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Musings
Category

  • I Think I’ll Go Cry About That

    Isn’t it kind of nuts that ocean water pours out of your face when you feel emotions? Although sometimes it feels really good to release liquid out your eyeballs, crying is also a really intense way to express yourself. Have you ever been an argument with someone, just really verbally eviscerating them, but then they start crying so you feel bad and have to stop. That’s the worst! Stop manipulating me with your tears!

    Maybe it’s because I am from New England and believe in things like walking outside in wet socks during freezing temperatures is a good way to build character – but I try to keep my eye-fluid to myself. Crying makes me feel too vulnerable. My body language folds in, my face contorts, and my nose pours like a mucus waterfall. No thank you. If I am going to feel feelings around other people, I prefer indifference and emotional constipation.

    Kids, however, don’t even give a fuck when it comes to crying. They will cry any time, in front of anyone. Tears are their go-to form of expression because they don’t feel the social pressure to hold them in. I respect this period in life because it is the only time where you truly lack the shame of your outbursts. There is something freeing about exposing the underbelly of your emotional self, and preserving that openness is crucial to growing into a well-adjusted adult. The more capable you are of being in touch with your feelings, they less you will be consumed by them.

    However, crying is not the only way to communicate your feelings. There is a performance aspect to lamentation, which does lend itself to wallowing. When you are in a state of weeping, you are not exactly looking for solutions to your problems. Whoever you are with has to be a witness to the tyranny of your tears. Even though I don’t want to be a dictator of expression for my child, I also don’t want her to get into the habit of crying as a default.

    Oftentimes girls are socialized to articulate their discontent through tears because it is expected – and allowed when they are young. Boys are usually told to stop crying, because that threatens their masculinity. The result is that women tend to cry more to communicate, whereas men get angry. The root feelings are the same, yet one manifestation is passive and the other is aggressive. I don’t want my little girl to rely on tears to get through to people.

    When The Munch was young, I noticed that she would kind of indulge in her sadness. If she hurt herself she would cry, which was fine, but then she would stay crying long after the physical pain had subsided. Maybe it was an age thing, but it also made me nervous. I didn’t want her to get into a custom where every time she stubbed her toe it was an opportunity for self-pity. So I came up with a strategy where after I minute of her feeling the pain, I would then re-enact the trauma with one of her toys or dolls. This brought her out of her head, and she would stop crying and instead help choreograph the replaying of the scene. Now when she falls or hurts herself, she barely cries at all.

    Now that The Munch is almost 5, I figured she didn’t have to sob every time she doesn’t get what she wants, or when things don’t work out exactly as planned. So now I have a tactic for dealing with the emotional tantrum. You may think that I am a hardened beast of a woman wearing an apron and walking around with a wooden spoon to beat people with… but I swear it is working. It goes like this.

    Munch: Where are my “My Little Pony” socks?
    Toni: I don’t know. Where ever you last put them.
    Munch: But I don’t know where they are?
    Toni: Well, maybe you could look for them.
    Munch: BUT I WANT MY SOCKS NOW!! I NEED MY “MY LITTLE PONY SOCKS!”
    (Tears start to well up as the outpouring is about to begin).
    Toni: Well, you should probably cry about it.

    The Munch will then look at me with a particular combo of disbelief, rage, and pride. By my suggesting she cry, her ego is like “fuck that.”

    Even though you probably now think I am a MEGA bitch… she doesn’t cry and she goes and finds her damn socks.

    crying-blog-2

     

  • The Smart Phone Vacation

    The world is changing like a newborn’s diaper – shit is moving fast. Every time I step outside my isolated country existence I experience culture shock. I feel like an unfrozen relic of the past, released into the world wearing clogs and a prairie dress, in search of an open fire with spit to roast my meat.

    Last week The Munch and I went on a family vacation, but separately. I believe that is the best kind. Munch went to visit my friend Gita in NYC, and I was off finding my Zen on the azure ocean. I parked my car in New Haven and took the train into the city so I didn’t have to pay $9,000 for parking….which would actually be a pretty good deal for Manhattan.

    When we got on the train in Connecticut, it was filled with people. We squeezed into a seat and settled in. I began staring at the hominids surrounding us, because that is depressingly REALLY exciting for me. I feel like anthropologist out in public or a space traveler. “There are others out there!” That was when I noticed that EVERY SINGLE PERSON WAS ON THEIR PHONE! Even the family across from us – a grandma, grandpa, and two grandkids – were ALL on staring into their iPhones.

    It is not like I don’t also have a deeply meaningful relationship with my phone. I know it’s a problem. Yet living in nature and spending a lot of time in the car inherently means fewer opportunities both because I don’t want to die veering into an oncoming car while tweeting or because I’m outside a lot gazing at trees and shit.

    I can see how the city life would facilitate more times to check your phone, but my train observation was disturbing none the less.

    When I got to JFK for my flight, I found myself suddenly surrounded by drunk college kids. If you ever every want to question the direction of humanity and find yourself in a deep dark abyss of hate, I highly suggest going to the airport during the week of SRING BREAK!

    Okay, fine Toni. I shouldn’t be such a judgmental curmudgeon about young people having some fun. That is until the self-sticks got broken out.

    In case you have yet to experience or witness a selfie stick, it’s a stick that helps you take better selfies so your arm doesn’t look fat and ruin the picture. They were everywhere. The really weird part was how shamelessly everyone used them. They weren’t taking secret selfies in a room pretending a friend was there and just DYING to take a picture. They were brazenly using them in public. Like it was TOTALLY okay to be your own paparazzi.

    I was in another country, not only taking a vacation from life but also from my phone. I kept my phone off out of fear of getting charged a gagillion dollars for international texts. In retrospect, the break from my phone was one of the best parts of my time away. It forced me to be in the moment. I took long walks on the beach, soaked in the sun and connected to the sounds of the ocean waves but seriously, everyone on the beach was looking at a screen. It was staggering. The selfie stick followed me throughout the week, as people documented themselves rather than the beauty around them.

    I am not being self-righteous, okay! I am not perfect and have an obsession with my phone too. But you guys, we have to keep each other accountable. We need phone curfews. Or time limits. We need an app that says “get off your fucking phone and look up!”

    When Munch and I took the train back to New Haven, once again we were the only people not looking at our phones. Not to say we don’t have our battles with “screen time” because we do, but the train is still exciting for us. Munch was looking out the window and playing with Alpaca erasers that Gita had given her. She made up songs and occasionally made me play big sister who won’t let the pink Alpaca wear the princess dress and wants to eat all the chocolate (a pretty awesome game, I might add). A woman walked by us and said “wow, she has such an active imagination!” I wanted to fucking weep. Isn’t this what childhood is supposed to be? When we pacify our kids with media to prevent boredom, they don’t have to work their brains to make up insane Alpaca eraser games.

    The Alpacas got us talking about the animal kingdom.

    Munch: Can we go see some dinosaurs next time we go to New York City?
    Toni: Munch, dinosaurs are extinct.
    Munch: What does extinct mean?
    Toni: It means there are no more left. They all died.
    Munch: Are other animals extinct?
    Toni: Yes. A lot. And more animals become extinct every day.
    Munch: Why?
    Toni: Because people are cutting down the forests, and the animals get killed.
    Munch: Why would any one do that?! WHY WOULD ANY ONE KILL ANIMALS!
    Toni: Because they want to sell the wood for money. OR they want to graze cows for money? Basically to make money.
    Munch: The ANIMALS LIVE IN THE FOREST! What can we do to stop them?
    Toni: I don’t know.
    Munch: We have to call the police. And the police would stop all the bad people from killing the animals!!!!
    Toni: That is a really good plan.
    Munch: How many animals are left? How many leopards are left?
    Toni: I don’t know… maybe a few thousand?
    Munch: WHY ARE THE PEOPLE KILLING THE ANIMALS!?

    A man that was sitting behind us then interrupted our conversation.

    Man: There are actually 34 leopards left in the wild. I am sorry to bother you, but I was eavesdropping and then had to know how many were actually left.
    Toni: Thank god you had your phone and stopped me from spreading disinformation to my child.
    Munch: 34 is way less than thousands mom.

    phones-suck-blog

  • An Inappropriate Story

    Gather around for inappropriate story time!

    The other day I had to take a shower, and The Munch said she wanted to take one too. We were pressed for time, so we decided to just take one together.

    Now, my child is 3 feet tall and my legs are about 3 feet long. That means her eye level is exactly at my pelvis.

    In the midst of the shower, she turned around to face me.

    Munch: Mom, are you peeing?
    Toni: No – that’s just water.
    Munch: Oh.

    The Munch then took her hands, and cupped my crotch water. She gathered the water as it cascaded off my hair, like one would off a waterfall.

    inappropriate-story-blog

    March 19, 2015 • 4 years old, Mommyhood, Parenting, Talking and Not Talking • Views: 170

  • Are You Lying To Me?

    Lying is one of those things that everybody pretends not to do. It isn’t exactly an attractive thing to admit about yourself. “Hey, I’m Toni – I make a mean batch of organic kale chips, love walking barefoot on muddy grass, and I lie all the time. I don’t even like kale anymore. I am into Swiss chard now.”

    Most people lie about lying so no one thinks they’re a big fat liar.

    I don’t think lying comes from an evil place, but rather a selfish one. You lie because you don’t want to deal with the consequences of your actions. In the short term it feels easier because you get to do what you want, but in the long term it’s more stressful because you have to carry the burden of your lies. Plus, you also have to remember them. There is nothing more annoying then someone who lies to you, and then forgets their lie. It’s like, “Uhhh at least have the decency to keep track of your lies.”

    Sometimes people lie because they don’t like who they are. They exaggerate and decorate details so they will be more likable. I had a friend who lied about her entire identity. She would tell people she was from London, had a fake accent, and an entire story about the British family she never had. I once called and she answered, “Hello love, I just spent 6 quid on a sandwich” and I was like “Naw man, I know the other version of you,” and she was all, “Right. I forgot.”

    The problem with lying is that if you get caught, people tend to stop trusting you. When that bond is broken, it is really hard to repair. Even if you can have empathy for why someone may have lied – to spare your feelings or anger – that doesn’t mean the feeling of betrayal goes away.

    Part of my job as a parent is to teach The Munch these lessons of morality so she doesn’t grow up to be an asshole that no one likes. Now that she is 4, The Munch is becoming aware of the concept of lying. It is part of human development to recognize that you can concoct an alternate reality, and experiment with lying. So far, she really sucks – it is pretty obvious she didn’t actually brush her teeth when her breath smells like chips.

    I have come to expect there will be times The Munch tests lying as a strategy of manipulation. The question then becomes, how do I react when it happens? One method would be to shame her, and make her feel super guilty. Considering my Catholic grandmother helped raise me, I learned how to do that from the best! Yet if I make her feel intensely embarrassed about lying, then she will feel even stronger that she has to hold onto her lie. She would never admit to lying because she would be too afraid to come clean, which would only lead to more lies!

    I figured the best way to get Munch not lie, was to make her feel comfortable telling me if she did. So if I suspected her, I would just ask, “are you being sneaky?” and she would then reply “yes!” Rather than getting mad, I just reminded her that people won’t trust her if she lies. After a few weeks, she stopped altogether. I was like “Check me out. I did it. I won parenting.”

    THEN… we went to Target to get some art supplies.

    Toni: Munch let’s get these crayons. There are so many colors! AND the box has a sharpener you can use on your old crayons!

    I used to love new boxes of crayons so I was irrationally excited, and kept asking her, “Aren’t you happy with these new crayons!? There are so many to choose from.”

    The next day The Munch wanted to color, but I couldn’t find her new crayons.

    Toni: Where are your new crayons?
    Munch: I don’t know? Let’s just use my old ones.
    Toni: Okay, but where are your new ones? They were right here. We were just using them yesterday?
    Munch: No idea. Let’s just use the old ones.
    Toni: Yeah alright – it’s just so weird. They didn’t get up and walk away.
    Munch: They sure didn’t.

    I figured I must have done something with them in a manic fit of cleaning, and let it go. The next day when she wanted to color, I still couldn’t find them. I tore up the house searching everywhere. Then finally I looked under the couch, and found them.

    Toni: There they are!
    Munch: I know! I hid them there!
    Toni: You hid them? You were being sneaky this whole time??!
    Munch: Yup!
    Toni: Why?! Why didn’t you tell me when I was looking for them?
    Munch: Because you liked them so much, and all you wanted to do was talk about the new crayons.

    So I guess I am no longer just raising a sneaky liar, but also a total sociopath.

    motherhood-blog

  • Can Inspirational Quotes Save Me from THe Heartbreak of Failure?

    I have this narrative in my mind that things never work out for me. The voice in my head tells me that I am one of those people that will always be struggling on the periphery of life. It’s as if I were a lost astronaut floating in space, staring into the blackness of dark matter as my tears freeze from the existential coldness of existence. Am I being too dramatic?

    It is just that I have tried many avenues seeking success and work really hard – but most of my endeavors never turn out they way I want or expect. There are so many projects I have embarked on that I think are going to be amazing and take me out of the rut of the struggle, but they all end up flopping like a flaccid penis.

    Even though I have this expectation of inevitable failure, I still keep trying. I must be an emotional masochist because I just keep coming back for more. Someone get me a gag ball and nipple clamps for my spirit body!

    I rationalize my disappointments with a variety of new age inspirational quotes. “Failure is an opportunity to begin again more intelligently,” “There is no failure except giving up,” and the famous Bill Cosby quote “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody – which is why you should drug and rape them.” Fine, I made up that last part.

    Since inescapable anticlimaxes have been such a theme to my mental monologue, my friend decided to help me decode this thought process with a guided meditation. As I was in this semi-conscious state, I had a thought that changed my whole perspective on shit. What if the wrong things don’t work out, but the right ones will?

    It is such a slight shift of perception, but it felt monumental. Maybe all these things didn’t happen the way I was dreaming because they just weren’t the right paths for me. Yet if I keep poking down different avenues, I will eventually find the road I am supposed to be on.

    I feel like this ideology can be applied to the pursuit of love, too. We try on all these different people like skin suits. When the relationships don’t fit, we weep in all the heartbreak and feel too fat/skinny/short/tall. Even though it hurts to peel off a person you care about, if you keep putting them on, eventually you will find the perfect one.

    My personal inspirational quote…

    failure-blog

    March 11, 2015 • Musings • Views: 173

  • Can Grown Ups Still be Wild and Free?

    Technically I am wayyyyy far into my adult years, and no longer even considered a “young person” – yet I still don’t identify with my childhood perception of “grown ups.” My image of a real grown up involves helmet hair, pleated pants, and a deep commitment to Charlie Rose. Maybe that’s why I dress like a 12-year old boy that wears hoodies with sweatpants, and still use the word “dude” non-ironically.

    Part of my rebellion is because the conventional “mature” approach to life sometimes feels soul sucking. When people get older, they stop trying new things, and taking risks. They become complacent because they prioritize things like safety and rest.

    Of course this behavior is rooted in rationality. As your body ages, an all nighter will impact you for the next month, and you take longer to heal if you hurt yourself from jumping off a roof onto a trampoline. Yet, to have practical reasons for being responsible doesn’t mean we have to be that way all the time. A part of your spirit dies when you are always thinking of the consequences of your actions. There is something so freeing when you do something that is out of the ordinary and just plain wild. We need moments of madness just as much as we need to consider the impact of our decisions.

    When we are young, we are probably too reckless because we don’t have enough foresight of our impending mortality. But when we get old, we are probably too cautious. If you think about it, we spend most of our lives as adults. If we get to be old, a very small fraction of our existence would have been devoted to childhood, and an even smaller one to the infamous teenage years. That is a LOT of time to be sensible, and not that much time to be impulsive.

    Even though I want sometimes to feel the mental liberty of my younger years, it is hard to get into that headspace. The Jiminy Cricket of my consciousness is too damn loud. “Don’t eat that, Toni, too much sugar will give you a headache. You should probably go home Toni and not get into that pickup truck full of Abercrombie Models – you have to wake up early tomorrow to get all the laundry done.” Maybe what I crave most is the psychic space to scream “YOLO” and do whatever the fuck just because if could be fun!

    Then I had some insight into what could help me be more adventurous – drugs!! Duh!!!

    Not hard-core drugs obvi, I am still too reasonable for that – but taking ONE hit of weed will really bring me to a spontaneous psychic space!!

    So this is what happened. I was going out on Friday night… which was a BIG deal for me because otherwise I would be home staring out the window like a lost kitten. On the way my friend said, “Hey, do you want some pot,” to which I replied, “sure do!”

    While we were driving, I was suddenly brought back to all the times in my life when I was fancy free getting high, driving around, and listening to music. It was sooo fun, and lighthearted. I realized what distinguished those times from, say, driving to the store for some organic chicken broth – was that I was less concerned about anything else but that moment.

    Being stoned makes me more of a witness to my life, rather than a participant. It is like I was watching myself from the outside, and it didn’t occur to me that I would ever have to actually deal with whatever happened next. I didn’t care because everything that second was hilarious. The only thing going on in my mind was, “what is that crazy girl Toni going to do next? Who knows? But I can’t wait to find out!”

    weed-blog-(i)

    March 9, 2015 • Adventures, Musings, Old School Stories • Views: 231

  • New York State of Mind vs Cuntree Conditioning

    New York is considered one of the greatest cities in the world, but it also spawns a very specific psychological state. It is a place filled with so many options that, no matter what you are doing, there is always something more interesting going on. No matter who you are with, there will always be someone more compelling just over their shoulder. And no matter how great you are, you are always going to be one of a million, rather than one in a million.

    You are never unique in NYC because there are too many beautiful, talented, rich, young people. As soon as some of them get a little weathered, the next shipment comes in. You may think you are a special because you are a skater intellectual biophysicist reiki master who only wears bathrobes but also has magic armpit hair – but guess what? There are 78 more of you down the street in Williamsburg, so get over yourself.

    The result of living in this type of environment is that everyone is always looking for the bigger better deal. You know it’s out there, you just have to keep looking. In this context, it is much easier for people to become disposable. You may go on a date with a lovely woman who went to Harvard, has the physical sturdiness of a horse, a face as lovely as Aphrodite’s, and who laughs at your farts – but she also drinks Diet Dr. Pepper, so fuck her! Who does that really? That bitch has got to go!

    Or you meet this wonderful man who works with the elderly, is independently wealthy from selling his company that manufactured kitty condoms to stop the spreading of feline AIDS, and makes George Clooney look like a homeless person – but his penis slings slightly to the left, so blech. Moving on.org!

    People don’t just form normal friendships because they are like-minded and both enjoy making fudge. It’s more “what do you do, and how can that serve me?” There is an opportunistic ethos because everyone is trying to get their project off the ground, fund their business, or promote their show.

    Nothing is ever good enough because everything is sooooo good. You can go to an art performance where a ballerina does pirouettes on a elephant’s back while queefing the National Anthem as she plays Bach on the Harp, and you will give her a golf clap between texting. It’s hard to be impressed when you are inundated with some of the most gifted people in the world who are all trying to make it, whatever it is. That is why New Yorkers often get so jaded and act like total dicks. It’s not their fault!

    I used to be one of those people. Not fully – but sort of. I refused to wait in lines to get into clubs, I had to be in the VIP room, at the VIP table, with a VIP shoved up my ass. Within four seconds of meeting someone I would know what neighborhood they lived in and their career path. I was corrupted because I was always trying to get stuff done, but I didn’t get that much done because I was too busy trying to meet people to help me get my stuff done!

    Now that I live in the cuntree… there is a staggeringly different mentality. No one really cares about what you do because the blind ambition of achievement doesn’t exist in the same framework. In the woods, being successful means you are not an alcoholic and spend your time snowshoeing in nature. The friends I make are friends because we both pickle our own vegetables, and can talk about tarot card readings. There is a different level of sincerity because connections are made more from personality and having a good time around each other rather than wanting something from someone.

    Of course there are also wayyyyy fewer options, so you are limited in your choices – but this also facilitates deeper intimacy. You spend more interrupted time together, because there is nothing to interfere. Once you drive 30 minutes to your friend’s house you are staying for the afternoon even if someone texts you about an amazing thing you are missing because you wouldn’t get that message anyway because you have no fucking wireless service right now!

    My standards are way different because just leaving my house is a novelty. If there were 100 things to do I probably wouldn’t attend a poetry reading by the organization “people with lisps and speech impediments,” but who cares, I am out of the house, WOO HOO!

    Even though there is much less to do, there is a lot more going on in my mind because I have to keep myself entertained. This has its pluses and minuses – it’s good when I am interesting and think about aliens, and not so much when I am boring and think about humans.

    sigh… if only I were an alien!!

    toni in hat

    March 4, 2015 • Musings, Old School Stories, Relationships • Views: 254

  • You Don’t Have To Be A Creative Genius to Be Artistic

    Being a parent has really helped with my acting chops because I have to act “impressed” a lot. You know, so I am encouraging and don’t scar my kid for life by looking at a drawing she made of me and saying, “well, I don’t really have a line for a body, and there is no 3D perception when you make my nose a dot.” I have to pretend like her efforts are good so she will inspired to keep trying – even though you and I both know the sun is more complicated than a yellow circle with some streaks sticking out of it.

    The only way to get excellent at anything is through practice, so I have to help foster this process of trial and error. I want The Munch to explore her potential talents because the more confidence you have about skills you excel at, the less drugs you do as a teenager. This is a fact. Much like girls who ride horses are less interested in boys – so you better believe that I am getting a goddamn pony.

    Finding passions and hobbies is a really important aspect of personal growth. And, when your kid has school vacation; you need a place to send them so you don’t commit murder suicide. Which is why last week, The Munch went to art camp.

    Did I know what art camp was? No, not really? Did I do a lot of research? Not so much. But I did know that her cousin was going, and she would be gone from 9-3 everyday – so that was enough information for me!

    At the end of art camp, the students put on a performance – which was maybe 45 minutes longer than it needed to be – but also the sweetest thing ever!!!! Watching these kids was both painfully boring and incredibly endearing. Their effort to remember the song, or the incredibly repetitive dance movies of turning around then jumping up and down, was priceless.

    I loved the kids that just HATED being on stage, and would stare out into the audience with their hands on their hips, refusing to participate. Then there was the over enthusiastic ones who were wayyyyyy into it, even though they had no rhythm and continuously bounced their knees off beat.

    There is a certain joy of watching your kid on perform because even if they aren’t the best, the fact that they are out there ignites immense pride. You don’t have to be an artistic genius to take creativity seriously, and to observe your kid genuinely trying is insanely cute. We all have an artist inside of us, and the more we get to know them, the happier we will be in the long run.

    Not to brag or anything, but The Munch kind of killed it as her very important role of “mouse.” Sure, she did pick her nose at one point and eat it – but she also knew all the moves and has genuine swagger.

    art-camp-blog-(i)

  • Shamanic Journeys

    I wouldn’t be an organic eating, yoga practicing, Birkenstock and sock wearing new age hippy if I hadn’t partaken in a Shamanic Journey. Even though the ideal circumstance for such an occasion would have been the South American rainforest, my voyages took place in the exotic locales of Connecticut, Long Island, and Brooklyn. So yeah, there is a post-modern contextual conflict happening with my ceremonial experiences – yet they were still profound and healing.

    Here are the stories of the Shamanic expeditions I took into my mind, heart, and spirit.

    The First Shamanic Journey

    It was 2008, and I was in a really bad place. I was dealing with my brain tumor, the transitioning of a 12-year relationship, and the failing of my business. Needless to say I was depressed, lost, and hating myself. I was invited to drink ayahuasca with a Colombian shaman who was holding a ceremony in a yoga studio… in Connecticut… so obviously I went.

    I had my period during this time, so when I got there, I was told I had to adorn myself with a moon menses belt. This consisted of my taking pinches of tobacco to place into small squares of red fabric, and then making 108 miniature pouches. I then had to tie each tiny tobacco-filled sack to a red string, and wear it around my waist like a badge of menstrual honor. This was not only time-consuming but also super fucking embarrassing. Usually one hides their lunar flow by plugging up the poon, or sitting on a cotton cushion to soak up blood – yet in this instance I had to put my leaking lotus on full display for all to know about.

    When the ceremony was ready to begin, we all took our places on our yoga mats. There were buckets next to us in case we had to purge – a.k.a. barf. We were asked to come up one by one to drink the sacred vine. After it was my turn, I had one of those moments of “holy shit – no turning back now,” and wondering what the hell was going to happen.

    Even though it was suggested we sit up in a meditative pose, pretty sure I was lying down in a fetal position the entire time. It was a very solitary experience. We weren’t supposed to talk or communicate with anyone, and instead explore the inside of our own consciousness – what a creepy place! I felt like the ayahuasca had a distinct feminine energy. Part of what was happening inside my brain was like a downloading of information about how the systems of nature work. Suddenly I would be like, “oh, that’s why birds migrate.” It was beautiful, peaceful, and poetic.

    Then there was this mining of my mind that was really uncomfortable. It was as if I were staring into the void of my shadow self. Everything that sucked about me was on full display to examine. At the time I didn’t know how to unpack everything, and I remember wanting to peel myself out of my own membranes.

    The shaman was chanting as his protégés played instruments to guide our excursion. At one point, we were asked to come to the center of the room, one at a time, to stand stoically while the shaman and his apprentices did their therapeutic work. It was suggested to take off your shirt to receive the offerings fully, but I am way too much of a New Englander for that. I remember thinking to myself that maybe “taking off your shirt” was just a suggestion for the shaman to see some tits. Then I felt bad for considering that, but I also laughed because that would be hilarious.

    The whole event lasted through the night, and then around 5 a.m. we all went to sleep. The next day I felt very agitated and inaccessible. The group was all connecting over a common bond, but I couldn’t relate to anyone. I was feeling judgey and annoyed. One of the assistants came to talk to me, and told me that healing can’t just be an occasional activity, but that I had to make ceremony and ritual be a part of my everyday life. She reminded me that in order to make time for my recovery, I had to truly commit to the process. Even though I wanted to punch this girl, I knew she was right.

    A few days later, I had one of the most insightful realizations about myself. Having a competitive nature was the root of my dis-ease. Every time I compared myself to another person, I was participating in a disservice to us both. From that point forward, when I found myself thinking I was better than someone, or that someone was better than am, I would stop, and send that person love. I then trained my brain to no longer participate in that kind of destructive dialogue, and instead focus on my own evolution rather than the distraction of others.

    The Second Shamanic Journey:

    One of my dearest friends was spending her summer in Long Island doing multiple ceremonies with a shaman. She was interested in figuring out how to create an institution in Peru that would meld plant medicine with modern Western approaches, so it was part of her research. She invited me to participate, but I was on the fence.

    At this point, I had been sober for 4 years, and felt committed to my meditation practice. My rationale was that meditating was my path towards healing, and I didn’t need the influence of outside substances to achieve what I was looking for. Yet I decided to go anyway to support my friend.

    When I got there, I didn’t get the best feeling from the shaman. The energy of the whole event was too male-dominated, and felt imbalanced. I decided that I wasn’t going to partake, but go with everyone anyway to “hold the space.” Let me tell you something, the only thing weirder than doing ayahuasca in Long Island with a bunch of strangers, is NOT doing ayahusaca while everyone else does. I was just WAYYYYY too aware of what was going on.

    After everyone drank, there was an hour of calm before the storm hit. It was like a cacophony of puking – people vomiting in a round… “row, row, row your boat” style. There was also a lot of writhing and moaning going on. I was trying to be chill and meditate, but I kept looking around at everyone thrashing and occasionally screaming.

    My friend was next to me, and obviously very uncomfortable. She was quiet and enduring, but also kept wiggling and shifting positions. Even though talking was frowned upon, I whispered to her anyway.

    Toni: Are you okay?
    My Friend: Not really.

    We both sat with this knowledge for a minute.

    My friend: Come downstairs with me.

    We stepped over expunging people, and walked down the candle-lit stairs. There was an open room with doors leading to bathrooms, and a massive rug on the floor. My friend went over to sit on the bench, and looked at me with a disturbed expression.

    My Friend: I am not okay.
    Toni: What is going on?
    My Friend: I think he gave me too much. I feel like I can’t be inside my own body right now.
    Toni: Oh no! Are you in pain?
    My Friend: It’s just… being confined-by-my-own-skin torture. I don’t know? Do you think maybe it is because I drank last night, had sex, and then we had all that pizza in the car??

    *Note to reader: I had picked up my friend in NYC that morning, who was very hung over from drinking and having hot sex with a guy all night. I then bought us a pizza, which we split during the drive up. It is suggested that for a week before drinking ayahuasca you DON’T DRINK ALCHOL, HAVE SEX, OR EAT DAIRY!!!

    Toni: You think?
    My Friend: Fuck… I shouldn’t have done that.
    Toni: Do you want me to do some reiki on you?
    My friend: Please…
    Toni: Okay, let me just pee and I will meet you upstairs.

    My friend went back upstairs, and I went to the potty. When I came out, there was a girl crumpled on the floor weeping.

    Toni: Ummm are you okay?

    The girl looked at me with wild eyes full of fear. I remembered her because she was a beautiful Russian model, and I had been staring at her all night.

    Russian Model: What’s happening to me? I am so afraid. I am not okay. I need help.
    Toni: Uhhhh, do you want me to do some reiki on you?

    I sat across from this stunning woman, and put my hands on her lap to do reiki. She was terrified, and weeping so violently, that I felt I had to calm her mind by saying something.

    Toni: There’s nothing to be afraid of. All that is happening is that you are in your own mind. You don’t have to fear yourself. It’s just you in there – and you are getting to know you. You are totally safe inside you.

    Russian Model: I am cheating on my husband, and I think I have to go upstairs and tell him.

    Now thank mother Gaia this exquisite creature was talking to me – a person with incredibly flexible morals. Call me crazy, but I really don’t think tripping balls on ayahuasca is the right time to admit your indiscretions. Plus… I already saw her gross, rich, fat, old husband.

    Toni: Of course you are cheating on your husband. You are a magnificent goddess from another dimension. Every man that looks at you, would want to enter your sweet canyon of mystery. But the deterioration of your relationship is not your burden alone to bear. You are both 50% responsible for whatever is going on, and the mere fact that you care means that you are a good person! You are not an asshole who doesn’t give a shit, but a righteous soul who is deeply concerned about your actions. But now is not the time to be plagued with guilt. First forgive yourself in this moment, and then tell him tomorrow.

    The Russian Model collapsed in my arms with relief. I held her, and stroked her hair – both for her benefit and mine. I mean, she was insanely hot. As I cradled her, I felt the daemons leave her. She was no longer heavy with panic, but her whole body became very light and buoyant.

    Russian Model: Thank you so much. You are my angel.
    Toni: No, you are.

    She hugged me for a while, thanking me profusely. My friend then came back downstairs to see me embracing this divine being and was like “WHAT THE FUCK! WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?!” I mean… I know I momentarily ditched my friend for a Russian model, but she was a Russian model in need, so… come on.

    When I went back upstairs with my friend she was pissed! But she was also suffering, so that was her main priority. I put my hands on her to do some reiki, but her energy was resisting it.

    Toni: Ummm, I feel like you’re fighting it.

    My friend finally forgave me, and started to relax – but she was still struggling. At one point, one of the shaman’s assistants came over to give my friend a tobacco bath to help calm her nerves. Now, I believe in the grounding and healing properties of the tobacco plant – but I am not so sure my friend was that keen on someone blowing second hand smoke in her face repeatedly. Then, I got an idea of what could help her.

    Toni: Do you want me to tickle your back?
    My Friend: Sure.

    I tickled my friend’s back just like I would my kid when she was sick. It really does make you feel better because that type of light touch on the skin actually releases endorphins. So I tickled her back/arm/head/calf until the daemons left her, and she settled back into herself.

    I realized that what was missing from this particular ceremony was the mother energy. All I was doing for these women was listening, telling them everything was going to be okay, and tenderly stroking their tenseness away. They needed to be momentarily nurtured to let go of whatever was plaguing them.

    For me, the mother role is one I am always taking on in relationships. There are times where I have resented this – always having to be responsible and take care of others. Yet this night, I discovered that this was a great gift to give people. Instead of focusing on my own bitterness that people don’t play this part in my life, I was filled with joy that I could be this for others in their times of need. I realized that this wasn’t something I needed or craved, so there is no reason to be aggrieved that I don’t have it. I can mother myself just like I mother others, and there is true beauty to that.

    I was pretty blown away that just by me being around the sacred plant, there was still so much knowledge to learn!!! I didn’t have to actually take the ayahuasca to benefit from it!

    The Third Shamanic Journey

    After 6 years of sobriety I was ready to shake things up a bit. Another friend invited me to work with someone who she felt a deep connection to. This friend has a very delicate nervous system, and is not the kind of person who does any mind-altering substances. If my super sensitive friend was into this shaman’s work, I felt like I could handle it because even she described it as mellow.

    I was expecting a similar set-up as the other two. Where we all would take the medicine, and then go back to our seats and have a solitary trip. Yet this shaman’s approach was very different. He was all about community, connecting, and being with each other.

    He also didn’t work exclusively with ayahusaca, but plant medicines from around the world. I ended up taking something called Kava, which is from western Africa, and felt a lot like pure MDMA.

    When I was living in NYC and was always surrounded by people, I could see why the universe would provoke me to go through things alone. Yet now that I live a very remote country lifestyle, I can see why the cosmos would suggest I have a more of a collective experience.

    I spent the entire night attached to 3 people. We connected, and then I was immediately co-dependent with them. I wanted them close to me at all times, because I felt like our heartstrings had entwined. One of them looked so much like my friend Bitty who had died, and it was such a sweet melancholy to look at her face. It reminded me of all the times I haven’t had with Bitty, and how much I missed the memories we never got to make together.

    Rather than having a shaman going around to heal us, we were all there for each other in this unique way. We talked about our childhoods, our present pains, our fears, and existential questions. We all knew how to be there for each other, and listened to our intuition on how to best support one another. It was like the healer in our own selves was awoken, and all we had to do was trust it.

    The night was so sweet, kind, and full of understanding. I never wanted it to end. Even the thought of the outside world felt unfathomable. I was so in the moment that I couldn’t’ help but wish the moment would last forever.

    shaman-ceremonies

    February 26, 2015 • 1st time for everything, Adventures, Health, Musings • Views: 257