Check out this interview I did with Ben Spillman of the Reno Gazette-Journal!
I had to go all the way up to Reno to get some love from the press..the paper down here in Vegas is a joke. Heres the link to the writeup they did:
Reno gets bagged on a lot, but its actually a really cool little town with a lot of beautiful outdoors terrain in every direction. Its one of my favorite cities in Nevadaalong with Vegas, Tonopah, Wadsworth, Winnemucca, Fallon, Fernley, Lovelock, Laughlin, Gabbs, Goldfield, Elko, Ely, Pioche and Panaca!
Ahhhh, who the hell am I kidding?? I love EVERYWHERE in Nevada 3
Ive been getting a lot of emails from people lately, asking if Im OKbecause I havent posted any new blogs in awhile.
I am definitely still around, but Ive been having SO MANY ADVENTURES lately that I havent had time to write about them! I went on a 3-week cross-country road trip, hiked to a plane crash site in Death Valley for a Canadian scavenger hunt, played a nagging pregnant yoga wife in a porn movie, went to Disneyland and am now working on a new performance of my Electric Vagina at the BEquinox festival in Joshua Tree next week. Whew!
Additionally, I am working on a sort of quirky, NSFW web series with my photographer friends Mike and Kit, who have already posteda bunch of stuff on their Vimeo page. If interested, check those out here. The official web series episodes arent up yet, but will be soon and they wrote a REALLY bad ass theme song about me for it 😀
But really, what Ive been spending most of my time on is my YouTube channel! Ever since I realized I could make money off it last fall, Ive been focusing more on vlogging than blogging. It was somewhat of a bummer to realize that most people prefer watching video to reading scathingly well-crafted diatribes..but thats the reality, and I needs to pay my bills! So Ive been spending most of my blogging time vlogging instead.
Most of my top-earning videos feature my exploration of abandoned buildings, ghost towns, mills, mines and factories. This genre of video is called urbex, short for urban exploration, and I had never heard of it until I uploaded that video at the abandoned mineral resort up near Jackpot, NV last July. I got such a great response from that video, it made me start to think I should make more videos, and..here we are!
I also post a lot of videos featuring me wandering around different interesting places in the desert and the world in general.If interested, you can subscribe to my YouTube channel and follow me there..
Or, if you want to stay up to date with scathing mini-diatribes, you can also follow my Facebook page. I know everyones not on Facebook, but its the easiest platform to post stuff while on the go, so thats what Ive been using.
On my cross-country trip, in Marfa, TX
If youre not offended by my nude photos, then you can alsofollow me on Instagram, where I upload censored/PG-13 stuff several times a week.and onTumblr, where I post my uncensored nudes.
Anyway, I cant WAIT to blog about my 3-week roadtrip and my Canadian plane crash adventure both are GREAT stories! But in the meantime..
gotta go make some new videos 😀
There I sat, glumly gobbling glop in a silent mess hall full of equally glum glop-gobblers, a knit watchmans cap pulled down over my makeup-less face and nothing to look forward to but my daily walk in the yard. Re-reading the fine print on my lemon-ginger herbal tea bag for the 1,000th time, it occurred to me that theres a fine line between glum and piousand that though we were all here voluntarily, this meditation retreat was basically just a minimum-security New Age Prison for White People. Navel-gazing is the new black!
Of course, Im being facetious my fellow glop-gobblers werentallwhite; there were a few east Indians among us, an Asian or two, and at least one Mexican. But the overwhelming majority of those seeking peace at this silent Buddhist meditation retreat were whiter than almond milk, and the irony was not lost on me. Enlightenment isclassicStuff White People Do!
This was, of course, my long-awaited Vipassana retreat in the mountains of Northern California: ten days of nothing but meditation from the time they gong you awake at 4am until they finally let you pass out in bed around 9:15pm, and all in complete silence. No talking, no physical contact, no eye contact, no communication of any kind whatsoever. No reading, no writing, no cell phones, no laptops. No sex, no drugs, no rock-n-roll nothing but meditation!
Vipassana is actually a really interesting meditation technique in that they dont try to sell you anything or make you chant corny catchphrases or anything like that. Its more or less grounded in reality and science, and the people who teach it are basically squares no beards, beads, loincloths, etc; in fact, the guy who introduced Vipassana to the West resembles nothing so much as your typical east Indian Silicon Valley H-1B software engineer. Its basically just a technique which helps one to focus on the reality of ones body no spiritual mumbo-jumbo, and minimal psychobabble.
Moreover, the Vipassana retreats themselves arefree of charge aside from teaching and guiding you in the meditation technique, they also provide comfortable, heated accommodations with hot showers and 2.5fantasticvegetarian meals per dayfor free!At the end of the course, they almost casually mention the fact that your retreat was paid for by the students who came before you, and that if you want to donate toward the next students, you are welcome to give what you can. But they definitely dont strong-arm you theres no need, as there is no shortage of enthusiastic graduates plenty eager to spread Vipassana to as many people as possible.
Those who undertake a 10-day retreat must surrender all their tech devices (they secure them for you), and agree to abide by five principles for the duration of the course:
to abstain from killing any being (hence the vegetarian meals)
to abstain from stealing (there are no locks on any of the doors except the bathrooms)
to abstain from all sexual activity (males and females are strictly segregated, and are asked to dress modestly)
to abstain from telling lies (you cant talk anyway, so this one is easy)
to abstain from all intoxicants (I had to leave my pipe and cookies at home, boohoo).
You also agree to observe what is called Noble Silence (no speaking or otherwise communicating with other students, though you can talk to a teacher or course manager if you have a problem with anything)and you agree to stay within the boundaries of the course property for theentire ten days.Of course they cantforceyou to stay if you have a medical or family emergency, you can leave. But they really, strongly encourage you not to leave until the entire course is completeand to that end, its a bit like being in prison or more aptly, pri-Zen.
And of course evenmoreaptly.pri-Zen for White People. I mean, what other prison feeds you tofu steaks and sauted kale??
My friend and I just before the retreat began
Anyway, I enrolled in the course hoping it would help me chill out; as you know I lead a very high-octane life, and as a result have problems sleeping. My sister had taken a course before, so I had an idea of what I was in for and wasnt fostering any unrealistic expectations but I did go in with a positive mindset, thinking to give Vipassana a fair shot. I loaded up on cozy knitted ethnic ponchos, jammed a fair-trade kombucha-hemp suppository up my ass and carpooled the 10 hours from Vegas in the Mini Cooper of an NPR journalist friend who was taking the course for his second time. We blew through the desert and the red-state part of California, up into the misty, majestic vineyards of Napa Valley; nothing but moss-covered faux chateaux and the smell of Enlightenment wafting from the quaint stone chimney of every Michelin-starred restaurant we passed. So far, so good!
To stifle my inner cynic, from pretty much the moment I set foot on the retreat property I pulled my aforementioned watchmans cap down low over my eyes as low as I could while still being able to see where I was going, but low enough to where I wouldnt be tempted to peek at the other students faces and make cynical judgments based on their appearances. And to avoid being the subject oftheircynical judgments, I topped the utilitarian dollar-store beanie with a colorful and funky but structurally inefficient knitted ethnic coverup cap when in Rome, etc!
Either way, of course, it didnt work. Though I could only see my fellow students from the waist down, you can tell a lot about a man by his shoes.and $150 Uggs, furry leg warmers, Lululemon leggings and North Face jackets tell you all you need to know. Additionally, Noble Silence didnt start until a few hours after arrival, so I had already gotten quite an earful as everyone was signing in: OMG, youre a yoga teacher too?! Ive been living on an ashram in Grass Valley. Excuse meare these bean patties gluten-free?
With allthatgoing on, it was ablessingwhen Noble Silence finally descended like a cozy, knitted fair-trade ethnic pair of earmuffs; I pulled my cap even lower, and prepared to enjoy the silence. Prior to my departure from Vegas, many of my friends had commented LOL how areyougonna shut up for ten days?! as Im usually a very outgoing, social, life-of-the-party-type person. Well, Im here to tell you that shutting up wasamazing!
I found it wonderfully therapeutic not to have to b.s. or kibbitz with anyone; no laughing at stupid jokes, no Grass Valley? Howinteresting, or Oh wow these photos aregreat!I am actually by nature kind of an introvert growing up (and in fact until I started drinking alcohol at the age of 23) I was bookish and almost painfully shy, so in a weird way it was kind of a treat to be able to regress for awhile. And I was really good at it; though I heard other hens nattering in hushed tones throughout the course, I maintainedtotal silencefor the entire ten days. (I was forced to whisper responses when the meditation teacher asked about my progress every few days, but I kept my answers to an absolute minimum: Its fine, Im feeling tingling, etc. I also had to ask for an alarm clock at one pointbut all in all, I probably spoke fewer than 50 words all week, and those in a hushed whisper. And Icertainlydidnt chant Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu at the end of the meditation sessions like many of the other students; supposedly it just means Well said in the ancient Buddhist language of Palibut like those Chinese characters people get tattooed on their persons supposedly meaning TRUTH, how do I know it doesnt really mean Im a white dumbass and my privilege is choking me?!)
Soaking at a hot spring after the retreat
Aside from keeping my mouth shut, I was also really good at not peeking at the other students; the idea behind Noble Silence is that youre supposed to create the illusion that you are alone, in isolationso though I couldnt avoid seeing the others feet and legs, I managed pretty successfully not to look at anyone above the waist. I didnt even know who was sharing my own bedroom until the end of the week and those were close quarters! Also, though the male and female students were segregated for the duration of the course, we all meditated in the same hall, so it was possible to catch glimpses of the men as they walked through the woods to and from their sleeping quarters to the meditation building.but I didnt try to spot my NPR friend the entire ten days, and in fact had no idea if he was even still there until the 10th day. (I had a feeling he might have left after a few days because he seemed out of sorts on the drive up, but since my mom lives close enough to this retreat to be able to come rescue me if needed, I didnt try to keep tabs on him.)
Meanwhile, I had come here to fix my sleeping disorder so how did that go? Well, the accommodations at this particular retreat were less than ideal for someone with sleep issues; the facility used to be some kind of summer-camp-type resort made up of several small cabins arranged around the mess hall and the meditation hall. Some of the cabins were configured into dormitory-style bunks; the cabin I was in was divided into three bedrooms one solo room, one two-top, and one three-top. Lucky me, I scored a bed in the three-topbut as it turned out, one of the beds in our room remained empty, so it was just me and one other woman. Meanwhile, one of the chicks in the two-top bailed after the second daywhich meant that the other two lucky ducks in my cabin had private rooms. (Im sure if Id spoken with course management beforehand and explained my problem, they might have given me a private roombut I was trying to be low-maintenance and just go with the flowya know?)
It was actually a blessing that we had two empty beds in our cabin, as there was just one shower and 2 toilets/sinks for all of us. I grew up in a fairly large family full of women, so I was sort of used to jockeying for bathroom time. But negotiations are tricky when one is observing Noble Silence so to that end, there was a dry-erase signup sheet posted outside the bathroom where you could write in your name each day and reserve a 15-minute block. Bathing opportunities were limited to the short periods of free time allowed after meals, plus a small window first thing in the morning and another just before bed. I ended up jumping in first thing each morning at 4am, right after the gong mistress came in to gong us awake, just to get it out of the way before anyone else got any ideas. And it worked out fine; nobody else was insane enough to argue.
After showering, the gong mistress would come around again to remind you that it was time for the 4:30am meditation session. Throughout the day, students are expected to meditate a total of 10-11 hours; three mandatory one-hour sessions in the hall, plus several chunks where you could stay in the hall or do it in your bedroom. Fortunately, the 4:30-6:30am chunk was one of those where they let you stay in your roomso after showering, I would bundle up warmly in all my cozy knitted ponchos and shawls, and meditate on my bed. For the first couple of days I did this early session in the hallbut after a couple of days my butt wasso sorefrom sitting on the hard-ass cushions in the hall, that I wussed out and started doing most of the non-essential sessions on my bed, in the interest of saving my ass and lower back for the mandatory stuff.
Now, I wasnt a total slacker I triedto meditate. But it was 4:30 in the freakin morning, in deepest, darkest December, with freezing cold rain (and even snow) pouring down outsideand there I was on my comfy bed, bundled up in cozy ethnic crochettery, all nice and warm and drowsy. What wouldyoudo???Thats what I thought!Hey, at least I made the bed first and sat upright while dozing 🙂
Besides, I was severely sleep deprived! The entire ten days was like being in a sleep-wake fugue state; as exhausted as I was, I slept unevenly at night, tossing and turning and coughing and probably driving my poor roommate nuts with all my getting up to go to the bathroom, etc. And since they only allowed us 6.5 hours in bed in the first placeis it any wonder I dozed off here and there throughout the day?
Ironically, my sister had advised me that based on her experience (at a different facility down near Yosemite, where she had a semi-private cell divided by privacy curtains), if the meditation didnt work out for me I could just sleep through most of the ten days; apparently shed slept right through the 4:30-6:30 session every morning, and napped here and there in the afternoon. But such is my weird sickness that my brain wouldntletme cheat like that; in addition, rightly or wrongly I felt the judgmental eyes of my roommate, who attendedevery sessionin the hall with a ramrod-straight back the entire time, watching me. I was half afraid she would report me or something so I continued to pretend, and sit up while I dozed. What a farce!
Anyway, after the 6:30am session it was breakfast time, and when the gong went off we all shuffled silently down to the mess hall. It was the same thing every morning: a huge vat of oatmeal and a huge vat of stewed prunes, raisins, apples and oranges; plus yogurt, cottage cheese, dry cereal, granola and toast. In addition to cows milk and sprouted-grain bread there was soy milk and almond milk for the lactose-intolerant, and of course gluten free bread for the glutards. There was also a huge bowl of bananas, apples, kiwis and orangesplus sunflower seeds, almonds, honey, jam, peanut butter and butter/vegan spread. To drink, it was either herbal tea or instant Folgers I actually went the entire ten days with just tea, as instant Folgers is pretty much the worst thing I have ever put in my mouth (and I have had somenastythings in my mouth). I also developed a fondness for buttered toast with miso paste some freaky health-food concoction made of fermented garbanzo beans that was really awesome on toast!
No nudity allowed at the retreat this was afterward
After stuffing my face, there was still plenty of time before the mandatory 8am group sitting, so I would go for a walk in the woods behind the womens cabins, to digest my breakfast, get some fresh air and stretch my legs before the physical torment ahead. As mentioned, these retreats are strictly segregated, so the men had their own seperate walking path on the other side of the mediation hall.but us lucky gals got to endlessly meander around a maybe .5-mile labyrinth of trails up a gentle hillside through a pine and oak forest. I got to know those trailsvery well I pretty much spent every allowable moment, rain, snow or shine, day or dark, wandering around on them.
Then the gong would go off again, and it was time for the first mandatory meditation sitting of the day. From 8-9am we all meditated together in the hall, which was the size of a small-ish church, but with no pews or anything, just precisely arrayed square cushions assigned specifically to each student women on one side, men on the other. It was dim and warm and cozy in the hall, and they had a whole bunch of extra cushions of all shapes and sizes so that each student could build up a sort of pillow fort to suit his or her level of comfort. It took a few days to figure out a workable system, but I ended up sitting on a sort of moon-shaped beanbag, with a square of super-squishy foam atop that, and then a stack of more beanbags on each side to support my knees when I crossed my legs. It was fairly comfortable for up to an hour; after the first three days they ask you not to shift your position during the mandatory one-hour sessions, which they call periods of Strong Determination. But during the unstructured periods, you were permitted to shift as needed. And if you werereallysuffering physically, you could sit in a chair along one of the walls. That was another cool thing about Vipassana they dontforceyou to sit cross-legged or anything fancy, they just tell you to find a comfortable position that you can hold for one hour.
I am in pretty good physical condition I run, hike, lift weights, etc., have no physical ailments and am not overweight so for me, it was pretty easy to sit still for one hour. More difficult than the physical aspect, however, was the mental part!!
For the first few days, all you do during the meditation sessions is observe your natural breath. Thats right for 10.5 hours per day, youre supposed to think of nothing but the sensation of breath coming in and out of your nostrils!! They dont teach any weird breathing techniques youre just meant to observe itas it naturally occurs.These first few days are basically to get you to calm down, focus, and take notice of the reality of your body, so focusing on an area as tiny as your outer nostrils and the area directly beneath them is meant to fine-tune or sharpen your mind. Well, I reallytriedhere and there. But I was very easily distracted, and before you know it I was thinking about Burning Man, or what kind of drugs I was going to do when I got out of this place, or that one time I hiked Half Dome and posed naked at the very top.
Heres another cool thing about Vipassana: youre not supposed to get mad or depressed when you find your mind wandering you just accept that it wandered, no judgment, and put your attention back to your nostrils. Well, I did that on and off for the first two or three daysbut I was admittedlyverylazy about it, and spent most of my meditation time thinking aboutall kinds of crazy shit.I mean, I basically went back and relived my entire life, year by year, from as early as I could remember up through the present day. I remembered every Christmas gift, every camping trip, every mushroom trip, every job Id ever had, every car Id ever driven, every movie Id ever seen, every book Id ever read, every game my sister and I used to play with our Barbie dolls, every hot spring Id ever soaked at. I mean, I really cleared out my storehouse of memories!! Thank dog Ive had a full and interesting life, or Id have gonebonkers. (Or maybe succeeded at meditation, haha. Could it be the same thing?!)
After three days of just focusing on your breath, however, on the 4th day they teach you the actual Vipassana technique, which is sort of a body-scanning thing: you start at the very top of your head and slowly scan down your entire body, from scalp to skull to ears to face to throat to shoulders and all the way down to your toes, taking note of any sensations you feel on each individual body part. Do you feel a tickle? A prickle? A pain? You are simply to observe each sensation, taking note of it without judgment just sort of objectively identifying and studying the sensation, breaking it into components and then moving on to the next body part. This is supposed to cultivate absolute equanimity with regards to pleasure and pain the great Buddhist doctrine of anicca (pronounced aneetcha) asserts that all of existence is impermanent, and change is constant, so it would be silly to get upset by pain or suffering. Instead, just observe it and let it go anicca, anicca, anicca.
Easier said than done!! Most of the time I got distracted before I even got to my throat and would have to refocus and start all over again. But I did eventually get to the point where I could force myself to do at least three full-body sweeps in an hour in between which I would allow myself to think of cabbages and kings, Antony and Cleopatra, the cast ofFamily Tiesand the lyrics to Pete Seegers Die Gedanken Sind Frei (heh heh). What a treat! Like I said, its a good thing I have such a rich inner life. I had plenty to keep me busy!
After a few days of the body-scanning technique, you are meant to reach a point where you can just let the sensations flow through you in a continuous wave of energy from top to toe and back again at which time you can sit and allow this continuous pulsing wave of energy to flow through you non-stop, as you sit and bask in the glow of coming Enlightenment. Unfortunately for me, I was never able to attain this level of proficiencyand so I pretty much figured I was a total failure at Vipassana. I was too lazy to keep refocusing my attention on each individual body part, so before you know it I was wallowing in childhood memories, thinking back to all the things my mom did for me growing up, all the weird shit I went through, all the poor decisions I myself made in my adult life. Every miserable trade show Ive worked, every impractical pair of high heels Ive bought, every regrettable penis Ive had in my mouth,. Sitting with those thoughts for 10.5 hours a day for 10 days wasintense,and more often than not made me really depressedsometimes to the point where Id start crying a little.
Bad decisionslike going in this abandoned house after the retreat!
Then Id remember I was supposed to be body-scanning, and Id get evenmoredepressed at what an absolutefailureI was at meditation! Here I was, way up in the mountains and woods with nothing to distract me but a roomful of supportive, encouraging peopleand I still couldnt fuckin focus on my bodily sensations, just my thoughts. What waswrongwith me?! Why was I wasting everyones time and resources doing this, when I clearly wasnt applying myself??
After thinking about all of this and discussing it post-retreat with my sister and friend, however, Im not sure Iwasa total failure. On the last day of the retreat, after they let us start talking again, I picked up a book in the mess hall about a Vipassana program they ran in a maximum-security prison down in Alabama about 10 years ago. Many of the students in that course were big, tough, nasty dudes but by their own accounts, many of them wept openly during their course, as revelations came to them about their behaviors and past transgressions. They ended up unearthing and coming face-to-face with all kinds of terrible junk hidden in their psychesand that retreat was considered by all to be an unqualified success; totally life-changing for most of the students. Well, if they had only been focusing onbodilysensations, I wondered how all those painful memories had come up and been dealt with?? I was under the impression that thoughts were just a distractionbut maybe thoughts and memoriesareconsidered sensations, to be dealt with just like itches and aches: with equanimity. Anicca, anicca, aniccaeven shitty thoughts shall pass.
Therewasan opportunity after lunch each day to speak privately with the two Vipassana teachers who sat at the front of the meditation hall on little wooden platforms, ostensibly guiding us in our practice but not saying much. These two were a Zenned-out looking married couple in their 50s who looked less like the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and more like a heavily sedated Gray Davis and Ellen DeGeneres right down to the button-down shirts and Dockers they wore. They seemed enlightened enough, but these private interview sessions were limited to 10 minutes each, and I didnt feel like I could really figure anything out in 10 minutesso I never even tried. Another failure.arrrrghhhhh!
But failure or no, the fact remains that Iwasable to sit perfectly still and perfectly quiet for one-hour chunks and beyondso I guess that counts forsomething. I even remained silently immobile halfway through the morning sitting on the seventh day, when the meditation hall was rocked by a 5.0 earthquake! If youve ever been in an earthquake, you know thats a pretty decent magnitudebut though most of the other students started laughing nervously, and one wag quipped Its just sensations, I did not budge. Anicca, anicca.just plates in the earth moving. It did occur to me that what wed felt might have just been the long-distance effects of some major quake down in San Francisco, and I worried for my family members down there.but the retreat staff posted a notice in the mess hall afterward to let us know that it was just a 5 pointer epicentered about 8 miles away, that had caused no reported damage. Whew!
Anyway, back to logistics: after the mandatory 8-9am group sitting, you have two hours to meditate on your own before lunch. At first I would go back to sit on my bed/doze off for this sessionbut towards the end of the course, I started staying in the hall, for the simple fact that I wasso fucking sickof staring at the four white walls in my bedroom!
Then the lunch gong went off at 11am, and everyone would again file silently into the mess hall for the main meal (and basically, the highlight) of the day. As mentioned the food was all vegetarianbut it wasreally, reallygood! The menu was different each day: lentil soup, sauted kale, burritos, coconut curry, macaroni and cheese, roasted potatoes, fresh saladsand always enough sprouts and nuts and seeds to feed a flock of seagulls. They even had chocolate cake and cookies on a few occasions! I think the meals are pretty much the same at all Vipassana retreats, no matter the location, and are prepared by volunteers from a master recipe book once you have completed a Vipassana course, you have the option of returning for any additional courses and working as a server in the kitchen. As a server, you still get to meditate several hours a daybut you also spend several hours in the kitchen, prepping and cleaning so that the other students get to enjoy delicious meals. It actually sounds like a nice way to break up the days, which in my experience got pretty monotonous. Doinganything, even scrubbing pots and pans and dicing tofu, would be a welcome break in the monotony!
Anyway, partly because it was the only highlight of my day, but mostly because I have minimal self-control when it comes to bomb-ass food, I atewaaaaaytoo much at every meal. Consequently, thanks to the massive amounts of fiber and sprouts and whatnot, my stomach made theweirdestnoises during the after-lunch meditation sitting! It felt like I had one of those Jiffy Pop pans in my gut, with kernels exploding and popping one at a timeuntil I wised up and dialed back on the harder-core accoutrements like sprouts and chickpeas. I mean, I didnt want to distract my fellow meditatorsya know?! Meanwhile pretty much everyone in the hall was gurgling and farting at one time or another, so it wasnt the end of the worldbut still.
Meanwhile, the hardest part about lunch was sitting there in silence, glumly masticating without conversation or even being able to read a friggin book. All I had to read were tea bag labels and the stickers covering my travel coffee mug, which I had brought along so that I could take hot tea back to my