WHAT IS A SOUL ARCHITECT: WORKING WITH NICOLE ADRIANA CASANOVA
As many of you know, I have been doing a lot of work in the last few years to examine myself. What that means for me is taking a step back from myself and my habits, and getting enough distance to take a second before I act, even when that action is thinking silently.
I have been working in service-oriented positions and living in the same house off Graham Avenue since 2005. I am a creature of habit and I gravitate towards wherever my place of work is. This seems like a beautiful accident of luck, being able to walk to work, work with friends, and spend time in my community. And it is. But it also invites a lot of automation. Thoughtlessness. Habit without intention.
Underlying all of this are ways I have always seen myself: I am hardworking. I dislike confrontation. Or rather it makes me incredibly uncomfortable. I am “easy going.”
These are the myths of myself I have told myself over and over and they stem from a very pure true place. I do like to go with the flow. I am happy seeing others happy. But when you reduce yourself to these traits, it is easy to slough off the responsibility of asking yourself what you want, and to run away from the privilege of going after what it is you want and immersing yourself in these wants wholeheartedly enough to find your limits, which is just another way of running away from your full potential.
In doing this work, I have found so many amazing teachers, friends who lead by example, and gifted healers. (You’ll remember this journey began with an hour spent at my then-medium’s and now friend’s apartment in the neighborhood.) I have read countless books and taken notes and practiced, practiced, practiced, and the part of me that is Aquarian in nature is always wondering what’s next, before unpacking what’s now. (You can physically see this in my space, where I habitually accumulate before using in full, where I place things into containers to be sorted later.)
In my most recent seasons of this fact-finding mission, I have met a wonderful powerful healer, Nicole Adriana Casanova.
She calls to mind a passage in the Many Moons Workbook about soft power, “Soft power helps, heals, lifts others up. Soft power is non-hierarchical. She’s quiet - she does it for love, to experience the alignment with greater energies, larger messages, indescribable feelings,” says Sarah Gottesdiener.
I met Nicole at a beautiful forgiveness workshop she co-hosted with my soulful friend Giselle of Known to Man. I hope to write about this experience in greater detail later on, but this is where I found that Nicole’s presence could enable people to be themselves in such an authentic and potent way that the experience of being surrounded by this sort of energy is at once-terrifying and elevating. It’s unfamiliar and powerful, but she gave us a soft place to land.
After four months of thinking about that experience from time to time, I was in a place of loss and struggle. When you begin to earnestly look at your life as a gift, a treasure, and a responsibility of the most sacred kind, you kick up a lot of dust and you call a yourself out a lot, you question who you are, and who you think you are. These sort of questions are so incredibly obvious, but they take a really long time to answer, if you’re willing to answer them, to uproot the answers that feel false, and to know it’s up to you to replace them with something more true.
These are questions like, “What does success look like to you, and who taught you that?” Maybe your father wanted your name to be known everywhere, or your mother wanted you to have the monetary security she believed would keep you safe. Maybe you learned if you were fun and well-liked, someone else would take care of you. Digging back into these notions and finding the roots, and then the seed takes a long time. And while we feel liberated at moments of joy, reconnecting with our five year-old or ten year-old self, whose love of reading or performance has been long left in the dust, we may hit moments of stuckness, or blockedness in which we need the careful and experienced guidance of someone else.
And this is where the work of the healer comes in. It was during a moment like this that I reached out to Nicole, and she received me into her home for some one-on-one work.
I was scared about money. I was scared I was overindulging. Nicole was kind and helped me work these logistics out, and understood that getting the time and work together was more important than figuring out the how without pressuring me in any way.
So I showed up on a rainy day, and we began the way many healing sessions begin. She asked what was going on. What did I want to work on?
My throat always becomes tight when I answer this question, “I want to understand my finances. I’m scared about my business. I don’t always know what I’m doing. I’m uncomfortable with my body. I don’t always say what I mean…” the words tumbled out ineloquently. It was not long before my breathing became labored and my nose began running. I became self conscious and hot.
Nicole works with many methods. In her space, there are quartz bowls, rattles, gongs, a censor she uses to burn copal resin so that it smokes around you. She fans you with a handmade smudging fan with feathers. She talks to you very clearly and carefully. She cracks a joke when you don’t expect it with only the half sliver of a smile. In this particular session, her eyes went very wide as she took the ponytail and bandana out of my hair and my bracelets off. With my eyes closed, she sang over me. She looked at me and said, “You put a lot of curses on yourself.”
This rang true for me, and the tears slid down my face. How many times did I remember my grandmother saying to me that what I was doing was hurting my mom and dad, or think about how I tricked my little sister into giving her birthday money to our art club, or see a homeless person in the street and think, “It’s not fair, I don’t deserve what I have, I don’t deserve good things. I should pay for what I did as a kid and a teenager.” How many times did I see someone in pain and run to their rescue and wish they could feel better thinking that maybe I could take it away from them, or throw myself into work because someone else needed rest, thinking that I didn’t need those things. More times than I could count.
After performing her smudging ritual and singing traditional songs, she asked me to lay down on a blanket and she did a combination of reiki and other healing techniques.
I laid there quietly thinking and then very gradually falling into a massage sleep. I lost track of time in my body and also in my mind. I dreamt things but couldn’t hold onto the the images. I drifted off to somewhere else and came back with the sound of Nicole quietly saying, “When you’re ready, deepen your breathing and move your fingers and toes and come back into the room..”
As I quietly sat up and took a sip of my water, she asked me how I was doing. I didn’t have much to say, because I didn’t feel good or bad or really know what I felt just yet. While I was gathering my thoughts Nicole shared some messages she had received. “I am seeing that maybe you need to wear lighter clothing in the store, and protect yourself. I get a sense a lot of people talk at you and you absorb it,” she paused. This is something I had known for some time. I love very much when people open up to me, but I don’t naturally put up boundaries.
She continued, “I'm hearing that it would be good if you wrote about myths and mythologies on your blog, that it would be good for business.” And then she paused to laugh softly, “And I'm seeing that you’re lighting a lot of palo santo in your store to clean the energy. I feel that it would be helpful for you to know that white sage or copal is better for clearing because palo santo grounds and seals the energy.”
She was right about these things. I had been furiously burning palo santo in the shop, praying for my irritation and negativity to clear, for the post-election retail recession to be over, for the shitty weather to stop ruining my foot traffic, praying to feel more connected to the work I had to do, the big decision making, the exchanges with customers. I was just so tired and felt like I was running in every direction to react to everything in real time, never slowing down to clarify what it is I was doing or why.
She told me she would hold me in an integration grid for a while (if I remember correctly) because there was a lot to do, and we talked about continuing our work in the future. She told me to be gentle with myself, and as she has always advised me since, to drink a lot of water. (Other healers like Marcella Kroll point to this as the easiest way of cleansing your energy, and it certainly can’t be bad for you.)
You can read all about Nicole Adriana Casanova on her own website. Her own journey from studying yoga and finding out that when she put her hands on people they told her they felt better. That she used to lay hands on people as a child, or how many teachers and teachings she has immersed herself in. These are all beautiful informative things, but it is so difficult to explain and describe her presence in real life. This is a person who is full of joy and takes all things seriously and treats her practice with great reverence, all the while being fully able to make you comfortable with her grace and ease. This is a person who can tell you the history of Reiki while throwing in a Youtube joke. Someone who can burst into song in a group full of anxious people with such earnestness and confidence that when her voice cracks, it somehow makes the experience more powerful. She sails on to the next note. Time moves more slowly somehow, while the vibration of the whole room gets higher and higher. You felt held in her presence.
I went on that day after our one-on-one session to complete two incredibly difficult tasks I had been frustrated with for months. I did them with ease and happiness and felt satisfied and moved. I have since then taken a Reiki 1 Attunement class with Nicole, and participated in her Light Body Twerkshop for my birthday as well as attended a Sound and Light sound bath event she co-created with Madeline from The End Brooklyn, a cafe filled with healing plant-based creations, and Anna Toonk, a gifted intuitive tarot reader and Reiki practitioner. If you want to get in touch with yourself, or feel the radiance of someone with a soft power who can help and heal and guide you to being more in tune with your own truth and your own authenticity, if you’re ready to face your fears and call yourself out on your own bullshit, then seek the teachings of Nicole. There’s no wrong answer. There’s no wrong time.
Nicole has generously offered our Mythsfits 10% off Soul Sessions for the month of June with code XENIA. You can book one here.