I had another quantum leap forward today thanks to zenergy healer Rick Barraza, and as with most steps on my journey these days I’m called to translate and share what I learned.

In order for what I learned today to make sense, I need to retell the story of my bodyworker Yerasimos reaching out to me about six weeks ago. Yerasimos messaged me on Facebook with a detailed and articulate message expressing a desire based on my writings about trauma to offer me a complimentary bodywork session, and, apparently guided by a knowledge about the viewpoints of assault survivors, assured me his sessions were performed fully clothed in a session room in the home he shares with his girlfriend. At the end of our session together, I told him, “I really appreciate how delicate you were in your wording when making your offer, because I was so guarded, I really needed my fears addressed up front or else I wouldn’t have responded. And now I wonder how many opportunities for receiving I may have missed out on from people who may have been just as generous in spirit but simply didn’t express their offers with as much finesse.”

Well, the universe heard me, and it decided to test me on whether I’d learned that lesson.

Rick also messaged me on Facebook, just last week, to offer me a complimentary session because of my writings about trauma, and his way of writing was a style often seen in the spirituality community – filled with grammatically unnecessary (but perhaps energetically emphatic?) capitalizations and special characters added for flourish. In the chat he changed his name to Zenergy Healer and the text color to purple. I didn’t have the safety net of written rapport to rely on, the assurance of communication with someone whose modality was language, like mine. All I had to go on was a feeling that this man’s offering me a healing session was an act of kindness from the heart, and a vague intuition that after what I’d told Yerasimos, this was an important step for me to take in allowing the universe to call me on my bullshit.

When I’d met Yerasimos for our first session, it was in his home on a residential Santa Monica street, and his girlfriend was there doing work in the living room. Not only was our session fully clothed, he actually asked me to put on pants (his girlfriend’s) because I’d arrived in a dress. When I met Rick today, it was alone in an empty studio on the side of a mountain in Topanga where I didn’t have great cell reception. And as we greeted each other, I saw two quantum realities before my eyes: In the one to the left of my field of vision, he was a serial killer I’d met off the internet, and in my awkwardness I was too trusting, naive, and stupid, and I was possibly about to die. And in the one to the right of my field of vision, he was a really kind gentleman who genuinely wanted to share his healing work with me, and in my awkwardness I was being cold, guarded, and rude, and I was going to feel terrible about myself later for doubting him.

“Thank you for making such a generous offer to work with me,” I said. “I don’t know what you’re getting out of choosing this, but I trust you to know what’s best for you.”

“Well, it wasn’t me,” he said, vaguely gesturing to convey that he’d received divine guidance. He had a warm manner, a very kind, smooth voice, and a gentle smile. He suggested (but didn’t demand) that I disrobe so that he could perform massage with coconut oil, and while I’d thought to myself before I arrived that I would insist a first session stay fully clothed, in the moment I felt relaxed enough that I wanted to be in flow, so I stripped down to my bra and thong.

I lay on the massage table and let Rick work. His touch was light, and he softly spoke words about frequencies and vibrations and programming that he assured me were intended more for the energy of my body than for my conscious mind. And within the first five minutes, it occurred to me: a) I’m not going to die, he’s doing this to be nice, and b) HOLY SHIT THAT’S THE LESSON.

I saw in that moment another version of myself who deeply suspected that Rick was a danger: if she’d even allowed herself to accept his offer (which, let’s face it, she probably would have blocked him for being a creeper trying to give women massages on the internet), she would have spent the entire session closing herself off entirely just to survive. She would have judged his shirtless tan, judged the fact that he changed pants before starting the session, freaked out when he tried to cover the window with black cloth to block out the sunlight, and spent the whole time making sure she could make it to the door and to her car if anything went wrong. And she would have missed the entire point of being there – no amount of touch or sound would have been able to make a dent in healing her body, because she wasn’t even in it.

I thought back to something my healer Katherine Gerardi said back in December. She said I had three trapdoors in my heart so that it could never be full; whatever was poured into it would simply leak out. People could give to me and I could even accept, but I couldn’t feel it. Every act of generosity rolled off me like water off a duck’s back, because it was too intense for me to try to feel it. I acted the same way toward my shaman when he invited me back to ceremony last month – I said yes but in an unconscious manner I was remarkably ungrateful about it because I couldn’t even feel the magnitude of what he was offering me until I was actually there and allowed it to teach me how to receive it. I dissociated from kindness the same way I dissociated from assault.

Bessel Van Der Kolk talks about this in The Body Keeps The Score. People with PTSD learn to disconnect from reality as a means of survival, to keep them from feeling the awful and intense sensations of trauma, but the price of that is the ability to also feel joy, love, connection, and fulfillment.

They say your fear is the dragon guarding your greatest treasure. But what if that fear isn’t just the obvious fear like stagefright or fear of success/failure – what if it’s some of your most deeply held identity politics? What if slaying that dragon means admitting that the people you blocked last week on Facebook maybe had a point? What if it means catching yourself saying “not all men are like that”?

Feminists and allies who have tried to unpack the problematic nature of the #notallmen arguments have often likened men to a plate of cookies where most of the cookies are delicious but a few of them will make you sick and one of them is poisoned to kill you – and this analogy is pretty spot on. But what we don’t ever consider is how hard it is to live a full life if you’re starving, and there are cookies right in front of you but you’re too terrified to eat them. And you don’t have to trust anyone ever again if you don’t want to, but that choice comes at the price of connection. It comes at the price of never eating cookies again.

I wish I could give you a handy checklist for what to look for in a human to know whether you should trust them, but I can’t – and even if I could, doubtless it would be assimilated by untrustworthy people the same way that faux feminist bros can appropriate all the correct sociopolitical buzzwords and still hurt women. All I can advise you to do is to sense a person’s heart and listen to your higher guidance, and what the fuck does that mean, right? Most trauma survivors aren’t even in their bodies enough to even know the difference between what feels good and what doesn’t! I might as well tell you that in order to figure out who you should trust, you should develop psychic powers.

The thing is… that’s exactly what I’m telling you. And I’m telling you that it’s not as impossible as it sounds, even if it requires some deep work.

But fuck it, this is your life! You get to choose how you want to engage. You don’t have to live in pain and disconnection forever. Someone hurt you. Someone came along and vandalized your house, and that wasn’t your fault. But you still have to live in it. So you can either do the work to repaint it so that it’s a place you like living in again, or you can treat it like it’s irreparably damaged and keep letting other people graffiti it as they pass by. The revictimization rate is just broken windows theory applied to people’s sense of self-worth.

If I had seen Rick for a session six months ago, I would have experienced it as a light massage with some pleasant words spoken during it – a nice gesture but probably one with little effect on my being, because I wasn’t allowing anything in to affect me. Instead, with the help of the work I’ve been doing this year, I had a clear enough channel in my body that with Rick’s facilitation I was able to drop in to a space where I received all this information that I’m sharing with you now. It felt like being in ceremony. I was – and I remain – in flow with the universe, immediately understanding and translating the messages it gives me via people like Rick who reach out to me with kindness and challenge me to take the next step.

Giving is so much easier than receiving because giving doesn’t change you. You can give and give and give to everyone in your life and still remain the same, if that’s your intention. But receiving – real, embodied receiving – means letting another human being in enough to affect you, and it’s scary because you don’t always know who you’ll be on the other side.

I could have left today having felt like I’d just just gotten a light massage. Instead, I talked with Rick before I left and we discussed our mutual intuition to work with each other, how he felt guided to reach out to me and how I felt guided to say yes, and I told him how I’d asked the universe so recently to give me my healing in a swift and painless manner, how I’d promised to cooperate, and how I planned to share what I learned with others through my writing so that anyone who reads it can benefit and we can all help raise the vibration of the planet. And that maybe that’s why spirit guided him toward me, because maybe some of you reading this now needed to hear this. And we hugged in a bond over our shared soul missions and unique modalities, lightworker to lightworker, using our respective gifts to make the world a better place.

Or, you know, I could have just blocked him on Facebook. I’ll let you decide for yourself which is a happier way to live.

(And if you want to work with Rick and see what kinds of lessons come through for you when you’re on his table, he’s tagged above and I highly encourage you to reach out.)