2018 Year in Review: Ayahuasca, HBO, and Total Transformation
I love setting powerful, ambitious intentions for the year ahead before the dawning of January 1st. But reviewing the year past is just as important a practice to me because it helps me start the New Year with feelings of accomplishment, worthiness and encouragement. It is important to acknowledge and celebrate progress, so I hope you all get a chance to go over your journey in 2018!
For me, 2018 has begun as a very cold and a very long night that I spent in Downtown Columbia, SC - and I don’t remember much besides the public concert that I attended, the fireworks that I saw, and drinking my face off at the local bars (to the point that I had to run to the bathroom because I drank so much that I had to puke). Thankfully, a lot changed for me since then…
I Quit Smoking and Ended My Alcoholism.
Though it happened closer to the end of the year, it was perhaps the most powerful change of 2018. Having smoked for ten years of my life, I finally realized that I no longer enjoyed this dreadful habit and that it took away from my health in some MAJOR ways. I have grown tired of coughing for weeks after getting over a simple cold and became really bothered by being a slave to my habit and depending so much on always having to buy more cigarettes. I knew I was ready, and one day decided that I was done - for good. It wasn’t as hard to quit as I was always told! I look forward to sharing how I did it in another post in the coming year.
Another thing I realized was the fact that my drinking habit turned into a real drinking problem. The incident of getting drunk to the point of making myself sick on New Years was not an isolated incident… The hard truth was that I spent most of my money and most of my evenings drinking myself into oblivion. It was never “just a beer” though I always naively believed it could be, as I made yet another decision to go to a bar. I would not stop until I was wasted, and the next morning would always wake up depressed and resentful, hoping things would somehow change on their own. It took a serious effort on my part to take ownership of my problem and to decide to end it. I had to change my pattern of thinking and behaving by creating a different nighttime routine that did not involve going out to the bars, because instead…
I Started Being More Active, Working Out at the Gym and Doing Yoga Regularly.
Having experienced some pretty severe injuries not long ago (breaking my arm and my ankle, both requiring complicated surgeries and lengthy recovery periods) I was somewhat afraid of exercising my body - and, quite honestly, felt betrayed by it in some ways. In Spring of 2018, I decided to develop a consistent Yin Yoga routine, and it wasn’t to get fit - I wanted to have more mindfulness in my life and learn how to control the chaos that frequently took over my restless mind. Having a dad that is a certified Yin Yoga teacher, I decided to ask him for advice on how to get started. He recommended a Yin Yoga Kit by Biff Mithoefer that featured cards with pictures of each pose as well as pose descriptions and variations. I made a commitment to practicing using cards every day for 21 days. I skipped two or three days, but after about a month, a new habit was formed!
I then decided to start walking long distance again. I always enjoyed taking long, energized walks - and it was time for me to acknowledge that my injuries have fully healed and were not a problem for me anymore. So I started walking again and noticed that I had a lot more energy each time I went on a walk. I added listening to audiobooks and taking pictures of nature on my walks and turned the exercise into an exciting self-care time that I began REALLY looking forward to!
Finally, closer to the end of the year, I got myself a membership at Planet Fitness and started doing weights training. I’ve always heard that it was a “guys thing” and that if you are a woman, you might “bulk up too much”. Not so! I began noticing a big difference in my shape and the way I experienced my body. I began feeling stronger, more fit, and more in control of my physicality.
Struggling with self-image is something I’ve been familiar with for most of my life. However, this year has brought true self-acceptance into my world, and I have learned to love and accept my body unconditionally. As if to prove the Law of Attraction, several talented photographers asked me to model for them and I was happy to accept.
Often, I was surprised by how others see me - their encouragement and appreciation have inspired me to realize that others often don’t see you as you think they do… And that truly, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
To transform my own self-image, I began watching my thoughts very carefully and getting rid of harsh self-criticism that I’ve grown so used to over the years. I stopped reacting to what I see in the mirror or on the photographs with thoughts like “I look too fat!” or “why is my skin so horrible?” - instead, I trained myself to always remember to accept myself fully and love myself unconditionally. Thus, I am able to extend the same attitude towards other people instead of judging them for based on their looks.
I Started an Acting Career and Even Worked for HBO.
Drama and Acting have always interested me, but I’ve never thought of myself as an actress or someone who can work as one. This year brought FOUR acting roles into my life. I was cast to play the role of a Gypsy Witch in a fundraising campaign for a feature film (Vampyras Psychedelicas), I acted as an Asylum Nurse in a music video (I Don’t Wannna Go to the Vet by Turbo Gatto), I landed a role of the Party Guest in a Unicorn Costume for a local Indie Film production (SHED), and I was cast to play a role in the HBO Series Pilot (The Righteous Gemstones by Danny McBride)!
Getting to act for a production as big as HBO kind of blew my mind… I never thought I’d be selected when I applied - and that alone has proved to me that it is ALWAYS better to apply even if you don’t think you are qualified! In fact, I was told that I was personally cast by Danny McBride himself, and of course I got to meet him in person. The pilot was being filmed in Charleston, and I enjoyed every aspect of that experience: from make-up to hair, from socializing with fellow actors to learning how it all comes together on the set…
But every role that I played was very special to me in its own way, and I enjoyed each and every experience. I look forward to growing as an actress and landing more roles in the future!
I Posed for Paintings.
It’s always been a dream of mine to sit for a portrait, and I got to do it THREE times in 2018! It all began with “About Face” artist session in Columbia, SC. I was recommended by an artist friend of mine to the group because, as she said, she saw the potential in me. I accepted an invitation to sit for a group of over 15 artists that all painted me at once in a big, well-lit studio space. This experience has impacted my life in a MAJOR way because it helped me realize that no two people see the same thing, and that everyone perceives you through the prism of their own experience. I was gifted two portraits after the session and these are perhaps the best gifts I’ve ever received in my life.
Following that experience, I got the confidence to offer myself as a model to other artists I knew. Two of them agreed and painted/drew my portraits. Several other artists have told me that they will contact me when the right project is at hand - and I anticipate that greatly because I see posing for portraits as a great way to contribute to the artwork of other people.
I Influenced Local Legislation.
2018 has brought me my first taste of addressing the City Council and defending a something I was truly passionate about. I made a public speech FOUR times, each time speaking against a proposed curfew to shut down late night bars and restaurants in Columbia.
Having worked for, with, and on behalf of local small businesses, I knew that the legislation would negatively impact their revenue, perhaps forcing some to even shut down permanently. I also knew that the proposed curfew would strip me of my freedom of being a night owl and doing my work while hooked to a WiFi and enjoying a delicious late night dinner past 2 am.
My platform was mentioned in a local newspaper, I was quoted in another online news article, and my own blog post was widely read and shared in Columbia, SC. The suggested curfew ended up being declined, and my efforts combined with efforts of others proved successful.
I Started Uploading Speaking Videos.
It’s scary to put yourself out there - especially if you are not pretending to be someone else. I learned to get over the fear of being “exposed” and judged for who I really am this year!
I began uploading videos in which I shared my honest opinions, the lessons I am learning and the breakthroughs I have. In many of them, I wore no make-up, did not filter myself, and did not edit the video before sharing it publicly. What surprised me most is that many people have embraced my true self and have encouraged me to continue sharing my journey!
This experienced has made me much more confident and has debunked some of my deepest fears and insecurities. It’s really true that we are our own worst critics!
I Continued Interviewing Local Leaders.
Influence Columbia was a non-profit initiative that I began in 2016 - it was created to give me a platform to interview local Columbia, SC leaders via Live Videos.
I was able to continue building the initiative and conducted some incredible interviews that have impacted me and my audience in some major, positive ways. Additionally, it helped the leaders I interviewed use the platform to share their wisdom and their vision.
In the coming year, I look forward to taking Influence Columbia to the next level and dramatically improving the technical quality and the frequency of the interviews!
I Furthered Spiritual Studies.
Always a spiritual seeker, in 2018 I have taken my spiritual studies to a whole new level. I studied with a Shaman who truly inspired me, learned to Channel the Ascended Masters, Angels, Ancestors and Spirit Guides, began professionally offering Tarot and Energy readings, published some of my spiritual work online (via articles and videos) and came into having enough courage to share my spirituality with the world - even though it was terrifying, knowing that some may judge me for doing so.
I learned that you cannot grow if you hide who you really are. Even though some may have been alienated by my spiritual bravery, some people were drawn closer to me because of it. It became clear to me that those who are meant to be in your life will accept you for who you are, no matter what.
I Experienced Ayahuasca Ceremonies.
2018 has brought a brand-new spiritual experience into my life. I participated in TWO Ayahuasca ceremonies and I agreed to keeping the dates and locations of the ceremonies secret.
This experience has opened me in ways I didn’t know were available. It allowed me to access my innermost fears and to purge many false belief that were taught to me by others (and society) that no longer served me. I became aware of spiritual depths within me that I didn’t think existed. I connected to the experience of being born into this world and taking my first breath as an infant. I connected to my true nature - that of an Eternal Spiritual Being who has a temporary physical body.
My experiences with Ayahuasca were of TREMENDOUS help in assisting me with getting rid of my addictions (such as drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes). They also facilitated forming new bonds with like-minded people and gaining a much deeper appreciation for nature and the environment.
I Confronted a Priest.
Having grown up a Russian Orthodox and come into an open, ever-expanding spirituality that is not limited to a specific religion as an adult, I had some unresolved issues that stemmed from my Christian upbringing and education.
Much like in the Catholic church, you won’t find any female priests in the Orthodox church, and some of my experiences of attending Confessions and speaking to dignified men of faith about my “sins” have psychologically affected me in negative ways.
2018 gave me an opportunity to confront an Orthodox priest that was also a Confession-taking monk in a monastery in Arizonan. Our conversation lasted for over two hours. Even though it was terrifying, I finally gathered the courage to voice my honest opinion, to ask uncomfortable questions, and to openly disagree with things that I could not accept.
The experience left me completely exhausted because I had to face some of my deepest fears to go through it, but afterwards I felt so liberated that it seemed the weight of the entire world was lifted off my shoulders. I finally let myself speak my truths and it was rewarding in ways that cannot be described by words.
Travel makes life worth living - in my opinion, at least!
2018 has brought TWO major trips. In May, I traveled to Arizona with my mom - part of the trip was spent at the Orthodox Monastery, and another part of the trip was dedicated to exploring the Grand Canyon with a brief stop in Sedona. I definitely want to come back and explore Sedona more in the future. Grand Canyon was extremely beautiful, and the energy it holds is unlike anything I’ve experienced in any other place in the world… Other than Egypt, perhaps.
Another trip took place in late September when I traveled to Moscow, Russia. There I was able to spend some time with my grandmother, visit our summer home and take a swim at the lake, as well as forage for wild mushrooms in the forest. I also got a chance to spend some time with my close friends and enjoy the beauty and vibrance of the Capital. My mom was with me and we spent some quality time together, going to museums and taking in the culture. It was a very memorable trip that has brought new realizations into my life!
To summarize, 2018 was AWESOME! And guess what? 2019 is going to be EVEN MORE AWESOME! Join me on my adventures and let’s get more LIVING out of life together!