If ever there were a roller coaster year… This was it. January 1, 2016 I woke up in the arms of the man who I whole heartedly believed to be my life partner. Two months later, I was single, ecstatically happy and the most confident I had ever been. I was so busy creating new things: websites, workshops, and Sex Positive Nashville, that it was almost April by the time I was thinking “I cannot believe I haven’t written my year in review yet!”
In April, I experienced a bold, brave and magical journey into the Smoky Mountains with dear sisters, Mallory and Chrissie and then was on my way to Bali for a month-long deep dive with friends and teachers. I was also in the process of launching new websites and had my sights set on writing a book, so most of my creative energy was going toward that. The Bali magic magnified my joy, especially the fact that I got to share it with dear friends who had never been there before (Roxy, Daniel, Chrissie and Wilma). I finally went to the water temple (twice), did a week of practice with my teacher Umaa, and my first Ayurvedic cleanse. I also met a priestess and artist named Shankari, which resulted in whirlwind of business projects, and even got my first tattoo. (Check out this amazing video by Chrissie, aka Pony. It pays to have filmmaker friends!)
July through August were spent almost non-stop traveling between Nashville, San Diego, and DC for work and play, with the highlight being helping my sister Grace birth her magical daughter Mia “Aditi” into the world. However, whispers of “you are going too fast, moving around too much, you need to ground” were definitely starting to creep in. But I had one last trip planned: A full month in California which included attending a surprise engagement party, a week full of client sessions, a few days with family, and a week-long Esalen retreat with Mallory to study with Sally Kempton and Silvia Nakkach. AND as if that weren’t enough, a psychedelic camping trip with my bruja sisters and cathartic bucket list Cat Stevens Yusuf concert with Antonella as the grand finale. (Speaking of Antonella, watch out world, this Rockstar Priestess is coming to a stage near you.) The bottom line was that I was moving too hard and too fast, changing locations almost every three days absorbed in intense activities. By the end of September, I was thoroughly exhausted.
What happened next, is the true reason this post has been so long delayed. Exhaustion met depression and physical health issues began to demand my full attention.
Sometimes the energy to fight depression doesn’t present itself until the bottom is scratched, until the ratio of sadness to anger tips toward the fiery fuel of change and the twinkly pastures of curiosity, however obscured. This can be a long process. Depression, for me, feels like a trap. I’m in a room alone and every door out leads to something I don’t want. Sadness fades to numbness and I can’t actually feel much emotion, let alone my body. It becomes pretty unbearable to interact with most people and the isolation compounds itself into intense social anxiety.
I have dozens of voices both in my life and in my head that have conflicting stances on depression. Some tell me that it’s an illness to be contained and fought. Others tell me it is to be obeyed and revered as a gift. When I let the latter take hold, everything in life comes up for question…I scavenge for the lessons and yearn to extract the wisdom, analyze the validity of all my values, beliefs and choices. I admit that it feels better to make meaning of it, which reminds me of Chip Conley’s emotional equation “pain without meaning = suffering.” Another part of me, the part that spent several years on a critical thinking voyage into nihilism, laughs at how much humans want to create meaning to justify everything in their lives: all of their pain, all of their joy, all of their suffering– to fit some grand spiritual narrative or ever-lasting safety net. What many of us don’t realize is how schizophrenic that narrative can be.
Three Steps Forward, Five Steps Back
When we project our patch worked spiritual philosophies, vacillating moods, or mental illness on to the universe…well, then the universe becomes a scary place, where the powers that be can be punishing and rewarding in the most confusing of ways. Where guilt and shame can become heavy and immobilizing. Where dwindling motivation can become the end of all motivation. But the vibration under it all..the spanda…the creative spark…the pulse of life…it calls…and you just have to be patient. I found myself vacillating between accepting the depression, denying it, fighting it, surrendering to it. Taking three steps forward, and then five back.
Three steps forward: Bernie can really win this thing! Five steps back: Trump. Election night November 2016, the worst memory: going to bed knowing he was going to win and then being woken up by neighbors cheering loudly when the official results came in. While I had long processed the fact that Trump was going to win because all the numbers pointed to that outcome if Bernie didn’t get the nomination, it was still a horrifying event. I had put a lot of my energy toward this election, I felt beyond defeated. I was also very disappointed that Obama didn’t endorse Bernie and waited so long to support the Lakota in halting the pipeline in South Dakota. He could have been more bold in his last days. He could have said fuck the corporate money and political optics, but instead he revealed how enmeshed he was with the broken system. While I respected him more than any other president in my lifetime, his flaws started to to burn a hole in any hope he once provided.
Three huge leaps forward was a trip to Hawaii in January and February of 2017. I initially went to teach two workshops at the Hawaii Tantra Festival: an embodied invocation ritual for the Goddess and a lecture on the merging of classical and neo Tantra. Creating the curriculum for the latter almost killed me. I had to pull myself out of a dark abyss of depression and synthesize everything I had been studying and practicing for 10 years and figure out a way to share it in less than 2 hours. Thankfully, both classes were really well received. I also ended up staying an additional month there, getting extra sweet bonding time with my sister Rachel, reuniting with Bali family David and Buster, and helped teach a month-long practitioner training there. It was a very welcome respite from the bitter Nashville winter and my self-imposed isolation. There were moments there, connecting with my chosen family, expanding that family (much love to Tim, Sophia, Jillian Love and many more), listening to MaMuse sing live, watching molten lava pour into the ocean, and leading mantras in the yoni cave, that I thought…Okay, I’m alive again, all is well! I can do this thing called life and work and relationship again, maybe I can even finally write my year in review. Ha.
It wasn’t quite meant to be…apparently I needed to take another five steps back. I returned home to Nashville with an extremely inflamed gallbladder with a huge gallstone that would leave me doubled over, screaming in pain all night long at least 4 times a month. For about a year, I had been doing everything I could to naturally dissolve the stone and manage the pain, but it was a pretty futile endeavor. The attacks were increasing in pain and frequency and I was terrified to eat anything. I then had to wrap my head around having a surgery, actually removing a precious part of my own body, and even scarier: figuring out health insurance. I also had this lingering fear that I wouldn’t wake up from anesthesia that I had to deal with. In April of 2017, I finally had it removed. Gratitude to Jessica, Amy, Jonda, Adele and David Woody for helping me prepare and recuperate. Recovering was not as easy as I had anticipated. The momentum from tribal living in Hawaii dissolved and I went back into the cave of isolated existential inquiry.
Tribe. Family. Belonging. These are words that carry a lot of potency for me. For an only child who has never experienced a big cohesive, socially interactive family, cultivating “chosen family” has been a huge part of my life for the last seven years. These last two years, I took a left turn away from that. I went from living with a tribe of 10+ friends in Bali, to living alone in Nashville. I did it with purpose, it seemed time to untangle some of the confusion and disappointment I had been experiencing in my extremely edgy solo-polyamorous tribal lifestyle.
January through May of 2016 were a resounding success in Nashville, affirming that I did need to take space, try something new, be on my own. But building a new tribe from scratch isn’t easy. Apparently I had forgotten this lesson from when I helped create a new high school years ago. I began to feel the weight not only of being the leader of a fledgling community that could take years to fully materialize, but also of several business projects I was committed to, but uncertain about. Sadly the one that I was most excited about, a women’s retreat in Bali was falling apart, and I found myself mourning that and resenting the other things that had gotten in the way.
Being an entrepreneur, especially one that strives to help and guide others is an intense path. Some have written at length about its bipolar nature. Add to that, any personal struggles with depression and, wow, you are really in for some challenging times. If on top of that, you decide it is a good idea to move across the country, effectively separating yourself from your awesome support system of fellow spiritual entrepreneurs and evolutionaries….well, it isn’t easy to say the least. It’s rare to find people that understand the unique challenge of balancing a large appetite for spiritual inquiry with the tortured depths of depression. I’m so grateful for my friends that can show up to face that with me (Thank you, Robyn). The silver lining with all of this is that I know someone will benefit from my willingness to take risks and to expose the whole damn truth. So be it.
I continued healing from surgery into late May and by June enrolled myself in an awesome DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) program. (Over the course of the last year, I’ve tried a handful of depression treatments, some more successful than others, which I’ll share in another post.) July and August were grueling, as I recommitted to exercise and some semblance of healthy eating (thank you Sunbasket). But it was August 21st, that really pushed me completely through the dark
night year of the soul, returning me to some semblance of who I knew myself to be with a few upgrades of course. Thank you, eclipse. I’m not too into astrology or astronomy for that matter, but being in the path of totality in Nashville really seemed to work wonders for me.
In an ode to my standard year in review format, here are my:
Top Ten Learnings from January 1, 2016 to September 1, 2017
- It is possible to have a healthy, happy break up. Thank God I finally got to experience this.
- Health comes first. Don’t wait so long to confront physical or mental health issues. Don’t let the group think of the spiritual community dissuade you from western medicine too much. Strive to have a balanced appreciation of conventional and alternative healing methods.
- If you have recurrent episodes of depression, it’s worth looking into recent research on Bipolar II and ADD (especially if you are an entrepreneur or artist.)
- Ayurveda is a potent system for understanding and addressing imbalances in your physical and mental health. Do you know your dosha? I recommend getting an ayurvedic consultation with my teacher, Uma Inder.
- I am an awesome labor coach and helping someone birth a baby into the world is an a true gift. I love facilitating rites of passage. Officiating a wedding and helping someone pass into mortality are now on my bucket list.
- The power of sound…awwwwwww….so much to say about this, which I’ll save for another post…for now, I’d rather just have you take a deep breathe for us both and make any loud sound that feels good.
- Creativity is a much bigger part of my healthy flow than I realized. Chances are, if I am not creating, I am not even close to happy. (I’m surprised I hadn’t learned this one already!)
- A solid morning meditation practice solves most life problems.
- Moving to Nashville was the biggest risk I have ever taken. It has taught me a lot, including the fact that I may need to return to California.
- Trump will not destroy us. We are in this together. Black lives certainly fucking matter and the revolution is near. Our much-needed conscious participation in evolution demands we step up our game in so many ways.
I march forward into these last months of 2017 brimming with creativity and ready to share more with the world. Expect more bold, brave magic coming your way. May we always be brave enough to choose health, love and growth.