influences

I've pondered a LOT over how to describe my influences, how to give proper credit to the practices/organizations/humans that have shaped me most directly while also speaking honestly to aspects of those practices/organizations/humans that I don't feel aligned with. This page is my first attempt at that--please excuse any lack of grace.

In my work you'll find a perspective that combines multiple disciplines. These include astrology and mythology; east Asian energy philosophy; trauma-awareness and an understanding of brain/nervous system functions; systemic analysis around racism, capitalism, colonialism and Christianity; cultural somatics, a framework that posits cultural trauma to exist in the body; conscious sexuality; and ceremonial use of plant medicine. While I don't claim expertise in all of these areas, I have studied them enough to feel like they integrate themselves naturally into my opinions and my approach to life. 

There are six specific organizations/people I have studied with/in. It feels important to name them and give credit for the foundation they helped me form. But the truth is that I probably wouldn't recommend any of these groups or individuals to my friends or clients or "audience"--if I did, it would be only with one big caveat or another. I know a lot of other folks who have similar struggles when it comes to articulating their background with integrity... so I've decided to try something new and break it all down publicly here.

This would be a useless exercise without full transparency, so of course there are names named, and because the "spiritual activist" community is small, some of ya'll may know these folks, or have an impression in advance of them. Please know that this is NOT a "call out". Social media mudslinging is a game that I have no desire to participate in. But I do believe that anyone who puts themselves publicly forward as a "leader", "guide",  "facilitator", "thought leader", "teacher" etc etc has assumed a responsibility to receive public criticism. I won't link to anyone (obviously you can google if you're curious), and I have absolutely no idea if any of the folks and orgs named here will ever read this. I'd probably just keep most of it to myself if proactively giving credit for all the education, mentorship and healing didn't feel so important. But after two years of contemplating how to show up with integrity--this feels like the only way to do it.

EMERSON COLLEGE

Summary and timeline:

I went to undergrad there from 2003-2007 and graduated with a degree in political communications

Specifics of how I've been influenced:

I turned away from politics after tasting its cutthroat nature, but now my work is coming full circle. My education around media, ideology, propaganda, and the general fucked up history of governments using "communication" to manipulate and exploit the masses is something that informs my understanding of the world on a very deep level. (For example, I wrote a thesis my freshman year analyzing the George H. W. Bush Administration's use of rhetoric during the Gulf War to introduce a "new world order" in a way the public would accept). But I am not a "conspiracy theorist", because that same education taught me about the complexities and nuances of the political world--and it also taught me how to spot bullshit. When people think they know of some "secret plan" behind the scenes of the US government, but can't see through charlatans like Joseph Mercola and Kelly Brogan... I'd be laughing if the end result weren't so tragic. I don't have any qualms about Emerson aside from it being a typical privileged "liberal arts" college (though honestly I'm not connected and have no idea what it's up to).  I'm grateful for the grounding and mind-opening perspectives it introduced me to.

SUNDO/DAHN HAK/DAHN YOGA/BODY & BRAIN YOGA

Summary and timeline:

A Korean cult and spiritual/energetic lineage that I practiced and taught for eight years, with six years as a full committed "master", between 2007-2015.

Specifics of how I've been influenced:

This single "study" has a lot of names because it has many layers, dimensions and forms. The word "dahn" means "energy" in Korean, and "hak" means "philosophy" or "study". At the core, what I gained from this practice and phase of life is a deep somatic and energetic awareness--basically, I feel like I studied energy. Some of it was intellectual, but the majority of the study was experiential and embodied. I taught regular group classes, facilitated workshops and did private energy work. I also lived a lifestyle that revolved around energy training and maintenance and spiritual development (albeit in a very specific framework). Over the years I developed an intuitive understanding of the human energy system that I bring to all my work today.

There was also a humbling aspect to my experience that I am grateful for. There's a reason for the "chop wood and carry water" phase of the spiritual path--especially when you're a 23-year-old white woman who's had it easy af her whole life. In the early years, my teachers shattered my ego daily. If you know the story of Milarepa, you can catch the vibe. I feel (a little) more confident to show up as a "spiritual teacher" today because I spent so many years in training with no public presence, no Instagram following, and very little recognition from anyone but my own soul.

The tough stuff:

This organization and community is a high-demand cult. Although I don't regret the time I spent there, I now recognize countless aspects of the culture that were abusive, manipulative and disregarding of personal autonomy. In particular, I've had to reckon with the predatory business practices that I both perpetuated and was a victim of. I spent about $60k on trainings and other "contributions" over the years, much of it on high-interest credit cards, while working for minimum wage and getting paid for half the hours I was putting in. It was bad. And although I was never very good at it, I was also encouraged to use various manipulative "selling" techniques for studio memberships, etc. My credit was ravaged when I left. I basically learned a lot of lessons on how NOT to handle money.

The most toxic piece of my experience, though - and the biggest lesson I took away - is about autonomy. There was an ethos (as in most cults) of "this is the best/only way", which creates space for any kind of manipulative behavior to be justified if it gets someone to "join" (a class, a membership, a workshop, a full-life commitment, etc). But what I realized over the years is that there's no such thing as spiritual evolution that doesn't come from an individual's autonomous, embodied choice. No one can take another person's steps along the path, and when we try to force someone, we're operating at a very low, contracted frequency that actually makes it harder for either person to expand. Today, I come from a strong intention to hold my clients, students, loved ones and all humans in their full autonomy, and with a deep trust that you know what is best for you.

Terms:

To be clear: SunDo is the original Korean lineage, and DahnHak is a version of it modernized and systematized by Ilchi Lee, the guru at the head of  the organization. It was originally called Dahn Yoga in the United States, and rebranded as Body & Brain Yoga in 2012.

A note on appropriation:

Cultural appropriation is a complex issue, and there are clearly lots of different dynamics at play in my relationship with this practice. But overall, I feel pretty solid with myself as a white person trained in an Asian lineage. Most of my teachers and mentors were Korean, I was fully immersed in the culture for eight years, and the teachings are integrated in my being, but I don't capitalize directly on them; I also paid a LOT of dues, in time, devotion, and literal cash. I am always open to further discussion about this!

NEUROSCULPTING®

Summary and timeline:

A brain-based meditation technique that I began studying in 2015 and held a certification in between 2017-2020.

Specifics of how I've been influenced:

My Neurosculpting certification course and the several pre-req workshops I took are where I did my foundational studies around the brain and nervous system. The curriculum covered basic anatomy and neurochemistry, the neurophysiology of threat response, poly-vagal theory,  and nutrition for brain health, with a lot of emphasis on managing the relationship between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex. It also dipped into trauma-awareness and somatics. Although I never got into the flow of regularly offering Neurosculpting sessions to clients, the facilitator training taught me a lot about how to navigate a trance state with someone, and hold the space fully while preserving their autonomy.

The tough stuff:

I decided not to renew my certification in 2020. During the Black Lives Matter uprisings, I found Neurosculpting's public response tepid, and in a personal interaction on the subject, I experienced  NS founder Lisa Wimberger to be reactive and dismissive. When I originally met Lisa I really respected the way she was growing a "spiritual business" - and she has definitely created something impressive - but  in the past few years I've watched NS tip further and further into scalability and a contrived tone that is a turn-off to me. I was never too invested in Neurosculpting "brand" (I mostly took the training because I wanted to learn about the brain), so it wasn't a hard decision to step away. Lisa is a powerful human, healer and manifestor in many ways, and I bless her journey--just feeling much better about watching from afar.

ERIC FRANCIS COPPOLINO

Summary and timeline:

Eric is an astrologer in the Hudson Valley who is the main influence behind my approach to the link between the planets and the headlines (known as mundane astrology), and my style of writing about it. We know each other personally (we've actually known each other for about 10,000 years), and he mentored me directly between 2016-2018.

Specifics of how I've been influenced:

Eric is the only astrologer I've ever explicitly "learned from". I am basically self-taught when it comes to client work, but my astro-political content is directly influenced by him. The most important thing I received from Eric is a dedication holding my mundane astrological writings and content to a high "journalistic" standard. This means that I make a point not to talk just about abstract energies, but to ground them in concrete examples of what's happening in the world, to back up what I say with evidence and real-world analysis. This is something Eric constantly emphasized when I wrote for his astrology publication in 2016-2017, and I'm grateful to have been shaped by that ethos early in my journey as a content creator.

Although he's never written a book, over the years Eric has done a lot of pioneering work exploring little-known, recently discovered celestial bodies, in particular Chiron, the other centaurs, various asteroids, and the the dwarf-planet Eris (discovered in 2006). My public and private work with the centaurs are influenced by him, and if I ever mention Eris, anything I say came either from Eric or from the goddess of discord herself. It also feels important to mention that Eric introduced me to the work of Wilhelm Reich, whose theories on the link between sexual oppression and fascism underlie my understanding of America today.

The tough stuff:

Eric is one of the people in my life who is currently lost in the ocean of internet misinformation. He's not a Q-head or really a follower of any particular "influencer" - just weaving his own web of of anti-vax "investigative journalism". I feel a lot of love for Eric as I write this, and though I wouldn't recommend his take on things at the moment, I have hope he'll return to earth.

CULTURAL SOMATICS & TADA HOZUMI

Summary and timeline:

I participated in Tada's "authentic allyship for white people" cohort in 2017; their "connecting with with radical white ancestors" course in 2018; and the Cultural Somatics Mentorship in 2019-2020 (the second two programs were co-faciliated by Dare Sohei). I also had approximately ten private somatic therapy sessions with Tada, mostly in 2018.

Specifics of how I've been influenced:

The premise of cultural somatics - that cultural trauma exists in the body, in a myriad of different ways - is central to my work and my approach to life. In particular, Tada (whose ancestry is Japanese, and who developed the concept of CS on separate but parallel timelines to Resmaa Menakem) has an animist approach that includes the human energy system, and which immediately resonated with me because of my DahnHak background. Most of the specifics of the way I understand cultural somatics comes directly from Tada (I've read Resmaa's book but am not really familiar with him outside of that). In our private work, Tada helped me cope with personal grief and stress, as well as being the first human to hold to space for my disturbing visions of the US Pluto Return.

The tough stuff:

Since late 2019 I have found Tada's online presence a turn-off. I have mostly not followed them since then, but it was hard to avoid in 2020 given that Tada was very "active" with "call-outs" (and like I said earlier, the "spiritual activist" community is small). I also had a more recent personal interaction (in early 2021) in which Tada tried to relate to me from a guru-like position, and projected attachment on to me in a very inaccurate way. I don't know anything about the quality of their private practice these days, or even about their public content.

However, my personal distaste is not an accusation of harmful behavior on Tada's part, and I want to be clear that I've never felt them to be predatory. My read of Tada's somewhat cringe-y "call-out" behavior is that it originates from an underdeveloped heart chakra. And, well, we've all got our own timelines. I am super-grateful for Tada's development of the animist cultural somatic framework that helps me understand the world, and I hope they continue to evolve in all the different areas of their humanity.

ENERGETIC JUSTICE/ORIENTATION

Summary and timeline:

Energetic Justice is a community for anti-racist white people. When I was involved, it was led by two white women, Kelly Elizabeth and Kelly Germaine, and Orientation was advertised as their flagship course. I took Orientation in the fall of 2020.

Specifics of how I've been influenced:

Although I attended a few of the wider community gatherings led by EJ, my main interaction was in the container of Orientation. The program consisted of weekly two-hour classes divided into three modules, with four classes per module. Module one explored the history of racism and capitalism and module two explored the history of Christianity, These modules provided a comprehensive education I'd been craving, as well as safe space for processing the trauma in white lineage and having touchy conversations. The material wasn't all new to me, but the group setting allowed for a much deeper integration than reading books on my own ever could.

The tough stuff:

The third module, which was supposed to be about "vocation", was disappointing (I'd hoped for some advice on how to be a white energy practitioner with integrity, but the focus was mainly internet etiquette/how to be an influencer). And... to be honest, things got much worse from there. I'm still a little shocked by what played out between the two facilitators, and in particular, by the poor leadership and extremely unprofessional, dismissive, and straight-up manipulative behavior I witnessed by Kelly Germaine. Myself and several other members of the Orientation cohort considered speaking out publicly, but ultimately decided it wasn't worth our energy to engage someone who'd already demonstrated that she was unreceptive to feedback. I won't share the details here, but I'm happy to discuss the situation with anyone who wants more information.

A piece of me regrets paying white women for this education--but on the karmic level it was all meant to be. I am connected to some powerful white energy workers now, who are truly devoted to their anti-racist journeys, and I have learned a lot about my own desires and needs for nourishing community.

I also have many non-human guides, who have influenced me in other specific ways. One day they'll get their own page; for now, I want to say thank you in particular to the mushroom spirit, the fierce jaguar that protects me, and archangels Michael and Metatron.

And that's it! I'm not sure where my next educational investment will be, because my life is clearly moving into more of an "output" phase, but I will keep this page updated with all the juicy details, haha.