Marie Mbouni, MD,is a shaman, energy healer, and artist. She was born and raised in Cameroon, Africa, before relocating to Los Angeles in 2000. Her mission is to help others experience healing in all aspects of life. Connect with her at mariembouni.com.
Published Works Include
The Magic of Oneness
A short way down the trail from my cabin in rural Hawaii, there is a little old man who lives in a shack with a pig, three dogs, and four cats. Everyone worries that he is getting too frail to live in our remote off-grid community—carrying bags of dog food across the river in a faded green backpack, feeding his pig with overripe breadfruit he hauls down the trail in five-gallon buckets. Although we all lend a hand when we can, none of us are equipped to give him the kind of full-time care he’s getting closer and closer to needing.
A few weeks ago, he had a serious health crisis. My neighbor heard him shouting and called an ambulance, then lifted him into a wheelbarrow and rolled him all the way to the river, where the paramedics would be waiting to pick him up. That evening as we sat around under the monkeypod tree, my neighbors and I all wondered if he would come back. Perhaps he would go live in town, which was surely the right move for a person in his fragile state of health.
But just a few days later, I was on my way to check the water lines when I ran into him on the trail, a heavy bag of clothes and groceries in each hand. He was skinnier than ever, with pipe cleaners for legs and white hair sticking out from under his ballcap. He reminded me so much of the stray cat that had made its way back to my land even after I’d driven it three miles and several water crossings away. I stopped and offered to carry his bags, and he readily accepted. Even as I made this automatic offer, I felt a twinge of weariness—I was already so tired after a morning of working on my land in the hot sun, and still had much to do. After carrying the bags all the way to my neighbor’s place, I would have to return the way I had come and climb up the waterfall, which was my original errand. Although my body had extended itself reflexively to my neighbor’s aid, my mind began to protest at the cost.
Yet when I picked up my neighbor’s bags and felt the weight of them transfer from his body to my own, something miraculous happened: I had a sudden, visceral awareness that this transfer was taking place not between two distinct beings, but within a single organism. I wasn’t depleting “my” energy reserves—I was experiencing a kind of homeostasis, with energy flowing naturally to the place it was needed the most. Although my mind grumbled after the fact, my body had carried out the gesture automatically, the way certain trees will automatically send sugars to their less-healthy neighbors through roots and fungal networks underground.
Later, I wondered: did I stop and help my neighbor because I perceived the two of us to be a single organism, or did that brief and striking shift in perception arise from the physical act of making his burden my own?
Living off-grid, you can’t help but become aware of energy: where it comes from, where it goes, and the many ways it is used, recycled, and transformed. Light comes into the solar panels and the tool batteries greedily consume it, snug in their plastic chargers beside the power strip.
The energy stored in the tool batteries then goes into turning screws, cutting wood, and mowing grass. You spread the grass clippings in the garden to build the soil, and before you know it you have papayas, pumpkins, and sugar cane to feed your hungry body at the end of the day.
You scheme about ways to save energy—a more efficient light bulb, a lower-wattage computer monitor. Keeping your tools in a place that doesn’t require you to climb up and down a ladder fifteen times a day, which will cause you to burn fewer calories, which will make your stash of pumpkins last a couple of days longer, which means you won’t have to carry a pumpkin all the way home from your neighbor’s garden half a mile away, which means you will have more time and energy left over to finally fix your chainsaw, which means you can help your neighbor cut up the windfall bamboo, thus repaying the debt of energy left over from the time he helped you fix your solar system.
You notice the ways your neighbors are constantly transferring their energy to you—through their labor, their gifts of food and other resources, their encouragement on hard days. You transfer energy back in the form of your own gifts and words of encouragement, and the strength of your own body applied to a common task. The flow is organic, spontaneous, and unplanned. There is no ledger, yet all debts get paid; no accounting, and yet all that which is depleted gets restored.
As an editor at Hierophant, I don’t frame roofs, cook meals, or harvest vegetables with the authors I work with, but there is nevertheless an aspect of shared labor, and therefore of community. When editing a manuscript, I receive the gift of the author’s wisdom; at the same time, I apply myself to the project of helping that author express their wisdom in the clearest possible way. Because many of the books I work with deal with spirituality, there is also a sense of chipping away at a shared mystery, and becoming part of one long chain of human endeavor to understand and celebrate the divine.
Recently, while editing a book chapter in which an author was describing a significant event in her life, I had an experience not terribly unlike the moment when I picked up my neighbor’s grocery bags. Gazing into space, as I do at regular intervals when I’m writing or editing, I tuned into the emotions the author was describing, allowing them to play out in my own body. As I pondered the idea she was trying to express and toyed with different ways of expressing it, I felt a sense of oneness with the work in which I forgot that an “author” and “editor” existed, and instead felt myself to be part of a unified field of humanity, all working on these deep problems of life, all shouldering the burden of being human together.
Although there are practical reasons for putting an author’s name on a book and giving that book its own title and cover art, this is really for the sake of convenience. As don Jose Ruiz likes to say, “We’re all working for the same boss.” Just as flowers come out of the earth, ideas come out of the great pool of human history. A flower couldn’t exist without the earth, and a book couldn’t exist without thousands of years of humans thinking, feeling, searching, and dreaming. Whether or not you ever have your name on a book, you’ve probably helped write one just by being alive. All labor is shared, whether we realize it or not—and realizing it can make us feel happier, more grateful, and more alive.
I’ll never forget the time I carpooled to a meeting in town with several of my neighbors. We were sitting in the bleachers of the high school gym, listening to some engineers give a presentation about plans for our road, when I happened to glance down. My feet and shins, I noticed, were caked with dried mud—the natural consequence of hiking through several streams on my way to the car. I rarely remember to rinse off my legs before going to town, and was feeling a little embarrassed at being seen this way by the town folks, when I saw that my neighbor’s feet were also brown with mud. Turning my head to look down the length of the bleacher, I saw that we all had the same dusty streaks on our calves and dried mud between our toes.
The sight of so many muddy legs nearly moved me to tears. I felt a sense of comfort, belonging, and something akin to pride. My neighbors knew the weight of a wheelbarrow, the value of a pig, a pumpkin, or a five-gallon bucket, the sound of rain on a metal roof. They knew what it was like to sit in your chair in a stupor at the end of a long day, too tired even to read; they knew the night-blooming flowers and the moon. When one of us was sick or weak, the rest of us didn’t carry that person’s burdens for them—we just carried them, period, because they were there to be carried, and we weren’t many beings, but one.
Readers, as we transition from spring to summer, may you all be supported by the energy of sun, earth, and community; and may your roots feed others, and be fed in return.
As an editor at a spirituality and self-help publisher, I learn profound lessons from all the books and authors I work with. In fact, I often joke that it’s like getting paid to do therapy all day—there’s just no way to spend so much time reading and editing uplifting books without having those positive messages sink into my heart and mind. This has never been truer than with Adelfa Marr’s book, Lord Knows This Sh*t Ain’t Easy: How to Stay Emotionally Balanced in a Chaotic World, coming out from Hierophant next month.
I have to admit that I was a little nervous about working with Adelfa. After all, she’s a successful life coach, Instagram influencer, and lives in southern California with her husband actor Manny Montana—about as different a life from my rustic off-grid existence as you can get! How would we relate to each other as author and editor? Yet I soon found out we had a lot in common. On the very first page of her book, Marr writes of her struggles with anxiety and overthinking:
In my mind, being in control of my emotions—and ideally, the emotions of everyone around me—was the only thing that could keep me safe… I truly believed that I could eliminate any uncertainty, awkwardness, or discomfort from my life if I just thought hard enough.
When I read these words, I felt like I’d been struck by lightning.
Like Adelfa, I’d spent long periods of my life believing that I was responsible for, well, everything. It was my job to defuse conflicts, pre-empt disasters, and eliminate all negative emotions in myself and everyone around me. I was constantly rehearsing conversations, convinced that if I could just think of the perfect thing to say and the perfect way to say it, I would magically gain control over the situations that scared me. Yet for all my thinking and planning, life continued to be as awkward, uncertain, and uncomfortable as ever, and even my “successes” at controlling outcomes failed to bring me lasting peace.
As I slowly read and edited Adelfa’s manuscript, I began to remember a time in my life when I hadn’t been so fearful and controlling—when, in fact, I’d routinely taken risks that many people would find uncomfortable, with complete trust that everything would turn out OK.
At eighteen years old I was obsessed with hitchhiking. In high school, I’d read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, and On the Road. I’d also recently discovered mysticism, and begun devouring the works of Rumi and Lao Tzu. Between the swaggering characters I encountered in the novels and the thrilling ideas I absorbed from the poems, I was filled with eagerness to hit the open road and discover these states of freedom for myself.
I’ll never forget the day I walked to the side of the highway and stuck my thumb out for the first time, carrying a backpack stuffed with books and a guitar I had no idea how to play. The sky was clear and blue, and the air pleasantly chilly. I was filled with a sense of hope, possibility, excitement, and absolute trust. I trusted my body to walk for miles if I needed to, and my instincts to turn down rides that didn’t feel safe. I trusted my long johns and raincoat to keep me warm and dry if the weather turned stormy. Most importantly, I trusted in life. I believed that everything was a kind of teacher—the road, the drivers, the weather—and I was open to all of it, with a near-total absence of fear.
For me, hitchhiking represented a voluntary surrendering of control. I didn’t know who I would encounter on any given day, where I would sleep, or whether I would spend hours in a state of hunger, wet, or cold. Although cell phones existed at the time, they were not yet ubiquitous, and I was unencumbered by one. I was happy not knowing, and not having the option of knowing—content with being confined to the present moment, to the direct sensory experiences of wind, sunshine, and rain, and to the feelings of joy, curiosity, pride, and trepidation that came and went like passing clouds.
For the next four years, I hitchhiked on a regular basis—a short trip here, a long expedition there, sometimes alone and sometimes with a friend. I slept in public parks, in strangers’ homes, and in the occasional campsite or motel room. I interacted with people from all walks of life, and became very competent at meeting my own basic needs and staying calm and cheerful under all sorts of conditions. Those years were a magical period in which my tendency to trust was at an all-time high, and my tendency to control was at a corresponding low.
This all changed when, at age twenty-two, I got into my first “serious” relationship with a man I’d met after—what else?—hitchhiking to San Francisco. Interestingly, the easy and expansive sense of trust I’d felt towards the universe while hitchhiking dissolved abruptly when it came to trusting a specific person. I felt anxious about my partner’s eating habits, his approach to finances, his behavior in social situations, and a myriad of other subjects. My not-so-subtle attempts to control these things did little to gain me the sense of safety I craved, while doing much to aggravate my partner.
In Lord Knows This Sh*t Ain’t Easy, Adelfa Marr writes, “When you put your anxieties in charge, the first thing they do is cannibalize your joys.” This was certainly true for me. Like a swarm of termites, my anxieties about being vulnerable to another person swiftly began to bore holes in the joy I felt at falling in love. Before I knew it, I had turned from a carefree hitchhiker into a micromanaging control freak. Although I had no problem trusting strangers with lead feet to give me rides down winding forest roads in the backs of their pickup trucks, I could barely let my partner drive me across town without holding my breath and clenching my foot on an imaginary brake pedal, convinced it was only my hypervigilance that kept us from crashing.
Over the years I stayed in that relationship, this mystery tormented me: how could I be so trusting in some domains of life, and so controlling in others? What was it that made me shift so dramatically between these two states? When I was alone, I could sometimes recapture the sense of cosmic certainty I’d experienced in my days on the road; yet when I was with my partner, I often found myself in an anxious, contracted state that was anything but mystical. Which one was my “real” self? Was I a trusting, mystical person or a neurotic, controlling person?
It was only while editing Adelfa’s book that I finally stumbled upon the answer: I wasn’t inherently trusting or inherently controlling. These qualities simply appeared or disappeared based on how free I perceived myself to be. As an inexperienced twenty-something who had been socialized to value long-term commitment, it didn’t occur to me that I had the freedom to leave my relationship. It therefore became ever more important to control my partner and somehow turn him into the person I wanted him to be.
As a hitchhiker, I knew myself to be free, and could therefore accept all kinds of uncomfortable experiences, knowing I could always leave. I didn’t need to control things to feel safe, because my freedom was my safety. In the context of my first big relationship, I’d believed myself to be bound, and therefore fought tooth and nail to ensure that things would go my way. I’d forgotten my freedom like some precious coin that rolled under the couch, and with it, lost my sense of safety. For me, therefore, regaining that sense of mystical trust was contingent on regaining a sense of freedom. The more I learned to bring my hitchhiker self to my relationships, the better a partner I became—and the less I felt the need to control the minutiae of my own life and the lives of those around me.
In Lord Knows This Sh*t Ain’t Easy, Adelfa Marr gives us practical ways to reorient our lives towards trust, spontaneity, and ease, no matter how far down the rabbit hole of control we may have fallen. The tools she shares have been life-changing for me, and I believe many readers will feel the same way. I wish her wise, entertaining, and deeply relatable book had been around when I was twenty-two. As it is, I will be handing out copies to everyone I know—and to every hitchhiker I pick up along the lush Hawaii roads, trusting that they are all teachers in disguise.
A worldwide pandemic, climate change, social injustices. . .
Over the last few years, it’s seemed like things on the outside are falling apart! Meanwhile, on the inside, many of us are struggling with feelings of unworthiness, fear of failure, and difficulty finding hope—all while trying to be perfect partners, parents, or friends!
In a world that seems increasingly chaotic, unpredictable, and sometimes downright scary, is it still possible to live a happy and fulfilling life?
Beloved life coach and self-care guru Adelfa Marr tackles this question with her characteristic wit, humor, and warmth, and readers will find a refreshing take in her answers.
Marr understands that self-care isn’t all bubble baths and scented candles. This book gets into the messy stuff—the fear, the shame, the regret—and shows how we can all become more authentic, joyful, and courageous versions of ourselves.
Lord knows this sh*t ain’t easy, but with Adelfa Marr as your guide, you may find that it’s not as hard as you think.
A Tale of Two Waterfalls
For the first three years I lived on my land here in rural Hawaii, I didn’t have running water. Instead, I hauled drinking water from a spring in five-gallon jugs, and set out buckets to catch rainwater for washing dishes. This sounds like a hardship, and it was—but the upside of living without running water is that I was forced to walk to a nearby waterfall every day to bathe.
At first, my visits to the waterfall were utilitarian: I was sweaty and needed to rinse off. The water was cold, and I would wade in quickly and get out just as fast. As the days and months went on, however, my relationship to the waterfall changed. I realized that soaking in the cold water reduced the pain in my back after a hard day of work, and sometimes erased it completely. A dip in the waterfall was also extremely effective at resetting my emotions if I was feeling sad, stressed, or overwhelmed.
It wasn’t long before I’d stopped seeing the waterfall as a mere substitute for a hot shower, and begun to see it as a kind of mother, always ready to wrap her cold, wet arms around me whenever I needed a hug. I brought my sorrows to the waterfall, and my joys as well. I never walked past without pausing to say hello and pay my respects, even if I didn’t have time to get in for a swim. Other times, I’d sit on the rocks and utterly lose myself in the sight and sound of the waterfall, enchanted by the sprays of yellow leaves floating down from the trees to land on its surface, the prawns scuttling across its pebbly floor, and the ever-changing tune of its cascade.
Like the heady excitement that goes along with getting to know a new human friend, I found myself wanting to know everything about the waterfall, to catch up with it every day and see what was new. If I went to town for the day, I missed the waterfall and wondered what it was doing. When I got back home, I’d visit as soon as I could, eager to see its latest colors, hear its sounds, and submerge myself in its waters no matter what the weather was like that day.
Two years ago, my next-door neighbor offered to add me to his water line, which is connected to a separate waterfall. I was very appreciative for what was a huge gesture of trust and benevolence in a community in which the most basic comforts are hard-won. I bought some PVC pipe and the strange purple ointment that seals it together, a hose valve and a long green hose, and by the end of the day I had joined the ranks of people with running water. Now, my life was defined by relationships to not one, but two waterfalls: the one which had kept me clean and healthy during my first hard years on the land, and now this second rivulet, which was steeper and more austere, and whose high and rocky pools did not invite swimming.
Befriending this second waterfall was an entirely different matter. Hidden away on the side of a steep and crumbly cliff, guarded by dense thickets of coffee trees and storm-felled Java plums, it was not a place to visit every day. Instead, I bowed to it from a distance, catching sight of its pale white stream high on the cliffside as I walked home after a trip to town. Once, during heavy rainfall, I heard what sounded like a jet engine passing over my land. After a few minutes of baffled searching, I realized it was the waterfall, swollen so much from its usual flow that I could see it from my own front porch, high in the trees like an apparition.
Last month, a friend of mine who is an avid naturalist came to visit me on my land. As we sat on my front porch drinking tea, he continuously expressed curiosity about aspects of the natural world to which I’d never paid much attention. What was that bug doing? What was that bird eating? What kind of insect would hatch out of that foamy green mass of eggs? I felt a mixture of awe and embarrassment as I realized that my friend’s attention was capturing thousands of details that I routinely overlooked. He was loving, noticing, and attending to the animal life of the land, the same way I attended to the waterfalls.
He pointed out a jumping spider on a sugarcane leaf, and we walked over to take a closer look. The spider had a smooth, shiny back and milky aquamarine eyes. My friend explained that he’d once made friends which a jumping spider, and got to know him well over a period of about eight months. Jumping spiders are intelligent, he said—they can recognize individual humans, and even learn tricks. As we stood in the sunlight, admiring the spider, I let this startling fact sink in. The creatures around my home knew and recognized me—were attending to me, in their own particular way. What would happen if I finally started attending to them?
In the days after my friend went home, I found myself seeing and hearing things I’d never seen or heard before. I watched ants crawling on a bright pink ginger blossom, and two cardinals calling to one another across my ‘awa patch. I peered at the small white eggs my friend had discovered in a rolled-up scrap of tarp, wondering when they would hatch. I considered the elegant brown spider on my wall. I realized there was no end to the ways in which I could expand the range and depth of my attention, and in so doing, come into relationship with the whole world, and not only its human residents.
What good does it do to attend to the natural world? Certainly, we can speak of the benefits to ourselves—a sense of peace and health, a heightening of empathy—but does our attention benefit nature? Does a waterfall gain anything from being loved and admired, a jumping spider from being known? Surely, attending to a pine tree won’t stop it from burning in a wildfire, and listening to the minute details of a heron’s footsteps won’t stop the factories whose effluent pollutes the river in which that bird hunts for fish. Is attention merely a feel-good exercise, or is there something more to it?
In the modern world, most of us have been taught to reject anything that isn’t quantifiable. Gazing with love upon a waterfall or a spider doesn’t appear to “do” anything, and as we move out of childhood we learn to give up these pastimes in favor of more “productive” activities. If we care about nature, we sign petitions, organize protests, and campaign for earth-friendly policies—laudable and necessary actions which are the “yang” to attention’s “yin.” When it comes to protecting nature, we rightly put our energy into urgent doing. But I wonder if there is also urgency to the manner of our being—if our local waterways, spiders, and birds would benefit, in some mysterious way, from our stepping back into relationship with them.
Last week, there was a huge storm, and my neighbor and I had to climb up to a high pool of the waterfall to fix our water line, as we often do when the inlet gets blown out. This sounds like a hardship, and it is: the climb is difficult and dangerous. We grab at roots and at frayed scraps of rope, our feet slipping on the crumbly cliffside. My neighbor never fails to point out the spot where another neighbor of ours was killed by a falling rock several years before, as well as the latest landslides and downed trees.
But the upside of this hardship is that I know the water. I’ve seen it running brown and furious, thin and drought-stricken, clear and cold. Not only that, but I know my neighbor: some of our best conversations have taken place as we scrambled up the rocks, stories and confessions pouring out amid commentary about valves, fittings, and basic hydrology. The waterfall binds us to itself and to each other; in our mutual attending, we all become more alive.
It's not every day that we can stop a wildfire, save a coral reef, or make some other concrete “difference”—but no matter where we are, we can elevate our relationships through the quality of our attention. We can be friends to the wind, the water, and the jumping spider, without even knowing what “good” it does. Perhaps there is something more precious to this not-knowing than we will ever realize, and more good than we can ever perceive.
Lord Knows This Sh*t Ain't Easy: Life coach Adelfa Marr's guide to self-care and fulfilling relationships. Discover a happier you!
The No Self No Problem Workbook
Author Chris Niebauer's follow-up to his bestseller No Self No Problem. In The No Self No Problem Workbook experience the state of "No Self".
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With the Human Design Workbook you can uncover life's purpose through your unique chart. Transform your destiny step-by-step.
Rebecca Scolnick is a numerologist and witch who employs magic, storytelling, and her knowledge of numbers and witchcraft to support and inspire those looking to reclaim their freedom from the myriad of ways modern culture has taught us to hate ourselves, reject ourselves, and keep ourselves small. Connect with her online at www.rebeccascolnick.com.
Books by Rebecca Scolnick
The Witch's Book of Numbers
Unlock the magic of numerology! Discover your significant six numbers and amplify your spell work. No complex math required!
David Gandelman is a spiritual teacher, the founder of The Meditation School app, and teaches meditation at Cornell University. With over 10 years of teaching experience, David has cultivated a program that connects meditation, introspection, and humor, to help people live a life filled with peace and purpose.