Reflections on Shaving my Head

I would like to thank Rachael Nilsson of Tree Trunk Wise Yoga for her bravery and creativity in the process of creating this fundraiser. It was an honor to help facilitate, and we sure hope to keep the hat passing around to continue raising money to protect our sacred wild lands through your donations to the NRDC. Please donate here!


REFLECTIONS ON SHAVING MY HEAD

It came to me in a dream, the idea to shave off my hair.

Shortly after the idea had implanted itself into my consciousness this way, a friend put out a call for women seeking to shave their heads to release something. She wanted to offer them a space for a healing ritual head-shaving, followed by her painting prayers and colors into the newly shaved heads.

It took me a while to contact her. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t having some kind of a mid-life “crisis”. I also wanted to do some good with the momentous occasion. After all, it’s not every day I shave my head– perhaps I could extend the reach of the positive results beyond my own healing ceremony.

So, I decided to raise funds for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). I asked for twice as much as I thought I could raise. I raised almost twice that in only a few days. Turns out, shaving your head for a cause gets people fired up.

Before the ceremony, I reflected: What was it I wanted to let go of in my personal life? What was I asking to be reborn as through this head-shaving?

I realized that the biggest meaning in my making this public and tying it to a fundraising campaign was this:

I finally wanted to step into the light and be public about my passion for activism.

As a female– in particular, someone raised in the South– I grew up learning that I could care about things, but that being perceived as too opinionated and outspoken made me seem intimidating, and being honest about my views often made me feel judged.

Even within my own family– arguably, a supportive one, and without too much hyperbole in their adherence to gender roles– I found myself becoming afraid to speak up about things I was learning, things I found really disturbing in the world and our country.

The more I learned, the more I realized that learning can be very uncomfortable. And as someone who studies the mindful exploration of that discomfort, I’ve come to know one thing for sure:

Most people are not comfortable with being uncomfortable.

So, I made assumptions about the people around me– that they did not want to be made uncomfortable by someone who was in their own process of learning and personal growth. I made assumptions that people’s opinions of me might change if they knew that I felt strongly about social issues. I made assumptions about myself– that I wouldn’t be able to handle those conversations within my own family or– on the opposite, much larger end of the scale– if I decided to start writing publicly about my beliefs (outspoken women online are very often victims of extremely violent verbal abuse and reactivity, mostly from white, straight males).

With the exception of that last part, my assumptions were not really based in truth as much as they were formed by a social construct I’d been working within since my birth into the female gender.

Granted, I’d been opinionated (even angry) and political as a teenager– perhaps that was the closest I’ve come to showing that part of myself– but people expect teenagers to experiment with personalities and to exaggerate emotional responses. They also expect them to grow out of it at some point.

At that same time, I was also learning to be funny and charming on cue, and to call upon my feminine softness at will to smooth over situations in order to keep the peace or to keep face or to stay safe. It’s a skill that’s valued in women in our culture more highly than intelligence or leadership.

By shaving my head for a cause, I was going to confront that idea head-on. 

A friend shared a story with me about mundan, a ritual head-shaving ceremony in India, in which (first babies, and later adults) shave their heads to rid themselves of past karmas. The hair is then thrown into the Ganges river as an act of release and purification.

As I ran the clippers over my scalp, I practiced presence and breath. I was with myself in that moment, not needing to speak or to think, but only knowing: Everything is Yoga.

This is the Yoga of Action. This is the Yoga of Renewal. This is the Yoga of Death and Rebirth.

I collected the long strands of hair that fell around me and imagined that they had been all of the worries growing out of my head, manifesting into a physical form– old karmas and beliefs ready to be let go. I would make an offering of them to the earth and water in another ceremony.

 

EPILOGUE

By far, the hardest part about this new look for me has been having my newly fuzzy head painted blue– somewhat surprising, since I had been wearing green at the ends of my long hair for much of the previous year.

It’s made me confront my vanity in a new way. It’s made me realize that, even with a shaved head, I had assumed I could pass for a relatively “normal”– i.e. quiet, unobtrusive, and relatable– person when in the presence of others.

But having a shaved head that is also painted blue (and with art on top of that– I mean, I don’t even feel comfortable wearing t-shirts with slogans), has made me see the depth of my self-consciousness, especially where wearing my beliefs on my sleeve– or head– are concerned.

Plus, removing your hair puts all of your perceived imperfections in a new light– wrinkles, sun spots, and crooked noses and mouths all come into full view given the new space to blossom.

As women, we can spend a lifetime trying to get to a place where we are finally comfortable with our appearance. But how much of that is the habitual building of comfort? –Comfort in wearing a certain type of clothing, comfort in styling our hair a certain way, comfort in never leaving the house without x, y, or z on our faces…

We can build our whole lives in such a way as to keep the most vulnerable parts of ourselves protected, fearing that their exposure might leave us so exposed that we could shrivel up on the spot and cease to exist. We may deny that these parts of ourselves even exist, because to acknowledge them would be to call out their hiding place, to shine a light on them, and to look them straight in the eye.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to draw on my yoga and mindfulness practices to observe these reactions in myself while realizing that they are much more fleeting and less overwhelming than they might have been at another time in my life.

I understand that this is a necessary gift– the gift of testing a part of myself that’s been allowed to stay comfortable.

My hair will not be blue forever, and, of course, it will grow back. This is a only temporary change in physical appearance, but a good reminder that the reality is that we change every day.

We are all constantly changing, aging, and evolving. And to do so with pieces of ourselves hidden away, or with fear rather than admiration of what our aging appearance and our personal evolutions might say about us, is to deny ourselves a graceful way of being, the artfulness of inhabiting ourselves, and the chance to reflect back to others that authenticity is the only true beauty– and a very powerful one at that.

Please visit Rachael’s blog here for more musings:)

xo

Brook’s Hair Transformation

Babes:)

Welcome back to the 3rd Edition of HTHG’s Ritual Hair Shave/ Paint/Transformation. This time, we feature my sister and muse, Brook.

Brook had wanted to shave her head for years. She had a beloved friend in high school who had a shaved head, who we all woman-crushed on for her fierce look and rebellious independence.

Brook recently started singing and song-writing in a punk band, and to celebrate her first stage debut, it seemed the perfect time for a shave and paint. So, we shaved her head, leaving a few bits and pieces around her face and featuring the uniqueness of her awesome head shape and hairline. Then, I bleached her and mixed up her colors. 

This time, I had drawn out a rough idea of what I wanted to do with her color, and free-hand painted it into her hair. Was such a blast. She is such a brave Aries woman.

Check out our IG for more video footage of this series, under the hashtag #hthgtransformation

xo, HTHG

Maddie’s Hair Transformation

Hi babes. Welcome to round 2 of Ritual Head Shave/ Hair Transformation. Meet Maddie. She answered my IG call for Head Shave Models, and I answered her call for wanting a reason to shave her head. 

She was reserved about wanting to fully expose her ears, which is so common for women.  When we shaved her head, we revealed her beautiful ears and she was just stunning. 

For her color concept, I worked from inspiration of these green bubbles. I had had a sense that green would be an important color to her, and it was, and it looked perfect on her.

Check out Howtohairgirl IG for more video footage from this series, and stay tuned for next weeks Transformation edition:)

xo, HTHG

 

Michele’s Ritual Hair Transformation

Welcome to the first edition of this beautiful saga of hair transformation!

This series will be mostly photo-documentation, with just a little intro to each woman. I considered going in do much deeper depth about the how’s and why’s of each woman’s personal transformation story but it seemed that the photos were enough to tell the tale.

Know this, though……I put a call out on my Instagram for women who are wanting to mark a transition in life by shaving their head and letting me bleach and paint colorful prayers into their heads afterwards. I heard from many interested women, who had been waiting for a reason to do this. It seemed that I was answering their call as they answered mine. I knew It was worth pursuing. 

Michele’s Transformation began with writing down an intention that she set for moving forward in her life. She shaved her own head, to mark the release of her intention into the universe. She burned her intention and her hair outside to bring in the elements of fire and air to burn through obstacles standing in her way of moving forwards.

Then, as witness and artist and co-facilitator, I painted prayers of color and vibrancy into her hair after bleaching her stubble to a soft white. 

The experience was very experimental, powerful, joyful and transformative. Thanks to Michele for her bravery, and for all of you who are witnessing. 

Please check out a small video of the process on my IG, under the hashtag #hthgtransformation

xo.

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

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