If a leaf falling from a tree is a catalyst for inquiry, you can imagine my process when two men were shot by gang members and I could see the crime scene from my bedroom window last week around Halloween. Talk about scary. I was home alone and after I finished feasting on my kale, cabbage, sweet potato and wild rice deliciousness, I heard gun shots. For a moment I froze and thought, "maybe they were fireworks?" I paused and went deeper into my body and felt my inner voice speak, "No. They were gunshots and they were close. Turn off the lights and go upstairs." As I went upstairs, I could see from my bedroom window emergency vehicles beginning to arrive. Cop cars, firetrucks, ambulances and then helicopters. The helicopter lights were beyond bright and shining into my room which meant whoever they were looking for was very close.I had some vague recollection of something called Venice311.org, so I got online and saw that this website has a live twitter feed of LAPD calls to Venice. The tweets read 2 men shot and down, 5 men armed ran into the neighborhood. The bizarre thing was that I could see everything from my bedroom window and I wondered why.
Two days after the shooting in my neighborhood, there was another one at LAX. That same day, I was on my way to a gathering of graduates from the shaman school I attended called the Four Winds Society founded by Alberto Villoldo. He had a PhD in Medical Anthropology, studying how people heal and running a Mind Body Science lab in San Francisco, when he felt the call to not only be on the academic side of things, but to seek out to meet some of the most powerful healers in the world. His travels brought him to Peru, where he planned to stay for 10 days, but ended up staying for 10 years and being initiated into the energy healing practices of jungle shamans of the Amazon and the medicine people of the Andean mountains. He then came back to the US and started the Four Winds Society almost 30 years ago and have been training people into the wisdom keeping traditions and leading pilgrimages back to the source of this wisdom in Peru. My time with the Four Winds has had a huge effect on me and guidance in the creation of Qoya, specifically in times of trauma or when things are hard.
The shamanic path is one where you learn to turn your wounds into power. To use your heartache as fuel for your art. To know that what you look for is what you see, so if you look for the gift, you are more likely to find it. It's about honoring things as they are instead of being paralyzed and victimized by how you wish things would be. And, it's about being courageous in your heart to dream a bigger dream, to vision past the limitations that may present themselves and source your thoughts, feelings and actions- not from your past, but from your highest destiny. It's a shift in perception to do your part to co-create with the divine. To create what? Heaven on earth. Even when it's hard. Especially when it's hard. Even when it's scary. Especially when it's scary.
What does that look like in a human life? I remember hearing this definition of a teacher almost ten years ago as, "A teacher is not someone who only shares information with you, but who shows you what that information looks like in a human life." One of my greatest teachers is also one of my dearest friends. Her name is Talia Frenkel.
Talia followed her passion for photography, which led her to become sought out by the UN and the Red Cross to capture the essence of wounding after natural disasters. She would be flown into Thailand after the tsunami, New Orleans after Katrina and Haiti after the earthquake. You can imagine how big a human heart needs to be hold that much collective suffering and loss. One day, she was given a different assignment to document the effect of HIV and AIDS on women and children in Africa. While photographing the indescribable pain around her, she couldn't help but realize this project affected her differently. She said to herself, "Natural disasters are one thing that you can rarely prepare for and are seemingly random, but HIV and AIDS can be prevented, you just wear a condom."
And there, she turned the wounding she had been a witness to into power and created L. condoms. L. condoms are about world changing sex. L. condoms are female friendly being glycerin-free, paraben-free and designed to emulate the body's natural lubrication. The product is triple tested, comes in recyclable packaging and uses vegetable inks. It's also a one for one model. So, when you buy a condom that is sustainably sourced, consciously packaged and designed with feminine health and pleasure in mind, one condom is given to a woman in a high-impact area of Africa through peer-to-peer giving and with an emphasis on education and programs for health counselors as well.
9 out of 10 countries in Africa have no access to condoms for up to 2-3 months at a time, but if just 1 out of 20 people who purchase condoms, choose L., L. can serve the prevention needs of the three countries with the highest HIV prevalence rates. Which is potentially better than propagating the Trojan horse condom empire, which holds 69% of the market share and whose brand name associates sex with war and deception by referencing the mythological tale about tricking your way into penetrating some guarded fortress.
Qoya is based on the idea that through movement, we remember. Through movement, we remember our essence as wise, wild and free. We remember the physical sensation of our divine spark and we expand our capacity to feel and honor the sacred pulse of life that dances through us as we dance through it. And the more time we can be in that remembrance, we are able to recognize it everywhere we look and then we start to realize that the rise of the divine feminine is not only about the pleasure of this path, but it is about the honor of being a wayshower, a warrioress and taking a stand for powerfully protecting life.
I came home late the other night, around 1 or 2am, from seeing my dear musician Erin Mary Marsz friend play a show. As I pulled back into my neighborhood, I felt the invitation for fear. I felt the trauma of hearing gunshots from my living room and felt a fork in the road. I could choose love or fear. I could be scared and carry that fear with me. Or, I could draw on all the wisdom of my shamanic training and turning your wounds into power. I imagined myself as a jaguar, as this feline sense of full embodiment and presence in the moment and consciousness of everything around it. I reclaimed the power within myself and the moment as I parked and walked to my home, not out of fear, not out of wishful thinking, being as attuned to each evolution of the present moment. It may sound like a small thing, but it is what we are asked to do everyday. Every moment there is this fork in the road between love and fear and in Qoya we are cultivating our capacity to choose love, to dance love, to stand for love and to have love shine through everything we do and do not do. We go deep into this experience in all Qoya classes and retreats and I'll include a video below called Empowerment for Breakfast, with some Qoya strengthening exercises for you to do anytime you like at home.
If each of us step up to embody the truth of our own heart, we may be able to love so deeply that it ripples out into the world into less gunshots heard, a world where safe sex is a birthright and where there is savoring and celebration of life, even when it is hard. Because when it is hard, we may be wise enough to remember that the pain is sometimes just the package the fuel and inspiration for loving deeper comes in.
P.S. I just nominated Talia for Forbes list 30 under 30 in Social Entrepreneurship. Please take a moment to click here and scroll for my nomination of her so you can vote!
P.P.S. I will be teaching a Qoya class at the Standard in Miami, Sunday, November 10th from 7-8:15pm. Class is $30 and includes access to the spa. Qoya is based on the idea that through movement, we remember. We remember our essence is wise, wild and free. Wise, wild and free also draw reference to the movement forms we practice. Wise, calling on the wisdom of yoga. Wild, the creative expression in dance. Free, the pleasure found in sensual movement. Every class has a different theme and the theme for Sunday night is, "Let's Win!" In this epic dance between love and fear, let's dance what it feels like when Love Wins. (Love always wins.) No experience necessary. In Qoya there are no levels- no beginning, intermediate or advanced. There is only one level and that is when it feels good, you're doing it right. Wear clothes that are comfortable to move in and please be on time! xx
Through movement, we remember, so...let's move! I hope you enjoy this 13 minute Qoya video called Empowerment for Breakfast.