How I Became A Warrior

HOW I BECAME A WARRIOR

Once, I ran from fear
so fear controlled me.
Until I learned to hold fear like a newborn.
Listen to it, but not give in.
Honour it, but not worship it.
Fear could not stop me anymore.
I walked with courage into the storm.
I still have fear,
but it does not have me.

Once, I was ashamed of who I was.
I invited shame into my heart.
I let it burn.
It told me, “I am only trying
to protect your vulnerability”.
I thanked shame dearly,
and stepped into life anyway,
unashamed, with shame as a lover.

Once, I had great sadness
buried deep inside.
I invited it to come out and play.
I wept oceans. My tear ducts ran dry.
And I found joy right there.
Right at the core of my sorrow.
It was heartbreak that taught me how to love.

Once, I had anxiety.
A mind that wouldn’t stop.
Thoughts that wouldn’t be silent.
So I stopped trying to silence them.
And I dropped out of the mind,
and into the Earth.
Into the mud.
Where I was held strong
like a tree, unshakeable, safe.

Once, anger burned in the depths.
I called anger into the light of myself.
I felt its shocking power.
I let my heart pound and my blood boil.
Listened to it, finally.
And it screamed, “Respect yourself fiercely now!”.
“Speak your truth with passion!”.
“Say no when you mean no!”.
“Walk your path with courage!”.
“Let no one speak for you!”
Anger became an honest friend.
A truthful guide.
A beautiful WILD child.

Once, loneliness cut deep.
I tried to distract and numb myself.
Ran to people and places and things.
Even pretended I was “happy”.
But soon I could not run anymore.
And I tumbled into the heart of loneliness.
And I died and was reborn
into an exquisite solitude and stillness.
That connected me to all things.
So I was not lonely, but alone with All Life.
My heart One with all other hearts.

Once, I ran from difficult feelings.
Now, they are my advisors, confidants, friends,
and they all have a home in me,
and they all belong and have dignity.
I am sensitive, soft, fragile,
my arms wrapped around all my inner children.
And in my sensitivity, power.
In my fragility, an unshakeable Presence.

In the depths of my wounds,
in what I had named “darkness”,
I found a blazing Light
that guides me now in battle.

I became a warrior
when I turned towards myself.

And started listening.

Author: Jeff Foster (www.lifewithoutacentre.com)

Move Out the Energy

It’s dawning on me more and more that when I let my moods get the best of me, it means that I have a lot of pent up energy that ends up exploding in some kind of episode. I’ve begun this morning ritual of sadhana, and even though it’s only day 5 I can feel an immense change, and every morning I have some sort of revelation on my internal state. Today I even ran with my dog afterwards! I accomplished so much already and it’s not even 9am! People always say that for those of us with bipolar, STRUCTURE and a CONSISTENT SCHEDULE are the most important thing, and I’m beginning to see why. Sadhana forces me into that schedule, and it helps because there’s about like 10 or so people who join in every single day! I’ve tried group exercises classes, group texts where we AGREE to do something… but nothing has ever worked. I severely underestimated the power of the RIGHT community, and I’m so glad I’ve finally found mine! To know that all these people are committed to improving their lives because they too struggle with life in similar ways to me is really inspiring, and makes me want to keep this up… not because I’m afraid of DISAPPOINTING people (as was always the motivation before), but because I love feeling a part of this group of light bringers 🙂

It also really helps doing it first thing in the morning, so that I release a ton of energy BEFORE going into work. MENTAL energy. So much gets stuck in my mind that to have an outlet for that is monumental! Meditation is seriously… no joke. Now that I’m doing the work, I see that THIS ENERGY that I’m now getting rid of every morning is what later turns into depression or mania, and THIS is MY method of stabilizing myself so that my mood doesn’t flip later in the day, like it did so often before especially during the workday. I’m just so happy to feel like I’m finally on the right track and that I seem to have found something that WORKS. Just gotta remind myself to NOT STOP even when things go bad, because this is life and it’s inevitable. Accepting that it won’t always feel this good forever… but really enjoying the stability 🙂

The Pain of Duality

“Grief is the space between what you expect and what you get.” – Dan Harmon’s Therapist

Yesterday was my first day as a character designer on Rick and Morty. I felt really lucky because it ended up being one of their monthly screening parties where they show a finished episode and have pizza and beer and do a raffle. In the beginning the creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland got up to say something before showing the episode, and Dan’s speech really got to me. It’s been a rough season and a lot has happened, and he wasn’t afraid to reflect that in his speech which was so admirable to me. He mentioned a “sociopathic god” and how we don’t know if he loves us or hates us so what we end up getting is “randomness”, and how his therapist said that “grief is the space between what you expect and what you get.” At the end when he was thanking the crew for their great work, he said that as creatives our minds are different, and basically how we should embrace that. He said something like “so have your anxiety, depression, autism—whatever! Your brains are brilliant how they are, and because of those brains coming together we’ve made the best cartoon in the universe!”

This REALLY got to me, more than I even realized. I was still contemplating it in sadhana this morning, and it turned into a meditation on the nature of duality and mental illness. I feel like this year I’m really only starting to feel the real effects of my bipolar diagnosis from last year, which I can only say because of a drastic perspective shift. Working in animation has always been a love/hate relationship for me, because even though it IS a dream come true and what I’ve always wanted to do, working the jobs themselves simultaneously makes me hate myself for my current skill level, and also makes me wanna quit and do my own thing because I feel like I’m wasting away helping someone else complete THEIR vision, even though I haven’t felt like I have adequate skills to make my own thing ANYWAY. But starting at Rick and Morty and hearing Dan’s speech…I couldn’t help but feel welcomed in the best way possible. I felt like because of what these creators experience, they’ve created something really special…something that has managed to become the most popular cartoon on TV and find a place in cartoon history for a reason. They are able to inject existential angst and the struggles of life in these high concept sci-fi adventures which lightens it up enough to be digestible by the general public, and make everyone who watches the show feel like they’re not alone cuz “Hey! Someone else is feeling this way too!” Hearing them talk, especially Dan, made me feel like it was DEFINITELY the place for me. A place that understands and welcomes the pain of existence…a place where you can just be. A place where I can truly work on a show with a message that I’m proud of because it’s the message that I too want to spread. 

Anyway. All of that stuff made me realize that as humans, we ARE duality manifest. ALL of us. And within the duality we experience, we begin to cling onto SPECIFIC aspects of duality and obsess about them. For me…something that hit me real hard today was noticing that I go back and forth between thinking mental illness is real and thinking it’s fake. Back and forth between believing I’m “bipolar” and wanting to just attribute what I feel to “being emotional” and I’m just how I am because of my past and environmental factors. Nature vs nurture right? But what Dan said about artists brains made me think…

Diagnosis or not, EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US HAS A DIFFERENT, SPECIAL BRAIN. That brain makes our minds function in complex ways that we spend our entire LIVES trying to cope with and figure out. But I think…as a human…this is always how it was meant to be.

The fact that I’ve been stuck in the duality of “bipolar or not” shows me that, even though I wanted to kinda “transcend the label,” I’ve still been focusing too much on the “label” without fully accepting how I actually am. I suppose this is the first step to acceptance…and it’s not that I’m necessarily trying to accept the diagnosis itself, I’m more just trying to accept MYSELF — myself and how my brain makes me think and function in this reality. It’s incredibly liberating to see that this is one of the prisons ive been trapping myself in. Now hopefully I can remind myself I’ve come to these conclusions next time this arises! That’s the challenge, right? Haha!

Something else that came through during sadhana this morning was this thought of “are we all just constantly somewhere on this duality spectrum until we cross a line from light to dark, negative to positive?”

Maybe “bipolar” can just be thought of as a term for people who cycle between those opposites quicker than others, who make their home at the actual POLES rather than the in between. And maybe this definition is an easier way for me to accept how my mind operates.

In a similar way, people who are depressed are more inclined to the negative pole. We’re all just vibrations and frequencies anyway right? And one of our goals in life is to raise our frequency go move more toward the light? Easier said than done but…that’s why I’m doing this Kundalini Yoga Training! 

In sadhana, the song choices that my teacher picked were a completely different vibe than yesterday. To me, they all sounded melancholy, somewhat urgent, yet angelic…seeming to express “it’s tough to live in a world with duality, but that’s what makes it beautiful.” 

This past weekend we were learning yoga nidra, and one offshoot of it is called iRest, a program developed by Robert Miller I think in the 70s to help with the PTSD of war veterans. In this set, we did an exercise to experience opposites — hot/cold, anger/joy, light/heavy — first separately, and then we were asked to try and experience them together. I could very easily feel the opposite sensations in my body separately, but when trying to feel them together I got frustrated and confused because my body just wasn’t able to grasp it. And after feeling that confusion for a while, I ended up just relaxing and achieving a sort of “calm.” When asked how we felt after the exercise, I raised my hand and described my experience and one of my teachers said that “calm” I felt is essentially the experience of infinity and the goal of yoga — to embody that stillness BETWEEN opposites. She went on to explain that in our human experience we can ONLY feel opposites SEPARATELY, which is why the darkness is necessary in order to know the light…the pain is necessary in order to know what it feels like to be happy. It’s that age old concept of yin and yang, and although I always “knew” about it since it’s so widely spread in our culture — that idea of the light and dark being NECESSARY to balance the world…to FEEL IT in my body was a COMPLETELY different experience. One approaching a more “true understanding.” 

I think BECAUSE I feel so much being bipolar, it’s so easy to be at and experience the POLES, because they’re EASIER to feel. Even though the negative pole of depression is difficult to be IN, it’s more apparent to feel THAT than some vague in between, and it’s also easier to feel the “positivity” of mania. But thinking about what Dan Harmon’s therapist said with GRIEF basically being the in between…it makes so much sense to me. I would RATHER experience the POLES than the IN BETWEEN because the grief of knowing that sooner or later I have to go back to one or the other is maddening. And that’s the melancholy I heard in the songs this morning — it’s almost like a constant state of underlying sadness, knowing that each day inches us closer to our deaths, and if we hold ourselves back and continue to have unrealistic expectations, then being in the in between will always somehow feel like failure. And that’s constant grief…grief about our potential not living up to how we see ourselves in our heads…grief that sooner or later we’re gonna die not having done what we want…grief that sooner or later, no matter WHAT we do, everyone and everything we love will turn to dust. 

I definitely feel like I’m beginning to grasp something deeper…and although it’s instilling more of a sense of “peace” I can’t help but be a little sad about it. Yet…I think I’m going in the right direction? I just keep trying to remember something else I learned in yoga…that we chose to incarnate in this exact lifetime at this time in history for a reason, and everything we go through is the exact thing our soul is yearning to learn. Regardless of how sad I feel, I still get the sense of being on the “right path,” and maybe that’s all that can bring us solace in this difficult human existence. 

The Human Disease

“Our minds can do ANYTHING when we’re told we CAN, but the world tells us we CAN’T.” – Jennifer Lakhmi Chand

For a long time I’d been trying to figure out why I felt so broken, looking into things like psychology, spirituality, and reading a lot of self help books to try and find the answer. Being diagnosed last year began my true journey with mental illness, and Ayahuasca made me reconsider it all. This past weekend in Kundalini Yoga Teacher training, what I learned has made me wonder if mental illness is even a real thing at all.

Our entire modern society is sick. In some parts of the world, people still have to fight for their survival, but in places the United States, it’s almost like we create our own problems since we no longer have to fight for our lives. Don’t get me wrong, some people still do, but it’s not like we need the same stress responses that we had years ago as hunter gatherers. Now we have completely new stresses in order to invoke those responses, like jobs, relationship and family drama, racism, sexism, road rage, etc. In order to even get by in this world, the majority of humans ingest altering substances such as caffeine, alcohol, weed, pharmaceuticals, and all manner of hard drugs. We’ve forgotten what our TRUE NATURE is even like… and the fact of the matter is… we’re ALL living this human condition, and we’re ALL being affected by the environment around us in subconscious ways that frankly, fuck us up. And most people would rather cover it up and put a bandaid on it, just for that bandaid to repeatedly be ripped off… because they’re AFRAID to actually see their own scars. We are all SO AFRAID to take a good hard look at ourselves… because we can’t handle what it is that we’ll find. If we get off the substances, we actually have to FEEL. And that’s SUPER uncomfortable for people nowadays when all that other stuff is so easily accessible and constantly thrown into our face with marketing.

But all that shit is MESSING US UP. The food we eat, the substances we ingest… SUGAR. All those terrifying food and drug documentaries exist for a REASON, yet people remain ASLEEP.

What became really clear to me this weekend in yoga learning about the 5 Kleshas (The Root of All Pain and Suffering), the 10 bodies (The Bodies that comprise us beyond just our physical body), and the Ayurvedic Diet (Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic foods) is that there is SO MUCH that affects us that we are COMPLETELY UNAWARE OF, and SO MANY ASPECTS to our personality and SO MANY WAYS for us to fall off the path… that “mental illness” is inevitable. In fact, this morning in the Daily Sadhana I’m doing (daily spiritual practice beginning every day at 5am), at the end my teacher mentioned something about how meditation and this daily practice would “free us of the disease” and it became clear to me that it’s true! As humans, we are ALL diseased. Unless we truly commit to beginning to see our true selves, to recognize that deep within we’re all shining with the light of the universe and make attempts to have a relationship with that light… we’re going to keep feeling shitty.

This past weekend I had such insane revelations about my negative patterning from childhood, and so much came up regarding my ridiculous self hatred that left me a crying mess on the floor… But really… sometimes being a crying mess is absolutely necessary to begin to cleanse yourself of the emotions that you need to. CRYING DOESN’T MAKE YOU WEAK. IT’S A NATURAL PROCESS FOR OUR BODY THAT WE NEED TO DO FOR RELEASE. A symptom of “bipolar” are these emotional extremes, and the deeper I go, the more I’m able to find the source of these extremes, and am really wondering if the combination of the parenting that I had and the world that we live in (including marketing programming and diet) is what gave me these symptoms/caused these hormonal imbalances in my body that have led to this diagnoses. We can’t just blindly accept what people tell us — we have to learn to seek the answers out ourselves, and those answers only lie within. We are SO TRAINED to look to OTHERS for those answers and that’s HONESTLY part of WHAT FUCKS US UP. I am just beginning to SCRATCH THE SURFACE on that one. Really start to ask yourself who you’re looking to for guidance… I now see that a lot of my self hatred comes from the fact that I’ve never learned to look within for the answers, which has led to me acting out in ways that I have never bothered to understand but would only ask OTHERS to tell me why I was acting certain ways.

There is SO MUCH I want to go into right now about all of the above, and I probably will during the week… it’s just a LOT to go over in one post, plus I’m starting a new job today and gotta start getting ready! I’m going to be a character designer on Rick and Morty and although I’ve been freelancing, it’s my first day in house! 😀 All of these revelations are coming at a good time… and although I know that stress and worry are inevitable, I’m finally learning the proper tools on how to deal with life. And I’m also FINALLY starting to see that it can never be a MAGICAL SOMETHING that helps you deal… true healing is a lot of work.

Why I Went To Peru To Drink Ayahuasca

About a month ago my friend Amy and I returned from Dreamglade, an Ayahuasca retreat in the Peruvian Amazon. This is actually the post I wanted to start this blog with, but since we’ve come back, life jumped full force into the holidays, into my birthday, then back to work, so it’s been pretty rough to get my bearings. Not sure if I’d recommend planning an ayahuasca integration for such a busy time but…I honestly didn’t realize how difficult it would be to come back to “reality.”

Still, I wouldn’t trade the experience for any amount of money in the world. It was way more valuable than I could have ever imagined…

I first heard about ayahuasca about two years ago at a lunch with coworkers. We were all sharing our experiences with Psychadelics when one of the girls said something like “Have you guys heard about ayahuasca? A friend of a friend just did it and I heard it completely changed her personality. She quit her job and claims that she’s a healer now. Her husband doesn’t know what to do with her. It’s some crazy shit.”

I was immediately intrigued but she didn’t know much more than that, so I got back to my desk and launched into a full force investigation about ayahuasca, watching every documentary and testimonial I could find. A sacred jungle plant medicine that has the ability to rewire your brain, cure anxiety, depression, and addictive behavior? YEAH SIGN ME UP!

I’m not going to go too much into the details of what exactly ayahuasca is, aside from that the brew is a mix of the ayahuasca vine (“Vine of the Soul” or “Vine of the Dead”) and this plant called “chacruna” which, when combined, activates DMT and allows you to go on a spirit quest with this “entity” or “goddess”… Mother Ayahuasca (Mother Nature). She gives you some pretty tough love, making you physically purge what is no longer serving you to make room for something better. Your “inner darkness” if you will… repressed memories, shit you hate about yourself… that kinda thing. Only then will you be rewarded with something good. At least in my experience 🙂

Here’s one of my favorite videos about Ayahuasca from Your Mate Tom, which happens to also be shot at Dreamglade. It’s where I first heard of it actually, so thanks Tom! He gives a really good intro into what Ayahuasca is, and his experience is really interesting.

And here’s a documentary that I highly recommended about the scientific benefits of ayahuasca and how it actually affects your brain. Basically what western medicine doesn’t want you to know 😉

Anyway, the reason I was so attracted to ayahuasca is because I had been depressed for my entire adult life and wasn’t really sure why. When I started dating Eddy (now my husband) about 5 years ago, he basically taught me how to communicate and a lot of repressed emotions came to the surface. Prior to that, I never really knew how to express what I was feeling or look deep within myself to question my actions, or values even. I was going through life blindly and felt broken without knowing why, and when Eddy made me start talking about my past it was like opening a Pandora’s Box of pain. For the sake of this post not turning into a novel, I’m going to let most of this unfold in my ceremony explanations and instead offer up an easy bulleted list of reasons why I decided to book that ticket to Iquitos.

  • My dad died 3 years ago and I felt like I was still holding onto grief that was preventing me from moving on in my life, so I wanted to somehow reconcile with that. I actually specifically booked the retreat so my final ceremony was on his death anniversary, December 14
  • I was diagnosed as bipolar in April of this year, tried going on meds and hated it, so I was looking for a way to naturally learn to balance my extreme highs and lows
  • During a manic period in my early 20s when I was trying hard to “make it” in the animation industry in Los Angeles, I barely got any sleep, partied all the time and made a lot of “surface friends,” but the lack of meaningful relationships and the exhaustion of being out all the time led to the worst crash of my life, where I isolated myself from the world and was never able to recover. Depression hit me like a brick in the face and got worse and worse to the point of completely forgetting myself and what it even meant to feel joy. I would jump from empty high to empty high to feel “happiness” but nothing ever felt real, which left me constantly wanting to kill myself
  • Anxiety that got so bad I couldn’t leave my desk at work and led to a phobia of people that I had no reason to be afraid of
  • I got married in August and my poor husband Eddy has been so patient with me this entire time but started to express that he didn’t know how much more of my behavior he could take. I finally saw how my mania, depression and anxiety had affected HIM for years and I was so self involved I didn’t even realize it, and it disgusted me. I knew that if we ever wanted to have kids (which we do), I had to do something serious about myself, especially because I was so often suicidal and had a huge fear of doing it someday soon.
  • I just turned 30 on January 6 and was just SO SICK of being ME I knew I had to resort to something drastic to finally start moving forward in my life. It was the best birthday present I could’ve ever gifted to myself 🙂 Perfect timing!
  • The idea of traveling to the Amazon to participate in a shamanic ceremony where you drink an ancient jungle brew that allows you to walk with gods is just too much for my adventurous spirit…something I never could have anticipated checking off a bucket list 🙂

In my opinion, the more you can mentally prepare for this the better. I had done so much work trying to figure out what was wrong with me I just could NOT move forward, no matter how hard I tried. This was literally a “last resort” type deal, which is really sad considering I have a loving husband, dog, and awesome community of friends. I was just mentally in such a dark place for so long that I knew everything I SHOULD be doing to function in life, but couldn’t make myself do it, or feel it, and that numbness is a dangerous place to be. At one point I came across something that said if you make the decision to do ayahuasca, you have to be ready to die, and I couldn’t agree more.