The Wild Woman’s Way
THIS BOOK IS FIRST AND foremost my passionate love letter to the body: an invitation for each of us to remember the innate wisdom of our bodies—not our looks, or our various shapes and sizes, but the living, feeling body as a portal to unlocking who we truly are.
Our bodily genius is a premier decision-making tool, a navigation device extraordinaire, an agent of release and healing, a wisdom-carrier of deep insight, and a holder of secrets and mysteries.
This book is a call to come back to our wild, undomesticated “original nature,” which, combined with an untamed heart, knows what is true for each of us. It is a call to return to the inborn genius that guides our passion, whispers in our ear with longing, and reveals itself abundantly when we allow our bodies to show us the way.
This is a deeply personal book, born from my own explorations, struggles, and victories, infused with my passion carried over the span
of more than twenty years of teaching and mentoring individuals and couples in the realms of relationship and sexuality.
I am focusing here on women’s bodies, for a few reasons.
First, I am happily living in a woman’s body—yes, I said happily!—and as such am continually traversing both the fertile lands of feeling embodiment and the turbulent seas of unfeeling numbness. I am also the lineage holder, a keeper and teacher of the ancient wisdom of a Kashmiri Tantric tradition that has been passed down from woman to woman for thousands of years, and, as such, am dedicated to empowering women’s understanding of their bodies as a devotional vehicle. I see the current cultural emergence of the sacred feminine as a beautiful opportunity for exploration and growth, and, at the same time, a movement fraught with the dangers of gender wars and false entitlement.
I am writing this book mainly for women. I also hope that men will benefit: in their relationship with their own bodies, and by gaining a different access to and understanding about what it is like to be a woman in the twenty-first century.
I personally love men, and am fortunate to be surrounded by wonderful, talented men with generous hearts. This is not a book to set men against women and fuel a battle of the sexes; it is instead an exploration of what defines us as men and women, what unites us, and how to become whole and serve one another as we traverse these extraordinary times.
Never have we as women in the West had more opportunity, more choice, and more freedom. Granted, we still have a long way to go, yet compared to any other time in history, we have the greatest options and choices to forge our own paths and determine our own destinies. At the same time, with these opportunities come new challenges and distinct difficulties: the demands of life have created unprecedented levels of stress, pressure, disconnect, discomfort, and dis-ease in women.
We women are now, more than ever, able to have the careers we want, whether that is to be an entrepreneur, a CEO, a full-time parent, an educator, or a social media sensation. We make our own money and our own decisions. We vote, we march, and we support our causes. We
have more freedom today than ever before to determine the kind of relationships we want—and freedom to determine if, and how, we will birth and raise children, and to make decisions about how our households will be taken care of.
With all these options, there are a dizzying variety of versions of “Woman” to which we can aspire: Boardroom Executive, Mother, Entrepreneur, Martha-Stewart-like Homemaker, Vixen in the Bedroom, Visionary, Academic, Artist, Yogini, Leader, Goddess, Scientist, Earth Mother, Warrior. We are told we should “lean in,” “drop out,” and, on top of it all, “be forever young and radiant.”
Then there are the spiritual choices. We can practice yoga, chant, dance ecstatically, meditate in a vast variety of traditions, go Zen, swirl like a Sufi, discover the Goddess or reclaim God, take “plant medicines,” and embrace a variety of pagan traditions. We can follow one teacher, or piece all the above together into our own á la carte menu of spirituality.
We can even combine our quests of spirit and sex through a variety of ?Tantric explorations. The options to work on our feminine wiles have vastly increased, from wrapping ourselves around a stripper pole, to “vajazzling” our previously private parts, to sex-toy parties and hands-on classes on how to achieve multiple orgasms.
Regardless of what we choose (and regardless of how tired we are), we are also women who want meaningful relationships and fulfilling sex lives, with all their inherent benefits and responsibilities.
The good news: amidst such a multitude of options we are free to choose what resonates with us. The bad news: it’s confusing, overwhelming, time-consuming, fraught with many pitfalls, and requires constant discernment.
No wonder we often find ourselves confused, stressed, and unsure of what to do and how to be. Even though there are abundant choices, there are subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) pressures from society, spiritual and communal dogma, our own belief systems, and the habit patterns of our past that tell us that we have to be Superwoman to be loved, or that our real choices are narrower than we thought them to be.
More than ever, it’s time for each of us to ask ourselves:
Who am I out in the world?
Who am I when no one is watching?
What does my unguarded heart yearn for?
Who am I when everything is stripped away?
How does my body want to move when I am alone?
What would I do if nothing was required of me?
These are the kinds of questions I ask women in my workshops. When they hear them for the first time, their initial response is almost always stunned silence.
Within the swirl of all the demands and options of a busy life, it becomes hard to know who we are, and almost impossible to discern what our best choices are.
In the midst of this paradox of opportunity and confusion, we have become disconnected from our most valuable ally: our body.
Stress, tension, overwhelm, and excess mental activity are drowning out our feeling. We no longer notice our bodily sensations or our emotions as they attempt to arise within our being. Without access to the subtle genius of our feeling body, we have a reduced ability to discern and respond accurately.
Thankfully, the way out of this conundrum is neither time-consuming nor expensive, and it is within the reach of every woman, no matter her schedule and commitments. In fact, the process of reconnecting with our bodily genius is something profoundly natural to every woman.
The solution lies not in adding to or enhancing our bodies, or chasing after some external ideal; it lies in remembering that the body is not just a vehicle that needs to be maintained (or disciplined) so that we can function; rather, it is a potent source of power, intuition, feeling, and abundant pleasure.
Feeling is our birthright. It is innate wisdom, and through
reconnecting with it, we can re-wild ourselves back to our original nature: the place we started from, before layers of doing, pushing, and obligation clouded over who we are.
In this book, I share the lessons I learned myself, not only over years of building a career while maintaining a marriage but also from a lifetime of commitment to and exploration in the creative and spiritual inner life. These, together with my Tantric training, and my many years of giving workshops and client sessions, form the basis for the exercises and teachings presented in each chapter.
Working with this book, you will gain understanding of the challenges that are unique to women at this moment, as well as the mechanics that drive our bodies and minds.
You will receive information and practices to help you re-sensitize yourself and come back to your body.
By reconnecting with your feeling body, you will begin to allow its innate wisdom to inform you. As you rediscover instinct, intuition, and power, you will gain the discernment to make decisions that honor your own true nature, as well as that of others.
From there, we will explore what you are devoted to—your passion, purpose, and heart’s yearning—so that you can infuse your career, your relationships, and your creative and spiritual life with your deepest meaning.
And then, once your body and heart have reconnected, we’ll explore your relationship to sensual and sexual pleasure within yourself, and as an offering to the partner of your choice.
The practices in this book are easy to incorporate into your life. They don’t require big changes or great time commitments. They are designed to gradually integrate what is important to you into your existing routine. They allow you to shift and explore gently, from the inside out, infusing everything you do with who you are at your very core: the wild, untamed, undomesticated, embodied self that has always been there.
When I was twelve, I decided to become a witch. Not that I really knew what that meant, but I had very strong ideas nonetheless. I was going to have a house in the country, with lots of animals and a large kitchen garden. I envisioned people coming to receive potions and spells. I could see it clearly and had distinct ideas of what I would do to empower and heal the women coming to my door.
My father’s godfather gifted me a copy of The Mists of Avalon for my twelfth birthday. I was a voracious reader, and finished the book in record time. I read about priestesses, sorceresses, and powerful women, about the mother lineage, gods and goddesses uniting in ritual for the sake of the land (not that, as a twelve-year-old, I had any idea what that really meant, either).
This book introduced me to the concepts of nondualism and reincarnation, which, strangely, to my twelve-year-old self, made perfect sense. I was determined to learn about herb lore, water magic, and how to grow and harvest healing herbs in concert with the moon. As far as I was concerned, my career path was clear.
I grew up in a rural part of Austria, an area made famous to filmgoers as the meadows that Julie Andrews skipped upon in The Sound of Music. This part of Austria was still connected to its Celtic roots, so it was easy for me to immerse myself in the rituals and teachings of working with the moon and elements. A local woman named Magdalena introduced me to Celtic biodynamic practices and herb lore.
I was educated in an all-girls school, which, at the time, caused me great upset; yet in hindsight, I can’t thank my parents enough. Educated in this way, I had no sense of girls being less than boys, or of women being discriminated against or uneducated.
On the contrary, I was schooled with rigor and academic excellence in a curriculum that was both heavy on science and also had all the teachings of a finishing school. My schoolmates and I were taught how to cook, sew, and knit, and at the same time, to speak three languages, translate Caesar’s Bellum Gallicum, and to explore black holes and red dwarfs, as well as career skills in the modern working world. When I was sixteen, I had to spend two weeks during summer holidays apprenticing at a hospital, in the delivery and newborn ward (an experience that proved to be a better contraceptive than any parental talk ever could have been!).
In this educational environment, I had no idea that there was such a thing as “the patriarchy,” and grew up with a sense of possibility, and the confidence that I could do anything I wanted.
When I was in my mid-teens, the herb woman, Magdalena, introduced me to a friend of hers, an Indian woman named Deepa who was skilled in Ayurveda and potion-making, and I eagerly began to study with her. She became my mentor and teacher.
My time was divided between school, tending and riding horses, and learning about the mysteries of spices, teas, sound, and movement from my teacher. For the first few years, all I learned from my teacher was how to make chai, by tasting, working with, and combining each ingredient at length. I also swept, and swept, and swept some more around a very leafy tree in her courtyard; the ground around it had to be clean at all times for the chalk paintings she drew each day as a meditative practice.
Over time, it became clear to me that there was more to this woman than chai tea and chalk paintings. As I began to pass tests of concentration, commitment, and consistency that were woven into these initial practices, she began to invite me deeper into the knowledge that she carried and practiced.
Chai-making gave way to the secret practices of her lineage, and it soon became clear that this unusual woman was in fact a true Tantrika, a stealth householder who shared her knowledge only when it could be received. She was the very embodiment of both deep mystery and the sacred ordinary.
Many of the lessons and skills she taught me in those years form the basis of my teaching and my life today. It was only much later that I realized the wisdom behind her insistence on keeping things in her particular way. By having me repeat seemingly boring, mundane tasks over and over, she instilled in me focus, concentration, and discipline, all things that by no means came naturally to me. Only when I had integrated these lessons was I ready for the deeper teachings: the teachings of the wisdom of the body.
Over the years, as I continued to study with my teacher, I pursued an education in psychology and worked at a variety of jobs. I moved twice to follow my teacher when she moved to different cities in Germany. From those first chai lessons in my mid-teens until I was twenty-eight, I dedicated myself body and soul to the ancient lineage of women into which I had been invited.
Then, through a series of twists and turns, I moved to Los Angeles. In the beginning, I worked a full-time day job while building a private counseling practice in the evenings. Somewhere along the way, I forgot about the pursuit of “witchy” and magical things and instead became a businesswoman. I often spent twelve to fourteen hours a day working, splitting my time between the actual counseling work I was passionate about and the endless loop of booking clients, getting new ones, keeping on top of paperwork, and managing my practice.
Over the years, I built a wildly successful full-time counseling practice and began working with celebrities, entertainers, high-performers, and family offices.
When I met my future husband, I realized that my driven, hardworking, goal-oriented consultant persona got in the way of enjoying my personal life. I was no longer able to switch out of “go” mode easily,
and it took some work (and struggle) to reconcile the various parts of me. Searching for balance, I began to remember the practices I had been taught, and started a women’s circle in the garage of my house.
The circle met twice a month, and the connection with the other women in the group became an important part of my life. We were all exploring the same themes: having a career, and wanting a fulfilling relationship and time for self-expression, yet feeling stuck in achieving those goals. Realizing this, I began to experiment with different modalities for each group meeting. We would share what happened during our week, connect with ourselves and one another, and then move our bodies to release tension and stress. Over time, the movement exercises reconnected us to the untamed and sensual parts of ourselves, and gave us access to a whole different kind of wisdom. These early explorations eventually led to the development of the Non-Linear Movement Method®, a transformative and awakening somatic movement technique that has helped many women awaken their wise, wild selves, and which I will share with you in this book.
As my relationship with my partner progressed and we married, all the different parts of me were still at war, and it took a few years to integrate them and come to terms with my complex inner life. It was confusing, with various and sometimes contradictory advice and teachings competing in my head.
I had to come to terms with the fact that I actually enjoyed being in charge of my own business and my money—and that I was really good at it! No amount of hearing that I was “too much in my masculine energy” or “not feminine enough” would change that.
I also came to understand that, at the same time, I had a deep yearning for union, both with my husband and in the spiritual sense of union with the divine, and with my own divine nature. I wanted a full-on, committed relationship but I also wanted to have freedom and the ability to spend time alone. My marriage became the testing ground for all the things I had taught people during my counseling years, as well as for the practices of my emerging workshop teachings.
At some point, the reach of these offerings expanded, and I was teaching workshops and taking on new clients in Europe, which meant nearly constant travel and substantial stress. My clients in England lived on a sublime piece of property, with gardens, fields, and large trees. During breaks, I would sit out in the flower garden and immerse myself in the beauty of nature while dealing with my almost constant jet lag.
Slowly, over the course of several visits, my connection with the English countryside grew, opening my memory of my upbringing, and my connection with Celtic magic lore and the rhythms of the land. I began to envision having a piece of earth of my own. I spent many of my transcontinental flights imagining that land and feeling it in my body, planning what flowers and herbs I would grow, which animals I would have, and what I could do on my own property.
Within that year, through a series of miraculous events (which included getting the last “no-doc” loan before the housing crash), I managed to buy a beautiful four-acre piece of land outside of Ojai, California.
I built my own teaching studio, planted a full herb and vegetable garden, and filled the place with rescued animals. Working on my land reconnected me to myself. I started to gradually remember all that had been taught to me by my parents and teachers, and my passion for nature and animals.
I began attending to my marriage and my personal life from the place in me that was connected to my “original nature.” Over time, relationships and business that were not aligned with this essential part of me fell away, and other opportunities opened. I began teaching differently in my workshops, letting my practices, the land, and my experience inform the lessons, and the way I approached them.
At home, surrounded with what was dear to me, even when I was spending eight hours a day answering e-mails, I could smell a homegrown rose or cuddle one of my dogs and draw inspiration and endless creative energy from the interaction.
After I received the lineage from Deepa, before she died, my teaching took on a different orientation, and a new creativity and urgency
infused my life. I now feel a strong passion for adapting the ancient practices I received so that they can fit into our hectic modern lifestyle.
And one day recently, while I sat on the patio swing waiting for my workshop participants to arrive, I realized that thirty years later, I had ended up with exactly what I had envisioned as a girl: a place in the country, with gardens and animals, where people could come to heal and learn. Like my teacher before me, I had created a place from which I could share the fruits of my own learning and life experience.
Each of us has that native, embodied wisdom—a wild, untamed, undomesticated body-mind and heart that knows what is true for us. This looks and feels different for each woman, and no two are ever alike. It guides our passion, whispers in our ears with longing, and reveals itself when we allow the natural genius of our bodies to show us the way.
I am so excited to share these past thirty years of my own ongoing exploration, experience, practice, teaching of and research into this deeply connected and embodied lifestyle with you, so that you can find what is true for you, and infuse your life with your very own embodied wisdom.
This book is an invitation to re-wild yourself, to strip away layers of
coping, adaptation, and trauma to reveal what has always been there—what is ready to emerge, free from internal and external beliefs and dogma.
This is not a book to help you learn yet another set of ways to be “more feminine” or a collection of tricks that, when applied, will make you “good enough.” This is a collection of real pieces of wisdom, honest stories, and powerful exercises that I offer to you—as they were once offered to me—which have been pivotal in transforming the lives of countless women who have participated in my workshops and sessions, and can do the same for you. This book’s purpose is to empower you, to reveal your feminine birthright, allowing you to find the passion, purpose, and pleasure that are intimately connected to who you really are.