Last April I was going through one of the most challenging times of my life. I had been dating this guy for a few months and it started out great: him bringing me coffee in the middle of the day just to say hi, Facetiming when we weren’t in the same city, romantic dinners and watching him play jazz… he even started bringing me to look at houses with him, because you know, like most great love stories that end in excruciating pain, we thought we had found our forever. Little did I know that all the while, lurking under the surface, he was wrestling with his past and I quickly became a projection screen for it.
I started catching him in lies, small ones then worse ones, the phone calls started to become less frequent, we stopped going on dates, stopped sleeping together – all the while every single promise he made to me he broke. What’s worse, he never had a good reason for it either. It was as though my time and my love had suddenly become a weed in his garden that he wanted to get rid of, but couldn’t sort out how. To be frank, it made me feel worthless. He made me feel worthless.
After it ended, I resolved to not let my learning slip away from me this time. Following breakups I had always been really good about getting myself back on my feet by taking great care of myself. Then a few months in I’d be tied up with some other shitty dude, or fling, or heartache, or so immersed in my work that the self-care would fall away. I would only stay in self-care long enough to feel normal again and last spring, I realized that what I had become accustomed to being normal, was less than I deserved. I promised myself I wouldn’t stop making myself a priority, and if others couldn’t make time for me, I couldn’t make time for them.
It’s now been ten months and the work continues as I’ve found my routine. For endorphins I run a 5k three times per week, for my nervous system and to help with my back pain I do at least 30 minutes of Kundalini yoga alternating my run days, and every single day, I meditate for at least 15 minutes. I try to set aside time once a month to do a new moon or full moon ceremony, I drink less and very rarely smoke, I take vitamins, have a handle on my digestion problems and migraines that I never had before and my voice is finally back after having lost it for over a year. The sunrise series (that started in the wake of this breakup) continues and I’m committed to my goals and dreams and don’t let anyone else dictate what they can be and mean. For as long as I could afford it I was in therapy working on attachment issues and was even going to support group meetings; and the work there still continues just on my own now.
Bit by bit I can feel the pain liberated out of my body; the pain that lead me to be with someone who couldn’t appreciate me for who I am and what I have to give. All year I have been asking myself, if we attract what we are, what have I not let go of that attracted him into my life? What do I continue to hold onto that has opened the door to a textbook narcissist, and generally emotionally unavailable men? I’ve been better about my boundaries, projecting exactly what I am looking for, focusing on and loving myself and letting go of those people and things that no longer serve me. As I shed all of this to rise to the fourth level of ascension, I couldn’t help but wonder why do I still feel the same? I’m taking the actions and doing the work but where are the revelations? Where are the breakthroughs? Am I numb? Did I do something wrong? Am I just going through the motions and faking it?
When you suffer from PTSD, your trauma lives in your body, and things that remind you of those moments or times are like pressing the down button on an elevator where try as hard as you might to press the “door open” button or the “up” button, it’s too late. You’re going down the elevator shaft to your past whether you like it or not. Though I don’t know anyone who likes it. So how does one navigate that fight-or-flight response once it’s activated? I’ve gotten to the point where I know it’s happening when it’s happening and I try to calm my body down with breathing exercises, meditation, holding myself and when all else fails, I smoke CBD or go to bed counting on impermanence that my heart will stop racing.
Kundalini works to regulate the nervous system and does so not just by working with the physical body but the metaphysical body as well. There are thousands of kriyas, which are Kundalini yoga sets, to target individual problems that relate to the rest of the body. I’ve seen it take down swelling from my lymph nodes when I was sick, I’ve seen it help my digestion regulate, I’ve seen it strengthen my back to balance out my sidewalk running, so why couldn’t it help with this down button? Turns out it can in a very effective way. A few months ago I tried a Kundalini kriya that is intended to take away anger and sadness. Growing up as an actor, one of the fundamental things I learned about human emotions and our ability to express them was that when confronting our vulnerability, first we release anger, then sadness. This is exactly how the kriya was constructed.
Guru Jagat encouraged us to let it out because “better out than in” – that it was our chance to let go of all of the resentment, the anger, the disappointment that would otherwise turn on us if we didn’t. At the time I was recovering from a brief relationship with a narcissist where I learned I had been gas lighted and cheated on with not one, but two women. I had a lot to get out. Then we moved into child’s pose and sang a chant that out of nowhere, with out warning, had me releasing buckets of tears. “Sing to the parts of you that needs liberating” Guru Jagat said, and here, in crying over the pain I endured from this terrible guy, I started to come to terms with the fact that I had weak boundaries with the men I was allowing in, and that my guilt was attracting those who were unfaithful and untrustworthy. I had been carrying around years of guilt as though it were a 50-pound weight for the few times in my twenties that I had knowingly become the other woman. I was punishing myself for hurting my sisters, for not honoring the pain I was a part of, for not living up to my integrity. I was giving myself what I felt I deserved for transgressions I halted and got myself out of, and later even attempted to reveal the truth to their partners. I made mistakes and had learned from them, but I never forgave myself. Suddenly through this kriya snot was pouring out of my nose and I realized, that I was trying to take control of Karma. I was trying to do it’s job by punishing myself and trying to get back at the narcissist by revealing who he was to those who weren’t ready to listen. Revenge was on my mind but all I was doing was perpetuating Karma against me. It wasn’t my responsibility; it was never my responsibility. All that was, was to learn, and forgive myself for making mistakes while learning.
Soon after that revelation and Kundalini practice I got very sick, for the first time in over a year. The practice is best done when you can do it every day for a week. Guru Jagat said, “You will not be the same person. You will live with out fear.” So I resolved to do it again after my health had recovered, but I kept making excuses. I think because I was afraid of what else I would uncover should I follow-through. After a month of traveling through Syracuse, NYC, LA, all over the Yucatan peninsula, on to Park City, Utah – following festivals and photo shoots, and everything that could go wrong going wrong, I was looking forward to coming home for a change. Home to LA, that is. I knew I needed to get back to meditating, not using swimming in the ocean or going on a bike ride as my exercise but just going on an old-fashioned run and processing everything I had been through on that spontaneous, unplanned, but somehow out of sheer will, still successful journey. So in the light of the blue blood moon, I decided it was time to try again, for the full week this time.
Yesterday was very simple: towards the end of the kriya I realized that I had become used to mediocre results. I was becoming okay with just getting by, and getting underpaid so long as I was paid and not living up to my full potential. I was comfortable with that, and that scared the crap out of me. Today, when I had to chant into those unliberated places I was chanting to the places that were content with mediocrity. What was I so afraid of if I let my light shine? What was the worst that could happen? “Imposter syndrome” is a common sickness in Hollywood: most of us, even those of us who have all ready found a stride of success, are scared shitless that we’ll be “found out” that we’re really just a fraud making this up as we go and that we actually have no clue what we are doing. I am no different than most Angelenos in this way. But where did it truly stem from for me? Why was I really so afraid of success?
Critics. The answer was critics. If I had finished my feature-documentary and it had gotten the festival exposure I always believed it had the potential to reach, what if it sucked? What if the people I want to like it, people who could define my career’s fate, people who’s taste I admire in the industry, people back home, people I grew up with… what if they hated it? Something hit me to my core there. I was afraid that my intelligence would be brought into question. I was afraid of being called crazy. I was afraid of being made fun of. I was afraid of being a little girl again and having kids make fun of me all over again.
Growing up, I never felt accepted. Comments I would get on a daily basis would be “you know your voice is really annoying, right?” and “God your hair is so obnoxious” and “what are you stupid or something?” I got the wind knocked out of me on the bus, a whole group of boys chased after me on the playground to take me down and kick me, my guinea pig died and this girl told me my mom probably sat on it, spit balls were thrown at my pencil when I would be the last one trying to finish a test because of what I later found out to be ADD. Throughout middle school I lead all of the neighborhood kids to play capture the flag and it was the only time in my life I felt accepted because I was always first pick because I always managed to find and bring back the flag. But during the school year, they pretended we were never friends those three months per year. Being friends with me was typically a bad look if you had any kind of status in my high school. I had long, thick, butt-length hair, I carried around all of my textbooks and never used my locker to save time, I used my lunch hours to work on my essays so I could go to a professional ballet school after we got out at 3pm. I was different. I had dreams, and those dreams were big, so I did things that didn’t line up with what the other kids had ever seen at Marcellus.
Even to the weirdo’s in high school, I was still an outsider; a group of upperclassmen in my chorus gave me the nickname “Moonbeam Starchild” to the point where I would walk into class and the whole room would chant “awe moonbeam!” At first I thought it was good attention, because it was attention at all. Until they started writing anonymous messages on my blog telling me that I would never be successful on Broadway because I didn’t have a great singing voice and my hair made me look crazy when I danced. I was told constantly to give up, that I wouldn’t make it and that I couldn’t do it. I sparked a fire when I spoke out against an upperclassman who was mean to my friend Megan backstage at the all school show, which that kind of ego, I claimed, is one of the reasons I didn’t get involved in the school shows. I knew I had been bullied my whole life, and I never really responded to my own. When kids would call my voice annoying I would say “oh, ha-ha yeah, I know” and I learned to have crushes on the boys who would beat me up. I never stood up to them and instead misdirected my anger at home, directed it into my dancing, and inverted the rest of it in my self-destructive behavior, as I became an adult.
I never stopped wanting to fit in. I went to art school thinking if I were around other dedicated weirdo’s, I would have to fit in. Even then, taking a semester off to recover from the effects of an abusive relationship made me an outsider. I looked to those who seemed to understand in bands and started booking concerts. I continued to make myself different from my peers while simultaneously looking for acceptance. Activism became just as important as art. I became sexually liberated meanwhile rumors being spread about me because apparently someone’s boyfriend found me attractive. I hated this. I hated that even where I should have been accepted, I still wasn’t. Things started to grow and shift for me and I never really found what I was looking for. So I moved to Los Angeles to find it and soon after fell into a group of hipsters who loved their businesses, their music, their parties and their gossip. Everyone looked like they belonged in a Killers music video and had “ins” on the hottest rooftop and Hollywood hills parties around. I had one serious boyfriend most of the time I was in that group, and when going through that breakup, a rumor was of course spread about me in relation to someone else from that group who was also going through a breakup.
Why was this continuing to happen? I hadn’t done anything. I was more than disappointed, I was pissed the fuck off. Why was I continuing to try to sit at the cool kids table when the cool kids always seemed threatened by me that they had to take me down one rumor at a time? So I threw it all away and started taking sideways glances at the really strange: Burning Man. I had read about it when I was 16 in a book called “The Lost Soul Companion” and knew some day I’d end up there. The burners I met in LA I never fell into but I identified with the weirdness. At the same time, I was giving up on acting and transitioning into documentary filmmaking and photography. I was moving away from things that didn’t make me feel good and lining myself up with my integrity and my long-term purpose, which was to make change. I knew I was put on this earth for a great purpose, something that could enact lasting change, else why would I have been in the gym of facing adversity just for being different since I was in elementary school?
Soon after moving to NYC, I found my family, my fellow weirdo’s who I would run into over and over again all over the world. I found the people who had the same outlook – to stay sensitive, to stay alive, to stay present and true to your own work. I could finally be myself and be accepted and in these pursuits and doing this kriya I realized that is all I have ever wanted, and was the number one thing that was holding me back. If I revealed who I truly am, to myself and to the world, all that I am capable of by finishing something and putting it out there, I would have to own up to that work as mine and put myself in a position of being criticized, of being made fun of, of being told that I can’t and that I shouldn’t. Fact of the matter is, everyone has been telling me “you have to,” “you can do this,” and faith that what I do is going to be great and I’m capable of everything.
I realized as the snot was pouring down onto my yoga mat, and I was letting out deep moans like an elephant giving birth, that I had allowed those kids to control my life. I had taken what they had said to me personally because somehow, in some ways, I still believed them. They planted a seed that I watered for years and years to come. The seed grew into patterns of self-destruction from the fear of being found out, of being invalidated, of being told no, of being told I can’t. I became my own worst bully and the person I realized I was disappointed in the most, was myself, for listening to and believing a bunch of kids who didn’t know anything.
Today is only day two of this seven-day process. Let’s see what happens tomorrow.