Lalita Diaz’s Year in Review: 2013

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The second I titled my last year in review piece, “2012: The Most Transformative Year Yet,” I wondered if I was setting myself up for failure somehow, like maybe 2013 wouldn’t be very life changing or on the other hand, maybe I could keep the same title every year and it would still ring as true. Having come through 2013 with some of the most radical shifts of my life, I am beginning to think the latter is true. However, I’m still kind of curious if there will be a so-so year, one where I will think to myself, awww shucks, didn’t learn much or do much the last 356 days, guess I won’t write a year in review blog this year. Well, not if I have anything to say about it.

1. If Your Life Isn’t Improving, You Are Just Doing Drugs.

I wrote last year about my first few powerful experiences with the plant medicine, ayahuasca. Well the morning after each ceremony, there is always a talking circle where people share their experiences. One of our ceremony leaders has always been pretty adamant about taking the time to integrate ayahuasca’s lessons in practical ways that enhance your life. Many people do this, and a lot don’t. They go on journey after journey to return to a magical realm, get blown open by the experience and then return to their daily lives until the next trip. While, really I have nothing wrong with doing drugs recreationally (I actually think it is quite fun), but ayahuasca is different for me. I have a new reverence for it (not that I didn’t before, I mean I did give birth to an etheric baby last year and that was pretty awe-inspiring).

Let me set the stage a bit. I began this year on a mission to build my marketing agency into a huge corporation. I sought out powerful people to help me, I began to finally learn what being a CEO was all about. I even flew up to the Silicon Valley to give a proposal to a room full of executives at a massive company and earned their business. I was on a high, I could see the millions rolling in, I could see the type of conscious company I would build, but what interested me most still was what I would do after I had accomplished all that: be a coach, write books, teach at Esalen, etc.

The money in marketing is intoxicating and strange. It’s exchanged in such large quantities that in the blink of a few years in this business, $10,000 started to sound like $10 in my head. The first time I held a $100,000 check in my hand was definitely an ah-ha moment: money really isn’t that hard to get. And, yet there I was scared to leave this business mostly because it had been so profitable. I went into an ayahuasca journey in March with this heavy on my heart. Even though I had known for quite some time that marketing wasn’t “it” for me, I was good at it, learning a ton, and enjoying it on many levels. But when I looked at the five years ahead of me, knowing the amount of energy and commitment it would take to build what I thought I wanted to build, I became less and less interested … and actually quite terrified.

What would I do now? What 33-year-old is already on their third career? What could I do that would earn me as much money or provide me as much freedom? I couldn’t possibly do what I love and get paid well for it, could I?

Well, that’s exactly what the journey provided a glimpse of: a successful life coach, one that was nowhere near destitute and enjoying life immensely.

The next morning, I took two weeks off work to reevaluate my life and never went back.

2) Resistance to Change and the Best $2.99 Gift I Ever Received.

So, wouldn’t it be great if I told you that I seamlessly transitioned into my new career with grace and ease and not a single tear? Nah, what fun that would that be?! Yes there were tears and weeks in bed and many, MANY TV shows. I was immobile and depressed and quite desperate for help when all the old stories and doubts resurfaced … maybe the depression came before the decision to close the business? In which case, can this decision be trusted? Am I being crazy? Am I throwing away a good thing? Am I being ungrateful, stupid, and lazy? Why can’t I just suck it up and go to work like everyone else?

Well as you can imagine, these thoughts don’t lead to much action or joy. So, I spent a month or two feeling pretty stuck. My community of lovers rallied around me … still stuck. A Byron Katie intensive, a Prosperous Coach intensive … still stuck. And then one day, I went on a run with my roommate. It felt pretty good: my neighborhood was beautiful, my body was sweating, it felt productive.

The next day, my mom sent me this iPhone App called Get Running. So, I went on my first solo run. It felt like freedom every time I stepped out the door. The power of movement, the exhilaration of creating something from nothing by myself … just one foot in front of the other, the beauty of the nature around me and the pride in enjoying something I not only thought I hated but had previously assigned to only incredibly disciplined and fit, A.K.A, NOT-LIKE-ME-type-people.

Things began to shift.

3. Peace in The Paradox.

For those of you who know me or have read my previous year-in-review posts, you know this is not the first time I’d jumped head first into the darkness. But, perhaps what you don’t know is that I was pretty determined to make this the last time I did it for any significant duration. That decision didn’t make getting out of it any easier, but it did inspire me to take more risks and make bigger investments in my wellness. After all, no one else could do it but me.

One turning point was a conversation with Byron Katie. I had gone up to her during a break and asked her if she thought depression existed as a disease in the same way that something like diabetes did. She paused for a second and said, “You know, I’m not sure, but if I believed it did, I would still be laying on the ground in a halfway house.” This really threw me. Having struggled with major depressive episodes since I was 15, there was part of me that needed it to exist. I mean after all, had I really tried every treatment under the sun to address something that didn’t exist? Did I painfully come out of the closet to fight stigma against something that was made up? How come every time I talked to someone who had experienced depression, there was a knowing, an insider’s knowledge that no one else could understand? Clearly it existed. Insisting otherwise would call forth torturous reverberations of the “it’s all in her head” comments and dismissive glances and popular memes that make people with depression want to scream in utter frustration and humiliation.

And then it started to dawn on me that it could be both. And in fact, part of what makes Tantra so beautiful to me is the exploration of non-dualism, the ability to hold paradox gracefully in your mind’s eye. So I started to play with the fact that depression did exist, it WAS a disease, AND I was making it all up. It’s funny how much peace can be found in complexity. But a world where nothing is affirmed and nothing is denied suits me just fine.

4. The Power of Commitment and the End of Perfectionism

Another important moment was the realization that life coaches who don’t have life coaches are not the kind that you should hire. That, in fact, the willingness to invest it one’s own development is the clearest sign of mastery. And while I had had many doctors, counselors, teachers, mentors, and loving friends contribute to my growth over the years, I had never had an actual coach.

So, I Googled “kinky tantric polyamorous life coaches” and … JUST KIDDING. Finding a good coach isn’t about Google; it’s about conversations, so I started to have some with some potential coaches. And what do you know … I found a kinky, tantric, polyamorous life coach who was dedicated to not believing in my depression. He had much bigger fish to fry anyhow, such as commitment. Did I do what I said I would do? Did I commit to myself? Or was I eroding all sense of self-trust with false promises and empty intentions?

The other thing he helped me see so clearly was that my perfectionism had to go. There would be no more over-planning, anticipating, and mitigating every possible failure ahead of time … it was time to act, to play, to experiment, and — most importantly — to practice. If something wasn’t perfect the second, third, or even tenth time I did it, I wasn’t to make it mean that it wasn’t for me or that I had failed. That opened up quite a few possibilities.

Prior to this, even applying for a job if I didn’t know 100% that I would love it, I would get it, or that it would be the best thing for me was an extremely scary task. I have a history of long, tortured periods of uncertainty, followed by a burst of clarity where I go after exactly what I want and get it. But waiting for that clarity is an exhausting counter-productive endeavor, and I was about to get a dose of experimentation and rejection that would shift this pattern permanently.

I applied for a job, a 9-to-5 job, the kind I didn’t think I’d ever have again. It wasn’t the perfect job, I wasn’t the perfect candidate, and I was a little scared I was resigning my freedom in the name of financial stability, but I did it as an experiment. Five lengthy interviews, two sample assignments, and several assurances that the job was mine, later I got the news that I didn’t get it. What happened next was unexpected. I felt the sky crack open above me and sunlight infuse my body—rainbows danced, birds sang—I was so fucking relieved. I knew in that instant that I had all the skills I could ever need to make it on my own, there was no going backwards, my career was in my hands alone and that’s the way I wanted it.

5. The Grand Experiment

With my newfound freedom, I started a new experiment. I had been doing tantric-session work part-time for years, but as I started doing more of it earlier this year, I kept hitting walls. The clients who showed up weren’t interested in much more than an hour of bliss. I had to advertise alongside women with no education and very different bodies than mine. The more I did it, the less I wanted to. In fact, in anticipation of landing that 9-to-5 job, I gave up my session space. There would be someone moving in soon, and I only had two weeks left to use it. So, I decided to do as many sessions as I could in two weeks. I tried new ways of both getting and interacting with clients, and most importantly, I knew it was an experiment. I had nothing to lose.

Well, a funny thing happened. I started to love the work more than I ever had.

6. Freedom and Creativity

I had always envied those solo-preneurs who followed their passion, well at least the successful ones. I tended to judge the unsuccessful ones as delusional, arrogant, and ungrounded. What I know now is that it doesn’t matter, succesful or not, if freedom is your highest value, your inspiration, you don’t have much choice in the matter.

Sure, there are many beautiful teachings on how to be happy in the midst of tragedy, and there are a lot more tragic things than having a well-paying job that you don’t love. But if you love freedom, then you have to make your own path.

One of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve had this year was the freedom to fly to another city by myself, find amazing clients, and make more money in 10 hours of work than I ever had in my life. Then to sit there and look at the calendar for the next year and plan travel based on where I want to be, develop classes on what I want to teach, find clients that I want to work with … this is all starting to sound a little self-centered isn’t it? Well, so be it. Self-love is no joke. Doing what you love isn’t a panacea, but it inspires more creativity than I have ever experienced.

7. Intoxicatingly Terrifying Endeavors

Well once my career path was settled, that vague yet all-encompassing fear of depression dissolved, leaving behind an entirely different flavor of fear. The kind that drives you, teases you, taunts you to push through it. Wow, this fear certainly took me to some interesting places this year … naked on TV twice, for starters.

And although I couldn’t give you the Tantra Theater performance I promised at the end of last year (because Ms. Devi postponed Tantra Theater this year to work on other things), I did don pasties, a tutu, and vampire fangs for my first burlesque dance performance in front of hundreds of people.

I also stepped into teaching to larger and larger groups. I taught my first class on solo poly at Poly Palooza, and I came through on a commitment I made at the end of last year to birth a personal growth system I created called Universal Tantra. I remember being terrified to promise the world I would do that this year and then, like clockwork, it started to emerge and by the end of the year I will have taught “Living Ecstatically Inside and Outside of the Bedroom: An Introduction to Universal Tantra” class four times in three different cities.

Fear can be beautiful, intoxicating, educational. It turns out this is a very important piece of who I am and how I like to serve others. So many of us shuffle around life, grasping for motivation and inspiration. But we get within spitting distance of our dreams and get paralyzed—the fear is overwhelming. Well, what if it weren’t? What if it were the very thing that inspired you to take action? It just takes practice.

8. Always learning

One important component of Universal Tantra is the willingness to learn from everything and the drive to continually push one’s emotional and intellectual growth with new experiences and information. Along with that, it’s important not to put our teachers on a pedestal. To understand that the lessons we learn from a breathtaking sunset are just as important as what we learn from the Dali Lama, the mud on our shoe, the annoying things our parents say, our last orgasm, the latest workshop.

This year, I opened up the door to a new teacher, a controversial teacher: BDSM. No, I didn’t read “50 Shades of Grey.” Actually, I avoided it because every friend who read it said my sex life was much more entertaining. But, I must say I had some judgment around BDSM to push through. I had spent so much time studying Tantra, where initially, in sex, one’s effort really needs to be in becoming a 1000% present to sensation, not fantasy. Also, some of the power dynamics and role-play in BDSM were quite opposed to all of the compassionate communication training and emphasis on verbal consent I learned in the egalitarian poly world. It was edgy territory for me, even a little scary … so I leaped toward it, naturally.

I’ve learned how powerful I feel when I transmute pain into pleasure, how beautiful both mental and physical surrender can be. What a gift it is to have someone hand you complete control of their body while you are wielding an enormous flogger. I’ve felt electricity pulse in my body, teeth dig deep into my skin, and even become an expert in hair pulling and spanking.

Most importantly, I’ve learned that BDSM doesn’t oppose Tantra in the least, and it is a profound, healing and personal growth tool in its own right.

9. Love, Love and More Love

Love is everywhere; it is abundant. I don’t believe in “the one.” I don’t buy that love, good relationships, or hot chemistry are scarce resources or rarities. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate how beautiful it is to fall deeply in love with someone, and I’m so grateful that I got to experience that more than once this year.

I met Ben many times before I really saw him. It was at a Charles Muir workshop at Tantra Palooza last year. There was an exercise where I had to turn to my neighbor and hold hands and exchange some energy, and there he was. It moved pretty quickly from there … to the Red Room and beyond, and by the end of the workshop he looked into my eyes and told me he wanted to romance me.

While that statement turned out to be somewhat ironic because romance isn’t really his strong suit, he sure is good at loving me. It’s amazing to be with a man whose love for both communication and sex rival mine, and he’s supported me so gracefully throughout the craziness of this year. We’ve had so many adventures from Canyon De Guadalupe to an epic Bjork concert to his first trip to Harbin Hotsprings, and Baja next week to celebrate our anniversary.

And did I mention he is poly? He has a beautiful wife, whose company I enjoy very much, and he strives every day to be a better husband, a better boyfriend, and just a good man period. I’m very blessed.

10. Love Isn’t Always Easy

I must admit, I’m terrified to write this section, but I wouldn’t be in integrity if I withheld it. I fell in love with a woman this year. We met in community—flirting, kissing (on trains, in restaurants, at parties), curious for months. And then one day, something shifted. We made love, weeping, marveling in how good it felt to be in one another’s arms.

Sometimes there were question marks in her eyes, but when she just loved me openly, it was the sweetest gaze I’d ever tasted. I got to witness her heart open in all directions at Poly Palooza, where we swam like mermaids, shared lovers effortlessly, danced without fear, and inspired others left and right with the depth of our connection. To wake up with her every morning, there was such a gift.

Since then, it hasn’t been so simple. Polyamory is a lot easier to practice while embedded in a supportive community with all your lovers in one building. I don’t know what is going to happen next, but my intention is to love her through it. And before I mourn a minute lost with her, I want to celebrate what we experienced and embrace the fact that love isn’t always easy and that’s okay. It’s worth it.

So, what am I up to in 2014? Every year I pick a few major intentions to inspire my journey. Last year they were liberation, acceptance and leadership. How do you think I did?  I haven’t chosen my focus for next year yet, but I do promise that I will teach more classes, serve more people, love more lovers, go to Burning Man, AND write a book. There, I said it. What will you commit to creating this year?

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Lalita Diaz

All stories by: Lalita Diaz