It’s in total awe that I begin to unravel this last year’s learning for you … and for me. This piece of writing in itself is one of my most potent, spiritual practices. And I am proud to say this is my fifth year. I can practically taste the words coming forth each December. And like last year, October and November were pretty grim and had me a little worried about the tone this piece would take.
But alas, the December gods have smiled upon me two years in a row, providing a miracle or two that make me even more eager to share. Last year, when I wrote you from Bali, I was living in a one-bedroom mansion, about to move into an epic villa with my friends and lovers to do six months of deep Tantric practice.
I write you now, from my spacious, modern apartment in Nashville, Tennessee. Yes, that’s right. This island-loving California girl has moved to The South. I look around, and I see treasured objects from all the travels of my life … China, Thailand, Bali, Mexico, Italy, Vietnam … and yet nothing could make me happier than being right here, right now.
Oddly enough, it was living in Bali that made it possible for me to take the leap to move to Nashville. While the process stirred up a bit of California-hippie-nomad chagrin, I thought, “Who the hell moves from California to Bali to Nashville?!” Almost as if I was devolving. But the intuition was clear and the opportunity beckoned. It was time for me to strike out on my own, to go somewhere that felt ripe, somewhere where there were more trees than freeways but still a thriving economy. And more importantly, to make my own path back toward self and simplicity.
Part of that simplicity was a deeper listening and trust of my body. The same hell yes that told me I needed to live by the ocean several years ago and then thrust me into Bali, was now calling for something more simple and more solo. To ground, to nest, to cook and to feel. Luckily, the Bali experience had solidified the fact that I could literally live anywhere and create anything. I was, however, quite reluctant and scared to leave the tribe.
Nashville received me with open arms. My few friends here are so incredibly supportive. They give “southern hospitality” a good name. Amidst my psychological whiplash upon arriving, I felt their love and patience wrap around me like a warm blanket.
I guess this is the best word to describe what it felt like to dismount the incredible ride of last year. Break ups and endings have never been my forte, even less so when they are murky or drawn out. When I returned from Bali last June, it was with the trust that the plans we had made to return in the fall and create a retreat program were coming to fruition. This was my ultimate dream being fulfilled: living, working, loving and creating with my beloved tribe and truly helping others simultaneously. I think it was about a month later when signs that the plan was fading become apparent. The hard thing was there wasn’t really a collective decision around it or even a closing ceremony. A few cryptic Facebook posts, interests going in different directions, and that was it. We were in limbo for a while, and it seemed like each individual took their own time to decide when the dream was dead.
And when it died. I mourned. All the five stages of grief and then some. Also, it felt like for the second time in my life I was experiencing a break up with a whole group of people at the same time. Oh, the perks of being poly. 🙂 I’m not going to put a happy woo-woo ending on this chapter. I’m not sure everything happens for a reason. I am not sure that this opened up space for my even-more-epic Nashville fate to blossom. In fact, I think running a retreat center in Bali would have been pretty amazing. But it’s not what is happening now, and that is what I am most interested in. This breath, this body, this time and space. And the deepening of that understanding I do owe to my time with David, kula, and Umaa in Bali. Inevitably, gratitude trumps grief.
3. Bali, Breath, Sound and Sex
Taking a deep breath, filling my belly with air and letting the vibration of pure presence sound out my mouth has always been a part of my Tantric practice. However, in Bali, I got to do that, laying belly to belly with another lovely human, while being led into the depths by David Cate’s brilliant guided meditations. I got to do this 12-20 hrs a week for nearly 8 months. This was a true gift. What unfolds when we are allowed to relax our nervous systems that much, while simultaneously feeling held and met is miraculous. Stories unravel, Ma opens up her arms, you feel everything and nothing — deeper than you ever have before — and oxytocin-high becomes the new normal. For someone who values touch as much as I do, the deep nurturance of having this need met, and then some, was profound. But the essence of this practice for me was not about the other on a personal level. It was the fact that being in physical contact like that, allowed me go deeper into uncharted, terrifying territory, toward my true self and Everything else, to feel oneness and uniqueness combusting at the fulcrum of paradox. Breathing in, I honor the depths of my own existence … Breathing out, I see, feel and honor you … utter transpersonal bliss.
And then there were the personal lessons. I remember so clearly that at the end of several months of practice, I felt untouchable. Every negative story I’d ever believed about myself was a joke to me. Even in a day where events or people triggered them, I laughed it off and returned to love. This point of reference was important because it got more complicated from there.
I fell in love. I went into it knowing I was opening Pandora’s box. This was a man that represented the archetype that has continually broken my heart. His depth and brilliance couldn’t always make up for his cruel indifference. We waded into the waters slowly, which was actually quite refreshing. I thought, what better place to face this demon than in the loving arms of Bali and kula, you know … well-supervised and what not. It was hard. There were love and hate and both were freely expressed. And in the midst of this, going deep into meditation regularly revealed everything I didn’t want to see about him and myself. I faced a lot of judgment from other beloveds who didn’t understand what we were doing. Some even suggested that we just were thriving off the addictive attention we gave and then withheld from one another.
I know now what it was and what it wasn’t. Yuri, I am so grateful for you. You are my brother and my lover and everything in between. No one has ever challenged me so much to find oneness in separation, to choose love over pain. Every adventure, every heartfelt “thank you,” every punch you encouraged, every kiss, every edge we pushed have made me a better person. I love our love.
Through that tumult, another love held me deeply. Robyn and I became swift sisters almost immediately upon meeting. There was a comfort and ease, a mutual love for the dark, muddy places (with velvet pillows, of course.) It was the first time I got to truly make love to another dakini, and not just in the physical sense. We dreamed alive a temple together. We created a space for puja, prayer, chaos, love, health and despair, and made it all okay. She broke the heaviest story I have carried — that my pain is unbearable to others, by approaching me with precision and patience when no one else dared. I love you, Robyn. And Rick, I love you too. The ultimate space holder for this dream, who modeled bravery and vulnerability so brilliantly. I loved holding you and hating you. And the fact that you made both of those okay, made me love you even more.
Another trifecta of mirrors also provided some deep learning. Richard, Adele and Darshana. Richard taught me to deeply honor my own healing gifts. He supported me in coming back into my spiritual, sensual self after a long hiatus, touching places deep inside me that needed to be heard. And then, a gift I never expected when I suddenly became a “no” to that touch. I explored my ability to honor boundaries my body called for, even when my ego and my heart had run amuck. I cherished our bath-sangs and continual dance back to love. I miss you.
Adele, I loved the subtle slow pace of our unfolding. I’ll never forget when you asked if we could be like “real friends” not just kula-mates. I remember moments when judgments would dissolve in an instance of your loving kindness or willingness to start a difficult conversation. I truly appreciate how dedicated you were to your process, and I loved when you invited me into it, called me Super D, or met me for a beer or three. And I especially love how we brought the best of our gifts into the most beautiful dance of my life. I think about you with so much love, every time I hear our song. Thank you.
Darshana, I imagine it might be strange to see your name here. But I am sending you waves of gratitude for illuminating a shadow. A shadow so common, yet misunderstood. You see, I think in poly or probably just in life, jealousy has two distinct triggers. Some people are triggered by people that they feel are so different from them. Like, “how could I possibly ever meet my lover in the way she could, how can I compete?” Others, find themselves terrorized by thoughts more like “holy shit, she’s so much like me…how can there possibly be room for the both of us in this relationship, kula, universe, etc.” Well, it turns out I am the latter. Thank you for helping me see this and I’m truly sorry if I ever made you feel wrong for being yourself. After all, we are quite similar in so many ways and that is pretty awesome.
Wow, what an immense gift to live and love amongst you all. Thank you, Kula. Thank you, David.
4. The Anti-Guru
I realized this year that I don’t think I’ve ever been called toward a traditional teacher. In Tantra, as well as most Eastern spiritual paths, there is a lot of ado about lineages and gurus. I have often spoken up against them. I am simultaneously more open to and cautious of them now. For starters, I think I’ve been associated with at least three groups that have been accused of being culty. This makes me laugh. I also still see the intense spiritual quest of many around me to find “THE one,” “THE way,” “THE teacher” who will legitimize their spiritual quest, hand them a name and make it all make sense. While I think this particular yearning is kind of child-like, as I have felt it in my own body, I don’t look down on it.
But what I do have a profound appreciation for, is that the two teachers I have danced the deepest with, David and Umaa, both don’t ascribe to any of this. They insist on autonomy. They are aware of and in disgust of the rampant abuse in many guru-based lineages. They walk the razor’s edge of opening their arms in love and letting “students” project the fuck all over them, while holding their own egos in check as they wield power easefully, gracefully, humbly.
With Umaa, I felt the calling like never before. It was instant and deep. Her words incited deep inquiry, a subtle look, profound oneness. Unlike every love affair of my life, there was zero neediness. Her love was so intense it was just unquestionable. I didn’t need anything from her because it was just there. The infinite spaces she has tapped into are in the fabric of her being and when she opens her heart to you, you can feel it with her. She’s not perfect. She doesn’t claim to be. She has a waiver ten miles long listing reasons why you shouldn’t associate with her, let alone put her on a pedestal. But she is real. It’s a shame that many people can’t seem to let her be just that. I love her deeply. Her eyes carried me through the darkest moment of my soul, as I wept prostrated on the grass in Bali, hands raised up, offering all that I am, inviting the Goddess to have her way with me. I love her. I am her.
Ironically, Anti-guru #1 helped me deepen my relationship with Anti-guru #2. When I stumbled upon the Tantric miracle of getting to go deep into practice with David Cates, I was so grateful. It made so much sense to me. David Cates was the teacher I respected the most from afar for years, after having met him at the very beginning of my Tantric studies. He melded deep body-wisdom with classical philosophy; the elements; and, down-to-earth, practical no-bull shit practices and so much heart. And, he is a bitch. Haha. He is cranky. He is ready to meld into the fabric of everything and leave all us whiny brats behind. But, for better or worse, he is still willing to hold us when we cry and keep trying, even when he says he has no more left to give. Unlike Umaa, I projected all over David. Lover, father, friend, foe, the whole gambit. He even held space for my desire to experience him and Umaa together in the same room, and as they battled into a strange oblivion together on either side of me, I felt their energy weave and dissolve the vast paradox of matriarchy and the patriarchy in my bones. What a gift. David is also real. He owned his limitations and bravely pointed out mine. He taught me so much with his words, but most profoundly belly-to-belly, dissolving the veil, riding these amazing fleshy earth-ships into the beyond. Thank you, David. Please stay with us a while longer. I don’t think your work is anywhere near done.
I guess I need to speak about Rachel. Look, see I CAN say her name. No, she isn’t evil. I just haven’t been able to say her name easily for quite some time. Rachel and I explored sisterhood on levels I’d never dared ventured into. Being lovers, friends, kula-mates — mentor and apprentice was definitely the most complex relating I’ve ever attempted. The highs were exquisite, the lows devastating. Because I loved her so much and felt so intensely responsible for her, I made some questionable choices. One of which was just continuing on in a dynamic that had already served its purpose. Rachel and I were long overdue for some space. Now, we have thousands of miles of it. While I feel hurt from some choices she made toward the end, I can’t let that overshadow what beauty and healing we created together. I trust that in time, we will find the right words to make it okay.
Wow, I’m only on number 6 and I’ve written two things I didn’t think I would have dared mention. See, this practice is amazing! It sucks the truth right out of me. So, let’s take it another level deeper. “Being chosen” was a difficult desire to face, to own, to claim in Bali. As, I found myself yet again in the center of a network of lovers, with many relationships, yet not deeply bonded in a primary partnership to anyone, the desire of “being chosen” reared its ugly head. The first time, David dared me to say it, it came out in a gremlin-y raspy moan. Weeks later I was singing it aloud, owning it as the most beautiful desire in the whole world. Who wouldn’t want to be chosen after all? No shame in that. So if you want that, and it hasn’t happened on the level you’d like it to yet … please don’t bury it. Don’t dance miles of justifications around your autonomy and your insecurities to try to make it okay. Instead, make it okay that you want someone. No, not NEED. WANT. It’s okay.
I can only say this because I’ve done it. When I did it, I didn’t know that I was working overtime to hide a deep desire. And I learned so much while doing this about sovereignty, solo poly, relationship anarchy. Lessons that infused the way I love on deep levels but still didn’t make up for the depth of partnerships I was craving.
But, like many, I have had a tendency toward co-dependency. I’ve often picked difficult partners because it mirrored something in childhood where I had to work pretty hard to get my emotional needs met. And in those brief, fleeting moments when the hard work paid off and I got that dose of affection or appreciation, it felt like rainbows, unicorns, crack, heroin and a Care Bear stare all at once. In that moment, I became dependent on their reaction for my self worth. And then, when the relationship was over, guess what they walked away with? That’s right, my self worth. Seems so obvious now. But this is a hard lesson learned. This is where true self-love, not glossy rose-colored memes comes into play. How do you love someone and not hand them your whole being on a platter? How to you stay in your center and love from a place that is natural, where strategy and patterns aren’t running the show? Well, I am not sure I have a clear answer for you yet (stay tuned for next year), but what I am experiencing right now seems to be completely redefining how I love myself and others.
This year my intentions were: “deep self-love (especially on the financial and physical health fronts), fearlessly sharing and speaking about my gifts, and “waking up” as the driving force and deep “why” behind all my actions and choices.” What I am realizing in this moment is that all of these are a deep expression of loving myself.
Every step I’ve come fuller into accepting my path/mission/identity as a Dakini has opened up more freedom, more learning, more love. Some people get their panties in a big wad when I claim this. They see Dakinis as fully enlightened or supernatural. Some think I am trying to claim superiority. Some look down on me for affixing my identity to any label. Some see me on a bad day where all I can do is manage to binge watch TV and eat french fries and wonder what kind of gifts I have to offer the world.
But as I take this opportunity to fully speak fearlessly about my gifts, I will say this: A Dakini is “what it takes.” She is the ultimate shapeshifter in the healing realms. She has a pantheon of feminine archetypes at her fingertips. She can embody ferocity just as quickly as she can become a nurturing mother or your favorite person with whom to bitch about life over a beer. When in alignment with her purpose, she does this effortlessly. She becomes what you need, which can differ enormously from what you want. She does this without losing her center. She opens up possibility, bravery, trust, healing and she can also trigger the fuck out of you with fear, lust, disgust, even hate. Her methods are infinite; mysterious even to those who do her dance.
My only real power is to become as loose and and natural as I can, to let her intuition sing loudly through my body and be quiet enough to hear it, and brave enough to act on it. I speak mostly of this entity in the third person because that is how it occurs to me … omnipresent, a field of feminine energy, a deep sisterhood. Thank you, sisters. I love you.
Beyond this Shakti field is an even greater waking up. It’s the void. The beautiful place where everything and nothing come together in the ultimate paradox. While all my atheistic wisdom is still intact, my love affair with the mystery has reawakened. And when I align myself with that desire to wake up, things become a lot easier. Especially poly. (I’ll write about that topic another day.) I have deep gratitude to Deborah Anapol for that lesson. May she rest in cosmic, ecstatic peace. Other teachers whose writing has been a true gift in regard to this realm this year: Christopher Wallis, Matt Licata, Jeff Brown and Marc Gafni. Thank you.
Last, but not least: self-love in health and finance. This has been a revelation since landing in Nashville. I’ve gotten to land and nest in a beautiful home. I have had a solid morning practice for over two months (meditating and chanting at my altar, writing gratitudes and priorities for the day, drinking tea, and even dancing on some days.) It has been the thing I have been attempting and failing at for over 10 years. Low and behold, it does make a difference. I’ve also got a list of financial priorities, something resembling a budget for moving my business forward, as well as some savings goals already in play.
I’ve been faced with more health challenges than ever this year. Aside from depression: rosacea, torn knee ligament and painful gallbladder attacks. It’s been so amazing to find my love of my body manifest in enjoyment of cooking and focus on Ayurveda. Pain is a powerful motivator, but I’m also a very slow adopter … so be it. I love that it is happening. I’m almost gluten-free, 80% dairy free, cook 100% organic, and it feels great. I’ve also gotten great results with treating depression with SAM-e and lithium orotate (Thank you, Psalm). More importantly, I’ve continued working out two to three times a week which is really just imperative for my mental health and kapha nature. It took me a long time to find exercise that I really enjoyed. If you haven’t found yours yet, don’t give up. It makes such a huge difference that you enjoy it, whether it is a personal trainer that you love spending time with, or a specific sport, just keep trying until something sparks. If you just bought another gym membership that you are never going to use, it’s time to get more creative.
While we are on the topic of healing tools, I’d be remiss not to mention BDSM. Yes this is a loaded acronym: Bondange, Discipine/Dominance, Submission/Sadism, Masochism. No, it isn’t as it is portrayed in 50 Shades. The other night, fireside with some sisters, I was implored to speak about it and I amazed myself with what came up. For most of you reading this the consent-culture playground of Cuddle Parties and conscious touch and communication workshops is the norm. The BDSM communities I have encountered embody the same values, and honestly, they have been doing it longer and in some cases better than we have. Why? Because they have been sex-positive, all gender accepting, non-judgmental of what-ever-the-crazy-kink you have from the get.
They are highly organized, usually egalitarian communities where extreme efforts are made to make sure everyone is respected. And, crucial for me, at this stage in the game is that very little of it is what it seems on the surface. Not everyone is into getting the shit beaten out of them (not that there is anything wrong with that.) In fact, even when they are, there are so many psychological and emotional things at play. That is what is interesting to me now. What happens when I let all the sides of me — powerful Dakini, little girl, playful kitten, ferocious primal feline — be expressed and seen? Magic, I tell you. Pure magic and deep healing.
BDSM is much like poly, and any spiritual path really. It takes a year or two to get your feet wet and get oriented to the possibilities, and then things really start to get interesting.
In this moment I am thinking of all the teachers who ever taught me about aligning myself with the rhythms of nature. Especially, Umaa. I am about to experience the first winter of my life. It’s been getting progressively colder in Tennessee, and while it can be inconvenient, it hasn’t bothered me. I am a little scared of the way locals say the words “ice-storm” with a mixture of terror and disgust in their eyes. But something about experiencing seasons feels right in my body.
Waking up every morning to meditation feels right in my body. Carefully selecting and cooking nature’s bounty and infusing my body with it feels right. Learning how to make fire out of nothing and survive in the wilderness felt right. There’s an effortlessness that happens when you begin to feel yourself connected, not just with the energetic field of Shiva consciousness but the wild manifestation of nature that is Shakti. I mean just look at her … lush fall leaves, molten volcanoes, the arctic, billions of species, evolution, mud, essential oils, compost, kittens, poisonous pit vipers, viruses, bacteria, mushrooms, ayahuasca, rivers and waterfalls, dolphins, sound, touch, breath, chemistry, physics, sex and childbirth. Holy shit. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that??? Well done, Mama Earth. Well done.
10. Mama Earth
Speaking of Mama Earth. My awareness around doing my best to keep her clean and thriving has intensified. Again, as I mentioned, I am a slow adopter. Being a California native, recycling has been part of my existence almost my whole life. I’ve always been conscious of turning lights off, getting the right bulbs, etc. But I still drive a car, still eat some meat, and go on occasional Amazon shopping binges. I think part of this shift has been arriving in Nashville and realizing that recycling hasn’t even really made it mainstream here. Sadly, they don’t pick up compost or even glass. These are the things that have finally shifted for me:
-I agree 100% that veganism is crucial to saving our environment. I’m not vegan yet, but I’ve continued reducing my animal product consumption. I highly recommend you think about this transition because I don’t think it will be optional for many more years.
-Eliminate or reduce everything that you use that is disposable, especially when a non-disposable option is available. Paper towels have been the hardest habit to break, but I just used my last roll. Did you know that you can get un-paper towels on a roll? So cool.
-Truly think twice when you order stuff online. Is the same thing available nearby? Can you reduce our carbon footprint by sourcing from something that has already been delivered or grown in your area?
-Look at packaging and read labels. When you have several options of an item to buy, let the one with the least amount or most Earth-friendly packaging win. Also be aware of how much plastic and petroleum-based things you are consuming. Is there an alternative? The same thing applies when buying food and supplements. Are there more than 10 ingredients? Do you know what they are? Is what you are ingesting going to put you in more or less alignment with nature?
-Find creative ways to repurpose things. Some people make a true art of this. I am just happy that when I see a bottle or an old towel I start to think of its life span and different ways it can serve a purpose that are much better than landing in a landfill.
-Lastly, think of her and honor her. Yes, Mama Earth. That big round planet that is sustaining every fucking thing you do right now. Every healing session I do now is dedicated to her. How can you come into more communication, more awe, more reverence, more connection with her? It might just start by just taking a 10-minute walk outside and that is okay.
Oh, Love … “Tearin’ me apart from the inside out so I can see myself from the inside … And might be causin’ pain. And might be coming home. And might be sayin’ this is all you asked for …” Some of you might appreciate this homage more than others. (Thank you, Ayla Nereo.)
Lately, I’ve been bursting with love. Truly from the inside out. So much gratitude for those who weave their hearts openly with me on a regularly basis. Deep gratitude to Chrissie, Grace, Hoochie, Yuri, Twin, Joy, Jessica, Amy, David, Jillian and Jennifer. And especially, Levonne. I’m not exactly sure what the world has in store for us, but I’ve never felt so seen and so met by another human being. Everyday I think about our ritual and the ways we delight one another so naturally. It’s as if I landed here in your arms by some divine miracle … I. AM. SO. GRATEFUL.
I step into this new year within the paradoxes of confidence and humility, action and patience, growth and maturation. I am ripe. This is the time and place to blossom in self-sustaining ways that will infuse the rest of this lifetime with love, nature, wisdom, service and adventure. If you feel called to be part of this journey with me, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
So Much Love,