On My ReBirthday
On the eve of Friday December 8, I threw a ReBirthday dance party ceremony to celebrate the end of my 7-year healing journey.
These years since I stood up suddenly, blacked out, and fell off a waterfall on Jan 10, 2011 have been a journey I could have never imagined. One that I’m forever grateful for because I grew into a greater version of myself—more alive, more true, more loving, more joyful, and more powerful. But, oh lordy, what it took to get here….
Despite the countless times since falling that I wanted to will it and declare the end of my healing—since I no longer wanted to be in pain nor the stark immersion of the mystery—I learned the unfolding of my healing and life depends more on focused receptivity than will alone. A deep listening to my body, my sensing, and the larger field with a positive orientation to guide dynamic relationship with life and myself.
This journey that unfolded was more of an odyssey than a mere trip.
So this ReBirthday was not only more important than my natal birthday on December 28, it was one of the most significant events in my life. I was celebrating a homecoming to my bigger self—to being alive, healthy, wiser, and more integrated—after a long tour of the underworld. I was celebrating the warm hearth of reconstellated community. And I was celebrating the experiential PhD I gained in Wayfinding — learning to navigate the mystery and creation from my inner and outer sensing.
I’m sharing the story of my ReBirthday ceremony because I want my family and community to know about this celebration and threshold. Your witnessing is an essential part of this rite of passage for me. For in knowing about this, in seeing my dance, you will know more of who I am, what I’ve learned, and who I’ve become.
Thank you for all the ways you’ve helped me and loved me.
I love you more than you know,
Dancing My Story
In a way, I can just share the dance I did in the opening ceremony of the night representing the journey of my past 7 years and leave it at that.
- Song 1 — The day of my fall (01.10.11)
- Songs 2 & 3 — Years 1–6 (2011–2016)
- Song 4 — Year 7 (2017)
You’ll notice how gradual the healing is through songs 2 and 3 and then the dramatic energetic shift at song 4. This accurately reflects what happened. I had six years of profoundly slow external healing amidst a life force drought in which I learned to carefully steward and cultivate precious drops of qi (life force), followed by a yearlong explosive flood of qi and erotic energy through my system. It was only in this past year, in tasting what big aliveness feels like and learning to expand my capacity to let it flow through me, that I came into full flowering. To be abloom and able to sit in the fullness of that rich, intense feeling was a key marker to me of having healed.
A new friend who witnessed the dance said, “I don’t know anything more about the details of your healing journey, but now I know what it felt like.” To hear that was like long-awaited balm, because for years I felt invisible. My story felt invisible, since most people in my life know little about what I went through and even less about what it felt like. But this dance, which came to me as a spontaneous act of catharsis early in 2017 and which I practiced over 20 times since then in preparation for ReBirthday, communicates the feeling of my journey.
Here’s an updated healing map that shares more of the details ;)
It was just this year that I finally realized I’d not only been ill, I’d been severely disabled for quite some time. Through this path, I gained deep embodied understanding of what it is to live with disability and undiagnosed or chronic conditions in this culture.
Thankfully, I also gained deep embodied experience of what it is to heal.
More About ReBirthday
Last November when I had a huge energetic expansion in my being, I had the vision for ReBirthday — a sweat-filled dance ceremony like nothing I’d ever experienced to celebrate the return of my vitality. Thanks to the one-and-only Sage Bearman, she conjured the name. But the process of bringing this vision into being was a challenging journey that surfaced important final pieces of healing — confronting my shame, asking for big help, healing my trust of community, having faith that resources would come together, considering how to include all those I love (family and friends near and far) while also just fucking throwing this thing already….
Through the process of creating my ReBirthday ceremony, I realized how much I’d hidden the experience of these years from most people. This was primarily due to my own shame, our cultural discomfort with illness and grief, and the profound desire to be healthy as I once was. In a culture that prizes people for their external selves and knows little about inner work and healing, I was ashamed of how long I was ill, bedridden, and severely disabled. Amidst oceanic pain and continually unfolding health issues, I forgot my strength. I knew my value and at the same time, I felt I wasn’t of value to the world. As I worked to translate my diverse experiences with culture and design into standard business boxes, I forgot how intelligent I am. In my shame, I pulled away from many people I’d known, feeling safe and seen in my vulnerability with only those who could hold me as I sat in the darkness. I was blind to my beauty and never conceived of myself as being sexy (a lifelong condition — not a result of my fall). For years, I felt weak, diminished, sick, and like a dull light, even though friends continually said they saw me as strong. I had the poignant experience of not only falling off the waterfall but falling all the way down to the underworld, where I spent many years submerged in and learning about my fears. So when I’d finally crested the canyon rim, part of me desperately just wanted to leave it behind. But this fall and all my forgetting led to beautiful doors of re-membering, inner evolution, and a story I needed to share by transmitting the feeling of it to somehow to lay it to rest.
Thank you to each of you who coached me through executing this event despite massive inner resistance—Scott Davidson, Laura Griffiths, Katherine Krug, and Anne-Marie Maron. And to all of you who helped me on this 7-year journey (too many to name here), first and foremost my family—Barbara and Marc Conte. Everyone who couldn’t be present the night of ReBirthday was there dancing in spirit—I could feel you! To receive so much help and love from so many so that this could come together meant the world to me ❤
My dear Laura Griffiths opened this ceremony and gathering of loved ones as we sat circled around the dance floor. She guided us to arrive in our bodies and hone in on how this evening could be an opportunity and gift for each of us. As she passed the floor to me, I shared that this party was actually a ceremony and I’m a ceremony designer (in case you didn’t know ;). By ceremony, I mean an intentional space for transformation. I wanted to create a space, a celebration, and an experience to honor and spur my own transformation as I end this era of my life, and to create a space for my community to engage their own transformation as they wished in these dark winter days of releasing and opening to newness. I asked people to consider what they wanted to shed, what they wanted to claim. To place offerings with intentions on our community altar that I planned to take out to the land on their behalf. And to dance their prayers, to dance what they wanted to see in their lives and in the world.
I shared how these seven years were an immersion in the dynamics of falling and flying — how bound up in each other they are. The countless times I fell after the first fall (which, p.s., was at a *falls*)…and how much I learned about my wings, about my ability to fly. We can give a negative valence to falling and a positive one to flying…..but that’s judgement. One of the most sought after human experiences is all about falling — to fall in love. This had actually been a core focus of mine in a winter renewal ceremony just days before my fall. But evidently I needed to be cracked wide open and fall deeply in love with myself first, which took all 7 years to have the full brilliance of my shine come out. In the past couple years, I learned a great deal about falling in love with others and this whole past year I was essentially a base jumper in loving. I fell in love and experienced heartbreak 7–10 times(?) in one year. I lost count. I don’t know, it was a lot. And fucking gorgeously worth it every time because I learned, became more me, and got brighter in each fall. I finally realized I’ve been a lover my whole life, as many of you know and have experienced. Falling in love with people/life and delighting in each one’s unique beauty is one of my favorite aspects of existence. (p.s. I love you).
Another type of falling and flying I learned about was related to energy in my body. I fell on my spleen which in Chinese Medicine is the organ that distributes qi to the body. Slamming on a rock spleen-first causes a big qi spill, as it turns out. For many years, I was like a winter leaf, with so little qi. But I learned how to replenish my qi and how to tend my energetic being as the foundation of my health. Then I experienced the flip side this past year of more energy than I could handle surging through my being, which taught me about regulation and expansion of my capacity for energy…. Basically I’ve learned a lot about the intelligence in feeling and what’s required to be open to big feeling, big vitality, big desire, and how to learn from it all.
So I danced in the fullness of my feeling encircled by community, which is really what my journey was anyway — except my circle was often virtual these past 7 years. Some core allies sat in the N, E, S, W seats in the room (Stephen Blumenthal, Anne-Marie Marron, Laura Griffiths, Scott Davidson). And I danced to open our group dance floor for the night….
Doing the dance was like time-traveling, accessing and condensing the emotions and arc of my life these past 7 years in a rich way. At the end of the dance I was *fucking exhausted* from dancing this era. Like, “Ok, party’s over!” exhausted. But I found my second wind and danced through the night relishing in dancing my gratitude and friends’ prayers with my whole being all the way through til Halim Madi’s closing poetic words.
After the dance I felt “it’s finally done”….Then at the end of the party I felt “It’s finally done”….Then after praying on Twin Peaks at sunrise on 12.10.17 to say thank you, feeling the symmetry with my sunrise prayers on 01.10.11 when I fell, I felt “It’s finally done”….After offering the altar pieces people had brought to the party at sunrise to the land in Winters, CA I felt “It’s finally done”….Then having Laura paint my wings and standing out on a frozen expanse of Lac Archambault the morning after Solstice to realize a vision I’d had, I felt “it’s finally done”…. And now, sharing the story and the dance with all of you, I feel “It’s finally done.” All of these are closing the layers of the ceremony. Perhaps there will be more, but integration of this all feels deeply imprinted in me.
As I look forward to this end of year time, to next year, to the new era on the horizon, it feels like standing at the edge of a forest in a blanket of snow. Everything is new and fresh and quiet. I don’t know what lies ahead, but I know who I am and how I’m walking into it. I am a joy comet, a mountain lion, a phoenix, a sexy wild woman, a supernova, an ocean of love, a waterfall, the night sky. I’m one who knows what it’s like to feel love so intensely that it scares the shit out of you, more than death ever could, and who chooses to run barefoot alongside the river straight toward the cliff edge, diving off into the water’s cascade. I choose to fall in love with life and to make love to my life. Because in that dive, in that choice, I can breathe and soar by following my Yes. I’m so grateful for the falling and flying, for this ReBirthday….
Love is my discipline and Life my teacher.
Many people helped me hold this ceremony and party—notably my dearest soul sis, Laura Griffiths, showing up with helping hands for days. And beyond those already named above, also Joe Conte, Welde Carmichael, Mackenzie Hall, Rachel Ratliff, Jordana Grader, Chris Pezza, Dori Melton, Eva Foo, Nathan Rosenbloom, Halim Madi, Ahmad Wright, Brent Schulkin, Ian Evans, Carlyn Lamia, Sri Muthu, Byron Go, and many more. And literally hundreds of people helped me heal and find my way these past 7 years, including over 35 healers and health practitioners—thank you to each and every one of you ❤.