Author’s Note: This is very difficult for me to write. I expect the post to trigger you. You’ll have opinions + judgements. I have fear over what you’ll think + concern that it’ll affect my livelihood. However, my heart’s call to connect + share with you over-rides those demons. My intent is to heal. And I continue to write …
On June 2, 2016, I received an email.
“F*** Off Chris”.
My heart dropped.
Out of respect for all of the parties involved, I don’t want to share the exact details.
Someone I had responsibility for displayed behaviors that dramatically affected my above friend’s life. One of the first patients I ever had who became a friend, someone close to my heart.
At the time that the ongoing incident occurred, I remember thinking that each person’s path is each person’s path. The universe teaches us lessons to overcome pains, to face + slay our demons, and to come out the other side. Light saber in hand + ready to take on the empire. All of us, Jedis.
My friend didn’t see it this way.
Over the years, we’d email every few months to say hello + to discuss how life was going. I looked up and still look up to this individual. He is soft-spoken, with a heart of gold, + always willing to hear me with whatever was going on in my life.
Until my opportunity to have an impact passed. Then, he stopped responding to me.
Still, every few months, I reached out.
Until I got that email from him.
A Glimpse Into My Own Hurts + Pains: On Landmark
In the Landmark Forum, I learned that I can drop my old ways of being that no longer served me.
- I no longer had to go through life scared of relationships + divorce just because my parents’ relationship didn’t work out.
- I no longer needed to act so unconventionally just to buffer myself from other people’s judgements.
- I didn’t have to do everything myself, never trusting anyone + running myself into the ground by only depending on myself.
Integrity became a way of life for me. My words + actions conveyed what I stood for with a knife’s precision.
With my past out of the way, I took Landmark’s Advanced Course.
Concepts of one’s self were discussed.
- There’s me, limited by the consciousness held inside my body.
- There’s my family, my blood + genes.
- There’s my community, the people I know, see, say “hi”, and wave to.
- There are my people’s networks, those that my community love + care about.
- There’s the county, state, and country.
- There’s the human race.
- There’s the world + the universe.
In these concepts of my self, I saw that the greater my integrity is, the more I am responsible for what happens in this world.
Now, I had an intellectual concept where I saw that whether Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton became president, it wasn’t America’s problem.
It was my problem.
Medicine for My Soul: On Ayahuasca
My friend’s email came to me on June 2.
I’d been struggling with hurt from that email.
His hurt that he experiences every day. My hurt based on guilt.
On Wednesday, June 8, 2016, I participated in a medicine ceremony in the great, majestic mountains of northern New Jersey.
If you’re not familiar with plant medicines, below is a two-minute trailer on the documentary, Sacred Science. You can watch the entire 75-minute documentary on Youtube.
Led by a heart-led energy healer and shaman who is a therapist + shaman in North Jersey (reach out to us if you feel called to pursue healing with him), a group of five of us drank the grandmother plant, ayahuasca tea, to heal our whole selves, body, mind, and spirit. They call her “the grandmother plant” because they say she gives people whatever they need to see in the same way a grandmother would. Whether it’s words of acknowledgement + encouragement for a good way of being or if it’s punishment for doing something wrong so that you don’t do that thing again.
The first 45 minutes consisted of us sitting around the fire, talking small-talk.
Then, I notice my girlfriend Katie, almost standing in the fire. I see a smile wash over her face as she’s glancing out into the forest. She looks at me. Looks back at the forest. Kinesthetically willing me to see what she sees.
I look. The forest is alive! Vibrating. Waving its limbs and leaves as if it say, “I’m always here for you and you are never, ever alone.”
5 minutes later, and I’m falling in complete darkness. Into the abyss.
I stand near the fire. It’s not warm enough.
I go lay under the tarp as rain gently taps above. Now, I’m only falling faster.
I stumble off 50 yards away, thinking I should purge. I attempt to, only to find I don’t have anything to let go of.
Back to the fire, I can’t escape the reality of me falling, alone, lost, + in chaos.
Katie is now back under the tarp. “Sit down” I said to her as she immediately sits criss-cross-apple sauce. I put my body on top of her legs like she’s cuddling a puppy. She lays over the top of me with her torso and covers us both in a blanket.
Immediately, I notice that Mother Earth had caught me, supporting me in the universal, ever-expanding darkness. To ensure my safety, the shaman’s small dog, Falcor, come peaks under the covers. With his nose an inch away from mine, he stares at me for a moment, saying “You OK Chris? You know you’re OK Chris, right? I got you.” Then, he went out from under the covers and sat on my face for the rest of the ceremony, providing security in the same way that the Mother’s Womb covers the growing fetus on all sides with warmth.
Mother Earth really, never was, not holding me. I was never alone. The falling was a manifestation of what my ego does. Putting me into Chris’s head, stuffing me in this individual body, pitting me against you + him + her in a zero-sum game that there is no way for any of us to win.
Because it’s a fake game. An illusion. Like living in the matrix.
The intellectual concepts that I’ve been reading for years: “The Secret”, manifestation, magic, creating possibilities, Landmark’s curriculum. In an instant, they became experienced truth. Reality. Showing me that you are me + I am you. I am the world. I am the universe.
These words are inadequate to describe reality + there’s no way for me to point at + show you this view, like I would if we were looking at the view of Nature’s most beautiful scenery.
All I can do is:
- Put my hand out.
- Ask you to take my hand.
- Walk together into the scary place that seems so dark, but is actually, completely f***ing liberating to the point where even death is actually a rebirth.
There ceremony was June 8. I write this on June 12. I can still see the beauty of this world. It hasn’t left me.
This was ONE healing ceremony. I want the emphasize what one occurrence with the grandmother can do.
A Brief Lesson in Impacting People
One of my spiritual teachers, W, told me that people who want to transform the world cannot curse.
Previously, I had defined my own use of cursing not in a negative connotation, but as a word to deliver the impact of importance. For example, “That beach day was f***ing awesome!”
“I understand your definition of cursing. However, some people are triggered by cursing. Once you trigger someone, you lose the opportunity, in that moment, to affect + change that person, our people.” ~W
Nelson Mandela apparently felt anger and hatred while imprisoned during the anti-apartheid revolution. When liberated from prison, he didn’t express anger, choosing to express love + peace to connect with the people who he wanted to change.
I imagine Ghandi had negative emotions + feelings when his people were violent towards each other. But Ghandi chose the path of ahimsa, or non-violence, to win the opportunity to affect them in ways that do not perpetuate the cycle.
W’s teaching of ahimsa and not-triggering conveyed to me what I did wrong to warrant “F*** Off Chris”.
My lack of action to communicate integrity between all parties was actually violent. It was standing for a lack of integrity that allowed hurt to occur between people, pushing everyone further apart instead of bringing everyone closer together. My behavior was metaphorically cursing, triggering my friend to not trust me, causing a chasm in love between us all. I had the opportunity to be a peacemaker and conduit of love by standing for what is right, + I blew it.
Words To My Dear Friend
My friend, I hope you come upon this writing some day.
My lack of actions on your behalf are not OK. I see how I behaved in a way that didn’t allow me to serve you. I didn’t see us as one + I even hurt myself because of it.
Because of my past behaviors, I promise to have greater integrity in the world from this day on. I promise to do what I can for the world, all people + all animals. And when I break that promise, I will restore my integrity by acknowledging where + when I’ve done wrong in attempt to complete my past. So I can impact as many people who are suffering as possible in the future.
I love you.
To my other friends, family, and patients reading this.
I love you too. At the deepest level, there is no separation between you and I. I would do whatever was in my power to be there for you.
The Barefoot logo has always meant to me, that people can thrive, expressing flourishing body language (like in this Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy), when we don’t fight Nature. Because in Nature are the rules + laws that define what we can create. We all know that if we want an apple tree, we have to plant apple seeds. Then, we water, cultivate, and nurture those seeds til they sprout. And we continue to do so until that sprout grows, providing leaves, and eventually, the fruit.
The grandmother told me that our Nature is love. And we are together. It’s not just an intellectual concept. It is reality. Over time, we can plant the seeds of love everywhere around us. Slowly watering and cultivating those seeds. Some days, we will forget to water them. But we will always have the opportunity to come the next day to play by Nature’s rules and make the whole f***ing universe a better place. Sorry, that was my last curse coming from my old paradigm. Hopefully, you’re not triggered.
Wow, I’m scared to publish this. And onward.
I’m super curious. What are you thinking right now? Go ahead, you can say what you’d like to say without judgement from me.
If you know of a friend or family member with physical pain, please look at some of our other content. If you know of someone in emotional or spiritual pain, reach out to me and I’ll connect you with “Good ‘Ol Mother Earth Katie who can hold you or our native American shaman friend who owns an up and coming yoga center in North Jersey.
Dr. Chris Stepien, DC, Full-Body ID Certified & ART Certified, CSCS, and CrossFit Level 1 Certified, is a Sports Therapy & Chronic Pain Resolution Specialist with Barefoot Rehab inside of the gym at Heroes Journey CrossFit in Parsippany, NJ. Among the healing depressed, Dr. Chris uses highly-leveraged physical modalities such as manual therapy and community-based fitness to inspire people to rewrite their own stories, finding strength and happiness where there once was none. Dr. Chris’s purpose in life is to help people find universal oneness + happiness through medicine and ayahuasca.
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