As I mentioned in my previous blog post, in November 2022, I felt the inspiration to step outside of my cottage retreat, a place I had been since the beginning of the pandemic, and go out into the world with the intention of connecting with community, the community that I lacked in my own neck of the woods. It just so happened that the hunch I followed to take the Psychedelic Assisted Therapy training took me to California - Topanga is so cool - and introduced me to teachers of high calibre with excellent space holding capabilities. As we explored Holotropic breath work in the mountains of Topanga, I learned on a personal level about vulnerability and the gift of being held by a kind, compassionate and non-judgemental community. This in itself was incredibly renewing. Between classes I dappled in record stores, vintage shops, and spontaneous rounds of ping pong (my favourite), not to mention fairy-light imbued landscapes with Persian rugs for lounging.
Upon returning to Canada I was thirsty to continue to deepen my knowledge of psychedelics and I did a quick search to see if there was a Masters program in Psychedelics anywhere out there in the world. It just so turned out that yes, there were Masters level courses in Psychedelic Studies offered at the University of Ottawa and in fact one of my professors from Concordia University whom I admire and respect is the chair of these microprograms that were being offered. I decided to apply and after waiting a couple of months learned of my acceptance into the program. It started this past month and I am taking two courses: Psychedelics and harm-reduction as well as a Multi-disciplinary course on Psychedelics. My knowledge and understanding of psychedelics is broadening and deepening, and it is fun to have even more questions about psychedelics than even before I started, and equally fun and rewarding to explore some of the questions that I have via academic assignments, papers, and presentations. It feels good to be in school and deepening my understanding of plant medicines and other psychedelic substances that could potentially benefit people tremendously in various aspects of their lives if we individually and collectively have the wisdom with which to wield this powerful vehicle of healing and transformation.
Starting MA level courses after years away from official academia has taught me:
1- Things start with an idea; if you follow that idea through with action, you get real world results.
2- Follow the guidelines and work really hard and you can do really well.
3- There are all kinds of happy surprises: enjoy them! Let the other stuff go.
4- If you don't know where to start just start and keep going and all of the sudden you will be done!
5- There are people in your life who celebrate your successes. Isn't that incredible?! If you don't have those people, keep going.
Well, that's my September Full Moon update.
Lots of Love,
In November of 2022, it was time for me to re-enter the world after a long time spent in a a cottage in the woods with my dog, Zaak where I weathered the pandemic. I set the intention to re-emerge into the world and connect with others. Since then, my life has taken on a colourful vibrancy, coupled with the newness that a whole bunch of healing brings - which is a large part of what I was doing in that cabin in the woods. Recently, I flew from Denver where psychedelics are decriminalized and landed in Berkeley to finish the certificate program in Advanced Applied Shamanism with the Foundation of the Sacred Stream the school for Consciousness Studies I have been engaged in for the last four and a half years.
My studies in Applied Shamanism lend themselves well to my work as a transpersonal psychotherapist. Transpersonal means ‘beyond self.’ Transpersonal psychotherapy is a kind of therapy that has the capacity to include something ‘more' which could be the Higher Self of the client, Source, the Divine, the Universe or the sense of spirituality that the client resonates with. In the case of Applied Shamanism, this something ‘beyond’ or ‘more’ is the part of the self that is wise, the part of the self that knows. Sometimes, in our lives, we meet this the part of the self that knows head on by going against it and doing something that is counter to it's wisdom. I have certainly come into tangible contact with this part of myself by going against it - that little voice inside said “this isn’t a good idea and doesn’t feel right” and I paid the price for not listening. When we connect with this part of ourselves and we begin to work with it, it is a total game changer.
In Applied Shamanic Counselling, I guide the client via guided meditation to the part of themselves that knows. They may meet this part of themselves in the form of a guide or a teacher whether it takes form as a plant, an animal, a light being of some sort. Once clients have contacted this part of themselves, there is often a great sense of peace and comfort experienced which in itself is very healing. With this connection established, healing looks and feels a lot different, a lot more supported; it takes on a new dimension since this alliance with the Guide helps to inform the client’s healing process, what they need to know about the pattern or wound at hand. Accessing this part of the self that knows sheds light and insight on whatever ails us. Not only that, but imagine if you had access to your own inner healer? Imagine if you had access to a Guide or to a part of yourself that could ultimately answer any questions that you have about your life, your relationships, your healing and more.
Essentially, Applied Shamanism works to restore power to the client wherever it has been lost, and thus healing and alignment in their lives. Applied Shamanism can include but is not limited to:
If you are interested in exploring Applied Shamanism, please reach out to me by sending me an email to email@example.com
It’s early in the morning but it’s time to write. Yes I would like to close my eyes and also there is something willing to pour forth from my Heart so I sit here in attendance, like a child of school age waiting for her teacher to deliver the goods. And while there is part of me that would rather be outside playing with friends, there is an even bigger part of me that loves to abide in this sense of imminent opportunity as the bell rings and the door of knowledge is opened. Something gaping within me, a receptacle of promise, waits whole heartedly. The teacher begins…
“Good morning class. Today’s teaching is essentially about standing in the place where you live, like that REM song you might know, and standing there with intention, alignment and knowing” the Teacher began.
“But how do we do that?” We collectively gulp.
“I will get to that. Have patience. Today’s class is also about being able to listen and be receptive to the invitation. Okay class?”
“Okay Ms. Lionhart.”
“Good. First I am going to tell you a story about listening that leads to standing in this place of your alignment so settle in a listen up."
“Yes, Ms. Lionhart.”
“Remember class, how we talked about Vision Boards, and co-creating one’s reality through the power of this creative visualization process that allows you to see, feel and then step into what you would want from your life?”
The students nodded.
“Good then. Well this is the story of a lady named Ashley; yes she takes the form of a woman but in her heart, class, she is just about the same as you young ones - full of wonder, hopes, dreams and sometimes even a little fear.”
The class nodded.
“She had created a Vision for herself to study Yoga with a Dakini - a wise woman - on Earth who practices yoga at the Ocean and with the fire on the beach. She weaves her wondrous knowing and studies into each breath, word, movement, sip of water and mouthful of food: a wise woman who lives her truth, embodying it completely through her wild feminine wise ways.”
A stillness cast over the class as though spellbound.
“So Ashley’s dream came true and she suddenly received the call through the aurora borealis signs of the Universe, ushering her to go join this wild and elemental teacher on the beach, by the fire, breathing to the sounds of the Ocean waves rolling in and out, just like she had done on her own yoga mat for many years before even learning about this wild woman with a heart full of stars. And upon meeting her, Ashley was given a teaching about the Inner Danda.”
“The Inner what?” The students eyes like saucers turned into crescent moon squints.
“The Inner Danda. It means the inner staff, or stick, the inner line of alignment within oneself and therefor within all, because as you know class, when we create alignment inside we naturally align with the Universe at large. You see, inner and outer must coincide.”
“Ahhh.” The class let out a knowing exhale, which also happens to be the seed syllable of the crown chakra, the oneness centre.
“And Ashley had already learned about this - this inner union - through the teachings of the Dakini, which, class, you will remember from several weeks ago when…”
“When we were learning about the Dakini’s katvanga! How the staff that the Dakini holds - the one will the skull bone on top - represents the inner uniting of masculine and feminine” exuberantly expressed an engaged student.
“That’s right” Ms. Lionhart lovingly acknowledged. “The Dakini in her Wisdom has united the masculine and feminine forces within her - strength and softness, wisdom and compassion, gentleness and ferocity - and as she stands, dances or flies, she is integrated and is fully enlightened. It’s all contained within her.”
“And so…?” whispered a breathless student hanging onto the edge of his seat.
“And so class I would like to give you a little exercise, one that may sound little or simple yet if practiced and embodied properly, you will feel it from the earth, from the depths within you and it will radiate outwards and the universe will reflect it back to you. So let us all stand and each of you take one of those metre long measuring sticks that we have for our math lessons.”
Each student about 4 feet tall grasped a meter long measuring stick, and acting as a staff or Danda, rooted it into the earthen floor of the school house directly in front of them so that it rested comfortably between their feet and at about chin height. Their hands rested actively, holding the top of the stick. Immediately it created a sense of alignment as they stood tall yet remained grounded in the earth and an awareness manifested inside, an awareness of their own inner alignment.
“You see, inner and outer must coincide” Ms. Lionhart repeated this line from a spoken word poem written by a Rastaman named Kagiso.
The students were able to notice where they had been slouching physically and slouching on subtle levels as well. Upon sensing this, a power of their inner knowing began to trickle up from the roots of their feet through the crown of their head and …
“I can feel the wisdom of my own inner compass, like an arrow showing me exactly where I stand, where to go and reminding me of what I know and more!” One student exclaimed like a kid in a Cosmic candy shop.
“That’s wonderful, Eric.” The teacher affirmed.
“I can feel myself growing taller, like a growing awareness in my spirit and of my knowing while keeping my feet on the ground. Like a supra-knowing!” The class giggled with excitement and resonance with what Harriet with her thick, curly locks shared.
“Okay class, as you stand tall and rooted with your Danda, take a few breaths here and feel your own inner knowing and breathe that sweet awareness into your being.”
The class felt their inner knowing and union cultivated by the Danda.
“And when you’re ready, settle back into your seat and let’s continue.” Ms. Lionhart with a slight glow on her upper lip and forehead tucked a rogue lick of silver hair into the rest of it as though taming the Lion of Wisdom pouring forth from her. With a glint in her eye she returned her focus to the class and anchored into the next part of the story. “So when Ashley returned from her time at the beach by the fire and ocean with the Wild Wise Woman Dakini, she traveled home with teachings she intended to integrate into her life. She sourced supplies and made her own Danda the way her teacher had with and adorned it in a special way that felt good for her. And just as her teacher had shown her, she began her Danda practice by standing on the earth, barefoot and used the Danda just like your geometry compass, class, to draw an energetic circle around her which delineated the place where she stood, where she connected to the earth, a place where she acknowledged that she was standing in the centre of her own circle, of her own co-creative Universe, a place wherefrom she could anchor herself and also rise from. She honoured that she was a circle within a circle of the earth, surrounded by the circular, circulating solar system, the circular moon, planets, sun. At one with the rhythms of all within her and without."
You could hear a pin drop, the class was so engaged, jaws relaxed and open, taking it in.
"And so, wanting to anchor this in to her Vision and her life even more, class, Ashley created a new Vision for herself reflected in a new Vision board in which the image of a human goddess stood in the centre of her circle. She added some sparkles to engender the mystical component of this sacred act of standing with intention in the place and way that you are. She surrounded this now shimmering image with words and images of the way in which she imagined guiding and connecting herself to her inner Vision which included her well-spring of creativity streaming ceremoniously into the outside world. About six months later her attention was directed to the creative well within her and to her deep and steady impulse to bring this emergence into the world. Rick Rubin, the Buddha of Malibu, came into her realm barefoot, hair strikingly similar to Ms. Lionhart’s mane. Simply dressed in a white t-shirt, much like the white walls of his atelier surrounded by a gorgeous green garden he had salvaged from disrepair with love, he was proselytizing access to one’s own inner well of creativity and had written a new how-to book.
Ashley, recognizing a teacher had shown up - at the moment she was ready for him - as they do, ordered his book and it arrived the next day. Like a child full of excitement and promise as though opening a gift from a Mystical Santa, whom Rick did resemble in an off duty kind of way, Ashley opened the package to reveal the book boasting a simple cover of a circle outlined in black with a smaller dot on the inside - much like a record or a cd - and Ashley noticed right away how this was exactly like the lady standing in the centre of her circle that she had modelled after the teaching of the Wild Wise Woman on the beach who drew a circle in the sand with the Danda stick and standing in the centre, upright with the Danda creating that inner staff, inner alignment within. The image was the same. Ashley paused and took the image in. This was the moment full of promise where she would open the book and revel in the teachings of this Mystical gift giving Santa. As she thumbed the book open she saw the first page was a blank. And the next. And the next. Her mind raced - wow this is just like the essay on Zen she wrote in University where she left the last seven pages blank in an attempt to convey the ineffability of Zen, and here it is as though this barefoot and brilliant man is saying the same thing, proving a point, only to realize that I ordered a notebook with the exact same cover of the book and the entire thing was blank. Quickly her mind recalibrated to the teaching that came through: the way to your creativity is to just do it. Open up to it. Write it. Allow it. Put it down on paper. Stand where you are. Let it flow through you. That’s all for today class. Make sure you go outside and play.
The class looked around at each other knowingly.
Santa delivered a gift that day: the gift of teachings upon teachings, the gift of presence with the wit of the Universe. Today it comes in the form of my offering to you:
Stand in your centre. Feel yourself standing rooted, tall, centered, aligned. Feel your inner wisdom and knowing arising and reverberating through you, connecting with the same wisdom that is all around you. If you like, harnessing the power of your intention and with dedication to your practice, you can live this way, in harmony with yourself, with your life, with your power and with the innate power of the elements which are here to support you as you are them.
I designed and sewed this dress entirely from vintage, second hand and african mud cloth fabrics in the early 2000's. The intention was to create eco-conscious clothing that inspired the wearer to create their own colourful, inspired and creative reality that simultaneously respected Mother Earth by being entirely sustainable. I chose this photo to represent this month's blog post because there is a woman who is standing in the corner, slightly veiled, yet making her way into the light of day in full colour, full expression, much like the contents of this post. Enjoy. Xo
We are in a psychedelic renaissance. Psychedelics of all kinds are emerging into the collective consciousness, sweeping through our minds and across the globe. It’s almost as though the plants have a plan for the individual and collective healing that many of us and the planet need so much.
Plants, whether we realize it or not have an integral role in our very existence on Earth. Have you ever thought about how it’s not possible to live without plants? Our existence depends on them. And yet in our contemporary society, the psychedelic plants and fungi that have existed long before us and will exist long after us - the same ones that have their roots in ancient Shamanic cultures and modern-day anchor in the 1960’s - are illegal and just now being decriminalized and legalized in various cities, states, provinces and countries all over the world. Organizations, like the one I had the privilege to train with in California are lobbying governments to heed the clinical trials and legalize Plant Medicine and Fungi for therapeutic purposes. These therapeutic purposes include end of life care, therapy for terminally ill cancer patients, PTSD, chronic pain and more including small ’t’ trauma, depression, anxiety, exploration of consciousness, connection with others, self, divinity or whatever you’d like to call it - a higher self or power, nature and the list goes on.
In the United States, the War on Drugs started when the Nixon administration decided to ban them because of how these substances engaged people’s minds and hearts in unison against injustices and atrocities such as the Vietnam War. The government noticed that it was the hippies who were engaging with Psychedelic substances were protesting the war, and banning psychedelics was an easy solution to stop that from happening. Psychedelics were awakening a sense of connection within people and awakening their consciousness so much so that they were willing to stand up for their beliefs against war and for peace. You can read more about the War on Drugs and the Nixon administration here: drugpolicy.org/issues/brief-history-drug-war and make sure to watch the Jay Z video on the subject embedded in the same article but also here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSozqaVcOU8&t=7s
Psychedelics open us up to realities and insight and shadows that we often do not have access to in our regular conscious reality, in our defended selves. They have the potential and experientially have for many experiencers, even within contemporary clinical trials, proven to lead us to revelations that lead us to our own integrated selves, our own personal Enlightenment moments, one could say our own internal medicine that we can access when we plunge deep inside ourselves. To be clear, there are many ways to access this place or these places within us (yoga and meditation to name a couple of paths), and psychedelics are a bit of a superhighway to those places, which in part, is why they ought to be treated and imbibed with utmost respect for their potency and for what they are liable to unlock. It is not always pretty or easy, yet like any hero’s journey, it can be a revelatory pathway home to oneself.
I am not sitting in an anthropological arm chair sporting rose coloured glasses. And as such, I would certainly not advocate for the use of psychedelics for everyone. They are medicine and medicine that works for one person may be completely unfit for another and in the case of psychedelics cause psychosis and so forth; we must be judicious with our choices noting our mental health and predispositions (let alone legal, medical and pharmaceutical contraindications) and also ask ourselves if we are truly ready on all levels to unearth what may be buried beneath the floor boards of our own psyche. If we are ready, however, and we do heed the call, then there is much potential in such a journey. It is worth noting that while many people fear what they might find within themselves if they choose to participate in a psychedelic experience and, despite all precautions we need to take and the inherent difficulties that a journey may present, one of the things that we might find or experience is an unconditional sense of Love, a Love that is omnipresent.
And so with all this said, it is without further ado that I formally and officially step out of the Psychedelic Closet. It is a place that this psychedelic part of me - the part that has felt the lingering influence of the War on Drugs and the taboos and stigmas that subsequently surrounded the realm of psychedelics - has been hiding. Hiding is barely living. Hiding is out of fear - fear of being discovered, that I have done something against the code that issues societal acceptance. I have lived in this liminal place of the misunderstood and outcast, a place where the misfit mystic self is bound to silence and immobility. Of what service to myself and to others can I be if I merely exist in this space? What service can I offer myself and the world if I allow myself to surf the wave of what these plant and fungi medicines wish to share with us over thousands of years and across the entire world?
Mushrooms can clean up oil spills, compost plastic, give us focus, eat cancer cells and take us to the places in our minds, bodies and spirits that are in need of healing. Psychedelic medicines awaken us to the incredible beauty of nature, to the power and magic within ourselves and the universe and, I will go so far as to say, work to heal us so that we can return to our own sense of innate alignment, intelligence and a deep sense of our own knowing. One of the things that has struck me so much about psychedelic medicines is that they have led so many people to become conscious of the inner workings of their mind, which has turned them on to meditation, Buddhist dharma teachings, being in nature and so on. If you would like to have a read on this, the link to an insightful article from Lion’s Roar Magazine is here: www.lionsroar.com/psychedelic-insight/
What has been hiding with me in my Psychedelic Closet? A two hundred page manuscript about how Psychedelics have changed my life. I have been afraid to tell the world about it for fear of doing something ‘wrong.’ However, sharing my experience and professional training in this field feels like a worthy cause - especially during this time where our mental, emotional, spiritual and environmental health is demanding our attention and a new way of relating to ourselves, to each other, to the world around us. So, during this global Psychedelic Renaissance, I am rebirthing myself by opening the door of this closet where some of my deepest passions live, emerging from this place of hiding and gestating, and transforming that closed door into a portal through which I can share with you how these Plant and Fungi Medicines have worked their Magic not only within my life but also clinically through copious amounts of research-based studies. It is my wish that these gleanings may serve you and show you that in many cases Psychedelics are medicine and when treated as such, can offer us great healing, compassion, understanding and expansion.
Do you have a closet that part of you lives in?
Here are some questions for you to explore if you wish.
Questions for self-inquiry:
Is there a part of you is in “the closet”?
How long has it been there?
What factors/people contributed to this part of you retreating into the closet?
What kind of reassurance, environment or even occasion would make it safer to have this part come out?
What might your life be like if you accepted and integrated this part? What are the positives, the negatives, the consequences and the benefits?
Topanga is a mystical mountain enclave located above Santa Monica in Los Angeles and it happens to be the place where I set out to do a Psychedelic Assisted Therapy training led by the Canadian advocacy group TheraPsil.
Topanga herself is rugged and dry and yet from her curves pours forth a wellspring of wisdom waves that emanate from her centre. It’s a place where I felt I might turn a corner and run into Neil Young, later learning that he owned a place there back in the day and also where he recorded After the Gold Rush. A place where in the middle of a bustling and cool courtyard you can pick up a paddle and play ping pong with a couple of seekers you’ve never met before and will always remember, ones who are steeped in earthiness and as such serendipitously prepare you for the breath work ceremony you are about to do the next day. “Eat very lightly early this evening; choose raw food. Then fast until after your breath work so that you can be light and go deeper,” insight I listened to and it worked out really well. Others in our group, who were not at the impromptu ping pong match with the traveling didjeridoo musician beside the so hip it hurts millenary shop, struggled with full bellies during the breath work after lunch.
This morning, exactly three months later in Canada, as I write about this outtake from my time in Topanga, the Internet is down. This means I am unequivocally free of the distraction of my flighty whims of searches and so forth. It’s myself and the page. This is so particularly poignant in consequence of the searing message that the breathwork facilitator relayed to me in an eye opening glint of cautionary advice that night that he drove me up the mountain to get back to my Mad Max meets boho Artist’s retreat airbnb after a most intense and deeply rewarding day of Holotropic breath work.
Holotropic breathwork is a tool designed by Christina and Stanislov Grof (the latter a founder of transpersonal psychology) who created this breathwork model during a time in the 1960’s when the War on Drugs - which was ultimately a war on awareness and love which can never be won - was implemented and Psychedelic substances were banned in the United States. Holotropic means “moving towards wholeness” and this form of breathwork facilitates a psychedelic experience that is incredibly deep, powerful, insightful and healing - which is what substance facilitated psychedelic experiences do when well managed in a therapeutic setting.
The breathwork session in Topanga was beautifully held in a therapeutic setting with two facilitators - Stacia Butterfield who had learned from and facilitated with Stanislov Grof internationally over the years and her colleague Dana, who considered Timothy Leary a grandfather presence in his life while growing up as a kid in California. I felt safe and confident in the abilities and experience of these two facilitators and in my glowing colleague, Tara, a nurse who facilitates therapeutic ketamine treatments, who I chose as my ‘sitter’ for my breathwork journey. A ‘sitter’ is someone who literally sits beside you in a therapeutic capacity during a psychedelic journey and ensures your safety and welfare, tending to duties such as passing you a tissue, holding your hand (consent is discussed before the journey), makes sure you are physically safe (from any nearby objects or guiding you to the restroom as needed). The sitter is a compassionate presence who holds space for your during your experience. For the breather, eye-shades or eye-masks are encouraged during the experience; there is a comfortable place for the the latter to lie down with pillows and a light blanket while a specially curated playlist fills the sound waves (in this case without words) - all which help to move the client through their internal journey.
Dana explained that the function of the breath during Holotropic breathwork - cycles of deep and quickened inhale followed by a deep again quickened exhale while minimizing the natural pause that takes place between the two - can be likened to a bicycle that takes you up a mountain, a metaphor for the internal place in one’s consciousness that has teachings, revelations and realizations for the breather to experience and glean learnings and healing. The intentional breathing rhythm can be paused once the client navigates the particular internal vista of their own consciousness or subconscious as the case may be. Once that particular experience feels complete the breather can harness the rhythmic power of their breath again and allow it to navigate them to the next mountain peak and experience the view from there. I really loved Dana’s analogy because I felt that it accurately described how the breathwork facilities a departure of one level of consciousness and the entrance into another. This analogy and way of breathing also lends itself well to empowering the client to recognizing that they hold the key to their own journey - if they’d like to go further, deeper and so forth then that is for them to decide and access through the vehicle of their own breath. I would be remiss if I did not highlight how incredible it is that our very own intentional directing of our breath can lead us into psychedelic worlds within us. Our breath is a tool, a naturally occurring vehicle that each of us is equipped with to provide us access to these realms within where we can journey, cultivate deeper understanding of ourselves and simultaneously heal. It is truly incredible and yet feels like a kind of common sense that has been made not so common.
After a long day of being the client in the morning followed by a grounding lunch and then being the sitter for Tara in the afternoon, replete with integration time: mandala art with pastel colours illustrating our experiences segued into a circle for discussing important parts of our journey that we wished to share with the group, it was finally time to go home. My colleague - a psychiatrist from New York - who often zipped me up the mountain to my airbnb in his Porsche Turo was long gone, and there was not an Über to be found. Kindly, Dale conceded to drive me ‘home’ as he knew the area well - it was his backyard. I felt terrible asking him to go out of his way but there are no sidewalks up the mountain’s twists and turn single lane roads upon which walking is very much not advised and it was dark. I, of course, was humbled that I was in the presence of a person who considered Timothy Leary to be family. In the car we talked about climate change and the fear and anxiety it brings especially in dry Topanga. Dale’s kindness and energy made it clear that he was a person of service; though not too much older than me I am sure, he felt like he had the presence of a dad, one who was taking his kid home to a safe place. Before I got out of the car he humbly imparted something to the effect of “If I can be so bold as to offer you one piece of advice to you after the day you’ve had?” He paused and I consented. “Don’t open your phone or your computer. Journal, draw, reflect on your experience. When you open your phone and start scrolling, it just wipes away your experience, your awareness of it.” Of course I took his words to heart and did some journalling that evening after eating some nourishing food and before getting ready for sleep. But something about what Dale said gave me pause. I grew up in a time before cell phones, so I know what it is like to not have one, to have free, unbroken, continuous time. I wrote a lot of poetry back then, had a lot of feelings that nourished me artistically. And what Dale said made me more aware of what we are doing to ourselves with our phones, wiping out memories, whole experiences, whole streams of thought that might lead somewhere if unbroken by our jarring habits. Our phone chops up the continuity of time, which has a disconcerting effect on us, rather than the open and spaciousness timelessness that happens when we are just riding the wave of being from moment to moment, perhaps the way that we do when we are sitting quietly at the dock of the bay, or maybe meditating if we do, or those moments in yoga when we have space and time and quietude to hear our own breath. Dale gave me something that day, on the ride home to my little cottage nestled in the lands of the ancient Tongva people - some of whom still reside in those magical mountains today - that there is something deep inside us that we have an opportunity, even a duty if we rise to the call to deeply honour and respect, that is there for us and that if we look away from it, outside ourselves where it does not dwell, that we can miss it, misplace it, that after all the work we’ve done if we do not take a moment or many moments to look within and honour it then it will be lost for now, until we cast away our fears and retrieve it again. For, in truth, it will always be there, just like any diamond and if we are being honest with ourselves we ought to never cast that part of ourselves away.
A photo of a Tibetan Buddhist nun and myself in the kora, or surrounding path, of the Dalai Lama's Temple in Dharmsala, India circa 2016.
The first blog article I am sharing in my new newsletter - The Moon Drop - I share with you a little about how I became a therapist and why I do what I do. I offer this with the intention that you may get to know me and understand where I am coming from as a person and in my profession as a psychotherapist.
I’ll take you right back to the beginning. Ever since I was a child, I loved to listen. You could find me at the ‘listening station’ in elementary school with a big puffy pair of 1980’s headphones listening to whatever sounds were on offer. During that same time in my life, for one whole year, while all the other kids got to change desks and rotate peers in our second grade class, I was assigned to sit beside the kid who had so much energy that he was disruptive because, according to teacher “he is calmer when he is around you.” I have been told many times in my life that I bring a sense of calm and I believe this is useful in my work of being in therapeutic process with clients.
Later in life, a psychologist tipped me off that I am a Highly Sensitive Person, someone who feels and perceives reality almost in technicolour, a quality that lends itself very well to my profession where I can sense a lot in a heightened way. All this, coupled with my desire and ability to go deep and be present with others made me, I think, a good candidate to work as a psychotherapist and incorporate my natural abilities into my professional life. Lastly, I tend to see people as countries, as places to explore and get to know on their own terms. When we visit a country we open our minds and hearts to what is there, learn the customs, stay open so that we can learn something and ultimately be expanded, cultured from this experience. This way of seeing people helps me to be present with others, curious and very interested.
In my mid-teens I naturally came upon the tradition of Buddhism and the more I learned, the thirstier I was to learn more. This unquenchable quest led me to complete my B.A. Honours in The History and Philosophy of Asian Religions and led me to a Master’s degree. My studies in Buddhism have introduced me to Meditation and Yoga and I began practicing both in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, eventually becoming a certified yoga teacher after eleven years of dedicated practice. I also spent time in Buddhist monasteries in the Laurentians in Canada, and in the redwood forests of California where I spent four months learning every day from monks, nuns and Lamas while trying to complete my thesis, which I did not finish. Instead I created an eco-fashion company of one-of-a-kind designs and went to fashion school. I incorporated Tibetan Buddhist chanting into my runway shows and Tibetan prayer flags into the garments. Essentially, I was wishing to convey through my colourful creative designs the spirit of nature, and the play of joy and luminosity through my designs.
A photo of one of my one-of-a-kind hand painted and hand made designs crafted with second hand / up cycled materials.
While teaching Yoga privately a client of mine suggested I book a session with his astrologer who promptly informed me that I was a natural therapist and also confirming that India, which was the country I had wanted to travel to since I was 18 years old was a place for great healing and learning for me, and I promptly went for 4 months, having one of the most important and blessed times of my life, studying Yoga in Goa and Mysore and then living in close proximity to the Dalai Lama’s temple.
Shortly after I returned to Canada, I moved to Toronto and began my studies as a psychotherapist while continuing to teach Yoga and haven’t looked back. As my path continued and I felt there was something more to add to my tool belt, a new teacher came into my life who just so happened to incorporate into her teachings the various fields that I had been studying for the last twenty or so years: energy medicine, Buddhism, and Transpersonal Psychology. She also held the keys to one very important field: Applied Shamanism which I have now been studying in depth for the last 4 years. Buddhism teaches that all sentient beings suffer and that humans in particular suffer due to three things: desire (or grasping), aversion (not wanting something) and misconception (understanding things through an unclear lens). Through my work in Applied Shamanism, I have been able to apply this way of understanding suffering into my work with my clients and it has enriched my life and my practice in a myriad of ways. Applied Shamanism and another modality called Depth Hypnosis developed by the same teacher, Dr. Isa Gucciardi, do the work of connecting people to their very own alignment, to the Wise part of themselves so that they may heal and re-pattern their own patterns of suffering with a little guidance from a facilitator.
Over the course of the pandemic I have completed several certificates through the Foundation of the Sacred Stream, a school for Consciousness Studies in Berkeley, California. Those certificates are: Advanced Depth Hypnosis Practitioner, Advanced Applied Shamanic Practitioner as well as a Certificate in Advanced Plant Medicine. These teachings have vastly enriched my life and I continue to share them in my practice with clients who connect with them.
While my studies and journeys certainly may appear to be outside the box to many, all in all my journeys to Buddhist monasteries, India, California for studies in Shamanism and more have taught me that when you follow your Heart it puts you on a kind of a track where others may not fully understand what you are doing, and you might not even logically understand what you are doing and yet there is something in your being that knows what you are doing. When you follow this feeling, or this knowing, it puts you right on to the cresting wave of the present moment so that you may live your most vibrant life and, I believe, ultimately be of service to others - it’s uncanny. A reminder to follow your heart, to leap and the net shall appear.
I hope that is piece of writing gives you a window into who I am, my journey so far and how I came to do what I do. It is a privilege and an honour to be witness to your sacred story and to walk alongside you as you journey home to your Self. Blessings all ways, Ashley.
My friend had just broken up with his partner of several years.
He asked me: You seem good with being alone with yourself. Do you have any tips?
I had also gone through a breakup several years ago, and it felt like a deep severing from a place I did not belong that would allow me to return to myself.
I told him:
I spent lots of time on the couch with Zaak (my dog), crying and grieving. It was painful. I sat with myself, feeling all the sadness, the grief, the wanting to reach out to my ex, the not reaching out to him, and i felt it and stayed with myself and let myself feel it all. This is an important part, perhaps the most important part of learning to be okay with being alone. Because if you can be with yourself when you are going through difficult emotions and not abandon yourself by trying to change the subject, go do something else, find some distraction then you can show yourself that you can handle yourself, your emotions, that you are truly and deeply there for yourself. Maybe you pick yourself up and go to yoga the next day, or try to nourish yourself with some good food or be good or gentle to yourself in whatever way you need. This is important. Because you are showing yourself that you love yourself and that even on your own, you are worth taking care of yourself. You are worth taking care of yourself even when it feels like there is no one else there. Even if you are crying on your own couch, you are there for you. You don’t go anywhere. You stay present to yourself. If your friend was crying, you would stay there and be there and not try to fix it; you’d ask if they’d like some tea. You’d let them sleep and you’d check in with them later. This is exactly what we learn to do for ourselves and when we do this, we learn how to be alone without feeling lonely because you are there for yourself. Even if you do feel lonely, that’s okay, you are there for yourself. One important way of understanding may be that emotions are not bigger than us, how can they be? We contain and are the holders of our emotions. Our emotions are not bigger than us. If we can stay present to them, without running away from them, we can feel them and let them pass through us. It is okay to reach out to someone, like a therapist for help.
Next, you need to get to know yourself as you are now. Sometimes life, jobs, relationships can pull us away from who we are. Who are you? What do you love? What do you love when you are alone when it is just you? Nourish that. Nurture that. Reclaim yourself. If you have changed yourself to fit into another place or space, you can let go of that now and repatriate yourself, remember who you are, what you do. You may be reclaiming ways that you once were as you may be meeting the way that you do things now. You are meeting yourself again. Explore. Be curious. Be loving.
If you’ve left a relationship or this may apply to some other area in your life, and you have a tendency to caretake others, avoid the tendency to check up on or continue to nourish the other person. You are on a new path and so are they. Of course this is different if there is alimony or kids involved and so forth. Use your common sense. If it is a basic break up, say thank you and get your things and move on. You have broken up for a reason and your new life and renewed self is calling you. If you continue to focus on the other person then you will be abandoning yourself. This is about being there for yourself.
Next, if you can’t spend time alone — you are distracting yourself with food, video games, scrolling, shopping, drugs, alcohol then you are avoiding something. What is it? This is your work. No amount of drugs or distraction will wipe the blues or the trauma you’ve experienced away. It is like the story of the princess and the pea. No matter how many mattresses are piled on top of the pea, you will still feel the lump of the pea. Our job, should we choose to accept it, if we wish to feel at home in ourselves is to do the work to heal those places within us. This is your journey.
And then you do you. You do the things and go to the places that call you and that scare you. Maybe you’ve already done that as you spend time repatriating and remembering yourself. And you continue to do that. And life will lead you to the places and faces that you are meant to meet to nourish that deeper part of you. Then when you really are ready to step out into the world to meet people you will do so in a way where you are not stepping outside yourself in order to meet the other. You will be meeting other while being rooted deeply in yourself; not seeking in the other something you haven’t yet located in yourself - like love for example.
When you walk in the forest or sit by the lake, when you are somewhere in nature you feel that you are not alone, that nature holds you, accepts you, understands you and even speaks to you if you take the time to listen. Nature is a great healer and I believe that she helps us in our process of being with ourselves; we are her and are always connected to her. Enter her arms and you will feel held, completely.
This is how you conquer your own loneliness. Remember that Alone can be All One. Xo
When Rainbows Arise
and faulty perception
drifts, dissolves, transmutes
and you Realize you have a Choice
to Create... each Moment...
the Be the Light...
to Step into Your Power
and Walk Forward in the Dream...
and you realize this is Greater than you
yet you are Great...
and the Lion Mane appears
in your Heart...
your Royalty Arrives...
And you're now Free to Flow...
It all becomes a Dream, a Dance...
You Realize you aren't below nor above
but you Are...
Your Mind matters...
your Movement and Mudra matter.
Energy and Intention
As you luxuriate and radiate
the cosmic flow.
Make it all an Offering
You can Slow
into the Rush...
the Ecstasy of Life...
Become a transmitter
and transmute the Energy...
into Pure Presence...
Love... is the Ultimate Alchemist
the Ultimate Friend and Knower...
the Ultimate Light maker...
the Supreme Force
that forces nothing,
abides only in the Sweetness of itself.
For it is within
that there is true Knowledge...
The True Healer... exists within You.
Open your body... stretch open your Rivers.
Feel into each pool
and circulate the chi...
Let your Breath be the Winds of change,
the water of Life.
May I slow each breath
and drink it like sweet nectar dew...
May each exhale become
a transpiration of Love.
May we Honour the Mother
and return to our Roots.
May we heal the disconnection
and feel into our infinite network
May the drum beat of life
tap, rap, knock on the door of My Heart
so that she opens,
blossoms the flower...
The Flower of Life...
Maybe I become Open and Aware
willing to share
this is not us.
We are Her.
Shakti Power Pulse
Return to Presence...
Moving into the Truth
of our Inner Knowing...
Competition is an illusion.
The Dream Includes Us All.
You are are Embraced in each Moment.
turn your Gaze to the Sun
and the Inner One.
Saturday morning I was feeling out what to do with my day - do I go to Thai Boxing or to the vintage flea market? I checked in with my body and she said she needed Yoga to restore my prana (energy) and I felt the clothing sale was something to really check out.
So I dressed myself in my long, tall 70’s inspired light denim jeans and my maroon Ganesha tee and walked to the market. There, I spotted a fabulous gold dress and peeking through the rack I saw my friend, a gal who’d modelled for my eco-fashion line many years before, there as a vendor, the vendor of this gold dress in fact.
We began to talk and she told me she was breaking up with her boyfriend and her heart was breaking. She also told me she recently saw my sister who she was talking about the breakup to and my sister asked her if she had ever written a list with all the qualities of a partner was were simply ‘musts’ - deal breakers if they weren’t present in someone she met. This is how both my sister and her husband of 7 years (who are deeply in Love and Alignment) found each other: through the quantum power of lists. They both had lists. And they both met each other’s lists.
My friend told me how one of the things she is learning is to Love herself enough to ask for her needs to be met. She works on self Love by affirming to herself “I love you, I love you, I love you…” repeating this mantra inwards to herself even and perhaps especially when her self-esteem wavers and she needs to stabilize. She also spoke to how she does this in the mirror - one of the most Powerful and personally revolutionary practices I have ever done. She said to me “You know how people look at the person they Love with those eyes that say that they Love the other person, like deeply?” “Yes,” I said. “Well, imagine if we looked at ourselves that way.” Yep, totally, this is some next level mirror work for sure. I mean I have heard and read the words “Fall in Love with yourself" but imagine actually gazing at yourself like you are completely in Love with yourself. I am going to try it and work on it. This is going to be the next level of my Self-Love project.
My friend spoke about being alone and said something about hoping she meets someone and if not she’ll just get a bunch of animals (one’s that have one eye, and others with missing legs) and take care of them. Reflecting on her energy field I kind of sensed that there would be someone in her Life and that perhaps she’d look after some animals in addition to having a meaningful relationship with a human being. I then remembered this Empowering moment that I had when I made the decision to move to Toronto to go to Psychotherapy school in the next three days I didn't know where I was going to live. But when I was speaking with my Mom I had this shift where I realized that wherever I went, I would be there and that would be significant to the people around me, like my neighbours and the neighbourhood. It was a moment of taking my Power back. I said to my friend “You know, maybe it is not about you finding someone but maybe it is about you being Free so that someone can experience you and learn from you.” And that resonated with her. And she could see her specialness and her Power. And she said “Oh wow. Maybe this is not about me waiting for someone. Maybe this is about me coming into someone else’s Life to share my Light and Love.”
And with that she gifted me a pair of pink lacy knickers and said “Think of me when you wear them.” “I will,” I said. We gave each other a big hug and I strolled out of the market, knickers in hand, feeling complete. And I heard the song and words of Bob Marley on the Way Home: “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our mind… Redemption Song.”
When I came home I had centered into my Yoga practice. I think I may it may simply have been a continuation of my flea market adventure - transmuting energy as we flow.
Welcome to the Mind-Body- Spiritual perspective of Colonic Hydrotherapy, a.k.a. Colonic Irrigation, a.k.a. Colonics! Here is my journey with Colonics. Here I tell you a bit about how I arrived at such a journey and about the journey itself.
I had had a colonic once before, about 8 years prior while on a Raw Food cleanse. It was a relatively simple colonic treatment that left me feeling less bloated, brightened my complexion and gave my cheeks a natural fresh flush of colour. So having a colonic this time around wasn't entirely new territory for me. What was new for me, however, is where I was in my Life. I had very recently returned from an intensive Spiritual Psychotherapy training in California, and I felt that my whole body-mind and even Spirit had to up-level in order to integrate the teachings. I had an intuitive feeling that this colonic irrigation was going to be a major piece that would assist me in letting go of any part of my past, any old programming, and out-dated belief systems that kept me anchored in a place or way of being that no longer felt resonant. This colonic would thus allow me to further Align with my true Self, my true Life, the one that was emerging for me if only I could find it within me to allow it.
It was Easter weekend and I pulled up to the Renaissance Clinic. How appropriate. The same weekend Jesus would Die and be Resurrected, was the same weekend that I would go through my own kind of death and rebirth. I would Let Go of a remarkable amount inner baggage I knew I had on an emotional level that was being held on a physical level in my gut. Aside from the fact that my skin was not great and that I felt physically heavy, I also was carrying an essence of depression on some level, felt stuck in general and suffered mental lethargy with bouts of negativity. I felt like I was in a repetitive trance where it was very hard for me to move forward in my Life; I was stuck.
As I sat in my car outside of the Renaissance Clinic I decided to check in with myself and acknowledge that I was about to be letting go of a lot here. I was about to be releasing what no longer served me and this was largely energetic, emotional and mental in Nature. I asked myself if I was ready to do that, to Let Go. Part of me remained silent as though it was not ready and part of me gave a ‘yes okay let’s do this.’ I knew that my mind-body would have to be in sync with this experience in order for me to let go enough for this treatment to work the way it needed to work- for me to let go and step into the upgrade.
Speaking of letting go, I had seen post after post after post on Instagram saying ‘Let Go.’ I saw so many posts back to back, over and over, I literally thought to myself ‘did I miss the memo on international Let Go day/week/month?’ I then realized that I was synchronistically being shown again and again to Let Go. It really wasn't until I was in the car, minutes before the colonic that I consciously realized what was happening. I was about to let go. I was about to let go of years and years of physically and emotionally impacted and stagnating material. During that ninety minute session, the amount of waste and toxins that was released in that session Amazed me. Six massive cylinders of water flushed in and out of my colon, taking the stuck waste and stuck emotions with it.
During the session I felt a wave of sadness rush over me, the kind of sadness that you might feel in a pigeon pose in a yoga class, where emotions just come up and out. Tears rolled down my face as the flood of emotion flushed through and out of my system. I could not hold my words in as I felt they were paramount to my healing so I said to the beautiful, kind and calm practitioner “May I talk?” She encouraged me to say whatever was on my Heart/Mind. I told her “I did these studies in California that had to do with Shamanism and I feel that this colonic irrigation is me getting rid of the stuff that is old and holding me back so that these new teachings and energy can land and anchor in me and up-level me. I have to get rid of the old stuff so this new upgrade can integrate.” She then began to tell me about some of her own experiences with Shamanism as she massaged my belly to keep moving the waste out of me. She says that by implementing her Shamanic tools she has many spot-on intuitive hits about her clients. Imagine that: combining energy medicine with a very physical health treatment. Brilliant.
After our session she had me hang out for a little while. I felt like she wanted me to just rest for a minute as she figured out her spotty internet connection to process my payment. I would normally be slightly impatient but I just relaxed and she gave me some fresh pressed juice and I read a book on plant medicine and how the plants speak to us and I opened the book to the section on the Lotus. I smiled as I was reminded myself of the old spiritual adage: “no mud, no lotus” which so vividly portrayed my situation of no mud (poop/waste), no lotus (healing/spaciousness).
I was exhausted after my session and took two naps that afternoon before going to sleep for a solid nine hours. My dreams were crystal clear and vivid. There was no fogginess - like what did I dream? I knew exactly what I dreamed and experienced the dream with crystal clarity with incredible recall upon waking. I started to feel a real sense of renewal. I’ve witnessed my limiting beliefs dissolve since that colonic. Areas in my life where I couldn't seem to move forward, I now see a way forward. I’ve watched memories from childhood come back as well- just this morning I remembered how much I was into weaving as a child. I remembered it in this super visceral and vivid way. I am now able to access parts of myself that were not available to me for a very long time. Another thing that happened is that I am able now to see myself even more Clearly. I am able to see my own Power. Everyone has this Power and Beauty in them. It is our Divine right and gift. It can be hard to see when the old stuff, beliefs, patterns are stuck and in the way. This ancient technique of colonic hydrotherapy has a revolutionizing effect on my Mind-Body-Spirit system.
And guess what? I am not done letting go! My hydrotherapist said I still have one more session to do since there was still some material stuck in the upper colon. I intuitively know that this is the part of me that made itself known that it wasn't ready to move when I did the check in in the car. I can feel this other emotional piece, this old luggage and baggage has started to move through my system now that the other stuff is gone. It is not comfortable. The liver, which can hold and store anger, had released it’s toxicity and with it pent up emotions (mainly anger and frustration) that I had been holding in and back for months ripped out of my system one morning. It was an incredible moment that I could not have anticipated. My Kali energy ripped right through me like a Lightening Bolt. So careful, colonics do release a lot. Be tender and gentle and protect your energy and nourish yourself gently pre and post colonic.
All in all, the colonic for me means letting go and Rebirth. If you are ready for a shift, or want something to support your transformation, consider getting a colonic. Don’t forget to check in with yourself first and set an intention and let go and Allow. Make sure you get an Amazing practitioner. Make sure you get the Whole Sacred Experience. Bless you on your Journey. Bless you.