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Alison Bristow (Shakti Shaman)

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My latest piece is featured on Simply Woman!
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I'm published! Click here and I'll love you forever <3 (or at least until I reach 1 million views)
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Last night I partook in a Mexican meal that thoroughly disqualifies me from Hollywood super model status -- as if my over-sized nose, small (but I might add perky) breasts, and ample booty hadn't already.

Unless the meal consists of 2 slices of jicama, 4 almonds, and a shot of wheat grass, any stick figure woman in LA eating more than that will probably be heading for the restroom in short order to indulge in something called purging.

I've been privy to this practice more than once in the public restrooms around Los Angeles and the surrounding area.

It's unfortunate and yet I trust that at some point, everyone will wake up to self-love over self-loathing; self-generosity over self-deprivation; and balance over excess or deficiency.

From one who began dieting at the age of 8 - everything from fasting and binge eating to hard boiled eggs only, to one meal a day, to virtual starvation, to the fuck-this-I'm-going-to-eat-whatever-the-hell-I-want-diet, I've done it all. Weight watchers, cardio blasting, just the salad - hold the lettuce please. Don't even ask.

I was a walking roller coaster and a flashing billboard for the latest nutrition or weight loss fad. I use the word "fad" very consciously. "Trend" would do just fine too. When you see enough of these things come and go, you begin to catch on to the game. There's a lot of money to be made in taking advantage of the mass populi's self-disconnection.

Somewhere about 10 years ago, I woke to the inconvenient truth that it was going to take more than kale, 9 gallons of water a day, and the latest iPhone to conquer the world, which really meant conquering myself. In one way this totally sucked and in another way it was enormously awesome.

I actually started to reconnect with my intuitive nature - go figure! I began to untangle the snarls of years of confusion (mass marketing's attempt to con me into fusion with an illusion).

I began to FEEL good in my body right where I was. I began to actually ask ME what I wanted to eat and how I wanted to move my body rather than going to that Lean Cuisine thought bubble ad that so often played in my head or the latest Cosmo-tight-abs-in-ten-days-checkout-cover that ransacked my brainwaves daily.

I would say self-reflection, fueled by spiritual study, the practice of yoga, my version of prayer and meditation, reconnecting with nature, and basically just being over it already - all played a role in my shift.

Within a couple of years, I had found liberation from the bondage of mass culture and the core of balance within myself.

Today, I say I practice "intuitive" eating and the activities I partake in are for the sake of joy - not calorie burning (although the activities do burn calories - that's not why I do them). If I find myself falling back into the habit of calorie counting rather on the intake or output, I stop myself and refocus my mind in more productive, joy-inducing direction.

I haven't been on a scale in over 15 years - don't own one, don't ever plan on owning one again.

As a woman in our culture, it's too easy to let numbers like weight and age define us, so I choose to opt out altogether so I can stay connected with who I really am.

It rocked my world to learn that the world's oldest yoga teacher (and still going strong) 99 year old Tao Porschon-Lynn does not drink water - NONE, zero, zilch, nada. A dirty little secret that I'm sure the folks at Fiji, Evian, and Nestle would rather not get out.

I'm on the Alison Diet and it's perfect for me. It shifts here and there as it should and will continue to. As fluid beings, how could we expect our diet to stay stagnant.

My "diet" is weird by all industry standards. I take pleasure and delight in eating. I rarely overeat or undereat. And perhaps best of all, the energy that used to be tied up in anguish around food, body image, what to eat, what not to eat, is now freed up to partake in joie de vivre - the JOY of life my friends!!

I so wish for people and especially women to find more liberation around their bodies and eating with passion, pleasure, and balance again.

You can spend your entire lifetime trying on trend after trend or you can dive deep - get beneath the programming - back before all the theories clouded your innate knowing of what is right for you uniquely.

I'm very skeptical of putting what I put into my body in the hands of an expert. Who would be a better expert on what I should eat than me?

Once imbalanced emotional and mental states are dealt with, you find connection with your unfailing inner guidance and you find your choices lining up with that in a way that's just right for you. This may not be right for anyone else and that's ok. Let others eat how they eat and you eat how you eat.

It's so funny that something so natural to the human experience has become such a source of stress and anxiety for many people.

I've lived the contrast in this arena and as with most things, I've swung like Tarzan's Jane from one end of the pendulum to the other and back again. And while I love the loin cloth, the whiplash gets old.

In short, I have some perspective so if I can save you the trouble let me!!

In general, I would say -- Be more nonchalant about it. Often the stressful thoughts around eating are way more harmful than anything you would ever put in your mouth.

Do things you love to do and eat things you love to eat (for the right reasons) and most of all just be in love - in love with you, in love with your friends, in love with the sky, the squirrel running up the tree, in love with the person making your latte and on and on.

I just glanced up to see a book on my shelf (thank you great goddess in the sky! perfect timing as always) that came my way years ago called Love, The Only Diet There Is.

I remember at first reading of the book, not really being able to integrate it fully. And yet here I sit today with an embodied awareness that yes indeed - LOVE is the foundation - the beginning and ending point of all lasting transformation.

I know this may have taken a turn toward the syrupy so let me bring it back down for my earthy friends with an insider nutritional tip from Alison's Tell All Diet Diaries that goes something like this - I prefer my chocolate and my coffee my men. Bam!!

Background Photo by Roy Dunn
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I named this selfie "four-eyes," though I don't see any glasses.

It's more a long awaited ode to female nipples wherever they may be.

These delectable, delightful nubs of sensitivity that give pleasure and keep babies alive are so widely oppressed, spending most of their days squashed under thick pads of poor quality cotton, all tightly bound so as not to offend the powers that be.

Flash a picture of blood spurting violence and nobody blinks an eye.

Show a nipple or two and the whole world goes crazy.

As for mine, they are free perhaps more of the time than most.

But I too conform so as not to ruffle any feathers.

God forbid the everyday woman was free in her sexuality,

A good measure of luscious feminine energy oozing from the women in the grocery store, the office place, and the gas station might shut down all the seedy strip joints.

The free feminine, empowered around her sexuality could not be so easily objectified and commodified.

Speaking of freedom, I've found my nipples love love love exposure to the wide open air of mother earth.

One day hot and sweaty running on the trail, tucked tightly behind my padded sports bra, I finally heard their screams for air (something I'm sure they've been doing for years),  so I lifted up my top and oh what a feeling!

They sang, they laughed, they cried, and so did I.

In that moment I realized what an unnecessary travesty that they had not been exposed the outdoor air of daylight most likely since toddler times. How abhorrent I thought.

So now they get doses of fresh air on a regular basis. As much as we can get away with before we hear a bike or god forbid the park ranger - as we've since discovered that yes - it is illegal for women to go topless in the Santa Monica mountains - OMG!! WTF?!!!

I also have these squishy little silicone-like discs that I smush them down with when I feel I must cave to conformity to avoid controversy.

The box they live in says "Top Hats," but I call them "evil nipple smotherers."

(They were freshly removed before I took this picture and the feeling of relief inspired these words.) 

And oh how my nipples despise them. The second my hand reaches for that box, I feel them trying to retract - first the right (she's the most sensitive), followed by the left close on her heels.

I've been called "earthy" and "hippie" both in the spirit of patronization and celebration.

Regardless of the intention of the giver, I will always choose to take these as compliments.

To me, they say authentic over artificial; connected over conventional.

I can only surmise the rainbow of responses this picture and these words will evoke...

some will cheer

others will sneer

some sisters will judge and snub

others will find liberation and a shade of truth in my honest sharing - perhaps we'll pass each other on the trail one day soon - our breasts in the breeze - how cool would that be?!!

men who want sex will DM me because they think since I'm openly sexual, I must not be selective

others will damn me to hell because of what the Bible says or some other book they've read

Good for them - let's put bras and squishy wads of silicone over their nipples for the next 1000 years,  then and only then will their input have any relevance!

My nipples and me want all women to be free (nipples and all!).

We want to encourage the natural feminine essence to flow in everyday women and everyday life.

We want to interrupt and reverse the cycle of ignorance about authentic female sexuality perpetuated in the likes of the male-dominated hard core porn industry, which passes it's perverted counterpart off as the real thing.

But mostly at the end of the day, we just want to be free.

We don't want to be smushed, squashed, and smothered anymore.

We want to frolic in the open breeze.

We want to give the world a metaphorical drink of juicy, pure, real, life-giving, life-affirming, joyous, free, liberated feminine energy - a big, giant dose of which is needed to restore balance to humanity and our planet.

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Once upon a time at summer camp (not band camp) when I was a young girl (not an old woman like now), I heard in a conversation an older woman say how she preferred gardening over sex with her husband. I remember at the time being new in my exploration of sexuality in relationship to others, raising my eyebrows and thinking - "What!? Is she nuts?!" Oddly her words stuck with me and have replayed in my head many times over the years as I've grappled with and observed sexuality from many different angles - pardon the pun.

First of all sexuality and all it represents can't be narrowed to body parts and isolated instances of connection between bodies.Sexual energy is so much bigger than that. But as with all glorious, mysterious, and awe inspiring things unfittable into boxes, we try boxing them any way. I do not remember this woman as embodying femininity. I remember her as more masculine in appearance and rigid if not mildly cranky in attitude. While there's nothing wrong with that, her words were words of resignation with a twinge of resentment. Gardening over intimacy with her husband was a consolation prize, not a celebrated choice.

There are many directions for sexuality to flow. One individual may have dozens of them, hundreds, even thousands...dare I say limitless ways - existence itself and taking a breath counted among them. For me, my first sip of single origin Kenyan coffee in the morning, the sound of Smokey Robinson's silky voice buttering up the high notes, moving my body to a funky bass line or African drum, a first glimpse of the moon on a starry summer night, or a strong, steady, masculine hand on the small of my back - all of these (though not sex per se) have at one time or another given me visceral experiences of sexual delight.

I was recently asked by an attractive man of color at a dance venue if I was Brazilian. "No, I said, but I know why you're asking." He grinned, surprised I think at my candidness. We both knew it was the booty. Who are we kidding? We smiled at each other and he said, "Man, you're a woman, a real woman." I hunched over, pretending I had a cane, and said, "You mean an old lady." "No!" Was his emphatic reply. "You're truly sexy. Sexy doesn't even begin for a woman until this and this get connected." he said pointing first to his head and then to his heart. I liked his insight and agreed with one addition so I nodded, "You're right - this, this, AND this," I said pointing to my head, my heart, and adding my pelvis.

My response was a natural, matter-of-fact depiction of my own experience in integrating my sexuality. There's no way to leave the pelvis out! Ask Elvis.

Embracing the pelvis has so many literal and symbolic implications. As a woman, the journey of unlocking my pelvic mysteries has been a fascinating one and still continues. As a teacher witnessing the way our bodies reflect psychological and emotional states, I've found the pelvic area to be a great block for many people of both genders. In a yoga class ask people to lift their arm - no problem. But mention or ask for some adjustment or movement in the pelvic area and you can feel the trepidation in the room.

This pelvic disconnect mirrors shame and guilt about our sexuality and it's not natural or innate. It is learned, educated conditioning. No baby shoots out of the womb with any aversion to their pelvis -- quite the opposite. Latin, Mediterranean and African cultures tend to be more connected and free with their sexuality. You can see this by the styles of dance that come from these areas.

I wish for everyone, both men and women, to have a fun, free, joyous, open-ended exploration with their sexuality. Reckless and repressed are two sides of the same coin. One side reflects fighting against outside impositions, the other succumbing to them.

For me, the middle way has been looking within. I've had to blatantly ignore the committee in my head to find my own authenticity. This continues to require a lot of deconstructing, self-reflection, exploration, and quite frankly what's been recently called in a popular book -- "the subtle art of not giving a FXXX."

What I'm discovering is that my sexuality is something to be embraced, cherished, and honored. I'm finding that the more it's grounded in my authenticity, the more it flows in ways that are healthy and constructive to my life. And many of these have nothing to do with what's commonly labeled as "having sex."

All in all there's a fearlessness and freedom along with a greater clarity about my yes's and no's and a natural ease in honoring them.
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I asked one of my clients (very successful in business with all the outer trimmings of having made it) what he did for fun. After a bit of stammering, he muttered a couple of things that were more obligatory than genuine. I was prompted to ask him the question because frankly I know the remedy for many of his ailments would be reconnecting to his innate sense of joy and allowing that to take the lead more in his life. I know this because I've experienced it. My connection to what brings me joy was cut off early as I learned to conform so I could get approval or feel validated by others (most of whom were worlds away from their joy). I went through what you might call a fun wilderness where there was no fun to be found. I judged people who had fun, wrote them off as superficial, frivolous, and irresponsible. Meanwhile I was living a perfect life that was for the most part perfectly barren of vivacious, radiant, life-affirming joy! Pretty ironic considering Joy is my name - literally - Joy Alison - though I've always gone by Alison. It took some really turbulent experiences to nudge me (or maybe even shove me) back to fun, but finally I got the hint. And oh the satisfaction of reclaiming fun as a necessity rather than a luxury from a conscious place and with contrasting experiences to back me up! For me fun doesn't mean reckless, debaucherous, or irresponsible. It means balance, pleasure, and fulfilling responsibilities with a spirit of joy and lightheartedness as much as possible. It means tuning in to connect with what brings me joy and incorporating that into my life at all costs in whatever way I can NOW. 
#wholesouledwoman #funisnotafourletterword
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I love supporting and witnessing a woman coming into her power and authenticity to such a degree that she has the ability to distinguish conditioning verses her essential nature and then makes choices based on the latter for perhaps the first time in her life!!! This is Whole-Souled living at its finest!

The Whole-Souled Woman doesn't seek to lock down a conventional life, rather she seeks to create a life conducive to her perpetual expansion.

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I've lost count of the number of times I've gone into a public restroom to find a woman in the stall next to me throwing up. The cultural imposition of body image upon women is so predominant. This makes one of the most natural and unique to every individual activities often fraught with anxiety and confusion for girls and women. Having been on both sides of the pendulum, I love envisioning and knowing it's within every woman's ability to feel good in her body, to enjoy eating, to embrace her sexuality, and to find her own unique balance with these intricately interwoven aspects of her identity.

This is one of the areas I love supporting girls, teens, and women in through my coaching work...

The Whole-Souled Woman embodies equilibrium. Her psyche is intolerant of both excess and deficiency.

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