Designer JJ Martin on her spiritual awakening
Going the distance
A friend recently reminded me that she took me to a Buddhist centre in Milan about 18 years ago, and I was “totally not into it”. In the ego part of my head, I feel like I’ve been on Team Buddha forever, but the truth is that my own spiritual awakening was as slow as the tectonic plates currently creaking under the Earth’s surface (i.e. about a couple of measly inches per year). So slow, in fact, that I barely noticed the steps I was taking, the bridges I had crossed, and the deepest, darkest waters I had touched and survived. I was so swamped packing in the business of surviving on planet Earth as a highly productive human, that I was completely blind to what it means to slow down and connect with myself as a multidimensional being.
I’ve always been an intense person, happily guzzling the combustible gasoline of masculine energy: busy, forward moving, ambitious, expansive, organised, and logical, but also (on the negative spectrum of this crucial energy source) critical, punishing, aggressive, unrelenting, rigid and armoured. I grew up in Los Angeles in a very athletic family with two older brothers and a kind father who took us on frequent hunting, fishing, camping, and water skiing trips. My mother was a tough-as nails, professional ass-kicker. My entire childhood comprised of trying to keep up with everyone: be just as strong, fast, loud, and coolly emotionless. No one in my family was spiritual; in fact we all made fun of Aunt Joanne who was a Born Again Christian and Aunt Barbie—a devoted Catholic—who used to talk about Jesus as if she’d just had a long conversation with him at the supermarket. We laughed our pants off at her behind her back.
Now, at the ripe age of 46, I am very comfortable with the concept of Jesus—I love Jesus. I love Buddha. I love Durga and Kali. But I am not religious. My spiritual practice is open-hearted, creative, and unique to me—it has been built by me and for me. During my daily meditation energy practice, I fly off with my eyes closed into the outer realms of the universe where I hook up with the Divine source energy, pick up a few Angelics, four Archangels, four Hindu goddesses, my guardian angels along with my guides, teachers and family of light—none of whom are actually seen by my eyes, or on anyone’s certified list of approved religious entourages.
Outside of my meditation room, I frequently visit a channeller who gargles out the wise words of a multicoloured light being who guides me on everything from difficult business decisions to how to deal better with my mother. I visit shamans a few times a year that spit and cough up whatever is blocking my energy chakras, blood and bones. I once spent four days in a dingy hotel room in Scotland with a good witch who scrubbed out all eight levels of my being from this life time (and some past ones). I have had the top of my crown chakra chopped off by a Balinese high priest, and have howled like a wolf and hissed like a python as I got in touch with three goddesses. I have had my Akashic records read to understand the purpose of life. During a meditation retreat, I have entered a state of deep trance that sent me on a clairvoyant and clairaudient voyage with my dead father. It felt more real and more high-definition than any movie I’ve ever watched. I am currently taking an online course called ‘Spiritual Ascension’ by a woman living in Mount Shasta, California who calls herself a ‘wayshower’. I have taken multiple classes and workshops on how to be a Theta energy healer, a yin yoga teacher, an inner child rescuer, a Qi Gong practitioner, a yoni whisperer, and how to breathe through my ovaries. Let me tell you, I have done a lot.
So how did I go from making fun of my aunts and their humble exchange with Jesus to here? Three words: Deep sizzling pain.
The best moments of my spiritual growth were the worst for my own personal happiness. I expanded spiritually (not to mention emotionally and mentally) after having my heart broken to pieces and left on the sidewalk to be trampled over. It is only in these moments of such utter despair that our steel cages lift up, and the seed for something new is planted in our consciousness. The first dismantling occurred when I was very young and realised I couldn’t show any negative emotion without being punished or alienated by my family. The second was discovering—at age 16—that my father had leukemia and being instructed to not tell anyone. The third was when he died three years later while I was in college. The next was the first of three phases of life-crippling depression. Later, I struggled with infertility and went through years of IVF treatments, only to have three abortions because of chromosomal disorders in the foetuses.
Each one of these events plunged a searing sword into my heart, but the pain brought me closer to a new way of being. The greatest leap occurred at age 40 when I was so furious and wounded by my infertility journey that I sought the help of an energy healer in Petaluma, California. We spoke weekly by remote (no video or Skype) from my home in Milan. One year later, I did not have a child, but learning these principles and applying them to my life allowed me to give birth to my company La DoubleJ within the same time frame. A tiny crystal of trust helped me build a castle of light within myself.
I always wanted my spiritual progression to zoom faster than the speed of light. The truth is, it doesn’t happen that way. Or, it didn’t with me. I did not do this gently or gracefully. I actually kicked, clawed, screamed and blew napalm out of my nose during the process, which I cried was “illogical, unreliable, untested, not efficient enough”. Correct, it’s not. That judgmental frame of mind was exactly what was blocking my ascension. But even stubborn Taurus bulls like me can finally learn, and gradually I found the tools. Slowly I realised that my high-performance life could not be sustained without damaging myself. If I did not give myself enough time in a dark internal cave, none of my creations—especially the spiritual ones—would have the right conditions to be nurtured and grow.
Looking back, I can now see that my darkest pits of pain were actually cool pools of redemption. It is this bone-gnawing pain that makes us get up kicking and screaming and saying: “no more damnit! I want something else! I want something better”. This is the grit that gets us off the couch and into the sunshine. So, while many of us are trembling with uncertainty, boiling with anger, or being strangled by loneliness during this Coronavirus crisis, I want to remind you that pain is not punishment. It is not here because you did something wrong or bad. It’s here as an alarm buzzer and a church bell all at once; it just may be the genesis of something truly remarkable happening and being discovered within you. Good luck, my dears.
Photograph: Alberto Zanetti