Shedding Hair and Shedding Fear

I have wanted to shave my hair since high school, when I met a beautiful, free-spirited friend who sported a perpetually shaved head.  I have decided to shave it now because, after finishing my PhD at Stanford and having my first child, I now know that I can take on much more than I had imagined, and I’ve been trying to put everyday fears aside.  

I’ve been attempting the things I have always wanted to do, but have been too afraid to try.  Following one lifelong dream, I tried out for a punk band, failed, and then helped form my own.  On the career front, I aimed my thesis paper for the highest impact journal and negotiated for a bigger salary. In general, I have been working to live a life free of the fear of things that don’t warrant my fears.  

Additionally, as a parent, I have been working to teach my little son to trust himself, to distinguish between the crucial, elemental fears that help him to survive and the useless fears that prevent him from living a life full of boldness and new experiences.  I am preparing to teach the same to my in-utero daughter someday.  All of this to say, it was time to face the fear of exposure I had always felt at the thought of shaving my head.

After reading my sister’s brave and honest post about the experience of shaving her own head, I started to think more about what that fear signified for me.  It wasn’t only aesthetic or practical.  I don’t often worry about being insufficiently feminine, and pregnancy has gotten me past many of my fears of a dramatically changing body or appearance.  

What I fear is being seen by others as dangerous, untrustworthy, or unfamiliar in a threatening way.  I realized that I have worked hard to keep up the appearance of normalcy, modeling my career, aspects of my personality, and my relationships to avoid appearing too “fringe”.  

Why?  Because when I was 14, after periods of major depression and a few destabilizing manic episodes with elements of psychosis, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  At the time, I was told by people whom I loved and trusted that having a mental health label would mark me forever as an “other”, unlike the people around me, and this planted the seed of the shame I have carried about my diagnosis.  

Compounding this, before learning to manage my disease, I was outwardly marked by it.  In middle school, when everyone was striving for normalcy or a way to fit in, my lack of impulse control and sometimes erratic behavior made it hard to cultivate and maintain friendships.  

High school was easier – I found a niche that fit my unpredictability, learning to channel it into a type of apparent fearlessness that attracted friends.  But the cost was a perception by my peers that I could not be trusted, that I was flaky and spacy, that I had chronically poor judgement.  My erratic behavior led one friend to quietly ask another why I constantly acted like I was on drugs.

 In addition, I was cutting myself regularly, but trying to hide the scars from friends and family.  I wanted to be perceived as “fun crazy”, not “crazy crazy”.  This continued into early college, culminating in flunking out of my freshman year and a suicide attempt that landed me in the ER for several days, first unconscious, then incoherent.  This prompted an intervention by my panicked family that resulted in a several month stay in a dual treatment rehab clinic for mental illness and drug abuse.  Afterwards, I spent several years in and out of inpatient psychiatric treatment facilities.

 For the first time, I recognized that people I loved were afraid for me.  Their fear felt like a daily burden, and I was determined to turn things around and show everyone that I was fine, that I could function and take care of myself.  However, after several years of stability, I had an extended period of psychosis that introduced a new, more deeply internalized fear.

 At the time, I was working as a teaching assistant to middle schoolers, struggling to keep myself together and trying to reconcile my irrational thoughts and feelings with the real world around me.  Years of hearing terms like “bipolar” used to describe someone unstable and irrational, of hearing stories of young people with mental illnesses doing dangerous and violent things, of media and popular culture feasting on tales of unstable women who harmed their partners or children, had left me with the sense that I might be someone who could not only be feared for, but be feared.

 Now I felt that I could no longer trust myself and my perceptions, and I became convinced that if I were exposed, people would literally be afraid of me.  After recovering from this psychotic episode, I found a medication that provided long-term stability, discovered running as a way to dampen the remaining highs and lows, and went back to school to become a scientist.

(photo Constance Brukin)

 I now work in a profession where dependability and trustworthiness are my most essential assets, one that relies on careful and methodical thought and analysis.  In addition, I have become a parent, one of the greatest responsibilities a person can undertake, one that requires consistency, self-control, and again, trustworthiness.

 I am privileged that by now my disease is, for the most part, hidden, that I can pass unnoticed through most of my life.  But when a senior scientist with no knowledge of my diagnosis makes jokes to colleagues about my “having a mood disorder”, or when I make errors that call my dependability into question, I feel panicked and unmasked.

 Similarly, dyeing my hair has always seemed a bit risky and potentially unmasking, but it is increasingly socially acceptable.  To be a woman with a SHAVED dyed head seemed to represent a much more dramatic non-conformity, a way of renouncing societal norms and intentionally standing out as someone who goes against unspoken rules of fashion and gender.  It seemed like something that could out me as fundamentally different from those around me.  

I did it anyway.  Here is why, and here is what I have learned.  First of all, while for practical reasons I must still sometimes tread carefully when talking about my mental illness, in shaving my head I am renouncing the shame of this disease.

 I am powerful, I am a survivor.  My experiences have given me a perspective that is unique and important.  As I have increasingly outed myself, I have met women who share my symptoms as well as the fear of what their disease will mean to others in their lives.  THEY are powerful, THEY are survivors, THEY have taken their lives and transformed them into enriching, successful, connected existences that anyone would be glad to call their own.  

Like me, every one of them has been afraid to talk about their own experiences, and every one has been inexpressibly grateful that someone else is talking about theirs.  We are afraid of owning one of our greatest accomplishments, surviving and thriving with this disease, because we live in a society that questions womens’ emotions, experiences, and perceptions, and pounces on any excuse to invalidate them.

My beautiful naked head symbolizes a shedding of my fear of who I am, and a symbolic shedding of the fears of all women with this disease and other mental illnesses, of the stigma that keeps all of us (your friends, your neighbors, your parents, siblings, and other relatives, and maybe even yourself,  millions of your fellow Americans, over one billion people on this planet) hidden away from the world cowering in fear of discovery.  As the brave, beautiful, and bipolar Carrie Fisher demonstrated with her words and her example, we are all many things; for some of us, one of them happens to be mentally ill.  Or, as Walt Whitman wrote, “I contain multitudes”. I am a mother, a scientist, a runner, a musician, a wife, a sister and daughter, a friend, and someone with bipolar disorder. And I am not afraid.

Check out Brook’s Transformation from a few months back HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Energetic Self-Care for Empathic Hairstylists

Every hairstylist knows what it is like to come home feeling drained, anxious, un-grounded, wired, exhausted, buzzed, zapped, empty, overfilled. Sometimes we experience all of these feelings at the same time, and it can take a long time to wind down, it can make sleeping hard, and we can be very irritable with our families and friends.

After a day behind the chair, we have effectively soaked up the energy of everyone who has been in our chair, and every hair that we cut. This is an invisible side effect of working with the emotional and energetic weight of other peoples hair. It is very real, and it is something that we need to be careful and mindful about, just like we care for our physical bodies.

Today, while this baby naps in the other room, I am attempting to pull it together enough to share a few important tools for Energetic Self-Care to help hairstylists, and anyone else who works closely with other peoples identities and physical bodies.

Grounding

Before you start your day, take 5 minutes to ground yourself. Do this before you have had your coffee. Find a quiet place without distractions. If you can sit on the ground outside somewhere that is best……Pavement is okay but grass or dirt or anything natural is ideal. Put your phone away.

Take some big breaths through your nose, deep into your belly. Release any tension that your body is holding onto. Clear your mind by visualizing a big, old tree whose leaves are gently moving in the wind. The sun glints through its branches and it is strong and solid. Visualizations are like watching a movie in your mind, but with the alchemy of imagination.

Imagine that you are this tree. Picture it in your mind. If it is too much of a stretch to imagine yourself a tree, just imagine the tree as itself. Don’t get frustrated if it seems hard to keep your mind quiet enough to focus on being a tree. This is a practice, it gets easier, and every day will be different. The intention of grounding is enough to help ground you so don’t get hard on yourself. Imagine that your roots are growing  into the ground. Imagine them busting through soil, making their way deep down into the earth.

Feel the feeling of being held to the earth firmly, strongly in your body, rooted to the source of energy and strength that the earth provides. Breath here, and be here for a few minutes.

Throughout the day, when you start to feel like you are losing yourself, remember this tree and its roots. Come back to your body.

 

Uh Oh! baby crying. Be back soon!

 

Breath

Start to be aware of your breath. Understand that when you breath in, you are clearing new space and nourishing your entire body with oxygen and when breath out you are breathing out what you no longer need, physically and energetically. When we take on negativity or unwanted feelings from other people without knowing it, our breath becomes our ally for letting that energy go. But this takes some awareness. Often we hold tension in one part of our body throughout the day, without even knowing it. This restricts our breath, our vital life source.

Check in with yourself every so often, and scan your body for where you are holding tension. My belly is where I hold the most tension, also my jaw. Breath into these places, long and steady. Soften them. Breath out all the energy you hold that you have taken on from others. We don’t need to carry it. We need to help them channel it, and then breath it out ourselves.

Sheilding

When you find yourself feeling bombarded or unprotected, or like you are soaking up too much and it is starting to weigh on you, perhaps you are working with a particularly intense person, or being a listening ear for a client who is going through some heavy shit, It is time to put on your shield. This is self-protection and self-preservation and is showing respect to both yourself and your client. They don’t want to bring you down! But many folks also don’t know how much we take on as stylists……Again, energetic self-care is so crucial.

This is a tool you can use at the beginning of the day, during a service when things get energetically intense, or before a particular client shows up who you know you need some energetic boundaries with.

Take a few deep breathes. Close your eyes for a few seconds and call in your color of the day. You might see a color clearly in your minds eye. You might here a voice that says “yellow!” in your mind, or perhaps you will see your color spelled out P-I-N-K. Don’t second guess it.

This is the color of your shield today. And the color is important. You may choose to use the same color for every sheild but I like calling in my color on a daily basis because I can’t ever decide on one to stick with.

Imagine that a halo of colored light is spreading over your entire body, covering you with a soft glow, an aura, if you will. This is your shield, and it is an energetic boundary that keeps  dark energy from entering your forcefield. When you start feeling bombarded, or like you are taking on too much from someone else, imagine this shield protecting you, as their energy bounces off of you and dissipates into the air.

Clearing

A common way to clear energy throughout the day is smoking, and lots of us do it without realizing why we feel we need it so much. It is obviously not a healthy option and I think that we crave a way to clear off energy that hangs on us in between clients and this is why we so often reach for tobacco. We physically need to clear ourselves of what we carry for others. A nice alternative to smoking is smuge and incense. I smudge after every day behind the chair, myself and my work space. Check out this DIY.

My favorite way to clear energy in between clients is sweeping the floor. It brings me great pleasure as a meditative whisking away of stagnant energy that is held in the hair that has been cut away. Imagine as you sweep, that you are clearing unwanted weight and energy from your workspace and making a safe and peaceful space for you and your next client to drop in together.

Restoring

This is my favorite part. Water is life. Water is the most healing and restorative medicine for empathic people. Remember this…….Any time you are losing your shit and need to calm your nerves, or heal a broken heart or a broken ankle, go to the water and let her work her magic.

I take a bath after a work day. Simple as that. I often add epsom salts for my soar muscles and herbs and flowers depending on what I have around me but water alone is the medicine. Be near it. Be in it. Listen to it, watch it, drink it (Spring water if possible.)

My recipe for honoring and healing and restoring my hands after a long day (we all know that our hands are our hardest working and most important/ under appreciated tools, not to mention the physical entry point for energetic transfer between our clients and ourselves )is simply this……….

Rest your hands on the surface of water. A bowl of water, a sink full, a bath tub, a lake, whatever you can. Gently let your hands float ever so lightly on the top of the water. There is an unmeasured and profound restorative energy source that lives on the surface of water and has the capacity to recharge your whole body through your hands.

This shit might sound so woo to you. And it is. And it works wonders. Please try it, and take good care!

I invite you to share this post with friends who may find it useful, these tools have really helped me and I wish I would have learned them long ago!

 

A Conversation on Ancestral Haircare with Becca Piastrelli

Hello my dears.

Today, my heart is heavy because I am not on my way to the Spirit Weavers Gathering which takes place on it’s own beautiful homeland in Southern Oregon, where many of my dearest sisters are communing together and preparing and blessing the land for 600 women who will meet this weekend and next for a sharing of ancestral earth skills, sacred activism, healing, empowerment, adornment, and on and on and on.

I have been to this gathering the past 2 years, and it has filled an empty longing in my heart that I had carried with me my entire life. I didn’t know why exactly I wanted to go in the first place, I just felt drawn to it and now I know why……Because it has facilitated in me a necessary awakening that holds me to my path in a beautiful space with many other seeking souls.

I could really go on and on here but I don’t want to go too deep right now, I just have to get off my chest how sad I feel to miss it this year. No regrets on my choice not to go, I’m simply too pregnant. I’m just having spiritual FOMO and missing my sisters and the forest. Thanks for bearing with me.

Today, I want to take a minute to share with you a beautiful conversation that I had a few weeks back with Becca Piastrelli, Bay area writer and Blogger whom I met at last  year’s Spirit Weavers Gathering. 

She hosted me in her beautiful Mill Valley home for a Braid/ Haircare Workshop a few months back, and then got back in touch about doing an interview on the topic of Hair as Adornment, Self-care, Brushing Ritual, Braids and Ancestry. We dropped in together over video-chat and she asked me some great questions that I really enjoyed answering and am glad to share with you today.

Here is her beautiful intro for the blog post she put together with the video footage.

Words from Becca Piastrelli…..

As I journey deeper into the ancestral traditions of the women of my lineage, I feel all the more connected to my own body.

I often look at my hands with such awe and reverence for what they are capable of and how all the women that came before me are helping to guide them in my daily acts of making (from breakfast to writing emails to dip dyeing fiber in indigo).

Having grown up in this beauty-obsessed culture, feeling comparison with the hair (and bodies) of the women plastered on billboards and in the pages of magazines has come up for me often. There have been times where I’ve hated that I wasn’t blonde, didn’t have curly enough hair, didn’t have straight enough hair, or sucked at making it look good.

But a lot of that has shifted over the past year as I’ve begun a deeper exploration of my hair as an expression of who I am and my connection to the earth and the people who came before me.

Here is the post/ video Interview. Give it a look, and let us know your thoughts!

Also, follow Becca here on IG for more life musings for the creative heart.

 

Thank you for being here, lots of love.

RJH

Peace Braid

Good morning my dears.

It has been a while since I have spoken from the heart here and I want to take a minute today to drop in.

I have been thinking a lot about what is working in the world around us, today. What are the things that we live for, the things that keep us connected and hopeful. Where are the places that don’t require resistance to make great change, and in fact maybe require us to do the opposite of resist: Lean in, move toward, flow.

Finding moments of peace, appreciating the beauty around us in the small things and cultivating the feelings of standing for, and living for something instead of in opposition. There is something very powerful there.

Here is what I have been up to: Preparing food and eating. Growing a baby. Braiding hair. Growing a baby. Traveling and sharing hair wisdom. Growing a baby. Connecting with communities. Growing a baby. Crying and laughing. Taking walks, loving flowers, bringing in the Spring. Loving my family and being driven mad by them, reading. Growing a baby.

The activism of Fall and Winter has softened into a deep search for the answers to “where is my energy best spent for the common good, and for the good of this small microcosm which is my body, myself, my family, my immediate community, etc.

Reading has felt revolutionary. The People’s History is almost finished, I’m just working my way slowly through the Reagan years. The teachings of Malcom X is really shifting some things for me, having been raised on the peaceful/ non-violent teachings of Dr. MLK. Braiding Sweetgrass blew my heart open. The Power of Habit empowered me with new insight into behavior. Walking the Medicine Wheel really made me think about healing in a different way. There are more: But let’s start with these.

I had the pleasure of spending some time in Portland last weekend, with my dear friend and fellow hair healer Stefani Padilla of La Tierra Sagrada Hair.

We taught a workshop together on Hair Ritual, and we facilitated a Peace Braid Meditation with a circle of women and men, joined in a continuous braid, while invoking and sharing visions of peace and what that means to each of them.

The circle was hosted by Alea Joy of Solabee Flowers, a beautiful bloom shop in PDX. She helped us adorn the Peace Braid with cherry blossoms, roses, cymbidium orchids, daffodils and beautiful botanical greenery. 

The next day, we celebrated the 1 year anniversary party of Solabee in their current location in NE Portland. I braided flowers into people’s hair, and Stef did trims and shared her Hair Medicine while party-goers gazed at beautiful blooms and drank violet champagne cocktails. 

Was just lovely, and so nice to spend some time with a new community. Thanks PDX, for taking good care of me.

I am sending love and peace to all of you who are reading this, and I’m curious: What brings you the most peace right now?

 

xo, HTHG

Free Your Hairoscope: Aquarius!

coverFriends old and new, thanks for visiting us today for the 2nd edition of the Free Your Hair HAIROSCOPE.

I offer this series to all as an ever-changing and morphing guide for Hair-Centered Radical Self Care, Ritual and Beauty in honor and tribute to each sign as they enter into their place in the Sun Rotation.

With this Hairoscope, we hope to inspire each sign of the zodiac to take some extra time on their birthday month to really love on and care for themselves. Every month, we will pull a card to share from The Moon Deck to inspire your monthly self-care ritual. With the sage advice of The Moon Deck, we will adapt our monthly mantras to bless and honor our own hair. We invite you to share these monthly Hairoscopes with your friends who are of that month’s astrological sign and help them take some time for self love!


img_6721-1For this series, I worked with artist Madison McClain to create our women of the horoscope, and with intuitive writer and healer Aarona Ganesan, co-creator of The Moon Deck, which is the Tarot Deck I use daily to inspire my own personal self-care rituals.

This month, we honor the Aquarians 

Moon Deck Ritual:

(Words and Rituals adapted from the Moon Deck Guidebook, changed slightly to speak specifically to our hair.)

Hair Brush Mantra:

Forgiveness is potent medicine and one of our most important spiritual practices we can cultivate. When we forgive, we allow our lives to move forwards with more ease. 

Deep challenges and past hurts may hold your greatest gifts and be the doorways to incredible insight, growth, and compassion. When you forgive yourself or others, you say YES to life and open up to something more aligned.

Although we may want the other to apologize first, we can’t control  one another. By saying ‘no’ to the harboring of negativity and suffering, we take full responsibility for how we feel, clean up disharmony within ourselves, and allow love and acceptance to prevail.

Surrender control, let go of blame, and receive the underlying teaching. You are ready to take the first step. Bring love into your own being this very moment.

Here is Your Hair Mantra for this month….

‘I Forgive and Let Go with Loving Ease ‘


Take 5 minutes today to brush this mantra into your hair, repeating it to yourself with every stroke. Be in a comfortable, calm place without distraction. Close your eyes and breath, centering your body as you brush. If you are not a regular hair brusher, here is why we think you should try it, and here is where to get yourself a beautiful hair brush to work into your hair care ritual. If you are more of the combing type, consider a wooden wide toothed comb or your own fingers for a relaxing scalp massage.

Lavender/Amethyst Bath:

Amethyst is a crystal which is associated with inner peace and healing grief, while tiny delicate Lavender flowers are used to bring calmness and comfort to the body and soul. This month, to aid in our time of bringing the intention of Forgiveness, prepare a bath to soak your hair and body steeped in the subtle magic of your purple allies. 

The effect of your healing bath will be both subtly powerful, especially following up a hair brush session, complete with this month’s mantra. 

-Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of fresh or dried lavender flowers into a hot bath. I recommend the flowers over essential oil because they are the true and unadulterated expression of the plant and more suitable to provide their healing abilities to our true and unadulterated selves. 

-Light a few candles and turn the lights down in the bathroom.

-Hold a small amethyst in each hand as you soak, submerging yourself as much as you feel comfortable. Recite your mantra a few more times, feeling the weight of the stones in each hand, and inhaling the intoxicating scent of lavender. Feel the grief of years of holding grudges against ourselves and humanity soften and slough away. 

-Close your eyes and imagine the color purple. Soft, balanced, and deep, free. 

My Dream Hair, FYI.

 

Hair Advice:

It is all too easy to compare our hair to other people’s hair, and wish we had something different than what we were born with. Many of us have spent plenty of time and energy trying to beat our own hair into submission, frustrated by our flaws held against a standard of ‘beauty.’

Many of us have hair FOMO, which is the Fear Of Missing Out of the experience of having thick hair when our hair is naturally thin. And this can cause us to get stuck in wishing we had something we don’t have, and miss out on an opportunity to really take advantage of what we DO have and make it work for us.

This month, my advice to you Water Bearers is to forgive yourself for all the times that you took your own unique hair for granted, and stop holding yourself back from doing something totally new and unique with your ‘do.

Aquarius Challenge:

This new year is the perfect time to do something you have always wanted to do with your hair, having freed yourself of hair guilt and forgiven yourself of hair hang ups.

Go ahead. Get that bob. Cut some curly bangs. Shit, shave your head.Try a new color or wear your hair totally natural to work one day. Rock it proudly, and move into your next year with your hair held high, having shed the heavy energetic burden of hair FOMO. Love what you’ve got.

Moon Phases in Aquarius:

The New Moon and Full Moon are the most potent times for setting new intentions for healthy habits and relationships and creating rituals that are potent in their action. I highly recommend this months ritual bath be done around both the 27th of January to observe the New Moon, setting an intention of what you are ready to let go of in your life/in your hair/in your relationship to yourself in physical and spiritual form, and around February 10th to observe the Full Moon, setting intention for what you are ready to bring in to your life. What do you want to manifest? Now is the time.

And how do you set an intention? for those who haven’t practiced it……Speak a little prayer to yourself. Honor it with the ritual of preparing a bath steeped in herbs and infused with the magic of yourself and body. Hold the prayer in your heart as you practice self love. Make it so!

Please check out The Moon Deck for more musings. Aquarius babes, may we suggest you get your own deck as a birthday gift to yourself and make a vow to love yourself and your hair more in this coming year.

What would you like to see woven into our monthly Hairoscope? I would love to hear your feedback! We are excited to watch this series grow and change with your input.

xo, HTHG and The Moon Deck

 

 

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