Back in 2004, on the very first day in the back-to-school-extravaganza I took part in at the age of 38, in my very first class, psych 101, we watched a video on pathological states. And there, up on the screen, I saw my friends and colleagues and I described, the very basic skill of energetic connection we used, the one that flowed dozens of times a day as a normal part of our living.
In the film, it was described as mental illness, delusional people hallucinating that they could talk to plants, that the plants could talk back. And as I sat in that Albany, NY university auditorium, shame flooded through me, a sense of horror at being found out, judged as crazy, tossed out of the halls of science for being a nutcase.
It was a warning flare from Life, letting me know what the lay of this new land was, what I was facing, what I'd need to do if I were to survive the experience I'd felt so strongly to pursue that I'd moved to a new city, left everything and everyone I knew behind. Life let me know that I'd have to disguise myself, have to hide who I was. Because if I began talking about energy and the connectivity of living, the web-like fascia between all beings - plants, animals - humans and non-humans all the same - stones - everything - they'd lock me up and feed me pharmaceuticals. And this wasn't random fear. These were the facts of this new world: No Wackjobs Allowed.
In general, going back to college sounds like a normal enough thing. Sure - there are the challenges of the expense, the uprooting of a lifestyle, the mental strain. But for me, it was like entering the enemy camp. For those of you who've been reading this blog long enough, you'll remember I called myself a Spy in the Land of The Mind.
I'd lived a nomadic life, based on pursuit of something outside of mainstream living, something I could feel pulsing inside of me, so gorgeous, so amazing, so outrageously Yes only an idiot would say no. Activated when I was a child by nature and books and accelerated learning in school, it shifted in teenage years toward theater and acting, being onstage or in front of the camera, and to the drugs, alcohol, promiscuous sex that went along with that lifestyle, that community. In my twenties it moved on to yoga, meditation, running, clean diet, the rigidity of ashram living. After that, things seemingly devolved for a while, a breaking down into the dark side of it all, fleeing an evil guru, escaping into exile onto the mean streets of NYC, getting drunk, stoned, more and more often. And then 30 came along, and I fled the city, spent a year in a kind of shock, then turned 31, beginning an intensive time of self-healing that paralleled a 7-year apprenticeship with an energetic master who helped hone psychic and energywork skills in a 100+ different modalities. I got strong and learned and rooted.
This next part I only remembered just last night. I'd forgotten it these past eight years, forgotten the beginning of the freefall that landed me in Albany, caused me to walk away from the happiest life I'd ever known. I'd always thought it was a series of events, cascading loss that ripped through my living - loss of best friend, violent downstairs neighbor that led to loss of home, betrayal by my lover, 9-11 that brought a difficult economic landscape to the NYC upper suburbs I lived in. But what preceded these events was something that set me up inside myself for all the events, or my reaction to them, to break apart my life so intensely that I'd have little choice but to go nomad again.
For 7 years I'd apprenticed with a master, learned her techniques, made them my own, incorporated them with other skills learned from shamans and psychics and energyworkers. By year two, I was seeing clients of my own, building a name as a strong healer, working with corporations, hospitals, working with other healers in the group, refining our techniques together. My abilities bloomed, deeply so, so intensely that even my teacher called me for assistance, to look at issues inside of herself or her family.
In year 6, things began to change. There was a group of ~10 that had been studying with the energy master for five or more years, and in around year three, the teacher let in a new person, said she was accomplished enough to join the advanced group, although we all had to spend time bringing her up to speed. Over the following couple of years or so she became very close with the teacher and the group dynamic began to change.
I was one of only two of the group who was working as an holistic practitioner full-time, and both of us were poised to begin assisting the teacher as she expanded her classes. But instead of either one of us, the new student began assisting. I don't even know really how it happened. I didn't really think in terms of ambition, or lineage, or any of that sort of thing. But one day, I got a call from the new student, saying that she and the teacher had decided that if I wanted to be a part of the new training program expansion, I'd have to study under the student until she felt I was ready.
It was one of those moments that feels like a bomb going off, total silence for a few moments as you try to figure out what just happened, utterly disoriented. I'm trying to remember what the actual conversation was but I only remember fragments - me saying: but that makes no sense, why would I need to train with you when I have more experience than you, have years and years more practice, when you still are using the techniques in rudimentary form, and haven't worked much with clients? . . . and she saying, interrupting me over and over, passive aggressive comments that all members of our group found difficult in dealing with her, how she'd shut her eyes and simply keep talking, talking over anything that you tried to say, allowing only monologue on her part, only opening her eyes and smiling broadly when you'd finally given up and gone silent and she'd hug you and say: so we're agreed! and she'd happily walk off.
But that day, that conversation, I held my ground. No, I would not train under her. No, it was not okay that I was supposedly not allowed to assist in any of the classes. No, it was not okay that I was to stop working with clients until cleared by her. No, I didn't believe that this is what the teacher wanted. The student was not amused.
Weeks of back and forth commenced, culminating in the teacher agreeing with me - there was no need to train with the student. But the damage was done, and the training program expansion went on without me. Oops, the student forgot to let me know about a class date. Oops, she forgot to include me in organizing schedules or days or practices, or really anything. She simply left me out of the loop, and the teacher would back the student, saying how busy the student was with her full time job in addition to the training program, how she didn't mean to exclude me. And so I let go of trying to be a part of the school, and focused on my own practice, my own clients.
Within a year, all senior students were essentially working under the student, and the once cohesive collective of vibrant healers was now just a group of women who saw one another less and less. And when the teacher moved to California, the local school shifted completely under the student's control.
That last year, I took a job working part time in a women's gym as a trainer. The student would stop by the gym every few months or so, and I'd initially feel so glad. The ruffled feelings, the group dynamic shift, had all been so upsetting. I just wanted us all to feel close, to be a part of the new training program together. And so the student would show up at my gym, say she just wanted to stop by and say hello, and I'd feel happy to be included, sought out. But within minutes she'd ask for my psychic advice - issues she had going on at her job, or with her romantic life. I'd tell her what I saw, but it was never what she wanted to hear, and she'd be dismissive, condescending in that broadly smiling way of hers, then walk off, and I'd stand there, feeling like sh*t and not knowing why.
And so, when the cascading shift of change hit, I just let go, let it all go, stopped fighting it. My heart felt so broken, I felt so defeated on every level, I just walked away, left it all behind, didn't even try. I gave away my possessions, gave notice on my apartment, even though I didn't have anywhere else to go, any money saved, no plan, nothing.
And I think after that, I was ready for anything. It's like I was stripped nekkid and jettisoned out into a brand new life like a blank slate. I had no idea what was next. And so on that morning when I woke up on that mountaintop in that cabin in Virginia with one of those emotionless directives: Go Back To School, I just did it, amazed and delighted as a dozen things clicked into place effortlessly, dumping me out into Albany, NY in less than three months. And in three years of back to back semesters, I had a BA in Psych, a master's in Public Health, over 10 years as an holistic practitioner, and no idea what to do with it all.
I found that because of all of the science I now understood, to the holistic crowd, I'd become a sellout or a partypooper or simply The Man. I found that I couldn't go back and simply be a holistic practitioner, and so I've pressed on forward, into the unknown.
The job I'm at now is a fellowship with a contract that ends January 1st. I don't know what happens after that. I don't know if there's a place for me in this world, this world of highly educated, savvy people whose religion is science and who live by its tenets absolutely, unequivocally. These are the people who run the world, who head hospitals and universities and government agencies, run corporations and research centers. They were, vastly by and large, raised in comfort and support. If they ever heard a plant speak to them, they'd see a doc, get a scrip, breathe a sigh of relief as the plants around them fell silent.
To them, people like me are freaks, mentally ill, just plain weird. Although sometimes, because it's become trendy, people like me can be kind of fun, if we do things like feng shui or meditation, as long as it's Granolahead Lite, as long as it makes other people feel happy and good about themselves, their life. They don't want the dark side, don't want the death or the void, don't want a light shined on the carefully constructed illusions they believe to be reality. Of course not. They are at the top of society, the upper level of resources and knowledge and power and control. Why would they want someone who sees it genuinely differently?
I want to tell them that we're heading into a very dark time, but that it's going to be okay, even as everything we know changes. I want to tell them what's coming, but it isn't what anyone wants to hear, and I've learned, hard learned, to hold it in, to not speak.
I wish I had the courage to just be a freak, to let others believe what they do, view me as whatever they do. But only a few hundred years ago they were burning people like me at the stake, fifty years ago tossing us in snake pit mental institutions. Now they press us to take medication, and if we still don't conform, they kick us out of communities, jobs, churches, families, peer groups.
When visionary leaders talk about how they want people who think outside the box, they mean color of skin, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, maybe even small degrees of "different" in thought or perception. But for people who truly live outside the box of mass consciousness? Hell no. That's insanity. That's anarchy.
And I watch as I drift even further away from the herd. Getting stranger. Less involved. Seeing underneath even more layers of this thing we call The World. I'm much better at not saying anything, not commenting or speaking to what I see, what is obviously going on.
Yet it gets more difficult to see the line between what they believe is and isn't okay. It's as if all of living were an enormous swath of expression, movement, flow, and where we are as a species, where the mass consciousness is, is a demarcation on that continuum: We will believe in things you can see, hear, smell, taste or touch physically - anything other than that is a pathology that corrupts sensory perception, rendering it unreliable.
And yet I've been a psychic, a shaman, an energyworker, an Alternative Practitioner for so long that it's simply how I live. I am constantly inappropriate, realizing it only in that three second wake of silence as the people around me attempt to compute the anomaly.
Did you know this? Did you know that there's a very specific language, dance, collection of images in a culture, a subculture, a metaculture? Did you know that this is all a tightly choreographed dance? If you're a female, did you shave your armpits? Is your hair clean and smooth? Do your clothes fit? Do they match, e.g. does your costume fit your character's role? Do you say the new catch-phrases? Do you understand the current metaphors? Do you smile at the right time about the right things? Do you express dissension at the right moment? Do you express the correct level of friendliness for your social station? Level in the hierarchy? Do you pair bond in an acceptable way? Do you relate to animals and plants and stones and air in a way that demonstrates that they are Other and not as important as humans? Are you thin, healthy, young, energetic, outgoing, confident? If not, are you working toward these states? Or at least the appearance of these states? Do you love to shop and see how its excellence is advantageous? Do you channel your animal nature, your intrinsic hard-wired love of violence into watching sports or instigating drama and competition in those around you?
Does seeing all this as you walk through your days make your eyes bug? Does it blow your mind that you are watching actors on a stage, and that all you have to do is say your lines, say your lines dammit, but it's getting harder and harder to do because really what's the point?
As I drift even further, to the outermost edge of the herd, I lose ever more interest in where the herd is. But I have a job. I go to the store, the market, deal with the acupuncturist, the landlord. Before every action, every conversation, I have to remind myself where the line is, where that place is that they can see and then see no more beyond it.
I watch as things slip and slide, move back and forth over the line. The person at work who answers questions that I haven't spoken aloud, only thought in my mind. She doesn't realize she's doing it, but one day she will. And I know better than to expect she'll be awed and pleased by the realization, and want to be my BFF.
Or clients who used to book sessions for the feel-good, who are slowly realizing I'm doing something very different.
Or the decent job I'm doing at work, though my bosses feel something is off somehow, though they can't seem to put their finger on what or why. Just find out what they want and give it to them is my goal. Do the work. Do good research, write good papers, give good presentations. Give them what they want, how they want it, when they want it. It's what they pay me for. It's a fair trade. They have no need for any of the other things I see, or do, or experience. And it's the way it should be.
I do very few holistic sessions with folks any longer. I send out no newsletters, no website updates, barely return emails. It's been heading that way for many months, but culminated in something that happened a few weeks ago. I did a session with a woman who genuinely wanted a nice psychic reading, something that would make her feel good, strong, give her pointers for having the things she wanted in her life. Instead she got a nihilist who told her how she'd surrounded herself with No and if she wanted it to change she'd have to leave certain people and situations behind. By the end of the session she was so angry she could barely contain her rage. And the next day she sent one of the most hateful, vitriol infused emails I've ever received. Instead of engaging, I sent her a refund, wished her well, and then blocked her email and IP addresses.
In the moment it all felt so practical. I 'd done two sessions during the previous weeks for a woman who'd had a biopsy done, had helped walk her through what the diagnosis would be, possible courses of treatments her medical team would recommend, what things to look for. I thought the two sides of the same push of energy were perfect: one woman crying on the phone, telling me how grateful she was to have found me, the other spitting bile and threats, calling me a charlatan, a scam artist.
Neither was true. Neither was false. Neither got what they really wanted - make the cancer go away, make the bad feelings inside go away. But both got what they needed. And somehow, between the polar aspects of their energy, something in me let go.
Since then, I only do sessions here and there, no more simply saying yes. I took down the paypal link on the website, ignore most of the emails, pointedly opt out of the psychic, shamanic gig.
I don't know what's true with it anymore. I can tell you that I saw her cancer, saw it move, saw what would make it stop moving, go away. I can tell you I saw the relationships the other woman surrounded herself with, what it would cost her to set herself free. These are absolute truths to me. Like seeing the wind move a tree branch, watching the leaves flutter. It's simply what is observed. But is it helpful? Does it truly assist other people? I'm no longer sure.
I don't know what's happening anymore in general. There's no goal, no ambition, no plan. Sometimes there are pulses of energy that move my living in one direction or another, tell me to take an action, or refrain from an action. Beliefs unpeel, one by one, in the course of a conversation, a single exchange, during a dream, or watching a tv show. No trying. Not much effort anymore.
Still painful as all f*ck. But it passes much more quickly, sometimes within seconds, in the time it takes to take a breath and release it, or turn my head to look in a different direction, or simply say No Thank You.
I don't pray for things anymore - money, love, success, good health. Instead I pray for the grace to accept what Life brings, for the courage to face what's in front of me, for the strength to acknowledge my part in the flow of energy that surrounds me.
And I pray for silence, that I can let go of needing to speak at all. In this current social climate where everyone clamors for their voice to be heard, where everyone believes that they have something vital to say, to contribute, I long for the courage to stop adding to the noise.
Or conversely, for the trust that if something needs to be said, it'll be said. It doesn't need to come from me, or if it does, it'll be so obvious I won't need to hold it back, it'll bloom into the conversation and that'll be enough.
The conversation back in 2001 with that student when the bomb went off was a turning point. I feel something similar coming around. Don't know what or when. Feeling such fear and vulnerability around it. Even as somewhere underneath, courage is building, the strength to make the next leap needed. Or maybe it's trusting that the force of movement will take me where I need to go if I simply surrender to the momentum.
I understand now that I'm not the wind. I'm the tree. And I'm okay with that.
I'm in better financial shape this go around. And there are so few material objects to lose or social fabric around me to tear. There's more trust in what's happening. And less need for drama. And yet I feel more naked, more vulnerable than ever before. As much as I can, I keep my eyes open, try to stop repackaging reality into pleasing shapes. As things collapse, I breathe, sleep, snuggle kitties, look for the way through.
More will be revealed.
And now the narrative quiets, finally out of me, released.
I turn toward you, feel you as you sit, reading these words on the lighted screen in front of you.
Do you feel this change, this big shift in the world, too?
I guess if I have a tribe anymore it's you folks, you few dozen scattered over the globe.
As you read this, what's been triggered in you? How are you navigating it all?