Today is my fifth wedding anniversary. Only, I’m in the end stages of divorce.Read More
"I'm restless, and I'm longing," I sighed.
"Well, you could always blow it all up," she suggested softly.
"I could? All of it?"
"All of it. But if you do that, that's it. There will be no going back," she said seriously, without any sense of graciousness or compassion.
"Okay, let's blow it up and burn it down."
This was the conversation I had with myself before everything changed. The conversation with my Self. I'd like to think her voice is that of my higher self, my inner wise woman, but she can be a real bitch. Though I don't believe that bitchiness and divinity are mutually exclusive, so there's that. She tends to tell it like it is, without apology, and without the gentle runaround. She won't walk on eggshells for me. I respect that.
Today is my 30th birthday. I'm not having any age-related crisis about it. In fact, I've been waiting for my 30s for what feels like forever. I think your 20s are the time for lesson after lesson, and making all sorts of mistakes to figure out who you really are and what you really want. But your 30s, ohhh the 30s, they feel like the golden age of the Self. And I've been setting myself up to prepare for this magical golden era by burning down the remainder of my 20s.
You see, there's this thing, this feeling, that I've been chasing for as long as I can remember. It's wanderlust, and the restless wind, and the spark of a fire that's both dying out and just starting to build.
It's complete freedom.
If you've felt it or long for it, you know exactly what I'm talking about. But you don't just get to have it; you have to give up the things that keep you stuck and comfortable. And that's not easy. Trust me. I sit here, writing from the rubble of all the things I've given up, blown up, burned down, and sacrificed. I started the process of divorce earlier this year. I sold my awesome business. I moved out of the home I own. I was giving up a life that was good to make space for a life that was great.
And then I went headfirst into a spiral of depression and grief. I was stuck in this horrible transition phase where I was grieving the things I was giving up, while also looking forward to my new life with excitement, but not being able to have either right now. All I could do was sit in the rubble, waiting for the dust to settle so I could move on.
"This is agonizing," I told her.
"You asked for this," she said flatly.
"If you want big change, if you want freedom, you have to go through the process. Have a pity party for yourself if you want to, but then you have to adapt."
So I did. I had a major pity party for myself. (I mean, more than one, if I'm honest.) I let myself fully experience the grief and depression I felt about leaving my old life and now being stuck in the in-between. I cried, watched tons of Netflix, slept, bitched about my circumstances to my loved ones, cried more, and bitched more. It helped a lot. I would fully recommend the pity-party move. The way I see it, if you repress your self-pity, it will slowly ooze into everything you do because it's never truly seen or satisfied. But if you throw it a damn party, and temporarily embrace your victimhood (no matter how pitiful you may feel), you're validating that feeling which then allows it to ease naturally.
I'm still in that transition phase. I've adapted to the in-between a lot better, but it's not easy. It shouldn't be easy. I have no epic solution, but I know a lot of you are in the same boat as me. So I guess, on my birthday, I am reaching out to all of you to let you know that you're not alone. That this shit is hard. But that it's also brave, and amazing, and so full of gifts. Especially if you can approach it with some humor. (My inner wise woman bitch is great at that part.)
When we burn it all down consciously, we also sift through the remains consciously, discovering patterns and habits we no longer need, pieces of ourselves we'd forgotten about, and amazing little nuggets of truth that we've been hiding all along. It can be easy to get stuck in the depression and grief of it, but hopefully there's a sassy inner wise woman to remind you why you're doing what you're doing. And if she's not saying much to you right now, let me speak for her:
Be brave in the dawn of your own destiny.
Enjoy the juicy bits and seek them out.
You deserve the great life.
You can have it.
Have hope. You can get through the transition.
Be grateful for the gifts in the rubble.
Find the beauty in the dark.
It's not easy, but it's worth it.
Freedom is yours.
This lunar eclipse in Leo feels like showing up. It feels like the potential for anything to happen, good or bad, and it urges us to be present. Be present for all of it. All of the joy, all of the suffering, all of ourselves. Every piece of ourselves we love, every piece of ourselves we’re ashamed of. Just show up.Read More
Mine is a power that will not explain itself.
No sources revealed, no maps drawn, no keys given.
I am neither an authority nor an imposter.
I am only as true as the restless wind.
Will you be the judge?
To be witch is merely to be:
to be blood
and sensual juices
and flesh and spirit.
To be whore and hag with an eager heart on both accounts.Read More
The chamber was empty.
One, two, three, one, two, three, swing.
One, two, three, one, two, three, swing.
“Best of three,” she said to Señor.
Marie DuBois sat, legs outspread beyond the seat of the single wooden chair, in a fashion that would have displeased her upbringing greatly. Of course, Marie DuBois was not her real name. No, of course it wasn’t. Marie DuBois was a moniker she awarded herself for her freedom, and to prevent herself from being found by searching eyes. Her husband must have been looking for her, desperately clinging to the hope that the mother of his children would return to her familial duties. He must have known that his hope was, in fact, desperate. It had been five years since he had last seen her face, and four and a half since any of their mutual relations had. Last anyone knew, she wandered off towards the sea and never returned. Swept away by a riptide, they wagered. What a horrible tragedy, they thought, since she had just recently learned to swim. How could anyone imagine the wife and mother of an upper class Southern family deserting them intentionally in 1901, unless afflicted with some sort of malicious madness or feminine hysteria.
One, two, three, one, two, three, swing.
One, two, three, one, two, three, swing.
She counted the chambers silently in her mind. The silver cylinder stopped spinning, and Marie DuBois fingered the mother-of-pearl inlaid handle gently as she swallowed her breath. She held the revolver up to her temple and looked over to the white rabbit with a single patch of black over his right eye, a rabbit she simply called Señor, sitting calmly in the dirt in the corner of the Mexican hut. His whiskers twitched slightly. She thought not of her husband, but of Robert. She pulled the trigger.
The chamber was empty again.
One, two, three, one, two, three, swing.
One, two, three, one, two, three, swing.
Sweat glistened on the swells of Marie DuBois’s breasts, exposing entirely too much skin for her breeding in her thin ivory peignoir, now stained by dirt and sweat. Her ash yellow hair and fair complexion were a sight unseen deep in the Mexican village she hid herself in. The village was somewhere between Mexico City and Puebla, at the base of an active volcano. She thought she might have felt some connection to Robert, being in a place that had called him away from her years before. Presumably, she would have felt the same allure of the opportunity and adventure that he had, but he had been gone from this place for quite some time, and all that remained was the merciless heat clinging to the walls.
“Still one more,” she said to Señor. She wasn’t offended when Señor didn’t seem to care for her plight, but then again, that was typical behavior for him.
She stroked the silver of the revolver, which was far too clean and shining for the scene. Surely her husband would be missing one of his prized revolvers, though he never would have thought it was taken by Marie DuBois. The rambunctious neighbor boy, perhaps, or even a dishonest maid, but not his devoted wife.
But he didn’t know her well. She thought Robert had, or at least she thought he had gotten a brief but genuine glimpse into her soul in their time together. He betrayed Marie DuBois by recusing himself from her affection, as he refused to grow accustomed to her untraditional ways in their unaccommodating lifestyles. She could hardly help it, though. She had completely wiped the sleep from her eyes, and remained—painfully—awake. Day in and day out, her spirit flickered like a flame against a breeze. It burned hot and bright, maddening her resolve to be an independent woman, free of constraint in constricting times. Moments later, it dipped into the dark agony of being utterly alone and presumed dead, the weight of her decisions, her responsibility, crushing any lingering liberation. The agony left as quickly as it came, and this is how Marie DuBois lived.
“But has the pleasure been worth the agony?” she asked Señor, beads of sweat hanging on her upper lip. His white ears seemed to rise a bit at her attention, but Señor could not be tempted to move closer to her. He sat quite contentedly in the dirt in the corner. She had thrown him some bits of lettuce earlier in the day, and he seemed happy to keep watch over what remained of them.
A bead of sweat finally dropped from her upper lip into her mouth, and she remembered the feel of his kiss. She touched her lips with her fingers, chalky from dirt. They were warm enough to be comforting. She remembered the shiver down her spine, following the touch of his hand. She remembered how their bodies felt like the art she created during her days of liberation, when her spirit burned hot. Marie DuBois closed her eyes and slowly threw her head back, allowing herself to feel the ecstasy of a long-gone memory.
A sharp knock at the door pulled her from her reverie. She saw a shadow through the slats of the wood, and reluctantly rose from her chair, the revolver hidden at her side. It was the Mexican man who had rented the room to her. He surveyed her through the crack of the door she had opened, his eyes reflecting compassion and perhaps even worry for this strange woman adrift. His young daughter stood behind him, eager to get a look at the American woman in bare feet and dirtied peignoir. The daughter was too beautiful to behold, with her shining raven hair and the glimmering hope of youth still in her dark eyes. How dreamy to be so young and beautiful, Marie DuBois thought as she obliged the man and his daughter with a smile. She thought she saw the man flash his eyes towards the revolver at her side.
The man smiled and spoke in Spanish, motioning to his daughter and their home behind them.
She didn’t speak the language, but she understood enough.
“No, no, gracias,” she muttered as she slowly closed the door on the disappointed pair. She saw that the Mexican man knew too much already, she could see it in his eyes. She knew he would sway her from her dangerous game if she had joined them, and her game was nearly over.
She returned to her seat, kicking up the dust on the floor as she walked.
“This is it,” she said to Señor as she held the revolver up to her temple one last time. Señor stood on his hind legs, looking to Marie DuBois as she smiled gently at him.
She remembered what it felt like to rise from the sleep of her lover’s arms. She remembered what it felt like to trace his shoulders, her fingers stained with paint and charcoal, as her unfinished work lay on the floor. She remembered the ultimate freedom of solitude she felt when he left her that day. She remembered the crushing loneliness when she realized he would never return. She knew that her life would be forever tainted by the burning fever of sensuality and the complete misery of burning as an island. The seductive voice of the sea would be the only voice she would hear as she burned into nothingness, as her passion turned everything she knew and loved into ash.
She pulled the trigger one last time.
The chamber was empty.
Marie DuBois breathed a sigh that was half longing, half relief, and rose from her chair. She scooped Señor into her arms, kissing him on the head.
“Today we keep going,” she cooed to him as she walked into the Mexican night, leaving the shining revolver in the seat of the chair.
Did a gift receipt come with this? What’s the return policy?
The next person that tells me how being an empath is such a wonderful gift, gets a slap in the face from me.
Seriously. A real crisp slap that echoes in the brain.
It’s not that being an empath isn’t a gift. It is. But that’s not what I want to talk about. Everyone wants to talk about that. “Empath” has started to become another one of those buzzwords. But no, I don’t want to talk about the signs and symptoms of being an empath and what a magnificent being one surely is by being one. We’ve seen plenty of that, haven’t we?
I want to talk about the unbearable burden of being an empath. Especially after this brutal past week of grief upon grief. I want to talk about the empath’s shadow. I want to talk about the rise and fall of empathy, about the “how much does it hurt?" question we ask ourselves every day. I want to talk about the parts that fucking suck. (Name your pain!)
Semantics and the loss of us...
We define our empath nature by defining how we experience the emotions of others. How we internalize what is outside of ourselves. And often times, we tout this experience as a noble sacrifice we are giving the world. But even in our very simplistic definitions of empath, we are giving our power away by idealizing it. We are literally defining ourselves through others. I mean, that’s the definition of empathy right? So it makes sense.
And this is all true. Being an empath means being attuned to the emotional experience of another being, whether it’s another person, animal, or even places and events. But I want to reframe this…because the ones who tend to get lost in this equation are the empaths themselves. And I don’t want to idolize the process of self-abandonment and martyrdom that every empath has undoubtedly gone through at one point or another in their spiritual development. (And probably many times over.)
I want to define my empath nature by more clearly defining how I experience myself. I want to reclaim my selfhood by defining what is true about me as an empath.
That starts with this very simple, very vulnerable statement:
“I am hurt.”
I have years of hurt locked inside my bones. My cells remember. I cannot and will not wrap up my hurt, put a pretty self-righteous bow on it, and give it away to the world as “a gift.” I am not a sacrificial lamb. I am not a martyr. And neither are you.
So let’s shine some light on the shadows of empathy and talk about why being an empath fucking sucks.
(including Pain Alchemy Affirmations to be used in addition to naming the pain. Note that I said “in addition to,” not “instead of.” We do not replace our pain with fake positivity here, we build onto the truth of our pain and alchemize that pain into more truth.)
8 reasons why being an empath sucks...
1. It all starts with pain.
Unfortunately, most of us realize we’re empaths by way of experiencing the pain of others. For whatever reason, for many empaths, pain and negative emotions are sensed more strongly and more easily than joy and positive emotions. Not that we don’t sense joy and positive emotions, but joy doesn’t energetically grasp at us in the same way. Joy doesn’t desperately grapple for compassion the way that suffering does. When another being is suffering, it’s like their energy is calling out to the void, reaching out for a hand that could pull them. And empaths feel that call more than anything else.
When I was in 4th grade, I watched a documentary about the Titanic on the History Channel. It was the first I’d ever heard of it. By the time it was over, I was crying uncontrollably for hours in my mother’s arms because I was so upset over what had happened to those people. I had no idea why I was so upset, but I felt that loss to the core of my soul, even then. Fast forward to now, I am still affected by movies, music, stories, etc. I have no idea what is going to set me off or not. It’s a very unpredictable emotional process, one that is oftentimes very unpleasant.
Tragic current events are brutal. When I first learned about Orlando, I sat in silence for 10 minutes, staring into space. I got up and started washing the dishes because I didn't know what to do with myself. I cried my eyes out as I washed and scrubbed, desperately trying to feel the loss without feeling like I was destroying myself in the process. And because it affected my own queer community, I felt it through every person I'd ever known. Even mentioning it now brings tears to my eyes.
We can also feel pain pre-cognitively. I remember the day before the big earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011…I was horribly upset and weirded out the entire day. I couldn’t shake the feeling that the wind was warning me of things, and I couldn’t handle the mystery pain I was feeling. To this day, whenever I tell my husband that I feel odd and horrible for some unknown reason, he asks me if there are any natural disasters on the way.
Pain Alchemy Affirmation:
I am hurt by the pain and suffering of others. I know that this deep empathy gives me a fuller knowing of the spectrum of life on earth, and allows me to be grateful for my own joy and the joy of others, and feel that joy just as deeply.
2. Our core wounds are usually about feeling unaccepted as sensitive beings.
When I was very young, I found an injured baby bird in the woods of Northern Minnesota at my grandparents’ cabin. I desperately wanted to nurse it back to health and love the crap out of it. My father wouldn’t let me. He told me that it was the cycle of life and he made me feel stupid for wanting to care for this tiny creature.
That was the earliest memory I have about feeling unaccepted and isolated. I remember the feeling, I remember the tiny bird. Growing up, I came across many injured animals. Some I was able to help, and some I wasn’t. But the feeling of a dead bird stiffening in my hand is something I can recall on a moment’s notice with an ache in my chest.
That is one of my core wounds, feeling as though I was “too sensitive” and “too emotional” to adapt to this world. All empaths have been told things like this throughout their lives, and unfortunately for us, they began in childhood.
“Don’t be dramatic.”
“Stop being so sensitive.”
“You need to toughen up if you want to make it in this world.”
Even in my recent past, I have heard things like this from people I’ve trusted with my emotions. It’s especially painful to hear from friends and acquaintances in your own spiritual communities:
“I’m tired of witnessing you creating drama.”
“You’re really negative.”
This kind of talk is discouraging and creates an unsafe space for us to be ourselves. This kind of talk tells us that there is something wrong with us, that we are not suited to live here. We cannot help that we are empaths. We did not choose to be an empath because it sounded like the new age soup du jour. This is just us.
Pain Alchemy Affirmation:
I am hurt by the disapproval of my sensitivity. I know that my sensitivity is beautiful and I do not need to change it. It is a vast network of delicate intuitive synapses that begin and end in my heart.
3. Being truly alone can be terrifying.
When I graduated college, I took a fool's journey out west. I rode the train from Minneapolis to Portland, Oregon, where I met up with a band of lovely people I traveled with for the summer. On the train ride there, however, we got stuck in the middle of the mountains in Montana. We sat on the tracks for hours, miles away from civilization, no cell service, in the midsts of the wilds of Glacier National Park. I sat in the observation car, the mountains looming over me, a taunting cliffside below me. All I could see were trees and rocks, height and depth, in every direction. The sun was shining through the pines, the sky was bluer than blue. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. And yet, I panicked. This was the first time I had been so disconnected, so out of reach, from the people and places I’d left behind. Knowing I couldn’t reach anyone I knew, even if I wanted to, amplified my panic.
Here I was, facing the wild unknown, the overpowering and overwhelming beauty and terror of Nature, and I suddenly felt as though I didn’t exist. How could I exist in mountains? I was small and alone. And I realized that as emotionally isolated I’d felt my entire life, I’d never felt that energetically and physically alone. I’d never felt so free of the cords from others. And it scared me because it was so new, so uncharted, so wild, being empty and nonexistent in the trees. I would soon learn that this was the reason Nature is medicine.
For an empath, Nature strips away all the pretenses, all the energetic cords, all the codependency and the obligation, and allows one to simply be nonexistent. To simply be. Without everything else. But even though it is medicine, it’s still scary. Being truly alone forces the empath to question their entire identity and reason for existing. It challenges the inherent belief that an empath exists for others, and begs the question, “Who are you when everyone else is gone?”
Pain Alchemy Affirmation:
I am hurt and scared by the idea of being completely alone with myself. I know that to face this fear with courage, to sink into the wild isolation of independence, is to know myself better.
4. Our boundaries are pretty shitty.
When I was growing up, my parents fought all the time, and it often sent my mother into complete emotional breakdowns. Her pain was so vast and so intense, it was all I could feel when I was around her. My heart broke for her every day, and I learned from a very early age that I needed to mother my own mother. My own emotional struggles of growing up as an empath, even my struggles of sexual abuse when I was a bit older, were always put on the back burner so I could be strong for my mom in her pain. I had no boundaries. She was dependent on me, and I felt obligated to her. I made so many life decisions that were influenced by my need to stick around and mother her when they should have been influenced by my own heart’s desires and wanderlusty yearnings. I held so much pain inside of myself that wasn't mine to hold.
“Boundaries boundaries boundaries!” is the first thing you’ll hear from any empath giving advice on dealing with it. I learned that in my relationship with my mother. I learned what happens when you have no boundaries. But what hasn’t been talked about, is what happens when you create such strong boundaries in your efforts to protect yourself, that you end up on the opposite end of the spectrum into numbness and complacency.
Years later, after peeling back a few layers of my mother wound, I learned how to put up very strong emotional boundaries so I wouldn’t be so miserable and so consumed by her or anyone else’s pain. But in an effort to hold my boundaries, it also pushed me to the other extreme, of feeling numb. Of feeling like I am locking out the feelings of others to protect myself. It can make me come off as cold and unfeeling, which is the exact opposite of what I really am. And this most often happens with the people who are closest to me, because feeling the pain of the ones I love the most is unbearable.
Spending a significant amount of time in either extreme is unhealthy for an empath. You begin to lose your identity and center. Finding a stable balance in an issue that lives and breathes pure raw emotion is so difficult it's almost ironic.
Pain Alchemy Affirmation:
I am hurt by the boundaries I’ve abandoned, and the boundaries that others do not respect. I know that my boundaries are the most important thing to my long-term health, and I understand that upholding them means putting myself first, even to the disappointment of others.
I am hurt by the numbness caused by my efforts to protect myself. I know that I can gently hold my boundaries while also opening up the capability to be vulnerable with my loved ones.
5. We tend to slip into abusive relationships.
This is one that I don’t have to get into very much. This is one that most of us are completely aware of. There have been so many great articles about the toxic connection between the empath and the narcissist.
One thing that I’ve noticed, however, is that people with the most potential to be abusive to others are incredibly skilled at hiding their emotions and intentions. For a jaded empath, finding someone that can’t be figured out and read right away can be both very exciting and very relaxing. And it’s a very slippery slope from there…
Pain Alchemy Affirmation:
I am hurt by the pattern of abuse I have found myself in. I know that I am not confined to these patterns, and with honest self-work and self-love, I can break free of these karmic plays.
6. We change our behavior and make ourselves smaller to accommodate others’ unspoken emotional needs.
I went to the bank a few weeks ago to make some changes on my business account. I sat with a very friendly banker who was eager to help me. He was very chatty and seemed slightly nervous and distracted. As he told me the required documents I would need to make the desired changes, I found myself very confused. I hadn’t even heard of the documents he was requesting, and I knew very well what I actually needed to make the changes. When I questioned him, he reassured me that what he was saying was correct, and I found myself acting as though I suddenly had no idea what I needed for my account. My voice raised in pitch to sound more feminine and helpless, and I said things like “Oh, I had no idea!” and “Wow, that’s good to know!” and I didn’t argue when he said, “Good thing I was here to tell you these things!”
After I got home, I did some research and found out that the information he had given me was outdated and dead wrong. I had been right all along, and I felt icky about it. I mentally replayed what had happened and realized that I had completely changed my personality and my convictions. I sensed in him a need to be right and automatically responded to it. And without even thinking about it, I made myself smaller to accommodate his unspoken emotional needs.
A week later, I went to a different branch of the bank and saw a woman I’d worked with before. I brought in the proper documents and just said, “Here ya go.” She made the changes without a fuss and without expecting any sort of response from me. It was beautiful. I realized then why I’d always subconsciously accepted jobs with women bosses, and why I turned down (or quit after a short period) jobs with male bosses. My empath nature has been culturally attuned to men, especially in authoritative roles, and that kind of automatic response is very unsettling. (Not to mention it kills my productivity and creativity.)
Empaths often automatically change their behaviors for other people when the other person’s emotions are clearly being felt. Their emotional needs are put on the back burner as they tend to them.
Pain Alchemy Affirmation:
I am hurt by my willingness to make myself smaller to accommodate others’ emotional needs. I know that by doing this, I’m not truly helping them or myself. My relationships will be stronger and more meaningful when I fully show up as myself.
7. We’re the unwilling secret keepers of the world.
How many times have you known something about someone before they told you? How many times have you watched someone lie to your face? How many times have you kept the secrets of others, without them even knowing it?
Life is stressful enough with your own secrets and issues, without adding the burdens of everyone you cross paths with. All sorts of complications arise from empath knowing, from knowing who's into who, to the betrayal of friends and family, to feeling completely isolated when no one matches their talk with their energy. One of my least favorite experiences is feeling someone else's difficult emotions deeply, while they talk of shallow things and guard their emotions with smiles, saying that everything is fine. And if you decide to bring up the dissonance, you could be met with bold-faced denial, or outright anger about you being in their business. And if you decide to keep it to yourself, the balance in the relationship may be thrown off and you lose the mutual connection, which slides you further into isolation.
In one of those short-lived jobs with a male boss that I mentioned before, I could very clearly feel my boss's sexual desire for me. I was 19. He never outwardly said anything inappropriate or took any action towards me, but I felt it as if he was screaming it at me, day in, day out. Even though I made great money, I quit after two weeks. I wasn't angry with him. I was exhausted and disappointed, and I know quitting was the right thing for me.
There are few things so isolating as feeling an entire complex web of emotions between people and not being able to talk about it.
Pain Alchemy Affirmation:
I am hurt by the disconnection and dissonance that is caused by unintentionally knowing too much about others. I know that the more I trust myself in handling the discomfort the way it feels right to me, the more I will attract people that are honest and caring towards me. And the more I show myself what I am okay with and what I'm not, the easier it will be to handle the situations that I'm not okay with.
8. Chronic health issues? Mystery pain anyone?
Where do you think all that extra pain and suffering goes? When we don’t have a healthy way to handle our empathy, all those extra emotions from others, including the intense reactionary emotions of ourselves, settle into our bodies. Our cellular memory can be a scary thing. Years and years of being unaccepted as an empath and struggling with many of the issues stemming from empathy, have created a somewhat hostile environment in my own body that I am still working on healing. Autoimmune issues, inflammation, chronic pain, mystery illnesses, weight issues, and more, are all incredibly common with empaths. Digestion is usually a problem, as digestion in the body parallels digesting (processing) emotions.
Pain Alchemy Affirmation:
I am hurt by all the excess emotions causing my body harm. I know that I can heal myself, and I know that when I nurture and love myself first, my body will be able to process the excess energy better.
So what’s the point here?
The point is that you’re a fucking Queen. The point is that you are a beautiful, gifted, flawed human being with incredible abilities. The point is that you’ve probably been told time and time again how you’re “too sensitive” and you’ve undoubtedly shirked off the real root feeling of being an empath: pain. You’ve dressed it up in mala beads and skinny jeans and told everyone it was your special gift to help the world. You’ve dressed it up in a power suit and highlights and never told another soul about it. You’ve dressed it up in a funeral gown and have played it the same sad song over and over again.
It’s time to undress it. It’s time to be naked with your pain, seeing every dark crevice that steals you away, every curve that catches the light in an interesting way, every story that wants to be told. No more hiding. Tell your stories. Be brutally honest with yourself. Let the truth of your pain heal you. Be angered by it! And temper your holy anger, your sacred rage, your undying pain, with unyielding self-forgiveness and compassion.
Take this full moon, this solstice, and don't just "let it go." Don't just "release" it.
Embody it. And offer it to la luna in a pained and desperate whisper. Or a haunting howl that echoes through your bones.
And you will find that the purpose of being an empath is nothing like you thought.
I came upon a clearing in the wood
where the beds of pine needles turned into a path of mossy patches and stones
that led me to a small unmarked building.
And he was there, in the corner, the majestic stag,
horns seeming taller than the heavens.
He waited for me by the door.
He was expecting me.
I entered into a dark, narrow hallway.
The stag entered after me, only he was changed through the doorway.
No longer a stag, but a man, with ashen hair and wild eyes,
following silently behind me in the dark.
At the end of the hall, I found the room that housed the hot springs,
heated by the fire at the center of the earth.
Without being asked, I removed my clothes, piece by piece,
aware that each piece was an element of myself that I shed.
I was naked. Fully naked.
Vulnerable and strong.
Exposed and protected.
I slowly stepped into the bath, the hot water purifying my aching soul.
I held my breath as he did the same.
He stood behind me and washed me gently,
pouring water across my shoulders,
sending waves of shivers through my body as his fingers grazed my neck.
I turned to him, meeting his eyes for the first time.
Without words, he asked me if I’d like to come with him.
I nodded silently.
I rose from the bath as a phoenix might,
smoke and steam rising from my skin.
He watched in awe and respect
and showered me with adoration.
I was his queen, he was my knight.
I was his goddess, he was my consort.
He carried me to a room filled with golden afternoon light and white silks,
and laid me on a bed of moss.
He smelled of cloves, earth, sweet oranges, and all manner of wild things.
He set out on a pilgrimage, his lips the travelers,
following the path of my freckles as if they were maps of the stars.
And they were.
Our bodies were constellations,
each moment, each breath, its own star,
dying in the night in bursts of flame and white.
I was neither self-conscious nor hurried,
I was simply held in ecstasy,
as each cell of my body absorbed the light and transmuted the fire,
as each cell of my body cried in rapture,
as pleasure took root in my very existence,
until the cosmos exploded into black holes and blinding white light.
He brushed my hair and dressed me, kissing me tenderly.
The golden light was just underneath my buzzing skin now.
We left the bathhouse silently,
and as we reached the edge of the forest again,
he was once more a stag,
and we parted ways in anguish and devotion.
As I walked back towards the place I came into this world,
I thought to myself, “I should meditate more often.”
And now…for the climactic confrontation between Adara and her manipulator and the dramatic conclusion to the story of the spiritual teacher turned predator…
There is no dramatic conclusion.
There is no sense of finality, of karmic justice, of a guy getting what was coming to him.
Because this is real life. Because this is happening everywhere, in varying degrees of damage, and most of these women won’t get dramatic conclusions. They won’t get the closure that we all want them to. Many of them will keep what happened to them as a secret shame that festers in their heart until they’ve completely isolated themselves from any potential support system.
Because when women have been victimized, it takes a lot of courage for them to come forward with their stories. And if they do, telling their truth is their way to claim back their power. It’s their way to admit what happened to them, it’s their way to state that they are survivors, not victims. We tell our stories to heal, to connect, to grow.
And more often than not, these acts of vulnerability and courage are met with raised eyebrows and questions, not compassion.
“They should have known better.”
“What did she expect? She got drunk with him.”
“What did they think would happen? He’s obviously a creep.”
“I hate that they have such a victim mentality.”
"But he seems so kind and helpful, he has a good reputation!"
“Man-hating won’t solve this problem.”
“Well, she should have listened to her instincts. It’s her own fault she didn’t.”
This is the problem. This is where we are failing women everywhere. We fail to listen to them. We fail to support them exactly where they are.
Adara, how did the confrontation really go?
Adara: It actually wasn’t very eventful. After I’d met with Lydia, I was furious. I was so angry, I wanted revenge, I wanted justice. I wanted to fight for every single woman this has ever happened to. I decided I’d pretend that I wanted to be in a relationship with him to see how he would spin it. I hid my lividness just below my words in the conversation and pretended things were okay. When I brought up that I’d seen Lydia to him, he remained perfectly calm and started working her into the conversation as if she had always been there. As he began weaving his tales, avoiding eye contact with me, lying to my face, I suddenly lost my taste for revenge. I lost my taste for all of it.
I put all my cards on the table, telling him I thought he was being predatory to young women. I told him that even though I saw that he'd done some good healing work with certain people in certain situations, I thought it was inappropriate for him to teach intimacy to young women. I told him that I had Facebook friends messaging me, telling me of how he’d tried the same lines on them and how they felt a slimy energy from him. Women who were local, and women who weren’t. I told him he was playing a dangerous game, that he could really hurt people.
How did he respond?
Adara: There were parts that he seemed open to talk about, and parts that he didn’t want to touch. He never apologized for anything, and actually, he didn’t even seem surprised that I would accuse him of being a predator. He chalked it up to us having different versions of reality, saying that neither of them were wrong, just different.
I realized that he was operating out of his own wounding. That the hyper-adrenalized part of him that wanted to be intimate with young women to the point of manipulation, was just a little boy, clamoring for the nourishment of the Great Mother. He was still reaching for the tits of life, where he’d been separated from as a boy. We were able to talk about his wounded inner child a bit, and honestly, I felt a lot of compassion for that wounded child. After that conversation, I had mixed feelings, and I wasn’t sure it would make any difference, but I knew I was done with him. I may have felt compassion, but that still didn't make it okay or excusable.
There has been some demonization of your character over your actions in part 1. What do you think about that?
Adara: At first, I was angry and spent all my energy obsessing over the handful of comments and being hurt and defensive. And that’s when I realized I was falling into the problem. The problem of women coming forward with their stories only to expend all their energy on defending themselves. Once I realized that, I stepped back and saw everything in a really interesting light.
I think it’s important for complex, contradictory women to speak their truth.
Not all women who are preyed upon are simple innocent lambs. In fact, most of them aren’t. And that’s why so few women choose to speak. Because society expects victims of abuse (of any kind) to be childlike, naive, modest, foolish. And when smart, confident women are victimized, suddenly it must have been their own fault, it must have been their own shortcomings that got them into that situation.
And really, the small amount of negative comments paled in comparison to the amount of women who resonated with what happened and rose up to share their own similar stories. It was mindblowing to find out how NOT alone we are.
So how do you both feel about what happened now? Also, I think it’s interesting how the ‘victim mentality’ has been talked about. Do you consider yourselves victims?
Adara: I don’t think either of us see ourselves as victims in the way people talk about. Telling the truth about being victimized doesn’t automatically put us in victim mentality. We’re just telling you what happened. That’s why we’re here talking to you about it. Because what happened sucked. I did feel preyed upon and manipulated. Last I heard, he was still teaching intimacy classes, and there’s ultimately nothing I can do about that. But mostly, I want to increase awareness so this happens less.
Jewels: Exactly. I feel violated and preyed upon. I feel as though he thought I was stupid or weak. I feel gross for the other women who might be falling for it. But I feel like I still have some work to do when it comes to who I let in and how I handle uncomfortable situations...especially with men. Where's the balance? I don't want to be an angry bitch or a pushover. There's a line where truth lies. It's honest, liberating and compassionate. It's true though.
Adara: Me too. There’s still obvious wounding in me, deep patterns I’m healing layer by layer, that still need a lot of work. And I own that. That’s mine. Do I put myself into risky situations sometimes, to dig for the truth and to find the lesson? I do, I always have. Do I willingly walk into the flames sometimes, knowing that I’m going to burn a little bit? I do. I really do. I have such a yearning for the truth. I own that, and I am aware of where my work is. I’m okay with people not understanding that, or even demonizing it a little bit. But what happened is still not okay. And while I think it’s powerful to call out the people who are manipulating others, I think it’s even more powerful to give women everywhere the weapons to protect themselves from people who would do that to them. Your biggest weapons are knowing yourself and your boundaries, and speaking your truth.
Jewels: Yes. Know what you're comfortable with. Identify what's okay with you and be okay with that being your boundary. Then when someone starts to cross it, it's nothing personal to practice your truth. It's just like when you want to manifest a relationship or job. You sit and visualize what you need out of that experience and what's important to you. You have left and right bounds on your path. These keep you in alignment with your higher purpose. Same goes for interactions with folks.
Listen to your intuition. If something even feels a little off, don't feel the need to make a decision right away. Sit with it and let clarity come to you. There's no need to placate someone else's emotions by sacrificing your peace. One of the Four Agreements is: "Don't Take Anything Personally." Remember this for yourself as well. What you do with yourself, your body, your time is part of your business here. Don't disrespect yourself in that way. You have a purpose and mission here. Part of that is managing your energy and what you invest in energetically.
Jewels and Adara went on to talk about how they could come together to create a forum in their community where women who had been victimized could feel supported and build healthy boundaries in a safe space. Once both of them had opened up about all the things that happened with him, once they had told eachother their stories of how they were manipulated, the conversation completely shifted. Both women were grateful for their unconventional way of connecting with one another. They were grateful for the lessons they learned about themselves. But mostly, they were determined to create space for women who hadn’t had the opportunity to speak openly about it like they did.
They both told me how they wished the best for the man this was all inspired by. Even after everything that happened, what remained in their hearts was compassion and conviction fueled by divine rage. Compassion for the wounded inner children of the men who manipulate, compassion for their own healing processes, and conviction to build the strength in a community of women that would fill the holes that this type of manipulation can creep into. Conviction to sever these unhealthy ties, and to keep that compassion in their hearts while also standing up for injustice.
When women are truly heard and validated in their experiences, the world shifts. When we allow women to speak their truth, when we allow them to freely respond to what happens in their lives without immediately questioning their character, they find their paths to healing. They grow, they create, they thrive.
Women are intuitive creatures. We are gentle and fierce storytellers, weaving the threads of change in this world. Our stories lay out the manifestations of the ancient archetypes. Predator and prey. Darkness and light. Madonna and whore. Sisters. Lovers. Enemies. Friends. Our stories commemorate the many roles we’ve played, and subsequently act as stepping stones to growth and healing.
So don’t take away our stories. Listen. Please. Just listen.
I received so many messages from other women who have experienced similar situations of being manipulated or abused by spiritual teachers that it would take an entire library of books to tell them all. Here are just a few experiences from others:
One woman I talked with had an experience with a married spiritual predator that spanned over a few years. He took her on as a student, teaching her meditation, breathwork, psychic readings, etc, and that turned into a sexual relationship. She also had a past of sexual abuse that he was able to tap into and manipulate. Within months, he had her doing work for him, advertising his events, paying rental spaces, and training with him. He made her believe that he was eventually going to be leaving his wife for her, and his intense connection with her confused her to the point where she considered doing the impossible: leaving her family and kids behind for him. She eventually became friends with other healers/mediums who encouraged her to do Angel card readings with people at an event, and when he found out, he berated her and patronized her for not being ready. He was always telling her she wasn’t ready to step into her own power. She found out he had been doing this with many other women over a span of 20 years. She claimed her power, got out of the relationship, called him out on it, and is now a powerful teacher and healer in her community.
“On three different occasions and three different men, all at varying degrees of spirituality, I felt myself manipulated. I guess you could say that I was early into my spiritual journey and these men all seemed more "advanced" than me. Like the ladies wrote in the article, their version of reality seemed easy to fall into, even though the warning bells were ringing in my head.
The second, and most horrible, involved being at a campground where I connected with the so-called separated husband of the couple that ran the campground. The "connection" was expressed by him as your ladies have mentioned and it was easy to get caught up in the moment. The twisted part was that I had my then 8 year old autistic son with me. He took an immediate interest in him and quickly took on a "fatherly" role. He too spouted future dreams and plans for us and convinced me that his ex was definitely his ex. He even slept in one of the cabins. He even convinced me to go skinny-dipping while out on his boat...with my son there. I have more shame over that than I can possibly share. He even convinced me to have him and his ex do some energy healing on my son. I felt sick. The next day, even though I was having grave misgivings by this point, I still went out on another boat ride with him and my son. While coming back to the campground and him talking even more about how we were meant to be together and how the three of us could sail the world, his wife pulled up beside the boat, followed us back to the campground and that night kicked me out of the campground. I drove six hours back home feeling the most intense shame that I've ever experienced. I never really realized just how much I was manipulated until I read your blog. I take full responsibility for my part but until I read your blog I just didn't put a name or context to these events. It is too easy to be manipulated and sexualized in the name of spirituality. “
“I had been part of a circle for nearly half a year and we had been doing ritual with braided hair and thin clothing, even in winter. I am shy about my body and react most like Artemis when Acteon discovered her bathing. One night, we were doing ritual, and I had been told by our High Priestess to couple with her mate, the high priest, for Beltane! And this was told to me under the guise of Isis being present and manifested in the circle. A) I am no fan of Isis, nor she of me. We don't talk. B) I am not chattel and will not be forced into any encounter, Goddess blessed or not! I broke circle, came into my own, and they said my black wings unfurled as I swept out of the room where it was being held. Every woman should remember that we have a piece of divinity in us, and no one can make us do anything we don't see as right.”
“This parallels an experience that I am having. I rely on my intuition...it never steers me in the wrong direction. I even try to talk myself out of doubt and suspicion...I tried to give the other person a "fair chance." But nope...my intuition was right...as much as I wanted to believe the man "helping" me is pure of heart with good intentions....it just isn't so.”
“I’ve seen entire covens doing this. Abuse masked as sexual liberation and learning.”
“…we started watching videos on a man who claimed to have extraordinary psychic powers and he thought that was something he and I could master so we could have psychic powers too. These videos involved drawn out exercises that I couldn't hold for longer than a minute. At the first sign of weakness he pounced on my sensitive nature and hurled all sorts of negativity my way. I wanted to cry, but I knew that would make him even more mad so I internalized my pain which eventually turned into shame and self hatred.”
“I just read your piece and HOLY SHIT...it's like I was involved with the exact same man. And funny enough, your piece was forwarded to me from a woman who had also been involved with the same guy as I was…
…I was more than happy to organize this gathering, run that errand, prepare this event literature, make that phone call, etc, etc…because although I may not have realized it at the time, I was looking for validation that what I was trying to create with him was okay because it was “different”. The woman who sent me your blog piece could not believe the similarities between the woman you wrote about and our own experiences with the same guy we were with. That validation piece seems to be a fucking clincher across the board.”
“These types of males have crossed my path more than a few times, and one was an ongoing situation I repeatedly immersed myself into in my late 20's early 30's for the sake of prayer and ceremony. (Medicine Man/Spiritual community setting) My early story was one of sexual assault and rape like the women in your article. That seems to be a huge precedent of energy-speak to set us up for this particular interaction. The predator/victim scenario..."
I was blown away by how much resonance there has been to this story, and even more blown away by how little support many of these women have gotten over their experiences. There are many common threads, many shared experiences. I’ve had my fair share of experience with this predator/victim pattern of abuse myself. One experience that came up for me while writing this blog was one that I’d completely pushed out of my mind for years. I was 21 (7 years ago), and it was shortly after I’d had my spontaneous Kundalini awakening. It was very overwhelming, I didn’t know how to handle the energy, and I had no community. I found a “Kundalini healer” in the Twin Cities named Larry. I was also coming out of an intense phase of suicidal tendencies, trauma-induced sex addiction and self-destruction, and he knew about this. He was older, maybe late 50s, and the session was centered around massage and lots of probing questions. His questions, his touch, were incredibly triggering, and I told him so. He told me it was a good thing and that I needed to see it through for my healing. I went into complete trauma panic mode, guided by him, and ended up having sex with him. I remember when I went out to my car afterwards, I broke down and sobbed. The shame, the guilt, the shock, was unbearable. I never told anyone because of the crippling shame I felt at the time. I know now how wrong and unethical it was, but at the time, all I could do was blame myself. And that's how these types of people keep abusing.
Common traits of the spiritual abuser to watch for in your own relationships and your community:
- They are often very charismatic and socially charming
- They constantly proclaim how they are honest and noble, though their actions say otherwise
- They often encourage you to confess your vulnerabilities and fears with them so you will become emotionally dependent on them early on
- They leave a trail of breadcrumbs among acquaintances and on social media to reinforce their public image of being good, honest, trustworthy, and spiritually advanced.
- Shifting the blame of abuse to the abused. (“This is happening because of your issues with intimacy.” etc)
- They hold some sort of key to your healing that you can only access through them. (only with their help can you overcome)
- A tendency to separate you from your friends and family. Whether that’s building up a relationship that’s so rare no one could possibly understand it, or fighting with you because they question your motives and truth in relation to your friends and family. ("That sounds like your family/friend/ex talking, not you.")
- Conversely, pushing you into a part of a sanctioned community that he leads or is involved in, and reeling you in with sentiments that you are special and this community is the only one that could possibly understand you.
- Overwhelming you with a contradicting reality that’s too intense and fantastical to be real
- Using sex as a tool for your healing (“Your lower chakras are blocked. I can help you with that through sensual touch.”) This is a big one when Kundalini is involved.
Angela Jeffreys-Geuzinge is a Reiki Master and the president of the Atlantic Association of Energetic Healing Modalities. She was kind enough to send me this info on spotting a spiritual predator and what to look for, and it's great information to keep in mind anytime you are looking for healing work:
A therapist or teacher that dismisses or does not provide information about their training.
Many sexual predators have a sense of entitlement about themselves in that they are better than their training. Many of these "spiritual gurus" have never had any training at all. Ask for credentials, certificates and references. Avoid any teachers that are offended by your questions or will not provide them. (This last statement applies to female therapists and teachers as well.)
A sexual predator will seek those that lack confidence or self-esteem.
Look for a healer or teacher that makes a client or student feel very special. In a group setting a teacher or healer will seek out the less confident ones and put them in the center of attention, give them all their attention, or make them feel very special with words, actions and/or gifts. In one-on-one sessions, a sexual predator will give that certain look of attraction or make you feel attractive and special.
In a class, the teacher states you have special gifts and offers to meet with you one-on-one privately.
This may be completely legit, however make certain it is. Ask if you can include a friend or another student for extra practice. If this is met with immediate positive reception, then this is most likely legitimate. If there is any hesitancy or it is suggested that friends be worked on afterwards, then refuse the private training.
Usually in these situations no additional money is charged, giving you a sense of indebtedness to the teacher.
If the healer asks "Do you trust me?”
Look for a healer that asks "Do you trust me?" and then proceeds to suggest doing something that is outside of the scope of the healing modality (i.e. working within the breast or reproduction areas). If this is suggested ask for exact details; what is to happen and how that is supposed to help. If you are to remove your clothing (if this is a modality requires you to stay dressed) then immediately leave. If this is a modality where you are already undressed (i.e. massage therapy), clearly state that the session is over. Demand that he leave the room so you can get dressed and leave.
When you say the words "I trust you," these words mean "I trust you will do what is best for me in my healing and you will not harm or violate me." Predators will turn this around and use this as a way to engage you in sexual activities or other inappropriate behavior.
There are two types of predators. There is the predator that will engage in physical activities that are unethical. Then there is the passive aggressive predator who does not touch you or harm you physically but leaves you feeling very uncomfortable about your thoughts and your actions. Both are equally destructive. If at any time you feel uncomfortable with anything that has been said or suggested to you, know that you always have the right to end the session and leave.
Those are the signs to look for. Make sure to take them in full context. Many sexual predators have huge egos, which can be confused with confidence. They are two completely different things. A man who is confident does not necessarily have any ego. For example, my hypnotherapist is very confident in his work, but he does not have an ego whatsoever. Someone could misconstrue that confidence for ego and then prevent themselves from experiencing great healing.
Many women are hesitant to look for a male therapist, teacher or healer, whereas there is no need to fear - if you are aware of what to look out for. For some women, working with a male is best. Many women have had a bad experience with a female figure in their life so a male healer would feel safer for them. Additionally, working with a male can help balance energy, giving space for a deeper healing. Do not allow a few bad apples to deter you from seeing the rest of the good ones that are out there.
Be aware, be vigilant, and never ever feel bad in saying "No" and leaving. It is your right to do so.
I sat before two young women. Both beautiful, both strong, both in their mid to late 20s, both involved in overlapping spiritual communities. Both shared a story of meeting an older man, a spiritual teacher, who left a trail of fog and dissonance behind him. But this story is only partially about that man. This story is really about so many men, so many teachers and gurus, who still persist in manipulating and taking advantage of the sexuality of the Goddess. But lucky for this man, he gets to be the central character for today…
“I feel like he’s preying on people’s spiritual journeys,” Jewels said casually.
Her purple-tinted hair swept across her cheekbones, framing an enduring smile that was both comforting and no-nonsense. Jewels, short for Julia, was as her name implied; she was a multi-faceted rare gem, reflecting rays of light at every turn. She was also a marketing genius. She held fabulously successful events and fundraisers and left an energetic trail of glitter wherever she went. Her glitter was not just for show and it did not lack depth either…her smile, her shine, was built on her strength and passion.
“Particularly, preying on the spiritual journeys of people who happen to be beautiful young women,” Adara added, smirking somewhat sarcastically, fingering the rim of her latte mug absentmindedly. Her black fingernails tapped on the edges. Adara was a spitfire of a woman. She was a healer and a witch who preferred the company of the trees to that of the city. She was the fire that illuminated the darkest of caves where she hid her secrets. She was a shadow-walker, a deepsea dreamer.
We sat by the big front windows in the coffeehouse. It was a few days after the spring equinox, but in typical Minnesota fashion, snowflakes were falling outside the cafe window in huge fluffy pieces, whiting out the street in a show of suspended animation. An element of strangeness was at play, a sense of renewal juxtaposed against the final dying cry of winter’s grip. I wasn’t entirely sure of what exactly I getting involved in, only that I was pretty sure I was in the company of a unicorn and a dragon.
So how did you two first come into contact with him?
Jewels: I added him on Facebook. We had mutual friends, so I figured he’d be okay.
Adara: I think I was probably the mutual friend…sorry about that.
Jewels: (laughing) It’s alright.
Adara: I originally connected with him through LinkedIn. He was local to me, so I wasn’t surprised when he messaged me to connect. He had a business on there, about connecting with the wisdom of nature. He seemed legit. Harmless, even. LinkedIn crossed over into Facebook. He began liking my posts and pictures, and commenting with encouraging and playful remarks. Slowly, over the course of a few months, he became a normal figure in my newsfeed. Someone I now felt comfortable with. Someone I was comfortable being flirtatious with. Someone who seemed altogether nonthreatening. He told me he felt that we had a connection, and I agreed, even though I didn’t know what kind of connection I was feeling. He was a good looking man in his 50s, but I wasn't sure of the nature of my feelings about him. I was consistently invited to his healing circle events. For months, I had already made plans or I simply didn’t want to meet him yet.
Jewels: Same for me. He started liking and commenting on my pictures and asked me if I wanted to meet with him, go for a hike with him.
Did you go?
Jewels: Well, I told him I wouldn’t go off into the woods with a stranger, but that I would meet him for tea.
How did it go, meeting for the first time?
Jewels: We ended up having tea at his place. It all seemed very harmless, but I do remember checking the exit points when I first got there. That’s just habit for me, I have military experience.
Adara: (laughing) The exit point for his place is a little tricky. You have to lift up the floor to leave!
Jewels: (nodding towards me) Yeah, he lives in an attic apartment in a big old house. You have to lift up a section of the floor to go down the stairs.
What did you and him do?
Jewels: We chatted. He was very nice. He talked about his healing work, I talked about mine, he told me he felt that we already had a connection. He offered to do some reiki on me, and I accepted. He had me lay down on his bed, which was on the floor.
How did that feel?
Jewels: I mean, his place was oddly non-threatening. There were crystals and trinkets and nature posters everywhere. And the reiki was fine. But then, when he was done and I opened my eyes, he was lying down on the bed next to me, too close to me, looking at me. Almost expectantly. I instantly felt really weird and knew I had to break the connection. I sat up, creating space between us. He kept reinforcing the idea that we had a deep connection already, and he told me he would be very open to exploring our connection in an intimate or sexual way.
Are you single?
Jewels: At the time I was.
Was his closeness a red flag for you?
Jewels: I wasn’t sure. See, I’ve had issues with male authority, so I thought the weirdness I was feeling was my own issues. Apart from him getting too close to me, he seemed okay. I didn’t want to judge him based on my personal issues.
I looked over and Adara was slowly nodding in agreement.
What about your first time meeting him, Adara?
Adara: It was also at his place. We sat on the floor in the attic and talked. Prior to meeting him, he often talked about us meeting being this big thing that the universe was gifting us with, like he was already building up our relationship before we even met. And when we met, he was quick to offer up compliments, flattering me with how brave I am, how strong I am, how I’m a free woman who understands divine femininity. He talked about our connection, how deep it was, how we were intimates together. He told me that with his help, I could easily go to the next level of spiritual evolution. He told me he could feel that I was ready to work with him. He asked me a lot of questions about my spirituality, but for some reason, I didn't want to offer up the information. Maybe on some level I felt that the information wasn't safe with him, I don't know. We did some eye-gazing, and I was able to glimpse some Scottish heritage on his part, but I couldn’t shake this extreme, underlying feeling of discomfort, of crawling under my skin. He stroked my knee and told me that he could see we’d been lovers in past lifetimes.
How did you feel about all of that?
Adara: Well, I might be a witch, but I’m still very practical. When he started talking about us being lovers in past lifetimes, I actually stifled a laugh. Not that I don’t believe that can happen, but he was playing his hand too soon, too fast, too intense. I knew it couldn’t be real from the get-go. I knew there was something I disliked about him right after actually meeting him. My body screamed my distaste for him. But there was also this curiosity that I couldn’t deny either, like a pragmatic urge to rule out my own shit. I also have had issues with males, especially in spiritual authority positions. And it was something I’d been actively working on and clearing for months. So I wanted to know that those feelings weren’t my own issues. He was so charming and charismatic that my dramatic internal distaste seemed so out of place. I even told him that I didn’t really feel the connection he was explaining, and he said, “Oh, you will. It’s there, trust me.”
I sighed heavily, already noting a foreboding theme between them. Both of them had previously disclosed to me that they each had a background of sexual abuse.
So you both knew you didn’t like what was happening, but you both assumed it was your own issues with men, and not his impropriety, that was making you uncomfortable.
Jewels: Yeah, I didn’t want to make any harsh judgments about him, in case the issue was on my end.
Adara: Exactly. And he always made it seem like any discomfort I was feeling, was due to my lack of experience or wisdom, or like I just hadn’t ‘got there’ yet.
Adara: I don’t know, enlightenment. Like, if I was truly a wise, enlightened being, I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable with him in those intimate situations.
Jewels: As if being intimate with him was an expression of spiritual advancement.
Do you think that’s what he was counting on, for you to be hyper-aware of your past triggers about intimacy so you would overlook your own feelings in his favor?
Jewels: That would make sense.
Adara: He actually talked about triggers sometimes. About how he tended to trigger people, especially women, because he had such a big personality, and that it was a good thing because he was inspiring growth in them, teaching them about themselves.
What about your second time meeting him?
Jewels: I went on a hike with him. He talked a lot about our connection, and even mentioned teaching spiritual classes together, which seemed odd since we hardly knew one another. He reiterated that he would love to explore our connection and intimacy. This is the day things went bad though.
Jewels: I’d forgotten that I had to pick up my son at a certain time that day and told him when we were together. He got really agitated with me, and started talking about how he hated it when people wasted his time and cancelled plans.
I looked over at Adara, who was cocking her head in confusion.
What is it, Adara?
Adara: That is really weird! I cancelled and changed plans on him a bunch of times, and he never once got agitated with me.
Adara: Yeah, he was always super laid back and casual when it came to plans with me. Maybe it was because he knew that the freedom was a big thing for me…he always came off *so* casual in that way, and almost emphasized that point. Maybe to make me feel more comfortable around him?
Jewels, is that agitation at canceling plans a part of your past? Was that something that came up in your last relationship, by chance?
Jewels: (looking somewhat shocked) Actually, my ex always got really mad at me whenever I had to change plans. It was a huge point of contention in our relationship.
Adara: So he somehow taps into these issues to tailor the plan to who he's trying to manipulate?
Jewels: But does he do it on purpose or does he really not know what he’s doing?
Adara: Either his spiritual ability to feel into other people’s energy is real, and he manipulates it for his purposes, or his spiritual persona is more of a farce and he’s just using the idea of it as another tool of manipulation. Or he’s honestly clueless and is using spirituality really carelessly.
In any of those instances, it’s still a dangerous game.
Jewels: So he’s still making me doubt myself by bringing up my past issues with men.
Adara, what was your second meeting like?
Adara: Well, I finally went to one of his healing circles that he leads. (turning to Jewels) Did you ever go to one of those?
Jewels: No, I never really felt drawn to it.
Adara: Yeah, I wasn’t feeling super drawn to it either. But we’d made plans to hang out afterwards so I ended up going to one of them.
How was it?
Adara: I already knew that I was going to feel triggered by attending an event where he was the leader, the spiritual authority. So I was already in observation mode. A handful of people showed up to the event. I’d never met any of them. There was one other girl there my age, her name was Lydia. I was actually really glad to meet another girl my age, and we started talking before the circle started. She was a local yoga teacher and she helped facilitate the circles. We had already agreed that we would exchange information and get coffee sometime. I was grateful for the connection, especially in that setting.
What was the actual circle like?
Adara: Half of us sat in chairs while the other half went around those who were sitting, laying hands and channeling healing energy. And then everyone switched. I actually really liked the concept, and I liked the flow of energy between everyone, and how each person was different. The thing I didn’t like was that he was walking around the circle as all of this was going on, guiding us and talking a lot. I felt his energy on my back. It felt kind of slimy and invasive, and I kept getting that feeling that he was trying to teach me how to do it, and I hated that. I’ve been a reiki healer for years, and despite my youth, I am well-established in my own right. I felt so triggered that I literally struggled against running out of there right then and there. I didn’t though. I observed my feelings, I acknowledged them, but then I wanted to see them through, see whether my triggers were influenced by my past and my issues.
Were you glad when it was over?
Adara: SO glad. He got ready to go pretty quickly after the end of the event, and I noticed he didn’t seem to say goodbye to everyone. I followed his lead, rushing out of there without really saying goodbye. I was overwhelmed. I’d wanted to connect with Lydia before I left, but I was glad to hurry out.
What did you do then?
Adara: I went back to his place to hang out. He’d bought some wine for us and I was all-too-happy to indulge and relax my nerves at that point. I was actually proud of myself for keeping our plans when part of me wanted to rush home immediately afterwards. Getting into my first glass of wine, I mentioned how I’d forgotten to talk to Lydia before I left and felt a little bad about it, so I quickly added her on Facebook and messaged her. I wanted to tell her why I left and that I was hanging out with him, but instead I simply said that I was spacey and that I still wanted to get together soon. He talked briefly about Lydia, how he’s known her for awhile and that he thought her and I would get along. He suggested that he might be into a threesome with us, since he knew I was bisexual. I kind of laughed, not really taking him seriously. And then things got weird.
Adara: I was in my second glass of wine, and he started talking about our connection again. He talked about our intimacy and how we were the new evolved relationship. He flattered me again and again, calling me beautiful, calling me brave, calling me powerful. He talked about how he’d love to travel with me and lead retreats with me. He asked me how we could make that happen when my boyfriend was in the picture.
You have a boyfriend?
Adara: Yes, a long-term boyfriend. We have an open relationship, though honestly, I very rarely feel the need to act on it. It’s mostly because I need to feel like I’m the one who gets to make the decisions for my own body, regardless of my relationship status. I need to reinforce that I own my own body, and he fully supports me in that. He knew exactly where I was that night.
Was he okay with you having a boyfriend?
Yes. He actually praised my open relationship. He’d been married before so he talked a bit about that relationship ending because he was too big for it. Though he seemed to make a lot of assumptions about my open relationship. He talked about how I’m too much for one person, and that there were needs that could be fulfilled elsewhere, how it’s more enlightened to be open.
Do you feel differently about your open relationship?
Adara: Yeah. I’m fully in love with my boyfriend on all levels. I’m not in an open relationship because my needs aren’t being met. He seemed to think that I just wasn’t into sex with my boyfriend and that’s why I was there with him, which was completely off base. People are in different kinds of relationships for very different reasons, and I don't think there’s one way to have a relationship that’s more spiritual than another, as long as it’s based on love and respect.
Did you explain that to him?
Adara: Honestly, no. I disagreed with most of the things he was talking about that night, but I was already feeling really guarded from the healing circle and unwilling to offer up my vulnerability, and for some reason, I wanted to play along. I wanted to see what was happening, what he was after. He'd told me that he was unattached and completely free to explore everything. I will fully admit that I was leading him on on purpose in our conversations, or rather, letting him lead me, and I'm not proud of that. I never had any intention of being with him in the ways he was mentioning, but my curiosity really took over in this situation because I knew something was off. I wanted to sniff it out. So I didn’t argue. But things got more confusing.
Adara: He started talking about how he wanted us to teach intimacy classes together, because we were already so intimate with one another and we could perfectly model how to do what we were doing. We could teach others to be intimate like we were.
I raised my eyebrows suspciously.
Adara: Exactly. I couldn’t believe that he didn’t see that I wasn’t comfortable with him, that I wasn’t being openly intimate with him at all. I was holding back everything. I wasn’t sure if he really couldn’t see that, or if he could see it and was just trying to make me believe his version of things instead of my own. He was so sure of himself, so sure of our relationship, so sure that I would become even more advanced with his help. I knew what I knew and what I felt, but being around him, hearing him talk, I don't know, he had a way of making things confusing. Even things you knew were true to you when you weren't around him, you began to second guess yourself when you're with him.
It seems like he was gaslighting you, overwhelming you with a reality completely different from your own, to get you to doubt yourself.
Adara: Yeah, looking back, I do believe he was gaslighting me. I couldn't believe how confusing it was. I'm typically a very intuitive and decisive, even stubborn, person. The level of confusion I felt with him was unlike anything I'd experienced before.
What happened then?
Adara: I got up to go to the bathroom, and I realized that I’d had way too much wine. I knew I’d been tipsy up until this point, but when I stood up, I realized I was way past my usual limit. I’d also forgotten that I hadn’t eaten since that morning, so my drunkenness was a bit of a surprise to me. I felt my balance was off, and my head flooded and got fuzzy. I got back from the bathroom, sitting down and telling him that I’d had too much to drink. He asked me if I wanted to lay down. He said he would love to take our clothes off and simply cuddle in bed. I declined, but I didn’t feel threatened. He still seemed fairly harmless, albeit confusing, to me. I knew I’d just have to wait for the wine to wear off. I changed into a pair of sweatpants I had in my bag, and we continued our conversation, though at this point, I was not terribly talkative or coherent.
After a few more minutes, my head was completely clouded. I felt sick. I said that I needed to lay down for a minute, and I did. He laid down next to me. He asked me if I wanted to take my clothes off. I said no, that I wasn’t comfortable with that. He held me as my head was swimming. Soon, he kissed me. I didn’t stop him. I observed how I felt about it in the fog. I felt like everything he was doing was sped up, and everything I was doing, including my reflexes and reaction time, was slowing down. I felt like he was physically overwhelming my senses, not kissing me. He was on top of me and asked me if he could take my pants off. I stumbled over my words and shook my head no, saying, “I don’t know.” I could feel my boundaries as if they were physical things around me, only the wine made it so the edges of them were blurred and hard to reach. I was reaching for them, only it wasn’t working. I wasn’t yelling or screaming or fighting or anything like that. But I never actually said yes.
Suddenly, I realized that my bra had been unhooked, my shirt was lifted, and my pants and underwear had been taken off. His mouth was on me, and I was still trying to grasp when that happened. The transitions were blurry. I knew what he was doing now, but I don’t remember how it happened. I specifically remembered saying both "no" and "I don't know" in the many moments leading up to this. I was overwhelmed. He was everywhere, in a frantic overpowering fashion. It felt as though he was in a moment of passion, and I was just in a moment of what-the-fuck-is-happening. My thoughts were moving so slow and I was struggling to regain my awareness. And then he was over me, and I thought I felt his naked hard-on against my thigh. I didn't remember him taking his clothes off. A momentary sting of powerful fear hit me, powerful enough to bring me to alertness as I pushed him a bit and sat up. He smiled and sat next to me as we both readjusted displaced clothing, as if this was the bittersweet ending of a passionate few moments.
I felt sobered by that fear. My mental clarity returned as I struggled to process what had just happened. He told me I was amazing. I sat in silence. I said that I needed to sober up and go home. He told me I could spend the night, and I declined. He gave me a box of coconut water as I reluctantly sat with him, waiting. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I told him I was okay to go and I tried to hide my stumbling as I left his attic apartment and went to my car. I stood outside my car, breathing in the cold air as deeply as I could. I walked through the neighborhood, it was past midnight at this point, until the time and the cold made the effects of the wine disappear and I could go home.
I’m so sorry that happened. Did you want to confront him after that?
Adara: I don’t know. I was very confused. It all happened so fast and I was so messed up for awhile there. I didn’t know how I felt about the lines of consent, and how convoluted my feelings got about them, but I knew then that he wasn’t the harmless guy he came off as. I knew that he manipulated my drunken state intentionally. I knew that he heard me when I said I was uncomfortable, when I said “I don’t know.” I knew that he decidedly ignored my boundaries, and I knew that I couldn’t trust him.
The next day, he messaged me saying how powerful the night was. I decided I wanted to confront him, but not about the physical stuff that happened. I hadn't even begun to process what any of that meant yet. What I wanted to confront him with most, was how he overwhelmed me with his this different version of reality that undermined mine and made me so confused. How he projected himself onto me so inappropriately. I e-mailed him, telling him how I didn’t feel the intimate connection with him that he raved about, and that it would be pure recklessness and stupidity to teach an intimacy class together when we don’t have that positive intimate connection that he so vehemently tried to assure me that we did. I did end up e-mailing him, telling him all of this. I told him I thought it was dangerous of him to so strongly project realities onto other people when they don't share the feeling. I was so proud of myself for reinforcing my boundaries.
What did he say back?
Adara: He actually thanked me for being so honest, which I appreciated. I thought there was hope yet, that we just needed to understand eachother better. But then he was so pleased with my e-mail that he said, “This is what true intimacy looks like!” And then I felt like I was just chasing my tail again. It seemed he missed the point. As if me stating my boundaries actually reinforced his version of our intimacy. He was still trying to pull me in, while I was still trying to pull away. He said that he gets caught up in the possibilities of the future, and that's why he projects. He hinted at the idea that I'm not ready to teach intimacy classes because I'm not there yet, but that he had been ready to teach intimacy for a long time, so he could just find somebody else to teach with him. I cringed at the thought of him teaching intimacy to a group with young women, based on what had happened the night before.
What happened then?
Adara: Well, I stopped talking to him for a few days. I was still feeling really gross about the other night. I observed the stuff he was posting on Facebook. It felt like he was posting things about me and for me somehow...and they were things that reinforced his version of things: the positive, intimate, spiritual evolution vibes. His social media presence always seemed to retroactively create an alibi for his actions.
A few days later, I met up with Lydia , the girl I met at his event, for coffee. I wanted to hang out with her anyways, and I also figured it would be a good way to get some more information. She was friends with him, so I thought I would find clarity in the midst of the confusion.
How did it go?
Adara: We talked about our lives and our work, and I instantly knew I liked her and could be friends with her. I started feeling more comfortable, but still cautious, so I finally asked about him. I mentioned that he was very challenging for me, that I had really conflicting feelings. I was being vague because I didn’t want to tell her everything yet. She seemed to know I was being vague but leading into something, because then she said, “You know we’re together right?” I said, “What? Like in a committed relationship?” and she said, “Yeah, we’ve been together for two years.”
WHAT. Jewels, did you know he had a girlfriend?
Jewels: No!! Not at all! I mean, he did tell me that if I ever went to an event of his, that he wanted us to remain professional and not too close in public, but I didn’t really think anything of it.
Adara: Ha! That makes more sense now, doesn’t it? I’m sure my face betrayed me when Lydia told me. I was shocked. He’d told me they’d known eachother for awhile, but he didn’t even hint at the fact that they were boyfriend and girlfriend, aside from an off-color comment about a possible threesome. I asked her what their arrangement was, wondering if it was an open relationship and this could all be explained. She couldn’t seem to give me a straight answer, but she did manage to tell me that they’ve talked about it but she wasn’t that comfortable with it. She obviously had no idea about him and I.
So he willingly put his girlfriend and his potential mistress in the same room together at the healing event hoping they wouldn’t discover eachother?
Adara: Yes, or maybe he wanted us to discover eachother, I don't know. He’d told me when we first met up that he would keep everything about us just between us and would like that in return. I thought he was just being respectful of my situation, but now I’m seeing it as so much more, as him trying to protect his secrets. It really fucking pissed me off that he was so cocky and confident about it, and then even pushed me towards a friendship with her after we met. It felt kinda cult-leaderlike to me.
So I asked her a little bit about how they met. She told me that the first time they got together, they eye-gazed and saw past lives together. She told me it was a soul connection they had, that they had been lovers in many past lives. I nearly choked on my breath. I wanted to respect her and be happy for her, as she was clearly very much in love, but her story was almost verbatim to the first time I met him, when we eye-gazed and he told me of our soul connection, of our past lives of being lovers. I couldn't shake the feeling that he'd been using the same stories over and over with every young woman he met. I felt sick to my stomach. And now after hearing Jewels's story, the evidence doesn't lie.
Did you tell her about what happened with him?
Adara: No, I didn’t. I wasn’t ready to play my hand yet.
I knew I needed to confront him first. But I was also pissed off, and I wanted the truth more than anything else. So I wanted to fuck with him a little first...
(Come back next Thursday to read the conclusion of Adara’s confrontation with the man who manipulated her, and hear her and Jewels’s reflections on their experiences, as well as read stories from others who have been spiritually/sexually manipulated and learn how to be more aware of the warning signs. If you have had personal experience with this and would like to share, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and include a short paragraph about your experience to be anonymously featured in part of next week's installment. I will also be sharing a personal story that happened to me. This is an important conversation. Let's have it.)
"Why are you afraid?" I asked him, the words sticking together strangely in my mouth, as if they weren't my own.
And they weren't. I'm not sure how it happened. Moments ago, I was clutching my chest in pain, my heart breaking from something my lover had said to me. I don't even remember what he'd said, only that we were lying next to eachother in bed, my spirit receding deep into my body, away from his hurtful words. I crumpled into a ball like a small child, sinking further and further away from my bedroom and from reality, until I found a dark little hole to hide in, in the echoing caves nestled in the back of my heart.
It was then I felt the presence of someone strong, someone much stronger than myself, stepping in. She pet my hair softly, gently whispering, "I'll take it from here if you'll let me." I whimpered my permission, eager to stay hidden in that little hole, eager to be the child protected in the dark a little longer.
There was an exchange as I felt her step in. My fearful child self was hidden away safely now. A strange tingle, a surge of electric fire, circulated throughout my body as I bid her farewell for the moment. I was no longer me; my mysterious protector took over, allowing me to feel what was happening as she observed my world through her eyes. I rose into an upright position on the bed, turning my head slowly to feel the movement. It felt heavy and delayed in this dense physical space. How delightful to be in this physical body! I smiled devilishly, feeling taller than a mountain and more dangerous than a hurricane.
Another feeling rose up in my throat: bloodlust.
For the first time in my life, I tasted blood in my mouth like it was wine. I craved violence, I craved destruction, I craved the fresh kill. And more specifically, I craved the fresh kill of my lover. My eyes were locked on his as I let this lust soak into every cell of my being. I rotated my head and neck, over and over, as if there were serpents inside of me. They were waking up, preparing to strike. I felt my eyes blacken and glisten in the night, a hint of that electric fire surely glowing behind them. My new eyes observed my lover, challenging and taunting him. I noticed the exact moment his expression shifted. He knew. He knew it was someone else. I saw fear reflecting back at me. He no longer recognized me.
And I savored it. The raw power, the indestructibility, the fear I inflicted by being in power. It was intoxicating. It was pleasurable. It was glorious. No one would ever hurt me. No one would dare take me on. Oh, but I would love it if they did...
He got out of the bed. He walked to the door, keeping his eyes on me, as if he was slowly backing away from a tiger who'd gotten out of her cage.
"Why are you afraid?" I asked him.
"I'm going downstairs..." he said in an odd tone. I tilted my head in response, like a predator curiously observing her prey.
When he left the room, I sat comfortably on the bed. I rocked and gyrated like the serpent inside of me. And as much as I wanted to describe the energy inside of me as “slightly demonic” at the time, I was not afraid. Never had I felt so safe, so protected. When the feeling subsided, I sank back into my bed. I was comfortable and warm in my blanket. The bloodlust was gone. The raw power and destruction was gone. I felt like a child, yawning and smiling, satisfied by the bedtime story my mother had read to me.
My lover told me later that he saw someone else in me in those moments. But it wasn’t until months after we broke up, after he’d cheated on me, after I watched him fall in love with someone else, that I understood what had happened.
Many months later, I dreamt of a gathering of people in my childhood home. A friend of mine from LA was there, someone dear to me who was spiritually tied to me in the Dreamtime. I was suddenly outside, looking towards the heavy gray sky. A single black wing fell from the clouds, dense and slow. It landed on the roof of my home. A filter of power and destruction instantly enveloped the earth, and yet I wasn't afraid. The entire world became heavy, deliberate and still, and I jerked awake.
I called my friend to tell him about my dream.
"We did an invocation of the goddess Kali here in LA last night," he told me. "She’s been called The Black One, which would explain the black wing. It sounds like you were tuned into it, too.”
I buried myself in research. I was terrified by what I found. Kali, the Dark Mother, The Black One. A sword in one hand, a severed head in another, a string of skulls for a necklace, and a skirt made of human hands. I recognized the energy from the strange night with my lover. The bloodlust, the violence, the horrifying protector. I got chills thinking of her, knowing our connection, feeling the truth of it. Had she chosen me? Why? Had I chosen her? Why?
I dreamt of her for many nights. In one such dream, she appeared as a giant, burning cities to the ground and destroying everything in sight. She wore a beautiful blood-red dress with edges in glittering gold. When she approached me, I cowered in fear. Seeing my fear, she crouched down to me.
“No, no,” she cooed softly. “You have nothing to fear. I am here to serve you.”
She appeared to me many times, building a relationship with me. Not based on hierarchies, not as a goddess to a mere human, but as a team. As mother and daughter. As sisters. As lovers. As reflections of one another. She taught me the power of the cycle of destruction and creation, of death and rebirth. She showed me what it looked like to fiercely protect myself, to fiercely love myself, and how to extend that protection and love to others. We've shared in that power together for years now.
Yes, she is dark, but so am I.
She accompanies me through the depths of my shadows.
She is the protector of women.
She is the fiercest mother of children.
She is the insatiable, uncontrollable lover.
She is the mistress of destructive fate.
She is karmic justice in its least subtle form.
She is the reason I thrive in chaos.
She is pure fire, sparking my rebirth and creativity in every moment.
She is the dancing serpent, rising towards heaven with her darkened eyes and lolling tongue.
She is why I revel in the moments my life crumbles into ash and dust.
She is burning cities and blooming gardens.
She is me.
And she is you, too, my beloved Wild One.
There are days I wake up with golden beams of light streaming out from between my legs like the coming of the dawn. I am Goddess. I am pleasure. I am Venus hanging out in a clam shell. I am a Renaissance painting, with my seductive soft edges strewn across a fainting sofa, creating a dramatic silhouette of unspeakable glories.
“I dare you to resist me, mortals,”
I announce to no one in particular as I lift my head for the bunch of grapes that should surely be hanging above my lips that very moment. My body is a juicy, juicy peach that is positively overripe with sensuality and my curves are intoxicating. I hold endless power in my womb and the world is my playground for my strength and curiosity. I look at myself and see cups of wine, dripping honey, floral garlands, mossy earth and absolute transcendence. I have a GOOD body. My walk is an irresistible dance… my hips sway like delicate branches in the wind and the roots of my sex simmer in exotic spices.
But this isn’t every day.
And no matter how many times I draw a heart with lipstick around my reflection on the mirror, no matter how many times I start my day with an affirmation of “I am a beautiful magickal creature,” I still won't have juicy days every day. Some days, I just won't get there.
On those days, I wake up inside this prison called a body. Every movement is torturous. Every thought is heavy. I can accomplish nothing. My skin is crawling and I would give anything to break out through the top of my head and escape this ugly fleshy burden. I look at myself and see abuse, eating disorders, pain and crippling fear. I have a BAD body. My spirit is restless and I cannot stand another moment trapped inside this dense mask that hides my soul. No one sees me. No one knows me. This is crushing. This hurts.
We have been taught to weigh the worth of our physical bodies on a scale that has only two options: good or bad. If our body falls on the good side, we are made to believe that we have value, we have everything. If our body falls on the bad side, we are made to believe that we do not have value, we have nothing. We have been conditioned to swing wildly between these extremes based on fleeting emotions or comments from others.
And while most of us now know this is bullshit, we still operate from the binary thinking of being "good" or "bad." We changed and expanded the definition of "good" and what that includes, so we can all be a part of it. This is body positivity.
But how many days have I demonized my body in my efforts to shove it all into the "good" category? How many scars, folds, and marks have I cast aside as unwanted, as undesired, when I couldn't shift them into this expanded definition of "good" so easily? How many times have I hunched over, clenching my fists against my chest, willing my body to shrink and compact and disappear against the mirage of beauty that I couldn't force upon myself? How many times have I pushed my body away, disconnected from it, refused to claim it on account of its “bad”ness? How many times have I consciously connected with my body, how many times have I consciously CLAIMED my body, only when I was feeling juicy? Only when it was praised? Only when I was feeling like it was doing “good” things?
No more. I cannot live in this dissonance, employing my self-abandonment whenever things get tough, whenever I can no longer pretend my feelings are all in the "good" category. Sometimes, the pressure to be body positive all the time is too much.
When we say to our friends, "Ugh, I'm feeling so ugly today," the typical response is, "No, don't say that! You're beautiful!"
But why do I have to be beautiful? Why can't we acknowledge our real gritty feelings on ugliness as they arise? Why can't we guide one another into the root of our feelings, discovering that it's never really about being beautiful in the first place? Why does our body have to be one thing or another at all times?
I just want to have my body. I just want to live and love and work and travel and just fucking have a body. Can I just have my body?
This is not just about body positivity or body acceptance.
This is about self-ownership.
I am not ugly. I am not beautiful.
I am beautiful. I am ugly.
I'm everything. I have to be everything. I have to claim it all, all of the "good"ness and the "bad"ness, until it all becomes one large picture of existence that simply IS and is neither one nor the other. Chugging a superfood green smoothie doesn't make my body good, as much as indulging in pizza and ice cream doesn't make it bad. Feeling insecure in bed doesn't make my body bad, as much as feeling like an irresistible sex kitten doesn't makes it good. In every single case, it is still my body, and it still deserves to be recognized and loved without being rewarded or punished.
I know I will have lots of feelings about my body as I embrace my wholeness. It won't be easy, but I will claim them all and break this incriminating pattern of reward vs. punishment. I'm going to have really easy days, and that's cool. I'm going to have really hard days, and that's cool too.
When my body feels ugly, I will claim it as mine.
When my body feels irresistible, I will claim it as mine.
When my body feels broken, I will claim it as mine.
When my body feels unstoppable, I will claim it as mine.
This is MY body. Every day. I own it. I am responsible for it. I make decisions for it. I will not abandon it anymore. It is neither bad nor good, and yet, it is both. And everything in between. Every day, I will claim my body and claim myself. Every day, I will be aware that my relationship with my body is just that: a relationship. An ever-evolving rollercoaster of ups and downs that requires patience, unconditional love, and constant work.
Only by claiming my body in its entirety, can I connect with it. Only by claiming myself in my entirety, can I find liberation from the subtle oppressive forces that attempt to split me into pieces on a daily basis.
Sometimes liberation is “Fuuuuuuuuck!” screamed at the top of your lungs, on the top of a mountain, your naked tits shaking like thunder at midnight, and watching your divine rage move the tops of the trees below.
Sometimes liberation is a soft sigh settling into the body, in a warm quiet corner of a dark night, after a long day of exhaustive grief and self-punishment.
And I choose to claim it all.
This is MY body. This body is MINE.
[[[as a reminder, in case there is any confusion, here is a running list of who my body does NOT belong to. And as my body does not belong to them, they can neither claim ownership of it, nor can I willingly give them ownership of it.
- men that I know
- men that I don't know
- my parents
- my husband
- my past lovers
- my employers
- clothing companies
- women that I know
- women that I don’t know
- teachers (of any kind)
- beauty companies ]]]
I feel a divide growing within the spiritual movement.
It has been growing slowly, almost imperceptibly. Like a frog swimming in a pot of gradually boiling water that hasn't realized the danger he's in.
Here it is, dare I say it: The realm of the mainstream spiritual has become shallow and dogmatic.
In an effort to reach divinity, enlightenment, and guru-status, we’ve banished and demonized the “negative” and the struggle of the human experience. We’ve lost touch with the glorious bittersweet medicine that our pain and suffering offers when truly acknowledged by the Self and the tribe, and subsequently integrated with compassion and love.
I tried. Fuck, I tried. I did the meditations, I did the training, I did the work. I focused on the positive, I focused on the light, I focused on letting go of my darkness. Just release, they said. Don’t even bring attention to what it is, they said, just release it. I advanced in my healing skills, in my awareness, in my intuition. I worked deeply with clients doing soul retrievals, secretly reveling in the shadow of the underworld. I knew that there were those in my spiritual community who did not approve of my work. But I worked anyways, because I saw how deeply I could connect with my clients. I saw and acknowledged their pain. I focused on the integration of their experience, rather than the denial of it. I cried tears of joy when I heard of how much my work was helping them heal themselves. And at the same time, I was jealous. Why wasn’t the work healing ME? Why wasn’t I feeling better? Why wasn’t MY shit releasing?
That growing awareness backfired. More and more, I felt I was wading in the shallow pond of the world while my spirit was so deeply imbedded in the dark muck of the earth, in a place no one wanted to look. I was not offering the same sense of acknowledgment to myself that I offered my clients. I was still trying to uphold the notion that I was supposed to be a certain way, that I was supposed to be zen and happy all the time if I was going to be a healer. But nothing was in balance. I didn’t feel real. I didn't feel authentic to myself. I was trapped between the the worlds...I was too spiritually minded to be a muggle, but I wasn't the right kind of spiritual for the actual spiritual community.
So I said Fuck it.
I am part of a generation of witches rising up to say Fuck it. A generation of witches that has been burned too many times, and refuses to silently wither away in the flames again.
Don’t bring your attention to the fire, they said. Just release it and let it go, they said.
But not this time. This time, we are taking those flames inside of us, acknowledging them and respecting them and feeling their searing pain, and letting them transform in our bellies so we may breathe out the fire of an awakened dragon. As awakened dragons, as millennial witches, as priestesses of the moon, as unpredictable beautiful bitches, as wild wolf women, we have a list of demands and decrees:
-Our sexuality will be honored as spiritual, sacred, divine, and primal. It is communication with the divine, it is a link between heaven and earth, it is pleasure for pleasure’s sake, it is the human experience. It is a force all its own and won’t be controlled or belittled.
-And yet, our spirituality will not be sexualized, fetishized, or infantilized. The Priestess is not a fetish. The days of gurus sexually manipulating and abusing the Goddess are SO over. We’re not buying what you’re selling. No one gets to tell us how pure or impure we are, and what makes us that way, and whether we need to change that or not.
-We don’t want our spirituality to taste like candy. We don’t want rainbows and unicorns and sugary sweet confections of relentless positivity and the law of attraction. We want our spirituality to taste like dark chocolate; deep, rich, a little bitter, a little sweet, sensual and complex. We want it real, we want it deep. We won’t accept anything less.
-Many of us swear. Like, we really swear. We fucking swear a fucking lot. Deal with it. What’s a witch who doesn’t curse? (Not to mention it’s good for your brain—google that shit.)
-We will not be shamed. For our sexuality, for our lifestyles, for our choices, for the shortage of fucks that we give. Our lives, our power, our choice. Get on board or get out.
-You will not tell us to simply “let go”, “clear”, or “release” our feelings and issues by way of ignoring them. We don’t just release; we integrate. We take our darkness and stew in it, letting our unique human experiences mingle with our divinity, creating a powerful form of alchemy that’s whole and complete. We know the light is only half of what makes us powerful. Once integration is complete, what is no longer needed naturally releases as a byproduct of the process.
-We do not live in binaries, so don’t categorize us in them. Don’t tell us what’s “good” and what’s “bad” because we know better than that. Don’t tell us to live in the light to banish our shadows. In fact, don't tell us what we are or what we should do at all. We are fluid and becoming more so. Gender fluid, sexually fluid, socially fluid, spiritually fluid.
-We hold a deep respect for social and cultural issues. We won’t use “Namaste” as a substitute for “goodbye” just because it sounds spiritual. We won’t wear a bindi on our foreheads just because it’s cute. We won't discount another's experience and point of view just because it's not ours. We realize that our individual path is not more important than an entire marginalized culture’s. We listen.
-“Omg I can’t say anything without someone getting offended and everything has to be sooooooo PC nowadays.” <—Nah. We don't see it like this. We see a generation coming into their own, attempting to own their view of the world and how they’d like it to be. Clearly, there’s a growing outcry for more sensitivity and change. You could stubbornly fight it or try to understand why it’s happening. Change won’t happen without conversation, so be open to the conversation, even if you don’t see it the same way.
-Be aware when you respond to our feelings. There's a tendency, when someone admits they are feeling something other than complete joy or satisfaction, to apologize and suggest ways to be rid of that feeling. F that noise. The only cure for feelings is to feel them. Completely. Sink into them and allow their wisdom to wash over you. We don't wallow, but we do feel. Everything. We refuse to repress or push our feelings aside just because they make us (or you) uncomfortable. (P.S. We hardly think "You should meditate on it." or "Have you tried going gluten free?" are appropriate responses to anything. And this is coming from someone who both meditates and is gluten free.)
-The second you use any of the new age buzzwords— manifesting abundance, the law of attraction, meditation, energy healing, authentic, etc etc— our discernment kicks the fuck in. It’s not that we don’t believe in manifestation and meditation and energy healing, we definitely do. Manifesting is our middle name. But without the realness of our human and divine darkness acknowledged by our teachers, coaches and mentors, the spiritual movement becomes oppressive and dogmatic dressed as light and love. And not to mention, manipulated for profit when the actual authenticity is not behind it, considering the growing trend. We will search you, hard, before we will work with you.
-Maybe the most important of all, we know that Truth is found in paradox. If it’s not a contradiction in itself, we are wary. If we are not contradictions in ourselves, we are not real.
We will not accept less than what we are. We will not be only partially ourselves because it's prettier or happier. We will be gritty and raw and beautiful and whole. We love fiercely. Love is at the core of our beings, but we know that sometimes love is the awakened dragon burning down the bridges that no longer serve us.
the witches you love and fear
**As nothing is just black or white, I acknowledge and appreciate the spiritual teachers and mentors in my life that have never oppressed me and have always wanted me to be myself. You know who you are and I thank you from the bottom of my fiery heart.