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.

When to Shave Your Head.

So you have been wanting to shave your head forever, but haven’t had the vulva to do it yet. Maybe you, like me, watched Empire Records as a young teen and felt transformed along with Robin Tunney as she shaved her head to melancholy music in the bathroom, sad rebellion in her eyes as her hair fell in clumps into the dirty sink.

Maybe you knew a girl like that in high school, and thought she was the coolest, and wished you were cool enough to make friends with her. Maybe you were that girl in high school, and if so, power to you for being so brave.

I like to answer the question of ‘when is the perfect time to shave my head?’ like this: Never, and Always. 

There is Never a time in life that feels 100% comfortable to shave your head, there will Always be many people to talk you out of it because they are attached to your hair even if you aren’t. Shaving your head will Never not be a totally jump off a cliff’s worth of Adrenaline. Shaving your head will Always freak you out up until the moment you actually take the buzzers to your head, even if you know for sure it is what you want. There will Never be a perfect time to shave your head, until, one day, there is.

And then, you will know. You will be scared shitless. And you will just do it. So be sure to have your clippers ready when the moment hits.

My Shaved Head

This is a drawing of me by my friend Maurice Caldwell Jr. that was done a month or so after I shaved my head……The only known visual documentation that it ever happened. (twas before social media.)

I shaved my head on a whim once. I had been feeling like something wasn’t right, like I was outgrowing my own skin. I was restless and bored. I was hungry for something and I didn’t know what.

So, I showed up early for work one day, shaved my head with the help of a friend, and moved on with my life. It was a real learning experience for me to walk through life without hair. I started noticing more subtleties and nuances about how I felt about myself. It was like putting up a mirror that showed me who I truly was, instead of who I thought I wanted to be.

I realized that other people not thinking I was pretty was not actually that upsetting. I realized that I liked the feeling of looking unexpectedly, uniquely like myself for once. I realized that being mistaken for a boy wasn’t a problem for me. I realized that I had a lot of unlearning to do in my personal life and in my career.

I found out I was pregnant with my daughter Marley 2 weeks later. I was bald and pregnant. Life was all the sudden very interesting and colorful. I all of the sudden had real life choices to make, and the budding agency and confidence to make them. I was transforming to a new life M.O. as I realized that I was the one in the drivers seat.

Great Reasons to Shave your Head:

 

  • Because you are drunk and you are in a bar bathroom in Berlin and someone dares you to.
  • To show your mom who you really are.
  • Because you are going through a breakup.
  • Because you find yourself unnecessarily stuck in a cycle of obsession with how you are seen by others and you want to break free.
  • Because you are ready to start living life differently.
  • Because something hasn’t felt right for a really long time and though you may not understand it, you are ready to move past it.
  • Because you just experienced a major shift.
  • Because you just lost someone you really love. 
  • Because you want to atone for energetic karma.
  • Because you are on the verge of a major change and you realize that there will never be the right time, so the time has to be now. 
  • Because you are ready to jump off the hamster wheel of harsh chemical hair treatments and start fresh.
  • Because you are going to lose your hair to Chemo
  • No reason at all, but because something besides reason tells you to just fucking do it.

 

This last one is important to me personally, because I have had the honor of working with many women who are embarking on their Chemo Journey, and It is such a powerful experience to take control of the destiny of your hair in a time when so much is happening to your body that feels out of control. The Chemo head shave is a deeply transformative ritual that begins the process of loving, honoring and healing the body throughout the  experience of Cancer Treatment. It also just makes it easier to emotionally deal with quick hair-loss to just remove the hair first and move on.

DIY Head Shave 

I am in favor of the DIY head shave, because it is a little more personal when you do it yourself, and it is nearly impossible to mess up. All you need is a whim, some music, a dry head of hair, a 3 way mirror, clippers and a #3 guard.

You can also ask a friend to be on hand to clean you up around the edges as-needed.

Before you start shaving, think about what you are letting go of by removing your hair. Give yourself a big hug for making the conscious choice to let go and move on. Get ready to greet yourself with love and celebration on the other side. 

Start buzzing.

Our next several blog posts will document women in times of transformation, shaving their heads and celebrating with color.

xo, HTHG

 

 

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