How does one express in writing the grandiose statement, “This was the most transformative year of my life,” without using the word amazing 25 times or sounding like a total love child? Well, it just isn’t possible. So here it goes: My 10 most AMAZING, life-altering learnings about love from 2012:
I want to shout it from the roof tops the profoundly deep amount of support I get from both my San Diego community and extended global tribe. Yesterday, I began to make a list just to see how many people I really genuinely love in a personal way. (I happen to love you all TRANSpersonally very much, so thank you for reading). I was astounded that even with editing to include only the most intimate levels of connections (friends, family, and lovers) the list turned out to be over 50 people. THAT’S A LOT OF LOVE. I feel so intensely grateful for this. I also laughed the other day, when trying to have a party and “keep it small” but still invite all the people I wanted to see, the list went easily to 100, and even then I felt like I was leaving people out. For the record, please know: my house may not fit you all, but my heart sure does. For an only child who grew up in an insular nuclear family, this is big. I also remember, not even five years ago in moments of despair, reaching out for support was a painful gamble because after I exhausted my list of three or so confidants, the world became quite bleak and lonely. Not anymore. Aho.
2. COMMUNITY, part 2.
This year, I took it a bit farther and after having lived alone for six years, cherishing my privacy and worried about sharing space, I moved into the most AMAZING (there’s that word again!) community house near the beach. I said not too long ago, “I don’t know what took me so long, this is the best thing I could have possibly done for myself!” Well, I do know. I wasn’t ready. There were a lot of things I needed to sort through in the solitude of my own space and thankfully that is over, and I can reap the benefits of living with like-minded people who really get me and are there to share food, pets, responsibilities, and even lovers. All of my roommates are amazing, and one in particular shows up as the most brilliant mirror of what it means to walk this Earth as a true unapologetic Tantrika. The level of support, transparency, and fun I experience in this relationship is like no other. (Thank you, Rumi).
3. COMMUNITY, part 3.
Are we starting to sense a theme here? (Please start humming the Brady Bunch theme song now.) There once was a woman named Kamala Devi, and she was cooking up a very happy life. She had a husband, son, and 10 lovers, but didn’t know what it all meant. Then one day she and Michael saw some dolphins. They were swimming in a very happy pod. As the pod swam out to the sunset, it couldn’t help but grow … and that’s when they became the POD, the SUPER POD … da da da da da … the SUPER POD … da da da da da …That’s the way they became the SUPER POD!
So, for those of you who now think I am officially insane, let me just clarify by saying as I stretched in community in sheer abundance of connections, I also went much deeper with my core group of friends and lovers as we formalized ways to play, process, and grow together with this entity we like to call the Super Pod. If you aren’t familiar with how families of dolphins connect with other families of dolphins, I suggest you Youtube “dolphin super pod” now. I was a Tigress for Halloween and am a diehard cat lover, but my true animal heroes of the year are dolphins and bonobos.
4. COMMUNITY, part 4 … just kidding … let me begin to move into some more personal milestones.
The one that is shouting the loudest at me right now is: TEACHER. This year, I reclaimed my role as a teacher. For those of you who don’t know, in another life, I was a high school teacher. I really loved it. I was good at it. I was known for being a very good counselor and staunch advocate for my students as well as a creator of innovative curriculum and learning systems. Then one day, I got truly burnt out like I never thought I would. Though luckily while I was still in my power as a teacher, I did have the thought: “Gee, I am good at Tantra and I am good at teaching, maybe my next career is pretty obvious.” Well, it was and then it WASN’T. As I initially attempted to fill those shoes with the ever-popular San Diegan job description of Tantra teacher, I realized I was completely and utterly burnt out on anything resembling teaching, no matter what the topic. It wasn’t until this year that I began to have little whispers of desire around stepping into that role again. The first hit I got of this was during my first workshop at Esalen: “Now, here is somewhere I want to teach.” Who wouldn’t, right? Well, I promise you here and now, that I will have taught there within the next 10 years.
But, I didn’t just ‘’feel it”; I actually did it. I taught my first lecture class at Whole Being Weekend called “Tantra: The Courage to Play with Meaning,” and I co-created and taught at a day-long Goddess event, The Priestess Pow-Wow with my first Tantra teacher and dear friend, Triambika. What an AMAZING full-circle moment! In addition to that, I am pleased to announce that the Goddess Open House, which was barely taking form as I wrote my year in review in 2011, is about to celebrate its first anniversary. Imagine that! One year of free weekly Goddess gatherings that has added so much to my life on so many levels has survived a whole year. Did I mention my most clear intention with that group was to create a sustainable system that would last? I am so grateful it worked and look forward to improving it and even have plans to expand it to Los Angeles this year. Wow, my life is delicious! Do you want a bite?
Okay, to tell you the story about how Goddess Saraswati changed my life this year, I am going to have to lay down a few disclaimers. First, for most intents and purposes you should know that I am an atheist, and if you haven’t looked into what that really means I highly recommend a little investigation of it.
While I going very deep the last few years with a teacher, who also happens to be atheist, I also realized that having never really believed in a transcendent creator God, who actually listens to prayers and intervenes in this world, I may have been one all along. (The terms spiritual and enlightened atheism are worth a Google, especially if I am boring you at this point.)
So now with that out of the way, I can also say that I am, more than anything else in this world, a Tantrika. One beautiful aspect of Tantra (and Hinduism for that matter) is this elaborate mythology and system of Gods and Goddesses. For me, these Gods and Goddesses are archetypes that represent all of the different aspects of myself. It has been a big part of my growth to surround myself with these archetypes, to meditate on them, and really look at how I can more fully embody what they represent. I mean, it’s one thing to try to conjure up the thought that I am indeed a powerful remover of obstacles out of thin air and really embody it. And it’s something else all together to sit in front of a ornate bronze statue, visually absorb the symbolic obstacle-crushing tools in this little elephant’s hands, and to pair that with chants that communicate to my body that this is who I AM.
Last but not least, I’d like to mention that the placebo effect is quite real and massively powerful. So, as I suck down chants and symbols and archetypes that make me believe I am a remover of obstacles, you better believe that I am going to create a lot of evidence of this in my life. Whether it is divine intervention or a symbolic spiritual sugar pill is irrelevant.
Okay, so here it is. From the begin of my tantric journey, I was most interested in the Goddess Kali. She is the fierce destroyer of egos, a ruthless manifestor of personal transformation. She is not gentle in her approach. She rules time and she doesn’t want people to waste any of it with anything that isn’t the truth. In other words, she’s the meanest teacher you ever met. Well, when I look at the last five years of my life. I see MASSIVE TRANSFORMATION at break-neck speed and many periods of intense pain. This could be classified as the “Kali approach.” This year, at Bhakti fest, I had a new awakening. All of a sudden, I needed to know Saraswati. She is the sweet teacher of teachers and musicians alike. She calls for words of wisdom to drop effortlessly from the tongues of her devotees. Education is her specialty; a soft and steady melody is her approach.
I left Bhakti fest with the most exquisite Saraswati statue. She became a big part of my meditation practice, and low and behold my reunion with myself as a teacher came to me with grace and ease.
6. MAMA AYA and BABY ALAYA.
Okay, no long disclaimer this time, other than if you have strong opinions about the occasional use of plant medicines, then please commence judging me now. This year, I had my first experience with the plant medicine, Ayahuasca. She is a profound teacher … kind of like a Kali meets Saraswati, with a dash of intense Shiva consciousness that takes you to the depths of the void you weren’t quite sure you could touch. There is much to say about this, but none more important that the lesson I learned about intentionality. I am a big fan of one-word intentions. Ideas that are clear, concise, and meaningful. On my first journey with Mama Aya, I asked for love and creativity. I got them both during the journey and after, as I woke up bursting with ideas and poetry that needed to be put to paper. I also found myself called to look back at a favorite tantric text, and came across the word Alaya (which in the context I found it in, means “the foundation of everything”). I knew instantly that Alaya was my daughter’s name.
Well if you know me well, daughters aren’t really a big part of my plan. While I am not totally opposed to it, I am quite content not bringing any children into this world. But the one thing that really nagged at me about that decision was, as the experience-junkie Tantrika that I am, I was kind of sad to let go of the chance to actually push a baby out of my yoni, especially because I think I’d be very good at it. So anyhow, for my second journey the following night, I quite naively stated that my intention was to “birth Alaya.” Little did I know that I’d be squatting in a corner, panting and sweaty, managing contractions in the form of continual purging for what seemed like eternity as I birthed a beautiful baby girl who happened to represent the foundation of everything. Yep, that’s right people. I gave birth to the foundation of EVERYTHING and I kicked ass at it. Enough said.
7. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.
Every which way, I found love this year. And I found it through clear intentions, the ability to ask for what I want, and a deep examination and release of a relationship model that doesn’t serve me anymore. I declared to the universe that I didn’t need a primary partner. And while I wouldn’t run from that level of partnership if it revealed itself in the form of someone ridiculously compatible with me, I just didn’t require it to be happy, secure, or sexually satisfied. RESULT: I am happier, MORE secure, and MORE sexually satisfied than I ever have been, with a growing pod of amazing lovers who I can go deep with but don’t have to rearrange my life for. Secondly, I had declared even before that that I wanted deeper loving relationships with women. I wanted to understand how to be ME in love and in lust with a woman, and I most certainly found that. Lastly, I feel like a true eco-sexual now (thank you, Annie Sprinkle!) because on the list of my many lovers I would love for you to meet, one of the most cherished of all is my beloved Harbin Hotsprings.
8. TANTRA PALOOZA 2012 … was the culmination of a five-year vision for a tantric teaching utopia that my dear friend, Kamala Devi, birthed.
I was lucky enough to work with her and help organize it in 2009 and attend every Tantra Palooza in between, but 2012 was special on a whole different plane. For starters, it didn’t hurt that we decided to take over a natural hot springs resort (which brought my three major loves together: community, Tantra, and the ability to float in natural spring water any second of the day or night). I am also certain I had the best job of the event, being the mistress of both the Red Room of Pleasure and the White Room of Meditative Bliss (two suites with indoor pools dedicated to the tantric arts of meditation and love-making). The reason I had the role is because we decided to co-create this event by working together as a super pod for the first time. This brought an even deeper sense of community and purpose to an event that has always been life changing for me. The fact that we worked and played so effortlessly together was a new revelation for all of us, and I am so excited to see what we create next.
The most profound lesson I got from Tantra Palooza 2012 is that I’ve created a life that doesn’t feel much different than the event itself. Whereas before there was this separation between the blissful state that the event could spark in me—something like, wow, what a life-changing weekend, I am totally blown open and expanded and now that it is over, it is time to go back to the real world. Now there is,,I feel totally at ease and in my natural state, and while the container of this event is particularly satisfying and supportive, I can effortlessly evoke this state of being any day of the week.
9. THE PURPOSE OF PURPOSE.
Ahhh, “purpose.” The spiritual seekers favorite addiction. What am I supposed to be doing with my life? I know I won’t be happy until I find it and spend every waking moment in it. True? Not exactly. Does it feel true sometimes? Yes. Does it hurt any less even if it isn’t true? That depends. I released the idea that there was only one thing I could do to feel fulfilled quite some time ago because I just wasn’t enjoying that ride. I am also a person who is interested and (thankfully) good at a great many things. On any given day I could have a board meeting for my marketing company, swim in the ocean, do a henna tattoo, dance my ass off, give a Tantra session, watch reality TV, get a massage, counsel a friend, and cuddle with my cat all before dinner time. And though I am coming to terms that this style of life requires some advanced time management (thank you, Anthony Robbins), I wouldn’t have it any other way.
This voracity for life provides me with an abundance of new experiences, which often result in even more things I want to do. Next on the list: learn how to play the sitar. Another good example: run a Red Room of Pleasure full time (I’d be very happy doing that). But in all seriousness, I have looked at this closely. And while I don’t think there is one thing I am meant to be doing by some will of cosmic force, if I had to give all of it up and choose, the one thing I would get the most pleasure from is coaching, counseling, and helping people navigate this thing called life. Luckily, there are many contexts in which I already do this, and an infinite amount of others I have yet to discover.
10. UNIVERSAL TANTRA.
My new baby. A baby that will be birthed in 2013 (in addition to, keep your fingers crossed, a Tantra Theater performance). This is the child that has kept me up late at night, comforted me when I felt helpless, and empowered me as I empowered others. It is the thing that I spent these last few days of 2012 committing to paper and to the world. Universal Tantra is my best attempt to create a system of study that encapsulates what I have learned on my spiritual journey thus far. It is a desire to dissolve the great rhetorical divide between Neo and Classical Tantra, and in doing so empowers people to use all of the tools at their disposal to reveal their authentic selves and live lives full of ecstatic discovery and embodied bliss.
I truly hope your year and your year to come are as amazing as mine. My intentions last year were strength, balance, and truth. This year they are liberation, acceptance, and leadership. What are yours?