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Podcast Ep. 59: The Power of Woo for Mental and Emotional Health with Jenny Walters, LMFT

In this episode

This month’s theme in the Yes Collective is all about the power of "woo" for supporting our mental and emotional health. In this episode, Justin and Jenny explore the power of woo: understanding what it is, what it could be, and how we can use it consciously in our mental and emotional healing journeys. We also introduce Jenny as Justin's new co-host on the Yes Collective Podcast!

The Oxford Dictionary defines “woo-woo” as “unconventional beliefs regarded as having little or no scientific basis, especially those relating to spirituality, mysticism, or alternative medicine.” For us, woo refers to not just beliefs but also practices that bring us into something beyond our own minds and the physical, empirical world.

Justin and Jenny talk about their "woo" journeys and why even the most hard-nosed, materialist scientist should be ok with woo in the context of mental and emotional health. Whether you're woo-curious or a crystal-loving, sage-burning, tarot-card-reading, energy-healing lover of woo, you'll love listening to Justin and Jenny chop it up!

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About our guest

Jenny Walters is a licensed marriage family therapist and senior expert contributor to the Yes Collective. She is a graduate of the Pacifica Graduate Institute and is the founder and director of Highland Park Holistic Psychotherapy in Los Angeles, California.

Transcript highlights

Justin Wilford (JU)

Jenny, thank you so much. So I am super excited to announce to our listening audience that Jenny Walters will now be the co-host along with me. We are going to co-host together the Yes Collective podcast. This is super exciting. Audra will still come on but Audra is like the CEO of several different things. And so she's got such a huge load right now that it made sense for us to bring in this superstar, Jenny Walters, as well.

Jenny Walters (JE)

All right. That's that's that's. Anyway, superstar. Superstar. But. Okay, I'm on it. And these are big shoes to fill. Audrey, as we know. But I'm honored. I'm so excited. I just cannot. I love you know, Justin, you and I always get into these great conversations, and I love that we get to do it and share it and also be in curiosity about all these great guests that you bring on.

JU

And Jenny, I'm feeling into the appropriateness of having you on as the co-host of the selected podcast as we launch November's theme, which is the power of woo. Jenny So you are a licensed therapist. You engage in evidence based mental health modalities. You have been doing this for a long time, but you are also someone I think I'm not spilling any secrets here that, you know, you on occasion will dabble in the woo.

JE

Dabble in the woo. I was a closeted I was closeted woo for a long time. And now I'm much more I'm I'm out of the closet with my will. You know what I can I say this? I have I see a person. And in Los Angeles, she is an osteopath, which is a she's a trained, you know, medical professional.

She does adjustments on my body. I call her magic hands. She's worked miracles. Excuse me. But she was saying, you know, I am very much based in science. She said, I came at this from a place of science. That's what drew me to it. Understanding the body and the anatomy and working with that. She's like, But the more I do this work and the more I lay hands on humans, the more I see that there is and there is an unseen world that we cannot necessarily or has yet to be explained that is absolutely real and potent.

And I've just she's like, I've just seen it too many times. And that's how I feel in this work. I'm a legit, I have a license. I went to school, I did the practicum. You know, I've seen you know, I've done thousands of, of of sessions with humans and but there is something that is sometimes unexplainable that happens that I've seen more often than not that I just cannot deny it. So here I am, out of the closet about my love of woo!

JU

Oh, I love it. And when we decided to make November's theme The Power of woo several months ago, it really came from more of an evidence based approach. And I wrote an article or I wrote for my newsletter. I have a personal newsletter that I have on the power of woo several months ago, and it was really from a more evidence based standpoint, like, here are all the reasons that we should all, no matter what your educational background or your views on the supernatural are, we can all agree on these things about woo.

However, I just got back from this retreat in Sedona, Arizona, which I believe is land of woo, the yeah, it is like the global capital of woo. I mean, are there any other places that are more woo than Sedona that you know of? It's like. It's just. It's just everywhere. And then, of course, just retreat centers. And it is the place to go to get in touch with woo.

JE

True, there may be no other place in America or in the in the world that has branded woo as successfully as Sedona, Arizona.

JU

Yeah, for sure. So I just got back from a five day retreat and oh man, I'm just feeling the woo. I'm just like I'm coming back more woo than I think I've ever been. Yeah. Oh, so we’ll get to talk about this and about our, our own woo journeys. I think, you know, we all we all have our own woo journeys. But I'll start with I'll start off this podcast by saying a little bit about some of the, I think more objective evidence based reasons why we might want to bring woo into our lives.

So first of all, most woo is like zero risk if you're doing a tarot reading or you have crystals in your room or you're, you know, smudging with sage, I guess maybe with the smudging with Sage, there's some volatile airborne particles, you know, that could irritate. But I guess as long as you're not doing it all the time like so most woo very low risk.

So even if we would say there would be zero benefit to it. If there's zero risk, then why are why are we worried about it now? We also know about the placebo effect. So we know that there's not zero benefit to it. If somebody believes that it's helping, then just by this very well-known, very well-studied mechanism called the placebo effect, it's helping them.

So we can say, all right, low risk, it’s helping them. And then a third thing is that for hundreds of thousands of years, probably humans have been gathering and connecting with each other through woo, through rituals, through myth, through sacred objects, through sacred actions. And so Woo is deeply woven into our evolutionary biology, it’s how we connect with each other.

And if we reject woo, then we're also impoverishing our social lives. So that's another reason. And then I think and then I'll just do one more that I think is just objective that we can all agree on. Even the most hard nosed scientist is that our emotional worlds, the language, our emotional worlds speak is the language of woo.

When we dream at night and all this weird stuff is going on, that is our emotional world speaking in its native tongue. Right. And so I believe that when we engage in things like energy, healing, crystals, tarot, astrology, when we do these things, we are essentially speaking the native tongue of our emotional worlds. So that's what I've got.

Jenny, I would love to first hear what you think about those more objective justifications for woo.

JE

I could not agree more and I think that we have to even use the word woo. We may need to start to have to find different language because it's a self-deprecating term that I think people who are attached to rational thinking and want to be accepted and not thought of as as crazy, we've adopted this term to sort of say, well, yeah, I know it sounds crazy, but really we're putting something down that is, like you said, is is rooted in in generations and cultures outside of, you know, of our own for centuries.

So many of these practices go back so far and have been helping humans make meaning in life, make sense of life, have helped them physically cope in life, mentally and emotionally cope as well. And so when we call it woo, we're sort of undermining all of that in a way that I think there's an arrogance to it, you know, and I mean, I, I self-deprecating around that word all the time.

And it's my own self-consciousness around concern about whether others will think the more I am in my community and in my family, and the more, frankly, that that these sorts of conversations unfold, I think it's not it's not as it's not as looked down upon as we might think it is.

JU

I, I have totally found that. Oh, that's.

JE

Yeah, yeah. Everyone has just been closeted.

JU

Right, right, right. We've all we've all been shamed into closeting our woo.

JE

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's like, yeah, I was just thinking, like, when I, you know, went to my first gay bar and I was like, oh, you know, like, there's other, there's others. And it's just, it's just when you start to and that's what's nice about Sedona is you can just be open about it. Yeah, it's like one big woo bar and you can just be open about and it's like no one's looking down, no one's judging.

There's a freedom and you realize and it's all kinds of people there that visit Sedona, right? It's not just the stereotypical people that you think and it's like, oh, yeah, this is you know, there's something very universal about this.

JU

Yes. Yeah, I, I totally hear that about the self-deprecating and the woo. I do find, though, you know, from a from a historical vantage point. So my first dissertation was about evangelical megachurches in the suburbs. And I did a lot of research on the history of religion in the Western world up to the present and the history of religion for the last three or 400 years has been one of secularization.

It started off very slow, but it has now picked up. And it's even happening here in the U.S. for the 20th century. There were sociologists who were arguing like the U.S. is a special case and it's not secularizing. No, it is. There's this rise of people who are saying they don't belong to any religion and it just continues to go up and up and up every single year that they ask.

So on one hand, talking about woo or using the word woo is is deprecating. But on the other, I think it does provide a bridge when we are in this long age of secularization for people to come back in to a spiritualized world like we've, many of us have had to lose our childhood spiritualized world. We came into adulthood, right?

We want to be reality based, like what's actually happening here. And then the question for many of us is how do we, in an intellectually honest way, find our way back into woo? And so for me, woo, or I'm just using woo right now because we could use the word spirituality and I'm not sure spirituality covers all the forms of woo that we would want to.

JE

Let's take back woo. I'm let's I'm just kind of like you've changed my mind and I am in this moment. I am like, I'm all about Woo, let's just and say it with pride. Say it with pride.

JW

Could woo be like queer?

JE

I was just thinking that. Woo is the queer of of spirituality, but also of all the, all the unseen practices that deal with the internal world.

JU

So I would like to begin first. How would you define Woo? Because we just kind of noted there it covers spiritual stuff, but maybe even more than that. So when you talk about Woo Jenny, what comes up for you? What are some of the actual practices and ideas that would be in Woo.

JE

Is that, you know, as I think about that question, I think, oh is Woo on a spectrum because I know people who think that the kind of therapy that I practice, which is rooted in the imaginal, it's rooted in young in therapy, it's called a depth therapy. It rooted in working with the unconscious, with images, dreams, all of that.

There are people who would say that that is woo yeah. That would say that that is just B.S. and what are you talking about? And that doesn't really help people, you know. But to me that's not woo at all. I mean, that is just like to me that psychotherapy, that's just the lens through which I it, you know.

So then you move into, like you mentioned a bunch earlier, you know, tarot astrology or is it tarot? I've had people recently saying tarot. I don't know if it's true. Anyway, we don't need to worry about that right now. But there's astrology, there's mediums, you know, communicating with people who've passed over. There's energy healing, all kinds of modalities of energy healing.

You know, my wife practices sound healing, right, where she puts tuning forks. Some people would say that's very woo. There are physical therapists who work on athletes with tuning forks. I mean, it's sound and vibration. It's very science based. But there are other people that would say that's really out there and that's super woo woo. So and then you can get with people who are, you know, very, very much into the place of, you know, communicating with aliens and and, you know, you can get into other dimensions or the multiverse. And the woo starts to, you know, and that woo may make someone who's more in the middle of the woo spectrum a little uncomfortable, you know. So it really there's so many layers and levels to it. Yes. I can't possibly name it all.

JU

That makes sense to me. Yeah. When I think about Woo, I think just about popular practices and ideas that are not part of the mainstream medical model. And so it's okay. So really for in my own. Like in my mind, it's almost, it's like a term of it's just what is what does not fall in to the Western medical model. Then it's woo. And then I like that idea of it being on a spectrum because there would be plenty of people who are very comfortable in the Western medical model who would say, Oh, I'm fine with that psychology. Yeah, it's a little woo, but I'm and so I can imagine that like, okay, so that's really close. And then it, and then it goes all the way out to like multidimensional aliens and all the other stuff.

JE

I mean, there are people that think mindfulness meditation is woo.

JU

Yeah. I mean, those, those are like, yeah, those that feels almost like performative, empirical, western concrete. Like, I mean to, to because mindful meditation was my way in back in to woo because when I went back to school for a PhD in public health, I was introduced to mindful meditation, which I had done meditation way back in the nineties when I was a teenager and early twenties, and then left it.

But what drew me back in was, Oh, here are all these randomized controlled trials like, it's just so well studied, mindful meditation. Even when I started in 2015, had just tons of research, and now there's even more. And so that is, it's, it's nice that I think that's now …

JE

That was your gateway drug because there was science backing it up. But for a lot of time there wasn't the science wasn't there yet. No. And people thought it was meditating. You know, what a waste of time. But that makes me think about my own journey into woo.

JU

Yes. All right. So I do want to pause you there because I want you to intentionally tell us about your journey into Woo. Let's, let's go with it.

JE

Okay, well, I had an unintentional journey into the womb when I was about eight years old, and my uncle Russell died in a horrible car accident and I was raised Catholic. And so we had open casket funerals and I was walked up to this casket and he was very heavily made up because there had been a lot of damage.

And so he they had a lot of stuff going on to make him look like Uncle Russell. And it was very, very frightening for me as a kid. I mean, you know, I think and there wasn't anybody walking me through metabolizing seeing a dead body or anything like that. So I just was just part of this ritual. I'd never seen a dead person before.

And then later that I don't know if it was that night or that week. I was laying in bed at night. And I swear to God, Justin, a man, Uncle Russell, in his cardigan and his pants, was at the foot of my bed and he was telling me, Don't be scared, it's okay and I'm okay and I will never forget.

It's like I can see it right now and I can see he was here and then my bedroom door was there and outside my bedroom door was this huge oil painting of Saint Teresa that was a very Catholic, very Catholic house. And it was just kind of like and I remember feeling scared and then not scared. And then he just kind of walked out.

Now that stuck with me the rest of my life. I never I didn't tell anybody for years and years and years and years. And this is what I come to with you and I'll get into my story in a second. But whether I made it up or whether it happened, it helped me. And I don't know that it matters.

I've heard enough of these stories now, and I've experienced other experiences like that that I don't think I'm making it up. But that said, what I come to you with woo, and I can give you multiple examples as we talk today, whether I made it up or whether it's real. It brought me it brought me healing, it brought me help, it brought me comfort, it brought me insight.

It made me feel more connected to something outside of myself, greater than myself. And that brought me great soothing during really painful or scary times. So now I was raised strictly. I was super Catholic House, and in fourth grade I sent a petition around the school for girls to be altar boys. I got over 100 signatures. I was at I was at a really small Catholic school, but I got over 100 signatures.

I took it to my senior, which is like the head priest, and he laughed in my face. And that was the day I left the church. In my heart, I just was like, You know what? I really wanted to have a relationship with God. But this religion thing and this this thing that I somehow by by by way of my gender, I'm not allowed to participate.

I wanted to wear the robe and, you know, do the incense and whole, you know, I wanted to participate. So, yeah.

JU

So I'm imagining how many generations past the the girl who wants to be more involved in their religious traditions gets rejected in that way, and then they shut down and conform so they can be a part of these religious traditions. But you instead were like, No, I'm not going to shut down and conform. Instead, this is not for me. That's a big change.

JE

Yeah, that's a big change. And it was purely internal because I couldn't outwards. I still had to go to Mass every day. I had to go to Mass every Friday at school. I had to go every Sunday with my parents. I wasn't I didn't have it in me at ten years old to stand up to. But inside I was in a spiritual crisis. Honestly, starting at ten years old, I really wrestled with this and went through it. I mean, a lot of shame, a lot of worry. I'm going to go to hell. You know, you got all these beliefs that you've been indoctrinated with and you're just like, you know, what is it? And then by the time I got to high school, I went to an all girls high school and there were a lot of nuns around, but they were like, really hip, cool nuns who I'm positive were dabbling in the woo on the side.

Like I am 100 percent sure one of them was a woman who sadly has passed away. Ms. Hellicar she's a former nun. She had left the, the, the sisterhood, but she counseled me after class and I came to her with all of these questions and she really gave me permission to feel what I was feeling, to explore and to really understand spirituality in a more expansive way outside of the notion of religion. And she wasn't, you know, pointing me in any particular direction, but she just gave me a lot of validation and a lot of comfort and a lot of permission. And she gave me a few beads to to hold on to.

And I still have those beads and I really believe that this was for me, the opening toward the will. It was then that I started to pursue every religion I did. I did Quaker, I did Buddhist, I did Unitarian, I did, you know, I just tried to I tried them all Taoism.

JU

Do you still have those beads?

JE

I do, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yes, I do. They're like three little blue beads. So. So I think that that was my that was as I look back, that was me starting to be so curious about wanting to feel a spiritual have a spiritual life, have a spiritual connection. But I still at that point feel it needed to be legitimized by some kind of religion and but anyway, that was the beginning, I'd say, of my, of my foray into the woo and then oh and then started to, you know, come into contact with people who did like a terrorist thing or, you know, and having enough experiences where something pretty astounding occurred.

I mean, you know, we can get into I don't know how much you want to get into it, but I mean, I had a past life reading that was completely mind boggling and it helped me out quite a bit, changed a lot of things and tarot readings, I mean just all kinds of things where it what I noticed is whenever I opened my self up to believing in something beyond myself and a letting letting a little magic in and letting the the unseen take some space, I was always met with something sort of serendipitous that that brought a deepening of my understanding of the situation and some healing, some relief that I, you know, like it helped me come out of resistance and into acceptance of what was going on. But but understanding it on a deeper level and then ultimately feeling a little bit better, maybe not being completely without suffering, but suffering a little differently with it.

JU

So so you mentioned that you were closeted woo for a while for. Well, how how long do you feel like you were closeted?

JE

Well, I would not have had this conversation probably five years ago. I would always like dip my toe and then as soon as I got, got the permission. Right. Yeah. Like I don't think I would have had a conversation with you back at the beginning of your journey because I knew you were super scientific science based. Yeah, I would have been a little I would have been has I would have I would have been afraid that you thought I'd lost my marbles.

JU

Yeah. Oh, my gosh. And so you feel like it started to open up for you about five years ago. Was there anything in particular that happened for you that you're just like, okay, this is this is a real part of my life and I'm now going to open.

JE

Well, let me let me clarify. It's been a real part of my life for 20 years. But in terms of being really open about just unapologetically being woohoo and verbally, you know, out, out in the world that I would say is and has has happened in the last like 5 to 7 years or so. So in terms of being out of the closet with Woo, I think just being around more and more people from all walks of life and my clients just realizing the more I and this is true with anything with ourselves, right?

The more we are ourselves, the more we are in our authenticity, the more we find that self-acceptance, the more we find the acceptance out in our community and the people that we meet. And you find that there are more people who join you in in in that than don't you know, usually. So that's just been my experience of just letting that evidence in and starting to have some, some faith that said, you know what, it is just an I had a past life reading it when I talk woo I had a past life reading like I don't know, it was pre-COVID.

So maybe like four years ago or five years ago. And she said, you, you've had to you've had a lot of lives as a woman and as a man. And she said, as in a lot of those lives, you've been very outspoken. And as a man, you were you got power and money and praise for it. And as a woman in one lifetime, you were killed for it.

Well, and she's like, you have suffered immensely in a female form when you have been open and honest and verbal and in your power. And. Wow, and I have to say, this resonated so deeply because she said this is the first lifetime where you've sort of and I'm talking on a imaginal gender binary here. I don't mean, you know, because I believe in the gender spectrum, but I don't mean to be in a binary place.

But I'm talking like symbolically that the characteristics that we associate with the feminine and the masculine. Yes, she said. This is the first life where those have come together and you have been able to walk in a traditionally like female form and been in some amount of safety. And she's like, But your psyche doesn't totally know that because of all this.

And that is the truth. I, I don't like posting on social media. I get very shy, like being a podcast host. This is, this is a, this is pushing it from it's a good know it's it's good growth but but there is definitely fear inside around it. So when she said this again whether that's true or not, she knew nothing about me.

But when she said that, it really resonated. I was like, Oh, well, that makes a lot of sense, you know?

JU

Oh my gosh. Wow. Yeah. Some of the work in this retreat over the last week or now two weeks ago was about getting in touch with some ancestral traumas. And it's like to think about how many women have suffered over the human history and to really get in touch with that ancestral suffering in all different forms.

And what I'm feeling into here is just that, that your personal, like, past life lineage just carries so much suffering.

JE

And that's such a great. But I love that you just used the word ancestral because I, I've been so curious about doing more ancestral work and because I haven't really done any of that. And I would, I think past life it has like a disconnect. But there's something about ancestral that then hooks me up and keep it has me connected to it to everyone in the, you know, women in the past, relatives in the past, you know so that's an interesting reframing.

JW

Well, for me, the ancestral thing is woo, because for most of know for all of my adult life and really oh gosh going back to even adolescence and pre adolescence, a feeling of being disconnected from my own family in the sense that I didn't share their aesthetic values. I, you know, my dad and his family loved to hunt and camp.

I've always hated I got why are we in a hotel? What are we doing out here? We've we've worked too hard to be scrounging like this. So and then as I grew up feeling disconnected politically and religiously and so growing up and becoming an adult was about just stepping into my own individuality. And I didn't feel like I had any connection to any sort of ancestral, like, no nothing.

And so getting into some woo stuff over the past couple of years, I keep coming into contact with this idea of ancestors and how we came to our obligations to our ancestors, our connections, having ancestral guides. And so this last week this retreat, there was some heavy ancestral work that was really amazing. If we get it, if we get a chance to talk about I don't mind sharing a little bit about it, but that has been a really important way to practice.

And it I feels like it's it's a little bit closer, it's a little bit less on the woo spectrum because we all do actually have ancestors, you know, I mean, we come from somewhere.

JE

We do. But I think what where it gets into woo for folks is the idea that we could be in communication and connection with it. Now, I think you should share a little. I mean, why not? Let's do it. Let's let's let's hear a little.

JU

Oh, my gosh. Hmm. Okay. I've got to be careful because some of the people involved in this ancestral story are still alive. And so I'll just say that my grandfather passed away two years ago on my mom's side, and I loved him, never had a very close relationship with him. He was  from New Mexico. He was in the seventies like the top salesperson for Xerox and then went on to be a successful real estate broker in Phoenix and had the trappings of success.

But from a young age, I never felt connected with him because I think he took on the salesman persona. So I never connected with him from a young age. I felt like, here's a salesman. I do not know what is behind this facade. He was always kind and loving nothing. There was never a hint of anything else. You know, there. But I just felt like I can't connect with you.

There is this artificiality, and I don't know who you actually are. And I felt this all the way through until he passed away from Alzheimer's two years ago. And so when he passed away, I was sad for my mom. I was sad for all of his kids and his wife and but I didn’t cry. And I because of the work I've been doing over the past several years, I can cry.

I am very I can even sob. And then we had his memorial last year, last January, again, no tears. I was present. I, you know, connected to everyone there. But no no tears came up but before this retreat that I went one of the leaders of the retreat suggested we read this book because the retreat, one of the the themes of the retreat was the shadow.

It was bringing light to the shadows is going to be a lot of shadow work and and grief was a part of this. And so he recommended this book called The Smell of Rain on Dust by Martin Prechtel. So it is the best thing I've ever read on grief. And so I got about halfway through the book before the retreat. One of the things that came up in this book, he wrote the author wrote about indigenous grieving practices and ideas. One of the ideas is that if someone is not properly grieved, they can't pass over to the other side.

And so this just stuck with me. I don't know why, and I didn't even think about it in terms of my grandfather, but on the first night of the retreat, we had this beautiful, ecstatic dance ceremony. I won't go into it, but because of the setting and we're outside and it's just this beautiful Sedona environment.

And it reminded me of New Mexico as well. And then my grandfather and then it was just there. And in this ecstatic dance, I just felt his presence. I was like, oh, wow. And then it just came up for me like, Oh, he's never been grieved properly. Not by you, not by anyone.

And so of just a sense like, okay, maybe some of the work I'm meant to do here is grieving him. There was some abusive stuff early on for him and his wife and my mom and the kids. It really early on that I learned about just last year and then felt like I needed to process like really grieve the abuse.

And so there were, there were many points in the retreat where what was the practice as we were doing really opened up this space just to be present with that pain that was caused and to grieve it and to release it. By the time we got to Saturday, which is like the fourth day of the event, we had a breathwork ceremony.

Now I've done breathwork a bunch of times and it’s becoming a really popular thing right now. And I'll just tell you, I've never done breathwork like this. This was profound. It was magical. So for anyone who doesn't know what well, this type of breathwork was discovered, invented, created by Stanislav Groff. I won't go into it. But in the 1970s at the Esalon Institute and it's basically this if you can hear me.

So it is these deep breaths and you are it's basically controlled, hyperventilating.

JE

And it's all through the mouth.

JU

It's yeah, pretty much different styles might include some nose, but it's like mostly through the mouth. But yeah, what we did on Saturday yeah. Through the mouth is just a and the you just kind of let the air come out but you're taking a deep breath and you're doing this for 60 minutes. Okay. So what happens is essentially it you experience carbon dioxide poisoning and but you one goes into an altered state of consciousness.

And I've done this many times before and it's always powerful. But this time it was something else because there were so there was 100 of us. There were 200 at the retreat. There was a morning and an afternoon and there were ten like Breathwork masters, shamans, medicine, people who were kind of holding the space, so to speak.

So they would have like burning sage or tobacco or doing body work or energy work or whatever or shaking rattles or whatever. I don't know, because my eyes were closed, but it was just so profound. And it was led by Aubrey Marcus and this medicine woman named Blue were the like leads, but the other eight were just amazing.

And it was like, I'll say, I'm happy to report because I've put this out in other contexts. I've done psychedelics before, I've done different psychedelics, different dosages in different contexts. So I've done my fair share. And this was as powerful, if not more powerful than any psychedelic experience I've ever had. Wow. Yeah. And so just to keep it real short and focused on the ancestral work, I was able to, in this experience, commune with my grandfather's spirit, grieve him fully, and I'll just say in this Breathwork session with 100 people, it was pure pandemonium in there.

I mean, it was like people yelling and then crying and sobbing and wailing and laughing. It was the whole gamut. It was insane. But my eyes were closed the whole time and I was just relaxing back and grieving my grandfather and just just connecting with him. And I don't know. I mean, I don't know what happened at what time.

It's all kind of mixed up chronologically, but at one point, so I'm laying there on this mat and the the sun. So we're underneath this, this big tent and there's these like parts where the tent is tied together, you know, and so there's little cracks. And the sun had just come in and my eyes were closed, but I could see the sun just all of a sudden just start to kind of fill up my my eyelids.

And at that moment, I was able to let him go and he and he just went in to the sun. It was kind of just passing over to the other side. And it felt so beautiful and so complete. I mean, it really felt like this completion of this daylong journey with him and I have, yeah, just a sense of just peace and calm around him.

There was a lot of other stuff going on that we can talk about.

JE

It was a jam packed that trip just in that 60 minutes.

JU

Yeah. That that the grandfather thing took up maybe about half of that time.

JE

Okay. Okay. Yeah. Well, and it sounds like you were sort of. Were you? Well, I should just ask, were you sort of surprised by by that process that that presented itself and unfold? You didn't go into this retreat intending to ...

JU

I didn't go in. So with the breathwork at the beginning, they said, you know, set an intention for what you want to do with this breath work. Because if you don't set an intention, it can just go in a bunch of different ways and you might not be able to fully explore or complete what you need to complete.

So the intention that I set was I had two intentions going in and one was to connect and work with a young part. So, Jenny, we've talked a lot about internal family systems. I have been working with this really young part that is like maybe one one year old or two, like this is before language. And I don't have any memories, but it's just a feeling around just needing this part, needing a feeling of just unconditional love.

And, and, and so I was like, I want to connect with that part. And then I want to connect with my grandfather. But there was no particular intention beyond that. I wanted to connect and then just see what happens.

And yeah, and so the grandfather thing just like that just went in its own direction. And with the young part, it, it, it felt, yeah, it felt totally held and safe and, and then yeah, there was some other stuff that went on later on in the breath work journey around feeling just this sense of safety and being being held and not just being held by a mother, but even bigger than that being held by the universe like.

JE

Right. Well, yeah. And maybe that's the, you know, the thing that we can bring us back to this kind of this idea of, whew, that I mean, good for you for setting aside the time and space to to encounter the whew in that way. And the retreat into it says to extend an invitation to allow that connection to happen.

Because I think we can get so busy that the woo for me is a place in which I have to set time aside to engage with it. It's not something I can just, like, do while I'm driving, you know? I can't. It's not a podcast I can listen to or a book I can read. It's always some kind of a practice.

And and maybe that's also growing up Catholic. You know, it's, it's very catholicism's, a very ritualistic, very kind of, you know, there's a journey.

JU

There's a lot of wisdom in that from the Catholic tradition and really all religious traditions. And so in the sociology of religion, sacredness is defined as that which is set apart. And and so that's it. What is sacred in different cultures is going to be all these different things. But fundamentally, one thing that is shared by every culture is that the sacred is what is set apart.

And so what you're saying right now is so important, like we need to set apart time.

JE

Yeah. And I think I remember in college I took a class on religion and studied, you know, the idea of the sacred and the ritual. I think that was the name of the one of my favorite books from that class, The Sacred and the Ritual. Anyway. And I did a paper about how we would get together and watch 90210 together as freshman in college.

And that was something sacred there. We had rituals within the same food and time. Yeah, and that was, you know so now obviously further along in my in my life these moments of of engaging in whew, some of which are just practices with my, you know, with myself and going straight to source which I really think we as a world for our own evolution need to move out of, you know, meeting the priest in the sense of not that we don't need healers and we don't need people to hold space, but in terms of the authority that we've placed, religious leaders and things like that.

So for me, healing from the Catholic stuff to be able to have direct communication and direct contact and to start to be able to trust my own knowing around that and my own the way that I receive information in the way it makes its way in, it's been really validating. And then also to just at times need a conduit, right?

Sometimes I will go and meet with some kind of practitioner or a healer, but it's a really different relationship than it was when I would like sit in confession, right, and talk about what a terrible person I am and then be told whether or not God was going to punish me. Very different, very different relationship. And I think that that's what, you know, the people that are in their integrity in the world, holding space in that way can be really powerful.
 

Now, certainly there are people that get hung up on the power. So if that's another episode, right.

JU

But yeah, you know, I mean, I think I think that in this we can think of it as a new form of woo. Like I think the healthy new forms of woo are always going to connect people to their own inner knowing their own power. Yeah. If anything, is directing a person outside of that, then it is an older form that I think is more like the old forms of religion that really I start to really geek out on this stuff.  

But I think the healthy forms of woo today are ones that are just constantly letting us feel more of ourselves, more of who we truly are, and helping us step in to who we are, who we feel like we're meant to be, listening to that inner call. So I think that's one. And then the other thing for me, that is a real way to gauge like, is this healthy or not is: is it also connecting me with other people? So I think those are: do I feel more connected with those in my life and do I feel more connected with who I really am?

JE

Right. Yeah. Yeah. I could not agree more. I mean, it's true. In therapy too. I mean, the therapist holds a lot of power and there's certainly, you know, a history of power dynamics that we have to be very mindful of in practicing therapy, but that ultimately it's about connecting you with introducing you to yourself. And, you know, even in the unconscious work, right?

It's yeah, it's it's how do we how are we an empathic companion and holding space. And yes, sometimes, you know, there is some guiding, there is some redirection. There are certain questions, sometimes there's some confrontation. But ultimately it's in service of you knowing you and you being in connection to you and you being and in your knowing, in your power exactly what you said. I couldn't agree more.

JW

Yes. And so I'm going to just geek out for a moment. I figure anyone who is who is listening now, like 40 something minutes into the podcast is just going to stick with this. One of the reasons why I love parts work and internal family systems, because it it has this woo aspect to it, which is great in itself, but it also is explicitly doing what you just said, introducing one to oneself. It is, it is introducing us to ourselves and for me, I've really gotten into Robert Keegan lately. And so Robert Keegan is a developmental psychologist. He's now retired, he's an emeritus professor at Harvard who developed or working off of a bunch of other developmental psychologists, developed a five stage model of psychological growth, psychological development that extends into adulthood.

And the main mechanism for development from birth until we die is making what is subject or what is just the way we see the world, the lens that we see the world through, making that into object or something that we can now have some distance from and start to look at, understand, manipulate, reflect on and that that is the process going from birth all the way until death and that this is what we as humans constantly need to do is make what is subject, what is just our own subjective worldview out into object.

And I feel like that's what good woo practices do and that's what internal family systems does, is we're constantly like, Oh, instead of speaking from a part where like, Oh, I'm just pissed and I hate this, oh, I can now get a little bit of distance and I can speak for the part, oh, I have a part that hates this and doesn't want to do that.

Now it's just made subject into object.

JE

Yeah I Yeah, I mean if we get, we can look at every possible we can look at the way even tarot brings it into the imaginal brings it into archetype. We can talk about the way IFS brings it into parts. We can talk about the way story and myth brings it into, you know, a universal story that we can we can understand as it relates to us.

If you look at, you know, ancestral work, right? It's like, how are we connected to the past, the epigenetics of trauma? But it can be understood in this way that's inside of us. Can now be inside us and under understood. Yeah. Can be can be put outside and we can gain perspective. I have to tell you, I had in my IFS session the other day where I was so there's been a lot of painful stuff going on with my mom.

She's in the last you know, she's in the last stage of her life and she's preparing to pass. And and it I don't care what your relationship is with your mother. It kicks up a lot, a lot of intense feelings and stuff. And so I was just I just could not and could not access self energy in this session.

But I could feel something outside of me and you can call it spirit source God. And I told my therapist, I said, I can't feel myself being able to give this compassion, but I can feel this, this other thing giving me compassion. And she said, that is self energy. And and it was such a it was such a beautiful moment of being able to locate compassion outside of myself, to bring it inside.

But I had to make it. I couldn't I couldn't get there any other way than something that felt spiritual. And that was in my, my, you know, my therapy. I mean, that's not a woo woo practice. But there was something that feels very woo in a beautiful way that got to unfold there in that session.

JU

That's so beautiful. And that's what yeah, that is really what jazzes me up so much about internal family systems is that when we do this work and the more we we make subject object, the more we, we, you know, take our own inner world and start to distance ourselves a little bit from it, get a little bit of space.

What starts to open up is that the space that we are relaxing back into is the capital S self, its spirit, its source, whatever you want to call it. And we all have our own individual capital S self in spirit, but the more we relax into it, I have witnessed this and myself and others. We are now connected to something bigger.

Like it really does feel like, oh, there's a big capital S self, there's a big spirit, a big source that our own little spirit source is totally connected to. I love that.

JE

I could not agree more Justin. There's so much woo we didn't cover. I mean, there's so much

JU

So real quick. Ah, so can you tell me real quick what are some woo practices that really hit home for you right now that are just that are working for you?

JE

I'm really finding I had a profoundly powerful experience with a with a medium connecting to my deceased father. Now I it's not a practice, really. It was just it was an experience that I cannot explain. It could not be Googled. The information she shared could not be Googled. It was. And it has it has way to allowing for me grieving my father and that relationship in a way I just could not access before.

And it's also opened up an ability to be in relationship with my father that I could not access before. That has been profound and has really helped with what I'm working. I'm going through with my mom, the other. Whew. I mean, you know, energy work. I just have to say hands on energy work with an energy healer. I mean, again, this is my osteopath that she is she is an energy worker, by all means.

And it has been I mean, she cleared my sciatica that I had had for 20 years in one session. When I go and see her, especially going through all the stress with with everything going on, I can feel my body open up. I can feel I can just feel the areas that she's working on with. And then later I'll say, Oh, I just felt my my heart, relax, my heart open.

And she was like, you know, there's just validation in that and I can't put any science behind it. I mean, it's literally just hands on, barely touching. And so that's a practice. That's a practice that is really speaking to me. And then I got to say, I just booked a call with a tarot card lady who is a reader and also a comedian, and she is hilarious.

And so we have these like great, these great readings where like she is so spot on. Just, I mean, like I, we don't have time to go to examples, but it's like the stuff that she has told me and then it just completely plays out that way. I'm mind blown, but then she's also totally hilarious. And so it's like the humor brought into our reading

So those are just those are just some things. But I mean, they're pretty basic. I mean, I don't think those, those are even that out there in terms of woo.

JU

Well, well, but it all depends on who you're talking to. Oh, what a beautiful journey. This is just the beginning. So we are going to have another podcast this month where we're going to get to talk even more about Woo with another guest. And I'm so excited we're going to get to do it together. Jenny, thank you so much. I'm I'm thrilled that you're my co-host.
 

JE

This, but I I'm so excited. I'm so excited. Justin, we're going to have so many great conversations. Thank you. Thank you. Thanks for this.

Podcast Ep. 59: The Power of Woo for Mental and Emotional Health with Jenny Walters, LMFT

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Podcast Ep. 59: The Power of Woo for Mental and Emotional Health with Jenny Walters, LMFT

Licensed therapist and educator, Jenny Walters, PhD, talks about her "woo" journey and why even the most hard-nosed, materialist scientist should be ok with woo in the context of mental and emotional health.

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In this episode

This month’s theme in the Yes Collective is all about the power of "woo" for supporting our mental and emotional health. In this episode, Justin and Jenny explore the power of woo: understanding what it is, what it could be, and how we can use it consciously in our mental and emotional healing journeys. We also introduce Jenny as Justin's new co-host on the Yes Collective Podcast!

The Oxford Dictionary defines “woo-woo” as “unconventional beliefs regarded as having little or no scientific basis, especially those relating to spirituality, mysticism, or alternative medicine.” For us, woo refers to not just beliefs but also practices that bring us into something beyond our own minds and the physical, empirical world.

Justin and Jenny talk about their "woo" journeys and why even the most hard-nosed, materialist scientist should be ok with woo in the context of mental and emotional health. Whether you're woo-curious or a crystal-loving, sage-burning, tarot-card-reading, energy-healing lover of woo, you'll love listening to Justin and Jenny chop it up!

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About our guest

Jenny Walters is a licensed marriage family therapist and senior expert contributor to the Yes Collective. She is a graduate of the Pacifica Graduate Institute and is the founder and director of Highland Park Holistic Psychotherapy in Los Angeles, California.

Transcript highlights

Justin Wilford (JU)

Jenny, thank you so much. So I am super excited to announce to our listening audience that Jenny Walters will now be the co-host along with me. We are going to co-host together the Yes Collective podcast. This is super exciting. Audra will still come on but Audra is like the CEO of several different things. And so she's got such a huge load right now that it made sense for us to bring in this superstar, Jenny Walters, as well.

Jenny Walters (JE)

All right. That's that's that's. Anyway, superstar. Superstar. But. Okay, I'm on it. And these are big shoes to fill. Audrey, as we know. But I'm honored. I'm so excited. I just cannot. I love you know, Justin, you and I always get into these great conversations, and I love that we get to do it and share it and also be in curiosity about all these great guests that you bring on.

JU

And Jenny, I'm feeling into the appropriateness of having you on as the co-host of the selected podcast as we launch November's theme, which is the power of woo. Jenny So you are a licensed therapist. You engage in evidence based mental health modalities. You have been doing this for a long time, but you are also someone I think I'm not spilling any secrets here that, you know, you on occasion will dabble in the woo.

JE

Dabble in the woo. I was a closeted I was closeted woo for a long time. And now I'm much more I'm I'm out of the closet with my will. You know what I can I say this? I have I see a person. And in Los Angeles, she is an osteopath, which is a she's a trained, you know, medical professional.

She does adjustments on my body. I call her magic hands. She's worked miracles. Excuse me. But she was saying, you know, I am very much based in science. She said, I came at this from a place of science. That's what drew me to it. Understanding the body and the anatomy and working with that. She's like, But the more I do this work and the more I lay hands on humans, the more I see that there is and there is an unseen world that we cannot necessarily or has yet to be explained that is absolutely real and potent.

And I've just she's like, I've just seen it too many times. And that's how I feel in this work. I'm a legit, I have a license. I went to school, I did the practicum. You know, I've seen you know, I've done thousands of, of of sessions with humans and but there is something that is sometimes unexplainable that happens that I've seen more often than not that I just cannot deny it. So here I am, out of the closet about my love of woo!

JU

Oh, I love it. And when we decided to make November's theme The Power of woo several months ago, it really came from more of an evidence based approach. And I wrote an article or I wrote for my newsletter. I have a personal newsletter that I have on the power of woo several months ago, and it was really from a more evidence based standpoint, like, here are all the reasons that we should all, no matter what your educational background or your views on the supernatural are, we can all agree on these things about woo.

However, I just got back from this retreat in Sedona, Arizona, which I believe is land of woo, the yeah, it is like the global capital of woo. I mean, are there any other places that are more woo than Sedona that you know of? It's like. It's just. It's just everywhere. And then, of course, just retreat centers. And it is the place to go to get in touch with woo.

JE

True, there may be no other place in America or in the in the world that has branded woo as successfully as Sedona, Arizona.

JU

Yeah, for sure. So I just got back from a five day retreat and oh man, I'm just feeling the woo. I'm just like I'm coming back more woo than I think I've ever been. Yeah. Oh, so we’ll get to talk about this and about our, our own woo journeys. I think, you know, we all we all have our own woo journeys. But I'll start with I'll start off this podcast by saying a little bit about some of the, I think more objective evidence based reasons why we might want to bring woo into our lives.

So first of all, most woo is like zero risk if you're doing a tarot reading or you have crystals in your room or you're, you know, smudging with sage, I guess maybe with the smudging with Sage, there's some volatile airborne particles, you know, that could irritate. But I guess as long as you're not doing it all the time like so most woo very low risk.

So even if we would say there would be zero benefit to it. If there's zero risk, then why are why are we worried about it now? We also know about the placebo effect. So we know that there's not zero benefit to it. If somebody believes that it's helping, then just by this very well-known, very well-studied mechanism called the placebo effect, it's helping them.

So we can say, all right, low risk, it’s helping them. And then a third thing is that for hundreds of thousands of years, probably humans have been gathering and connecting with each other through woo, through rituals, through myth, through sacred objects, through sacred actions. And so Woo is deeply woven into our evolutionary biology, it’s how we connect with each other.

And if we reject woo, then we're also impoverishing our social lives. So that's another reason. And then I think and then I'll just do one more that I think is just objective that we can all agree on. Even the most hard nosed scientist is that our emotional worlds, the language, our emotional worlds speak is the language of woo.

When we dream at night and all this weird stuff is going on, that is our emotional world speaking in its native tongue. Right. And so I believe that when we engage in things like energy, healing, crystals, tarot, astrology, when we do these things, we are essentially speaking the native tongue of our emotional worlds. So that's what I've got.

Jenny, I would love to first hear what you think about those more objective justifications for woo.

JE

I could not agree more and I think that we have to even use the word woo. We may need to start to have to find different language because it's a self-deprecating term that I think people who are attached to rational thinking and want to be accepted and not thought of as as crazy, we've adopted this term to sort of say, well, yeah, I know it sounds crazy, but really we're putting something down that is, like you said, is is rooted in in generations and cultures outside of, you know, of our own for centuries.

So many of these practices go back so far and have been helping humans make meaning in life, make sense of life, have helped them physically cope in life, mentally and emotionally cope as well. And so when we call it woo, we're sort of undermining all of that in a way that I think there's an arrogance to it, you know, and I mean, I, I self-deprecating around that word all the time.

And it's my own self-consciousness around concern about whether others will think the more I am in my community and in my family, and the more, frankly, that that these sorts of conversations unfold, I think it's not it's not as it's not as looked down upon as we might think it is.

JU

I, I have totally found that. Oh, that's.

JE

Yeah, yeah. Everyone has just been closeted.

JU

Right, right, right. We've all we've all been shamed into closeting our woo.

JE

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's like, yeah, I was just thinking, like, when I, you know, went to my first gay bar and I was like, oh, you know, like, there's other, there's others. And it's just, it's just when you start to and that's what's nice about Sedona is you can just be open about it. Yeah, it's like one big woo bar and you can just be open about and it's like no one's looking down, no one's judging.

There's a freedom and you realize and it's all kinds of people there that visit Sedona, right? It's not just the stereotypical people that you think and it's like, oh, yeah, this is you know, there's something very universal about this.

JU

Yes. Yeah, I, I totally hear that about the self-deprecating and the woo. I do find, though, you know, from a from a historical vantage point. So my first dissertation was about evangelical megachurches in the suburbs. And I did a lot of research on the history of religion in the Western world up to the present and the history of religion for the last three or 400 years has been one of secularization.

It started off very slow, but it has now picked up. And it's even happening here in the U.S. for the 20th century. There were sociologists who were arguing like the U.S. is a special case and it's not secularizing. No, it is. There's this rise of people who are saying they don't belong to any religion and it just continues to go up and up and up every single year that they ask.

So on one hand, talking about woo or using the word woo is is deprecating. But on the other, I think it does provide a bridge when we are in this long age of secularization for people to come back in to a spiritualized world like we've, many of us have had to lose our childhood spiritualized world. We came into adulthood, right?

We want to be reality based, like what's actually happening here. And then the question for many of us is how do we, in an intellectually honest way, find our way back into woo? And so for me, woo, or I'm just using woo right now because we could use the word spirituality and I'm not sure spirituality covers all the forms of woo that we would want to.

JE

Let's take back woo. I'm let's I'm just kind of like you've changed my mind and I am in this moment. I am like, I'm all about Woo, let's just and say it with pride. Say it with pride.

JW

Could woo be like queer?

JE

I was just thinking that. Woo is the queer of of spirituality, but also of all the, all the unseen practices that deal with the internal world.

JU

So I would like to begin first. How would you define Woo? Because we just kind of noted there it covers spiritual stuff, but maybe even more than that. So when you talk about Woo Jenny, what comes up for you? What are some of the actual practices and ideas that would be in Woo.

JE

Is that, you know, as I think about that question, I think, oh is Woo on a spectrum because I know people who think that the kind of therapy that I practice, which is rooted in the imaginal, it's rooted in young in therapy, it's called a depth therapy. It rooted in working with the unconscious, with images, dreams, all of that.

There are people who would say that that is woo yeah. That would say that that is just B.S. and what are you talking about? And that doesn't really help people, you know. But to me that's not woo at all. I mean, that is just like to me that psychotherapy, that's just the lens through which I it, you know.

So then you move into, like you mentioned a bunch earlier, you know, tarot astrology or is it tarot? I've had people recently saying tarot. I don't know if it's true. Anyway, we don't need to worry about that right now. But there's astrology, there's mediums, you know, communicating with people who've passed over. There's energy healing, all kinds of modalities of energy healing.

You know, my wife practices sound healing, right, where she puts tuning forks. Some people would say that's very woo. There are physical therapists who work on athletes with tuning forks. I mean, it's sound and vibration. It's very science based. But there are other people that would say that's really out there and that's super woo woo. So and then you can get with people who are, you know, very, very much into the place of, you know, communicating with aliens and and, you know, you can get into other dimensions or the multiverse. And the woo starts to, you know, and that woo may make someone who's more in the middle of the woo spectrum a little uncomfortable, you know. So it really there's so many layers and levels to it. Yes. I can't possibly name it all.

JU

That makes sense to me. Yeah. When I think about Woo, I think just about popular practices and ideas that are not part of the mainstream medical model. And so it's okay. So really for in my own. Like in my mind, it's almost, it's like a term of it's just what is what does not fall in to the Western medical model. Then it's woo. And then I like that idea of it being on a spectrum because there would be plenty of people who are very comfortable in the Western medical model who would say, Oh, I'm fine with that psychology. Yeah, it's a little woo, but I'm and so I can imagine that like, okay, so that's really close. And then it, and then it goes all the way out to like multidimensional aliens and all the other stuff.

JE

I mean, there are people that think mindfulness meditation is woo.

JU

Yeah. I mean, those, those are like, yeah, those that feels almost like performative, empirical, western concrete. Like, I mean to, to because mindful meditation was my way in back in to woo because when I went back to school for a PhD in public health, I was introduced to mindful meditation, which I had done meditation way back in the nineties when I was a teenager and early twenties, and then left it.

But what drew me back in was, Oh, here are all these randomized controlled trials like, it's just so well studied, mindful meditation. Even when I started in 2015, had just tons of research, and now there's even more. And so that is, it's, it's nice that I think that's now …

JE

That was your gateway drug because there was science backing it up. But for a lot of time there wasn't the science wasn't there yet. No. And people thought it was meditating. You know, what a waste of time. But that makes me think about my own journey into woo.

JU

Yes. All right. So I do want to pause you there because I want you to intentionally tell us about your journey into Woo. Let's, let's go with it.

JE

Okay, well, I had an unintentional journey into the womb when I was about eight years old, and my uncle Russell died in a horrible car accident and I was raised Catholic. And so we had open casket funerals and I was walked up to this casket and he was very heavily made up because there had been a lot of damage.

And so he they had a lot of stuff going on to make him look like Uncle Russell. And it was very, very frightening for me as a kid. I mean, you know, I think and there wasn't anybody walking me through metabolizing seeing a dead body or anything like that. So I just was just part of this ritual. I'd never seen a dead person before.

And then later that I don't know if it was that night or that week. I was laying in bed at night. And I swear to God, Justin, a man, Uncle Russell, in his cardigan and his pants, was at the foot of my bed and he was telling me, Don't be scared, it's okay and I'm okay and I will never forget.

It's like I can see it right now and I can see he was here and then my bedroom door was there and outside my bedroom door was this huge oil painting of Saint Teresa that was a very Catholic, very Catholic house. And it was just kind of like and I remember feeling scared and then not scared. And then he just kind of walked out.

Now that stuck with me the rest of my life. I never I didn't tell anybody for years and years and years and years. And this is what I come to with you and I'll get into my story in a second. But whether I made it up or whether it happened, it helped me. And I don't know that it matters.

I've heard enough of these stories now, and I've experienced other experiences like that that I don't think I'm making it up. But that said, what I come to you with woo, and I can give you multiple examples as we talk today, whether I made it up or whether it's real. It brought me it brought me healing, it brought me help, it brought me comfort, it brought me insight.

It made me feel more connected to something outside of myself, greater than myself. And that brought me great soothing during really painful or scary times. So now I was raised strictly. I was super Catholic House, and in fourth grade I sent a petition around the school for girls to be altar boys. I got over 100 signatures. I was at I was at a really small Catholic school, but I got over 100 signatures.

I took it to my senior, which is like the head priest, and he laughed in my face. And that was the day I left the church. In my heart, I just was like, You know what? I really wanted to have a relationship with God. But this religion thing and this this thing that I somehow by by by way of my gender, I'm not allowed to participate.

I wanted to wear the robe and, you know, do the incense and whole, you know, I wanted to participate. So, yeah.

JU

So I'm imagining how many generations past the the girl who wants to be more involved in their religious traditions gets rejected in that way, and then they shut down and conform so they can be a part of these religious traditions. But you instead were like, No, I'm not going to shut down and conform. Instead, this is not for me. That's a big change.

JE

Yeah, that's a big change. And it was purely internal because I couldn't outwards. I still had to go to Mass every day. I had to go to Mass every Friday at school. I had to go every Sunday with my parents. I wasn't I didn't have it in me at ten years old to stand up to. But inside I was in a spiritual crisis. Honestly, starting at ten years old, I really wrestled with this and went through it. I mean, a lot of shame, a lot of worry. I'm going to go to hell. You know, you got all these beliefs that you've been indoctrinated with and you're just like, you know, what is it? And then by the time I got to high school, I went to an all girls high school and there were a lot of nuns around, but they were like, really hip, cool nuns who I'm positive were dabbling in the woo on the side.

Like I am 100 percent sure one of them was a woman who sadly has passed away. Ms. Hellicar she's a former nun. She had left the, the, the sisterhood, but she counseled me after class and I came to her with all of these questions and she really gave me permission to feel what I was feeling, to explore and to really understand spirituality in a more expansive way outside of the notion of religion. And she wasn't, you know, pointing me in any particular direction, but she just gave me a lot of validation and a lot of comfort and a lot of permission. And she gave me a few beads to to hold on to.

And I still have those beads and I really believe that this was for me, the opening toward the will. It was then that I started to pursue every religion I did. I did Quaker, I did Buddhist, I did Unitarian, I did, you know, I just tried to I tried them all Taoism.

JU

Do you still have those beads?

JE

I do, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yes, I do. They're like three little blue beads. So. So I think that that was my that was as I look back, that was me starting to be so curious about wanting to feel a spiritual have a spiritual life, have a spiritual connection. But I still at that point feel it needed to be legitimized by some kind of religion and but anyway, that was the beginning, I'd say, of my, of my foray into the woo and then oh and then started to, you know, come into contact with people who did like a terrorist thing or, you know, and having enough experiences where something pretty astounding occurred.

I mean, you know, we can get into I don't know how much you want to get into it, but I mean, I had a past life reading that was completely mind boggling and it helped me out quite a bit, changed a lot of things and tarot readings, I mean just all kinds of things where it what I noticed is whenever I opened my self up to believing in something beyond myself and a letting letting a little magic in and letting the the unseen take some space, I was always met with something sort of serendipitous that that brought a deepening of my understanding of the situation and some healing, some relief that I, you know, like it helped me come out of resistance and into acceptance of what was going on. But but understanding it on a deeper level and then ultimately feeling a little bit better, maybe not being completely without suffering, but suffering a little differently with it.

JU

So so you mentioned that you were closeted woo for a while for. Well, how how long do you feel like you were closeted?

JE

Well, I would not have had this conversation probably five years ago. I would always like dip my toe and then as soon as I got, got the permission. Right. Yeah. Like I don't think I would have had a conversation with you back at the beginning of your journey because I knew you were super scientific science based. Yeah, I would have been a little I would have been has I would have I would have been afraid that you thought I'd lost my marbles.

JU

Yeah. Oh, my gosh. And so you feel like it started to open up for you about five years ago. Was there anything in particular that happened for you that you're just like, okay, this is this is a real part of my life and I'm now going to open.

JE

Well, let me let me clarify. It's been a real part of my life for 20 years. But in terms of being really open about just unapologetically being woohoo and verbally, you know, out, out in the world that I would say is and has has happened in the last like 5 to 7 years or so. So in terms of being out of the closet with Woo, I think just being around more and more people from all walks of life and my clients just realizing the more I and this is true with anything with ourselves, right?

The more we are ourselves, the more we are in our authenticity, the more we find that self-acceptance, the more we find the acceptance out in our community and the people that we meet. And you find that there are more people who join you in in in that than don't you know, usually. So that's just been my experience of just letting that evidence in and starting to have some, some faith that said, you know what, it is just an I had a past life reading it when I talk woo I had a past life reading like I don't know, it was pre-COVID.

So maybe like four years ago or five years ago. And she said, you, you've had to you've had a lot of lives as a woman and as a man. And she said, as in a lot of those lives, you've been very outspoken. And as a man, you were you got power and money and praise for it. And as a woman in one lifetime, you were killed for it.

Well, and she's like, you have suffered immensely in a female form when you have been open and honest and verbal and in your power. And. Wow, and I have to say, this resonated so deeply because she said this is the first lifetime where you've sort of and I'm talking on a imaginal gender binary here. I don't mean, you know, because I believe in the gender spectrum, but I don't mean to be in a binary place.

But I'm talking like symbolically that the characteristics that we associate with the feminine and the masculine. Yes, she said. This is the first life where those have come together and you have been able to walk in a traditionally like female form and been in some amount of safety. And she's like, But your psyche doesn't totally know that because of all this.

And that is the truth. I, I don't like posting on social media. I get very shy, like being a podcast host. This is, this is a, this is pushing it from it's a good know it's it's good growth but but there is definitely fear inside around it. So when she said this again whether that's true or not, she knew nothing about me.

But when she said that, it really resonated. I was like, Oh, well, that makes a lot of sense, you know?

JU

Oh my gosh. Wow. Yeah. Some of the work in this retreat over the last week or now two weeks ago was about getting in touch with some ancestral traumas. And it's like to think about how many women have suffered over the human history and to really get in touch with that ancestral suffering in all different forms.

And what I'm feeling into here is just that, that your personal, like, past life lineage just carries so much suffering.

JE

And that's such a great. But I love that you just used the word ancestral because I, I've been so curious about doing more ancestral work and because I haven't really done any of that. And I would, I think past life it has like a disconnect. But there's something about ancestral that then hooks me up and keep it has me connected to it to everyone in the, you know, women in the past, relatives in the past, you know so that's an interesting reframing.

JW

Well, for me, the ancestral thing is woo, because for most of know for all of my adult life and really oh gosh going back to even adolescence and pre adolescence, a feeling of being disconnected from my own family in the sense that I didn't share their aesthetic values. I, you know, my dad and his family loved to hunt and camp.

I've always hated I got why are we in a hotel? What are we doing out here? We've we've worked too hard to be scrounging like this. So and then as I grew up feeling disconnected politically and religiously and so growing up and becoming an adult was about just stepping into my own individuality. And I didn't feel like I had any connection to any sort of ancestral, like, no nothing.

And so getting into some woo stuff over the past couple of years, I keep coming into contact with this idea of ancestors and how we came to our obligations to our ancestors, our connections, having ancestral guides. And so this last week this retreat, there was some heavy ancestral work that was really amazing. If we get it, if we get a chance to talk about I don't mind sharing a little bit about it, but that has been a really important way to practice.

And it I feels like it's it's a little bit closer, it's a little bit less on the woo spectrum because we all do actually have ancestors, you know, I mean, we come from somewhere.

JE

We do. But I think what where it gets into woo for folks is the idea that we could be in communication and connection with it. Now, I think you should share a little. I mean, why not? Let's do it. Let's let's let's hear a little.

JU

Oh, my gosh. Hmm. Okay. I've got to be careful because some of the people involved in this ancestral story are still alive. And so I'll just say that my grandfather passed away two years ago on my mom's side, and I loved him, never had a very close relationship with him. He was  from New Mexico. He was in the seventies like the top salesperson for Xerox and then went on to be a successful real estate broker in Phoenix and had the trappings of success.

But from a young age, I never felt connected with him because I think he took on the salesman persona. So I never connected with him from a young age. I felt like, here's a salesman. I do not know what is behind this facade. He was always kind and loving nothing. There was never a hint of anything else. You know, there. But I just felt like I can't connect with you.

There is this artificiality, and I don't know who you actually are. And I felt this all the way through until he passed away from Alzheimer's two years ago. And so when he passed away, I was sad for my mom. I was sad for all of his kids and his wife and but I didn’t cry. And I because of the work I've been doing over the past several years, I can cry.

I am very I can even sob. And then we had his memorial last year, last January, again, no tears. I was present. I, you know, connected to everyone there. But no no tears came up but before this retreat that I went one of the leaders of the retreat suggested we read this book because the retreat, one of the the themes of the retreat was the shadow.

It was bringing light to the shadows is going to be a lot of shadow work and and grief was a part of this. And so he recommended this book called The Smell of Rain on Dust by Martin Prechtel. So it is the best thing I've ever read on grief. And so I got about halfway through the book before the retreat. One of the things that came up in this book, he wrote the author wrote about indigenous grieving practices and ideas. One of the ideas is that if someone is not properly grieved, they can't pass over to the other side.

And so this just stuck with me. I don't know why, and I didn't even think about it in terms of my grandfather, but on the first night of the retreat, we had this beautiful, ecstatic dance ceremony. I won't go into it, but because of the setting and we're outside and it's just this beautiful Sedona environment.

And it reminded me of New Mexico as well. And then my grandfather and then it was just there. And in this ecstatic dance, I just felt his presence. I was like, oh, wow. And then it just came up for me like, Oh, he's never been grieved properly. Not by you, not by anyone.

And so of just a sense like, okay, maybe some of the work I'm meant to do here is grieving him. There was some abusive stuff early on for him and his wife and my mom and the kids. It really early on that I learned about just last year and then felt like I needed to process like really grieve the abuse.

And so there were, there were many points in the retreat where what was the practice as we were doing really opened up this space just to be present with that pain that was caused and to grieve it and to release it. By the time we got to Saturday, which is like the fourth day of the event, we had a breathwork ceremony.

Now I've done breathwork a bunch of times and it’s becoming a really popular thing right now. And I'll just tell you, I've never done breathwork like this. This was profound. It was magical. So for anyone who doesn't know what well, this type of breathwork was discovered, invented, created by Stanislav Groff. I won't go into it. But in the 1970s at the Esalon Institute and it's basically this if you can hear me.

So it is these deep breaths and you are it's basically controlled, hyperventilating.

JE

And it's all through the mouth.

JU

It's yeah, pretty much different styles might include some nose, but it's like mostly through the mouth. But yeah, what we did on Saturday yeah. Through the mouth is just a and the you just kind of let the air come out but you're taking a deep breath and you're doing this for 60 minutes. Okay. So what happens is essentially it you experience carbon dioxide poisoning and but you one goes into an altered state of consciousness.

And I've done this many times before and it's always powerful. But this time it was something else because there were so there was 100 of us. There were 200 at the retreat. There was a morning and an afternoon and there were ten like Breathwork masters, shamans, medicine, people who were kind of holding the space, so to speak.

So they would have like burning sage or tobacco or doing body work or energy work or whatever or shaking rattles or whatever. I don't know, because my eyes were closed, but it was just so profound. And it was led by Aubrey Marcus and this medicine woman named Blue were the like leads, but the other eight were just amazing.

And it was like, I'll say, I'm happy to report because I've put this out in other contexts. I've done psychedelics before, I've done different psychedelics, different dosages in different contexts. So I've done my fair share. And this was as powerful, if not more powerful than any psychedelic experience I've ever had. Wow. Yeah. And so just to keep it real short and focused on the ancestral work, I was able to, in this experience, commune with my grandfather's spirit, grieve him fully, and I'll just say in this Breathwork session with 100 people, it was pure pandemonium in there.

I mean, it was like people yelling and then crying and sobbing and wailing and laughing. It was the whole gamut. It was insane. But my eyes were closed the whole time and I was just relaxing back and grieving my grandfather and just just connecting with him. And I don't know. I mean, I don't know what happened at what time.

It's all kind of mixed up chronologically, but at one point, so I'm laying there on this mat and the the sun. So we're underneath this, this big tent and there's these like parts where the tent is tied together, you know, and so there's little cracks. And the sun had just come in and my eyes were closed, but I could see the sun just all of a sudden just start to kind of fill up my my eyelids.

And at that moment, I was able to let him go and he and he just went in to the sun. It was kind of just passing over to the other side. And it felt so beautiful and so complete. I mean, it really felt like this completion of this daylong journey with him and I have, yeah, just a sense of just peace and calm around him.

There was a lot of other stuff going on that we can talk about.

JE

It was a jam packed that trip just in that 60 minutes.

JU

Yeah. That that the grandfather thing took up maybe about half of that time.

JE

Okay. Okay. Yeah. Well, and it sounds like you were sort of. Were you? Well, I should just ask, were you sort of surprised by by that process that that presented itself and unfold? You didn't go into this retreat intending to ...

JU

I didn't go in. So with the breathwork at the beginning, they said, you know, set an intention for what you want to do with this breath work. Because if you don't set an intention, it can just go in a bunch of different ways and you might not be able to fully explore or complete what you need to complete.

So the intention that I set was I had two intentions going in and one was to connect and work with a young part. So, Jenny, we've talked a lot about internal family systems. I have been working with this really young part that is like maybe one one year old or two, like this is before language. And I don't have any memories, but it's just a feeling around just needing this part, needing a feeling of just unconditional love.

And, and, and so I was like, I want to connect with that part. And then I want to connect with my grandfather. But there was no particular intention beyond that. I wanted to connect and then just see what happens.

And yeah, and so the grandfather thing just like that just went in its own direction. And with the young part, it, it, it felt, yeah, it felt totally held and safe and, and then yeah, there was some other stuff that went on later on in the breath work journey around feeling just this sense of safety and being being held and not just being held by a mother, but even bigger than that being held by the universe like.

JE

Right. Well, yeah. And maybe that's the, you know, the thing that we can bring us back to this kind of this idea of, whew, that I mean, good for you for setting aside the time and space to to encounter the whew in that way. And the retreat into it says to extend an invitation to allow that connection to happen.

Because I think we can get so busy that the woo for me is a place in which I have to set time aside to engage with it. It's not something I can just, like, do while I'm driving, you know? I can't. It's not a podcast I can listen to or a book I can read. It's always some kind of a practice.

And and maybe that's also growing up Catholic. You know, it's, it's very catholicism's, a very ritualistic, very kind of, you know, there's a journey.

JU

There's a lot of wisdom in that from the Catholic tradition and really all religious traditions. And so in the sociology of religion, sacredness is defined as that which is set apart. And and so that's it. What is sacred in different cultures is going to be all these different things. But fundamentally, one thing that is shared by every culture is that the sacred is what is set apart.

And so what you're saying right now is so important, like we need to set apart time.

JE

Yeah. And I think I remember in college I took a class on religion and studied, you know, the idea of the sacred and the ritual. I think that was the name of the one of my favorite books from that class, The Sacred and the Ritual. Anyway. And I did a paper about how we would get together and watch 90210 together as freshman in college.

And that was something sacred there. We had rituals within the same food and time. Yeah, and that was, you know so now obviously further along in my in my life these moments of of engaging in whew, some of which are just practices with my, you know, with myself and going straight to source which I really think we as a world for our own evolution need to move out of, you know, meeting the priest in the sense of not that we don't need healers and we don't need people to hold space, but in terms of the authority that we've placed, religious leaders and things like that.

So for me, healing from the Catholic stuff to be able to have direct communication and direct contact and to start to be able to trust my own knowing around that and my own the way that I receive information in the way it makes its way in, it's been really validating. And then also to just at times need a conduit, right?

Sometimes I will go and meet with some kind of practitioner or a healer, but it's a really different relationship than it was when I would like sit in confession, right, and talk about what a terrible person I am and then be told whether or not God was going to punish me. Very different, very different relationship. And I think that that's what, you know, the people that are in their integrity in the world, holding space in that way can be really powerful.
 

Now, certainly there are people that get hung up on the power. So if that's another episode, right.

JU

But yeah, you know, I mean, I think I think that in this we can think of it as a new form of woo. Like I think the healthy new forms of woo are always going to connect people to their own inner knowing their own power. Yeah. If anything, is directing a person outside of that, then it is an older form that I think is more like the old forms of religion that really I start to really geek out on this stuff.  

But I think the healthy forms of woo today are ones that are just constantly letting us feel more of ourselves, more of who we truly are, and helping us step in to who we are, who we feel like we're meant to be, listening to that inner call. So I think that's one. And then the other thing for me, that is a real way to gauge like, is this healthy or not is: is it also connecting me with other people? So I think those are: do I feel more connected with those in my life and do I feel more connected with who I really am?

JE

Right. Yeah. Yeah. I could not agree more. I mean, it's true. In therapy too. I mean, the therapist holds a lot of power and there's certainly, you know, a history of power dynamics that we have to be very mindful of in practicing therapy, but that ultimately it's about connecting you with introducing you to yourself. And, you know, even in the unconscious work, right?

It's yeah, it's it's how do we how are we an empathic companion and holding space. And yes, sometimes, you know, there is some guiding, there is some redirection. There are certain questions, sometimes there's some confrontation. But ultimately it's in service of you knowing you and you being in connection to you and you being and in your knowing, in your power exactly what you said. I couldn't agree more.

JW

Yes. And so I'm going to just geek out for a moment. I figure anyone who is who is listening now, like 40 something minutes into the podcast is just going to stick with this. One of the reasons why I love parts work and internal family systems, because it it has this woo aspect to it, which is great in itself, but it also is explicitly doing what you just said, introducing one to oneself. It is, it is introducing us to ourselves and for me, I've really gotten into Robert Keegan lately. And so Robert Keegan is a developmental psychologist. He's now retired, he's an emeritus professor at Harvard who developed or working off of a bunch of other developmental psychologists, developed a five stage model of psychological growth, psychological development that extends into adulthood.

And the main mechanism for development from birth until we die is making what is subject or what is just the way we see the world, the lens that we see the world through, making that into object or something that we can now have some distance from and start to look at, understand, manipulate, reflect on and that that is the process going from birth all the way until death and that this is what we as humans constantly need to do is make what is subject, what is just our own subjective worldview out into object.

And I feel like that's what good woo practices do and that's what internal family systems does, is we're constantly like, Oh, instead of speaking from a part where like, Oh, I'm just pissed and I hate this, oh, I can now get a little bit of distance and I can speak for the part, oh, I have a part that hates this and doesn't want to do that.

Now it's just made subject into object.

JE

Yeah I Yeah, I mean if we get, we can look at every possible we can look at the way even tarot brings it into the imaginal brings it into archetype. We can talk about the way IFS brings it into parts. We can talk about the way story and myth brings it into, you know, a universal story that we can we can understand as it relates to us.

If you look at, you know, ancestral work, right? It's like, how are we connected to the past, the epigenetics of trauma? But it can be understood in this way that's inside of us. Can now be inside us and under understood. Yeah. Can be can be put outside and we can gain perspective. I have to tell you, I had in my IFS session the other day where I was so there's been a lot of painful stuff going on with my mom.

She's in the last you know, she's in the last stage of her life and she's preparing to pass. And and it I don't care what your relationship is with your mother. It kicks up a lot, a lot of intense feelings and stuff. And so I was just I just could not and could not access self energy in this session.

But I could feel something outside of me and you can call it spirit source God. And I told my therapist, I said, I can't feel myself being able to give this compassion, but I can feel this, this other thing giving me compassion. And she said, that is self energy. And and it was such a it was such a beautiful moment of being able to locate compassion outside of myself, to bring it inside.

But I had to make it. I couldn't I couldn't get there any other way than something that felt spiritual. And that was in my, my, you know, my therapy. I mean, that's not a woo woo practice. But there was something that feels very woo in a beautiful way that got to unfold there in that session.

JU

That's so beautiful. And that's what yeah, that is really what jazzes me up so much about internal family systems is that when we do this work and the more we we make subject object, the more we, we, you know, take our own inner world and start to distance ourselves a little bit from it, get a little bit of space.

What starts to open up is that the space that we are relaxing back into is the capital S self, its spirit, its source, whatever you want to call it. And we all have our own individual capital S self in spirit, but the more we relax into it, I have witnessed this and myself and others. We are now connected to something bigger.

Like it really does feel like, oh, there's a big capital S self, there's a big spirit, a big source that our own little spirit source is totally connected to. I love that.

JE

I could not agree more Justin. There's so much woo we didn't cover. I mean, there's so much

JU

So real quick. Ah, so can you tell me real quick what are some woo practices that really hit home for you right now that are just that are working for you?

JE

I'm really finding I had a profoundly powerful experience with a with a medium connecting to my deceased father. Now I it's not a practice, really. It was just it was an experience that I cannot explain. It could not be Googled. The information she shared could not be Googled. It was. And it has it has way to allowing for me grieving my father and that relationship in a way I just could not access before.

And it's also opened up an ability to be in relationship with my father that I could not access before. That has been profound and has really helped with what I'm working. I'm going through with my mom, the other. Whew. I mean, you know, energy work. I just have to say hands on energy work with an energy healer. I mean, again, this is my osteopath that she is she is an energy worker, by all means.

And it has been I mean, she cleared my sciatica that I had had for 20 years in one session. When I go and see her, especially going through all the stress with with everything going on, I can feel my body open up. I can feel I can just feel the areas that she's working on with. And then later I'll say, Oh, I just felt my my heart, relax, my heart open.

And she was like, you know, there's just validation in that and I can't put any science behind it. I mean, it's literally just hands on, barely touching. And so that's a practice. That's a practice that is really speaking to me. And then I got to say, I just booked a call with a tarot card lady who is a reader and also a comedian, and she is hilarious.

And so we have these like great, these great readings where like she is so spot on. Just, I mean, like I, we don't have time to go to examples, but it's like the stuff that she has told me and then it just completely plays out that way. I'm mind blown, but then she's also totally hilarious. And so it's like the humor brought into our reading

So those are just those are just some things. But I mean, they're pretty basic. I mean, I don't think those, those are even that out there in terms of woo.

JU

Well, well, but it all depends on who you're talking to. Oh, what a beautiful journey. This is just the beginning. So we are going to have another podcast this month where we're going to get to talk even more about Woo with another guest. And I'm so excited we're going to get to do it together. Jenny, thank you so much. I'm I'm thrilled that you're my co-host.
 

JE

This, but I I'm so excited. I'm so excited. Justin, we're going to have so many great conversations. Thank you. Thank you. Thanks for this.

In this episode

This month’s theme in the Yes Collective is all about the power of "woo" for supporting our mental and emotional health. In this episode, Justin and Jenny explore the power of woo: understanding what it is, what it could be, and how we can use it consciously in our mental and emotional healing journeys. We also introduce Jenny as Justin's new co-host on the Yes Collective Podcast!

The Oxford Dictionary defines “woo-woo” as “unconventional beliefs regarded as having little or no scientific basis, especially those relating to spirituality, mysticism, or alternative medicine.” For us, woo refers to not just beliefs but also practices that bring us into something beyond our own minds and the physical, empirical world.

Justin and Jenny talk about their "woo" journeys and why even the most hard-nosed, materialist scientist should be ok with woo in the context of mental and emotional health. Whether you're woo-curious or a crystal-loving, sage-burning, tarot-card-reading, energy-healing lover of woo, you'll love listening to Justin and Jenny chop it up!

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About our guest

Jenny Walters is a licensed marriage family therapist and senior expert contributor to the Yes Collective. She is a graduate of the Pacifica Graduate Institute and is the founder and director of Highland Park Holistic Psychotherapy in Los Angeles, California.

Transcript highlights

Justin Wilford (JU)

Jenny, thank you so much. So I am super excited to announce to our listening audience that Jenny Walters will now be the co-host along with me. We are going to co-host together the Yes Collective podcast. This is super exciting. Audra will still come on but Audra is like the CEO of several different things. And so she's got such a huge load right now that it made sense for us to bring in this superstar, Jenny Walters, as well.

Jenny Walters (JE)

All right. That's that's that's. Anyway, superstar. Superstar. But. Okay, I'm on it. And these are big shoes to fill. Audrey, as we know. But I'm honored. I'm so excited. I just cannot. I love you know, Justin, you and I always get into these great conversations, and I love that we get to do it and share it and also be in curiosity about all these great guests that you bring on.

JU

And Jenny, I'm feeling into the appropriateness of having you on as the co-host of the selected podcast as we launch November's theme, which is the power of woo. Jenny So you are a licensed therapist. You engage in evidence based mental health modalities. You have been doing this for a long time, but you are also someone I think I'm not spilling any secrets here that, you know, you on occasion will dabble in the woo.

JE

Dabble in the woo. I was a closeted I was closeted woo for a long time. And now I'm much more I'm I'm out of the closet with my will. You know what I can I say this? I have I see a person. And in Los Angeles, she is an osteopath, which is a she's a trained, you know, medical professional.

She does adjustments on my body. I call her magic hands. She's worked miracles. Excuse me. But she was saying, you know, I am very much based in science. She said, I came at this from a place of science. That's what drew me to it. Understanding the body and the anatomy and working with that. She's like, But the more I do this work and the more I lay hands on humans, the more I see that there is and there is an unseen world that we cannot necessarily or has yet to be explained that is absolutely real and potent.

And I've just she's like, I've just seen it too many times. And that's how I feel in this work. I'm a legit, I have a license. I went to school, I did the practicum. You know, I've seen you know, I've done thousands of, of of sessions with humans and but there is something that is sometimes unexplainable that happens that I've seen more often than not that I just cannot deny it. So here I am, out of the closet about my love of woo!

JU

Oh, I love it. And when we decided to make November's theme The Power of woo several months ago, it really came from more of an evidence based approach. And I wrote an article or I wrote for my newsletter. I have a personal newsletter that I have on the power of woo several months ago, and it was really from a more evidence based standpoint, like, here are all the reasons that we should all, no matter what your educational background or your views on the supernatural are, we can all agree on these things about woo.

However, I just got back from this retreat in Sedona, Arizona, which I believe is land of woo, the yeah, it is like the global capital of woo. I mean, are there any other places that are more woo than Sedona that you know of? It's like. It's just. It's just everywhere. And then, of course, just retreat centers. And it is the place to go to get in touch with woo.

JE

True, there may be no other place in America or in the in the world that has branded woo as successfully as Sedona, Arizona.

JU

Yeah, for sure. So I just got back from a five day retreat and oh man, I'm just feeling the woo. I'm just like I'm coming back more woo than I think I've ever been. Yeah. Oh, so we’ll get to talk about this and about our, our own woo journeys. I think, you know, we all we all have our own woo journeys. But I'll start with I'll start off this podcast by saying a little bit about some of the, I think more objective evidence based reasons why we might want to bring woo into our lives.

So first of all, most woo is like zero risk if you're doing a tarot reading or you have crystals in your room or you're, you know, smudging with sage, I guess maybe with the smudging with Sage, there's some volatile airborne particles, you know, that could irritate. But I guess as long as you're not doing it all the time like so most woo very low risk.

So even if we would say there would be zero benefit to it. If there's zero risk, then why are why are we worried about it now? We also know about the placebo effect. So we know that there's not zero benefit to it. If somebody believes that it's helping, then just by this very well-known, very well-studied mechanism called the placebo effect, it's helping them.

So we can say, all right, low risk, it’s helping them. And then a third thing is that for hundreds of thousands of years, probably humans have been gathering and connecting with each other through woo, through rituals, through myth, through sacred objects, through sacred actions. And so Woo is deeply woven into our evolutionary biology, it’s how we connect with each other.

And if we reject woo, then we're also impoverishing our social lives. So that's another reason. And then I think and then I'll just do one more that I think is just objective that we can all agree on. Even the most hard nosed scientist is that our emotional worlds, the language, our emotional worlds speak is the language of woo.

When we dream at night and all this weird stuff is going on, that is our emotional world speaking in its native tongue. Right. And so I believe that when we engage in things like energy, healing, crystals, tarot, astrology, when we do these things, we are essentially speaking the native tongue of our emotional worlds. So that's what I've got.

Jenny, I would love to first hear what you think about those more objective justifications for woo.

JE

I could not agree more and I think that we have to even use the word woo. We may need to start to have to find different language because it's a self-deprecating term that I think people who are attached to rational thinking and want to be accepted and not thought of as as crazy, we've adopted this term to sort of say, well, yeah, I know it sounds crazy, but really we're putting something down that is, like you said, is is rooted in in generations and cultures outside of, you know, of our own for centuries.

So many of these practices go back so far and have been helping humans make meaning in life, make sense of life, have helped them physically cope in life, mentally and emotionally cope as well. And so when we call it woo, we're sort of undermining all of that in a way that I think there's an arrogance to it, you know, and I mean, I, I self-deprecating around that word all the time.

And it's my own self-consciousness around concern about whether others will think the more I am in my community and in my family, and the more, frankly, that that these sorts of conversations unfold, I think it's not it's not as it's not as looked down upon as we might think it is.

JU

I, I have totally found that. Oh, that's.

JE

Yeah, yeah. Everyone has just been closeted.

JU

Right, right, right. We've all we've all been shamed into closeting our woo.

JE

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's like, yeah, I was just thinking, like, when I, you know, went to my first gay bar and I was like, oh, you know, like, there's other, there's others. And it's just, it's just when you start to and that's what's nice about Sedona is you can just be open about it. Yeah, it's like one big woo bar and you can just be open about and it's like no one's looking down, no one's judging.

There's a freedom and you realize and it's all kinds of people there that visit Sedona, right? It's not just the stereotypical people that you think and it's like, oh, yeah, this is you know, there's something very universal about this.

JU

Yes. Yeah, I, I totally hear that about the self-deprecating and the woo. I do find, though, you know, from a from a historical vantage point. So my first dissertation was about evangelical megachurches in the suburbs. And I did a lot of research on the history of religion in the Western world up to the present and the history of religion for the last three or 400 years has been one of secularization.

It started off very slow, but it has now picked up. And it's even happening here in the U.S. for the 20th century. There were sociologists who were arguing like the U.S. is a special case and it's not secularizing. No, it is. There's this rise of people who are saying they don't belong to any religion and it just continues to go up and up and up every single year that they ask.

So on one hand, talking about woo or using the word woo is is deprecating. But on the other, I think it does provide a bridge when we are in this long age of secularization for people to come back in to a spiritualized world like we've, many of us have had to lose our childhood spiritualized world. We came into adulthood, right?

We want to be reality based, like what's actually happening here. And then the question for many of us is how do we, in an intellectually honest way, find our way back into woo? And so for me, woo, or I'm just using woo right now because we could use the word spirituality and I'm not sure spirituality covers all the forms of woo that we would want to.

JE

Let's take back woo. I'm let's I'm just kind of like you've changed my mind and I am in this moment. I am like, I'm all about Woo, let's just and say it with pride. Say it with pride.

JW

Could woo be like queer?

JE

I was just thinking that. Woo is the queer of of spirituality, but also of all the, all the unseen practices that deal with the internal world.

JU

So I would like to begin first. How would you define Woo? Because we just kind of noted there it covers spiritual stuff, but maybe even more than that. So when you talk about Woo Jenny, what comes up for you? What are some of the actual practices and ideas that would be in Woo.

JE

Is that, you know, as I think about that question, I think, oh is Woo on a spectrum because I know people who think that the kind of therapy that I practice, which is rooted in the imaginal, it's rooted in young in therapy, it's called a depth therapy. It rooted in working with the unconscious, with images, dreams, all of that.

There are people who would say that that is woo yeah. That would say that that is just B.S. and what are you talking about? And that doesn't really help people, you know. But to me that's not woo at all. I mean, that is just like to me that psychotherapy, that's just the lens through which I it, you know.

So then you move into, like you mentioned a bunch earlier, you know, tarot astrology or is it tarot? I've had people recently saying tarot. I don't know if it's true. Anyway, we don't need to worry about that right now. But there's astrology, there's mediums, you know, communicating with people who've passed over. There's energy healing, all kinds of modalities of energy healing.

You know, my wife practices sound healing, right, where she puts tuning forks. Some people would say that's very woo. There are physical therapists who work on athletes with tuning forks. I mean, it's sound and vibration. It's very science based. But there are other people that would say that's really out there and that's super woo woo. So and then you can get with people who are, you know, very, very much into the place of, you know, communicating with aliens and and, you know, you can get into other dimensions or the multiverse. And the woo starts to, you know, and that woo may make someone who's more in the middle of the woo spectrum a little uncomfortable, you know. So it really there's so many layers and levels to it. Yes. I can't possibly name it all.

JU

That makes sense to me. Yeah. When I think about Woo, I think just about popular practices and ideas that are not part of the mainstream medical model. And so it's okay. So really for in my own. Like in my mind, it's almost, it's like a term of it's just what is what does not fall in to the Western medical model. Then it's woo. And then I like that idea of it being on a spectrum because there would be plenty of people who are very comfortable in the Western medical model who would say, Oh, I'm fine with that psychology. Yeah, it's a little woo, but I'm and so I can imagine that like, okay, so that's really close. And then it, and then it goes all the way out to like multidimensional aliens and all the other stuff.

JE

I mean, there are people that think mindfulness meditation is woo.

JU

Yeah. I mean, those, those are like, yeah, those that feels almost like performative, empirical, western concrete. Like, I mean to, to because mindful meditation was my way in back in to woo because when I went back to school for a PhD in public health, I was introduced to mindful meditation, which I had done meditation way back in the nineties when I was a teenager and early twenties, and then left it.

But what drew me back in was, Oh, here are all these randomized controlled trials like, it's just so well studied, mindful meditation. Even when I started in 2015, had just tons of research, and now there's even more. And so that is, it's, it's nice that I think that's now …

JE

That was your gateway drug because there was science backing it up. But for a lot of time there wasn't the science wasn't there yet. No. And people thought it was meditating. You know, what a waste of time. But that makes me think about my own journey into woo.

JU

Yes. All right. So I do want to pause you there because I want you to intentionally tell us about your journey into Woo. Let's, let's go with it.

JE

Okay, well, I had an unintentional journey into the womb when I was about eight years old, and my uncle Russell died in a horrible car accident and I was raised Catholic. And so we had open casket funerals and I was walked up to this casket and he was very heavily made up because there had been a lot of damage.

And so he they had a lot of stuff going on to make him look like Uncle Russell. And it was very, very frightening for me as a kid. I mean, you know, I think and there wasn't anybody walking me through metabolizing seeing a dead body or anything like that. So I just was just part of this ritual. I'd never seen a dead person before.

And then later that I don't know if it was that night or that week. I was laying in bed at night. And I swear to God, Justin, a man, Uncle Russell, in his cardigan and his pants, was at the foot of my bed and he was telling me, Don't be scared, it's okay and I'm okay and I will never forget.

It's like I can see it right now and I can see he was here and then my bedroom door was there and outside my bedroom door was this huge oil painting of Saint Teresa that was a very Catholic, very Catholic house. And it was just kind of like and I remember feeling scared and then not scared. And then he just kind of walked out.

Now that stuck with me the rest of my life. I never I didn't tell anybody for years and years and years and years. And this is what I come to with you and I'll get into my story in a second. But whether I made it up or whether it happened, it helped me. And I don't know that it matters.

I've heard enough of these stories now, and I've experienced other experiences like that that I don't think I'm making it up. But that said, what I come to you with woo, and I can give you multiple examples as we talk today, whether I made it up or whether it's real. It brought me it brought me healing, it brought me help, it brought me comfort, it brought me insight.

It made me feel more connected to something outside of myself, greater than myself. And that brought me great soothing during really painful or scary times. So now I was raised strictly. I was super Catholic House, and in fourth grade I sent a petition around the school for girls to be altar boys. I got over 100 signatures. I was at I was at a really small Catholic school, but I got over 100 signatures.

I took it to my senior, which is like the head priest, and he laughed in my face. And that was the day I left the church. In my heart, I just was like, You know what? I really wanted to have a relationship with God. But this religion thing and this this thing that I somehow by by by way of my gender, I'm not allowed to participate.

I wanted to wear the robe and, you know, do the incense and whole, you know, I wanted to participate. So, yeah.

JU

So I'm imagining how many generations past the the girl who wants to be more involved in their religious traditions gets rejected in that way, and then they shut down and conform so they can be a part of these religious traditions. But you instead were like, No, I'm not going to shut down and conform. Instead, this is not for me. That's a big change.

JE

Yeah, that's a big change. And it was purely internal because I couldn't outwards. I still had to go to Mass every day. I had to go to Mass every Friday at school. I had to go every Sunday with my parents. I wasn't I didn't have it in me at ten years old to stand up to. But inside I was in a spiritual crisis. Honestly, starting at ten years old, I really wrestled with this and went through it. I mean, a lot of shame, a lot of worry. I'm going to go to hell. You know, you got all these beliefs that you've been indoctrinated with and you're just like, you know, what is it? And then by the time I got to high school, I went to an all girls high school and there were a lot of nuns around, but they were like, really hip, cool nuns who I'm positive were dabbling in the woo on the side.

Like I am 100 percent sure one of them was a woman who sadly has passed away. Ms. Hellicar she's a former nun. She had left the, the, the sisterhood, but she counseled me after class and I came to her with all of these questions and she really gave me permission to feel what I was feeling, to explore and to really understand spirituality in a more expansive way outside of the notion of religion. And she wasn't, you know, pointing me in any particular direction, but she just gave me a lot of validation and a lot of comfort and a lot of permission. And she gave me a few beads to to hold on to.

And I still have those beads and I really believe that this was for me, the opening toward the will. It was then that I started to pursue every religion I did. I did Quaker, I did Buddhist, I did Unitarian, I did, you know, I just tried to I tried them all Taoism.

JU

Do you still have those beads?

JE

I do, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yes, I do. They're like three little blue beads. So. So I think that that was my that was as I look back, that was me starting to be so curious about wanting to feel a spiritual have a spiritual life, have a spiritual connection. But I still at that point feel it needed to be legitimized by some kind of religion and but anyway, that was the beginning, I'd say, of my, of my foray into the woo and then oh and then started to, you know, come into contact with people who did like a terrorist thing or, you know, and having enough experiences where something pretty astounding occurred.

I mean, you know, we can get into I don't know how much you want to get into it, but I mean, I had a past life reading that was completely mind boggling and it helped me out quite a bit, changed a lot of things and tarot readings, I mean just all kinds of things where it what I noticed is whenever I opened my self up to believing in something beyond myself and a letting letting a little magic in and letting the the unseen take some space, I was always met with something sort of serendipitous that that brought a deepening of my understanding of the situation and some healing, some relief that I, you know, like it helped me come out of resistance and into acceptance of what was going on. But but understanding it on a deeper level and then ultimately feeling a little bit better, maybe not being completely without suffering, but suffering a little differently with it.

JU

So so you mentioned that you were closeted woo for a while for. Well, how how long do you feel like you were closeted?

JE

Well, I would not have had this conversation probably five years ago. I would always like dip my toe and then as soon as I got, got the permission. Right. Yeah. Like I don't think I would have had a conversation with you back at the beginning of your journey because I knew you were super scientific science based. Yeah, I would have been a little I would have been has I would have I would have been afraid that you thought I'd lost my marbles.

JU

Yeah. Oh, my gosh. And so you feel like it started to open up for you about five years ago. Was there anything in particular that happened for you that you're just like, okay, this is this is a real part of my life and I'm now going to open.

JE

Well, let me let me clarify. It's been a real part of my life for 20 years. But in terms of being really open about just unapologetically being woohoo and verbally, you know, out, out in the world that I would say is and has has happened in the last like 5 to 7 years or so. So in terms of being out of the closet with Woo, I think just being around more and more people from all walks of life and my clients just realizing the more I and this is true with anything with ourselves, right?

The more we are ourselves, the more we are in our authenticity, the more we find that self-acceptance, the more we find the acceptance out in our community and the people that we meet. And you find that there are more people who join you in in in that than don't you know, usually. So that's just been my experience of just letting that evidence in and starting to have some, some faith that said, you know what, it is just an I had a past life reading it when I talk woo I had a past life reading like I don't know, it was pre-COVID.

So maybe like four years ago or five years ago. And she said, you, you've had to you've had a lot of lives as a woman and as a man. And she said, as in a lot of those lives, you've been very outspoken. And as a man, you were you got power and money and praise for it. And as a woman in one lifetime, you were killed for it.

Well, and she's like, you have suffered immensely in a female form when you have been open and honest and verbal and in your power. And. Wow, and I have to say, this resonated so deeply because she said this is the first lifetime where you've sort of and I'm talking on a imaginal gender binary here. I don't mean, you know, because I believe in the gender spectrum, but I don't mean to be in a binary place.

But I'm talking like symbolically that the characteristics that we associate with the feminine and the masculine. Yes, she said. This is the first life where those have come together and you have been able to walk in a traditionally like female form and been in some amount of safety. And she's like, But your psyche doesn't totally know that because of all this.

And that is the truth. I, I don't like posting on social media. I get very shy, like being a podcast host. This is, this is a, this is pushing it from it's a good know it's it's good growth but but there is definitely fear inside around it. So when she said this again whether that's true or not, she knew nothing about me.

But when she said that, it really resonated. I was like, Oh, well, that makes a lot of sense, you know?

JU

Oh my gosh. Wow. Yeah. Some of the work in this retreat over the last week or now two weeks ago was about getting in touch with some ancestral traumas. And it's like to think about how many women have suffered over the human history and to really get in touch with that ancestral suffering in all different forms.

And what I'm feeling into here is just that, that your personal, like, past life lineage just carries so much suffering.

JE

And that's such a great. But I love that you just used the word ancestral because I, I've been so curious about doing more ancestral work and because I haven't really done any of that. And I would, I think past life it has like a disconnect. But there's something about ancestral that then hooks me up and keep it has me connected to it to everyone in the, you know, women in the past, relatives in the past, you know so that's an interesting reframing.

JW

Well, for me, the ancestral thing is woo, because for most of know for all of my adult life and really oh gosh going back to even adolescence and pre adolescence, a feeling of being disconnected from my own family in the sense that I didn't share their aesthetic values. I, you know, my dad and his family loved to hunt and camp.

I've always hated I got why are we in a hotel? What are we doing out here? We've we've worked too hard to be scrounging like this. So and then as I grew up feeling disconnected politically and religiously and so growing up and becoming an adult was about just stepping into my own individuality. And I didn't feel like I had any connection to any sort of ancestral, like, no nothing.

And so getting into some woo stuff over the past couple of years, I keep coming into contact with this idea of ancestors and how we came to our obligations to our ancestors, our connections, having ancestral guides. And so this last week this retreat, there was some heavy ancestral work that was really amazing. If we get it, if we get a chance to talk about I don't mind sharing a little bit about it, but that has been a really important way to practice.

And it I feels like it's it's a little bit closer, it's a little bit less on the woo spectrum because we all do actually have ancestors, you know, I mean, we come from somewhere.

JE

We do. But I think what where it gets into woo for folks is the idea that we could be in communication and connection with it. Now, I think you should share a little. I mean, why not? Let's do it. Let's let's let's hear a little.

JU

Oh, my gosh. Hmm. Okay. I've got to be careful because some of the people involved in this ancestral story are still alive. And so I'll just say that my grandfather passed away two years ago on my mom's side, and I loved him, never had a very close relationship with him. He was  from New Mexico. He was in the seventies like the top salesperson for Xerox and then went on to be a successful real estate broker in Phoenix and had the trappings of success.

But from a young age, I never felt connected with him because I think he took on the salesman persona. So I never connected with him from a young age. I felt like, here's a salesman. I do not know what is behind this facade. He was always kind and loving nothing. There was never a hint of anything else. You know, there. But I just felt like I can't connect with you.

There is this artificiality, and I don't know who you actually are. And I felt this all the way through until he passed away from Alzheimer's two years ago. And so when he passed away, I was sad for my mom. I was sad for all of his kids and his wife and but I didn’t cry. And I because of the work I've been doing over the past several years, I can cry.

I am very I can even sob. And then we had his memorial last year, last January, again, no tears. I was present. I, you know, connected to everyone there. But no no tears came up but before this retreat that I went one of the leaders of the retreat suggested we read this book because the retreat, one of the the themes of the retreat was the shadow.

It was bringing light to the shadows is going to be a lot of shadow work and and grief was a part of this. And so he recommended this book called The Smell of Rain on Dust by Martin Prechtel. So it is the best thing I've ever read on grief. And so I got about halfway through the book before the retreat. One of the things that came up in this book, he wrote the author wrote about indigenous grieving practices and ideas. One of the ideas is that if someone is not properly grieved, they can't pass over to the other side.

And so this just stuck with me. I don't know why, and I didn't even think about it in terms of my grandfather, but on the first night of the retreat, we had this beautiful, ecstatic dance ceremony. I won't go into it, but because of the setting and we're outside and it's just this beautiful Sedona environment.

And it reminded me of New Mexico as well. And then my grandfather and then it was just there. And in this ecstatic dance, I just felt his presence. I was like, oh, wow. And then it just came up for me like, Oh, he's never been grieved properly. Not by you, not by anyone.

And so of just a sense like, okay, maybe some of the work I'm meant to do here is grieving him. There was some abusive stuff early on for him and his wife and my mom and the kids. It really early on that I learned about just last year and then felt like I needed to process like really grieve the abuse.

And so there were, there were many points in the retreat where what was the practice as we were doing really opened up this space just to be present with that pain that was caused and to grieve it and to release it. By the time we got to Saturday, which is like the fourth day of the event, we had a breathwork ceremony.

Now I've done breathwork a bunch of times and it’s becoming a really popular thing right now. And I'll just tell you, I've never done breathwork like this. This was profound. It was magical. So for anyone who doesn't know what well, this type of breathwork was discovered, invented, created by Stanislav Groff. I won't go into it. But in the 1970s at the Esalon Institute and it's basically this if you can hear me.

So it is these deep breaths and you are it's basically controlled, hyperventilating.

JE

And it's all through the mouth.

JU

It's yeah, pretty much different styles might include some nose, but it's like mostly through the mouth. But yeah, what we did on Saturday yeah. Through the mouth is just a and the you just kind of let the air come out but you're taking a deep breath and you're doing this for 60 minutes. Okay. So what happens is essentially it you experience carbon dioxide poisoning and but you one goes into an altered state of consciousness.

And I've done this many times before and it's always powerful. But this time it was something else because there were so there was 100 of us. There were 200 at the retreat. There was a morning and an afternoon and there were ten like Breathwork masters, shamans, medicine, people who were kind of holding the space, so to speak.

So they would have like burning sage or tobacco or doing body work or energy work or whatever or shaking rattles or whatever. I don't know, because my eyes were closed, but it was just so profound. And it was led by Aubrey Marcus and this medicine woman named Blue were the like leads, but the other eight were just amazing.

And it was like, I'll say, I'm happy to report because I've put this out in other contexts. I've done psychedelics before, I've done different psychedelics, different dosages in different contexts. So I've done my fair share. And this was as powerful, if not more powerful than any psychedelic experience I've ever had. Wow. Yeah. And so just to keep it real short and focused on the ancestral work, I was able to, in this experience, commune with my grandfather's spirit, grieve him fully, and I'll just say in this Breathwork session with 100 people, it was pure pandemonium in there.

I mean, it was like people yelling and then crying and sobbing and wailing and laughing. It was the whole gamut. It was insane. But my eyes were closed the whole time and I was just relaxing back and grieving my grandfather and just just connecting with him. And I don't know. I mean, I don't know what happened at what time.

It's all kind of mixed up chronologically, but at one point, so I'm laying there on this mat and the the sun. So we're underneath this, this big tent and there's these like parts where the tent is tied together, you know, and so there's little cracks. And the sun had just come in and my eyes were closed, but I could see the sun just all of a sudden just start to kind of fill up my my eyelids.

And at that moment, I was able to let him go and he and he just went in to the sun. It was kind of just passing over to the other side. And it felt so beautiful and so complete. I mean, it really felt like this completion of this daylong journey with him and I have, yeah, just a sense of just peace and calm around him.

There was a lot of other stuff going on that we can talk about.

JE

It was a jam packed that trip just in that 60 minutes.

JU

Yeah. That that the grandfather thing took up maybe about half of that time.

JE

Okay. Okay. Yeah. Well, and it sounds like you were sort of. Were you? Well, I should just ask, were you sort of surprised by by that process that that presented itself and unfold? You didn't go into this retreat intending to ...

JU

I didn't go in. So with the breathwork at the beginning, they said, you know, set an intention for what you want to do with this breath work. Because if you don't set an intention, it can just go in a bunch of different ways and you might not be able to fully explore or complete what you need to complete.

So the intention that I set was I had two intentions going in and one was to connect and work with a young part. So, Jenny, we've talked a lot about internal family systems. I have been working with this really young part that is like maybe one one year old or two, like this is before language. And I don't have any memories, but it's just a feeling around just needing this part, needing a feeling of just unconditional love.

And, and, and so I was like, I want to connect with that part. And then I want to connect with my grandfather. But there was no particular intention beyond that. I wanted to connect and then just see what happens.

And yeah, and so the grandfather thing just like that just went in its own direction. And with the young part, it, it, it felt, yeah, it felt totally held and safe and, and then yeah, there was some other stuff that went on later on in the breath work journey around feeling just this sense of safety and being being held and not just being held by a mother, but even bigger than that being held by the universe like.

JE

Right. Well, yeah. And maybe that's the, you know, the thing that we can bring us back to this kind of this idea of, whew, that I mean, good for you for setting aside the time and space to to encounter the whew in that way. And the retreat into it says to extend an invitation to allow that connection to happen.

Because I think we can get so busy that the woo for me is a place in which I have to set time aside to engage with it. It's not something I can just, like, do while I'm driving, you know? I can't. It's not a podcast I can listen to or a book I can read. It's always some kind of a practice.

And and maybe that's also growing up Catholic. You know, it's, it's very catholicism's, a very ritualistic, very kind of, you know, there's a journey.

JU

There's a lot of wisdom in that from the Catholic tradition and really all religious traditions. And so in the sociology of religion, sacredness is defined as that which is set apart. And and so that's it. What is sacred in different cultures is going to be all these different things. But fundamentally, one thing that is shared by every culture is that the sacred is what is set apart.

And so what you're saying right now is so important, like we need to set apart time.

JE

Yeah. And I think I remember in college I took a class on religion and studied, you know, the idea of the sacred and the ritual. I think that was the name of the one of my favorite books from that class, The Sacred and the Ritual. Anyway. And I did a paper about how we would get together and watch 90210 together as freshman in college.

And that was something sacred there. We had rituals within the same food and time. Yeah, and that was, you know so now obviously further along in my in my life these moments of of engaging in whew, some of which are just practices with my, you know, with myself and going straight to source which I really think we as a world for our own evolution need to move out of, you know, meeting the priest in the sense of not that we don't need healers and we don't need people to hold space, but in terms of the authority that we've placed, religious leaders and things like that.

So for me, healing from the Catholic stuff to be able to have direct communication and direct contact and to start to be able to trust my own knowing around that and my own the way that I receive information in the way it makes its way in, it's been really validating. And then also to just at times need a conduit, right?

Sometimes I will go and meet with some kind of practitioner or a healer, but it's a really different relationship than it was when I would like sit in confession, right, and talk about what a terrible person I am and then be told whether or not God was going to punish me. Very different, very different relationship. And I think that that's what, you know, the people that are in their integrity in the world, holding space in that way can be really powerful.
 

Now, certainly there are people that get hung up on the power. So if that's another episode, right.

JU

But yeah, you know, I mean, I think I think that in this we can think of it as a new form of woo. Like I think the healthy new forms of woo are always going to connect people to their own inner knowing their own power. Yeah. If anything, is directing a person outside of that, then it is an older form that I think is more like the old forms of religion that really I start to really geek out on this stuff.  

But I think the healthy forms of woo today are ones that are just constantly letting us feel more of ourselves, more of who we truly are, and helping us step in to who we are, who we feel like we're meant to be, listening to that inner call. So I think that's one. And then the other thing for me, that is a real way to gauge like, is this healthy or not is: is it also connecting me with other people? So I think those are: do I feel more connected with those in my life and do I feel more connected with who I really am?

JE

Right. Yeah. Yeah. I could not agree more. I mean, it's true. In therapy too. I mean, the therapist holds a lot of power and there's certainly, you know, a history of power dynamics that we have to be very mindful of in practicing therapy, but that ultimately it's about connecting you with introducing you to yourself. And, you know, even in the unconscious work, right?

It's yeah, it's it's how do we how are we an empathic companion and holding space. And yes, sometimes, you know, there is some guiding, there is some redirection. There are certain questions, sometimes there's some confrontation. But ultimately it's in service of you knowing you and you being in connection to you and you being and in your knowing, in your power exactly what you said. I couldn't agree more.

JW

Yes. And so I'm going to just geek out for a moment. I figure anyone who is who is listening now, like 40 something minutes into the podcast is just going to stick with this. One of the reasons why I love parts work and internal family systems, because it it has this woo aspect to it, which is great in itself, but it also is explicitly doing what you just said, introducing one to oneself. It is, it is introducing us to ourselves and for me, I've really gotten into Robert Keegan lately. And so Robert Keegan is a developmental psychologist. He's now retired, he's an emeritus professor at Harvard who developed or working off of a bunch of other developmental psychologists, developed a five stage model of psychological growth, psychological development that extends into adulthood.

And the main mechanism for development from birth until we die is making what is subject or what is just the way we see the world, the lens that we see the world through, making that into object or something that we can now have some distance from and start to look at, understand, manipulate, reflect on and that that is the process going from birth all the way until death and that this is what we as humans constantly need to do is make what is subject, what is just our own subjective worldview out into object.

And I feel like that's what good woo practices do and that's what internal family systems does, is we're constantly like, Oh, instead of speaking from a part where like, Oh, I'm just pissed and I hate this, oh, I can now get a little bit of distance and I can speak for the part, oh, I have a part that hates this and doesn't want to do that.

Now it's just made subject into object.

JE

Yeah I Yeah, I mean if we get, we can look at every possible we can look at the way even tarot brings it into the imaginal brings it into archetype. We can talk about the way IFS brings it into parts. We can talk about the way story and myth brings it into, you know, a universal story that we can we can understand as it relates to us.

If you look at, you know, ancestral work, right? It's like, how are we connected to the past, the epigenetics of trauma? But it can be understood in this way that's inside of us. Can now be inside us and under understood. Yeah. Can be can be put outside and we can gain perspective. I have to tell you, I had in my IFS session the other day where I was so there's been a lot of painful stuff going on with my mom.

She's in the last you know, she's in the last stage of her life and she's preparing to pass. And and it I don't care what your relationship is with your mother. It kicks up a lot, a lot of intense feelings and stuff. And so I was just I just could not and could not access self energy in this session.

But I could feel something outside of me and you can call it spirit source God. And I told my therapist, I said, I can't feel myself being able to give this compassion, but I can feel this, this other thing giving me compassion. And she said, that is self energy. And and it was such a it was such a beautiful moment of being able to locate compassion outside of myself, to bring it inside.

But I had to make it. I couldn't I couldn't get there any other way than something that felt spiritual. And that was in my, my, you know, my therapy. I mean, that's not a woo woo practice. But there was something that feels very woo in a beautiful way that got to unfold there in that session.

JU

That's so beautiful. And that's what yeah, that is really what jazzes me up so much about internal family systems is that when we do this work and the more we we make subject object, the more we, we, you know, take our own inner world and start to distance ourselves a little bit from it, get a little bit of space.

What starts to open up is that the space that we are relaxing back into is the capital S self, its spirit, its source, whatever you want to call it. And we all have our own individual capital S self in spirit, but the more we relax into it, I have witnessed this and myself and others. We are now connected to something bigger.

Like it really does feel like, oh, there's a big capital S self, there's a big spirit, a big source that our own little spirit source is totally connected to. I love that.

JE

I could not agree more Justin. There's so much woo we didn't cover. I mean, there's so much

JU

So real quick. Ah, so can you tell me real quick what are some woo practices that really hit home for you right now that are just that are working for you?

JE

I'm really finding I had a profoundly powerful experience with a with a medium connecting to my deceased father. Now I it's not a practice, really. It was just it was an experience that I cannot explain. It could not be Googled. The information she shared could not be Googled. It was. And it has it has way to allowing for me grieving my father and that relationship in a way I just could not access before.

And it's also opened up an ability to be in relationship with my father that I could not access before. That has been profound and has really helped with what I'm working. I'm going through with my mom, the other. Whew. I mean, you know, energy work. I just have to say hands on energy work with an energy healer. I mean, again, this is my osteopath that she is she is an energy worker, by all means.

And it has been I mean, she cleared my sciatica that I had had for 20 years in one session. When I go and see her, especially going through all the stress with with everything going on, I can feel my body open up. I can feel I can just feel the areas that she's working on with. And then later I'll say, Oh, I just felt my my heart, relax, my heart open.

And she was like, you know, there's just validation in that and I can't put any science behind it. I mean, it's literally just hands on, barely touching. And so that's a practice. That's a practice that is really speaking to me. And then I got to say, I just booked a call with a tarot card lady who is a reader and also a comedian, and she is hilarious.

And so we have these like great, these great readings where like she is so spot on. Just, I mean, like I, we don't have time to go to examples, but it's like the stuff that she has told me and then it just completely plays out that way. I'm mind blown, but then she's also totally hilarious. And so it's like the humor brought into our reading

So those are just those are just some things. But I mean, they're pretty basic. I mean, I don't think those, those are even that out there in terms of woo.

JU

Well, well, but it all depends on who you're talking to. Oh, what a beautiful journey. This is just the beginning. So we are going to have another podcast this month where we're going to get to talk even more about Woo with another guest. And I'm so excited we're going to get to do it together. Jenny, thank you so much. I'm I'm thrilled that you're my co-host.
 

JE

This, but I I'm so excited. I'm so excited. Justin, we're going to have so many great conversations. Thank you. Thank you. Thanks for this.

In this episode

This month’s theme in the Yes Collective is all about the power of "woo" for supporting our mental and emotional health. In this episode, Justin and Jenny explore the power of woo: understanding what it is, what it could be, and how we can use it consciously in our mental and emotional healing journeys. We also introduce Jenny as Justin's new co-host on the Yes Collective Podcast!

The Oxford Dictionary defines “woo-woo” as “unconventional beliefs regarded as having little or no scientific basis, especially those relating to spirituality, mysticism, or alternative medicine.” For us, woo refers to not just beliefs but also practices that bring us into something beyond our own minds and the physical, empirical world.

Justin and Jenny talk about their "woo" journeys and why even the most hard-nosed, materialist scientist should be ok with woo in the context of mental and emotional health. Whether you're woo-curious or a crystal-loving, sage-burning, tarot-card-reading, energy-healing lover of woo, you'll love listening to Justin and Jenny chop it up!

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About our guest

Jenny Walters is a licensed marriage family therapist and senior expert contributor to the Yes Collective. She is a graduate of the Pacifica Graduate Institute and is the founder and director of Highland Park Holistic Psychotherapy in Los Angeles, California.

Transcript highlights

Justin Wilford (JU)

Jenny, thank you so much. So I am super excited to announce to our listening audience that Jenny Walters will now be the co-host along with me. We are going to co-host together the Yes Collective podcast. This is super exciting. Audra will still come on but Audra is like the CEO of several different things. And so she's got such a huge load right now that it made sense for us to bring in this superstar, Jenny Walters, as well.

Jenny Walters (JE)

All right. That's that's that's. Anyway, superstar. Superstar. But. Okay, I'm on it. And these are big shoes to fill. Audrey, as we know. But I'm honored. I'm so excited. I just cannot. I love you know, Justin, you and I always get into these great conversations, and I love that we get to do it and share it and also be in curiosity about all these great guests that you bring on.

JU

And Jenny, I'm feeling into the appropriateness of having you on as the co-host of the selected podcast as we launch November's theme, which is the power of woo. Jenny So you are a licensed therapist. You engage in evidence based mental health modalities. You have been doing this for a long time, but you are also someone I think I'm not spilling any secrets here that, you know, you on occasion will dabble in the woo.

JE

Dabble in the woo. I was a closeted I was closeted woo for a long time. And now I'm much more I'm I'm out of the closet with my will. You know what I can I say this? I have I see a person. And in Los Angeles, she is an osteopath, which is a she's a trained, you know, medical professional.

She does adjustments on my body. I call her magic hands. She's worked miracles. Excuse me. But she was saying, you know, I am very much based in science. She said, I came at this from a place of science. That's what drew me to it. Understanding the body and the anatomy and working with that. She's like, But the more I do this work and the more I lay hands on humans, the more I see that there is and there is an unseen world that we cannot necessarily or has yet to be explained that is absolutely real and potent.

And I've just she's like, I've just seen it too many times. And that's how I feel in this work. I'm a legit, I have a license. I went to school, I did the practicum. You know, I've seen you know, I've done thousands of, of of sessions with humans and but there is something that is sometimes unexplainable that happens that I've seen more often than not that I just cannot deny it. So here I am, out of the closet about my love of woo!

JU

Oh, I love it. And when we decided to make November's theme The Power of woo several months ago, it really came from more of an evidence based approach. And I wrote an article or I wrote for my newsletter. I have a personal newsletter that I have on the power of woo several months ago, and it was really from a more evidence based standpoint, like, here are all the reasons that we should all, no matter what your educational background or your views on the supernatural are, we can all agree on these things about woo.

However, I just got back from this retreat in Sedona, Arizona, which I believe is land of woo, the yeah, it is like the global capital of woo. I mean, are there any other places that are more woo than Sedona that you know of? It's like. It's just. It's just everywhere. And then, of course, just retreat centers. And it is the place to go to get in touch with woo.

JE

True, there may be no other place in America or in the in the world that has branded woo as successfully as Sedona, Arizona.

JU

Yeah, for sure. So I just got back from a five day retreat and oh man, I'm just feeling the woo. I'm just like I'm coming back more woo than I think I've ever been. Yeah. Oh, so we’ll get to talk about this and about our, our own woo journeys. I think, you know, we all we all have our own woo journeys. But I'll start with I'll start off this podcast by saying a little bit about some of the, I think more objective evidence based reasons why we might want to bring woo into our lives.

So first of all, most woo is like zero risk if you're doing a tarot reading or you have crystals in your room or you're, you know, smudging with sage, I guess maybe with the smudging with Sage, there's some volatile airborne particles, you know, that could irritate. But I guess as long as you're not doing it all the time like so most woo very low risk.

So even if we would say there would be zero benefit to it. If there's zero risk, then why are why are we worried about it now? We also know about the placebo effect. So we know that there's not zero benefit to it. If somebody believes that it's helping, then just by this very well-known, very well-studied mechanism called the placebo effect, it's helping them.

So we can say, all right, low risk, it’s helping them. And then a third thing is that for hundreds of thousands of years, probably humans have been gathering and connecting with each other through woo, through rituals, through myth, through sacred objects, through sacred actions. And so Woo is deeply woven into our evolutionary biology, it’s how we connect with each other.

And if we reject woo, then we're also impoverishing our social lives. So that's another reason. And then I think and then I'll just do one more that I think is just objective that we can all agree on. Even the most hard nosed scientist is that our emotional worlds, the language, our emotional worlds speak is the language of woo.

When we dream at night and all this weird stuff is going on, that is our emotional world speaking in its native tongue. Right. And so I believe that when we engage in things like energy, healing, crystals, tarot, astrology, when we do these things, we are essentially speaking the native tongue of our emotional worlds. So that's what I've got.

Jenny, I would love to first hear what you think about those more objective justifications for woo.

JE

I could not agree more and I think that we have to even use the word woo. We may need to start to have to find different language because it's a self-deprecating term that I think people who are attached to rational thinking and want to be accepted and not thought of as as crazy, we've adopted this term to sort of say, well, yeah, I know it sounds crazy, but really we're putting something down that is, like you said, is is rooted in in generations and cultures outside of, you know, of our own for centuries.

So many of these practices go back so far and have been helping humans make meaning in life, make sense of life, have helped them physically cope in life, mentally and emotionally cope as well. And so when we call it woo, we're sort of undermining all of that in a way that I think there's an arrogance to it, you know, and I mean, I, I self-deprecating around that word all the time.

And it's my own self-consciousness around concern about whether others will think the more I am in my community and in my family, and the more, frankly, that that these sorts of conversations unfold, I think it's not it's not as it's not as looked down upon as we might think it is.

JU

I, I have totally found that. Oh, that's.

JE

Yeah, yeah. Everyone has just been closeted.

JU

Right, right, right. We've all we've all been shamed into closeting our woo.

JE

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's like, yeah, I was just thinking, like, when I, you know, went to my first gay bar and I was like, oh, you know, like, there's other, there's others. And it's just, it's just when you start to and that's what's nice about Sedona is you can just be open about it. Yeah, it's like one big woo bar and you can just be open about and it's like no one's looking down, no one's judging.

There's a freedom and you realize and it's all kinds of people there that visit Sedona, right? It's not just the stereotypical people that you think and it's like, oh, yeah, this is you know, there's something very universal about this.

JU

Yes. Yeah, I, I totally hear that about the self-deprecating and the woo. I do find, though, you know, from a from a historical vantage point. So my first dissertation was about evangelical megachurches in the suburbs. And I did a lot of research on the history of religion in the Western world up to the present and the history of religion for the last three or 400 years has been one of secularization.

It started off very slow, but it has now picked up. And it's even happening here in the U.S. for the 20th century. There were sociologists who were arguing like the U.S. is a special case and it's not secularizing. No, it is. There's this rise of people who are saying they don't belong to any religion and it just continues to go up and up and up every single year that they ask.

So on one hand, talking about woo or using the word woo is is deprecating. But on the other, I think it does provide a bridge when we are in this long age of secularization for people to come back in to a spiritualized world like we've, many of us have had to lose our childhood spiritualized world. We came into adulthood, right?

We want to be reality based, like what's actually happening here. And then the question for many of us is how do we, in an intellectually honest way, find our way back into woo? And so for me, woo, or I'm just using woo right now because we could use the word spirituality and I'm not sure spirituality covers all the forms of woo that we would want to.

JE

Let's take back woo. I'm let's I'm just kind of like you've changed my mind and I am in this moment. I am like, I'm all about Woo, let's just and say it with pride. Say it with pride.

JW

Could woo be like queer?

JE

I was just thinking that. Woo is the queer of of spirituality, but also of all the, all the unseen practices that deal with the internal world.

JU

So I would like to begin first. How would you define Woo? Because we just kind of noted there it covers spiritual stuff, but maybe even more than that. So when you talk about Woo Jenny, what comes up for you? What are some of the actual practices and ideas that would be in Woo.

JE

Is that, you know, as I think about that question, I think, oh is Woo on a spectrum because I know people who think that the kind of therapy that I practice, which is rooted in the imaginal, it's rooted in young in therapy, it's called a depth therapy. It rooted in working with the unconscious, with images, dreams, all of that.

There are people who would say that that is woo yeah. That would say that that is just B.S. and what are you talking about? And that doesn't really help people, you know. But to me that's not woo at all. I mean, that is just like to me that psychotherapy, that's just the lens through which I it, you know.

So then you move into, like you mentioned a bunch earlier, you know, tarot astrology or is it tarot? I've had people recently saying tarot. I don't know if it's true. Anyway, we don't need to worry about that right now. But there's astrology, there's mediums, you know, communicating with people who've passed over. There's energy healing, all kinds of modalities of energy healing.

You know, my wife practices sound healing, right, where she puts tuning forks. Some people would say that's very woo. There are physical therapists who work on athletes with tuning forks. I mean, it's sound and vibration. It's very science based. But there are other people that would say that's really out there and that's super woo woo. So and then you can get with people who are, you know, very, very much into the place of, you know, communicating with aliens and and, you know, you can get into other dimensions or the multiverse. And the woo starts to, you know, and that woo may make someone who's more in the middle of the woo spectrum a little uncomfortable, you know. So it really there's so many layers and levels to it. Yes. I can't possibly name it all.

JU

That makes sense to me. Yeah. When I think about Woo, I think just about popular practices and ideas that are not part of the mainstream medical model. And so it's okay. So really for in my own. Like in my mind, it's almost, it's like a term of it's just what is what does not fall in to the Western medical model. Then it's woo. And then I like that idea of it being on a spectrum because there would be plenty of people who are very comfortable in the Western medical model who would say, Oh, I'm fine with that psychology. Yeah, it's a little woo, but I'm and so I can imagine that like, okay, so that's really close. And then it, and then it goes all the way out to like multidimensional aliens and all the other stuff.

JE

I mean, there are people that think mindfulness meditation is woo.

JU

Yeah. I mean, those, those are like, yeah, those that feels almost like performative, empirical, western concrete. Like, I mean to, to because mindful meditation was my way in back in to woo because when I went back to school for a PhD in public health, I was introduced to mindful meditation, which I had done meditation way back in the nineties when I was a teenager and early twenties, and then left it.

But what drew me back in was, Oh, here are all these randomized controlled trials like, it's just so well studied, mindful meditation. Even when I started in 2015, had just tons of research, and now there's even more. And so that is, it's, it's nice that I think that's now …

JE

That was your gateway drug because there was science backing it up. But for a lot of time there wasn't the science wasn't there yet. No. And people thought it was meditating. You know, what a waste of time. But that makes me think about my own journey into woo.

JU

Yes. All right. So I do want to pause you there because I want you to intentionally tell us about your journey into Woo. Let's, let's go with it.

JE

Okay, well, I had an unintentional journey into the womb when I was about eight years old, and my uncle Russell died in a horrible car accident and I was raised Catholic. And so we had open casket funerals and I was walked up to this casket and he was very heavily made up because there had been a lot of damage.

And so he they had a lot of stuff going on to make him look like Uncle Russell. And it was very, very frightening for me as a kid. I mean, you know, I think and there wasn't anybody walking me through metabolizing seeing a dead body or anything like that. So I just was just part of this ritual. I'd never seen a dead person before.

And then later that I don't know if it was that night or that week. I was laying in bed at night. And I swear to God, Justin, a man, Uncle Russell, in his cardigan and his pants, was at the foot of my bed and he was telling me, Don't be scared, it's okay and I'm okay and I will never forget.

It's like I can see it right now and I can see he was here and then my bedroom door was there and outside my bedroom door was this huge oil painting of Saint Teresa that was a very Catholic, very Catholic house. And it was just kind of like and I remember feeling scared and then not scared. And then he just kind of walked out.

Now that stuck with me the rest of my life. I never I didn't tell anybody for years and years and years and years. And this is what I come to with you and I'll get into my story in a second. But whether I made it up or whether it happened, it helped me. And I don't know that it matters.

I've heard enough of these stories now, and I've experienced other experiences like that that I don't think I'm making it up. But that said, what I come to you with woo, and I can give you multiple examples as we talk today, whether I made it up or whether it's real. It brought me it brought me healing, it brought me help, it brought me comfort, it brought me insight.

It made me feel more connected to something outside of myself, greater than myself. And that brought me great soothing during really painful or scary times. So now I was raised strictly. I was super Catholic House, and in fourth grade I sent a petition around the school for girls to be altar boys. I got over 100 signatures. I was at I was at a really small Catholic school, but I got over 100 signatures.

I took it to my senior, which is like the head priest, and he laughed in my face. And that was the day I left the church. In my heart, I just was like, You know what? I really wanted to have a relationship with God. But this religion thing and this this thing that I somehow by by by way of my gender, I'm not allowed to participate.

I wanted to wear the robe and, you know, do the incense and whole, you know, I wanted to participate. So, yeah.

JU

So I'm imagining how many generations past the the girl who wants to be more involved in their religious traditions gets rejected in that way, and then they shut down and conform so they can be a part of these religious traditions. But you instead were like, No, I'm not going to shut down and conform. Instead, this is not for me. That's a big change.

JE

Yeah, that's a big change. And it was purely internal because I couldn't outwards. I still had to go to Mass every day. I had to go to Mass every Friday at school. I had to go every Sunday with my parents. I wasn't I didn't have it in me at ten years old to stand up to. But inside I was in a spiritual crisis. Honestly, starting at ten years old, I really wrestled with this and went through it. I mean, a lot of shame, a lot of worry. I'm going to go to hell. You know, you got all these beliefs that you've been indoctrinated with and you're just like, you know, what is it? And then by the time I got to high school, I went to an all girls high school and there were a lot of nuns around, but they were like, really hip, cool nuns who I'm positive were dabbling in the woo on the side.

Like I am 100 percent sure one of them was a woman who sadly has passed away. Ms. Hellicar she's a former nun. She had left the, the, the sisterhood, but she counseled me after class and I came to her with all of these questions and she really gave me permission to feel what I was feeling, to explore and to really understand spirituality in a more expansive way outside of the notion of religion. And she wasn't, you know, pointing me in any particular direction, but she just gave me a lot of validation and a lot of comfort and a lot of permission. And she gave me a few beads to to hold on to.

And I still have those beads and I really believe that this was for me, the opening toward the will. It was then that I started to pursue every religion I did. I did Quaker, I did Buddhist, I did Unitarian, I did, you know, I just tried to I tried them all Taoism.

JU

Do you still have those beads?

JE

I do, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yes, I do. They're like three little blue beads. So. So I think that that was my that was as I look back, that was me starting to be so curious about wanting to feel a spiritual have a spiritual life, have a spiritual connection. But I still at that point feel it needed to be legitimized by some kind of religion and but anyway, that was the beginning, I'd say, of my, of my foray into the woo and then oh and then started to, you know, come into contact with people who did like a terrorist thing or, you know, and having enough experiences where something pretty astounding occurred.

I mean, you know, we can get into I don't know how much you want to get into it, but I mean, I had a past life reading that was completely mind boggling and it helped me out quite a bit, changed a lot of things and tarot readings, I mean just all kinds of things where it what I noticed is whenever I opened my self up to believing in something beyond myself and a letting letting a little magic in and letting the the unseen take some space, I was always met with something sort of serendipitous that that brought a deepening of my understanding of the situation and some healing, some relief that I, you know, like it helped me come out of resistance and into acceptance of what was going on. But but understanding it on a deeper level and then ultimately feeling a little bit better, maybe not being completely without suffering, but suffering a little differently with it.

JU

So so you mentioned that you were closeted woo for a while for. Well, how how long do you feel like you were closeted?

JE

Well, I would not have had this conversation probably five years ago. I would always like dip my toe and then as soon as I got, got the permission. Right. Yeah. Like I don't think I would have had a conversation with you back at the beginning of your journey because I knew you were super scientific science based. Yeah, I would have been a little I would have been has I would have I would have been afraid that you thought I'd lost my marbles.

JU

Yeah. Oh, my gosh. And so you feel like it started to open up for you about five years ago. Was there anything in particular that happened for you that you're just like, okay, this is this is a real part of my life and I'm now going to open.

JE

Well, let me let me clarify. It's been a real part of my life for 20 years. But in terms of being really open about just unapologetically being woohoo and verbally, you know, out, out in the world that I would say is and has has happened in the last like 5 to 7 years or so. So in terms of being out of the closet with Woo, I think just being around more and more people from all walks of life and my clients just realizing the more I and this is true with anything with ourselves, right?

The more we are ourselves, the more we are in our authenticity, the more we find that self-acceptance, the more we find the acceptance out in our community and the people that we meet. And you find that there are more people who join you in in in that than don't you know, usually. So that's just been my experience of just letting that evidence in and starting to have some, some faith that said, you know what, it is just an I had a past life reading it when I talk woo I had a past life reading like I don't know, it was pre-COVID.

So maybe like four years ago or five years ago. And she said, you, you've had to you've had a lot of lives as a woman and as a man. And she said, as in a lot of those lives, you've been very outspoken. And as a man, you were you got power and money and praise for it. And as a woman in one lifetime, you were killed for it.

Well, and she's like, you have suffered immensely in a female form when you have been open and honest and verbal and in your power. And. Wow, and I have to say, this resonated so deeply because she said this is the first lifetime where you've sort of and I'm talking on a imaginal gender binary here. I don't mean, you know, because I believe in the gender spectrum, but I don't mean to be in a binary place.

But I'm talking like symbolically that the characteristics that we associate with the feminine and the masculine. Yes, she said. This is the first life where those have come together and you have been able to walk in a traditionally like female form and been in some amount of safety. And she's like, But your psyche doesn't totally know that because of all this.

And that is the truth. I, I don't like posting on social media. I get very shy, like being a podcast host. This is, this is a, this is pushing it from it's a good know it's it's good growth but but there is definitely fear inside around it. So when she said this again whether that's true or not, she knew nothing about me.

But when she said that, it really resonated. I was like, Oh, well, that makes a lot of sense, you know?

JU

Oh my gosh. Wow. Yeah. Some of the work in this retreat over the last week or now two weeks ago was about getting in touch with some ancestral traumas. And it's like to think about how many women have suffered over the human history and to really get in touch with that ancestral suffering in all different forms.

And what I'm feeling into here is just that, that your personal, like, past life lineage just carries so much suffering.

JE

And that's such a great. But I love that you just used the word ancestral because I, I've been so curious about doing more ancestral work and because I haven't really done any of that. And I would, I think past life it has like a disconnect. But there's something about ancestral that then hooks me up and keep it has me connected to it to everyone in the, you know, women in the past, relatives in the past, you know so that's an interesting reframing.

JW

Well, for me, the ancestral thing is woo, because for most of know for all of my adult life and really oh gosh going back to even adolescence and pre adolescence, a feeling of being disconnected from my own family in the sense that I didn't share their aesthetic values. I, you know, my dad and his family loved to hunt and camp.

I've always hated I got why are we in a hotel? What are we doing out here? We've we've worked too hard to be scrounging like this. So and then as I grew up feeling disconnected politically and religiously and so growing up and becoming an adult was about just stepping into my own individuality. And I didn't feel like I had any connection to any sort of ancestral, like, no nothing.

And so getting into some woo stuff over the past couple of years, I keep coming into contact with this idea of ancestors and how we came to our obligations to our ancestors, our connections, having ancestral guides. And so this last week this retreat, there was some heavy ancestral work that was really amazing. If we get it, if we get a chance to talk about I don't mind sharing a little bit about it, but that has been a really important way to practice.

And it I feels like it's it's a little bit closer, it's a little bit less on the woo spectrum because we all do actually have ancestors, you know, I mean, we come from somewhere.

JE

We do. But I think what where it gets into woo for folks is the idea that we could be in communication and connection with it. Now, I think you should share a little. I mean, why not? Let's do it. Let's let's let's hear a little.

JU

Oh, my gosh. Hmm. Okay. I've got to be careful because some of the people involved in this ancestral story are still alive. And so I'll just say that my grandfather passed away two years ago on my mom's side, and I loved him, never had a very close relationship with him. He was  from New Mexico. He was in the seventies like the top salesperson for Xerox and then went on to be a successful real estate broker in Phoenix and had the trappings of success.

But from a young age, I never felt connected with him because I think he took on the salesman persona. So I never connected with him from a young age. I felt like, here's a salesman. I do not know what is behind this facade. He was always kind and loving nothing. There was never a hint of anything else. You know, there. But I just felt like I can't connect with you.

There is this artificiality, and I don't know who you actually are. And I felt this all the way through until he passed away from Alzheimer's two years ago. And so when he passed away, I was sad for my mom. I was sad for all of his kids and his wife and but I didn’t cry. And I because of the work I've been doing over the past several years, I can cry.

I am very I can even sob. And then we had his memorial last year, last January, again, no tears. I was present. I, you know, connected to everyone there. But no no tears came up but before this retreat that I went one of the leaders of the retreat suggested we read this book because the retreat, one of the the themes of the retreat was the shadow.

It was bringing light to the shadows is going to be a lot of shadow work and and grief was a part of this. And so he recommended this book called The Smell of Rain on Dust by Martin Prechtel. So it is the best thing I've ever read on grief. And so I got about halfway through the book before the retreat. One of the things that came up in this book, he wrote the author wrote about indigenous grieving practices and ideas. One of the ideas is that if someone is not properly grieved, they can't pass over to the other side.

And so this just stuck with me. I don't know why, and I didn't even think about it in terms of my grandfather, but on the first night of the retreat, we had this beautiful, ecstatic dance ceremony. I won't go into it, but because of the setting and we're outside and it's just this beautiful Sedona environment.

And it reminded me of New Mexico as well. And then my grandfather and then it was just there. And in this ecstatic dance, I just felt his presence. I was like, oh, wow. And then it just came up for me like, Oh, he's never been grieved properly. Not by you, not by anyone.

And so of just a sense like, okay, maybe some of the work I'm meant to do here is grieving him. There was some abusive stuff early on for him and his wife and my mom and the kids. It really early on that I learned about just last year and then felt like I needed to process like really grieve the abuse.

And so there were, there were many points in the retreat where what was the practice as we were doing really opened up this space just to be present with that pain that was caused and to grieve it and to release it. By the time we got to Saturday, which is like the fourth day of the event, we had a breathwork ceremony.

Now I've done breathwork a bunch of times and it’s becoming a really popular thing right now. And I'll just tell you, I've never done breathwork like this. This was profound. It was magical. So for anyone who doesn't know what well, this type of breathwork was discovered, invented, created by Stanislav Groff. I won't go into it. But in the 1970s at the Esalon Institute and it's basically this if you can hear me.

So it is these deep breaths and you are it's basically controlled, hyperventilating.

JE

And it's all through the mouth.

JU

It's yeah, pretty much different styles might include some nose, but it's like mostly through the mouth. But yeah, what we did on Saturday yeah. Through the mouth is just a and the you just kind of let the air come out but you're taking a deep breath and you're doing this for 60 minutes. Okay. So what happens is essentially it you experience carbon dioxide poisoning and but you one goes into an altered state of consciousness.

And I've done this many times before and it's always powerful. But this time it was something else because there were so there was 100 of us. There were 200 at the retreat. There was a morning and an afternoon and there were ten like Breathwork masters, shamans, medicine, people who were kind of holding the space, so to speak.

So they would have like burning sage or tobacco or doing body work or energy work or whatever or shaking rattles or whatever. I don't know, because my eyes were closed, but it was just so profound. And it was led by Aubrey Marcus and this medicine woman named Blue were the like leads, but the other eight were just amazing.

And it was like, I'll say, I'm happy to report because I've put this out in other contexts. I've done psychedelics before, I've done different psychedelics, different dosages in different contexts. So I've done my fair share. And this was as powerful, if not more powerful than any psychedelic experience I've ever had. Wow. Yeah. And so just to keep it real short and focused on the ancestral work, I was able to, in this experience, commune with my grandfather's spirit, grieve him fully, and I'll just say in this Breathwork session with 100 people, it was pure pandemonium in there.

I mean, it was like people yelling and then crying and sobbing and wailing and laughing. It was the whole gamut. It was insane. But my eyes were closed the whole time and I was just relaxing back and grieving my grandfather and just just connecting with him. And I don't know. I mean, I don't know what happened at what time.

It's all kind of mixed up chronologically, but at one point, so I'm laying there on this mat and the the sun. So we're underneath this, this big tent and there's these like parts where the tent is tied together, you know, and so there's little cracks. And the sun had just come in and my eyes were closed, but I could see the sun just all of a sudden just start to kind of fill up my my eyelids.

And at that moment, I was able to let him go and he and he just went in to the sun. It was kind of just passing over to the other side. And it felt so beautiful and so complete. I mean, it really felt like this completion of this daylong journey with him and I have, yeah, just a sense of just peace and calm around him.

There was a lot of other stuff going on that we can talk about.

JE

It was a jam packed that trip just in that 60 minutes.

JU

Yeah. That that the grandfather thing took up maybe about half of that time.

JE

Okay. Okay. Yeah. Well, and it sounds like you were sort of. Were you? Well, I should just ask, were you sort of surprised by by that process that that presented itself and unfold? You didn't go into this retreat intending to ...

JU

I didn't go in. So with the breathwork at the beginning, they said, you know, set an intention for what you want to do with this breath work. Because if you don't set an intention, it can just go in a bunch of different ways and you might not be able to fully explore or complete what you need to complete.

So the intention that I set was I had two intentions going in and one was to connect and work with a young part. So, Jenny, we've talked a lot about internal family systems. I have been working with this really young part that is like maybe one one year old or two, like this is before language. And I don't have any memories, but it's just a feeling around just needing this part, needing a feeling of just unconditional love.

And, and, and so I was like, I want to connect with that part. And then I want to connect with my grandfather. But there was no particular intention beyond that. I wanted to connect and then just see what happens.

And yeah, and so the grandfather thing just like that just went in its own direction. And with the young part, it, it, it felt, yeah, it felt totally held and safe and, and then yeah, there was some other stuff that went on later on in the breath work journey around feeling just this sense of safety and being being held and not just being held by a mother, but even bigger than that being held by the universe like.

JE

Right. Well, yeah. And maybe that's the, you know, the thing that we can bring us back to this kind of this idea of, whew, that I mean, good for you for setting aside the time and space to to encounter the whew in that way. And the retreat into it says to extend an invitation to allow that connection to happen.

Because I think we can get so busy that the woo for me is a place in which I have to set time aside to engage with it. It's not something I can just, like, do while I'm driving, you know? I can't. It's not a podcast I can listen to or a book I can read. It's always some kind of a practice.

And and maybe that's also growing up Catholic. You know, it's, it's very catholicism's, a very ritualistic, very kind of, you know, there's a journey.

JU

There's a lot of wisdom in that from the Catholic tradition and really all religious traditions. And so in the sociology of religion, sacredness is defined as that which is set apart. And and so that's it. What is sacred in different cultures is going to be all these different things. But fundamentally, one thing that is shared by every culture is that the sacred is what is set apart.

And so what you're saying right now is so important, like we need to set apart time.

JE

Yeah. And I think I remember in college I took a class on religion and studied, you know, the idea of the sacred and the ritual. I think that was the name of the one of my favorite books from that class, The Sacred and the Ritual. Anyway. And I did a paper about how we would get together and watch 90210 together as freshman in college.

And that was something sacred there. We had rituals within the same food and time. Yeah, and that was, you know so now obviously further along in my in my life these moments of of engaging in whew, some of which are just practices with my, you know, with myself and going straight to source which I really think we as a world for our own evolution need to move out of, you know, meeting the priest in the sense of not that we don't need healers and we don't need people to hold space, but in terms of the authority that we've placed, religious leaders and things like that.

So for me, healing from the Catholic stuff to be able to have direct communication and direct contact and to start to be able to trust my own knowing around that and my own the way that I receive information in the way it makes its way in, it's been really validating. And then also to just at times need a conduit, right?

Sometimes I will go and meet with some kind of practitioner or a healer, but it's a really different relationship than it was when I would like sit in confession, right, and talk about what a terrible person I am and then be told whether or not God was going to punish me. Very different, very different relationship. And I think that that's what, you know, the people that are in their integrity in the world, holding space in that way can be really powerful.
 

Now, certainly there are people that get hung up on the power. So if that's another episode, right.

JU

But yeah, you know, I mean, I think I think that in this we can think of it as a new form of woo. Like I think the healthy new forms of woo are always going to connect people to their own inner knowing their own power. Yeah. If anything, is directing a person outside of that, then it is an older form that I think is more like the old forms of religion that really I start to really geek out on this stuff.  

But I think the healthy forms of woo today are ones that are just constantly letting us feel more of ourselves, more of who we truly are, and helping us step in to who we are, who we feel like we're meant to be, listening to that inner call. So I think that's one. And then the other thing for me, that is a real way to gauge like, is this healthy or not is: is it also connecting me with other people? So I think those are: do I feel more connected with those in my life and do I feel more connected with who I really am?

JE

Right. Yeah. Yeah. I could not agree more. I mean, it's true. In therapy too. I mean, the therapist holds a lot of power and there's certainly, you know, a history of power dynamics that we have to be very mindful of in practicing therapy, but that ultimately it's about connecting you with introducing you to yourself. And, you know, even in the unconscious work, right?

It's yeah, it's it's how do we how are we an empathic companion and holding space. And yes, sometimes, you know, there is some guiding, there is some redirection. There are certain questions, sometimes there's some confrontation. But ultimately it's in service of you knowing you and you being in connection to you and you being and in your knowing, in your power exactly what you said. I couldn't agree more.

JW

Yes. And so I'm going to just geek out for a moment. I figure anyone who is who is listening now, like 40 something minutes into the podcast is just going to stick with this. One of the reasons why I love parts work and internal family systems, because it it has this woo aspect to it, which is great in itself, but it also is explicitly doing what you just said, introducing one to oneself. It is, it is introducing us to ourselves and for me, I've really gotten into Robert Keegan lately. And so Robert Keegan is a developmental psychologist. He's now retired, he's an emeritus professor at Harvard who developed or working off of a bunch of other developmental psychologists, developed a five stage model of psychological growth, psychological development that extends into adulthood.

And the main mechanism for development from birth until we die is making what is subject or what is just the way we see the world, the lens that we see the world through, making that into object or something that we can now have some distance from and start to look at, understand, manipulate, reflect on and that that is the process going from birth all the way until death and that this is what we as humans constantly need to do is make what is subject, what is just our own subjective worldview out into object.

And I feel like that's what good woo practices do and that's what internal family systems does, is we're constantly like, Oh, instead of speaking from a part where like, Oh, I'm just pissed and I hate this, oh, I can now get a little bit of distance and I can speak for the part, oh, I have a part that hates this and doesn't want to do that.

Now it's just made subject into object.

JE

Yeah I Yeah, I mean if we get, we can look at every possible we can look at the way even tarot brings it into the imaginal brings it into archetype. We can talk about the way IFS brings it into parts. We can talk about the way story and myth brings it into, you know, a universal story that we can we can understand as it relates to us.

If you look at, you know, ancestral work, right? It's like, how are we connected to the past, the epigenetics of trauma? But it can be understood in this way that's inside of us. Can now be inside us and under understood. Yeah. Can be can be put outside and we can gain perspective. I have to tell you, I had in my IFS session the other day where I was so there's been a lot of painful stuff going on with my mom.

She's in the last you know, she's in the last stage of her life and she's preparing to pass. And and it I don't care what your relationship is with your mother. It kicks up a lot, a lot of intense feelings and stuff. And so I was just I just could not and could not access self energy in this session.

But I could feel something outside of me and you can call it spirit source God. And I told my therapist, I said, I can't feel myself being able to give this compassion, but I can feel this, this other thing giving me compassion. And she said, that is self energy. And and it was such a it was such a beautiful moment of being able to locate compassion outside of myself, to bring it inside.

But I had to make it. I couldn't I couldn't get there any other way than something that felt spiritual. And that was in my, my, you know, my therapy. I mean, that's not a woo woo practice. But there was something that feels very woo in a beautiful way that got to unfold there in that session.

JU

That's so beautiful. And that's what yeah, that is really what jazzes me up so much about internal family systems is that when we do this work and the more we we make subject object, the more we, we, you know, take our own inner world and start to distance ourselves a little bit from it, get a little bit of space.

What starts to open up is that the space that we are relaxing back into is the capital S self, its spirit, its source, whatever you want to call it. And we all have our own individual capital S self in spirit, but the more we relax into it, I have witnessed this and myself and others. We are now connected to something bigger.

Like it really does feel like, oh, there's a big capital S self, there's a big spirit, a big source that our own little spirit source is totally connected to. I love that.

JE

I could not agree more Justin. There's so much woo we didn't cover. I mean, there's so much

JU

So real quick. Ah, so can you tell me real quick what are some woo practices that really hit home for you right now that are just that are working for you?

JE

I'm really finding I had a profoundly powerful experience with a with a medium connecting to my deceased father. Now I it's not a practice, really. It was just it was an experience that I cannot explain. It could not be Googled. The information she shared could not be Googled. It was. And it has it has way to allowing for me grieving my father and that relationship in a way I just could not access before.

And it's also opened up an ability to be in relationship with my father that I could not access before. That has been profound and has really helped with what I'm working. I'm going through with my mom, the other. Whew. I mean, you know, energy work. I just have to say hands on energy work with an energy healer. I mean, again, this is my osteopath that she is she is an energy worker, by all means.

And it has been I mean, she cleared my sciatica that I had had for 20 years in one session. When I go and see her, especially going through all the stress with with everything going on, I can feel my body open up. I can feel I can just feel the areas that she's working on with. And then later I'll say, Oh, I just felt my my heart, relax, my heart open.

And she was like, you know, there's just validation in that and I can't put any science behind it. I mean, it's literally just hands on, barely touching. And so that's a practice. That's a practice that is really speaking to me. And then I got to say, I just booked a call with a tarot card lady who is a reader and also a comedian, and she is hilarious.

And so we have these like great, these great readings where like she is so spot on. Just, I mean, like I, we don't have time to go to examples, but it's like the stuff that she has told me and then it just completely plays out that way. I'm mind blown, but then she's also totally hilarious. And so it's like the humor brought into our reading

So those are just those are just some things. But I mean, they're pretty basic. I mean, I don't think those, those are even that out there in terms of woo.

JU

Well, well, but it all depends on who you're talking to. Oh, what a beautiful journey. This is just the beginning. So we are going to have another podcast this month where we're going to get to talk even more about Woo with another guest. And I'm so excited we're going to get to do it together. Jenny, thank you so much. I'm I'm thrilled that you're my co-host.
 

JE

This, but I I'm so excited. I'm so excited. Justin, we're going to have so many great conversations. Thank you. Thank you. Thanks for this.

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