5 Toxic People To Avoid On Your Spiritual Journey

5 Toxic People To Avoid On Your Spiritual Journey

5 Toxic People To Avoid On Your Spiritual Journey

As I watch the world around me, I recognize that more and more people are beginning to experience the early stages of spiritual awakening. Last week, I re-published a post that I wrote six years ago about the phases of spiritual awakening and if you’ve read it, I think you’ll agree that many many people in 2020 are experiencing the earliest stages. Those who are in this pre-enlightenment stage of spirituality are in a vulnerable place in their journey and being that there are so many of them, it puts us in a precarious and vulnerable situation as a collective.

Today I wanted to delve more in-depth into some of the pitfalls of those phases that I touched upon in that post in an effort to help those of you who are new to this journey navigate some of the murkier waters of spirituality that I’ve encountered over the last 10 years, specifically the most toxic people you’ll meet on this journey who can and will do you and the collective harm.

The Egoic Psychic

Many years ago, my psychic development teacher told our class, “Just because someone is psychic does not mean they are spiritual.” Indeed, there are many psychics, healers, and channelers out there who operate within fear-based, dualistic belief systems. Some use their metaphysical abilities to feed their own ego rather than engage in the shadow work necessary to make themselves a clear channel, and still others are simply scam artists passing themselves off as spiritual practitioners.

How to recognize them: These people are pretty easy to spot. They’ll come at you and attempt to position themselves as “more enlightened than thou” because they are psychic and can speak to the dead, channel the Galactic Federation of Light, or whomever they are claiming to be their connection to Truth in an attempt to hold power over you.

They make bold and wild claims like being the earthly incarnation of a famous historical figure or esoteric entity, or that they are in a special relationship with one. They may claim to be in contact with dead celebrities, or the “chosen channel” for some bygone demigod (Jesus or Mary Magdalene for example), or some other metaphysical status which feeds their ego and sets them apart from the regular humans. They are “special” and they want you to know it. The more fear-based ones may claim that you have negative entity attachments, curses, or are otherwise under psychic attack from some invisible force that only they can see, and therefore, only they can help you. You’re not allowed to question them, and they’re always going to demand something from you, whether it’s admiration and attention or money.

Many famous psychics have made famously wrong predictions, Sylvia Brown to name one. I’ve personally encountered or heard stories of psychics and mediums claiming to be in intimate relationships with dead celebrities, impregnated by Archangel Michael, telling people they are demonically possessed, and even making very wrong predictions about people’s family members dying. And of course there’s also tales of psychics offering to lift imaginary curses off of you for the low low price of $400 or more.

Why you’re vulnerable: Early on in your spiritual journey, as you begin to explore new concepts and ideas, you have a more open mind and are willing to consider ideas and information that you may have previously dismissed. When you’re in this questioning stage, you don’t yet have a strong connection to your own intuition or your own direct line to Truth, so you’re more willing to get that Truth from other, outside sources, and not all of these sources are credible. People think that just because these people have psychic abilities that their every prediction is accurate, or that how they are interpreting it is correct without taking into consideration that they have their own mental health issues and untreated spiritual dis-ease that may contribute to taking their readings off the rails. Maintaining a healthy amount of skepticism about the information people try to feed you is imperative as well as learning to recognize egotism when you see it.

Learn how to discern mental illness from spiritual experiences.

The Sexual (Predator) Healer

When we reach a stage of our spiritual journey where we’re beginning to examine our own shadow, we’re often faced with a multitude of personal crises that leave us emotionally raw and seeking healing. Kindness and compassion are something we gravitate toward as we look for trustworthy people to hold space for us as we heal, but there are many wolves in sheep’s clothing out there parading around as healers, particularly of a sexual nature. I’ve come across multiple male energy healers who attempt to capitalize on emotional vulnerability as an avenue for crossing sexual boundaries, and it’s also rampant in the astrology community.

How to recognize them: These people come in a variety of costumes. Some pose as tantric healers who “use sexual energy” to help you heal. Sexual energy can be healing when you’re with a partner whom you know well and have a deep sense of trust with, but NO SPIRITUAL PRACTITIONER IS EVER GOING TO ATTEMPT TO HAVE CASUAL SEX WITH YOU TO HEAL YOU. None. Ever. Fucking throw that concept out the god damn window.

True story: I used to see profiles on dating apps of male “reiki” practitioners looking for casual sex claiming they had the ability to heal women through sex. Nothing has ever turned my stomach more.

Others will be far more subtle. They may offer you “free” energy work, but eventually begin to introduce sexual micro-aggressions. This is how a predator tests your boundaries for vulnerabilities to see if they can escalate the relationship into something more sexual. Exercise extreme caution when accepting free energy work from anyone that you don’t know well. A true healer will ALWAYS respect your boundaries and NEVER do something that makes you feel uncomfortable. If the thought that this person has crossed a line even remotely enters your awareness, or you feel even mildly uncomfortable with their behavior, THAT MEANS A BOUNDARY HAS BEEN CROSSED. Don’t ignore it. Always say something and cut off contact.

John of God is a famous Brazilian “healer” who amassed hundreds of thousands of followers all over the world. He reached a level of international new age fame, including being featured by Oprah. He was also jailed in 2019 for raping over 300 women, including his own daughter.

Why you’re vulnerable: If you have a prior history of sexual or emotional abuse, you are particularly vulnerable to this, because your nervous system does not easily recognize these kinds of boundary violations (because it’s used to being violated). If you have a history of abuse of any kind, I urge you to seek out trauma-informed practitioners rather than accepting free services from seemingly good samaritans. And look for any and all resources about how to recognize and set strong boundaries.

The Dilettante Coach/Influencer

In the excitement of the pre-enlightenment phases of awakening, many people who are early in their spiritual journey jump into the evangelism phase with gusto, becoming spiritual social media influencers and even offering coaching services or readings of some kind. The problem is that they’ve not yet engaged on their own shadow work and as such, are only able to guide people from the shallow depths of the work that they’ve done. In many cases, these people are not at all trauma-informed and still greatly unaware of their own issues, and when they set out to start helping others, they end up projecting their own issues onto their clients and doing more harm than good. It’s the blind leading the blind.

How to recognize them: These people tend to talk about having had a “sudden awakening” where they saw the Truth of the universe, and then almost immediately afterward, set out to become a spiritual coach or teacher (or psychic or medium). They’ve also often rapidly accumulated a social media following.

They are demonstrating what psychologists refer to as the Dunning-Kruger effect, where amateurs tend to be over-confident (and experts tend to be underconfident). But having an intellectual or conceptual understanding of spirituality is merely scratching the surface, and until one does the necessary shadow work required to fully embody and integrate that knowledge through experience, they will often engage in spiritual bypassing and share information that lacks a depth of understanding required to be a spiritual teacher. But that doesn’t matter to them, because this kind of behavior is more about financial success and internet fame/notoriety than it is about mission and responsibility.

They’ll often become defensive, block you for some “spiritual” reason, or try to use their spiritual terminology to gaslight you after you question them, or they’ll sick their army of social media followers and influencer friends on you if you for disagreeing with them. A lot of them charge an absurd amount of money to work with them and operate like a business, not a teacher.

True story: My attention was recently brought to an online “spiritual” women’s coach with a large audience on Facebook who made a post chastising women who experienced coerced rape as having porous boundaries and told them, “Regret isn’t rape.”

 

As a women’s coach and a healer in a country where one out of every five women has been sexually assaulted, she has a responsibility to her audience and her paying clients to educate herself about women’s issues, and to be responsible with what she says in that regard.

 

Anyone who is even remotely trauma-informed, has a background in psychology, or is simply educated about rape culture knows how much shame and guilt rape victims deal with. For one of them to then go online and see a person in a position of alleged authority effectively validate their worst fear–that what someone else did to them was their fault–is incredibly harmful, and extremely ignorant on behalf of this “coach” who has claimed that she is here to heal people. Her careless victim shaming can lead someone into a shame spiral that ends in suicide.

 

One might even go so far as to suspect that this coach has likely experienced coerced rape at some point in her life and internalized her own shame and guilt around it, has convinced herself that it was her fault for not having better boundaries (newsflash: the only people who take advantage of people with bad boundaries are people who have no respect for boundaries. I.e. abusers) and because she has not done the work to heal herself, she is now projecting her own shame onto other women by only holding the victim accountable and more or less absolving the abuser of any wrongdoing in the process.

Even people who seem like they should have a better grasp on how their actions as a wellness influencer affect their followers such as the Holistic Psychologist and Mastin Kipp have recently been outed as having little to no self-awareness about issues involving anti-racism with their dealings with the Black community. And hey, in 2020, literally no one is perfect, but as a spiritual practitioner, if you can’t self-reflect deeply enough to see your own bias even when people are pointing it out for you or at least commit to making an attempt, then what are you doing trying to lead others in self-reflection?

Why you’re vulnerable: Humans are primed to look for social proof that someone is an expert. Using the right terminology and having a massive number of followers gives the appearance of depth. These people have pretty, professional photos and great brand messaging. They look credible, and other apparently credible people are talking about them, so why shouldn’t they be credible? But in this day and age, social media followers can be bought, being connected to the right people–even if you don’t really know what you’re talking about–can expand fan bases, and paying boatloads of money for professional graphics, photos, and meaningless online course certifications can give anyone the facade of being a professional without actually having the life experience and spiritual depth to back it up.

Learn how to spot a spiritually immature influencer.

The Cult Leader

There’s been a lot of new age cults in the news lately, including NXIVM sex-cult leader Ken Raniere. Upon first glance, it’s difficult to understand how seemingly good people are recruited into such wildly abusive lifestyles, but when you understand that cults prey on vulnerable people, it becomes apparent that those who fall into these traps are often seeking acceptance from a community and have a history of abuse which renders them nearly incapable of recognizing proper boundaries.

How to recognize them: These people, like many of the others on the list, are simply narcissistic personalities masquerading in spiritual garb. They target vulnerable people who are seeking to be loved and start out by love-bombing them with validation and telling them why they’re special in order to get them hooked and if they’re charismatic enough, it will work. Then, once they have them, they slowly begin to chip away at their already fragile self esteem through manipulation, gaslighting, condescension, and other subtle yet gradually escalating abuses until one day, the abuse reaches staggering proportions (in the case of NXIVM, it was BDSM and fire-branded initials) and the victim is so mind-fucked they don’t know what’s real and what isn’t.

Many cult leaders isolate their flock and erode their trust in outside information, positioning themselves as the only source of “Truth.” They’ll gaslight their members to the point that they can’t recognize up from down and staggering self-doubt is enough to keep them hanging around.

True story: I once had a guy online try to convince me that I was one of only 18 Pleiadian hybrid “messiahs” incarnated on earth at this time to save the planet and he had developed a system to identify and prove who was one (i.e. you’re special… only I can show you how special you are, here, let me show you…). All of the other alleged messiahs also happened to be attractive, young brunettes. He, of course, was the incarnation of the Pleiadian King (See, I’m special, too. Even more special), and we were all to be his wives (ah, there’s the catch…) and he was building a city–the new Zion–that would survive the catastrophic end of the world (fear-based belief system), which was coming soon, naturally (time-sensitive urgency). He was also creepy and old and CLEARLY INSANE.

 

Each piece of the story is carefully crafted to play to vulnerabilities and fears, ultimately luring the victim in through a series of pulls (compliments and validation) and pushes (fear, panic, and scare-tactics). The end goal was isolation (the new Zion), and he’d already positioned himself in power by claiming he was a “king.”

 

Fortunately, this guy was not nearly charismatic enough to build a cult, but if he were, it would have been a dangerous combination.

Why you’re vulnerable: This is a combination of the history of abuse vulnerability I mentioned with the Sexual (Predator) Healer and the open-minded naivety discussed with the Egoic Psychic, which means that this personality can hit you on multiple fronts. Some of them, like Ken Reniere, have even amassed an outward appearance of success and charisma, or latched onto a network of people with fame and fortune (such is the case of Scientology), much like the Dilettante Coach/Influencer. The Cult Leader is a triple threat and a master of manipulation, which is what makes them the most dangerous person you’ll meet on your spiritual path. Sometimes these people hit a trifecta of fame, influence, cult-like followings, marketability, and sexual trauma, such as in the case of the OneTaste, an overpriced new age sex cult that claimed to help people heal from sexual trauma.

Learn how to spot signs of spiritual authoritarianism and spiritual abuse.

The Spiritual Karen

Of all of these people you might meet on your spiritual journey, the Spiritual Karen is probably the least dangerous on an individual level, but the most dangerous because there’s power in numbers, and make no mistake: they are legion.

Often found lurking in suburban households, the organic-only aisle of your local Whole Foods, the front row of your hot yoga class, or posting inspirational quotes in your aunt Linda’s essential oils downline Facebook group, these Karens are onto spirituality like the next MLM fad.

Spiritual Karens are inconspicuous and consider themselves well-meaning. Most of them are in the Evangelism phase of their own spiritual journey and they’re happy to spread the love and light. The problem is, they haven’t quite done their spiritual homework, much less their shadow work, and are woefully lacking in self-awareness, so they have absolutely no clue that half of the time when they are dispensing spiritual “advice,” (which is usually just parroting back their limited understanding of a spiritual quote they saw posted by a Dilettante Coach/Influencer on Instagram) they’re actually being dismissive, derogatory, occasionally racist, and engaging in spiritual bypassing.

Spiritual Karens are the soldiers in The Dilettante Coach/Influencer’s army of social media followers. The Beyhive to the Dilettante’s Beyonce. They also suffer from the same Dunning-Kruger effect as the Dilettante, but in true MLM fashion, only have a local audience. If they weren’t so driven by unrepentant self-righteousness, you’d almost feel sorry for them. They really just don’t know any better, and due to that severe lack of self-awareness, may never learn.

How to recognize them: Spiritual Karens are big believers in toxic positivity and the law of attraction, and say and do things like:

  • You can’t think negative thoughts because you’ll manifest them.
  • Good vibes only.
  • Fake it until you make it.
  • When somebody violates your boundaries or otherwise harms you with their words and actions, you should just “let it go” (as though you could…).
  • Will shame you for being “judgmental” of others, not realizing they are being judgmental of others by shaming you.
  • Often engages in hypocritical behavior because they believe their excuse is valid when no one else’s is.
  • Lives to invalidate your emotions.
  • The way to solve society’s problems is to pretend they don’t exist.
  • The way to solve their own problems is to pretend they don’t exist.
  • The way to solve your problems is to pretend they don’t exist.
  • People of color are manifesting their own experiences with racism because they have a victim mentality, and likewise, women who experience sexual assault are also manifesting their experiences because of their own thoughts.
  • I can’t get the coronavirus because I don’t exist on the same vibrational frequency.
  • “I refuse to live in fear.”
  • High probability of being into Pastel QAnon.
  • May be found trashing a mask display at your local Target.

Why you’re vulnerable: Spiritual Karens can do damage by the sheer volume of their ignorance. But you’re not so much vulnerable to be victimized by a Spiritual Karen–unless you’re a marginalized group in society fighting for social justice, an immunocompromised or elderly member of society attempting to avoid COVID, a good samaritan attempting not to infect one of those people, a minimum-wage retail worker, the manager, or a dissenter making a comment on a Dilettante’s instagram post–as you are to become a Spiritual Karen.

Humility, integrity, self-awareness, and deep empathy are the kryptonite for a Spiritual Karen–and they are the very things that every person on this list lacks. If you, yourself, often practice these things, you don’t have to worry about becoming a Spiritual Karen, or any of the above.

In the same way that my psychic development teacher said that just because someone is psychic, it doesn’t meant they are spiritual–just because someone is “spiritual” or doing spiritual work with the public, it doesn’t mean they:

You can only teach others, lead others, and heal others from the same depth at which you’ve learned, led, and healed yourself.

Learn how to identify spiritual bypassing and spiritual gaslighting.

If you need help discerning who is and isn’t the real deal when it comes to spiritual teachers, coaches, and influencers, check out my post on how to know if a spiritual teacher is credible.

Xo,

Ash

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I Quit

I Quit

I Quit

I had 17 people follow me in a single day on Instagram earlier this week. Of the 17, nearly every one of them was some type of intuitive personal development coach or mentor.

Within three days, most of them will disappear, because that’s what people do on Instagram to try to gain followers.

When I see people behaving this way, I question their motives for doing what they do.

I wrote in a post on Instagram not long ago that I take serious issue with the commercialization of spirituality. Once the desire for success overtakes the desire for service to the greater good, you cross the border into service of your own ego, and the work loses its integrity.

Spiritual work is sacred work. People are trusting you with their deepest level of vulnerability. You have a responsibility to honor that within your interactions. You have a responsibility to model integrity, not just in how you do business, but in how you live your entire fucking life.

It’s easy to tell people the fundamentals of how to create change in their lives. It’s a wholly other thing to show them in the way we carry ourselves day-to-day. It calls us to elevate ourselves, our actions, and the entirety of our lives to a higher level of integrity. To live fully within our purpose in every moment and be a beacon of hope for the masses.

This is the highest calling, the greatest purpose – to BE that which you present yourself as.

The longer I’ve been on social media, Instagram in particular, the more disillusioned I’ve become with people who claim to be something they aren’t, the people who follow them, and the people who help create them.

“Anyone can become a coach! I’ll teach you how. Just take my online course for $5,000.”

They throw out words that they don’t understand the meaning of, like intuition, spirit and purpose, teaching others to teach others when they haven’t done the work, and neither have the people they’re “coaching.”

The fact is, you can only teach others from the same depth at which you’ve done your own work and the thing you start to learn the more you work is that the work is never finished.

One of the people who started following me was a 22-year-old “intuitive transformation coach.”

“It’s taken me 22 years to find myself!” she glowed in one of her perfectly curated Instagram photos, ending with a call to action to join her training program.

I’m almost 36 and I still haven’t found myself and honestly don’t expect I will until I’m at least 50, if truly “finding yourself” is something that’s even possible in the grand scheme of being an ever-evolving, multi-dimensional being. The one thing I do know for damn sure is that 22 is the age where you barely fucking know who you are and, more than likely, are the epitome of lost in your own self-loathing, completely unaware of yourself, your true values, or your true identity. 

Sure. Anyone can present the illusion of being a “coach.” Even someone who was a teenage adolescent as little as three years ago.

You can teach people. You can coach them, even, without completely “knowing” yourself. The key is to be transparent as fuck about the fact that you don’t know and that you, too, are a student of life. But that goes against the principles of a good sale, doesn’t it?

Business coaches will tell you that you need to present yourself as an authority. Talk about what you KNOW, not what you don’t know. Admitting that you’re not the best and ultimately, you’re just here feeling it out like everyone else doesn’t make you stand out from the crowd and it certainly doesn’t make needy people want to buy your product.

The thing is, especially in the realm of personal development and spirituality, “best” doesn’t exist. There is no spiritual authority. That is both the beauty and the madness of it.

I see these people – people who feel energetically out of alignment, some of which I know empirically and factually to be living a lifestyle that is out of alignment with the spiritual values they preach on a daily basis – presenting it on social media to thousands of people, and in some cases, hundreds of thousands of people, as though it’s some kind of evolved thing they should all aspire to, and it is utterly appalling. They even preach authenticity while simultaneously having no real understanding what that even is.

I unfollowed the maker of my favorite oracle deck because I discovered she was following one such person. My immediate thought was, “How do you, as so-called intuitive, not see this person for what they are?” I’m sure it’s only because there’s a blue checkmark next to their name, but that now brings her spiritual integrity into question. How can I, in good conscience, support the work of a person who either A) claims to be intuitive and supports someone who is energetically disgusting, or B) support the work of a person who will follow and engage with people who are energetically disgusting simply because they can gain more exposure for themselves?

The answer is that I can’t, in either instance. It makes me want to throw up, and I don’t mean metaphorically. I mean the energy behind it is an actual assault on my solar plexus – it tightens and constricts and I feel repulsed.

Maybe it’s because I’ve spent 16 years immersed in marketing, branding and advertising and I can smell a sales pitch from 100 yards away. Maybe it’s that my intuition really is that on point. In the one instance where one of these kinds of people offered me exposure on their platform, I refused because I didn’t want to be associated with that kind of energetic garbage.

If this is what mainstream spirituality has become, if this is where we are…turning our healing process into a business model and using sacred terminology to make sales pitches, I can’t be a part of it anymore. I. WON’T. DO. IT.

My platform is authenticity and it’s been built on a foundation of integrity. And I can’t, with good conscience, continue to align myself with this parade of false idols.

And so, it’s with that, I bow out. The day I thought would never come has arrived. This the end of In My Sacred Space.

Maybe it’s time. Maybe it’s been long overdue. I did discover  over the weekend that on the last day of Mercury Retrograde, my entire website had mysteriously been deleted from my hosting server. It was recovered, obviously, but it seemed like that was the final and ultimate sign from the Universe that my time here has gotten stale, and to move on.

I suppose my first sign should have been when a semi-well-known bra company that, if you’re female, you’ve no doubt seen heavily advertised on Instagram and Facebook reached out to me to be a part of their influencer program. What did they think I was going to do? Post pictures of my tits in their bras and talk about self love like everyone else on Instagram? My body is not your billboard, and my words are not for sale. Seriously. Fuck off.

I didn’t respond to any of the multiple emails they sent me. I happen to own three of their bras already and frankly, they’re no better than any other bra I’ve ever owned. Here’s your glowing endorsement: mediocre at best.

For some of you this may admission may seem sudden, but it’s been building for well over a year. Probably since I first set foot into ABC Carpet and Home and discovered their culturally appropriated home decor collaboration with Deepak Chopra. It was very beautiful, very over-priced…and it made me uncomfortable as all hell. But I guess if that $1,000 iridescent-glazed statue of Ganesha makes one rich white person feel a little more enlightened and a tad closer to God, so be it.

No space is sacred anymore, not even your living room. Capitalism has recognized an opportunity to merge with “spirituality” and the money machine is in full effect, permeating every aspect of your life.

I feel like I’m in the Wizard of Oz, screaming at everyone to look at the man behind the curtain, and their attention remains transfixed on the glittery image being projected in front of them.

I’m sure I’m not completely done with spirituality. It’s probably more so a time for me to evolve into something else, and this form of it has simply come to an end. My takeaway from the whole of this experience, all of my years in marketing and advertising and all of my experience with “influencing” and “coaching” is that the U wants me to learn from it, to see it, and to do it differently. This is Uranus in Taurus energy, for all you astro nerds out there.

I have no idea what it is or what it looks like. I just know that there has to be a way to make a living for yourself while successfully helping other people, without selling yourself out, without compromising your integrity, without creating a fraudulent public image or using your body as ad space, and without servicing your own ego and that of others before the greater good. If you want the game to end, you have to stop playing.

But before I go, in my last parting words to all of you, I challenge you to do one thing and one thing only: give very careful scrutiny to those “spiritual” people you put your faith in. The ones with their professional photos who look like they’re “living their best life” on Instagram and Facebook, who talk about their dark times in vague generalities in a formulaic caption that always ends with something to sell you (or “Tag a friend and share with someone who needs to see this!”). The ones who say, “Look at me. Look at what I’ve done. Look at how much I’ve achieved. I can help you do the same…” for a price.

If the main message of their narrative is to learn from their success and not from their struggle, they’re not authentic. If the main message of their narrative is learn from their “struggle,” but they never present that struggle in true, vulnerable terms, they’re not authentic.

Look at them as a whole and ask yourself, “What is the overall feeling that this person leaves me with?” If the answer is a feeling of need, of lack, of envy, if you feel less successful by comparison, or pressure to be like them – they’re out of alignment with you.

Someone who is IN alignment with you will leave you feeling hopeful. Seen. Heard. Understood. You will identify with them. They will make you feel like you can do what they’ve done, not because they’re successful and they can teach you how, but because you identify with their struggle and it is evident in their words, actions, and demeanor that they do, in fact, continuously conquer it with grace and humility.

They’re covered in scars, not glitter. Those scars have given them the gift of depth. Of presence. Of Truth that radiates from the core of their being. It is felt. They don’t have to speak it.

That being said, I think this is my last post for a while. Maybe ever, or at least, under In My Sacred Space. I invite you to share it, far and wide, and not so that more people will follow me or so that I can get more potential customers, because I’m obviously not selling anything at this point. Share it because people need to wake the fuck up to who they’re looking up to and see beyond the illusion.

I plan to leave the site up, as there’s still a great deal of helpful content and many people who are still discovering it.

I don’t know where I go from here, but I’m sure there’s something waiting around the corner. It was fun while it lasted. I grew a hell of a lot. So much so, I’m not who I was when I started. I guess that means I get to start over, somewhere else, as someone new.

Maybe I’ll meet you there one day.

Xo,

Ash

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When Was The Last Time You Cried in Front of Someone?

When Was The Last Time You Cried in Front of Someone?

When Was The Last Time You Cried in Front of Someone?

I’ve had this picture since September. I’ve almost posted it on multiple occasions, but then didn’t.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Ash Riley (@inmysacredspace) on


I’m not sure why, but it makes me slightly uncomfortable. Maybe it’s the vulnerability it evokes. It makes me feel silly. That must sound odd, coming from someone who regularly spills their deepest thoughts to 14,000 people, but writing my feelings for thousands of people I’ll never meet provides a safe buffer. There’s still a computer screen between us. You can feel me, but you can’t see me. Not really.

You see, the thing is, for years and years I never cried. I could count on one hand all the times I let a tear escape—maybe four or five times a year? Certainly never in front of people.

Up until a couple of months ago, I’d cried in the presence of exactly eight people in the past 20 years. Three of them were therapists, another three were singular occurrences with friends, two of whom were both with me when it happened. One was a single tear shed in front of an ex from college, and the last was my ex-husband, and I’d never cried in front of him until our divorce (with the exception of when we put my cat to sleep).

I’m still not comfortable being THAT vulnerable in front of people. I can really only think of one occasion where I really allowed myself to be a full on train wreck in front of another human being. It was 13 years ago when I showed up at my best friend’s apartment at four in the morning sobbing uncontrollably, and she let me lay in bed with her until I cried myself to sleep.

Having another person witness your deepest pain is the most vulnerable any of us will ever feel. But when that pain is met by steady presence and total acceptance, it can also be the most healing thing any of us will ever experience.

When was the last time you cried in front of someone?

Xo,

Ash

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I Quit

The Day I Threw My Career In The Trash

The Day I Threw My Career In The Trash

Let me tell you about the day I threw my career in the trash.

But first…let’s talk about how I got there.

After seven years of working full time in disgustingly toxic work environments doing anything and everything related to marketing, branding, and advertising (and I do mean EVERYTHING, from acting and voiceover work, to writing scripts, to account management, to SEO and online content, to graphic design, I have done it all), I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Every time I left a toxic environment out of desperation, I landed in one that was even worse. The pinnacle of this progression came when I was working for an ecommerce startup owned by a crack addict, coming home every day to drink an entire bottle of wine just to deal with the stress of being there.

It was at this point that my husband at the time pointed out, “You’re not yourself. You need to get a new job.”

At his urging and encouragement, I started my own business. Over the next four years, I grew that business to a level of success I’d never experienced while working for anyone else. At that point, toxic bosses became toxic clients.

A concept I’m very fond of is the bullshit-to-pay ratio. Are you being paid enough money to justify dealing with the existing level of bullshit? If the answer is no, there’s an issue. If the answer is yes, the situation is tolerable.

With the power shift of being a consultant and the added bonus of being paid decently, dealing with undesirable personalities was tolerable.

Incidentally, I began In My Sacred Space six months after starting my business. The two grew side-by-side over the course of the next four years.

One day, when I was sitting in a meeting with one of my clients and 3 employees, he looked at me and asked, “Do you want to run this business?”

I felt a wave of internal resistance. Not because I was afraid or thought I was incapable.

My ego said, “Yes! Do it! You’ll be the CEO of a fashion tech startup at 34.”

But my soul said, “This will suck every ounce of life out of you. And for what? You don’t even give a single fuck about fashion.”

That was when I realized my true passion was not for helping other people grow their businesses. It was for helping other people grow. Period.

My longterm goal at the end of 2016 was to put myself on a trajectory to be involved in personal development and spirituality full-time, slowly phasing out consulting as I continued to grow my passion project.

Then life, as it often does, happened. My single startup client that had grown to encompass my full business went AWOL on the same day that my marriage imploded. Four and a half months later, I packed up my shit, moved to New York City and started fresh with no friends, no job, and no plan.

Initially I thought I’d attempt to rebuild my business in a new place, which was certainly ripe with opportunities for someone with my skillset and I busily set about laying a foundation to do so in my first three months here.

One fateful day in September, I went to a meeting with a potential client – a fintech startup with four employees and $13M in funding. There was never a more perfect potential client. As I sat there, learning about their business, a gnawing dissatisfaction began to accumulate within me, not unlike the feeling I had the day it was suggested that I should run the fashion tech business I was working on. By the time the elevator had reached the lobby, I’d fully realized that I had absolutely no desire left in me to continue consulting.

I emailed them the next day and told them that I didn’t think we were a good fit to work together, shuttered my business, and went about seeking a full time job that required little mental and emotional energy but still allowed me to pay my bills while I focused on myself and the thing I actually cared about: personal development.

It’s been 18 months since I trashed my career, and I haven’t once regretted it.

The time out has provided me with the opportunity for necessary healing and personal growth. I haven’t yet gotten a full handle on what it is that I intend to evolve into when it comes to spirituality, but I do know that I’m pivoting away from a lot of things that I used to talk about in terms of metaphysics in favor of work that involves healing and personal development.

Thank you all for being on this ride with me, and I hope you’ll continue to stick around and see where this thing goes.

Xo,

Ash

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Confessions of Avoidant Attachment Personality

Confessions of Avoidant Attachment Personality

Confessions of Avoidant Attachment Personality

I’ve been more comfortable being alone for most of my life.

With the exception of a five-year marriage and the two years we dated prior to that, my longest relationship was six months. I had three of those, all before the age of 20, and then I was steadfastly single until I met my ex-husband at age 26.

Looking back, I can see how I mostly only allowed myself to be attached to people that it wouldn’t hurt to lose. The longest I can remember being upset about a breakup was two days when I was 17.

I was always the one who ended the relationships, and typically it was only after I’d let my unhappiness fester for so long that I couldn’t even stand for the other person to touch me anymore. I felt like I had to have a reason—the fact that I just wasn’t into the relationship anymore wasn’t good enough.

When I was 19 and had been with my boyfriend at the time for about six months, he asked me, point blank: “Where do you see our relationship in two years?”

Me, being the complete commitment phobe that I was, replied, “I have no idea. I don’t plan that far ahead. Where do you see our relationship in two years?”

He told me he hoped we’d be engaged. I broke up with him a week later, and never dated anyone longer than three weeks for the next six years.

At 28, I came into my marriage (with a once-divorced man who was 12 years older than me) having no real relationship experience. In retrospect, the fact that either of us thought this was going to work is somewhat absurd, but I suppose we were both still living in the fairytale fantasy that you meet someone who is perfectly compatible with you and live happily ever after—and we were highly compatible people, but compatibility is not synonymous with intimacy.

Up to that point, my M.O. was to avoid conflict for as long as possible, withhold my feelings, and ignore my needs. The truth is, I didn’t even know what my needs were, much less what I wanted in a relationship. Much like anyone in their twenties, I didn’t even know who the fuck I was.

In addition to having no real depth of understanding of myself, I never learned conflict resolution skills. I assumed my unhappiness was due to some fatal personality conflict, and ending the relationship and starting over with someone else seemed easier.

This, of course, led to a cyclical repetition of the same relationship scenario over and over, always with the same person wearing a different face, because I never took the time to stop reflect on myself or why it kept happening.

I would enter into a safe relationship with someone who accommodated my fear of intimacy and attachment, then I’d become dissatisfied with the lack of intimacy and attachment, then wait for an excuse—any excuse—to end said relationship. Lather, rinse, repeat.

 

 

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It wasn’t until I was 33 that I began to recognize my need for connection and intimacy, or how my own fear of it had led me to choose partners who couldn’t give it to me. This was also the same timeframe in which I began to see that I had no idea who I really was, culminating in the realization that the life I was living felt like it didn’t belong to me.

The last two years have been spent deconstructing anything about myself that didn’t feel authentic and patiently seeking that which was. You can’t possibly have a successful relationship with another person until you have achieved a successful relationship with yourself.

That’s what real personal development looks like: digging below the surface level interactions between you and your partner and uncovering the underlying subconscious motivations that drive your behavior—then working to heal it at the core, instead of continuing to apply bandaids.

Your twenties are for fucking up your life and your thirties are for seeing how fucked up your life is and committing to changing it—if, that is, you’re willing to do the hard work instead of continuing to repeat the cycle.


Note: This post originally appeared on my Instagram. I’ve been writing a lot over there and I’ll be sharing some of those posts here in the coming weeks. If you’re on Instagram, I’d love it if you’d pop over and hang out with me >>>click here<<< or on the embedded photo up there.

Xo,

Ash

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An Open Letter To All The Men Who Have Failed Me

An Open Letter To All The Men Who Have Failed Me

An Open Letter To All The Men Who Have Failed Me

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, an annual reminder of all of love’s disappointments. A day that I spent recalling all of the ways you’ve failed to show up for me.

Every time one of you disappeared after I poured my pain on the floor for you to see, it opened the gaping wound in my heart just a little wider.

You knew my history. Or at least, you should have. If you’d paid any attention, you’d realize that I told you, many times in a number of ways, directly and indirectly.

But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and say maybe you didn’t know. Or at least, you most likely don’t immediately remember some of the things I told you. You didn’t know about my first love who crushed my soul into a thousand shattered pieces in a myriad of ways, not the least of which was refusing to acknowledge or respond to no less than 8 emails I sent him over the course of 2 years, absolutely laying my soul bare.

And maybe you didn’t know about how my own father avoided talking to me for an entire year because he, “thought I was mad at him or something.”

And maybe you didn’t know about my best friend. How much I loved him. And that he abruptly blocked me from every possible way of contacting him and hasn’t spoken to me three years. Maybe you didn’t know that it was the most painful, sudden loss I’ve ever experienced or that it triggered a year long depression during which my health failed and my marriage fell apart.

Maybe you aren’t familiar with the sense of panic one feels when you know it’s about to happen again, after having already happened again and again and again. You tell yourself that the feeling of impending doom, it’s all in your head. They’re not going to do this to you AGAIN. They love you. They’d never want to hurt you. And then they do.

Maybe you aren’t familiar with the aching feeling the creeps up in your heart and starts to radiate outward into your whole upper body. The contraction in your chest. The tightness in your throat. The heaviness that sets in in your stomach. The numbness that takes over as you sit there in a haze asking yourself why. Why are you doing this to me? And why does this. Keep. HAPPENING?

“Was it something I said? Was it something I did?” I think of 30,000 ways that this is my fault. “Did I hurt your feelings? Maybe I shouldn’t have told you how I felt? I probably should have worded it differently. Maybe I just have shitty taste in humans? Maybe I love all the wrong people? Maybe there are no good people? Maybe I’m a masochist? Maybe I’m fucking delusional and you never cared about me the way I thought you did? Maybe you never cared about me at all? Why am I here again? What’s the point if it all? I don’t want to feel this anymore. Maybe I should just walk out in front of a car and put myself out of my misery because anything is better than this old and ever familiar pain.”

I choked back tears on my entire walk home, watching all the people meandering through the streets, juggling their bouquets of red roses, cliché symbols of affection meant for people who are certainly far more lovable and deserving than I.

I felt the ache trying to claw its way out of my chest and into my throat, the tightness therein keeping it trapped squarely half way between a sob and a gasp for air. Quite possibly, I felt the greatest pain I’ve ever felt in the entirety of my existence.

And yet somehow—while standing on the corner of Hope Street, teetering on the edge of losing faith in myself, along with everything I’ve ever believed in, just before I reached the stairs…I still managed to forgive you.

Sincerely,
All Women, Everywhere

For the women whose hearts continue rising from the ashes.

Xo,

Ash

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