The Success Trap

The Success Trap

Twice over the last two weeks, the topic of job satisfaction has come up with friends. In both instances, said friends were feeling unhappy with their jobs. Unchallenged, as it were; unsuccessful, as though they should be doing more.

In both cases, I reminded them that having a job like that frees up a lot of time and energy for things that are, ultimately, more important – like healing, self-improvement, and service.

I realized a while ago that material success is an ego trap. A shiny distraction from what really matters.

I fell into that trap early in my life. I felt like I needed to make something of myself, career-wise, in order to matter. To be seen as successful by others. To prove to myself that I’d made something of myself (by placing that designation in the hands of what other people thought of me and my life choices). I set out to become successful at everything I did. And boy, did I do things.

I sat as Vice President of the Board for a nonprofit and helped scale it from a small organization taking in $75k a year in donations to half a million.

I started three businesses – one doing branding, graphic and web design; another one doing all of that, as well as messaging, SEO, UX/UI design, lead generation, content creation, scaling operations, pitching and funding, revenue models, and whatever the fuck else a client wanted to throw at me. I grew that second business 400% from year one to year two. (The third was simply adding readings to this little blog here.)

I gave keynote presentations on digital storytelling. Workshops on social media. Sat as a panelist on digital marketing. I gave seminars on digital fundraising for nonprofits. I did photo shoots with professional athletes and wrote and directed PSA commercials.

I ran a fashion tech startup and launched a national brand ambassador program. I coached young entrepreneurs on how to communicate their vision and make their business goals a reality.

I was…am…a very accomplished human by earth standards. I came. I saw. I did (really cool) shit. And at the age of 33, I realized that none of it mattered.

When I moved here, I knew I didn’t care what kind of job I had. I have a journalism degree from the top school in the country and had spent four years running my own consulting business and I was fully prepared to wait tables because I just didn’t care anymore about anything except finding myself and being of service to others.

I didn’t want to help people make more money or plan their next exit strategy. I wanted to help people feel comfortable in their own skin. I wasn’t going to make the world a better place by [insert stupid tech company mission here], because you can’t change something from the outside in. The way for me to make the greatest impact was by helping people heal from the inside out – and there’s no dollar signs attached to that because it’s invaluable.

Everything That’s Wrong With The Body And Sex Positivity Movements

Everything That’s Wrong With The Body And Sex Positivity Movements

I try not to write critiques anymore, and the reason is because instead of raging about what someone else is doing, I could be doing something constructive that helps myself, or writing something constructive that helps someone else. Promote what you love, don’t bash what you hate, and all that jazz.

However, I also recognize that on occasion, a righteous criticism is necessary to cut through the bullshit. That criticism is even more righteous when it’s meant to cut through chatter in my own industry and/or area of expertise, and especially when I’m ready to call bullshit for the sake of all the other people out there who may need to hear this perspective. In that regard, being critical is helpful.

I’ve done this previously with people who think you can only think positive thoughts and spiritual bypassing and I’m about to do it again on a wholly new topic which actually kind of relates back to spiritual bypassing in a roundabout way.

Spiritual Bypassing

A term coined by psychologist Robert Masters to describe the practice of empty spirituality devoid of real personal development. In spiritual bypassing, a person “acts” spiritual without actually doing the internal work to develop real spiritual understanding, often resulting in stunted spiritual growth, repressed emotions, inflated ideas about their own level of enlightenment, and a plethora of other detrimental activities and ideas.

Since this spring, I’ve really been working on my Instagram presence. Part of that means checking out what other people are doing and seeing how they’re using the platform. Throughout that process, I have observed a lot of conversation happening among influencers about body positivity, feminism, and owning your sexuality.

I’ve observed on Instagram that people seem to be able to create entire platforms off of these “positive” concepts, and yet the content they’re putting forth seems to still be rooted in the very thing that they claim to stand against  – and they don’t even realize it.  The end result being that they actually end up perpetuating the very thing they purport to oppose.

On Body Positivity…

I literally can’t scroll through an Instagram search feed without seeing butt cheeks, side boob, workout mirror selfies, and women in their underwear.  I honestly don’t have a problem with nude photos. I think the human body is beautiful. I think the female body is especially beautiful. I think photography is art, and these kinds of images can evoke emotion and important conversation when used in a skillful manner.

Posting 1,038 professional photos of yourself is not it, especially if your purpose is to make other people feel better about themselves, and I’m about to elaborate for you, in great detail, exactly why this is the case.

Let’s be honest. Most of us – dare I even say ALL OF US – women have struggled with our body image. Some of the most beautiful women I know have amazing bodies and the way they talk about themselves is heartbreaking. My best friend from college is 5’10” and athletic as fuck, and she talks about how gross she is all the time. Another friend just weighed herself for the first time in forever and realized she’d lost 40 pounds. She texted me a picture of herself at the pool a couple of days later and asked me if she looked fat.

Obviously, this comes from a deeper rooted issue of self worth, the physical body is simply an easy target. I know many men who deal with the same issues.

Some of us, however, have taken that self-loathing to whole other level and engaged in destructive eating and exercise habits in a failed attempt to try to feel worthy. I was one of those people.

Frankly, it’s a miracle that I didn’t develop a full blown eating disorder in my early 20s and I’m thankful that I didn’t, but that didn’t stop me from obsessively monitoring my 600 calorie-per-day diet while working out five days a week or abusing prescription diet pills.

I understand the importance of representing all types of bodies in the media. Everyone should be able to see someone like themselves represented. But I also recognize that body dysmorphia doesn’t fucking care about that.

Dysmorphia is when your perception of your physical body is skewed in a negative way, and you hyperfixate on one or more physical flaws – either real, or imagined. It exists on a spectrum and most people have dealt with it to some degree at some point, if not on a regular basis.

We like to think that the reason women hate their bodies is because marketing and advertising has bombarded us with images of photoshopped stick figures. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it were that simple?

The real reason we have these issues to begin with is a bit more complex, and it’s because our culture has placed an inordinate amount of emphasis on our bodies as being synonymous with our beauty and our self esteem – it has it’s roots in patriarchy and the way women have been taught to perceive themselves, and that message has been beaten into us from the day we were born.

Let me restate that for emphasis in case it got lost in translation: It’s not (exclusively, or even mostly) the images we are being bombarded with on a daily basis that’s the problem, it’s the psychological connection that’s been forged between the physical body and our self-worth.

Unless you have a body type that is vastly different from the average human, it doesn’t matter how many pictures you post of your half naked thicker-than-the-average-runway-model body captioned with, “You don’t need to count calories #ilovemyself #ImBeautiful #BodyPositive,” because you still fit a societal beauty standard and you’re still placing an emphasis on physical appearance as a source of self-esteem. Regardless of how shitty you may feel about yourself, people are still going to look at you and feel shitty about themselves, and then they’re going to feel doubly so because “obviously” you’ve conquered your body issues and why they fuck can’t they?

You cannot tell someone with body issues not to obsess over their body or compare it to other people’s bodies while simultaneously shoving pictures of your body in their face. It just doesn’t work.

“What’s that, you say? You have body issues? You don’t need to compare yourself to other women! Now, behold this posed, professionally shot photo of me in my underwear. Not only that – that’s all I’m going to post. EVER. Follow me for more body positive deliciousness!”

It’s fairly absurd when you think of it that way, yes?

“I’m posting a no-makeup selfie today to let you know that you don’t need to wear makeup to feel beautiful. Nevermind the fact that I’m 22, perfectly tan, have no wrinkles or blemishes and most likely spend a ridiculous amount of money on skincare. I just wanted you to know that it’s ok for you not to wear makeup, too.” 

You’d might as well be Adriana Lima walking around with no makeup on saying, “Look, you can be like me!” No, I can’t, because even without makeup, you’re still a god damn supermodel. 

Faulty logic aside, there’s a bigger problem with the story here. The well meaning message of “don’t compare yourself to others,” is actually a subliminal form of emotional invalidation.

Let’s say I’ve been comparing my body to other people’s bodies for years. It’s an ingrained part of my behavior. I’ve got 99 neural pathways that all lead to feeling like shit. Feeling like shit is basically like a drug for me at this point.

Then you come along and you say, “Don’t do the thing that you’ve been doing your entire life. It’s super easy. Look at me. I did it.” Then I try to not do the thing, and I fail. And I fail again. And I fail again. Then I start to feel like shit for feeling like shit because you’re telling me I shouldn’t feel like shit, and that starts a whole new shame cycle.

It’s basically telling people not to feel what they feel (emotional repression and invalidation) while simultaneously failing to give them the actual tools to work through and release the negative feelings and the beliefs that underly them on a psychological, emotional, and energetic level…most likely because the influencer in question hasn’t actually worked through their own issues, either, and their entire Instagram account is just pictures and posts of them trying to convince themselves to believe the things they’re telling everyone else to believe and their own self-image is just as distorted as everyone else’s.

Uh oh. Secret’s out.

Now, since I’m the type of person who says “Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions,” I’m going to provide solutions.

If you want to be a body positivity role model and you want to do it in a less destructive way that people can actually connect with and heal with, here’s what you do:

Step 1: Stop posting professional photos of yourself 24/7. Not staged. Not posed. You think posting photos to the public dressed in sexy lingerie or sprawled out on a beach in a bikini is being vulnerable, except it’s not. Especially not when it’s retouched or posed with professional lighting, etc.

Post REAL pictures of yourself. That’s the whole point, right? To show what REAL women look like?

“But professional grade photography, that’s how we’re supposed to build our brand!”

If body positivity is your brand, then you’re telling the wrong story.

Branding is partly what got us here in the first place. You really want to change the game? Then stop playing it and GET REAL. What a radical thought.

Step 2: Show some real vulnerability. Don’t act like you’ve mastered shit that you haven’t. Be raw with your struggle. Own your story and stop sugarcoating it. Let people know that you’re in this, too. Of course, that first requires getting really fucking honest with yourself and that’s not something most people are willing to do. You’re definitely not being honest with yourself if you can barely bring yourself to post an authentic photo of your body.

The story is not “Look at what I’ve done! You can be just like me, let me show you how.” That’s your fucking ego talking. The story is “I am just. Like. You. We can do this together.”

Step 3: Don’t do it once it a blue moon. Do it all the fucking time. Balls to the wall. Walk the fucking walk. I’m so tired of influencers talking about how “authentic” they are when they clearly don’t even have the faintest inkling of what that really means.

Step 4: And here’s the most important solution. SHOW people that their worth is more than their body. SHOW them. Don’t just tell them. That MIGHT mean that you focus on other shit that isn’t your body, like who you are on the inside.

By most societal standards and outside opinions, I’m beautiful. People tell me that all the time and they have my entire life. But I do not always feel beautiful, and I’m not going to pretend that I do.

What does authenticity look like? It looks like this:

I remember the first time I recognized that I didn’t feel beautiful. I was in second grade. At eight years old, I was looking at myself in the mirror and wondering why other people thought I was pretty, because I didn’t. In my greatest moments of self loathing, I contemplated plastic surgery, and the dialogue in my mind always came down to, “Do I hate myself enough to carve up my own body?” The answer was no.

As much as I may have hated my body over the years, I have always been exceptionally aware of the fact that there are other people out there who would kill to look like me.

I once asked someone I loved if he liked my body. He said yes. I was curious to know how another person perceived my physical appearance and whether or not he’d find certain things I actually disliked to be attractive, so I asked, “Why? What do you like about it?” He said, “Because it’s yours.”

I’d never felt so seen or so loved as I did in that moment, to know that someone saw me as more than a body and valued me as more than an object.

That’s what we need to be pushing. That’s what creates self-acceptance. Not 30,000 photos of you talking about how you’ve (allegedly) accepted your comparatively mild case of cellulite.

Sometimes, I DO feel beautiful. Those days are becoming more frequent. I try to celebrate them, but I’m also going to be really honest about the fact that I didn’t always, and a lot of days I still don’t.

You know how many professional photos I’ve posted on my Instagram account? Exactly ONE, because I’m not trying to convince myself or anyone else that I’m pretty. The more I fall in love with the person inside me, the easier I am on the person in the mirror.

On Being “Sex Positive”…

The sex positive movement is a great thing. It’s helping our culture move out of this puritanical mindset that we have toward something that we all pretty much do and that a lot of people are really uncomfortable with. I once interacted with an adult male who could not even use the words penis or vagina because he carried so much fear and shame around sex – he called them a “p” and a “v.” We should all be comfortable enough to talk about sex openly in a serious manner in order to be able to have healthier attitudes toward it.

That being said, I don’t have any hangups, generally speaking, with the concept of sex or expressing sexuality. I’m pretty unattached to it, in that I’m not necessarily obsessed with sex but am also not averse to it in any way. I know a lot of people who carry around a lot of shame in regard to sex but I don’t believe I’m one of those people.

While I was raised in a conservative Christian environment, I never really latched onto the “sex is a dirty, awful thing” mentality – maybe because my parents avoided the subject at all costs and left me to my own devices to learn about it from friends at school.

The only other potential influence was church and the one thing I remember being told there was that you should wait until you’re married. I didn’t personally put a lot of emphasis on that, myself. The thing that was important to me was that I wanted to be in love.

Unfortunately, initiating and maintaining a relationship with someone I actually loved proved to be difficult, due to having spent the majority of my life as an out-of-touch, emotionally stunted ice queen, which only served to reinforce my self-worth issues. I didn’t lose my virginity until I was 24.

This may seem uncomfortably personal, but oddly, it’s one area that I’ve never had any hangups about being completely transparent about, even as a teenager when all of my friends gave me hell about it since they’d all lost their virginity when they were 14. Nevertheless, it didn’t stop people from making things up and spreading rumors about me. I’m sure I wasn’t the world’s first virgin slut and I won’t be the last.

When I finally did lose my virginity, it was basically just to get it over with. I was tired of feeling like a freak. By that time, my self-worth had pretty much bottomed out. Even though I had only had four sexual partners until I got married, they were mostly one-night-stands or guys that I only dated for three or four weeks. Some of them were people that I’d completely lowered my standards for and my boundaries were so nonexistent that I allowed myself to be pressured into things that I wouldn’t have agreed to in a healthier frame of mind.

I vividly remember crying in the bathroom of my apartment after having sex with a guy I was kind of seeing that I didn’t even really like that much or want to even have sex with. He put a lot of pressure on me even though we’d only been dating for a short period of time. I finally gave in and waited for it to be over with. I cried because it was the fourth time I’d had sex and I still hated every minute of it. I thought I was never going to be able to enjoy it.

I can actually say, with total certainty, that was the rock bottom moment of my life.

As it would turn out, it was just him that I hated, not sex, though I never did find much fulfillment in a casual shag.

And so, to this day, I highly prioritize deep emotional connection over purely physical or surface level connection. Hence why I have a quality over quantity mentality, but I do believe that you can have short-lived, mutually respectful and even meaningful trysts that are experienced in a healthy way if that’s what you’re into.

That being said, like anything else, and maybe even more so than anything else, sexual energy can be twisted, compressed, and warped from something that’s beautiful, natural, and meaningful into something that keeps us chained to our lower consciousness. God damn, people love to fuck up a good thing.

I’m not talking about people with out of the ordinary sexual proclivities or fetishes, at least not directly. What you do in your bedroom among consenting adults is your business. What I do promote, however, is having an awareness of why those things have manifested the way that they have, especially if you feel an underlying sense of shame around it. And that’s what I’m talking about in this post.

Being a polyamorous empath, and interacting with more people in the poly community in New York, I am quickly realizing how many fall into the latter category. There’s so much toxic shame and self-loathing (manifesting as sexual confusion) masquerading as sex positivity, it’s utterly unreal.

Similarly to what I discussed about the body positive movement and how some people’s behavior is actually an overcompensation for their underlying sense of insecurity about their bodies (which is effectively a form of repression because they’re trying to force themselves to be positive when they actually don’t feel positive about their bodies at all), this same dynamic plays out in the realm of sex positivity.

If you’re engaging in behavior that makes you feel shameful, you have to explore the internal source of that shame. You cannot heal shame by ignoring it and jumping on a bandwagon that embraces the overlying behavior without any form of introspection.

I shared all of those very personal things earlier to show that I do have some experience in the realm of approval-seeking as it relates to sexuality and I can smell a self-esteem crisis from all the way across the internet, which leads me to my next soap box…

It’s one thing to embrace femininity and own your sexuality. That comes from a place of power and confidence. You own that. It lives within you. It initiates desire in others, it does not require it from them. It is self-sustaining.

It’s wholly another to hypersexualize yourself because you’ve mistaken your self-worth to be equivalent with how desired you are by others. That’s a gaping black hole inside your soul that sucks in any and all attention around it that it can possibly pull into it’s gravitational field. That comes from a place of emotional starvation and lack. It’s founded on a massive sense of insecurity, and it will ruin you.

Unfortunately, I see a lot of the latter dressing itself up as sex positivity on Instagram, and even female empowerment. And yet it’s the very antithesis of female empowerment, because it leaves your value completely beholden to how fuckable men on the internet think you are, and YOU WILLINGLY CHOOSE IT.

You know how to tell the difference between the two? 

A truly empowered woman has no need to call attention to her sexuality. Her essence commands it, regardless of how much or how little clothing she is wearing. She has presence. She glows. She doesn’t need to be, or try to be overtly sexual. She just is, by her very nature.

Her allure isn’t derived from primitive lust. Her sensuality resonates from within the depths of her soul, and it’s synonymous with kindness, grace and vulnerability. She’s a god damn goddess and she knows it.

Sex is a power play, in many cases. When you base your self-worth on being desired, you put your personal power in the hands of other people, and they can take it away at any moment. Your sexuality becomes a manipulative game of cat and mouse. An empowered woman knows her worth and she knows that it lies within her at all times.

You want to see an example of what sex positivity looks like when it’s done right? Check out Alexandra Roxo.

Once again, I come bearing solutions, or at least a question to ponder:

What’s your motivation? Your REAL motivation?

But like I said earlier, to be able to truly answer that requires getting really fucking honest with yourself and that’s not something most people are willing to do.

Body and sex positivity are not specifically my platform – authenticity as a path to healing and self-love is. But body positivity and sex positivity are aspects of authenticity that do have to be examined and integrated before you can truly be free to be yourself. No matter how hard you try, you’re never be able to force yourself to feel positive about pieces of yourself that you’ve been hiding for years. There’s a process of self-examination, acceptance, and release involved that requires rigorous self-honesty. And this is where this post ties back into the concept of spiritual bypassing.

My goal with this piece is not to shame people or even judge them. We’re all on a healing path and sometimes we go down a few dead ends. What this was meant to do was pull back the curtain on the shiny exterior of Instagram branding and take a look at the dysfunction that lies underneath so that you don’t have to go down that road, too. But hey, we’re all a little dysfunctional underneath, everyone is on their own journey.

All I’m trying to say is, I would love it if people – especially those who are attempting to portray themselves as role models for other people or poster children for a positivity movement – were a little more honest with themselves and their audience about where they actually are in this process. But as is so often the case in the land of Instafame, what you see isn’t always what’s real.

[/end rant]
The Oxygen Mask Analogy

The Oxygen Mask Analogy

God knows I love a good fixer upper project. I’m the queen of the come up, and I’ll turn another man’s trash into treasure all day err’ day. My steps kids joked that Thrift Shop was my theme song. I have an entire Facebook album of shit I bought from Goodwill and upcycled. I decorated my entire wedding with stuff from Goodwill, and then at least half of my house.

This excellent, innovative ability to see untapped potential, revitalize and make use out of broken or unwanted things takes a turn for the worst in other parts of my personality, when I try to revitalize and make use out of broken people.

“But Ashley, isn’t that what a healer does?”

Helping people heal becomes problematic when you’re using it to avoid healing yourself.

That can look like a number of things. For me, it manifests as, “I’m the strong one. I don’t need help. I can take on your problems as well as my own, and we’re going to focus on yours first because mine aren’t dire.”

But there’s plenty of people in the world whose problems are more dire than your own, and you’re always going to be able to find one. The storage closet of projects not-yet-started in my basement proved that. In this analogy, it means you’re always going to be prioritizing other people’s dire problems ahead of your own, and that means you never actually fully focus on your own healing.

To use the oxygen mask analogy – it’s not just the equivalent of putting on someone else’s mask before your own. It’s trying to put oxygen masks on everyone else on the entire fucking plane before you put on your own. YOU’RE GOING TO DIE before you get to row seven.

You don’t realize you’re doing it and before you know it, you’re crying yourself to sleep at night, breaking down in the shower, your hair is falling out and your immune system crashes because you’ve been under a tremendous amount of emotional stress that’s built up over all the years you’ve gleefully ignored it while helping everyone else. You wake up one day and you’re entire fucking life fell apart while you were busy fixing other people’s problems. I’m speaking from personal experience here, obviously.

There will always be another project, so you’d might as well make yourself one.

Take it from me. I finally put on my oxygen mask. I can save a whole plane now instead of being that idiot who thinks that martyring myself sounds like a glorious way to die.

Grief, Interrupted

Grief, Interrupted

I‘ve mentioned a few times over the course of the last six months that all of the stress I went through did quite the number on my body and my health. The first sign of what was to come manifested itself in January of 2016 as a light, annoying cough that wouldn’t go away. About a month later, it was compounded by the respiratory flu. By March, I had coughed so hard and so frequently that I bruised a rib. It finally subsided in April.

In November of the same year, I caught a cold (in addition to the stomach flu), which then settled into yet another cough that didn’t dissipate until June of the following year.

Both times, I went to the doctor. They pumped me full of anti-biotics and steroids, and nothing changed. Eventually they diagnosed me with “asthma” because they needed to call it something in order to give me an inhaler, which also did nothing.

This year, as of April, said cough has returned. I’ve been kind to myself over the past six months. I’m under very little stress now, I’ve recovered from my adrenal fatigue, and I’m actively purging stagnant emotional energies.

Traditional energy healing ties coughing to the throat chakra, but I’ve felt this is more of a lung/heart-chakra issue, and yet no matter how many things I’ve purged from my heart center, it persists.

I finally decided to try acupuncture. I met an acupuncturist who lives in my neighborhood when I first moved here, so I pulled up her website to book an appointment, and at that moment, a coworker walked into my office and enquired about my cough. When I explained the circumstances, he immediately said, “Acupuncture. Everybody says it works.” There was my sign.

I had my appointment this past week, and while explaining to her the situational stress I was involved in over the course of the last three years as this cough has arisen, she mentioned to me that in Chinese medicine, the emotion tied to the lungs is grief. If you’ll recall my last post, I processed a past-life soul fragment that was heavy with grief. So heavy that I had to skip work the next day!

As I’ve reflected on my consultation and how grief and loss ties in as a trigger for the coughing, I had a realization.

I’ve talked a bit about my dad in previous posts and most of you know that we’re no longer on speaking terms, and I’ve talked a bit about the circumstances leading up to that, but I haven’t done so in great detail.

2016 was the year that everything fell apart. It had to, of course, because it was leading me somewhere, but it wasn’t pleasant. It was not easy. There was a moment in 2016 when I thought, “I would feel so much better if I could just die.” I experienced a prolific level of grief and loss that year in a very short period of time. I lost my closest friend. Two weeks later, my cat Jordan – my shadow, my fur baby – passed away. And then a month and a half after that, my grandmother passed away. The first loss brought me to my knees. The second had me on the ground. The third was like being beaten bloody with a baseball bat while I was down. With each new gut wrenching loss, I thought, “How much more can I take?”

And then came my grandmother’s funeral.

I have to be honest…my family could probably carry an entire season of Jerry Springer. After my parents divorced, my dad married my mom’s first cousin. Suffice to say, this caused some friction in the family, which came to a head at the funeral.

The grandmother that passed away was my dad’s mother. My grandparents from my mom’s side of the family attended the funeral and so did my mother. They’d known each other for 30 years, after all. My dad and his new wife (my mom’s first cousin whom I refer to as my step-monster) also attended said funeral. This would be my maternal grandmother’s niece. As entertaining as it would be to go into great detail, for brevity’s sake, let’s just say that crazy typically attracts crazy, so you can safely assume that as batshit and manipulative as my father is, it is also evident in his choice of partners.

After the funeral, everyone was invited to a luncheon at my grandparents’ former church, at which point, my new step-monster attacked her aunt (my grandmother) right in front of me — and our ENTIRE EXTENDED FAMILY. I literally had to step between her and my grandmother.

I was furious. I was already furious at her for a plethora of other reasons, the least of which involved her texting me from my dad’s phone, pretending to be him. I was furious at her for being the soul-sucking vortex of melodrama that she is. I was furious at her for being so self-centered and narcissistic that she had to make a spectacle of herself at my dead grandmother’s funeral. We were attempting to grieve the death of someone we loved and she made it about her in the most embarrassing way possible.

The fact that I was able to swallow my anger and keep my composure instead of grabbing her by the throat and choke slamming her in front of everyone (which is what I actually wanted to do) says a lot about my ability for self-control. It’s also why I’m REALLY FUCKING GOOD at repressing my emotions. And as I later told my father in the five page dissertation I wrote to him about the consequences of his inability to accept emotional responsibility for himself and his actions, “She’s lucky I didn’t do more than push her away. The last time someone put their hands on me like that, they went home with a black eye.”

My dad’s response to said letter? Three months of silence, followed by a text message denying half of it, dismissing the other half, and a staunch refusal to acknowledge my justifiable anger. Several months later in a conversation with my mother, he would deny having ever received a letter at all.

I remember, very vividly, laying in bed shortly after all of this went down and finally allowing myself to accept that my father was mentally ill. That acceptance triggered a series of realizations about various events throughout the past where I began to see that he had lied, manipulated, and used me as a means to an end. It was a shift in perspective that brought on an entirely new epiphany: the “dad” I thought I’d had all these years was a figment of my imagination. That, in and of itself, was yet another loss. A death, in it’s own way.

My realization after my acupuncture consultation was that the gravity of a single loss is hard enough. Having four losses of such magnitude within four months of each other is downright cataclysmic. My anger toward father and his wife’s behavior interrupted my grieving process.

The weight of all of the conflicting emotion was too much to handle, and I sought out a therapist. Said therapist was not a very good therapist and ended up doing more harm by attempting to push me into simply acceptance of who my father was without giving me the opportunity to process my anger, ultimately invalidating my emotions and refusing to acknowledge that he suffers from mental illness.

I get it…as a therapist, you don’t know the full story of where someone’s coming from and of course their perspective is just one perspective. But, as a therapist, you can’t really argue that a person who has out loud two-way conversations with “demons” in public places while speaking in tongues and is completely paranoid that armageddon is right around the corner isn’t somewhat touched. When David Koresh went down in flames, taking 75 other Branch Davidians with him, I’m certain that no therapist said, “Those are just his religious beliefs and you need to accept him for who he is.” Oh, and guess what? Daddy dearest has started his own church now…

I got a six month break before my next trauma hit, which was my divorce. I lived in a state of constant anxiety for six months leading up to my move, and the minute he told his family about it, I was completely cut out. Yet another devastating sense of loss that I could barely process for simply attempting to survive. I spent most of my energy my first five months in New York freaking out about how I was going to take care of myself, financially. I’d had my own business before but rebuilding it in a new state takes time and I only had enough money to last me through the end of November. Eventually I found a full time job and was able to breathe for a moment.

All of this grief, all of the loss… I haven’t had a chance to fully process any of it. My circuits had been overloaded with too much other shit until just now.  It’s been two and a half years, now, and I suppose that stagnant energy has settled into my body. Any time I experience a smaller scale loss, the cough returns.

I had a reading a couple of days later with Christian Bradley West, a new psychic friend I made on Instagram. He’s hilarious, by the way, and you should follow him if you’re on there, and me as well! Sure as shit, grief was a topic of discussion.

I don’t know, logically, how to move through this. I’m hoping that getting some of it moving within the physical body through acupuncture will trigger some releasing. What I do know is that I’m going on my third month of hacking and I’m seriously over it.

This Week I Reintegrated A Past Life Soul Fragment

This Week I Reintegrated A Past Life Soul Fragment

It’s been an intriguing and emotionally intense week for me. I haven’t written about anything terribly metaphysical in nature in quite some time, but then again, I haven’t had a lot of terribly metaphysical experiences lately… until this past Monday.

I’ve gotten in the daily habit of doing very lengthy meditations the past few weeks, typically an hour to and hour and a half. And as I’ve mentioned in the past here and there, I’ve also been using marijuana to facilitate a more open energetic state. I don’t necessarily need it, but it does get me into alpha state much more quickly and I can reach a pretty deep state of meditation.

I never meditate without intention. It’s not the “clear your mind” sort of goal. I meditate for the expressed purpose of seeking psychic information and to gain understanding around whatever is going on in my life at the moment, and my meditations are never disappointing.

On Monday, I was meditating about something else entirely when I tripped over a past-life land mine. It was shown to me for a reason – it’s very deeply connected to the root of the thing I was meditating on.

I’ve seen and dreamed about dozens of my past lives, and I’ve even done a past life regression with a professional hypnotherapist, but this experience was so much more vivid than any of them. It’s what I expected a past life regression to be like. I experienced the emotion of it like I was there. It felt like a real memory, like it just happened yesterday. In the grand scheme of linear time, I suppose it was like it was yesterday. The life immediately preceding this one, chronologically speaking – World War II.

I was a woman, maybe the same age as I am now or younger, and I was with a man that I loved. I’m talking Nicholas Sparks novel level love. He joined the army at some point and left for Europe. We wrote letters to each other while he was away. He was a Steve Rogers-type who wanted to save the world – I felt a strong sense of nostalgia as that thought surfaced – and that’s what he set off to do…but he never came home.

He died in the war, and she died inside. The horror that he saw there, it broke him into a million pieces. He didn’t want to come home to her like that…but she didn’t know.

Then I saw him standing in front of me in his uniform, and for a moment, I was her. It felt like I was looking at someone who’d been raised from the dead, and all of the grief and the loss and despair welled up inside me and mixed with happiness and love, and I cried for two and a half hours. I went to bed and woke up the next morning and cried some more.

His soul was with her for the rest of her life after he died. She just didn’t know. It’s still with her now.

The weight of it got to me. I started thinking about the war in general and the energetic scar it’s left on earth. Eighty five million people died. Eight five million. Imagine the weight of the collective grief of the wives, children, friends, mothers and fathers of 85 million dead, combined with the violence and trauma of all of those deaths, and the trauma carried by the survivors.

It’s so heavy. And it wasn’t that long ago. That’s how the emotional energy of the whole experience felt – like it was just under the surface of my skin, like I was still there, feeling it. It was so powerful and so heavy that I had to call in sick to work the next day. I couldn’t stop crying. Not just a sort of weepy tear here and there..full on gut-wrenching sobs. I wouldn’t be surprised if my neighbors could hear me.

Over the next few days, it felt like she was still with me – inside me, as though I had absorbed the frame of mind and emotions of another person. I could see her, seeing him. He was tall and a bit lanky, with dark wavy hair and brown eyes. She was petite with short, reddish brown hair and green eyes – like mine now. I could feel how they felt about one another. They loved each other so much, in such a beautiful way, and they were so happy together. I could feel the way he looked at her and the overwhelming adoration, love, and affection. She was his everything. He was her everything. I could feel her thoughts. I could feel her despair over the loss of him.

She never recovered. She lived the rest of her life – maybe another 20-30 years – lonely with a broken heart, partly because her heart with still with him, and partly because she was too afraid to give it to someone else for fear of feeling that loss all over again. She died in her fifties or sixties.

Soul Fragmentation

I’ve never experienced anything like this before, so I consulted with a few different people to try to get some perspective, mostly because I needed to be a functioning human being again! The general consensus seems to be that I was processing the reintegration of a soul fragment from a past life.

Soul fragments occur during times of extreme trauma. There’s a lot of varying info out there on it from a shamanic perspective, but my personal take is that when a soul experiences unprocessed trauma and the person passes away, the heaviest pieces of that energy stay earthbound, in a sense, thus “fragmenting” the energy from the higher self. It’s never disconnected, but it remains unintegrated and unresolved. Living people might experience these fragments as ghosts and hauntings.

When the soul reincarnates into another lifetime and is attempting to work through similar energetic patterns, they may experience what I’ve been speaking about but without knowing where it’s coming from or why. I believe this is what a lot of psychics and healers label as “entity attachments.” In many instances, these things are viewed as negative and scary, like some rando spirit is out to suck the life out of you. But when you realize they’re actually an aspect of self from a traumatized past life that’s attempting to be integrated and healed, it’s a lot less sensational, and a lot less scary.

So As It Turns Out, I’m A Human Horcrux…

I continued to meditate and work on releasing the emotional energy from that life throughout the week and there were some interesting additional developments. It appeared as though both souls involved here were fragmented. The trauma he experienced in the war was so heavy that it broke off into many heavy fragments. It seems as though the higher self chose to reincarnate in the next lifetime (this time period) and attempt to work through that trauma in a different way.

One fragment, however, remained with her. I don’t know the rhyme or reason behind it, only that somehow it was with her. It felt a bit like she was hanging onto the good part of him as way to counteract her own pain. Since that fragment was never integrated, it stayed with her, and subsequently, with me, but I had no way of knowing that until I became aware of that life.

With that knowledge, I did a meditation to release and return that fragment to it’s rightful owner. I assumed that there would be more release and processing involved afterward. Think of that fragment as being a blockage, like a cork in a bottle. Nothing can get out until it’s removed. So any unhealed trauma that she had related to that attachment would have to be processed as well.

Even the next day, I was still very connected to the grief and sadness, so it seemed as though there was still work to be done, and that work seemed to be around forgiveness. Forgiveness toward him for leaving, forgiveness for self for being angry about it, and forgiveness for himself for the things he did while he was at war. With that in mind, my next meditation revolved around healing and releasing that heaviness. I started crying instantly. I cried again the next morning and true to fashion, that raw, drained feeling you have after a long cry stuck with me until about 3:00 that afternoon.

Soul Retrieval

As I was discussing the situation with a friend earlier that morning, I said, “I keep getting stuck there, in that time, with those feelings. I keep trying to remind myself that he’s not dead.” For whatever reason, that triggered something and an intuitive light bulb went off in my head. I’d given back one soul fragment – the most important one, the one that felt like his heart and all that was good and loving in him. That was her memory of him and it was what she’d been hanging onto all this time – but there were more, and he wouldn’t be complete or able to heal until they’d all been returned. In essence, we had to bring him back from the dead, spiritually speaking.

Soul retrieval is a common shamanic practice which typically involves the shaman going into a deep meditation to retrieve the soul fragment from spirit world, bringing it back to the individual and returning the essence to it’s proper place.

I’d never done this before or even thought much about it, but then again, I’d never done distance healing before, either, and the results were prolific on all occasions, so I’m pretty much down for anything at this point. It all boils down to ritual and intention in the end.

So Friday night, my new spirit passenger and I settled in for a long meditation and a single mission: to find and return the missing pieces of her beau and put Humpty Dumpty back together again. No need for all the kings horses or men, as I’m pretty sure they’re the ones that got us into this mess in the first place. Former selfie and I were Thelma and Louiseing this shit from here on out.

I smoked a bit and settled in for yet another hour and a half meditation, invited home girl step in and off we went to find the love of her life. I’ve done this enough now to know how to just sit back and observe the visuals that come forward. You let them lead you instead of trying to force it to go where you want. Visually, I saw what looked like hundreds of shards of glass from a broken mirror pulling together to create a human visage. Slowly, that visage shifted into an image of him, and once again, I was her, looking through her eyes at him and feeling what she felt. There was so much relief, so much love. I started crying again. It was a homecoming, and that’s how it felt. She was his home. He was hers.

And as I saw this and felt this, a song popped into my head:

Hozier – Work Song
Boys workin’ on empty
Is that the kind’a way to face the burning heat?
I just think about my baby
I’m so full of love I could barely eat
There’s nothing sweeter than my baby
I’d never want once from the cherry tree
‘Cause my baby’s sweet as can be
She give me toothaches just from kissin’ me

When my time comes around
Lay me gently in the cold dark earth
No grave can hold my body down
I’ll crawl home to her

Boys when my baby found me
I was three days on a drunken sin
I woke with her walls around me
Nothin’ in her room but an empty crib
And I was burnin’ up a fever
I didn’t care much how long I lived
But I swear I thought I dreamed her
She never asked me once about the wrong I did

When my time comes around
Lay me gently in the cold dark earth
No grave can hold my body down
I’ll crawl home to her

When my time comes around
Lay me gently in the cold dark earth
No grave can hold my body down
I’ll crawl home to her

My baby never fret none
About what my hands and my body done
If the lord don’t forgive me
I’d still have my baby and my babe would have me
When I was kissing on my baby
And she put her love down soft and sweet
In the lowland plot I was free
Heaven and hell were words to me

When my time comes around
Lay me gently in the cold dark earth
No grave can hold my body down
I’ll crawl home to her

When my time comes around
Lay me gently in the cold dark earth
No grave can hold my body down
I’ll crawl home to her

Messages through songs are common to me. I typically wake up with a song in my head most days. Sometimes songs I’ve never heard before, and sometimes songs that don’t exist. This one, as many of them are, was perfect.

I saw her look at me and say, “Thank you.” It was so emotional, but in such a good way this time.

I can’t say with 100% certainty, but I think it’s highly possible that this life is where my abandonment issues stem from. The sudden death of the love of your life can create a lot of loneliness and resentment, particularly when he chooses, of his own volition, to leave you and run head long into a situation that promises a high likelihood of death. I can’t imagine the kind of fear and anxiety she lived with for however long he was gone, the relief she must have felt each time she received a new letter from him, or the sinking feeling of impending doom when they stopped coming. But the other thing that he showed me which she didn’t know, was that he didn’t just go to war to save the world. He went to war to save her. He was afraid of what would happen if and when the war came knocking on their doorstep, and rather than watch it lay waste to all that he loved, he chose to do all that was humanly possible to protect it. He sacrificed his own humanity, and ultimately, his life for it. That was his frame of mind.

And it’s funny, because as I’m writing this last bit, “I Bet My Life” by Imagine Dragons is playing. Check out the lyrics by clicking on the link. They’re fitting.

Goddamnit. I’m crying again.

Vulnerability, Intimacy, and Deepening Relationships

Vulnerability, Intimacy, and Deepening Relationships

I‘ve had a pretty magical couple of weeks. I’ve mentioned that I’ve been lucky enough to connect with a handful of really special, amazing, powerfully spiritual women since I’ve moved here. A couple of months ago, I decided that I should start connecting those people, so three of us met up in Brooklyn for a weekend brunch and the energy was amazing. I think everyone involved would agree that we all left feeling energized and amazing. So much so that we decided we needed to do it again, and make it bigger.

So last weekend, the three of us got together again and this time, yet another spiritual friend of mine who was in town for the weekend came, and the energy was even stronger. The four of us CLICKED like we’ve known each other our whole lives.

“I’m so happy knowing you. I can’t remember the last time I felt so alive and seen,” one of them recently texted to our now ongoing, daily group text.

Isn’t that what any of us really wants? To be truly seen as we are and accepted? To stop carrying around the weight of hiding ourselves? To let go of the fear of being rejected for who we are?

The farmer’s market in the park next to my apartment opened today and one of the vendors I recognized as a woman who lived across the street from me. She used to own the only metaphysical shop in Jersey City but closed it shortly after I moved here. We struck up a conversation and I mentioned that I’d moved here from cross-country and she told me that she’d done the same.

“It’s really hard to make deep connections with people here,” she said. And that’s true. It’s something that I became acutely aware of after moving here.

New York is a great place, but at the same time, it’s incredibly surface-level. Perhaps the pace of life is so fast that people don’t take the time to slow down and savor their relationships, or take them to a deeper level. And perhaps that’s why so many people here are so incredibly dissatisfied inside. So many connections, but so little depth to any of them. So many chances to be seen, and yet so many continue to hide themselves behind their masks.

Cultivating deep, meaningful relationships requires a level of investment – both in yourself and in those people and relationships – that not many people here are willing to give. It requires vulnerability and a willingness to allow others to see you.

I think a lot of people are honestly terrified to be truly seen. That means opening yourself up to the possibility of rejection. It’s too scary. And it’s so much easier to just keep wearing the mask.

But when you do connect with people who get you and love you and respect you for what’s inside, it’s the most amazing feeling. It’s freeing. You never realize how heavy the armor is or how exhausting it’s been carrying it around until you take it off.

“God I hope I can do this for other people!! So much love!!” continued my new friend.

Vulnerability is contagious. I think that it’s my willingness to be so open about myself that gives others permission to do it, too. If I can sit here and talk about how fucked up I am, and how I’m working to heal myself, the people around me can feel safe doing that, too.

Unless, of course, they’re not ready to take off the mask, and that’s happened. I met a girl on Bumble BFF shortly after moving here. We met for coffee, talked for three hours. I was just as open with her as I am with you, here. I texted her a week later to see if she wanted to hang out again. No response. And you have to be prepared for that kind of rejection. I open myself up to it all the time now, and it stings a little less each time.

When you finally do find people who are willing to accept you, to be vulnerable with you, and you create this sense of connection, you can’t help but want to give it to the world. To look for all of the other misfits who are just as misunderstood as you and let them know that they’re ok, too. Or at least, they can be, if they choose it. What we find for ourselves, we offer to others ten fold. This is how we heal the world.

I posted a few weeks ago about my own process of cultivating radical vulnerability. I see that there’s a need for this in the world, both in friendships and deep, intimate relationships. I’ve never seen the need for it so starkly as I see it here in New York.

It’s got me thinking – how can I teach others how to open themselves up to the world? How can I show others how to cultivate the kind of intimacy in relationships that they so deeply desire, but are so afraid of? I’m still figuring that out myself, honestly, but I think I’ve laid a great foundation so far.

As promised in my last post, I said I would post the results from my Johari and Nohari Window questions in my next blog post, so here they are. I realize that a lot of you don’t know me in person so it’s hard to choose, and I also recognize that it forces you to choose 6 traits and so you might have ended up having to pick random things even though you didn’t really feel they were applicable. That in mind, I tried to look at the ones that more than one person chose (which you will see bolded in the results) as being more accurate.

Arena

(known to self and others)

accepting, intelligent, logical, mature, observant, reflective

Blind Spot

(known only to others)

able, bold, brave, clever, complex, confident, dignified, friendly, happy, independent, kind, knowledgeable, organised, powerful, responsive, searching, self-assertive, self-conscious, wise, witty

Façade

(known only to self)

Unknown

(known to nobody)

adaptable, calm, caring, cheerful, dependable, energetic, extroverted, giving, helpful, idealistic, ingenious, introverted, loving, modest, nervous, patient, proud, quiet, relaxed, religious, sensible, sentimental, shy, silly, spontaneous, sympathetic, tense, trustworthy, warm

Dominant Traits

54% of people agree that In My Sacred Space is reflective

All Percentages

able (18%) accepting (18%) adaptable (0%) bold (27%) brave (27%) calm (0%) caring (0%) cheerful (0%) clever (27%) complex (18%) confident (18%) dependable (0%) dignified (9%) energetic (0%) extroverted (0%) friendly (18%) giving (0%) happy (9%) helpful (0%) idealistic (0%) independent (27%) ingenious (0%) intelligent (36%) introverted (0%) kind (9%) knowledgeable (27%) logical (18%) loving (0%) mature (9%) modest (0%) nervous (0%) observant (27%) organised (36%) patient (0%) powerful (9%) proud (0%) quiet (0%) reflective (54%) relaxed (0%) religious (0%) responsive (9%) searching (45%) self-assertive (18%) self-conscious (27%) sensible (0%) sentimental (0%) shy (0%) silly (0%) spontaneous (0%) sympathetic (0%) tense (0%) trustworthy (0%) warm (0%) wise (18%) witty (18%)

Created by the Interactive Johari Window on 6.5.2018, using data from 11 respondents.
You can make your own Johari Window, or view In My Sacred Space’s full data.

Arena

(known to self and others)

timid, withdrawn, distant, impatient, self-satisfied

Blind Spot

(known only to others)

intolerant, inflexible, aloof, glum, insecure, hostile, unhappy, cynical, needy, brash, blasé, chaotic, weak, loud, panicky, insensitive, passive, overdramatic, dull, callous, inattentive, cold

Façade

(known only to self)

vulgar

Unknown

(known to nobody)

incompetent, cowardly, violent, stupid, simple, irresponsible, lethargic, selfish, unhelpful, unimaginative, inane, cruel, ignorant, irrational, childish, boastful, imperceptive, embarrassed, vacuous, unethical, smug, rash, dispassionate, predictable, unreliable, foolish, humourless

Dominant Traits

60% of people think that In My Sacred Space is insecure

All Percentages

incompetent (0%) intolerant (20%) inflexible (20%) timid (20%) cowardly (0%) violent (0%) aloof (20%) glum (10%) stupid (0%) simple (0%) insecure (60%) irresponsible (0%) vulgar (0%) lethargic (0%) withdrawn (20%) hostile (10%) selfish (0%) unhappy (40%) unhelpful (0%) cynical (20%) needy (20%) unimaginative (0%) inane (0%) brash (20%) cruel (0%) ignorant (0%) irrational (0%) distant (40%) childish (0%) boastful (0%) blasé (10%) imperceptive (0%) chaotic (20%) impatient (10%) weak (10%) embarrassed (0%) loud (10%) vacuous (0%) panicky (20%) unethical (0%) insensitive (10%) self-satisfied (20%) passive (20%) smug (0%) rash (0%) dispassionate (0%) overdramatic (10%) dull (10%) predictable (0%) callous (10%) inattentive (10%) unreliable (0%) cold (20%) foolish (0%) humourless (0%)

Created by the Nohari Window on 6.5.2018, using data from 10 respondents.
You can make your own Nohari Window, or view In My Sacred Space’s full data.

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