened my sexy like WHOA.
While ropes and snakes may not be your thing (my Mars is in Scorpio, what can I say), find ways ways that feel safe and good for YOU to reclaim and LOVE your sexy side. Does taking a floor dance class sound fun and healing? Or learning how to make your body an offering to a lover with a sexy lap dance? Get curious!
Practice: There are conscious kink classes in major cities (Babeland in NYC has rad classes!) I also highly rec reading erotic books, and exploring practices and women integral to this movement like Vanessa Cuccia of Chakrubs, Cycles and Sex, and Kimberly Johnson, aka The Vaginapratcor.
3// Talk. Hold an intentional sharing circle for sexual stories, embarrassing stories, and erotic tales. Implement a timed sharing policy with no cross talking so people can share their stories without needing validation, approval, or advice. Or hold a dinner party themed around fun and sexy talk, and draw anonymous questions from a hat.
4// Bring your shame and pain to the table. One barrier to embodied healing is compartmentalization. Often, we don’t think it’s possible to feel JOY while also experiencing PAIN. Or you may start an excited conversation about your new crystal dildo but also feel ashamed. Remember, your body knows that it’s possible for multiple feelings to exist at the same time—hold space for all of them, express them, and don’t shoo them away.
Practice: When navigating shame, I choose my 3 go-to shamanic tools—BREATHE, SOUND, MOVEMENT. Lay on the floor, breathe into your belly like you’re pregnant with air, and make sounds while moving your spine. Breathe the shame, sound it out with a HA, a growl, a moan. Cry in your car. In the tub. And then put on a song and dance!
Bottom line is, the sexual and body healing that is necessary on this planet in our times is not going to happen from the MIND.
It will only happen when we begin to integrate and come home to the body. Seek pleasure. Make space for joy. Sensation. Rage. Crying. Screaming. Cumming. As we come back to the body, and release old programming about it being shameful and dirty, we will come home to Mama Earth and her environment, which has been abused for far too long.
*I am taking on 5 clients from February 2018 to July 2018 for a 6 Month Transformational Healing Experience around sexual healing, expression, and embodiment. It’s going to be a radical return to the body, pleasure, love, sexuality, and healing. For more info, please email [email protected]
Can meditation and visionary medicine break cycles of addiction, trauma, and poverty? Elyssa Jakim sits down with the makers of new documentary Curato talk alternative healing as a tool for empowerment …
“When you find this disciplined practice, you discover that you can support yourself—you can be a sovereign being. That’s the big takeaway from medicine work or any of these other modalities: they help you find a way to stand up for yourself and to know when to ask for help”—Yolanda Frausto
Cura is a feature length documentary in progress that tells the story of Yolanda and Donny, a Mexican-American mother and son breaking cycles of addiction, trauma, and poverty using community, meditation, and visionary and alternative medicine. When Yolanda loses her younger son while in police custody, she strives to save her other son, Donny, from addiction and the possibility of suicide.
ELYSSA JAKIM: You call Cura an “An evocative soul portrait of a mother and her son healing generations of family trauma with natural and alternative medicine.” What is a soul portrait?
ISMAIL ALI: With this film, we want to show people that there are methods to healing that are beyond the body; that require a relationship between the body and the mind, and even the spirit. As a form of soul portraiture, the film is a snapshot of the lives of Yolanda and Donny. So, it’s about their lives in a mundane way, but it is also about them as spiritual beings—a portrait of their spirits. We’re saying this is a look at who they are at their core, framed by them living in Oakland and coming from poverty.
EJ: How did the title “Cura” come about? It seems like a word with multiple meanings. What does it mean to you?
YOLANDA FRAUSTO: To me “cura” means “here’s how we heal together. Here’s how you can find healing in yourself through my story.” There’s no one cure. It’s like the grief process—it’s a fact of life that we all go through it, but nobody can tell you exactly how it’s going to happen, you have to figure it out. I come from a background where it’s common for somebody to get stabbed or shot, overdose, or commit suicide and we don’t talk about it. So to be able to talk about grief is where the name “cura” helps. It means “let’s heal from what’s too hard to deal with and let’s do it together.” It plants the seed for healing.
EJ: How did you discover natural medicine, Yolanda?
YF: I got sober from drugs in 2005. I needed to change my life because I was headed in a really bad direction and I just stopped using. Three years later, I was working in a hotel in San Francisco and I learned about yoga from a woman doing a teacher training there. I started practicing, eventually up to six days a week. Then I got really serious about meditation. About a year later, I found plant medicine and I was like “Oh, this is my jam!” I felt that my whole life happened the way that it did so that I could find this as a spiritual practice. All of these things fell into my path, I didn’t seek any of it out, but inside of me I knew I was ready.
EJ: How has plant medicine helped you work through a trauma?
YF: It allowed me to have that one-on-one communing time with spirit that people can also find in prayer or in a deep meditation practice. I found the medicine around the time my mom became sick with ALS, and when I lost my son, I was already in the medicine community. Both times that I lost family members, I found that I had this community of people praying for me, showing up for me, bringing me food. I’d never had that kind of support before and they really taught me what it is to be supported. Also when you find this disciplined practice, you discover that you can support yourself—you can be a sovereign being. That’s the big takeaway from medicine work or any of these other modalities: they help you find a way to stand up for yourself and to know when to ask for help.
EJ: Do you believe that you have this kind of medicine work or curandera work in your ancestry?
YF: I hear the land where my great grandparents come from is peyote lands. So somehow I have a funny feeling that my great grandmother has been guiding me throughout my life and brought me home to the traditions by showing me a path. I believe strongly in the spirit world and how they lead us back to what’s home for us. When I was a kid, my grandma would cure us with folk remedies. And now I’m that person. I know the recipes and natural remedies, I know what to do. I feel like it was something that was instilled in me, but that no one taught me. I’m always saying “There’s a tea for that!” My sons would say “Oh, you’re just a witch.”
EJ: As plant medicine gets more popular, what kind of responsibility do people need to be taking when they take the medicine or administer it? Is it something you believe can find a place in a more Western medical mindset?
IA: Donny and Yolanda have experienced a tremendous amount of trauma as a result of simply being Mexican-American people who grew up in a place with huge amounts of drugs and violence, and which was not set up for them to have access to power or influence. I believe the strong pushes to decriminalize or medicalize or otherwise create access to pant medicines are in many ways responses to that harm.
So how can you leverage this harmful system to bring about some sort of benefit to the people who have suffered this exact kind of trauma? We need to take an honest look at what will be necessary to make this possible, and I think that during the next five or ten years we’re going to really crystallize what those systems look like.
EJ: Does the film speak to the phenomenon of wellness practices and techniques being inaccessible to people who aren’t of a particular ethnicity, or of a particular socioeconomic background?
IA: That’s actually why I started working on the film. These beautiful practices often require you to have resources—at the very least to be able to afford to take time off to care for your own mind. So many people are limited in this way. So accessibility is real, colonialism is real, and being aware of all these concepts and then shifting our behavior in line with addressing them is really important. The film is really about two people who are deciding to do some really serious work to break the cycles of their lineage, despite the fact that they don’t have the time and resources.
EJ: Did you find the process of filmmaking itself to be a kind of healing?
YF: I was able to process grief in a way that I did not know was possible. I reenacted the scene when I was driving and got the phone call from the coroner about my son. After we shot it, I cried for about an hour and then felt so much relief. I only got to process my grief in that visceral way because I was part of this film-making process. How else could you act out something in your life? Whenever things become challenging to film, I know it is creating space for me and my family to process. It’s hard to have these conversations but we’ve also found a way to communicate differently while filming.
EJ: What would you most like to see for the film?
IA: We hope people will be inspired to involve their own communities in it. We want people to watch this and to talk to the people in their lives about what all of these themes mean to them. We really think that yes, all of these healing modalities themselves are great, but part of the reason that Yolanda and Donny are where they are now is because of the community in their lives.
YF: I believe it will speak to specific people, who find something in it to help them. Maybe it just means they’ll find a way to say, “I can talk to my family, this isn’t so hard.” Quite a few friends have told me, “for you to come out and tell your story really gives me hope, trust, and faith in a future for myself and my family.” The goal was for my story to help other people heal.
In the face of heart-wrenching challenges that left many of us feeling very troubled (read: angry, confused, and afraid) we remained committed to the deeply magical acts of connecting and co-creating. From transforming difficult emotions into empowered action, to the pure pleasure of crystal dildos, we give you the Best of The Numinous 2016. Cause we gotta have faith, cosmic crusaders…
10. Casting My Spell—Confessions of a White Witch:“I see writing as a spell, decorating my home as a spell, singing as a spell. Whenever I express myself I am casting MY spell.” Shaheen Miro shares what it means to grow up and embrace being a white witch.
Skip to Wednesday if you want this week’s BIG MESSAGE about self-care with mainstream media. Clue: please practice extreme caution…
:: MONDAY :: Moon Club launch day! If you didn’t read about it already, this post explains everything you need to know about the new mentoring + coaching program from me and Alexandra Roxo, which we announced tonight on our online ritual for the Taurus Full Moon supermoon. We’d actually put the launch date off several times, and hadn’t really paid too much attention to the fact we would be going live with the project right after the election—but following the events of the last week, our message—which is all about inspiring and activating a new generation of spiritual activists—feels more relevant now than ever.
I was also feeling confident about the potential of this project, thanks to an akashic records reading with amazing Andrea Frade the day right after the election (which will forever be remembered as 11/9, in a bizarre—or not—twist of numerological irony). When I asked my guides, teary-eyed, how the work I am doing with the Numinous could have more impact, and reach the people who need it most, the answer was pretty direct: gather large groups of people, women in particular, and share the tools and wisdom I have learned to help mobilize individuals to act. Which is the mission of Moon Club to a tee. Discover more about Andrea and her work at Andreafrade.com. To learn more about Moon Club and sign up, go to Moonclub.co
:: TUESDAY :: In times of trauma and overwhelm (anybody?!), while some may turn to Xanax, my first port of call is always Kerri Aab—a.k.a. my flower lady. Which sounds pretty fluffy, ha, I know, but seriously—Kerri’s custom flower remedies have got me through pretty much every major “push” of the past few years. The effect, which builds over a course of weeks, is subtle—kind of like the self-affirming boost you get from a great conversation with a mentor or trusted friend. I wrote in more detail about this here. And after our session today, I also had Kerri write this beautiful piece about how being of service has helped her through the darkest of times. Discover more about Kerri and her work at Seedtoblossom.com
:: WEDNESDAY :: A long talk with amazing Betsy LeFae—a professional intuitive coach, whose mission is to teach people how to trust our own inner knowing. The main topic of conversation? How it is of utmost importance right now to practice self-care and extreme caution when consuming mainstream media reports on the events that are unfolding post 11/9. YES we need to be informed. But what we really, really, really don’t need is to overdose on sensationalist headlines to the point of paralysis.
Think about the root of that word: sensationalist. As a journalist with almost 20 years working in the mainstream media, the most “successful” stories (the ones which keep readers coming back for more, and advertisers paying big bucks to reach those readers) are the ones that make us feel something (cause a physical “sensation” in our body). And the feeling that will keep people utterly hooked on the content you’re putting out is FEAR.
Get your readers afraid, and the adrenalin spike will trigger the “fight or flight” response, utterly drowning out our connection to the steady and calm inner voice that ALWAYS knows what is best for us. The result? You keep looking for “answers” (those headlines again) from the place which is actually keeping you trapped in fear. And so the cycle continues.
Worse, like the proverbial deer in the headlights, this cycle is also what prevents us from getting OUT OF THE FUCKING WAY of oncoming disaster—versus choosing the next right actions to steer ourselves and our loved-ones (as in like, the whole of humanity) to safety.
But also, we need to be informed. If you have found a credible, reliable news source that sticks to the facts (tricky, since it also feels pretty much like political quicksand out there right now) and presents them in a calm, helpful way, then please comment below! I’m doing my research on this too and will be sharing on our social media channels.
:: THURSDAY :: Re. above, a word on “fear,” the big, bad wolf of the “spiritual” community. I actually believe that fear is a healthy and useful human emotion like any other. Without fear, we’d likely take all kinds of risks that could prove very detrimental to our wellbeing! But Betsy had another great point, which I was reminded of today when I had my first meeting post 11/9 out in “corporate America”—and witnessed first hand how fearful the majority of the population is right now!
There’s a difference between fear of an actual, physical, threat, and fear of a perceived danger up ahead.
Yes, there appear to be many, MANY, dangerous potential outcomes to the current political situation. But while we wait for the zombies to emerge from the swamp in all their gory glory, let’s do what we can (breath, keep taking the Rescue Remedy, stay away from adrenalin / fear exacerbating substances like coffee and alcohol, disengage as much as possible from sensationalist mainstream media), and keep focussed on the daily actions that our inner knowing knows is best for us and for our communities.
:: FRIDAY :: Like…practicing utmost vigilance in making consumer choices that are good for us and for the planet, maybe? At the very heart of the current situation, Mother Earth is potentially the biggest loser of all—while we, as her children, will suffer to the extent that she does. Corrupt polititians included!! I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the struggles at Standing Rock have provided a constant backdrop to this entire presidential season—acting as both a mirror and a metaphor for the REAL issues at stake. Corporate greed, embodied, quite literally, by you-know-who, versus the rights of ALL PEOPLE to share in the abundance of Earth (all our home, y’all!)
This weekend I’ll be staked out at Ethikal—an “all good” holiday pop-up market from 1 Hotels, selling our Numinous sweatshirts—of which 10% of sales go to the Urban Yogis (also our partners for our #TuneInPeaceOut event back in September). Today this all feels like a drop in the ocean, considering the potential of what lies ahead. But the way I see it, step-by-step is the only way forward. And it’s when we ALL feel empowered to take the next right steps, that we will make progress together.
“To me, yoga is about deep, honest listening and truth-telling,” says Nina Endrst…who shares her story of healing from abuse for the first time.
I’m pretty fucking scared right now. I’ve never written about what I’m about to share, let alone shared these experiences with the world. It takes courage to be vulnerable and stand where we truly are, exposed. But it’s time to tell the Truth.
And the Truth is, I’m healing. Aren’t we all?
When I was nine years old, I was sexually abused by my babysitter’s son. I felt broken. Deeply ashamed and frightened. And for a long time, like many others, I remained silent, in fear. It took months for me muster the courage to even tell my parents—who were in the middle of a messy divorce at the time. Then I saw a Nick News segment on sexual abuse. Shit! What happened was really fucking bad, I thought.
And I felt even more guilty, the lump in my throat growing. I wanted to run as far and fast as humanly possible, but I was paralyzed. After what seemed like hours, I walked to my room, locked the door, and cried until I had nothing left. I was struggling with so many questions intertwined with intense emotions. Why did he do this to me? Why do they do this to us? I realized I had to talk.
I don’t remember much after that day, but I remember his parents called me a liar. After that, I just wanted stop talking about it, to forget it and go outside and play and try to reclaim everything I felt had been taken from me. So we back-tracked. Charges were never brought against him and I was once again, silent.
It took years to realize that this was not only the root of the profound anger and anxiety I have experienced in my adult life, but also would also prove to be the root of my subsequently developing Crohn’s disease. I can see now how my body and soul went into survival mode—how all the anger, sadness, and confusion went straight to my belly and rotted there, for years.
But in the beginning, I was a resilient kid and simply went on living my life. I had loving parents and an incredibly special group of friends (most of whom are still in my life) but deep down I remained a little girl, suffering in silence. I presented myself as tough and a little rough around the edges, when in fact I was incredibly sensitive and lost. When I got dressed in the morning, it was as if I put on an extra layer—a suit of armor to “protect myself.”
By 13, my hormones spun this carefully constructed regime out of control. My temper was explosive, and I made it my business to give my parents hell, regularly. It had all become too much to handle. One night, I took handfuls of pills and hoped that would be that. Thank god, it wasn’t. But the truth was, my soul knew I needed help and was screaming for it.
At 19 I had my first panic attack, on a plane. Everything, I’d spent my teenage years avoiding came rushing to the surface. My heart was racing, breath stuck in my chest, my belly as hard as a rock. Anybody who struggles with anxiety will know this feeling all too well.
Only, from the outside, my life looked pretty damn great by this point. I was attending college, I had amazing friends, and managed to maintain almost straight A’s alongside a busy social life. I was fucking happy! So where the hell was this coming from?
The Truth is, I had been avoiding my pain for so long, I didn’t even recognize that I had been living a lie.
At 21, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s (a chronic intestinal disease). I believe this was a direct result of the emotional and physical stress compacting in my stomach over the previous decade. I had tried to survive it. I had made it my mission to ignore the pain—to suppress it, push it down, deep into my belly. But here it had seeped into my cells, my tissues, my spirit.
No one knew the Truth about what had happened to me. My dearest friends only knew bits and pieces. I’m not sure I even knew the whole story, back then. Sometimes we have to make choices, and I had chosen over and over again not to acknowledge the shadows, leaving a patchwork of half-truths.
At 29 (my Saturn return) everything changed. I had a flare-up and became very ill, ultimately meaning I had to take medical leave from my job in fashion. I found myself facing some harsh realities that I couldn’t ignore any longer.
At this point, I’d been practicing yoga on and off for years, but it was in this moment that I started to live my yoga. To begin healing my body and spirit, by fully living my Truth. I left my job, signed up for yoga teacher training and took a huge leap of faith—inviting my heart to crack wide open.
The Truth is I gave myself ample time and space to be alone during that year. To cry uncontrollably. To talk, to listen, and to forgive. This is because, to me, yoga is and always will be so much more than back-bending and headstands. It is about deep, honest listening and truth-telling.
Through my practice, I learned that the way to the healing light is found when we sit quietly in darkness.
At age 31, I wake up every single day, grateful for my mind, body and spirit. The smile on my face is not permanent but it certainly is genuine. My mental and physical health are better than ever, as are my relationships with everyone—from my loved ones, to strangers I encounter on the street.
My story is that our stories do not define us. But I do believe everything we experience on our path—bright and shiny or painful as hell—is to lead us to where we are meant to be.
The Truth may not be easy to say, or to hear, but my god is it the only way to heal.
Nina Endrst is a yoga teacher based between Tulum and NYC. She creates a safe and nurturing environment for students to explore themselves honestly. Her vinyasa sequences are thoughtfully designed to strengthen and soften the mind, body, and spirit. She lives her yoga and is inspired by traveling to places outside her comfort zone both physically and emotionally. You can discover more about Nina and her work at Ninaendrstyoga.com, and connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.
I am a flower whisperer. And recently I have been hearing the voice of the lilies—the feminine flowers of rebirth—whose message is for us is to create our own lives, and in doing so create a new Earth. Lily healing wants us to treasure our unlimited creative potential and reclaim our feminine nature as sacred.
The power to create is the most beautiful energy on the planet—and it’s potent. Creation energy is a powerful force for good, and our bodies thrive when we express our creativity, artistically or otherwise. The lilies want us to celebrate this!
Lily healing and the lily flower deva, or spiritual icon, is inviting in a new way—a kinder, gentler, more loving and compassionate time. She wants to co-create with us to anchor new fields of expression on our planet, new paradigms. To allow our feminine intuitive selves to take the lead. And when our intuitive and feeling sense is the guiding force, nothing can be forced into being. Only presence will work in as we call in these new earth energies.
Lily power is gentle, subtle, fluid, and graceful. She works like a water Goddess to purify our emotional waters, especially regarding our sexuality, since sexuality and creativity go hand-in-hand. She can help us clear shame, guilt, and grief by connecting our heart and essential innocence with our sexuality.
I believe the lilies have chosen to speak to me now since our societies are missing important vibrational yin frequencies. For how can we express our true selves without access to our full sensual creative power? We can’t.
And the lilies want to help. Lilies bloom to remind us to take full reins of our self expression. To begin expressing ourselves to ourselves—and to then allow this to expand naturally out in the world. Accept this invitation and you will exude feminine self-love and self-worth.
Lilies blanket hills, hide in dark forests, and survive and thrive in severe weather conditions of Oregon where I live. Below are the messages these wild lilies asked me to pass on to you…
“Lilies give women permission to be women.” Stop waiting for others to reassure you, notice you, or tell you how. You have PERMISSION to express YOU…even if others around you aren’t. Spend time feeling your own essence, listening to your womb, asking your heart what it needs, and following your intuitive guidance. Go within. Enjoy your unique feminine expression.
“Tears are your medicine.” When I first met Avalanche Lily, a delicate white lily with petals that splay back, it was raining. All her petals were drooping with tears of rain. I felt so sad. I sat down on the wet forest floor and wept. Hard. Like the grief of womanhood had caught up with me. My frozen avalanche tears were thawing out and flowing again. This lily helped me cry. Avalanche Lily want you to cry, too. Let your tears flow. Let go of grief. Tears awaken your beautiful heart and purify your soul.
“Create! Women, Create!” Bright orange with brown spots, the Tigress lily led me to tribal belly dancing to open up my hips and creative 2nd chakra. Tiger Lily tells you to fire up your sexual creative expression. Get those hips moving. Be wild, untamed, free.
“Create the life you want. You have the power to do this!” I was hesitant to enter a relationship with Trillium because I was resistant to my own power. Trilliums are the midwife’s flower and hold the power of rebirth. Soul rebirth is never easy. Trillium holds you like a midwife when your soul is in labor pains. She whispers in your ear to keep going…you are birthing your sacred feminine nature. There is no going back. Let her energy move you along. It’s worth it. You’re worth it. Keep going.
“You can release the sins of our fathers.” Queen Bead Lily is a stunning white beauty that glows in the dark forest at night. I was told: “Use this flower for the sins of our fathers.” It’s medicine has been a Goddess-send. The Queen helps you cleanse abuse trauma and cellular memory from your body with great compassion and unconditional love. Create a space of love so trauma can be released. Queen Bead Lily can offer you her compassionate presence and love.
“Do not be afraid to take up space.” I was guided to drive up to Mt Hood when I spotted a statuesque white and pink lily. Mt Hood Lily’s heady fragrance is a delight. This glorious wild lily tells you: Be large. Take up lots of space and claim your full-sized energetic self. Make lots of room around yourself so your creativity can blossom. Spread your arms wide and say: this is my creative space! Be a glorious BIG woman.
Lily’s spirit is like an angel, and the lily devas will assist anyone who asks. To connect with her spirit yourself, meditate and ask the lily deva for an energetic transmission. Allow your body to receive her healing energy frequencies. Smell lily flowers, take lily flower essences, grow them in your garden, or visit them in the forest. Make lily art, poetry, books, dances, songs, and creative projects to connect with her more.
The lilies celebrate our rebirth. They celebrate our sacred bodies and the creative space we claim. The lilies offer their medicine and messages to help us realign with our innate feminine nature and self-worth. When we honor our beauty, we create a new world full of blossoming lilies. Our fragrance lingers on and touches all those who want to celebrate and reclaim the sacred feminine too.
Camilla Blossom Bishop is a catalyst for the mystical, an empath, fairy shaman, and flower essence alchemist. She has written and taught widely since 1997. She connects deeply with the spirit of nature and fosters relationship with the lands, waters, plants, nature spirit, devas, Ancestors, and nature elementals. Camilla’s products, including the White Lily Essence, are available at her on-line ETSY Shop: NatureSpiritMedicine.Or visit CamillaBlossom.com.
Depression can be a signal of deep discontent from your soul. As tough as it is, try diving into those feelings through meditation and self-reflection to clear your psyche, says Erin Telford…
“Winter is a great time for depression,” I joked at a Breathwork group last month. I was met with some very nervous giggles. As with most things, it’s only funny because it’s uncomfortably true.
All humor aside, I got really depressed last winter.
It wasn’t an unfamiliar feeling. The first time I remember feeling depressed was when I was about 14 years old. It felt like being trapped in a glass, banging on the walls with no one listening, fatigue and a vague sense of loss and hazy unmet needs.
When I started to sink down and enter that deep gray landscape, I just felt tired and defeated. You again? After all this work?
I was involved in a group-coaching program at the time. I was honest with everyone about the despair I was feeling. They came full force with the positivity. You got this! You just need a spa day! Self-care! Find your gratitude!
“Seriously?” I thought. I was surprised by how fiercely irritated I was with their advice. And it hit me. I did not want to be cheerled out of this. I wanted to go down into the dungeon of my psyche and find some f*cking answers.
My response to feeling depressed in the past was to wait until it was over. Back pedal out of the icky feelings. Utilize the usual anesthetics. Self-medication. Self-isolation. Online shopping. Staying busy. Hitting the crack pipe rabbit hole of social media.
This time needed to be different. I’m not a confused teenage girl anymore. I’ve been waking up for a long time and I have an arsenal of tools in my bag, perfect for this emotional renovation. So I made a commitment to going down and in – and not coming back out until I found what I was looking for.
So what did that look like in real life? I turned my phone off. I sat in my favorite spot in my apartment, this little nook with a bunch of plants, great light, and a big window, and I checked in. I sat with myself. I did some writing. I asked many times and in as many ways as I could, “what is underneath all of this pain?”
I was really gentle with myself. This line of inquiry did not involve self-criticism, curse words, belittling myself or my process or any feeling of needing to hurry up and get back to “normal” life. I did not take time off but I did give myself all of the time that I had and needed.
What I found was a deep well of sweetness for myself.
The supposed truth that had taken me down to these depths was uncovered as just another clever way that I had fooled myself into believing that I was separate, that I was unloved, that I was unsupported. I discovered that I had the power inside to be able to break a life long pattern by looking at my wounds with tender curiosity rather than frustration or disdain.
Depression is often framed as something that just happens to us like getting a cold or a bummer draw of a genetic card. While environment, brain chemistry, and family lineage can be part of long-standing major depression; many of us experience it simply as a response to what’s going on in our lives.
We sell ourselves short by saying, “I’m just depressed.” As if it has nothing to do with the emotional pain that we’ve endured, the unattended wounds, the countless hours spent confused and alone or in groups of people who fail to see or help our hurt. The real life existential crisis that is: “I was told this would make me happy and I’m not. That must mean something is wrong with me. “
Very few of us have been taught any kind of practical way to channel and work with emotional pain. Most likely the instruction we covertly receive is to tuck away the unlovable, messy parts of ourselves. Shove them way, way, way into the back of the closet so we never have to look at the shame or hurt or confusion we feel. Or, let anyone else see it!
There is a single seed of discontent within you that is begging to be acknowledged.
Only you know, and facing it down is what I call Constructive Depression. It will require your participation. It will require fierce internal responsibility. And it is your job and your job alone, since no-one else can connect to your deepest parts but you.
The longer you’ve been feeling this way, the more wildly uncomfortable you may be with the truth that is banging on the door of your heart, begging for bread and water. How honest are you willing to be with yourself when your wellbeing is on the line?
So how to you do this?
You can think of Constructive Depression as a soul expedition. So what do you need for an internal journey? Nutritious snacks, great music, paints, journals, talismans, crystals, instruments, quiet, something to burn away the energy. Gather all of your supportive resources.
This is not an intellectual exercise. This is a reckoning. You with you.
This is a slow immersive dip into your soul. A psychic cleansing. Mental decongestion. Moving toward rather than away. Your resistance to this idea is equal to your commitment that all of this is due to the outside rather than inside forces. You ARE up to the task.
We experience the full range of human emotions for a reason. We feel sad because something is breaking our heart. We feel angry because something isn’t right and it needs to change. We feel fear because we are threatened or being asked to expand.
Depression is an opportunity for internal exploration. You are not depressed because you are a bad person or you skipped too many days of yoga or gratitude journaling.
You are depressed because something is not working for you. There is a yearning. An emotional chasm. Something that is crying out to be witnessed and seen like it’s never been seen before. Our wounds are rarely greeted with the exact kind of care and response that we are craving. When we accumulate a lifetime of hurts that have gone unnoticed or unattended to by others, the responsibility falls back to us to determine what we need.
So meet yourself with all of the tenderness, all of the sweetness, the hugs, the love, and the acceptance that you hold within you. Go inside, find your golden nugget of truth, and only come back out when you are ready – holding your treasure high.
*Mental health can be very tenuous. If you feel like this is something you can safely undertake, please do. If it feels like too much, please seek professional support for this internal exploration.
Maggie Harrsen of Puakai Healing explains how our soul can become fragmented when we experience trauma, an what exactly happens in a Soul Retrieval ceremony. Images: Prince Lauder
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY SOUL NEEDS RETRIEVING? To first understand if a Soul Retrieval Ceremony may be beneficial for you, it is important to know the signs of Soul Loss (see below). During Soul Loss a piece of our soul, our light essence, flees the body in order to survive a traumatic or shocking experience. Examples of situations that may cause Soul Loss are: all forms of abuse (emotional, physical, sexual), death of a loved one, divorce, separation, natural disasters, accidents, surgery and any distress during rites of passage. THAT SOUNDS PAINFUL…SO WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF SOUL LOSS? Soul Loss could manifest in any of the below: A feeling of being lost or incomplete Chronic depression, anxiety or grief Feeling disconnected from all of life Feeling “out of body” The sense that you haven’t been “the same” after a certain event Chronic illness and ongoing misfortune Blocked memory Lack of joy An inability to make decisions Addictive behavior patterns Being disconnected from your intuition A loss of energy
IF OUR SOUL FRAGMENTS WHEN WE EXPERIENCE TRAUMA, WHERE DOES IT GO TO RETREAT? According to the Qero paq’os (healers) of the Andean mystical tradition, when a soul part flees our body it goes to the Ukhu Pacha, the place of the underworld where Pachamama, our Cosmic Mother lives. Being our Earth Mother, she is able to keep these parts of our soul safe until we’re ready to receive them back. It is my belief that in order to fulfil our soul’s particular mission on Earth, we need all of our soul parts restored and within us!
It is also interesting to note that in indigenous cultures, if a little one falls and breaks a limb or witnesses the death of an elder, the healer will perform a ceremony on their behalf right away. In Western culture, the understanding of our energetic body and the spiritual causes of illness are not so recognised or well understood, so restoring all the parts of our soul can often mean going back decades.
HOW SHOULD YOU PREPARE FOR A SOUL RETRIEVAL CEREMONY? In the Soul Retrieval Ceremony we are working within the luminous energy field (the energy bubble that surrounds and informs the physical body) so the only preparation is in our intention, as this is what drives energy. And in a Soul Retrieval Ceremony our intention is simple – we are calling back any lost soul parts that are ready and willing to return to the individual right now.
When we create sacred space and have an openness and willingness for healing to occur, it simply happens. My role in ceremony is holding this space for individuals to heal themselves. The most important element for me is trust – to build trust with my client and create a space in which they feel safe to completely open, like a blossoming flower. It is through our own courage and will that we are able to heal ourselves and, in turn, heal the Earth.
WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENS IN THE CEREMONY? The ceremony takes place either inside a space or outside in nature. The client will lay comfortably on the ground with blankets and pillows and I will sit at their side. I will begin by preparing sacred space, using the smoke of the Palo Santo wood and other various rituals, and then I will gently guide the client into a relaxed place of stillness. They will remain laying down – resting and focusing on their breath for the duration of the ceremony.
Together we will set our intention and go into an altered state of consciousness through the sound of various instruments, including a rattle, drum and bells. As the healer, I journey outside of time and space to my guiding spirits who assist me in locating and understanding why these light essences, or soul parts, originally left.
They are then brought back and restored to the individual through my breath, as I blow them into their heart center and crown of the head. We then move into the transmutation sequence of the ceremony, where the client absorbs the light of their soul into every cell of their being. During this time, I play various high vibrational instruments and music. To complete the ceremony, the client gently sits up, sipping a glass of water and I share my healing story, focusing on the gifts that were restored. The client may also share any visions, sensations or experiences they had during their ceremony.
AND HOW DO PEOPLE FEEL AFTERWARDS? Since we are all unique as human beings, everyone feels differently after a Soul Retrieval Ceremony. Some individuals may feel sleepy and some are buzzing with energy. Some feel emotional. Some feel a shift in physical sensation and perception. Some feel nothing. Many feel deep peace and relaxation, and most individuals report a sense of being grounded and “in their body”. Individuals often express they feel at home again. In the days and months after a Soul Retrieval Ceremony most individuals report significant life changes.
SUCH AS… I have heard people report all of the following: A sense of spiritual harmony Greater wellbeing and vitality Healing of physical dis-ease Clarity/remembering of the soul path Unconditional love for the self Restoration of individual gifts Depression replaced with joy Renewed relationships An ability to be their authentic self Courage to follow their dreams A deeper connection to the natural world
Find out more about Maggie Harrsen and Puakai Healing here, and check out the details of her upcoming Hamptons retreat, which takes place July 27 and 28 2015