The Jessica Raven Issue
Seeking serenity in an app’s world
By Alison Roach
The digital era has produced yet another dubious gift for the stressed out and screen-locked: meditation apps. So. Many. Meditation apps.
As of February, there are over 1,300 apps dedicated to meditation and mindfulness available for download. There are meditation apps to get you to sleep, apps specifically for commuters, and apps that promise a lifetime of serenity for the low price of $400.
But can you truly learn mindfulness and meditation in the same medium that allows you to conduct seances, mark spots you’ve left number twos, and pop virtual pimples? Frankly, those all sound more relaxing than letting a soothing voice guide me through developing my chi. So, my skeptical self did some research and found the ideal app for me: Meditation For Fidgety Skeptics.
Meditation For Fidgety Skeptics was created by journalist Dan Harris of 10 Percent Happier, who once had a panic attack during a live news broadcast and now has a couple of books and a podcast, so he must know a thing or two about getting his shit together.
“I’m all about the nurturing aspects of our planet, but I’m in this app to learn about my mind, dammit. Give it to me straight.”
Right away, I appreciated that Meditation For Fidgety Skeptics didn’t rely on an earth mother aesthetic. No romanticized scenes of waves lapping on quiet shores or birds quietly twittering to be found here. I’m all about the nurturing aspects of our planet, but I’m in this app to learn about my mind, dammit. Give it to me straight.
And Harris does. It helps that Harris himself is a likeable skeptic of meditation marketing, firmly dismissing the typical visual of “people with those beatific looks on their faces, floating off into the cosmos.” He prefers a dude whipping his brain into shape. The sessions are laid out simply, with short videos and minimal design flash. I immediately liked that Harris’ approach to collating the app’s lessons is pure journalism: he found experts in the field and lets them give the lessons.
Quickly putting to rest the idea that your mind can actually be cleared — it can’t, because thoughts — the app’s approach feels accessible, friendly, and actually kind of cool (despite labelling itself as such). Like you and a pal taking 10 to think about your brains and then chatting about it over brunch caesars.
My first week of sessions was easier than I expected, and the low-stakes, amiable tone was definitely a factor. I’m not training for the meditation Olympics, I just want to be able to get through stressful work days without crying, or watch a movie without mentally drafting a reaction tweet I’ll never send. Meditation For Fidgety Skeptics gets that.
Intrusive thoughts will always appear, but I’ve learned that the trick is to acknowledge them, evaluate their usefulness, and then wave goodbye. ‘Respond, don’t react,’ is a mantra I can get behind.
Interview by Devon Brooks
Bif Naked is a punk rocker, breast cancer survivor, and most recently, memoirist. She signs her emails with things like “Yours in friendship,” and “In happiness.” We caught up with her for an hour to talk early influences, writing her heart out, and why armpits and avocados are so important.
Babe Rally: You got married last year. What has it been like to fall in love again at this point in your life?
Bif Naked: It’s a miracle for me. I think that for 30 years of my life, I’ve been making out with boys. And for those 30 years that I’ve been interested in boys — boy crazy, as my parents call it — I have been replicating, and I’ve replicated my garbage. My initial introduction into love and particularly intimacy was real garbage. I ran around undaunted, saying “I’m not going to let an adolescent sexual assault define me as an adult, I’m going to be a forgiving and loving person, I’m not going to be this terribly closed off riot girl.” Then when I get onstage that’s when we have our explosive rage. That’s when we can really find our catharsis in lyricalizing and in performance. I always felt very balanced in my life. I never felt angry.
But the truth is, in all my intimate relationships, I was messed up. I was totally messed up. I could run around with this tag on my chest saying, “I am not a victim, I’m strong, I’m healed, I’ve done the work,” but the truth is, for whatever reason, I kept falling back into being dominated by my partner. Being subservient to my partner. Overcompensating for my powerful job. Overcompensating for my persona. Trying to always ensure nobody was mad. Is that because I was imitating my primary role models, my parents, who were totally non-violent, non-confrontationalist? And if that relationship didn’t work out for whatever reason, then I would quickly recover and move on to the next one. And in my early 20s, they overlapped. Because it was always, you can’t do this for yourself, which I think is true for a lot of women. We need a catalyst to get us out of our bad situation. Whether it’s a job, moving, a new man; there always has to be a catalyst. It can’t be because our self worth is so good.
“I think that I finally woke up, became a woman, and became an adult after I turned 40.”
BR: When did you start to recognize that you were accepting far less than you knew you were capable of?
BN: I had a lot of soul searching to do when I was faced with the tail end of my cancer treatment, going through a difficult divorce that required court and a year of legal fees. It shook my tree so hard, that it wasn’t even about feeling sorry for myself anymore. I felt like I woke up, going, “How could I let this happen in my life, where I’m faced with this situation?” Plus I had a sick dog, my dad passed away. All these things. It was that moment, I call it a “holy cow moment” but really it’s a “holy fuck moment,” where you kind of sit there and become suddenly hyper focused. People do it in any time of crisis, where they really get calm, and you look at everything and you see everything clearly. It made me refocus my life and go, yeah, I’m going to stop doing this. At the time, it was probably the opposite where I said I’m never having a relationship again. We all say it. But it was probably one of the happiest times of my life, because I really got clear, and really began to clarify for myself what was important. What was important and what was toxic in my life. And that includes relationships with girlfriends, which is even worse than with a man. I think that I finally woke up, became a woman, and became an adult after I turned 40.
BR: Now that you’re so much clearer on your value and what you value, what are you looking for in new relationships and friendships?
BN: Anything that’s healthy is something that is encouraging, something that empowers us. There are certain people that when they’re around, we feel great. And we feel like we are being our best self, our authentic self. We’re stimulated and positive. Those things are really true. How we feel when we’re with someone, and how we want to make them feel, really is based in mutuality. I remember a friend of mine named Jann Arden told me 20 years ago, “You know, Bif, love doesn’t hurt.” It was revelation to me. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I always think of her saying that to me. And the same goes for friendships. It should never hurt. It should never feel like a drag. It should always be really positive, uplifting, encouraging. We should always feel like our best selves around those people, surrounding ourselves with people like that. It doesn’t even matter if they’re likeminded. I have friends who are capitalists, and I chuckle and laugh, and that’s not even a tax bracket, it’s just a mentality. There are people I love who love Donald Trump and think he’s funny. And I know there are people I love who are obsessed with gurus in India. Whoever it is who makes us laugh and makes us feel joy, really is a bonus to have in our lives.
“When I was in my early 20s, we were all considered angry white females. I don’t know who made that up. It was demeaning in a way, because it basically defined us and didn’t allowed us to define ourselves.”
BR: How do you define femininity and feminism?
BN: Feminism is such a powerful word in our world. And for a really long time, it was not cool. It was not cool to say it, it was not cool to identify as such. When I was in my early 20s, we were all considered angry white females. I don’t know who made that up. It was demeaning in a way, because it basically defined us and didn’t allowed us to define ourselves. I think there is a new wave of feminism that is very inclusive and very necessary in our times. The world has changed so much. Our society has really changed and now feminism is not necessarily associated with femininity anymore. I don’t think it was before, but now I think we can embrace who we are and still identify as being feminist, in the big picture of the world I think regardless of whether I’m athletic or a tom boy on stage. In truth I think I’m probably a high femme, in the world of identities for women. For whatever reason, my brain loves shiny things, soft things, and pink and kittens. Do I also like fighting? Yes of course. But I think we can have all of those facets to us. Now, more than ever before, we’re allowed to embrace it and express it. I think we were a little more limited, even just two or three years ago. Things were just different. It’s a time of great blossoming for women.
BR: What’s the biggest trapping of being a woman today?
BN: Feeling judged. I think women may not identify it as that, but that feeling of insecurity. Or those insecurity over compensations. I always wonder, what is the root of this? The root is fear of judgement. That’s the root of insecurity for anything in life. I think when you break it down and know yourself enough to know, wow I feel really anxious about this, why do I feel anxious about this? Probably because I’m actually in grade two inside my brain. My brain is still 8 years old and my 8 year old brain things the whole chorus is going to stare at me. Those feelings are really natural for human beings, whether it’s a guy who’s an executive who runs a tech company or a woman who is supermodel with 500 million in the bank, everybody is in grade 2. Everyone. And those fears and those insecurities are exactly the same ones, they never really go away. And I wonder, why? It’s not because our intelligence isn’t there, it’s not because we’re not practical. I think it’s just simply natural for human beings to all have little twinges of fear-based responses.
“I can’t believe I didn’t croak. What does that mean? Oh shit, I have to age, in public. Okay. What does that look like for me?”
BR: What’s a fear you’re dealing with?
BN: If I stink. If my armpit stinks. That’s really a fear. It’s an ultimate fear of mine because I got to the gym in the morning, I’m busy running around, and I don’t go home to shower, my husband showers six times a day, I swear to god. I don’t care, I stink all the time. Stinking is a natural, normal fear. But the other fears are society fears, I don’t call real fears. Even though I have them. They’re not real. But if my armpits stink, that’s a real fear. Fear of aging, or fear of having a big butt, those fears are not normal fears for us. They’re not natural. Those are placed upon us in our lifetime and we carry them with us. I look at my life moving forward, like hey, I can’t believe I didn’t croak. What does that mean? Oh shit, I have to age, in public. Okay. What does that look like for me? I always say, I’m going to concentrate on my armpits stinking, and have that always be my fear, and not my weight, my age. I have a big scar on my left breast from breast cancer, and my husband says, “That’s your wrecked tit.” Yeah, you’re right, that’s my wrecked tit. We laugh. We have to be able to laugh about those things we’re afraid of. And the more we laugh, the less we fear.
BR: What was it like to write a memoir, and assert your voice in that way?
BN: There were people who wanted me to run back into my past and chase people down and ruin their lives and families as grown adults, and that’s not how I roll. I had to come to a point where I was writing, particularly about traumatic events, where I had to not only own it, but also own my recovery and own my stand, where I am today in my own healing. And not to let anyone else’s voice colour how I feel about myself, or about my life, or about my trauma. Everyone has their own way of moving forward in life, or not, and that’s always every person’s prerogative. A lot of that writing, I did tackle subject matter I felt I was completely whole and recovered from, and having to rewrite it, and be really specific, meant I had to revisit those emotions. And that was something that was a bit of a surprise, but ultimately very healing. And of course I had to put a funny spin on things.
BR: Talking about something like sexual trauma evokes such a wide range of reactions. Was that surprising to you?
No, because I had kind of been dealing with that my whole career. The first single I ever put out was a song called “Tell on You (Letter to My Rapist)”. That was the first single I ever put out when I was 22, 23 years old. And I got so mad at people thinking they had a right at all to react to my shit. I was always starting my shows with that song and singing it acapella. That was my big defiant, martyr performance. It always got my stage nervous out, the very first song. There could be nothing I would do in my show that made me feel more vulnerable, exposed, unsettled. It was right there, the first thing I did. As a performer, I think that beginning was the best education I could have got.
“We basically had to pick ourselves up, with zero support, soldier on and get through high school, get through relationships, get through trying to date, get through losing our virginity “the real way.” We were like Marines.”
BR: What was your relationship like with your rapist?
BN: Date rape wasn’t called date rape growing up, it was just called Saturday night. And at high school they called it gang banging. So girls like me were gang banged. And it wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that somebody went, “Hey, by the way, that’s actually called sexual assault now.” At the time in my life when we were gang banged and sexual assaulted, we were not allowed to talk about it as sexual assault, it wasn’t referred to as that. Our parents didn’t want us to talk about it, our church didn’t want us to talk about it. So girls like us had to live through the rest of our life in high school as sluts, or being shy. It never occurred to us that it was something punishable by law. For me, and for a couple of friends I have with similar experiences, because it was never presented to us as a crime committed, we basically had to pick ourselves up, with zero support, soldier on and get through high school, get through relationships, get through trying to date, get through losing our virginity “the real way.” We were like Marines. We just had to pick ourselves up and move forward. I went through life not feeling like a victim. For every girl like me who has managed to go through life and find a successful career and somehow find healthy relationships, there are 10, 20, 30 girls who never recovered. Who don’t have the opportunities in life to be successful, who still have barriers, likely as a result of that experience. I feel very lucky. I’m not upset I had that experience, I look at it as a gift. Because today I’m talking to you, and we’re talking about this, and someone is going to benefit from our conversation.
BR: What are you currently trying to deprogram in your life?
BN: I don’t like being set in my ways. Things that are habits I feel lazy about. I don’t want to be lazy in any area of my life. So whether it’s negative self talk, which all of us do, I do it a lot and I think everybody does. I want to rid myself of that. I think that’s a big ask. I think each day we have an opportunity to try our best, to not admonish ourselves, to not put ourselves down. And I think that will have a ripple effect in our life. We speak positively to everyone else, about everyone else, but when it comes to ourselves, why are we not worthy of the same respect? I think that’s a struggle we all have, and it’s something I need to work on.
BR: What’s the ultimate rebellion?
BF: I call it eating the avocado everyday. Why limit myself in life? I think we all do this, regardless of what it’s about. For me it’s always about the avocado. If I eat a whole avocado in a day, I am living. That is living. Because it’s so high in calories and fat, and basically it makes your brain work, with all those wonderful oils. Rebelling, for me, is having the whole avocado, and not saving half, because it’s an indulgence. And it’s good for us! Really self-nourishing, self-supporting, and is something that is going to make us excel in every area of our lives. In health, in joy, in happiness. Have the avocado everyday. Whatever it is.
*Interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Minimalist product magic by Helena Lane
By Marina Featherstone
Walking into my bathroom you’ll be bombarded by an abundance of beauty products. From sheet masks to cleansers to toners and serums, my collection is neverending. This week, while on my routine hunt for new products to try, I stopped in to see my favourite girls at 3 singing birds in Whistler to see if they had any must try recommendations.
Carrying a ton of natural beauty products that are locally made, 3 singing birds never seems to disappoint. This week I opted to try a new cleanser. Since I’ve recently been using Lush Cosmetics Angels on Bare Skin without much noticeable improvement, I decided it was time for a change.
Enter Helena Lane. Helena is based in Squamish, a growing community between Vancouver and Whistler on the Sea to Sky Highway. Helena was originally a chef, and found herself battling such bad eczema that she was unable to continue cooking. Still wanting to create and develop nourishing recipes, Helena shifted her focus from food to beauty.
The philosophy behind her product line is one we can all jive with: use the smallest amount of ingredients for the best results. Helena’s products strive to streamline your beauty experience by eliminating the necessity of other products. Using her cleanser you’ll have no need for a serum or moisturizer, and the cleanser can even be used as a mask.
The Lavender & Lime Cleanser has become a fast favourite product. Good for all skin types, the Lavender & Lime Cleanser is a balm that incorporates eucalyptus to open and cleanse pores and lavender and lime for their anti-bacterial, antiseptic, and antifungal properties. It’s 100% organic and even dissolves waterproof makeup.
If you’re looking for a life-changing potion, do your skin a favour and consider Helena Lane Skincare line for your next purchase. I cannot tell you enough how much a difference I’ve already seen in my skin. Being very temperamental and sensitive, it’s easy for me to notice whether something is working — or isn’t — and I can confidently say this is working double time.
Jessica Raven Littlestar is a Vancouver, BC based creative. Writing, photography, visual design — she creates through a huge range of media to weave a perspective that’s completely her own. In her own words:
“I love digital media. The ease and diversity of ways to connect with networks and share your expression on any imaginable topic – it just floors me. To create digital art for Babe Rally means creating for, and connecting with, a massive network of people who are sharing a very human experience. And diving into the human experience is, to me, the birthplace of great art. It is with great care and compassion that I contribute to the landscape of digital media, and to that end, I see Babe Rally providing an essential platform (for women in particular) to find power and strength in our voices, while honouring the age-old story of emotional and sexual oppression that we are consciously rewriting in this new age.”
Sexual trauma is an experience that tethers so many of us. This sisterhood is a secret no more. We’re transcribing the lives of women through art, illustrating the multiplicity of our realities pre- and post- crisis. Ready to share your story?