A transformative festival and an unexpected integration

I’m three months into living in Alabama. The reason I decided to stay here is the Talladega Forest. After my trailer incident, I camped in the area to rest my nerves and muster up the courage to drive again. The intuition to stay (versus carry on to the Catskill Mountains in New York) was strong, I always asking for guidance from the land since that feels like the source of the signal to stay. One day, while hiking in the Talladega Forest, the intuition to stay became an embodied demand, one that seemed to come from my higher self. It is the call from the higher unconscious we must heed if we are to step into transformation and integrate that which is emerging so change in self and personality becomes embodied.

 


I was very excited to hear of Awakenus Festival, a music and arts festival happening on private land called Bohamia in the Talladega Forest. All of my previous favorites (EDM, ecstatic dance, art, community, nature, spirituality) seemed to have a convergence point in the three-day festival. What’s more is the location is about 40 minutes due south–literally down Alabama Highway 77, on which I now live in a tiny home community–so this all felt fated. I reached out to the organizers and introduced myself as a transpersonal guide. I offered to provide support to individuals at the festival. I’d set up a chill out tent, a sort of art installation sacred space, and help tend the good vibes. And this event was scheduled to happen the weekend before the Lion’s Gate on August 8, an energetic portal that occurs every August when Sirius, the spiritual north star in Canus Major, aligns with the Sun in Leo and Earth. It’s a staircase to ascension if you’re plugged in to the energy.

The higher self is very much being tapped by the collective energy currently running through Earth right now in Lion’s Gate portal—one might say, the higher unconscious (on a personal level), something my mentor psychosynthesis psychotherapist Dr. Richard Schaub says is accessible in the upper realm of the psyche, is the realm through which the intuitions from the higher self arrive. Of course, “higher unconscious” and “lower unconscious” are only arbitrary descriptions. Higher is equated with visions and messages from what is in the realms beyond us. Lower is equated with the shadow that is repressed, whether from our individual and current lifetime or the collective and ancestral lifetimes that we carry in our body. Each contain pieces of the human experience that we must integrate into our personality so that we are most present in the moment.

Sometimes festivals like Awakenus are full of people tripping their faces off on plant medicine or pharmaceutical drugs. Maybe some are looking to convene with the higher unconscious, escape the Matrix and eject from the default world (aka dumpsterfire reality). Maybe some have experiences, as their subconscious ruptures and gives the gifts of darkness and demons, which must emerge and be witnessed and be consciously held so the energy can dis-integrate and the person can recover that piece of their power. Be led by intuition or be led by freeing yourself from unconscious patterns.

And other times, festivals like this are completely sober spaces. I like those the best. I’ve chosen and lived a sober lifestyle for years now. This has to do with my mental health—it’s best when I am sober—and my physical health, too. I can’t fully embody inner transformation when I am not fully embodied.

Dr. Schaub and I talk about this, the access to the higher and lower unconscious realms through substance or organic experiences. Immersive, super stimulating environments like festivals are meant to entice a sensory overload so that you can go out of your mind. The drugs are direct-connects to the higher and lower unconsciousness that contain material we seek to commune with. But the work of integrating what emerges, what we tap into, can only meaningfully be integrated while sober. The higher and lower unconsciousness can be accessed without drugs—it takes a lot more time and inner work. Breathing techniques, meditation, and somatic practices can take you there. And sometimes, the emergence happens spontaneously. Regardless of the path, the integration must happen with intention and full embodiment.

Awakenus Festival, like many others, is set up with a transformational culture. There were opportunities to have social impact (a bin was set up to collect food for a local soup kitchen and a note was made in the introductory email about bringing reusable containers). There is a focus on community—community dinners, community walks, even community sharing happening at tables or piles, places strategically throughout the grounds. One table was full of rick rack–like period pads, costume jewelry and Mardi Gras beads. As I stopped to look, a woman called out: “Help me declutter my apartment!”

My love for festival free-for-all spaces comes out of my love of rave culture and the up-all-night dancing in wild club outfits. I was immersed in the scene in London, England in 2000 while I was attending an international university there. The ability of music and a dancefloor to bring people together left a deep impression on me. The sensory overload took me out of my mind, but I didn’t have the integration skills I have now.

Later, I sought out ecstatic dance once I had added a yoga practice and a spiritual framework to my own self care. Admittedly, I’ve always worn gawdy and loud outfits as normal day-to-day wear. The wild colors, plastic neon lights embedded into shirts, barely there spandex onesies dubbed as “festival gear” passes as normal for me, but it’s nice to be surrounded by others who feel like they can let loose, too. Admittedly, it is precisely why festivals are sacred spaces: all societal norms are off. Festivals are a place to explore, indulge, try and see who you are on the other side—be it with drugs, or sober, or through the eclectic people you meet and art you are exposed to.

The treacherous hill

As I approached the massive hill to Bohamia, I looked up and said, “Ain’t no fucking way.” This felt like the first test. I was still learning to find my confidence to tow my trailer. The first challenge was to get to the festival by going up a steep and rutted road paved partially with gravel. I took deep breaths and with the encouragement of two festival organizers who were perched at the gate, I put my truck into four-wheel drive low and pressed the gas. I kept speed so I would keep the momentum and not roll backward. I was driving up a metaphorical mountain, too, because my higher self had called me to this event and I couldn’t shake the notion that something was there for me to find. Something was emerging. My higher self had led me this far. So I had to get up the mountain, and I did.

There was a significant thunderstorm the afternoon of the first day when I was due to arrive and that delayed me from setting up my tent. There was another the next morning, but I comfortably laid in my bed in my trailer and watched the rain pelt the tree leaves. I felt bad for the folx in tents peppered across the property. When I walked up to the main area, I passed wooden fences strewn with clothes and tent pieces drying in the afternoon sun. Most of the fun of a festival is had in the tent camps that spring up. Years ago, while attending Beloved, a renowned transformational festival on the west coast, I unzipped my tent that had been set up at night and saw in the dawn light a sea of a few hundred tents that contained thousands of people sleeping (or recently returning). The isolation of that festival (we had to be bused in due to the difficult accessibility of the forest) made the container (the way the festival was experienced) a tight one. We were at a secluded location and nearly unable to leave (unless an emergency arose). I think that is what people seek especially in places like Burning Man, the accessibility of the default (outer world) to breach the experience makes it more special. It’s a firewall against societal norms.

I couldn’t help but reflect on how they followed me here. I “went extra” as a few people noted by bringing my trailer. It was an inadvertent status flex. It kept me separate from the rest of the festival. I had parked behind a stage and I enjoyed my air conditioner that didn’t completely drown out the loud and continuous psytrance that played for a few days straight. And the tent that I had set up in my chill-out space had only trickles of visitors, so I spent a lot of time roaming and reflecting. I felt myself going into psychology-mode, discerning what each person might be taking and where they might be in inner or outer space. I set up writing prompts to circulate on the digital frame next to the altar in my chill-out tent: The 8/8 portal is open. Do you step through? A new timeline has arrived. Do you trust it? No going back. Can you leave it all behind?

Hanging out with blue roses in the Planet Dust chill out space

I thought of the higher and lower unconsciousnesses that were rupturing in each and every person as they stayed in this crucible of transformation created by likeminded community, art, music, and substances. I hoped the people felt the transformation and I waited eagerly for people to talk about it.

But no one did. And I didn’t know why.

At the end of each night I retreated to my comfortable trailer and wondered how I had gone wrong. It wasn’t the experience I thought I would have, the communal oohing and ahhing and fascination with every piece of every offering at the festival. I wondered where I had missed messages or even put too many expectations into my own mind. This was supposed to be an epic return to post-pandemic normal. This was supposed to be affirming of my decision to stay in Alabama. As the days turned into nights, all I could think about was going home and hanging with my dog and a book in the quiet of my lot on the river.

I reached out to a colleague, one who has been with me on my psychosynthesis course for the past two years.

“Am I doing something wrong? I’m here but I’m not. I can’t even get myself to dance into the wee hours of the night. I don’t know who I am.”

“You’ve changed,” was her reply. “You’re an academic now.”

Her response shook me to the core. This was a new timeline. If I thought about who I was in the past, I was someone who was hoping for more inner peace, a better world, something. But I always envisioned my personality staying the same. My needs and behaviors would stay the same. And, what she did for me, I was intending to do for others. But those folx weren’t there yet. You can’t force transformation. It comes in your own time with your own calling.

When I attended these festivals prior to the pandemic, I was lost inside myself and I looked for these gatherings to be lost in the community. I wanted to wander aimlessly and leave everything to chance—have adventures and make tiny missions like finding water, or a glow-in-the-dark bracelet, or the place where the music sounded the best. It was escapism from the default world, but it was also a way to play with reality.

“But I feel bad I’m not even joining for community meals. I have food with me and I’d rather prepare something nourishing.”

“You’ve changed.”

Later, as I walked through the barn, an area of communal food and art and exchange, I saw someone picking through food left on a counter. I knew that the price of the festival was steep and, for some, it meant choosing the lowest tier and scavenging for food. Waiting for food to show up.

If finding what reality would throw at me was my version of adventure for the festivals, someone else’s was finding basic needs through charity and intentional giving.

I made sure to bring a few cans of soup, bags of crisps, and other packages of food to the communal kitchen the next day.

I woke up at 6 am on the last day to a group rendition of the Radiohead song “I’m a freak (you’re so fucking special)” belted out by a few stragglers at the stage behind my camper. I smiled before I opened my eyes because I instantly recalled many times doing the same thing—finding the angst that I could only express in community in a sacred space on a dancefloor. Singing together like it was the last night of our lives. Lamenting that it was all coming to an end. A little while later, I made my way up to the area by my chill-out tent to start to break it down. There was a man with straggly green hair and a filthy t-shirt and ripped cargo pants. His eyes were wide and his pupils were dilated. I approached quietly but he saw me and immediately said: “You guys did an amazing job. I got here last night and it was my first festival. This was life-changing.” I smiled and nodded and went to my tent to start the break down. He stood, turning in circles looking around for about ten minutes then disappeared from my line of sight. I was him in some lifetime far, far away. But the gift that I received in this one, right then, from my higher self was that I could let that seeker go. I didn’t need to embody her anymore.

I have completed a significant portion of my masters and I look forward to doing a lot more reading and writing for my thesis. I have a lot of thoughts around the lower and higher unconscious to unpack with my colleagues, those of us who have a vested interest in mapping the landscape—not just taking it for a joyride. Mostly, I have a lot to tell myself to let go of who I was, that the years of inner work and self care really had accumulated to something, and that it was okay to grow.

Home on the Coosa River

There was indeed a portal that opened, and I stepped through, and I am leaving a lot of the past behind. I am consciously returning to the default world of a weathered traveler so that when someone is ready to talk about these transpersonal states in a structured setting, how they can integrate what they find, I am there. And these micro-experiences of society as it could be, and how we might all find our own adventures and twists of reality fueled by art and music and [insert whatever here], so that the world does actually change.
The reason I love transpersonal psychology is that it shows more than anything that mental health is an outside (not solely inside) job. Achieving mental health starts with asking the question “Who are you?”, and to that, acknowledging how it feels to be that person inside and outside of social norms. Who is that person in the world? Make the questions portals for truth, marking initiations into worlds within yourself, and following the higher self there. See what you find. That’s the calling.

There’s a lot here in Alabama that supports my career growth, especially education opportunities and the quality of living (read: in nature) that supports my own mental and physical health. I like being earthy. I like living in the middle of nowhere. I enjoy having my global reach through the internet while I am firmly rooted here. It’s very quiet and admittedly humble as I choose to live in a trailer versus a house. One person’s dream is another person’s nightmare, and vice versa. I imagine many folx would abhor a transformational fest like others would eschew living in a trailer. And I don’t need any other validation than what I have in my body felt clear as day.

I made it back down the hill from Bohamia, towed 45 minutes home, and was greeted by many folx in the tiny home community I live in. It occurred to me how much festival life has influenced my real-life living situation. It’s a more grown-up version. All of us have chosen to live here for different reasons. I just want to be as close to Earth as possible. Living in a house (or apartment) is too far removed. I like to take my hula hoops to the river and throw them around to my curated EDM selection (on wireless headphones to keep the quiet). And no one flinches when I walk around in my bathing suits and boots. It is, in a way, a successful social experiment. And that is the ethos of transformational festivals. I decided I had stepped through the Lion’s Gate, but I found something much more down to Earth on the other side.

As I was pulling in, the man who agreed to back my trailer into my lot was on his way to do laundry in the communal building. Another woman who was watching my dog was away at church but had been in touch with a neighbor who would let my eager dog out. I got settled in and realized I was out of coffee creamer. I asked her for some and she also gave me a big salad to eat.

“You missed out on dinner last night! A bunch of us were hanging out,” said the 50-something neighbor.

“Next time,” I said, smiling. My higher self led me here and I no longer doubt my place or new role in my life, and I step into it willingly. I leave the past behind. And there was no need to go out of my mind; I had explored that plenty of times before. What I needed was the quiet to integrate what I had found.

***

Hi there! Thanks for reading. I’m a writer, editor, and transpersonal guide who works with GenXers and Millennials on their journey of self exploration so they can understand themselves better and discover their self-care culture that brings them inner peace.

All of this, too–the process of self exploration and the way culture affects us–is my reason for living. I write in nonfiction and creative nonfiction forms on these topics. I invite you to read my blog, The Conversation.

And, I deal with the deep stuff–what we do when we recall past life experiences; how we engage the archetypal resonance of embodied experience; when to call the “weird stuff” you’re experiencing a spiritual awakening and when to call a mental healthcare practitioner.

I’ve got so much to say. This is my soul’s work.

  • If you are a mental healthcare professional who would like to work with me on your journey of self exploration through Planet Dust Enterprises, go here.
  • If you are interested in my work with language and changing the mental healthcare narrative through transpersonal psychology, I invite you to read the curated pieces from my portfolio that are on this website and reach out.

BTW: I love tattoos and coffee.

***

My writing explores embodied transpersonal psychology. That is, seeing the world and the mind as multidimensional is my point of view.

Curious?

  • Check out Public Parapsychology. Learn more about what psi is and why psi belongs to everyone. Join other seekers and citizen scientists who are exploring parapsychological phenomena for the benefit of understanding the spiritual nature of the material world.
  • Also consider joining The Parapsychological Association. Support an organization of professional scientists and independent researchers who are pushing the boundaries of our current understanding of the mind. Programming and publications include excellent resources for mental healthcare practitioners and healers who support individuals with transpersonal experiences. 

Micro-choices and exploring my new town in the American South

I was on the ground, trying to change my license plate. But I didn’t have an Allen key on my Leatherman, the one-for-all toolkit the size of a Swiss Army knife. “Bugger,” I thought. So I went across the unbusy highway to the small town hardware store on the other side. I stood at the register, thinking, “I wonder what they make of me?” as I bought the right tool. I wondered how many other heavily tattooed independent women showed up in the store. I started telling the older fella behind the counter my story about how I moved here to nowheresville Ohatchee, Alabama on a whim, eschewing my original home destination of the Hudson Valley in New York.

“NY’s dumb rules around trailers and tiny home living mean I can’t legally live in my trailer there. I was was gonna wing it and figure it out as I go.”
“Well, girl, welcome to Ohatchee. You can do anything you want here.” He smiled a toothy smile through his beard and I swooned.
But he didn’t say much of my attitude and self-righteousness, even though it preceded me. If I were in New York, I might have gagged. I might have thought, “Who are you to say, ‘Well, girl’?!” and made some snide remark like, “Don’t ‘girl’ me, girl.” Or, my ego would have fallen flat for lack of reaction. Or, I would have simply walked out of the store.

Except that, there is more to explore here.

 

The past interfaces with the present here. I have the right to pursue freedom and happiness, but this right is transgressive when it pulls on the strings of interconnectedness–of history, of beliefs, of rights across time and space. And the truth is that everyone has the right to pursue freedom and happiness, but the reality is our stories are different. How do we hold both sides?

There’s lot to notice in this town. This man’s kind, country attitude is different from the clench-jawed and impersonal interactions I have in larger cities. The sharper details (to me) like the Confederate flags flying on the porches of some of the houses in town. I felt my own jaw clenching when I first saw them. The large tracts of veteran graveyards (with sites bearing people from all of the wars since the inception of the United States to recent conflicts in the Middle East) that flank country roads. My stomach always turns into knots, sensing that somehow I ride through the dirty secret of the American military complex when in a small town in The South. The Gadsden flag that adorns some Alabama license plates bearing the motto “Don’t tread on me.” It’s a bucket of ice water thrown onto my open, fiery heart. The kindness I encounter here is wrapped in a barbed wire. The sharp bits tear at my rose-colored view of the world that I can find connection with anyone. The flags, the graves, the “Don’t tread on me” are battle cries. War and acts of territorial pissings are the American ancestral inheritance. We are not free until we are free from that. But how?

As I made the short drive to a park in town, I steeped in these images, then the houses with tin roofs and shirtless men working on their dusty pickup trucks, past the abandoned town center with a row of wood buildings next to a railroad track, past a dirty white dog chained to a tree from which also hung a tire swing. I thought of throwing off living in a place like New York that has rules and regulations for every facet of life. Here, there are few. I’m still not sure if “country” is the same as “The South,” but after telling locals Imoved here, I am often met with smiles and “Welcome to The South”—and an air of mystery. Admittedly, I think I’ve stepped into some magical realism world, a secret that those in my native North can listen to through telling here—but they can’t really hear it; they don’t know how I feel or what it feels like to be here.

Freedom goes further than just where I live—I’ve got the privilege of being location-independent for work, so I literally can log on and make money online as long as I have a power source and internet signal.
I smiled at myself, thinking that I’d love to get a Gadsden flag plate. I stand for what it stands for on paper: Revolution. Freedom. Rebelliousness.

Janey Furnace Civil War and Native American Museum and Interpretive Center in Ohatchee, Alabama

Later that day, I pulled into the parking lot of the Janey Furnace Civil War and Native American Museum and Interpretative Center. There’s a short, paved trail that my dog loves to walk. She goes off leash, of course. She had bounded off into the woods, and I waited for her to return from her own flight of freedom (knowing she’d come back). A concrete Confederate soldier about three feet tall stood just ahead of me. His bayonet and Southern uniform brought the Civil War right to my face. In free association, I saw the following stream of images in my mind: Black men and women and children picking cotton, white men in penguin suit jackets in a northern city laughing in a room built buy exploitative labor practices, women and children crying watching brother fight brother. These words came up: Secession. Westward expansion. The right to live free.

I texted a friend, a New York City-area transplant to the Catskill Mountains and Hudson Valley, the place that I opted to not return to. Nick is a well read, politically opinionated, child-free musician who, at mid-life, is bound only by what he chooses to be bound. His personal life reflects his values. He makes meaning of his life as he goes. I’d say he’s the consummate city-boy-turned-country Northerner.

“But what does it even mean to be country?” I asked him. “I’m physically out in the middle of nowhere, and people keep telling me I belong here. And I’m happy. But I just don’t know how to make sense of The South. I mean, can I be happy in a place where some people still think the Civil War was an undue loss? Don’t answer that.”

I looked at the statue of the soldier and continued walking. I approached a metal sign that leaned crooked and was covered with some dust or grit or time. It was a sign I ignored on a previous walk until I realized it was at the base of a flagpole. The sign read the following: Remove your hat off when you pass this flag. A massive Confederate flag flew from the top.

Sign and Confederate flag

I gasped. It was a moment in which the confidence and surety of my belief dissipated—that the North won the war and that was it. A deeply held belief that the North had won and there was no use lingering in the past suddenly burned hot in my belly. I didn’t know how I felt about it, except that I felt for my hand lifting my hat.

Later that afternoon, I texted Nick: “Hey—Gadsden flag on my license plate. Or nah?”
“NO. It’s been co-opted.”

My previously held perspective of the South—that it’s full of rednecks and Trumpers* and backwards ways of living, united by Southern country culture stuck in the atomic retro women-belong-in-the-kitchen–type attitude—was upended. It’s one of those beliefs that is built-in, culled from years of living in the North and following the narratives in popular media. Had I not had direct experience with the South, including witnessing and being honest with my embodied reactions while here, that embedded perspective might have never changed.

When I’m in a place that is new to me, a game of observation and comparison emerges. To make sense of my thoughts, I’ll list them out.
Yes, I lifted my hat when I passed the flag. It’s less out of respect for the Confederate idea than it is for the code. If I attend a Hindu temple, I wear pants and cover my hair. I don’t engage my feminist-AF personality. I want to be as much a part (to the extent that I don’t invalidate rites or rituals with austerity rules that are specific to the culture) as possible.

Traveling is the seed of colonialism, which now appears as colonialism 2.0—gentrification. There’s no gentrification here in Ohatchee, my adopted hometown. I hear people talk about development and more houses, but there’s no swarm of people wanting to descend upon this place because artists and workers gave it a rich culture and hands-on local economy and infrastructure. It’s just not cool enough here, and I like that. But I have been part of the problem when traveling around the world, lured by a place that has a lot of “culture” to imbibe. But often, it’s culture for white people and people who can chose to move around. I am a well read, politically opinionated, child-free person who, at mid-life, is bound only by what I choose to be bound. My personal life reflects my values.

There’s no fucking way out. Someone is going to be offended by me, and I am going to question everything I encounter here.

When Nick replied that the Gadsden flag had been co-opted, he meant the symbology had been swarmed by people who were rednecks and people who were Trump supporters and backward. The original meaning had been distorted, just like the way that the history and accounts of the American Revolution have been distorted by time. History is written by the victorious, and history is left open to reinterpretation by those who have the time and power to reinterpret it.
Revolution.
Freedom.
Rebelliousness.

I, too, hold such ideas to be at the pinnacle of the compass, the spirit to imbibe in a life worth living. If I were to lay into my authenticity, the facet of myself that lives in true alignment of what I am here for, I, too, would claim revolution, freedom, rebelliousness. But these terms are oppressive to those in a small town that is content to nestle itself in its own version of history, in its tried and true, slow and quiet, pace of living, in an unspoken cultural code that says, “You can do whatever you want here.”

The question is, can I live with the truths and the cultural codes that feel fundamentally opposed to who I am? It’s a bit of a “have my cake and eat it, too” situation. Today, I am not an oppressor and I don’t believe that I must impose my beliefs on other people. I walk away. I go somewhere else. In another lifetime, I am the oppressor. I believe I must impose my beliefs on other people. I walk all over the land and the people around me. At this exact moment in time, people are moving around the world in waves of gentrification amplified by location-independent work, ability and desire to move, and an embedded belief they have a right to do so.

And we all have the right to do whatever we want (at least, in theory).

I went home to my retro travel trailer perched on the ridge over the Coosa River. In Alabama, living in a tiny home (which my trailer is) is legal. It’s one of the few places in the United States where this is possible. I work from the trailer with clients all over the globe. I often fall asleep outside on the deck built outside my trailer. I watch fireflies till late at night. I’ve often said that this is peak independence, the ability to live where I want, work how I want, and be as joyful as I want. In a world tethered to patriarchy, capitalism and exploitation, and a quickly shrinking, mainstream media–cultural landscape, here in Alabama I feel I am in a time out of time. A place out of time. A place in its own space. My chapter in here is only beginning. But the past isn’t over yet. The reminders of the Confederacy and lingering racist action and a population comprised of 90% white people means the patterns haven’t broken.

I’m just repeating cycles, too. I am responsible for the ancestral inheritance that did harm to others in the name of my lineage’s own good.

Me in at the local grocery store

And for my own good, I moved to Ohatchee for a better life. My Eastern European-immigrant family did it. They left the Old World for the United States and a better life.

What is moving forward in history if patterns are unconsciously repeated? When does the past die? Does it?

One balmy Sunday afternoon, I decided to go to the park to walk. It was earlier than my usual time in the cool evening, but it was overcast. The parking lot was empty, as usual, and it wasn’t until I rounded the building from the back that I realized the sound of air conditioning running was ambient noise. I realized the Museum was open. So I went in. I was greeted by an older, short man wearing a military cap. His beard was full over his face, but I could see broken teeth through it. When he greeted me, he spoke with a soft Alabama accent.

“Where are you from?”
“I was born in New Jersey. Upstate New York was home for a while.”
“Where’s your passport?”

I sucked a breath in. It was a joke, I knew immediately, but I didn’t know just how much attitude would come with the joke. I mentally prepared to say I’m one of the good ones—meaning that I was prepared to say I’m not an annoying Northerner—but as soon as that thought arrived, it left on the tails of another one: He’s gonna treat me however he wants to, no matter me trying to be diplomatic. He offered a tour of the small museum full of artifacts from native Choctaw and Creek tribes as well as ones from the Civil War. He gave me his practiced speeches, concentrating on the 20-mile radius of the area in which we were. I hadn’t realized the amount of violence and bloodshed that this land held, including a skirmish that happened during the Civil War on the ridge above the museum—the ridge where the Confederate flag was.

“Different tribes have lived in the area for thousands of years. In fact, when they were working on the dam on the river, they found multiple city-like dwellings and burial grounds. At one point, the river was only a creek and you could wade across it.”
I imagined the Coosa River, the one I looked upon every day from my deck, and the dam, also visible from where I live. “But it’s hecking deep!”
“Now it is,” he replied. “What you don’t realize is just how much has come through the area. People have lived here for thousands of years. It was General Jackson’s ‘Indian Removal’ policies that moved all the natives out. Heck, there was even an integrated community here. Those people built this furnace before the Union troops blew it up and burned down their houses. The excavation is ongoing. They’re still finding pieces.”

An integrated community existed here in The South in the mid 1800s. It sounds like science fiction, but it is historical fact. It is a piece of this puzzle across time that only arrives from direct experience. Had I not visited the museum, I would not have encountered this gentle being who recited story after story from the wars of 1812 and the Civil War. Tom Horton was himself a military man who spent thirty years in different roles in the army and in special forces. He was also a very educated man who showed that his knowledge led to conscious choices. He and his family maintained the museum. They are stewards of history but they can only do so by being present.

The collective unconscious doesn’t care about direction. It seems as if what lay out there, in the realm of the transpersonal, is cyclic: patterns repeat. A lifetime—my lifetime, your lifetime—is a drop in the bucket of lifetimes and timelines. Patterns across lifetimes are so large and compacted that drop by drop, action by action, is the only way to deconstruct them. It comes down to presence, awareness in the moment, and the choice for humanity—micro-choices, like taking off my cap and forgetting the cultural conditioning I have in this lifetime, add up to pattern breaking.

Many people on both sides of the Civil War died. That was years ago. But the energetic undertones live on. Those people fought for their right to do whatever they want, location dependent, in a country that was birthed from the impulse to do what it wanted—expand west; not pay taxes to a foreign government; be a beacon for freedom, especially with the liberty of religious choice.

The only way to navigate the world we live in is to ride the palimpsest experience with conscious micro-choices. We’re never in one time anymore. We’re never in one narrative. The past is never dead and the future is the past. We are only at the helm of the ship, sailing massive institutions and codified history that we don’t know much about, save for what’s in books, and therefore know even less about until we have a direct experience with the actual place of history. The land holds the stories. The people continue the narrative. The individual who can hold all versions in loving kindness can find the humanity in the community and focus solely on divisive, embedded, unconscious beliefs.

As I was leaving the museum, Tom told me he had one more thing he wanted to point out.

Charles Bush, Confederate soldier

“This is my favorite.” He pointed up toward a picture of a Black man in a Confederate uniform. “People don’t think there were Black folx who fought for The South. But there were. This is Charles Bush. He volunteered for the Alabama 10th Infantry Regiment. He did so out of rage. His best white friend was killed by the Union troops, so he enlisted to let his sadness out.” Then he paused.
“You don’t hear about them,” he said.
“No. And look, that joke about the passport—well it was just a joke. Was I responsible for any of this? No. Were you responsible for anything y’all Northerners did? No. Sometimes we have to make light of it with humor. I hope you weren’t offended.”
I had to suck in breath again. “No,” I finally replied. “It just caught me off guard. I admit, I had to think about it. Just like I had to think about tipping my hat to the flag outside,” I admitted. “It’s not so in your face in the north. I just take what I watch and read at face value. But being here makes a difference. What would you do if you had to live in a densely populated area and couldn’t move about dressed like a wreck?” I shook the side of my muscle shirt, where my bra strap was visible. I looked down at my worn boots and dirty jeans and bug-bite covered legs.
“Nobody cares here,” he smiled his broken-tooth grin.
“And I just wanna be happy and free.” I smiled back and realized I hadn’t brushed my teeth that day. I was too excited to get outside and explore. As soon as I left, however, I returned to this blog. It hadn’t felt complete. I want to be free. I rebel against most traditional norms. And I want to incite a revolution in mental healthcare.

This is my rebel yell: acknowledge the legacy of history as it influences our embodied experience; reflect on the disingenuous perceptions conveyed when we only believe what we read and do not have direct experience; speak freely about the way that time can bend and move in cycles of patterns.

And, stories are told by those who have the will to tell them. This post is shared with love and respect and the opinions and journey expressed are my own.

***

*Trumpers: people who are Trump supporters. The diminutive way I refer to them on the first pass is meant to show how the way I use the word has changed. I stand in direct opposition to his policies of tax breaks for the rich. I stand in direct opposition to his disregard of women and his disrespect of the sovereignty of a woman’s personhood. I stand in direct opposition to his fundamentalist evangelical religion that excludes everyone who is not white and does not play a traditional role in society. I stand in direct opposition to his cabinet that effected policies to erase queer and trans and disabled bodies. But while he has sway over the people in many states and traditionally, The South, he is a New Yorker. I grew up in his shadow and I spent many years of my youth exploring the New York City as it was affected the Trump family real estate politics and the Guliani-administration. I grew up taking the bus to the then seedy 42nd Street and Times Square, where trash bins burned on street corners and cocaine dealers sold out of a suitcase in pizza shops.

It’s not Trump that I have a problem with—it’s his narcissism in overdrive, the people in his community who fawn over him because of their need to belong somewhere. They echo him because they echo the pain of needs that were never met. He too is a spiritual being having a human experience, and that experience echoes a total disconnection from the body and the nectar of inner peace that he is not aware he has. He is a character in a body—machine that writes his story from lack of love.

 

***

Hi there! Thanks for reading. I’m a writer, editor, and transpersonal guide who works with GenXers and Millennials on their journey of self exploration so they can understand themselves better and discover their self-care culture that brings them inner peace.

All of this, too–the process of self exploration and the way culture affects us–is my reason for living. I write in nonfiction and creative nonfiction forms on these topics. I invite you to read my blog, The Conversation.

And, I deal with the deep stuff–what we do when we recall past life experiences; how we engage the archetypal resonance of embodied experience; when to call the “weird stuff” you’re experiencing a spiritual awakening and when to call a mental healthcare practitioner.

I’ve got so much to say. This is my soul’s work.

  • If you are an individual or group who would like to work with me on your journey of self exploration through Planet Dust Enterprises, go here.
  • If you are interested in my work with language and changing the mental healthcare narrative, I invite you to read the curated pieces from my portfolio that are on this website and reach out.

BTW: I love tattoos and coffee.

***

My writing explores embodied transpersonal psychology. That is, seeing the world and the mind as multidimensional is my point of view.

Curious?

  • Check out Public Parapsychology. Learn more about what psi is and why psi belongs to everyone. Join other seekers and citizen scientists who are exploring parapsychological phenomena for the benefit of understanding the spiritual nature of the material world.
  • Also consider joining The Parapsychological Association. Support an organization of professional scientists and independent researchers who are pushing the boundaries of our current understanding of the mind. Programming and publications include excellent resources for mental healthcare practitioners and healers who support individuals with transpersonal experiences. 

Excerpt from The Practice: Imagination as a tool for soul work and looking in your mirror

I’ve come to this work as a transpersonal guide after years of being on my own journey—at times I felt I was a heroine, at other times I felt like my demons were in control. Ram Dass, the spiritual teacher, said that we are polishing a mirror, and by extension, I believe through the act of writing we create our mirror on the page. I’ve been drawn to speculative fiction and science fiction, and my mirror looks like a phantasmagorical, fantastic reflection of my heroine/demoness journey. These are just the forms my imagination comes into–visuals of other worlds and space, neon colored four-legged creatures and inanimate objects such as city buildings that come alive and talk in raspy voices. Yet, at all times, the fulcrum around which I wrote was a feeling of aliveness. The images in my mind were alive. They had energy. Engaging that energy is doing inner work—which happened after I could literally see it on the page.

A feeling of aliveness—your ability to feel alive—is a better measure of mental health and the health of your inner space than any diagnostic I have encountered.

The feeling of aliveness arrives with self awareness and conscious choice. While the inner world can be abstract or elusive to language, we have to try. That is the Yet, a work. I find imagination is the tool of choice here. Throw around phrases such as “finding myself,” “knowing myself,” “higher purpose”–they can come across as deflated. We live in a society that lacks aliveness. Those phrases are cliché and dead. Chose those phrases, and I’d say the space between the words you use, your thoughts, and you, the observer of them, is still too tight. Invoking imagination can be freeing so you can make conscious choices with your language, too, helping you to look in the mirror and identify, then dis-identify from the experience in your inner world. Create space here for agency and aliveness.

In other words, writing flexes an intrapsychic muscle–a muscle from inner space.

Allan Frater’s impulse to write Waking Dreams: Imagination in Psychotherapy and Everyday Life came from his desire to recover his own imagination. He says he hadn’t lost it per se, but he “wanted back those moments when an image would capture my whole attention—a russet autumnal sunset or even just a tattered plastic bag flapping in a hawthorn hedge, moments when I would stand and gaze, seduced into an implicit meaningfulness in just being alive.” What does it mean to experience being alive because imagination calls you to remember the feeling?

I think, too, that some folx thing they lose their imagination or imaginative spirit, and the journey ends there. The journey of self actualization never ends, but we do have to find our way back to it when the mind creates a block aka the mirror breaks. Engaging the imagination is an act of power and strong will. This is the first step toward cultivating space from the chaos inside.

  • Can you be present in the chaos?
  • Can you write details from the chaos?
  • Where is your mind in time-space to notice the details?

Striking details (a russet autumnal sunset, a tattered plastic bag) are what writers or anyone with creative projects strive to imbibe their work with; the details indicate a person who has their ear to the ground of the creative impulse and the signature creativity has in the mind-body-spirit feedback loop. The details that call us to life, call us to the precipice of conscious awareness. It’s from this place that reflection happens. We intuitively know that there is something very deep behind the observation. The images were called into our field of awareness for a reason—they are keys to unlock deeper levels of our journey.

Frater admits he doesn’t know what exactly imagination is—but he makes the case for imagination being a vital force, but one that we cannot inherently quantify. Many of his ideas and context come from his practice of psychotherapy. In one passage, he describes talking a patient through an experience of active imagination. He asks the client to focus on the images, asking what she noticed when she was present with imagery. This allows the client to have a sort of free association experience with her imagery, but it becomes useful because she has insights around the source of some anxiety and anxiety-associated behaviors. This is a really important bit—when we treat the forces inside the mind (imagination, and also the will) as things in themselves, we give some integrity and structure to an otherwise nebulous inner world. Words are energy. Words are subtle and powerful things. Significant shifts can happen when looking in the mirror on the page.

Frater writes that “pretty much everything we think, feel, say, and do is a repeating pattern of core identities and way of being deeply embedded within the psyche.” Basic patterns from different areas of life (such as work, sex, and dream life) can be teased out through careful observation of imagery that arises during a focused state. Imagination work is self-exploration (and self actualization) work. Waking dreams are entering, exploring, dialoguing, shapeshifting, emerging, and patterning the inner world. This is why I’ve included creative writing exercises at the end of this guidebook. Engaging with the archetypes is looking into the mirror full of characters—in whatever form they come to you as—and starting to learn they are all within you.

Imagination is a portal to spirituality, or the feeling of interconnectedness, because the wellspring of generative force—the creative force—is within the feeling alive, the moments we surge with energy, we can notice every detail around us. We are cultivated our own strength of self awareness and awareness of the outer world. That which makes us feel alive is that which plucks the chords of the soul.
What is the point of a practice, of a journey of personal evolution and development, if it is not for diving deeper into a feeling of aliveness? As I read Waking Imagination, I couldn’t help but think of another book (Re-Visioning Psychology by James Hillman) that invites the invocation of imagination into soul work. The invitation here is to consider mental health through the lens of what we are being told as right and wrong, healthy or unhealthy, and then let it go because imagination does not fall under anyone’s jurisdiction, except for the person doing the imagining.

In other words, to stay with the flood of imagination that can open during a hypnogogic state, is the ability to see into soul and, in my opinion, the interconnectedness of an individual to a greater whole. This is an organic way of altering consciousness and shifting to different states of awareness. Frater notes that imagination is “neither entirely inner or outer…imagination is woven into all perception.” Creative writing is the thread for these ideas to come together.
If you’re looking to work with imagination on your journey of self-exploration, I recommend Waking Imagination. And if you’d like a more in-depth psychological text that invites a re-thinking of what to do with the material that emerges, especially in an imaginative practice, try Re-Visioning Psychology by James Hillman. Hillman says that soul work is a verb. Imagination is a portal; it is the experience of a psychological state where images take on consciousness, the soul speaks, and as beings, we move toward more aliveness. Both have been highly influential in my practice and what I offer in workshops. Autofiction, writing yourself into the main character of the story, becomes a container for profound transformational work. We de-literalize our lives, put things into other (fantastical, surreal) situations, take ourselves out of a smothering reality to feel our aliveness. This is the exact point that I use to advocate for creative writing as a powerful tool for transformation. It is a process for experiencing aliveness. It is also the tool to use to envision discrete psychological processes and flex the intrapsychic muscle.

And then, the mirror becomes the page. The page is what we gaze into to examine our inner world with the intention work with what we find and initiate healing and transformation. And, in tandem with psychotically guidance, engaging the act of imagination might just be one of the strongest medicines out there for working with your inner chaos and reaching inner peace.

***

A revised edition of The Practice: Write Your Own Story is coming summer 2023. Sign up on the right for the mailing list to know when the new edition is released!

***

Hi there! Thanks for reading. I’m a writer, editor, and transpersonal guide who works with GenXers and Millennials on their journey of self exploration so they can understand themselves better and discover their self-care culture that brings them inner peace.

All of this, too–the process of self exploration and the way culture affects us–is my reason for living. I write in nonfiction and creative nonfiction forms on these topics. I invite you to read my blog,  The Conversation.

And, I deal with the deep stuff–what we do when we recall past life experiences; how we engage the archetypal resonance of embodied experience; when to call the “weird stuff” you’re experiencing a spiritual awakening and when to call a mental healthcare practitioner.

I’ve got so much to say. This is my soul’s work.

  • If you are an individual or group who would like to work with me on your journey of self exploration through Planet Dust Enterprises, go here.
  • If you are interested in my work with language and  changing the mental healthcare narrative, I invite you to read the curated pieces from my portfolio that are on this website and reach out.

BTW: I love tattoos and coffee.