Hello sweet thing!
I am glad you exist in this moment. Way to be here. Thanks for being with me here. I want to share about some incredible shit that has gone down in the past month that has been in addition to my incredible wedding — and when I get the photos I will be sharing some highlights from that. I’m digesting and feeling grateful for the incredible community, wife, and life that was all that jazz.
Now, I want to share with you a really amazing experience I had in LA. This past year has been so full with successes and learning, and f-ups and more learning. I know that there is more of that ahead of me as I ask and answer this question: how do I turn my passion, dedication to healing, and love for the planet into a more sustainable path?
In May 2014 I went to LA for a branding photoshoot. It was incredibly fun. If you have seen some of the photos on Facebook, this is the story of how they came about. I want to share the underbelly of what happened for me that day.
The magic of that day was in the alchemy of collaboration between all of the wonderful women and artists present — but this post would actually be the length of a novel if I shared all of that with you so we’ll do with snippets of my part for now. It’s a long epic tale, but I will bring you into the story here.
I arrive at a beautiful studio in West Hollywood. One of my mentors, Christina Morassi, is there and she spends time getting us, four other women and me, into the zone. Supporting our vulnerable, authentic, and deep presence, teaching us tricks of the trade for the set, and then sending us off get ready. I was paired up with a total soulmate (who you’ll meet in the video at the bottom of this post) and we get in the hair and make-up chairs. I put chanting in my ears, and as I get my hair and make-up done, I chant wahe guru, and guru guru wahe guru ram das guru to soothe my nerves, bring me home into my self, and cultivate and brew the light through and within me. You know. It’s fun and we’re laughing, sharing belly hugs, and having a grand ole time.
Before I go on with the story I have a joyful confession to make. In one of the closets in the West Philly Red Tent Temple, I have a collection of beautiful things. From a self discovery I made on a pilgrimage across the country, I found that I LOVE BEAUTIFUL DRESSES. And my dream fantasy is to do sacred singing in a full length gown. Okay — go on.
The moment comes, the chair turns, I am in full dress, hair, make-up — everyone looks at me, gasps, and gives encouraging words — “Wow, you look beautiful, gorgeous.” My heart starts to race, my body tightens, I scan the room, and then I say, “I need help.” A memory rushes into my mind. I’m a sophomore in high school, dressed for the sock-hop. I get in the car and a family member turns to me, gasps, and with a great sense of compliment says to me, “you’re so beautiful it makes me sick.”
I tell this story on set, my eyes filling with tears. I don’t want to look too beautiful. I don’t want people to feel sick. Tears fall. I start to pace and it’s clear that I need some time before I go on set. Starla Fortunato, the brilliant photographer, says two things, ‘one, you don’t have to hide your shining here. And two, everyone gets to have their feeling here. Take your time, on to the next person.’
I breathe deep and think — I came prepared for this. I go to my bag, pull out my sweetgrass. I go out to the street where I get annoyingly honked at as I light the sweetgrass and pray to my ancestors for peace and guidance. I go back upstairs and ask for a place in the studio that won’t be in the way. I am shown to the space behind the back drop where I set up my altar.
When the time comes, I take my shiny, dedicated self on set. I give it all I have and I have SO MUCH FUN.
Eckhart Tolle, who wrote The Power of Now, says that once you realize there is no past or future, it’s possible to understand that your life is always well and that anything that doesn’t feel well is just the situation that you are attending to. With this understanding it becomes obviously clear that it is best to do what brings you joy. I felt that way exactly on set, even saying that in my next career I am going to be a model — it was just so fun. I danced around and was joyful. That is half of what I want to do in this career anyhow : ). I gave it my all — which risks a fall along the way — and is totally worth it.
The first round of photos was complete so then I had a total ego party in my mind thinking, “I’ve done stuff like this before. It’s great and fun, but I am not sure that something new has been captured here . . . ” And then I prepared for round two, which was a knock out.
I put on my next outfit, the one I knew I would wear, the one that I felt that special feeling in, similar to finding my wedding dress. The stylist looked at me and said, “Okay Grammys.” I told her how my dream was to sing Kirtan in a floor length gown, that my internal worlds love costumes and praying almost equally. She was very supportive.
This time I had no panic, no freak out. The team kept saying, “Sophia’s ready,” and Starla would say, “no, not yet, she needs more time.” She leaned in and said to me, “why don’t you go spend some more time with your altar.” I do my best to listen to really good advice — even when it’s from my mom or my wife — so I listened here too.
This is where the story gets hard to write about. It gets subtle, and profound, bodily, and channeled. I stand over my altar and I prayed again to be used in this life to the optimal positive healing impact possible. A frequent prayer. Then I heard/knew/felt all at once this message:
“You have taken every other gift you have and learned to wield it, own it, become a dedicated craftsman to the flow of the cosmos. Your appearance is part of what was given to you. You didn’t choose it, so accept it and inhabit it, inherit it, tend it and use it like you did with everything else. If you can turn mental health diagnoses into gifts, you can do that transformation here too.”
I looked at the reflective background. I saw myself. I felt ripples through my body. My epic fantasy nerd got so excited because I looked like I stepped out of some scene. I knew I would take my altar on set, I would leave my hooded coat on, and I would play with this hilariously epic scene. I would take my internal world — how I focus, strengthen, quiet — out in front of the ten people I had met that day. I would put it in front of the camera and then I would surrender and play.
I practiced. I prayed. I connected. If you look closely at my hands you can see that they are in mudra (or in full extension, engagement), because I was drawing myself — my whole being, being beyond my being — from top to bottom into and through my body. Those who have had sessions with me or been taught by me in recent years may recognize this place. This is a deep ritual space I hold.
The ripples would rise and I would start laughing and then screaming and then it would pass and start all over again.
Starla asked me to use one of the items from my altar. I asked for permission to cleanse her space. I said, “I won’t be able to pretend to do it so I need your permission.” She said, “Clear it out and send it out the window behind me.” I did my best.
I was in ecstasy.
It was beautiful. And intense. And deep.
This experience showed me, yet again, that healing comes, wherever, whenever. It’s not the action alone that determines the healing-ness of something. The intentional construction of the day (thanks Christina!), the shamanic aspects built in to the process, and my own added practices invited a powerful possibility. And truly it is who I am and how I walk the path that determines my experience and the amount of healing that I find as I bump into, choose to walk into, or find myself in experiences along the way.
I learned so much in this day, more than I can put into words. As my prayer and dedication merged with costumes and play, the joy, the sheer joy of it, is something that has changed me.
I made this video with my friend and new found soulmate Yummy after my final shoot to share that the experience of processing can be so very diverse. My intention in this video is to encourage permission to feel and process however you darn well do. No apologies.
Blessings to you and your awakening, your joy, your bliss, your healing, your sharing your precious and powerful light and your very specific set of gifts. Blessings to you on your beauty.