Modern Mysticism: A Reintroduction
(Click here to listen to the audio recording of this blog.)
“Clearly recognizing what is happening inside us, and regarding what we see with an open, kind and loving heart, is what I call Radical Acceptance. If we are holding back from any part of our experience, if our heart shuts out any part of who we are and what we feel, we are fueling the fears and feelings of separation that sustain the trance of unworthiness. Radical Acceptance directly dismantles the very foundations of this trance.” Tara Brach
Hi there, I’m Deanna Sophia, “the Artistic Mystic formerly known as Danger,” and I’ve spent the last 7 months, ahem, 40 years snapping out of what my mindfulness meditation teacher, Tara Brach calls, “the trance of unworthiness.”
It’s been a minute since I’ve written, ay? A lot has changed since my last blog post roughly 7 months ago, and I needed a bit of time to settle in with it all. I have a new, full time job with a nonprofit arts institution, putting to personal-life-stabilizing-use my 20-years of experience in event production (also apparently, the crisis-management skills I’ve honed along the way). I’ve put being “an artist” on the shelf for the time being. Not in the way that I could be any less of an artist than I could be any less of an oxygen-requiring human. But just in the way that I reckoned with surviving off of “art” while also surviving compounding crises on my own as a self-partnered person. I determined “professional art” was not in my best interest currently. I’m also just about halfway through a two-year certification as a mindfulness meditation teacher. Huzzah! To say the impact of this training has been transformative to my own personal healing would be an understatement. No, it has been profound. And I’m taking this moment in time to just re-introduce myself, my more Whole Self to you, to the world, and just get this blog going again because I have refined my purpose.
Hi there, I’m Deanna Sophia, the nonbinary, queer, soon-to-be-Certified Mindfulness Coach, out in the sea of “Western Wellness Practitioners,” just aiming to be my most present, aware, Rawthentic, encouraging Self by example... So that maybe I, could provide a grounded, lived-in example of wellness in the face of destruction to at least one more person struggling with the trance of unworthiness.
If you follow me on social media (thank you), then you’ve probably observed me refer to myself as an “Artistic Mystic.” What the heck does that mean anyway, you might be wondering. Well to me, Mystics are typical ol’ humans that somehow figured out how to turn the pain, the sorrow, the grief, the joy, the pleasure, the reverence and the suffering of life into poetry. No one knows what “the meaning of life” is, but somehow when we read Rumi or Khalil Gibran, we know. When we hear Robert Plant put words to the guitar of Jimmy Page, or Prince sit down at his keys, we know. When we watch Isadora Duncan or Gregory Hines float on feet that seem to somehow hover just above the ground, we know. When we witness our beloved one open a gift from us, and their eyes sparkle open with childlike wonder, we know. When we smell a summer meadow, freshened after an intense lightning storm, enlivened with the cacophony of thousands of tiny frogs and insects, gallantly making themselves known in no shame, zero chill, we know. In other words, the simplistic nature of life itself is mystical. The constant unfolding of each moment into surprise, awe, bewilderment or all three of those at the same time, is mystical. Each of us is mystical in that at our basic form, we are quite literally contained sacks of protein and water, powered by an electrified combustion engine, attached by centrifugal force to a giant, watery rock with a molten core, hurtling through space at a speed faster than our mental control tower brains can truly comprehend. Woah.
How are you not mystical?
How is all of life not mystical?
How do we take ourselves so dang seriously, moment to moment? Forgetting the pleasure it is to just pause, look out the window at a leaf fluttering in the breeze, or to watch the clouds drift by for a brief moment?
Oh right, I remember now, it’s that pesky “survival instinct.”
Look, we humans have been developing our organic “centralized computers,” (our brains) for tens (maybe hundreds) of thousands of years. All these thousands of years ago we had to survive without pocket oracles, without indoor plumbing, shit, without even agriculture. So in the day in age that we are in, do we really think about how much more safe we actually have things now? When we can pull up an app on our pocket oracle, order some vacuum sealed, vegan chicken nuggets and have them delivered 30 minutes later, without having to leave the comfort of our PJs because it’s slightly snowing outside and we don’t want to miss our favorite broadcast? Probably not, because unless we practice telling our brain it can take a rest from survival mode, we are spinning at constant survival mode. By default. So when we live in a society that no longer has to defend our cave habitat from mastodon and sabre tooth big cats, our brain, our collective brain that is, comes up with all kinds of other things to be afraid of, defend against, fight against, survive against...like a little snow.
Or you know, other things like people with varying skin colors, or relationships and identities that look different from ours, or folks that speak different languages from different countries, or folks of the “opposite” political party, or gasp - people who protect their health by wearing masks (the horror). Human beings can literally be afraid of everything we let our brains think about a little too long. And if you don’t believe me, let me introduce you to the invention of “whiteness,” and recreational space travel as a cure to the increasing un-inhabitable-ness of Earth.
Insert big ass, eye roll here.
This isn’t going to be a blog that dives into all those topics, no. That’s not what I’m here for. There are plenty more blogs out there you can find for trauma-porn. Hell, just scroll Twitter for 5-minutes and you’ll get your daily recommended allowance of fuck this shit. This blog is going to continue to be a place of perspective and (hopefully) discussion (please comment and interact y’all...I want human interaction to be the reason why you’re here). This blog aims to be a catalystic place on the Web about what we can do for and with ourselves as imperfect humans, not in spite of, not despite of, but in full awareness of the shit of our world that has our collective consciousness constantly living in fear. Just as we know through pop culture (thanks The Exorcist), that in naming the demon, it loses [some] of its power, this aims to be a blog forward about naming the shit. Addressing the shit. Confronting the shit. We’re humans, aside from protein and water, we’re also made of shit.
I’m gonna mystify this shit on a mental level for a moment.
I was listening to a podcast called “Your Undivided Attention” recently, from The Center For Humane Technology with hosts Tristan Harris and Aza Raskin. In this episode they were speaking with the director and producer of “The Social Dilemma,” the 2020 film that dove head-first into the harms of modern media, namely, Facebook (sorry, not calling it Meta, you can’t rebrand shit). Producer Jeff Orlowski rephrased an anecdote many of us have heard since we were young into a modernized take on how we can clearly view what is actually happening in mis and dis and all around conspiratorial, extremist information:
“You don’t understand someone until you’ve walked 1000 miles in their NEWS.”
Just, woah. Let’s actually break that down for a moment.
Each one of us is made up of hundreds, thousands, millions, or tens of thousands of millions (depending on our age) of bites of information that someone else told us. Be it our parents, our caregivers, what our teachers told us, what our community members told us, what religious elders told us, what society told us, what Fox or CNN told us, what anyone with enough disposable income to buy a decent studio mic and make a podcast told us (side eye’ing you Joe Rogan). In today’s digital age, information literally zooms through our lives at the speed of light. Our brains have mere seconds to decide if something is “worthy” of a like, a comment, a share, a disgust re-act, a re-trigger, a re-traumatization...our brains have mere seconds to compare and contrast ourselves with this information super-tsunami, and decide how we need to “survive” it, based on very individualized, personal, internal and external, causes and conditions. I’m not going to get too much into this topic either, because I already did that in this blog post here.
I bring this up because I’ve had a total realization of the very clear nature of this tsunami, since my last blog post. I want to be very clear that I am not anti-media. I am pro discernment.
As someone who formerly made their living, let’s be honest, by how people “thought about me” on the internet, and in real life, I can personally attest of the Danger (see what I did there) of creating an avatar as a living, and the reality of what it feels like on the inside of having to maintain that avatar (or not) for survival...during a pandemic and global economic crisis.
I’ll tell you a little secret, it sucked.
Deanna Sophia, “the Artistic Mystic formerly known as Danger,” because having a healthy relationship with my own nervous system IRL is far better than the sea of survival I was surfing daily as a “professional artist.” My aim and intention of creating art from my Heart & Soul to share with the world in inspiration of and by creative expression of The Divine, was not misplaced. What was misplaced was the nature of the system of exploited commodification of “content” that has become of our environment. It is true that media has very much helped me to connect with folks I wouldn’t have otherwise connected with (hi, hello, welcome, glad you’re here y’all). AND participating in social media into late stage capitalism has also actively harmed me. External conditions beyond my control (such as algorithms actively programmed to target folks purveying art that is erotic in nature), interacting with my own internal conditions (namely, lifelong anxiety and fear patterning centering around “not being good enough”...thanks patriarchal, colonialist, religious programming) thereby creating suffering. A loop of suffering I had no other choice than to step out of completely in order to unravel the many layers of “news” that has just been in my lifelong feed programming since I was a wee, shy, tiny thing, dancing in my first public art display at a mere 3 years old, performing as a Snowflake in the Nutcracker. Dawwwww.
The unraveling part (aka “reparenting”), I’ve now done. Hence the blog radio silence for the last two seasons, my refocus into deep diving through mindfulness training, and also choosing to shore up that base level survival-mode resource impeding my path forward in artful, community repair, having self-sustainable income. Hello, first steady guaranteed paychecks I’ve had since about 2009.
Mindfulness is deliberately paying attention to our moment to moment experience, not so that we can excuse and sweep away the feelings, the thoughts, the sensations that arise, but so that we may discern what is actually happening. For me, I had to reckon with a lot of hard truths. I’m still reckoning with them, and I’m going to keep on keepin’ on reckoning till the day of my last breath, such is the nature of being an ever-changing, fluid, impermanent human being. I also reckoned with the inextinguishable Flame that burns within me of generation after generation of harm sown into the Soil of my Soul by other humans who did not have my best interest, or our global humanity’s best interest at heart...yet told me they did. I had to reckon with the truth that though my grief of having to witness so much suffering day in and day out, to me, to my friends, to humans I don’t even know, was a mass, collective grief. And that my rage at such inexcusable harm was no more served by being subjected my own pity, blinding rage or lack of self-care. No, my rage is serving by discerning what to do about it. How may I make my rage productive and not cause further harm to myself and this overextended system of humanity.
And so what I’ve come back to your feed to do today, is to tease out this perspective that “the internet is forever.” No, it’s actually not. It’s human made. We didn’t have the internet one hundred years ago and we certainly don’t know the future that unchecked climate change might hold on our infrastructure grid. The fact is, humans program harmful algorithms. Humans have programmed harmful algorithms since before they were called algorithms and they were just called “language.” Or "government." We teach our systems to be harmful by conscious and unconscious choice. However, humans actually survive better when they connect and co-regulate in sustainable ways with other humans. As Louis Cozolino puts it,
“We are not the survival of the fittest, we are the survival of the nurtured.”
The problem lies in that some humans think they are more worthy of survival than other humans.
The important point is, this too, is fear patterning.
So if we as humans, who are innately deserving of adequate and sustainable food, shelter, clean water, safety, and yes, love, decide that all humans should be considered in these inalienable human rights, the foremost best thing we can do for ourselves and each other in that situation is, to stop drinking the koolaid. Easier said than done, I know, but that’s where mindfulness comes in, and this is why I’m choosing the path of Certified Mindfulness Coach, because this is my lane.
My lane is actionable rage. My lane is lived experience. My lane has been walked for almost 42 blessed years so far. My lane is harm reduction. My lane is stepping aside from being a “performer” because actually the tools that I’ve learned, the tools I’ve been offered, the tools that I am putting into use in my personal, my work, my spiritual, my overall life are actually hella pragmatic and unfortunately atypically non-performative. You ever met a grounded Mystic?
Well you have now.
Grounded in that I got reeeeeal still. Like actually still, for at least 20 minutes a day, for several years. Many times with my ass in the grass in a nearby park or my backyard. On the days I felt numb. On the days I felt happy. On the days I felt sad, especially the days I felt sad. Because making a commitment to studying my own patterns no matter what, the typical things my brain did in fight, flight, freeze and fawn, allowed me the practice of teaching myself how to break the harmful parts of those patterns. It’s not been easy, it’s not been comfortable. It has however been extraordinarily rewarding. I say this as a trauma survivor. I didn’t have a conscious choice over a lot of things that happened in my life, and in reclaiming my own brain’s ability to consciously choose, I’ve regained some choice. And it is my choice to dedicate myself to sharing the tools of this choice, with anyone else seeking some bit of stability and ease amidst an insanely traumatizing world.
Naming the shit.
This is not a “mindfulness will solve all your problems blog,” because that’s horseshit. This is a “mindfulness helps us build back our agency to choose” blog, and I’m a “mindfulness that is not trauma-sensitive is not actually mindfulness” instructor. Actually mindfulness and meditation in general can be very damaging without proper guidance. We are paying deliberate attention to our inner experience. I don’t even have to write a paragraph about how many things can go awry with that, drop me a comment if you can feel that very real possibility of suffering in your bones.
I’m not here to sell you snake oil, and unfortunately that’s what a lot of “Western Wellness Practitioners” have done with “Mindfulness Under Capitalism”...but you see...I’ve unraveled the harm that commodification culture has on us as individuals and as a community. Because I had to unravel (brutally, I might add) that culture from what it did to me as an individual. An individual who is thus far thankfully winning the battle against (all odds of) addiction, depression, anxiety, PTSD, self harm, bio-family-estrangement and more. And you know what? It wasn’t “mindfulness™” that “saved me™.” It was time, presence, getting really real, getting messy, community, knowledgeable guides who had been where I was and practice. It was being stuck again and again at the same crossroads and being out of options. It was a lot of laying on the floor staring at my ceiling after existentially crying for a couple of hours, after manically indulging in rage or escapism for hours before. It was reaching out to chosen family that knew how to be there for me when I couldn’t be there for myself. It was choosing life over death. And practicing. It was choosing courage as an investment in myself. And practicing. It was choosing faith as a pattern. And practicing. It was choosing firm as fuck boundaries to build traction under me so I could climb out of the hole. And practicing epically. And that dear friends, is what mindfulness is. Practice in choice.
Now I recognize that not all folks have choice, not all folks have time, not all folks have resources. I recognize my enormous privilege to be able to write this blog and reach you...who also has enormous privilege in being able to read this today. And the one thing that we should all know about privilege is that it comes with duty to share the resources with others. And that dear friends is why I am at the beginning stages of putting together how I want to offer these tools and this knowledge that I’ve been trained in.
One cannot learn mindfulness just by reading my blog, that’s not how this works. Mindfulness is an embodied practice, and one that is more than just about trauma or stress relief. It’s also about renovating our lifestyle so that we contribute less and less to the suffering of the world. Which yes, of course starts with us as individuals. The beauty of this practice is that it doesn’t end with us, or in our singular lifetime. Mindfulness actually cultivates ongoing, sustainable, global compassion. Like, contagiously. And if you asked me, we need more sustainable, contagious compassion in the world right now.
I aim to make my blog a starting point, or at least a perspective point for the journey, because there’s a lot of bullshit out there, thanks to capitalist influencer culture. I have zero desire to be a mindfulness influencer. Lol, that’s actually the opposite of my goal in mindfulness, I am not trying to be a hypnotherapist. I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically support and demand consent, transparency and communication. PERIOD. What I do hope to achieve, is encouragement to you by living example, about how to put the keys to your own (thusly our collective) happiness back in y(our) own pocket(s). My goal is to encourage and inspire you to love yourself deeper...in that non-perfectionist, non westernized, individualistic way. My goal is to “Professionally Catalyze” you into building your own support network, beginning with your very own network of nerves. There are roughly 7.9 billion humans on this Earth, living together with our billions of neurons each, all experiencing consciousness in our own individual and culturally specific ways. And yet we spend the majority of our days subjecting our own nervous system, by human design, to things other people tell us…
What if we had a tool to listen to our own body?
What if we had a tool to listen to what our collective Earth body was asking of us?
What if we had a tool to better listen to each other's bodies?
It ain’t Meta, but it sure is metta.
I invite you to share in the comments your thoughts. As I continue toward building my teaching practicum, it’s helpful to me to understand where my community is at, what is working, what resonates, what’s confusing, what you’d like more of, or no more of. While I invite and open the floor to organic sharing about whatever is true for you, the following three questions may offer a direction for reflection:
What is your overall impression of mindfulness based on this blog? Before this blog?
What is your biggest hurdle to mental or emotional wellness?
What didn’t you like, or what was confusing about this blog?
As always, my blogs will stay public, non-sponsored, free educational material. A starting point for inquiry and investigation. I am currently designing some workshops, study resources, and a full fledged mindfulness program that will be a hybrid in-person live and virtual offering. I am centering my offerings upon media mindfulness, trauma-sensitive mindfulness, and mindfulness for transformative community repair. Some of these workshops will be set at sliding scale or donation based, and all workshops will offer a pay-it-forward option in order to offer these teachings to folks with limited access to resources. Staying subscribed right here will always keep you in-the-know about these as they arise.
In the meantime, if you would like to support my free, public offerings made here at my blog, at my Instagram or Twitter, I have opened a Buy Me A Coffee account for those who wish to express gratitude for knowledge gained. The tradition of “dana” is a Buddhist tradition of “generous giving” toward teachings of the dharma, and to me, exemplifies the community-sustainable, network of activist support, “mutual aid.” I myself am a non-binary, queer, intimate partner abuse survivor who is rebuilding their life forward toward regaining safety and equity. Upon reaching the goal of covering my mindfulness education (which I have been paying out-of-pocket, after losing a career path due to the pandemic and systemic conditions), 3.33% of all earnings will be donated henceforth to NDN Collective. NDN Collective is an Indigenous-led organization dedicated to building Indigenous power. Through organizing, activism, philanthropy, grantmaking, capacity-building and narrative change, NDN Collective is creating sustainable solutions on Indigenous terms.
Thank you for reading, namaste, and may you find ease in the midst of the shit,