Initiations Into Erotic Power
The following is the story of my journey, including the teachers who have initiated me and reminded me of who I am. I am deeply grateful for the power of their love, presence and wisdom.
Challenges and obstacles are often the medicine that initiates growth and transformation. An extended health challenge was a significant catalyst that opened me to the world beyond my comfort zone. I grew more open-minded because I was desperate to find my way through a dark cave.
Challenges and obstacles are our medicine.
Darkness and aloneness
When I was thirteen years old, my older brother, Jimmy, died in a car accident. It crushed me into lifeless pieces. I may have appeared normal on the outside, but my soul felt bleak and flat, like a book snapped shut in grief. I felt abandoned. I was haunted by dark pathways inside myself, alone and confused. I felt that I should have died instead.
For months after his death, I woke up in the middle of the night with explosive hot energy swirling in my hands and body. The sensation moved with such fervor that I thought my palms were going to spit fire balls. I was fourteen years old and didn’t understand energy or this intense force of nature inside of me. I was scared.
In dreamtime, Jimmy would call me on the phone and give me messages. One night we spoke about this energy, and he told me to place my hands on my chest to heal my heartbreak. I woke up instantly upon our goodbye, and tried his advice. I was stunned by how the buzzing warmth in my hands began to soothe me.
This energy was big, and I didn’t like feeling out of control. I was a teenager; I wanted to fit in, not be the weirdo with psychic abilities and fireball hands. I tried to suppress the energy as much as I could. Finally, I succeeded, and it stopped.
Those lightning bolts of energy were a form of power I had no reference for. Now I understand that this was erotic life-force; a healing energy extending relief to my grief-stricken heart. Not erotic energy channeled into sexual expression, but erotic as in the creative, vital juice that we are all made of.
In my early twenties, I followed the road laid out for me by our culture. I married a charming and loving man. We lived together for a few years in New Orleans and then moved to Chicago where we bought our first home together. I received my Masters in Business Administration on a full scholarship and graduated with double honors. I was a committed triathlete lavishing tastes of freedom as I ran like a gazelle along Lake Michigan every morning with my dog, Cherokee. I worked as a lay minister, counseling people at a Presbyterian church in downtown Chicago. I co-founded a couple of start-up companies in the revolutionary dot.com era. On one level this list may be impressive but actually it was a prison because I had no idea how to stop. I never felt I was doing enough. I was driven to achieve; both a gift and a shadow.
I drove myself away from my survivor’s guilt, and fears of unworthiness, by keeping myself too busy to look within. The controlled productive speedboat of my life kept me focusing on goals ahead, so I wouldn’t notice the ocean of my vulnerability. The hypervigilance was stressful, though. In my attempt to push away uncertainty, I also pushed away rest, play, my intuitive guidance and faith, and the medicine that was being offered to me through challenges.
Two years after a divorce, my hunger for a new life was growling from deep in my belly. It called insistently, although I didn’t know what it was calling for. In 2003, my hunger called me to my first meditation retreat in the Rocky Mountains.
The theme of the retreat was based on the teacher’s book, Turning Your Mind into Your Ally. I felt like my mind was my enemy, lashing me with constant thoughts of self-criticism, and I didn’t want to be at war anymore.
As I observed my mental patterns through hours of meditation, I began to feel something opening in me.
So I moved to Boulder, Colorado.
Dropping from my head into my body
Boulder led me on a descent from my head into my heart and the ground of my being. During my first professional coaching certification, my teachers firmly counciled that I needed to learn how to drop from my head into my body and trust the wisdom of my intuition and body sensations. What the hell did that mean?! I had no idea. Shortly after this, my new leadership mentor Fred Kofman suggested I visit Reggie Ray, a buddhist teacher launching a program called Meditating with the Body. As he described the program, I felt myself reaching for a lifeline to a new way of being. That was the beginning of a 16-year-journey that has taken me deep into my body in wildly unexpected and beautiful ways.
Through Reggie’s somatic-based meditation practices, I dove directly into the place where trauma, grief and pain were stored inside me, awaiting my loving presence and attention. I slowed down. I wept. I screamed. I connected with my body in ways I’d never experienced as an athlete. I discovered that my body wasn’t a machine, it was a universe of wisdom, love and ancient history from my DNA and lineage. I felt turned on by this work and the way it was unfolding my being.
One of my greatest teachers and sources of love was, and still is, my yellow Labrador, Cherokee. She was my family, and she taught me unconditional love.
After 13 years together, she was dying of liver cancer and transitioning into her final days. I laid on the bamboo floor with her, gazing into her eyes and stroking her silky golden coat. I reflected on how incomprehensible a life without her would be. She was a consistent source of joy, belonging, unconditional love and playfulness.
Cherokee provided an experience of healthy attachment that I hadn’t yet known. I healed my childhood trauma through my relationship with her.
When she first got cancer at two years old, I noticed myself living with increased anxiety that she would die like my brother. Cherokee helped me see that I had no control of death, and that everything in life changes.
The stinging truth that my moments with her were limited beckoned me into a space of deep presence. I didn’t dare waste a minute of her remaining time with me. I meditated daily to keep my mind calm enough to rest in our loving connection.
During her final few weeks, I surrendered to the engulfing grief, and began to process early abandonment trauma and fears about death. During a quiet moment of gazing at one another, I felt her transmit a message to me through her chocolate eyes. “I am not my body,” she told me. “I am bigger and beyond this form, as are you. I will never die and I will always be with you.”
I felt this truth like a lightning bolt that ignited deeper wisdom inside me. My sense of self began to expand beyond the confines of my physical body, and for a few minutes I was not contained in the form of Anne-Marie. I was a divine presence of love and peace. I saw us for who we are, part of the universe and beyond, beyond form.
At 4am the next morning, Cherokee took her last breath in my arms. Around me, in the pre-dawn darkness, the room was painted with soft and exquisite colors of blue and pink. Over the next six hours, I lay by her side, feeling the heat in her heart as it gradually cooled, and I drank from this wellspring of love and peacefulness palpably hovering in the space.
Since that time, I’ve continued to explore other realms and ways of communicating that lie beyond the mind. I’ve learned to understand my intuition and stay open to challenging my conceptual ideas.
Health challenges, physical pain and depletion
When Cherokee died, I was experiencing extreme exhaustion and physical pain. Extensive medical tests left me without a diagnosis or guidance. The many years of pushing myself had caught up to me through adrenal exhaustion and other mysterious symptoms. I struggled with the illness, but found no victories; I didn’t know how to fix this. As my colleagues and friends started businesses and families, my pain and exhaustion grew more and more excruciating, until it pulled me underground for the next six years.
Once I stopped fighting my inner guidance, it became clear that I had to surrender. I had to let the gravity of my illness carry me inwards for healing. I was tired of being at war with the dark energies I felt within me. I needed to crawl into a cave of my own making.
The natural world, stillness and silence
I was divinely guided to a place I’d never heard of: a magical land in the mountains of Santa Cruz, called Bonny Doon. I arrived in the rain. My eyes were seduced by enormous moss-covered oak trees shrouded in wafting pockets of mist. A weeping willow cascaded her soft billowing branches towards the raindrops dancing on a lake. Wild ducks used their tails to rudder across the water ,while frogs sang a cacophony of delight. My body said yes, and I rented a small cottage there.
Upon moving to Bonny Doon, I dove even more deeply into my meditation practice. I studied various mind-body modalities and their affects on suffering, weakness, and pain, using myself as a science experiment.
I received many gifts from this Bonny Doon land. The wild creatures who roamed the property, and the spirits of this sacred land, fiercely and gently taught me the shaman’s path. I worked diligently with my silent meditation practice, the teachings of Adyashanti, and a shamanic healer named Sonya Amrita. Sonya kept referring to me as a shaman; I tightened up every time she said it.
But day by day, I unraveled layers of trauma-born beliefs and patterns in my body. The silence, beauty, and stillness of my environment soothed my internal aggression.
I lived through floods and wildfires, and once encountered a mountain lion hunting and eventually gutting a deer by my sleeping bag. Nature was teaching me how to listen to the wild and unpredictable flow of being alive.
I built forts in the trees, and gathered brush to cocoon myself while I merged with the land. I began to understand the ways of the shaman. I had tried the traditional path, with drums, rattles and guided journeys to connect with power animals, but it hadn’t felt natural to me and I had concluded that I was incompetent. Now the magic was teaching me in our secret language, teaching me through the land, the unseen world, and my aching erotic body. I was in a mystery school and didn’t know it.
Awakening sexuality and healing life force
Often, while sitting in meditation by the lake, my root and womb would open to a fire hose of energy from the earth. At times it felt hot, like the passionate penetration of a lover. At other times it pulsed with slow and cool conviction as it sent energy up to my brain and other tight or contracted destinations. I had no idea what was happening, but somehow I knew to trust and surrender.
This flow of life energy was helping to reveal to my conscious awareness what been suppressed physically and emotionally.
It was fiercely catalytic. During this time, I started to remember trauma and memories that had been carefully stored away in my mind-body.
At times I found myself feeling orgasmic from the energy, and was compelled to engage in self-pleasuring. It was a sensational ride. I started to study masters like the Taoist Mantak Chia, to better understand my full-bodied multi-orgasmic experiences. I studied kundalini energy to understand the wild ways my body would convulse, from the root to my crown, in a serpentine wave. I explored the chakras. I devoured any physical or esoteric wisdom that I could get my hands on.
I didn't have a lover. I was actually afraid that the penetration of a physical human energy body would blow my circuits. I didn’t speak much of this experience, keeping it sacred in my own laboratory, witnessed only by the wildness of the land.
Despite my isolation, I made unlikely friends. A scrub blue jay who I endearingly named “Mr. McGoo” faithfully flew by my cottage door for the sunflower seeds outside. I left my french doors open during the day, and eventually, his daily itinerary included visits into the cottage and onto the edge of my bed. He’d pop around on his spindly grey legs for a minute and then stop, stare, and rest with me. It often made me cry. I wasn’t alone.
The nighttime star-gazing amid the bull-frogs stirred something in my soul. Laying on my stomach as I rested in the earth, my eyes closed, I could identify birds and dragonfly species by the sound of their wings. My deep love for the land and wild creatures opened a portal through which I was able to feel their beauty and presence.
One morning, I was startled awake by the sensation that my body was literally on fire. As I sat with the intensity, I discovered that we were under evacuation warning from a series of uncontained fires on the mountain. Similar phenomena happened with flooding and rains that closed all routes off the mountain; I literally felt the experience of flooding and rains in my body. I thought I was crazy at the time.
You have what you need
I was unable to get around much physically. Most days I laid in bed or floated in the lake, praying for relief from the pain and exhaustion. When I did have rare energy bursts, I directed it towards certifications and trainings in trauma, massage, energy healing, and studying the anatomy of the physical body and the esoteric anatomy of the spirit.
Doctor visits and protocols were unsuccessful in identifying or minimizing the source of my chronic pain, digestive issues, and exhaustion. I rode a roller coaster of hope and disappointment, as doctors promised help and then failed. I was desperate for guidance.
One evening, I sat by the lake as the final streams of light disappeared behind the mountains. I listened to the bull-frogs echo their low pitched bellows across the lake to one another, as if they were scheming a plan. I shared with the spirits of the land and the presence of the unseen realms that I didn’t want to live anymore if this was the quality of my life. I cried and pleaded with the stars to take me home to the place where I felt no suffering. Tears traveled down my cheeks and wet my chest as I begged the unseen world for help.
Time passed, the darkness covered the earth, and the stars brightened. My inner world became quiet, and something in my system settled. I closed my eyes and felt the weight of my body sink into the earth. To my surprise, I felt the sensation of a warm hand with long fingers on my chest. I opened my eyes to see who was there, and met only the empty dark. I began to hear a voice of clarity say through my thoughts, "You have everything you need inside of you to heal your pain. You must heal the trauma in your body; your kundalini has opened and it’s getting lodged and stuck in pockets of contraction. It’s showing you what wants to be cleared. It’s time to look within, listen to your inner guidance and trust yourself.”
I heeded. I began re-reading Waking The Tiger, a book by trauma specialist Peter Levine, and enrolled in the training to become a Somatic Experiencing trauma therapist. What I learned changed my life. The body indeed stores emotional, physical and psychological trauma. We even carry the trauma of our lineage in our DNA.
I learned how to access these contracted points in myself and unravel the beliefs and energy bound in self-destructive that were partially the cause of my pain and health issues. I apprenticed to this practice and began to notice shifts in my symptoms. I was on track with something.
Years later, this immersion has become a foundational component of my work with clients as we dive into material that is subconsciously held in the body, causing dissonant adaptive behaviors. The body longs to come back to clear mental, emotional, and energetic flow, just as violent rapids settle into lazy rivers when given enough space.
Embodied listening and virtual connection
After I received what I needed from Somatic Experiencing training, I enrolled in a Swedish Massage and Polarity Therapy certification program in downtown Santa Cruz. My focus was directed towards healing and rebuilding my energy reserves. The deep listening I’d been engaged in with my own body and mind also began to extend towards people I connected with. In my mostly-virtual social life, I started to find ways of communicating beyond verbal discourse.
The slower pace of my daily life allowed me to be more attuned to the subtle inflections in someone’s voice, the way they were breathing on the phone, and the emotional tones that moved between us. I found myself downloading sensations and emotions that I felt in my friends, sometimes before they were aware of it themselves. When we placed our attention and inquired together into what was arising for them, people would experience spontaneous healings of mind and body. I learned to recognize that emotions and energies have a voice, as does someone’s soul, personality and fears. I began to listen beyond the fear and personalities, to offer a bridge to the wisdom and soulful Self that lives quietly under the noise.
One night, I was speaking with a friend who had been in and out of a hard space for a long time. As we explored his feelings and body wisdom, he quietly shared that he wanted to kill himself. The land had been training me to slow down, and my meditation practices had been revealing my autopilot impulses to try to fix what was painful. This announcement was painful. But my heart told me to just be. I sat in the silence, feeling him and giving space for us to meet his pain. Moments later, to my surprise, I said, “I love you. I understand the feeling of wanting to press the eject button. If that is what you need to do, I will stand by your side.”
I wouldn’t normally encourage someone to take their life; that would be deemed as irresponsible and unloving in my “rulebook” of being a good person. But my statement didn’t come from a guidebook of “the right thing to do.” I was listening to something beyond my dualistic mind, to something deeper that was shared by him and myself. From this place of presence, my habit of monitoring my speech was suspended, and I trusted the compassion coming through me. I felt his despair. I knew this despair myself.
After I shared those words, he cried. He went deeper into his pain, aloneness and despair. I stayed steady and put my hand on my heart, asking for support. Then something magical happened: he started giggling! This turned into full-blown hysterical laughter. Something had cracked in him. A story broke. Later, he explained that the permission I gave him and the willingness to stand by his side penetrated something in him.
I was being shown how to channel and source catalytic and loving wisdom. I learned that I can trust when information comes through me that feels like a transmission from something beyond my conceptual mind and personality. In order to do this, I had to surrender and create space to not know the answers, to not latch onto a controlled response.
The relationships and teachings I was receiving from the land and wildlife was informing my abilities to listen, see and feel others.
Integration and daily practice as a way of life
Life reveals the guidance I need when I slow down, make space, bring awareness to the unconscious agendas I’m being driven by, and drop them to see what life reveals to me. As I track, listen and map my sense of what is happening for a client, I simultaneously hold my map loosely, as I explore the terrain with embodied practices which allow for my clients’ wisdom to arise in conceptual and non-conceptual ways. I practice tracking my clients without trying to fix them, listening to what is below the surface.
A few years ago, I flew to Washington, DC to lead an off-site retreat for one of my corporate CEO clients. We intended to do some visioning for the organization. I was facilitating him through the traditional process of questions and visualizations, mapping themes on the wall with post-it’s. We were doing all the “right” things, but I felt like we were spinning in the mind and not touching the deeper sense of his vision. I shared this with him and asked permission to course-correct, inviting him to sit down and close his eyes. I asked him questions about what was occurring in his body, and presented him with some embodied exercises.
We were making space, dropping our agenda and going into the unknown, which my training had taught me to trust. I felt scared that I wasn’t going to deliver the value he paid me for, and I let those thoughts go. I felt him relax. My intuition began to slowly guide him into his heart and presence of being. Entering his internal world with him, I tracked his reported experiences like a jaguar in the jungle on the hunt. Eventually, after a long pause, I asked, “what are you noticing?”. He said, “This may seem crazy, but I’m literally looking through the eyes of an eagle. I am an Eagle.” My shamanic self smiled inwardly and said, “Great, stay with that.” We dove into his sensations and I began to dialogue with my client, the eagle and the silence. The messages revealed from the eagle about my client’s visions for his business and family have become a compass for our work together.
The tools I have learned since my time of illness have helped me learn to trust the mysteries. I have reclaimed parts of myself while sitting in the jungle with shamans and sacred plant medicines. I have experienced lineage healings through modalities like family constellations and energy work, and have learned ways to navigate dark energies through qi-gong and shamanic practices. I continue to spend time alone in the wilderness, listening to the heartbeat of the wild, and I make space to meet my aloneness when it surfaces unexpectedly.
The other important practice I cultivate is that of grace. Sometimes I’m present, and other times I’m not. My life is a moving meditation with the intention to welcome all parts of myself, both my gifts and my shadows. The opportunity to abide in our essence occurs anew in every moment. Allowing ourselves to be imperfect and still lovable is where freedom reigns.
I trust that life will continue to give me just what I need to evolve and remember. I commit to the practice of interrupting the wars inside.
It’s over a decade later, and I am still discovering how the time on the land initiated me as a shamanic seer and awakened me to the power of our erotic life-force. After years of this deep immersion into silence, mind-body trainings, and immersion in nature, I reemerged with a desire to help others see beyond the matrix of fear-based suffering. I want to help us remember that beyond our ego patterns, we are Love.
I am grateful for my teachers: darkness and aloneness; mind training; embodiment; formless awareness; health challenges; the wild and natural world; erotic energy; embodied listening; ancestral healing; plant medicine, energy healing; and all the people who both stood by my side and triggered and hurt me. Everything has brought me to where I am today.
I am especially grateful to the land, which helped me drop through the trauma patterns looping in my nervous system. It introduced me to the life-force that pulses up from the earth through my pelvic bowl and down from the stars through my crown.
If we open to it, life will penetrate us from the top down and from the bottom up. This is our erotic nature. Creative energy lives within and flows through us in multiple directions, in endless flavors of vibrant potency.
Erotic energy heals and creates, while the natural world reminds us of our wildly fierce power, softness, beauty and wisdom.