Season of Alchemy: Interviews with Our Community

Season of Alchemy: Interviews with Our Community

Sarah Faith Gottesdiener

1. Tell us about yourself and Modern Woman?

I am an artist, small business owner, teacher and Tarot reader. I live in LA where I run my studio, walk my 3-legged dog and hang out with the love of my life.

Modern Women is my intersectional feminist line of clothing, accessories, art, paper goods and publications. I offer ethically made, uniquely designed pieces that are based in the spiritual, feminist and mystical.

Through the Modern Women studio, I offer educational, online, and offline workshops on a variety of topics from Moonbeaming (working with lunar cycles) to intention setting, Tarot, and more.

2. How did you come to this work?

I came into this work organically. I’m a feminist, a psychic, an artist and a witch. The way I support myself, what I do in the world, all contain aspects of this. There’s been a lot of working for other people, a lot of following my intuition and a LOT of hard work!

3. How do you see Alchemy, Growth, and Transformation in your own life?

The less I grasp, the more I grow. A lot of what 2019 will be about for me is growth that doesn’t look like growth to the dominant culture. I’m not looking to go viral, become more well-known, or expand my business in the traditional sense. I actually find myself turning down a lot of opportunities for that, because it isn’t in alignment for me at this time.

Personally, I am interested in going deeper and in developing sustainable methodologies for my creative process, my health, and my healing. I’m interested in growing roots that will last, and settling into my own process—not feeling like I need to chase anything. Having space to listen, to create quietly in the dark is what I am craving and trying to embrace. Out of that will come transformation that I’m not supposed to know about, or exert control over.

On a less obtuse level, transformation and growth shows up when I notice how I have shifted. Not beating myself up in situations where an old me would have. Not reacting in the same patterns that keep me small or cut off from myself, or just mindlessly repeating an old narrative that no longer actually exists, just to keep my ego safe. We all have opportunities to do that every day of our lives.

Ancient alchemists were trying to change material form. We alchemize in our own lives when we are able to channel our personal insights—sometimes forged in intense pain— into gifts to the collective and communications with the cosmos. When we move our energy and emotions in ways that transmute and expand that energy, we are alchemizing.

4. Why Modern Woman?

Modern Women is the name of my studio that I started in 2006. This was when George Bush was president, and literally no one I knew (other than bands and grassroots political movements) were putting words on tees. I started hand silk-screening t-shirts with feminist slogans on them, and it needed a name. The project is feminist, and I wanted something that sounded generic, so that it had room to grow. Thirteen years, and tens of thousands of tees, sweatshirts, zines and publications later, it is still around— I still release two to three new tee designs, and two to three new publications a year. My business still has a feminist, political aim: to bring equality and liberation for marginalized folks, and to empower people on the same page with wearable, hangable art and self-care tools.

5. What are some tools you would recommend to people searching to transform or create alchemy in their own life?

I find that folks are often blocking themselves from change because they are afraid to let go of something else. They are afraid to let go of some aspect of their identity, or a relationship, or an addiction that diverts their awareness.. When we start reframing sacrifice as an integral part of the process, and realize that nothing is ever really lost, just transformed, this can help us turn towards our inner lanterns and allow transformation to happen. Giving up the need to control the exact outcome is imperative.

Realize and remember that you aren’t the same person you were a few weeks, months, or years ago. Expecting your needs and wants to be the same results in stagnancy. As we transform, so do our interests, our relationships, and our goals. Check-in with yourself, and ask yourself what you need or want in the present moment. Listen to yourself without judgement or expectation.

A useful tool that I utilize around this are seasonal resolutions. I decide upon a list of seasonal goals or routines that I try to stick to. They tend to match the season—for example, getting more sleep in winter. Some routines stick around and become habits, and I build on that. For example, I stopped drinking in January, and now have consumed way less alcohol in February— and it will stay that way. I also resumed my morning hour of Tarot card pulling and meditation, and will keep to that routine moving forward.

Also support is key: therapy, journaling, ritual work, and good friends to process with!

A simple way to engage with alchemy is to ask yourself: what do I want to learn from this experience? How can I move this energy in the form of art, conversation, a cry, a meditation session? Living in lunar time really helps me with this. The beautiful thing about moonwork is that you can literally apply it to anything. Any theme, any goal, any focus, any dream. This work means so much to me and has done so much for me that I write books on the subject, and teach an annual workshop on it called Moonbeaming.

Bio:

Sarah Faith Gottesdiener is an artist living in Los Angeles. Since 2007, she’s run the business Modern Women. She was the author/editor of the cult classic Many Moons workbooks, and is now writing a guide to working with the phases of the moon to be published in 2020 by St. Martins Press. For the last 8 years she’s taught metaphysical subjects to hundreds of people in the US, Canada, and the UK. Sarah has also had a dedicated tarot practice for the last 7 years, and has seen thousands of wonderful clients all over the globe. With her collaborators Amanda Yates Garcia, and Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs, she hosts the popular podcast Strange Magic.  Hop on her newsletter to be part of her weekly world. 

Rachel Webb

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and the work you do at Three Jewels!

If I tell you about Three Jewels, I am pretty much talking exactly about myself because it is my heart outside of my chest. So, I am the Executive Director of this non-profit called Three Jewels. We are an ‘Enlightenment Studio’ and are the first of our kind, in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. And we’re pretty radical for a Buddhist center for a few reasons.

Our goal is to define enlightenment for the next generation— to make the idea of liberation relatable and practical for the modern New Yorker. We want people to be able to get realizations quickly, and with the support of the experts in our lineage (yogis and meditators). We hold classes and trainings in yoga and in meditation practices that are thousands of years old. We also have Buddhist philosophy classes, which I’ll talk about later.

But, we’re pretty cool (I think) because we don’t actually care if you’re a Buddhist or not. We just want to transmit these ancient tools so people can try them out in a really pure and honest way.

In addition to managing strategy and staff at Three Jewels, I teach yoga, meditation and dharma classes there. I also study dharma at Three Jewels. This part of our offering is probably the most special and deeply, deeply linked to an oral lineage that traces back thousands of years. We offer a curriculum of 18 courses from the Asian Classics Institute that provide an entire education in all the ancient, sacred texts of Buddhism, along with practical applications for real life, and guidance in your meditation practice. I have barely missed a class since 2013. We’re finishing up our studies this year, and you’ll see me teaching workshops on these texts and principles from now into infinity. In fact, I recently taught a workshop I truly love to teach called “Karma of Love.”

2. How did you come into Yoga and Tibetan Buddhism? How did you come to Three Jewels?

I met my Lama (Tibetan word for “guru”) and my best friend (my Lama’s partner) in a coffee shop in Bushwick in 2013. It was a complete accident to meet them, if you believe in accidents. At the time, I had been practicing yoga daily, quit drugs and alcohol, and I was really curious about how to go deeper into spirituality. Mostly to see how it was that yoga got me high, if we’re being honest.

I was reading a lot of books on Eastern Religion and kept googling “How to Find a Guru”. So, one day I was in this coffee shop reading the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, and these two guys kept joking around with me and asking me questions. When we started talking about what we were passionate about, I said, well, I’m really into Buddhism and I pulled out the book I was reading. This strange look came over both of their faces, and then they said, “Well, we run a Buddhist center.” It was like realizing you were secretly related the entire time, but grew up apart not knowing one another. That was the feeling. These two guys are Hector and Stephen, the President of Three Jewels, and my co-Executive Director.

So I went to one class, understood only about 5% of it, but the 5% moved me in a way I can’t explain. When you learn the philosophy, it’s really grounded. And it’s a truth you’re not used to hearing. Not many people stand up and say “Life is suffering, but there’s a way to change it, and here’s how.” It was incredible. Now I know a lot more. Still incredible. So I stayed around.

3. How do you see Alchemy, Growth, and Transformation in your own life?

I used to spend a lot of time thinking that changes would only happen in certain spaces and contexts, like in a therapist’s office or during a yoga training. But we spend so much time looking to those spaces that we waste the incredible energy we use to live when it could be channeled into an intensely powerful alchemical process, moving the mind from normal state to a sublime one. What I mean is that going to a deli and ordering a sandwich can be an extremely spiritual experience. Same with commuting to work. Same with entering “the boring, comfy phase” of a relationship. Same with me typing these answers out to you. If you understand how to apply the mindset that ignites these experiences, everything becomes an alchemical practice.

I’ll try to explain. Alchemy can’t work unless we are in relationship with others. There’s this stereotype that you have to go away into a cave to be a “real” spiritual person and that’s total bullshit. The idea is that you go away in your mind. You remember that the world comes from you, and you stay in the world, and you practice your ass off. The entire part of the Buddhist path that I find so compelling actually sounds the same as it does in many other traditions: Treat Others How You’d Like to Be Treated. This applies all the way to Enlightenment; it just gets more and more refined and subtle on the way.

It can be difficult to apply this idea to everything all at once. So I work primarily with two very important people: my Lama and my partner. Romantic relationships are a super-powerful alchemical machine. If you take Treat Others How You’d Like to Be Treated down to the core, it’s actually really hard to do. We expect so much of our partners (and our spiritual teachers) without really giving too much. There’s still a wall up. Like, well if they don’t give me this, I won’t give them that. We withhold some love out of the fear of being vulnerable. This is the space I practice in.

4. What are some tools you would recommend to people searching to transform or create alchemy in their own life?

I know I just said all that stuff about I don’t care if your Buddhist, and I don’t, but the Tibetan Buddhist approach to how reality functions has been the best entry point for me, so I have to recommend it. Now that I have it, all the Christian tradition I grew up with has started to make sense, yogic practices make sense, and every other religious scripture I have read so far makes sense. And what I mean by “Tibetan Buddhist approach” is really only two things. If you understand them, they change your life: karma and emptiness.

Emptiness can be explained very easily. Half of you reading this think it’s cool. Half of you don’t. And another portion of humans haven’t made it this far down the page. What does that mean? The goodness or badness or boringness of my words is not coming from the words themselves, or even the combination of them, but from your own mind. So, these words are “empty” of a nature of goodness or badness. That’s emptiness. The blank screen of reality that applies to everything.

So what does that mean? The goodness or badness is coming from you somehow. So if you don’t like what I’m saying, it’s your fault. That’s kind of a joke but it’s also serious. When we begin to take radical responsibility, we can start to change our reality, because our reality is also a blank screen. This is the idea of karma. That if reality is empty, or blank, it is my mind that is creating it. Karma is a movement of the mind. It is created when we think, speak and act. If it’s true that the world is created that way, we must treat others how we want to be treated. Again, this is a very radical way of living. And it can be difficult, but it’s super powerful. It’s good to connect with someone else who is doing it; a teacher or community of practitioners.

That brings me to my second point: patience is necessary in the science of turning the mind into gold. Many Americans and Europeans want to purchase the answer to their lives straight away. Buying a gym membership and drinking this juice will make me healthy which will make me happy immediately. If I listen to this spiritual teaching once or twice my life will change. Not true. Actually, spiritual practices take a lot of time. It doesn’t mean it is not enjoyable. If we begin to apply the teachings gently and thoroughly the outer and inner world begin to change in ways where we never thought we could be so happy or so satisfied or so free.

Bio:

Rachel Webb has trained simultaneously in yoga and mental health for the past decade and in Tibetan Buddhism for the past 6 years. She has completed a meditation teacher training and private yoga teacher training in 2017 and is en route to complete a 6 year Buddhist philosophy certification  in 2019. She is has served as a peer coach for social workers using the Motivational Interviewing counseling technique. She has over 6 years of experience working with people diagnosed with serious mental illness assisting them in achieving wellness goals. Rachel has hosted several therapeutic groups on relationship health over the past year and is currently working on relationship wellness workbooks that combine modern psychological approaches with Buddhist techniques. Rachel is currently teaching yoga and meditation classes in Manhattan, and takes clients for coaching sessions. You can reach her at rachel@threejewels.org to schedule a private session or interview.

Christine Alfred

1. Tell us a little bit about the work you’re doing with The Alchemist’s Kitchen! Why education and production? What’s your connection to plants?

I work closely with herbalists, thought leaders, intuitive and energetic healers, and spiritual teachers to create experiences that support the evolution of humanity on a whole, while also creating awareness of the importance of caring for our land and waters.  My love and curiosity for all forms of healing modalities and building relationships with individuals, dedicated to transformation and universal development, has led me to serving TAK’s community as Director of Events. I feel that we are in the midst of a major universal shift, and now more than ever, this form of education is needed to aid in guiding us, so that we may feel empowered and remember who we are.

I also produce select off-site immersive events that emphasize the power of sound, scent, energy, and plants. I strive to create experiences that immediately transport it’s participants to a state that transcends space and time. It’s becoming increasingly easier for the average person to harness technology, and create multi-sensory environments that can help us tap into higher realms of consciousness. It’s an exciting thing to be a part of.

My connection to plants originates from my family and culture. I was born in Haiti, where the use of herbs is a lot more common than here in America, not only for healing illnesses in the body, but in maintaining one’s overall health, as well as developing a relationship with nature. As I grew older, I became more fascinated with plants and herbal remedies, specifically regarding the significance and uses of particular plants in their native regions. I eventually decided to take an herbalism course led by Peeka Trenkle at the open center, which was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.  In learning how to work with plants, I began to understand how to listen to my body. Peeka is a brilliant herbalist and healing facilitator, and I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to study with her.

2. And Awarehouse! Tell us about your work with sound and meditation!

My partner, Bobby, and I first conceived of Awarehouse a few years ago when we realized that even in a city as big as New York, after around 10 PM the only activities available to most people are things that involve alcohol or other unhealthy habits. The initial vision for this project was to have a place where people could socialize, relax, or unwind in a healthy environment. Since then we’ve both been on a path of deep learning, and we’re always incorporating new practices and techniques, such as Sound Meditation, Reiki, and herbalism, into our lives and events.

Our goal with Awarehouse is to create immersive experiences that are intrinsically gratifying while promoting transpersonal growth and healing. We draw on all systems of knowledge, from the ancient and occult to the futuristic and accessible, focusing on the power of community and creativity.

We regularly facilitate Sound Meditations which combine Acoustic Sounds with guided visualization techniques, breathwork, focused listening practices, aromatherapy, and various other energetic, intentional, and evidence based systems designed to return the mind-body to its natural state of growth and healing.

We’re currently planning the launch of our website and bi-monthly event schedule that aims to deepen our relationship with the natural cycles by coinciding with the phases of the moon.

Remain Aware

3. Describe your journey in getting to this place in your life and to this work?

My healing journey started when I began the work to overcome the depression and sense of low self-worth that I believe was linked to traumas that I experienced earlier in life. At some point I hit a wall, and out of sheer necessity I began to research and study any and every healing modality I could find. This is when I first became acquainted with holistic practices such as meditation, kundalini yoga, and energy work, but the real turning point for me was about 9 years ago, when I went to Brazil to participate in a plant medicine ceremony. While the medicine itself had a profound effect, it was the guidance of my teachers that ultimately shifted my perspective. The lessons I’ve learned through their counseling over the years have taught me the importance of working with herbs, caring deeply for the preservation of nature, and honoring my ancestors. Most importantly, I’ve learned that the real work begins when ceremony is over and you can begin to integrate the lessons in the everyday.  Life is the real ceremony. I try to see every person I meet as a mirror, and every obstacle as an opportunity for growth. I’m continually educating myself, and utilizing the tools I acquire to not only elevate myself, but to be of service to everyone I meet.

4. How do you see Alchemy, Growth, and Transformation in your own life? Why is it important to you?

As a scorpio, I feel like I’m constantly dying to be reborn, shedding the old to get to the new.   The Nameless Arcanum, or number XIII of the Major Arcana in a Tarot deck, is a perfect visual representation of my views on alchemy and transformation. The card contains a drawing of a skeleton holding a scythe, who is actively working the ground below them. Jodorowsky says, “This card invites a radical purification of the past, a revolution that takes place in the nonverbal or preverbal depths of the individual, in the shadow of that black terrain, that unknown region of ourselves, from which emerges, like a matrix, our humanity… The black ground on which Arcanum Xlll is working is reminiscent of the nigredo of alchemy, or the mire from which the lotus emerges in Buddhist tradition”.

I see Alchemy as not only important, but necessary. I believe that it’s our responsibility to transmute our ancestor’s (our parents, grandparents, etc) unresolved issues through our own healing work. While this is an intrinsically intense undertaking, I find it extremely beautiful.

5. What are some tools you would recommend to people searching to transform or create alchemy in their own life?

  • Create a daily morning ritual aimed at grounding and centering
  • Explore altar work
  • Practice and of the various forms of meditation(Jonathan Goldman + source vibrations are great to listen to if you have trouble sitting still)
  • Express gratitude
  • Engage with a community(group activities such as sound meditations or new/full moon events are great)
  • Energy work(reiki, la hochi, qi gong, etc.)
  • Breath work or conscious breathing techniques
  • Anything that helps you achieve a flow state(surfing, running, dancing, yoga, etc)
  • Be of service to others (volunteer, help your friends and family, donate to those in need, etc)
  • Write. The Artist Way is a great tool if you feel blocked

 

Bio:

Christine is a Reiki Master of traditional Usui Reiki and a therapeutic sound facilitator. As an intuitive empath, she establishes connections with the body’s innate wisdom to facilitate a natural state of growth and healing, and to better provide the support of Reiki and sound where it is most needed. Christine attributes her dedication to personal and universal development to the teachings received from her grandmother, and her strong connection to the culture of Haiti, where she was born. She completed her Reiki training at the New York Open Center School for Holistic and Professional Learning. She currently serves as director of programming at The Alchemist’s Kitchen where she curates transformational and educational events for the community. She is also co-founder of a Awarehouse, a project aimed at creating immersive experiences focused on the power of plants, sound, intuition, and art.

Kira Saundra

1. For those of us who aren’t familiar with Shadow Work can you tell us a little bit about that process?

Shadow Work is the Jungian (Carl Jung) concept of working with what we don’t know, we don’t know : what lies inside the sub/unconscious mind. Every time we repress/reject something about ourselves, it plants a seed and creates belief systems that keep us bound to our limitations. Our conscious mind is a small sliver of what is the Truth within. The tip of the iceberg of who we REALLY are.  What makes the Panther Process so radiant and unique is the exploration of the Shadows through the sensory landscapes (live sound, chromotherapy, rare oils, etc) guided by a rich tapestry of global curated modalities (Evolutionary Astrology, THETA, Reiki, Yoga, Transformational/Shamanic Breathwork – to name a few). This alchemy of methodology enables transformation of blockages on psychological, cellular (physical body), and energetic levels to clear, rebuild, and reprogram integrating these Shadows into a new sense of acceptance and personal Freedom. Panther is truly a chrysalis to face all you Fear safely… with inspiration and joy. Owning all parts of you with grace.

2. How did you come into this modality of work? How did The Panther Process come to be?

Panther was something always inside me, yet unnamed. Inherent gifts since as long as I can remember, years of study, and loads of experience. Giving myself permission the full experience of LIFE without judgment-  to be Free to explore all parts of me. The culmination was when I was living in Bali (2016)…riding my motorbike one evening under the stars with headphones in my ears drifting through the rice paddies. I got a download of the whole vision of Panther and I accepted the Dharma. It’s a Process of Death and Rebirth, a coming home to Self. It will continue to morph and grow, holding space for thousands in highly conceptualized experiences to rock out all of Life in their personal superpowers.

3. How do you see Alchemy, Growth, and Transformation in your own life?

Growth, Alchemy and Transformation isn’t just IN my life, it IS my life. We are constantly evolving and growing. Accepting the ever flowing currents of life is what makes it so incredible to be alive in this human body. I choose each new experience as an opportunity – more space to explore my deepest Truths. To learn more about what I don’t know I don’t know…. and everything in between.

4. Tell us a little bit about the Archetype or Symbolism of The Panther.

The Panther is an ancient representation of feminine lunar energy, the dark moon, and ancient mysticism holding the secrets of worlds unseen. The truth of creation, death and rebirth. They can show us how to welcome the Shadows and rouse the gifts within. If the Panther has showed up, it invites you to befriend the night and work through your fears. To let go of the old.

5. What are some tools you would recommend to people searching to transform or create alchemy in their own life?

Let go of the Fear to see who you really are, and what you want. This is where true transformation takes place. The level of honesty that will bless you with its Grace from this information will set your Soul on fire with the pace you can shift. There are many tools, many paths to see your Dharma, and the ones that actually work all start with getting REAL.

Bio:

Shadow Worker by birthright, Kira creates a space for metamorphosis. She is honored in service by the invitation to co-create profound moments of change in others. Empath, confidante, provocateur, emotional archaeologist – Kira invokes an expanded consciousness to empower change in each unique individual. She guides an excavation to the core issues of the Soul enabling powerful transformations, liberation, and integration of the fragments of self enabling the step forward into holistic presence.

Kira is a certified advanced-level Theta Healing practitioner and has been trained for over a decade in the school of Evolutionary Astrology. Kira has been implementing and studying Process Oriented and Jungian Psychology since 2009. She has been a certified practitioner of Shamanic/Transformational Breathwork since 2013, a Yoga Alliance certified teacher trained in Bali under Denise Payne specializing in Yin Yoga, a student of Dr. Anodea Judith’s program “Psychology of the Chakras”, and Reiki trained in her home of New York City. Kira carries a wide variety of world medicine from many traditions, including the intuitive arts of essential oil alchemy, Mudra, and Tarot.

The catalyst came through her experience in the consensus world. Kira worked within three different high stress industries while studying her passions, living every life but her own. After a near breakdown she could no longer deny the Freedom inherent in her Soul…who she was born to be. Kira began traveling the world devoting herself to these methods, and fully embodies the Panther realms of ancient ritual. Her initial voyage into the Bardos of Shadow was a gut wrenching, soul convulsing, extraordinary feet. Every piece of the Panther Process Kira guides her clients through, she has danced with…passionately.

She welcomes you into authentic Freedom.

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