"You Can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink."
It was an imperishable summer night in Bushwick, an ideal night to have a gathering of artists, smoke a shit load of weed, guzzle down as many IPA’s as you can and make plans that would never amount to much. I was there to meet two new friends I had met on a social media group, “NYC Filmmakers.”Turning the knob as if I were entering the complete unknown leaving everything I knew behind I was teleported to a hippie haven, something straight out of a Netflix mini-series. Weed and Nag Champa, cocaine being broken up and being snorted on the dining room table, people hugging each other, it was a total Brooklyn art vibe. Everything was flowing seamlessly.
Curiously making my way around the brownstone labyrinth a staircase that never seemed to end caught my attention along with walls covered in thought-provoking art triggering uncomfortable emotions. The hallways packed with bookshelves laced with crystals, plants, philosophy books and trinkets from all around the world. Noticing a cracked open door I open it. Upon entering the room I was met with a deep Deja Vu as a blanket of copal and sage washed over me. Shamanic tools dressed the altar mounted on the wall with crystals, jars of unknown substances and musical instruments. A gorgeous indigenous man perfectly perched on the bed meditating with a young woman grabs a wooden pipe from his right side, tapping her third eye then placing it in her nostrils. Signaling me to walk past I respectfully oblige. I couldn’t help but be curious as to what was taking place, looking back her places his hand on her heart and begins to chant, proceeding out the window.
Climbing out, stepping further into the unknown the thought of Alice descending down the rabbit hole flashed through my mind. Landing at my destination I was happily overwhelmed by the intoxicating energy, the forest of trees, flowers, lights, and of course all the beautiful girls giggling as they sought their right swipes for the night. The energy was infectious, not a care in the world and total acceptance, you could feel it. Unable to not notice the interesting six-foot, crazy bearded ginger in a little tiki hut lit up with torches surrounded by smoke wearing a tie-dye shirt and an apron that said, “The Dude with the Food.” I couldn’t help it, his presence was so inviting, I had to introduce myself. “Hey Buddy, what’s cracking?” I jokingly bantered, offering a fist pump.
Laughing, pulling out a vegan impossible burger from a box, effortlessly slapping it on the grill he replies, “Oh you know, just cooking up the impossible, making it possible. Lemme guess you’re Luc?” a moment of silence passed by as I accepted him knowing my name when I never gave it to him. “There’s some really interesting vibes here dude, what’s... But how, for real how did you...? ” He interjects, “Well, everything is connected, right? Once you’re tapped in, YOU’RE TAPPED INNNN! The collective is always there for us, just tethered space people traveling the cosmos!” Laughing while one burger is being shoved in his mouth and flipping another simultaneously. The slight tickle of air hitting my nostrils, rushed with an overwhelming emotion of gratitude and love. THUMP THUMP, THUMP THUMP my heartbeats. He continues, “How I see it is like this, you’re right now being shown what’s truly here and been here all along, the divine mirror, homie, internal creates external.” Offering back a fist pump, he builds one of his burger creations, Shocked and befuddled I respond, “Wait wait, did you say the divine mirror? You know about the…” He gracefully interjects, “Yeah bro, that’s all this reality is, or at least how I’ve chosen to see it. Life is a way for you to see yourself, to grow, and to experience true love!” There was something truly magical about that tall ginger, he was reflecting back at me exactly what I needed to hear at that moment, to be present. “But, YO!” He Excitingly shouted, “You gotta try what I call the...ready for it?? ‘The Nothings Impossible Burger!” Laughing hysterically at his own joke, burger crumbs and sauce clinging to his beard like a bunch of mountain repellers, he slings me over the creation. Happily chomping away on his creation, I gushed, “WOW! Dude this is amazing!!? This is HELLA GOOD!! Ya know, we should collaborate, I love cooking, done it for years!” The dude looking half-amused as if he has heard that same line a trillion times replies, “Maybe someday dude, I’m really happy you are enjoying it tho.” I had never felt so alive, so present as I had in that moment with the dude. “Thanks for coming over and introducing yourself Luc, you have great energy! Look, I hate to cut it short but I gotta keep cooking up the “Impossible”, It was a pleasure my dude, enjoy yourself! I’ll be seeing you soon no doubt!! Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you, you ought to go upstairs to the roof, its super dope!” Smiling I say, “No doubt, Dude. It was my pleasure to meet you. But yeah uhh...I’ll head up there now! Thanks! So great chatting with you!!”
Grabbing the fire escape railing, my body felt light, a buoyancy, and familiarity that felt like home. Reaching the roof the illuminating light show was like walking into a phish concert in the 90s, green lasers shooting all around bouncing off of everyone in the crowd, flickering white lights and a stage that was lit up like a space station. A sculpted abstract geometric shape housed the Dj with a projection mapping of jungle-themed imagery flickering on it. “Where am I? Saying to myself, laughing aloud. A hundred people filled the dance floor all of whom were moving like the waves of the ocean. I make my way over to the bar, delightfully greeted by a beautiful androgynous human being. “Hey, stranger! Lemme guess you want that Flaming lips Dogfish huh?” Winking, I didn’t have to answer. “How do they have my favorite beer here? What is going on with this place?” Mumbling to myself in an attempt to slide a few dollars their way. “Uh-huh honey, that one is on me.” Leaning on the bar in full absorption mode, swigging my beer I couldn't help but notice that there were about a hundred people dancing on this makeshift dance floor with some of the most gorgeous people I have ever seen in one place. I don’t mean gorgeous in the vain way that we are used to but they were emitting energy that was contagious, I am sure a large portion of them had ingested a cocktail of drugs but there was something else that was undeniable - their freedom. The crowd was moving as one entity, the music crashing like waves on rocks, the bass vibrating every cell in the body, the DJ was in complete sync with everyone and feeding of the energy, pure magic. I dove into the fete without missing a beat, swaying, I light my spliff but as my thumb rolled unto the metal chamber of my lighter to ignite the spliff, I noticed this super cute girl across the way looking at me. She indulgently watched as I lit up. I quietly snickered under my breath. We started to gravitate towards one another, electric slide style.“Hey, what ya got there?” batting her eyes looking so cute and inquisitive. “Oh, this?” I reply, “It’s white Runtz with a little tobacco, want a hit?” I lobbed it over to her as if we’d been playing a tennis match. “Don’t mind if I do, thanks,” she volleyed back. “What’s your name?” I asked, extending my hand out. “Christine” she replied throwing my hand aside, pulls me into her chest, “Come here!” giving me a big hug. There was powerful energy about her, an irreverent smile, an unmistakable familiarity, celestial in proportion, someone sent from another world to evoke some latent power that had laid dormant in me for months, if not years. Taking a deep pull of the spliff, “And what’s yours?” she asked leaning into my ear, swaying with the beat. “Luc”, back to her ear. Grabbing the back of my head gently pulling me close, “Luc, don’t you love these moments of divine intervention? They’re SO delicious aren’t they?” With a surge of energy, I grabbed her hand. “Hey boo! Can we go over here?!” Pointing to a hammock frantically, “I need to sit down! It just keeps getting more and more…” finishing my sentence, “Trippy?” she asked. “Yes, exactly! I need to lay down for a min, to the hammock?” “Have you ever done mushrooms or any other psychedelics?” I happily asked swaying in the hammock. Giggling, she responded, “well let’s just say that I ate my first eighth of mushrooms before I had grown a full set of boobs okay?” Both laughing I respond, “I assume you mean you were young, I was too, around 16..” I then went into my pseudo-science babble of how tragic my childhood was with my over-bearing, under-cover cop, stepfather and my God-fearing Christian mom, who only wanted the best for me. Before I descended back into my own misery, I turned the tables on her. “What about you?” I asked. “My father was a pastor growing up, so it was difficult always living in the shadow of him, his work and reputation.” For moments we connected through having very similar challenges as children, bonding over the traumas of our past both deeply listening to one another she responds, “thank you for seeing me more than just an object Luc, ya know, more than something to conquer or hook up with. It feels nice to meet someone and not get that feeling they just want to fuck me and just use me to feed their untamed subconscious needs. You boys can be quite the hurt puppies looking for love in all the wrong places, I tell ya.” I had never experienced something so honest with anyone, she continued softly, “You have a nice energy Justin, I too feel seen in a deep way in your presence...” “DING DING - DING DING” phone vibrating I reached into my pocket “OH MY GOD look at the time!” I handed her my phone, it was 3:33 am. “Damn! The synchronicities are so real, right?!” winking and laughing ominously. “Yeah what is time anyway huh?” I asked laughing. “Well, I guess we’ve just experienced how time isn’t linear, huh?” She replied causing us both to laugh. We had been talking for a few hours at this point. People were slowly fading away from the roof and starting to say their goodbyes, some still dancing and others sloppily making out in the gazebo across the way. Handing me the phone back it vibrates and goes off again. Looking at the phone then looking back at me she responds “the River just texted you. Who is the river?” she asked curiously. I reply, “the River is the spiritual guide I met six years ago. She specializes in transpersonal spiritual growth and psychotherapy. She’s largely responsible for my inner healing and growth.” Pleasantly shocked she replies, “wow Lucas, you are something special, I wish more men were as committed to healing as you are. Thank you!” Putting her hand on my shoulder, “Look I gotta go, I’m tired but this was such a great night, one I will never forget! Are you ready to go? Would you walk me out?” Smiling back at her, “Of course, here watch yourself, watch your step.” Grabbing her hand as she descends down the fire escape. I watched her climb down and could help but feel so proud of who I was and how it felt to be seen by someone. It was beautiful to experience something so pure, something so platonic, and something very unusual for me. I had found myself using self-awareness and what I thought I knew spiritually as a way of being able to hook up with girls, total F*&k boy. It was shameful and deeply challenging waking up to this realization of how I was misusing vulnerability and manipulating someone to get what I wanted.
That following week I made and brought banana pancakes over to her. Opening her door, “come on in Luc! Welcome to my little layer, how are you??” laughing and swinging the door shut. Her apartment reflected her entirely, all white, super well lit and very clean. The arrangement of flowers, books, art, crystals was so methodically placed with so much love and attention. It was as though no beat had skipped from the night we met. We picked up right where we left off, “so Luc, tell me something about yourself, it seems like you’re rather self-aware and have a good grasp on yourself and are committed to healing so...What started this recovery process from being, you know, a f*&k boy? If you don’t mind me asking.” Nervous about sharing, fear hitting my gut I took a deep breath and let it out. “Well, about three years ago I had put my hands on my girlfriend after a fight about Mac N’ Cheese..” Anxiously interrupting me, “wait wait wait...You put your hands on her? Justin...that’s not okay.” Shamefully responding, “I know Christine, I was really messed up back then but since then I have been doing everything in my power to right that moment of wrong. I hated myself for years because of what I did. I carried so much guilt and shame on my back I couldn't bear it anymore. You’re one hundred percent right, it wasn’t cool at all. Thank you for that mirror and opportunity to express that to you. I’ve had the River for awhile now, remember my therapist? “Yes, I remember” she said. “Well, it always feels nice to connect with someone and be open with no expectations of anything having to happen or needing to happen.” She took over the conversation, “Look Luc, I want to apologize to you for jumping on you and not letting you finish when you started to tell me what you had done to your Ex. I didn’t mean to react that way” apologetically speaking. I replied, “awe, it’s okay, I really do understand, it can be challenging, as I had felt so guilty and shameful with it, but I don’t take your reaction personally, ya know? To me that says a lot that you own that and apologized” I replied. “But in that very moment telling me you put your hands on a woman, I was triggered. I wanted to judge you, kick you out and yell at you. I was pissed when it was said, really! Ya know, like, imagine what your girlfriend must have felt, and I think about myself being in that situation. That’s a hard pill to swallow, Luc. But I don’t judge you, I really don’t. I thank you that you are not that same person you were back then, I see it and I feel it. Congrats on that you deserve it! My heart filled with gratitude as she smiled back at me.
I was so incredibly grateful for this woman’s honesty. I had never been so candid with anyone else other than my therapist. She really saw me and accepted me for what I was in that moment and not who she thought I was from the past. We sat there for a few minutes just being open and honest about the back and forth that came upon the topic of domestic violence. She understood that people change and that she should never take away the possibility of their growth, we saw eye to eye in that.
As the banana pancake supply started to dwindle, I asked, “What about you? Is there something that maybe you would like to talk about? Looking at me with questioning eyes, wondering if she could really trust me, she unleashed a story that I would have never expected to hear. Taking a deep breath in the rain started to pelt against the window, rattling it. “Okay” pausing taking a deep breath, “so a few years back...I got a call from my father really late at night, around three am. He needed me to come pick him up. I had no idea what was happening, why he was calling me so late, ya know? Something wasn’t right. I received a text message wit his location and that was it, nothing more written. Weird, ya know? Thinking to myself. So I get in the car and start driving to this random-ass location. Driving to pick him up I was panicking, I was worried, speeding on the freeway I felt something was deeply wrong, like REALLY wrong because this was so out of the normal from him, ya know to call me that late and ask for my help. Plus the address of where he was, he was in the hood, I was bugging out...ugh…” She sighs, taking another deep breath, “I arrived at this ghetto motel 6 in some shitty neighborhood around 4:30 am. I got out of the car and ran to room 343 where he told me was at. I flung the unlocked door opened and my heart dropped. I found my father laying on the bed on his stomach, blood everywhere and he was completely dressed as a woman. He had makeup on, a skirt on and the blood was dripping down his legs. There was cocaine all over the table, he was unconscious. It was a nightmare! I was crying hysterically as I lifted my father up and put his arms around my shoulder and hobbled him back down to the car. There was no conversation between the motel and the hospital, I was in shock, I didn’t know what to say, really even know what the hell was going on. When I got to the hospital and pulled up to the emergency entrance, I ran inside screaming for help, crying in hysteria. The nurses came rushing out with the gurney grabbing my father. I was sobbing and sobbing and then a nurse came over and grabbed me and hugged me, consoling me as I was coming undone. I fell to the ground in her arms. Ya know, I was more, angry than anything else, like how could he do this to me? To us, our family ya know??? Listening and holding space for her she started to tear up, continuing while wiping tears from her eyes, “While I was sitting there in the waiting room to find out what happened I was so angry at how he could do this to our family, ya know? It’s all I kept thinking about. Ya know, like, what's going to happen to our family, my siblings, they can’t find this out. I don’t even want to tell my mother. Oh yeah, that was the ONE thing he told me in the car, ‘Please don’t call your mother, PLEASE!’. I mean what the HELL!? Why was he cross-dressing? Who the hell is this man that I call my father? How could he do that to us, HOW Justin?!” Things took a more a personal turn, he pain was still very much real, still for her. I didn’t know what to say, I kept silent for a moment, taking a breath. “Wow Christine, umm damn, I'm sorry…” Silence…. “But imagine what it must have been like for your father to have to hide who he truly was to the people he deeply loved, ya know? Imagine that, it must have been so hard for him. I mean this whole situation is so deep, I’m so sorry.” She took her hands off the table as they had been relaxed somewhat during her telling the story and crossed her arms around her chest, she was fired up. “Are you fucking kidding me?? WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU MEAN? My family is ruined, he RUINED FAMILY! You don’t get it at all, he did this to us, I mean what was he thinking? You’re a total asshole Lucas and need to get the fuck out!!! LEAVE, NOW!” Throwing the rest of the pancakes to the floor in hysteria, I beg..“Christine…I...Please...Christ”. Abruptly interrupting. “GET THE FUCK OUT JUSTIN AND DON’T EVER FUCKING CONTACT ME AGAIN!”
The word sorry flowed out of my mouth like an open faucet going down the drain. Grabbing my belongings perplexed at what just happened and how quickly from one moment to the next everything changed I move quickly. “Was I wrong for saying what I said? What did I do wrong?” I contemplated in my mind while she was yelling at me to leave. I finally grabbed the rest of my belongings and she slammed the door.
It was my natural response to what she had said to bring up what her father must have gone through and to think about what it must have been like for him, on the other side. I saw that she was hurt I but I felt in the moment she wasn’t putting herself into her father’s shoes and seeing what that must have been like to live a life that wasn’t true to you, for so many years. One thing you should know about me is I am a man that will always present another way of looking at something, shifting one’s perspective from the victim. I have battled with enabling my own victimhood and creating stories around it, essentially creating an identity as the victim. I only shared at that moment a perspective that she hadn’t seen, and it just came up, no filter. Her father was really hurt and at that moment I felt that hurt, just enough to share that with her.
Getting home that night I wanted to ‘innerstand’ more clearly what was going on and release this deeply rooted need to be seen and understood. I called a close friend who sold psilocybin and placed an order for delivery. Cleaning my place, setting an intention for that night I light a candle and sit with it on the floor. Holding the bag of psilocybin in my right I prayed out loud, “Oh wise mushrooms, please show me what I need to see, please help me release what no longer serves, please help me to understand.” I know that to the outside world if they were to see and view my process most would say that I am batshit crazy and should be in some sort of asylum, I came undone. Hours into my trip I had been recording myself laughing, talking, making funny noises, crying it was just me letting go and doing self-therapy. During my first year in New York, I met Uncle Psycho(ASAP Ferg’s uncle) on the side of the street on 143rd street in Harlem. I began filming him and following him around (follow me for a second, little anecdote time). I would come home and watch the footage and I would be disgusted with it. I hated it and not because it wasn’t shot well but because of my voice. I hated hearing my voice, anytime I was presented with having to hear it I cringed, I was disgusted with it. A few weeks after that night with the psilocybin, I decided to listen to that night’s recording. I had never heard myself sound so beautiful, child-like loving, funny, crazy, and simply happy. It really took me back. Was this what it felt like to fall in love with yourself? Sitting there on the subway sobbing, fully focused, listening to that recording of myself, I felt so much compassion and love. I loved hearing myself that way; open, raw and authentically myself. It was because of the experience with Christine that the opportunity to turn inwards and inquire about what was my role and part in our connection that I had found deep new self-love. In my life I have chosen to see the world as a physical manifestation of my own psyche, a sort of “Symbolic Perception” as my therapist shared with me, the world is my canvas and my thoughts and actions are the colors and brush painting my reality.
Reflecting back at that moment with Christine and how it triggered me into finding a deep love of self never before had, it also helped me see something else. It made me realize there is a big trap or an unpopular opinion within wanting to “help” others. For those of us on the spiritual path, it is very easy sometimes to want to show a perspective or point out others’ mistakes and flaws. We may even think we are doing something helpful by doing so. I believed I needed to help others to show my value and worth, “If I do this I am seen as lovable and needed.” It’s the tragic flaw of the main character of this movie called, “My life”. If I could go back to that moment with Christine I would have just listened more, asked if I could’ve given her a hug and allowed her to feel the feelings that she felt and waited for another time to share my perspective. If you are someone who deeply and truly wants to help others with all your heart and being you must realize it starts with you and through you helping yourself you go through the lessons of understanding self-compassion, forgiveness and love. We are told in life that the greatest thing we can do is to help others, that our greatest call is to be of service. I don’t disagree with this but I think people get caught in the selfish trap, myself included, of helping others because it makes us feel good and distracts and masks us from deeper dormant traumas we carry. I struggled with seeing this and wrapping my head around this but it’s true. I love doing things that help others but I always had the hidden agenda and that took forever to see. It's important I think to always check your, why. Why am I doing this? Ya know? It was through that moment in time spent with Christine that I was made aware of all that and since have been able to reflect and heal deeply because of that. I no longer talk to Christine, but I pray that she gets as much as I did if not more from spending the time we did together, after all, it is a choice we have to make to grow from our experiences.
It’s only because of the commitment to understanding my own inner workings, practicing forgiveness for myself, being aware patterns and riggers, releasing the victim and working through all that have I been able to have authentic conversations. These authentic conversations and connections happen because of integrated inner work and findings. The information I share with others isn’t regurgitated from something I read or heard to stimulate my intellectual mind, but from direct personal inquiry and experience. If you want to help heal others it’s by simply asking open-ended questions, creating a safe space where vulnerability is respected and leading by our own vulnerability. It’s not mine or your job to show people what we see if they aren’t ready and willing to see it for themselves. Love, compassion, and empathy are the greatest gifts we can offer someone if we truly want to help.