In my own words...
I have dedicated the past decade of my life to seeking the root cause of what I loosely call 'society’s illness.’ It seemed to me there must have been some point in history when something went wrong. Though I felt myself to be somewhat naive, to think that I could find it and somehow tend it back to health, I became absolutely obsessed with this prospect. It became the foundation of everything that I did.
My unusual upbringing very much carved the way to this. I grew up in movement. Five countries, eight towns, ten schools. My relationship with institutional education was, to say the least, a tumultuous one. I really struggled with the systems of schooling, be it in the Spanish system I began in, then Dutch and English systems my parents transferred me to when they realised Catholic school wasn’t really a friend to me, followed by the French system that seemed to drill out the final droplets of creativity I had left, if any. I was always drawn to the arts, be it poetry, music, dance, martial arts or theatre. And throughout my early years they provided great solace from academia, the outsider syndrome that seemed to haunt me everywhere I went, and the everyday struggles of a girl just trying to survive in a world that didn’t seem to validate her inner experience. I dreamt of a future in the arts. But ended up choosing another route entirely. I drew the conclusion that indulging myself in the arts was selfish, and that I had to use my position of western privilege to help those less so. This narrative was formed, I think, after witnessing human suffering in so many different forms, in so many different places. I was always hyper-aware of the less fortunate in the new towns we landed in, and my vision of injustice in the world was very much influenced by my mother’s work as a visual storyteller. She was a filmmaker for the United Nations and was always traveling to Third World countries to document human and environmental rights issues. Bedtime stories were about women surviving honour crimes in Jordan, the Pygmies and their interdependence with the natural world, artists striving to preserve their culture post Haiti’s earthquake, and lighter stories - thank goodness - about Bhutan’s gross national happiness and the template it provides for a better world.
At seventeen, when I graduated from school in 2009, I decided to do my bit to add weight to the lighter side of the scales of society; seeking to restore balance by taking the side of the defeated and the oppressed, and really tracking the root cause of what I believed to be this societal illness.
Over the next decade, from 2009 to 2019, I travelled to volunteer in eight countries whilst supporting myself by tutoring languages online. During that time, I completed my BA in Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic, drawn to her stories that I believed very much moulded modern culture today. I was particularly drawn to Sufi poetry, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and the Abrahamic creation stories and their use in forming a narrative that seemed to have both severed the connection between humankind and the natural world, and rendered woman a second class citizen. I came to ponder on the possibility that I may have found what I was looking for. That perhaps in the use of story to propagate a narrative that serves some at the expense of others, I may well have found the ‘root cause of society’s illness.’ And then I was shown another layer. It felt a bit like being shown one of those doors in the back of a library that you only have access to once you’ve proven yourself worthy in the first part of the work.
I don’t know how worthy I was, but I sure did have an experience that tested everything I thought I knew and opened that door to a whole other layer of understanding. In December 2011, in the middle of my undergraduate study in London, I was hit by a car. This accident transformed my life. I was bound to a wheelchair for three months and had to move back to my family home in France until the broken bones in my leg healed. I missed those three months of study, and my grades struggled because of it.
After my accident, something changed. I continued my search, but the terrain was now different. I started to have strange encounters with mystics, renunciants, shamans and wise folk in general. I met a Sufi mystic in Morocco whilst hitchhiking to a festival, who prophetically divined my life, without my having told him a thing. He stressed that I would one day be a spiritual teacher. I remember feeling very unsettled by that encounter, especially because I remembered an in-depth conversation with my Spanish grandma at church when I was seven years old, during which I informing her with the utmost surety that God did not exist. But gradually, I began to see a difference between spirituality and religion. Soon after my encounter with the Sufi, I met a Jain nun in London - as you do. She was completing her PhD on Jain philosophy at my university, and we met in our Mysticism class. I learned to meditate with her, and would spend every break of my last year either bombarding her with existential questions or in lotus posture. When I completed my degree, she invited me to go back to India with her to practice a life of renunciation for a year. I taught English and the Afro-Brazilian martial art of capoeira at their local school, and realised the power of story in empowering the youth. English class became story time, and the tales of the African slaves using martial arts to free themselves was deeply felt by these desert children who no doubt wanted something more for their lives.
But though these stories proved to be a source of inspiration for these kids, the stories I myself was uncovering within the scriptures of Jain philosophy, alas, were not. I realised the same patriarchal system I was seeking sanctuary from in the western world had found its way to this desert village in the end of the world. I decided to leave before I got round to shaving my head and, with another chance encounter, ended up in Peru studying with a shaman who opened his home to me. He taught me the ways of his lineage and their belief in a spirit world that can be worked with for the benefit of all. I lived with him and his family for four months, my time with them bringing evermore awareness to the power of story and how it shapes our culture. As grateful as I was for the opportunity to learn these ancient teachings, I realised that I needed to find them within my own culture. And, thankfully, I did. In 2015, I began a training in European gynocentric shamanism with a not-for-profit educational establishment called 'The Sacred Trust’ in Dorset. I completed a three-year professional shamanic practitioner training, alongside a three-year training in the oracular arts of the Melissae and Pythia, initiates of the mystery schools of Ancient Greece. I am since a teaching assistant at their school and have founded my own business called ‘The Virtual Temple,’ where I offer healing work and teach the oracular arts and shamanism online.
Ten years from when I began my spiritual studies, I am committed to share my findings that continue to grow and evolve. It is my hope that by dismantling the current stories that hold up our culture, communing with the older stories that pre-date state religion, and making them accessible to everyone everywhere, we will be able to restore a more regenerative and just future for all.