As a kid, the Wizard of Oz movies were probably my favoritest. People think I joke when I say I watched at least one of the two every day, but it is the honest truth. I don’t know whether it was Dorothy, those ruby slippers, the sparkling Emerald City, or simply the notion of being whisked away (in a house!) by a twister and carried to a magical land on the other side of the rainbow, but there was something about Oz that fascinated me, made me wish I was able to join Dorothy and be bestest friends with the Scarecrow that bordered on obsession.
As an adult, I’ve accepted the fact that I probably won’t be able to visit L. Frank Baum’s wonderland, and have realized that I’ve substituted it for a more tangible location, a place that I have visited countless times outside of my dreams: Mexico.
Perhaps you may think this an odd choice; the two seem to be worlds apart, and I don’t think I would have ever made the connection had it not been for two scenes/characters brought to life before my very eyes on my most recent trip. The first was a mountain formation in Mazunte (the first stop/town I stayed in) that called to mind the Gnome King from Return to Oz. I didn’t think much of it except that it was cool, cute that it reminded me of the Oz sequel, took a pic, posted to Instagram for others to see the resemblance, then went on my merry way without really thinking much more of it. Tra-la-la.
Then while on the last leg of my journey in Palenque, it was almost as if I was bitch-slapped with another, clearly more in-my-face correlation: a reincarnation the Yellow Brick Road. It might not have been yellow, but the resemblance to the torn-up rubble of Dorothy’s beloved guide to the Wizard was uncanny.
As I stopped in my tracks upon my sighting of the worn-out path, I began to realize that, similar to Dorothy’s connection to Oz, Mexico was, in a sense, my Oz: A land full of magic and mystery for me that keeps drawing me back to it. I can recall at least 11 trips spanning the last 16 years. What is it that attracts me to it over and over again?
I’ll have to admit, booze had something to do with it those first couple of times: Cancun, Cozymel, Tijuana, Cabo San Lucas. But once I followed my yoga teacher to Yelapa (near Puerta Vallarta) as I was first beginning to dive into the practice back in 2007, I think that’s when I first began to feel the magic of this place (perhaps the sweat lodge ceremonyI took part in had something to do with it, too). I connected with something on that trip, I’m not sure what, but a part of Mexico came back with me on that adventure. Or a part of me stayed. Or both.
When I went down in 2012 as a travel nanny, that’s when she really got my attention: luring me to her through her sense of adventure, sense of confidence as I learned to surf off her coast; making sure I bathed in the moonlight each night as the moon shone down into my room, engulfing my bed with me in it as I slept; playing host to the “End of the World” party I attended on December 21, 2012, the end of the Mayan calendar while I was in the Mayan land.
A few months later on my next visit, she snared me hook, line, and sinker when I travelled to the pyramids outside Mexico City where I was visited by my best friend, who had passed away a year prior, while I meditated sitting atop the Pyramid of the Moon. When, a week later, I was asked to teach at a yoga retreat center in a town I frequented while on my nannying/surfing trips, there was no way I could say no: She was quite literally calling me to her, and I had to accept.
So when my Reiki teacher told me back in November that she was thinking of teaching the Reiki Masters course and considering making it a retreat in Mexico, my interest was piqued. Here was my teacher, who herself, to me, is pure magic, talking about leading the final course of Reiki studies in a place that spoke to me on so many levels. The spontaneous part of me wanted to jump up and say, “Yes! I’m in! Let’s go!” But that critical voice I’ve heard so much, know too well crept its way in: You’re not ready; you have bills to pay; stop throwing money away on these trips. All reasonable concerns.
And I listened. I became wary, doubted myself. Who did I think I was thinking I could be a Reiki Master? I definitely didn’t think I was ready to teach Reiki to others, to accept responsibility of sharing the light and healing energy with others so that they, too, could help others as well as themselves. I kept telling myself I wasn’t ready to hold such a role, to have the ability to empower others.
But my teacher had planted a seed, and that idea wouldn’t go away. One of my favorite people in the world wanted to take me to my favorite place in the world. SHE BELIEVED IN ME. Which was more than I could say for myself. I mean, I DID believe in myself to certain extent, but there was always a limit to my beliefs. Which I think is normal for many of us faced with a choice to step into a role that holds much more responsibility. If I became a Reiki Master, I guess I was afraid of having to be accountable for others. What if I did it wrong? What if I screwed it up? What if I gave students the wrong information? Again, all natural fears, natural reasons the mind comes up with to keep us from moving forward.
Even though my mind kept coming up with “logical” reasons why I shouldn’t, couldn’t become a “Master,” though, the universe was doing its part, sending me signals in hopes to override my logical mind. I received messages through dreams, seeing past relationships in a new, more honest light; I caught myself reacting to my family differently in hopes to avoid the pitfalls of pressing theirs and allowing my own buttons to be pressed; I was thinking more about making serious changes that I had long wanted to put into action but had been sitting idle on, afraid of failing in bringing my dreams to reality; a Theta healing session offered a glimpse at what my (happy) life would look like in a year’s time.
Though I was receiving all these messages, it wasn’t until one day in January, about midway through a Breathwork workshop led by my Reiki teacher, that I received the message loud and clear. As I lay there on the floor, I felt as if I was being pinned to the ground with an intense sensation in my palms that I can only describe as though lightning bolts were shooting out of my hands and into the sky. It was so strong, so clear—I was reminded of my Reiki I course when I had been practicing on another student and first felt the healing energy flow through me and thought to myself, I am supposed to be doing this. It was there in that lightning bolt moment that I knew that I meant to complete my Reiki Masters, and I marched myself right up to my teacher once the session was over and told her to count me in.
It definitely wasn’t easy, listening to my inner truth, stepping into my higher self. It was scary, even, accepting my fate. And, now that I am officially a Reiki Master, I see how much courage was necessary to look so deep into myself and acknowledge certain tendencies, patterns, times/situations in my past where I was wrong or could have handled things differently. I’ll admit, I wanted to quit a day or two into the training, and had I not been in Mexico, had I been back in New York with an easier escape route, I might have stopped myself from finishing. But now that it’s behind me, now that I know, can see through new lenses, I am so grateful for having done it, for agreeing to REALLY look at the things, the lessons of life that keep popping up, keep returning in order for me to FINALLY GET IT so that I can change how I react, respond and continue to move forward.
The lessons/situations that seem to continuously arise in our lives do so in order for us to learn that something needs to change in order to break the habit, to free ourselves from having to relive it again through new, different relationships or situations. When Dorothy returns to Oz, everything is different. She is faced with new challenges, makes new friends, creates new enemies. If Dorothy had tried to defeat the Gnome King the same way she had the Wicked Witch of the West, Dorothy probably wouldn’t have had a happy ending. She tried new tactics, engaged help from different characters, and had Belinda the chicken not ventured on this adventure with her, she may not have made it.
It can certainly be hard to try new things, new ways of doing things, new ways at looking at ourselves—and sometimes it even hurts because it means we have to admit that we were wrong. But that is how we grow: By learning from the past, learning from our mistakes.
At the end of Return to Oz, Ozma and all of Dorothy’s friends try to entice Dorothy back to Oz through the looking glass, and Dorothy is tempted until she hears her Aunt Em calling for her and she is reminded which world, which reality she is in. It’s up to us to see ourselves clearly in the mirror to see what is ACTUALLY there and not what we WANT or hope to see. Listen to your gut, pay attention to the messages around you, and accept YOUR call to your highest, brightest self. You don’t have to be a Reiki Master (or Dorothy) to accept your call. You just have to be willing to listen.
Stroll through the more industrial section of Greenpoint, and you may notice a garden, a sign of life creeping its way toward the sun along the side of an unassuming brick building.
A colorfully detailed sandwich board alerts passersby to the goings on inside at Maha Rose, an alternative healing center in Brooklyn: weekly meditation, laughter yoga, kundalini classes; voice lessons; arts and crafts; daily yoga; breathwork classes; Reiki trainings; acupuncture; flower essence therapy.
You may ask yourself, Is this place for real? The answer: Yes, yes it is.
Maha Rose gradually breathed its way into existence about 7 years ago, when founder, artist and jewelry designer Lisa Levine, opened the doors to her hideaway home as a place to practice meditation and study spirituality and healing practices. “It was always such a creative space that the healing was an extension of that creativity—the desire to explore more, our hidden worlds—a different sort of adventure within,” says Levine.
At the time, there weren’t many meditation classes in Brooklyn, so Levine and friends who shared her interest in diving into the subconscious invited teachers to the space, leading circles in her living room, the same area that now serves as Maha Rose’s temple, yoga studio, and workshop.
Today, Maha is home to the Kings County outpost of Josh Korda’s Dharma Punx, a weekly class known for its guided meditations and discussions on how Buddhist principles are applicable to daily life.
While hosting classes in her home may seem like a great way for an artist to make supplemental income, Levine insists that was not the intention. “It wasn’t so much a way to make money as a way to bring into our lives, and really close into our lives—in our home—new things and activities for us to do as our tastes and interests evolved away from bars and nightlife,” she says.
It wasn’t long before word got out that there was a space in Brooklyn that offered a setting in which to learn more about the dharma and healing practices as an alternative to the Brooklyn bar scene. “My best friend and Reiki teacher, Padma Gonzalez, would come up from Mexico every summer and work with me, then friends of mine, then friends of friends.”
Slowly but surely, Levine saw more strangers (new friends, really) in the form of both students and teachers, engaging in the practices that she cared so deeply about, delighted to see the community grow. Still living there, a private treatment room in the back of the loft offered her and other healers a space to have private sessions—Levine eventually received certificates in both Reiki and breathwork, and allowed local healers with a magic power to use the room as well.
Having finished up her acupuncture studies last spring, Levine decided it was time to do something more with the space, renovating it to accommodate a second treatment room. “It felt like the time to take Maha Rose from a backyard project to a fuller offering to the community,” says Levine. “We redid the website in the fall and are ready to launch Maha Rose for real! It’s been such an organic endeavor that it finally feels like the right time to celebrate the doors being fully open. We are ready for the revolution!”
With so many showing interest in different avenues of thought and ways in which to take care of the spirit, a revolution seems likely. In anticipation of such, Levine moved out to make more room for healing as the roster of healers working through Maha Rose has grown. “We are increasing the number of classes and workshops offered, and there are more practitioners working out of the treatment rooms.”
On Saturday, February 15, Maha Rose will celebrate its Grand Opening Celebration. The free daylong event will serve as an opportunity to help familiarize people who may have heard of some of the practices on offer, but aren’t entirely sure what they are or how they work, as well as to meet the facilitators who bring their magic to each modality.
Stop by for free sample sessions (about 20 to 30 minutes long) of Reiki, acupuncture, bodywork, breathwork, sound healing, astrology, energy healing, Tarot readings, and more between noon and 6pm. Or come for the free group presentations, starting at 6:30pm.
Asked what her intention is for the new and improved Maha Rose, Levine says, “To hold a space of light, love, and healing in New York City, and to do that with lightness of heart, creativity, and joy. Healing is an incredible adventure for those who are willing and brave. The treasures are within-—peace and wholeness. The journey home.”
Stop by your new home this Saturday. For more info on the presentations, healers, or to learn more about Maha Rose, visit maharose.com.
As published in Yoga City NYC
Hearing about the special New Moon Double Gong ceremonies in Alphabet City, I was intrigued with how such an ancient, tonal sound would be instrumental to intention setting, a way to mindfully call into one’s life a goal or resolution, be it physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual.
The event was led by two highly respected women from different fields: sound healer Lucy Child and clinical psychologist Emily Horowitz. How would they pair up to create this unique offering, I wondered as I walked into the beautiful, dreamlike setting of ABC Sanctuary with its stain-glass window flanked with butterfly wings painted on the walls, the space lit up by candles large and a large tree branch on the altar. It felt as if something had started to shift in me before anything had officially happened. Mats lined up to perfectly fill the space, I found a spot, lay down, and waited for the magic to begin.
“[It’s] a really good time to work with intention: the beginning of things, the beginning of a new cycle,” explained Horowitz about holding this gathering on the New Moon. “And the gong is so good at helping you do that too because the power of sound is so strong, so to couple that with the New Moon energy just magnifies it.”
In essence, the significance of the New Moon is like hitting the reset button on what you are trying to attract in your life, or what you’re trying to work past or let go of. And lying there, bathing in what felt like tidal waves of sound, its power seemed so potent.
Repeating my intention to myself as I bathed in aural ecstasy, there was a release, like something had been sucked out of me. Something left my body and felt as if it hovered over me. I felt the vibrations of the room from the gongs and all the other instruments the two women used and was overcome with emotion.
Both Child and Horowitz’s first gong experience also unleashed extreme emotional responses in them. Discovering the gong in radically different ways—Child during a Kundalini class, and Horowitz at a Chapel of Sacred Mirrors Halloween party—both women felt an instant connection to the ancient instrument; entranced by its sound, they knew that it was something they needed to pursue.
“I felt a lot of fear, a lot of anxiety as things were coming up,” recalls Child. “It was, for me, a profound experience. I cried afterward. Right away, I just made a beeline to the teacher and the gong, and I said, ‘What is this thing, and how do I get one?’”
“I was totally transported,” says Horowitz. “The vibrations were just culminating in my heart, and I could feel my heart beating and this explosion of energy bouncing out of my heart, just this love feeling. It was amazing.”
The two came to study the instrument from two different entryways: Child, disenchanted from the business of being a singer/songwriter, felt herself drawn to a sound-healing program at the Open Center; Horowitz sought out workshops and private lessons with master gonger Don Conreaux. “‘You don’t play the gong, the gong plays you,’” says Horowitz, quoting Conreaux. “But you kind of have to learn to get out of your own way and just be intuitive and just go with the flow with what the gong wants to do.”
“I had always felt like music was inherently a healing medium,” says Child. “And I was already into alternative therapies and healing circles—even shamanism.” Studying shamanism in locales such as Cusco and Machu Picchu, the feeling of community that surrounded the ceremonies and meditations she attended resonated with her the most. “We found intentions for ourselves, but as a community,” she says. “There was this big accent on community that I feel is lacking in our regular society. We’re very individualized.”
Meeting at a mutual friend’s wedding that Child was playing her gong at, Horowitz was thrilled to meet another female gonger and vice versa. “I had never met someone—a woman—who played the gong that wasn’t Kundalini. So we just hit it off and said let’s do something together,” says Child.
“Most [people] who are attracted to healing work are women,” says Horowitz, “but for some reason, in the gong community, there are more men. So it was really nice, and we both talked about that feeling, Wow it’s really cool to work with another woman and do this kind of feminine type of thing.”
And what better way to infuse the gong world with feminine energy than to host gong ceremonies in celebration of the ultimate feminine energy: the moon?
“I just feel like this is something that we need energetically, because I know how much I got from it,” says Child. “I just want to create a sacred space for people that they can go and release stuff and find comfort in the presence of others and music and sound and listen to the gong.”
The next New Moon Double Gong ceremony will be held at ABC Sanctuary on Friday, August 9 at 9pm with an energy exchange of $25. RSVP here for your spot.