How Not to Get Your Ass Kicked by Mercury Retrograde

How Not to Get Your Ass Kicked by Mercury Retrograde

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It’s one of my favorite times of year. No, not the holidays. Not the New Year. Mercury retrograde. In case you don’t know what that is, it’s a time that the planet Mercury, when observed, looks like it’s orbiting backwards. In astrology, the planet appears to travel backward through its path, retreading where it’s already gone. It’s a time that some believe, according to traditional astrological wisdom, that one should not engage in business deals, sign contracts, or travel. It’s also believed to be a time where technology may malfunction and where communication may suffer.

I love Mercury retrograde because I see so many posts blaming this messenger planet for things going wrong in people’s lives. (No one seems to speak of Mercury’s powers when he’s NOT in retrograde.) This is common thread, I think, where it’s easier to blame something outside of ourselves than to take personal responsibility and look within. Not because we’re bad people or doing it wrong, but because it is difficult to do so. And frankly, it’s convenient to have a retrograde planet on which to blame our action (or inaction).

The way I view astrology is the way I view many things in my life: it’s a tool and organization system to help me define/refine and organize my small and myopic view of the Universe. It’s a system of signs where I can easily relate one thing to another and acknowledge that all things are connected and the same, thus enabling myself to having compassion for everyone and everything. In short: the more I understand, the less I am afraid of the unknown and the less likely I am to reject it.

It’s also important to note that Mercury is not the only planet that goes retrograde. Many of the colorful orbs in our solar system (some traveling at 30,000 miles per hour, others at 80,000+) will become retrograde, some for longer lengths of time than Mercury. More infrequently, but still, other-planet-retrograde occurs. In fact, recently, we had Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Pluto (with a spattering of Neptune and Uranus) all in retrograde at the same time. Queue a collective silence about these planets, except for Mercury. He seems to get all the blame.

But when we look at it, it makes sense why Mercury is our whipping boy/planet. Let’s pretend that Mercury only governs communication. And as humans, most of us are terrible at communicating. Awful, even. We yell at strangers over the Internet. We catcall and use racist language. We divide ourselves from others. We react instead of talk about the feelings boiling beneath — because, for some of us, discussing emotions is more terrifying than death. It’s a cultural issue, a social construction, and it’s all happening whether Mercury is in retrograde or not. Yet, He gets all the blame. Cars breaking down. Mercury Rx. Computer malfunction. Mercury Rx. Email won’t send. Mercury Rx. Fights with spouses, friends, bosses, and significant others. Mercury Rx. We forget that we haven’t had an oil change in a year. We forget all that porn (and malware) we downloaded over summer break. We forget to check the mail settings on our smart phone. We forget (or don’t realize) that we never actually learned how to communicate effectively in the first place — especially when it comes to emo stuff. We’re taught (and maybe even prefer) to suppress our emotions rather than feel them.

You might be delighted to learn that Mercury can be used on an archetypal level, to smooth some of these things out. By forming a relationship with this planet on a psychological level, we can increase awareness of so many aspects of life that we fear will get fucked by Mercury’s backward motion. Putting conscious focus on communication will ultimately force me to improve my skills. Paying conscious attention to technology will help me identify potential risks and errors before they end up getting in my way. And making strong intentions to practice mindfulness each day will ultimately enable me to feel instead of react.

Mercury can be a reliable ally in your life. Even if you believe that astrology is a bunch of bullshit, this archetype is a powerful tool. Mercury is our Messenger — no wonder we collectively “shoot” him each time retrograde rolls around.

This is my challenge to you, the reader. If you buy into the whole astrology thing, please, dig a little deeper into what Mercury can mean to you. Find out in what house and sign Mercury is located in your astrological chart. Develop a relationship (a healthy one) with this planet. Read more about what astrological signs it rules, how it got its name, the Mythology behind the God Mercury, and its patterns in the sky.

For those of you that aren’t into that astrology stuff, perhaps meditate on the archetype that Mercury inspires, and then laugh at the rest of us. Learn about the planet and why ancient astrologers chose it to “govern” so many important parts of life. Exchange with it — even if you sneer at the woo-woo stuff — and see what happens.

Mercury retrograde is nothing to fear. It’s a time to refine the way we communicate and show us various areas in which we might be disconnected. It’s a time to take personal responsibility for the way we communicate. We don’t need to shuck that responsibility onto our solar system. Let’s clean up our act instead.

This post was originally written in Dec. 2016

Navigating Consent as a ‘Touchy Feely’ Healer

Navigating Consent as a ‘Touchy Feely’ Healer

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This is Part 1 of a series of blog posts about consent within the healing community. This one deals with consent for practitioners, and the second will be for clients.

Note: To assist with this important conversation, I’ve enlisted Anne Hodder-Shipp, a trained and certified sexuality educator, to help edit and offer commentary for this piece. Consent education is a core part of her work and her insight and knowledge of this subject matter is invaluable. For the sake of transparency, Anne and I are married and co-teach relationship workshops together.

Consent is a multifaceted topic and, for many of us, our understanding of it has deepened over the last year as the #notokay and #metoo movements caught mainstream attention. Consent is essential in all parts of life – not just for those of us in sexual relationships – and it’s especially important for breathwork healing practitioners and service-providers.

Consent violations are prevalent and come in myriad forms. People violate consent, and have their consent violated, every day – often without even knowing it. People’s understanding of consent ranges from eerily absent to confidently secure, and the legal definition of consent varies from state to state, which complicates something so essential to the healing process.

“The state of California, for instance, is an affirmative consent state,” Anne says. “That means ‘yes means yes’ – true consent can only come in the form of a clear, inarguable affirmative response. If a person or practitioner is unsure or hasn’t received a definitive ‘yes’ to something, then they cannot confidently affirm that their client has given consent.

“It’s also essential to understand that consent for one thing does not apply to all the things. If a client consents to having their feet touched, for instance, that does not mean they have consented to having other parts of their bodies touched. True consent means you’ve checked in and received a ‘yes’ response prior to each action.”

Because people’s definitions and understandings can vary so heavily, the lines of consent within some healing communities can be especially blurry because of how intimate and vulnerable clients get with practitioners – and because many modalities involve some kind of physical touch. But unlike many healing professions, there is no universal code of ethics or advisory board to keep breathwork practitioners accountable. This means it’s on us, the practitioners, to hold ourselves (and others) accountable for our actions.

It is our responsibility as practitioners to be crystal (pun intended) clear around our own boundaries while respecting others’. Setting and maintaining these boundaries doesn’t mean a person’s heart isn’t open or that they are closed-off to receiving love; this kind of thinking can be damaging and put pressure on clients to second-guess their boundaries in favor of being more “open.” Something I might find to be healing could be a terrifying trigger to someone else, and it would be irresponsible of me to assume that my boundaries are universally applicable to everyone I meet or work with. There’s only one way to confirm someone else’s needs, wants and boundaries – ask them. And don’t act on your intention until you receive an affirmative response.

It’s important to note that consent is an issue among practitioners, too. I’ve watched healers at trainings and group events get incredibly touchy-feely with new members of the community, and while there’s no way for me to know for sure if the interactions were non-consensual, I do know from my own experiences and those of my close friends that this kind of assumed consent is prevalent in the community:

I’m OK with a spontaneous backrub, so everyone else must be.

Having my hair played with feels amazing, so everyone else must love it, too.

Healers teach about love and connection, so anyone seeking healing should be cool with hugs.

Simply attending a vulnerable, intimate event like this implies consent, so I’m good to go.

And so are the defensive (and blaming) rationalizations if/when someone chooses to set a boundary:

I wasn’t doing anything wrong; I’m a massage therapist, so touching people is how I heal.

I can’t read people’s energy without physical contact. I thought you wanted to connect with me.

I could sense you were tense and thought I’d rub your shoulders; don’t be so closed off to receiving.

“What’s missing from these scenarios is affirmative consent and accountability,” Anne says. “As humans, we are prone to fuck stuff up and, frankly, most of us never learned what consent and boundaries really look like. What matters most here is how we handle the fuck-up, regardless of how uncomfortable it is, and vow to educate ourselves so we avoid repeating the same mistake.”

For those of you who are new to the concept of affirmative consent, or simply want to refresh your understanding, below are some helpful reminders for how to identify, practice, and receive affirmative consent.


Every person you work with, whether it’s a client or colleague, owns their body. It belongs to them and them only. It doesn’t matter if they’ve come to you for a massage, a breathwork session, a reiki session, crystal healing, past life regression, or anything else. Their body, their rules. They get to decide what is and isn’t appropriate for them.

Ask them how they’d prefer oils applied to their body, or how they feel about being touched or adjusted during a session. If they want the oils applied, but they don’t want touch, have them apply them on their own body. Maybe they’re comfortable with having their feet grounded but their hips are off limits.

Even if you’re drawn to touch them by your intuition, check in with the person first. If they say it’s not OK, then respect the boundary and move on. It’s not a rejection of your healing abilities, nor is it a personal affront. Even if you are 100% sure that the key to their healing is locked in their body, let them lead. Not only will it keep them safe, it will keep you safe, too.

“Working within your clients’ boundaries establishes trust and rapport, and you’d be surprised how beautifully a person can blossom once they’ve been introduced to an authentically safe, supported and client-centered healing environment,” Anne says.


Always. It doesn’t matter if you’ve seen the client or colleague 1,000 times. Ask permission before you touch another person’s body. Get affirmative consent, which means they acknowledge “yes” to your touch.

“Silence is not consent; a shoulder shrug is not consent; ‘maybe’ is not consent,” Anne says. “If a client struggles to provide affirmative consent, that’s information for you – and an opportunity for them to practice in a safe environment with you as their healer. Empower them, encourage them, remind them that they get to decide what they want without outside pressure. And however they reply, thank them for taking the lead.”

If your client has replied with an affirmative “yes” response to your touch, it’s important that you next explain why you will be touching them and where.  And remember: if they’ve consented to feet grounding, that does not mean you have free rein to open their hips or touch their throat.

NOTE: With breathwork healing, there is rarely a reason to go below the belt line (aside from grounding the feet) with touch. If there’s need to open up the hips or low back, touch outside of the client’s clothing, and only after consent is given. There is NEVER a time when touching a client’s genitals, or any area that could be mistaken for sexual stimulation, is part of the healing process.


This is a big one, and a reason why affirmative consent is so damn important. Our bodies are designed to keep us safe, often without our conscious control. The nervous system is designed to react involuntarily when it senses danger.  Normally, we use our communication skills (the social engagement portion of the nervous system) to convey how we’re feeling through tone of voice, inflection, and facial movements. In times of danger, this system can fail, and the mobilizing portion of our nervous system activates (fight or flight) in order to protect us. If this doesn’t work (or hasn’t worked in the past under similar circumstances), the nervous system engages the freeze response. The fight/flight response and the freeze response cannot be active at the same time. Due to past trauma, a person very well may just freeze and be unable to respond with words, movement, or other clues that convey they’re not OK with what’s happening to them.

Let me repeat that: a person who feels unsafe or in danger may not be able to respond, communicate, or vocalize anything at all. This is why practitioners need to be extra vigilant of non-verbal cues. If a client doesn’t respond to your questions or request, don’t touch them. If they pull away from your touch even after they’ve given consent, respect it. Clients have the right to change their minds at any time. Check in with them, ask them to communicate what’s coming up for them, and respond accordingly. If at any time you’re not sure, air on the side of caution and don’t touch.


We’re humans with human reactions. It’s not uncommon to feel sexual attraction to one another. It’s a normal response to find clients attractive, but it’s important to acknowledge that within yourself, and be very clear with your intentions. Humans are sensitive and pick up intuitive signals, and if your touch is not coming from a genuine place, the client will likely pick up on it. They might not know exactly why, but they may feel uncomfortable or that something is “off.”

If you are touching clients, you must be crystal (pun intended again) clear with your touch and have no ulterior motives. Practitioners should NEVER touch a client in a sexual way. If you find yourself unable to remain objective due to physical and/or sexual attraction, refer your client to someone else. Help them find the help they need.


Clients come to us in all kinds of vulnerable states and are seeking help and healing. They can’t – and shouldn’t – hold the sole burden of boundary-setting. Hell, most clients likely aren’t able to set or maintain boundaries yet; trauma breaks down a person’s ability to successfully maintain appropriate boundaries, which is why it’s so important for professionals to set their own.

“It doesn’t matter if a client wants to stay in a session longer than the allotted time, or if they’ve literally asked for sexual touch – it’s your job to maintain the boundaries, especially when your client can’t,” Anne says.

This comes down to a simple dynamic of power. Clients are seeking assistance and you are there to provide it. For some clients, you may be the first person in their life who’s ever shown them unconditional love and support; you may even be the first person they’ve ever opened up to. This kind of exchange can often trigger feelings of attraction and desire, which is called erotic transference. This is not their (or your) fault, nor is it an opportunity for either of you to take the session to an inappropriate or unprofessional level.

The client/practitioner relationship is a sacred contract. You are there to help them, not take advantage of their vulnerabilities. Be aware of the power dynamic; honor the position you hold and the power you wield.


Photo by Aashish R Gautam on Unsplash

Breathwork Healer Training Level 1

Breathwork Healer Training Level 1

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Breathwork Healer Training Level 1

This class will be taught by Nathaniel V. Dust and Lili Pettit. Learn the basics of the Breathwork Healer Training work as taught by David Elliott.
In this first class you will learn about the 2-stage Pranayama Breathwork meditation, which is one of the foundational tools of the work. You will learn why the breath is used the way it is in clearing your mind and body of stuck energy. Exercises and partnered breakout sessions within the class are used to develop your connection to intuition, boost confidence around your gifts and talents to live freely, and open the heart to the power of self-love.
The Level 1 class includes hands on training and guidance with all of David’s healing tools and extensive discussion about the work, the breath, and what it is to heal yourself and others. This class is the first of 4 levels that certify you to work with others and lead breathwork circles.
After completing Healer Training Level 1, you will be prepared to use this work with clients on a 1×1 level and have a fundamental understanding of the breathwork practice. Not only will you walk away as a teacher, you will have a deepened connection with your intuition so you can truly heal yourself.

Located at a private residence which will be passed along upon registration.
$200 deposit reserves your spot or pay in full.

Register Here: Breathwork Healer Training 1 Registration

unplug meditation Weekly Wednesday Breathwork

unplug meditation Weekly Wednesday Breathwork

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Weekly Breathwork Class at unplug meditation

Join Nathaniel every Wednesday night at 8:00pm (come 10 minutes early) near Brentwood Los Angeles for his weekly Breathwork Group. If you haven’t attended before, reach out via email to receive a free VIP pass.

unplug meditation
12401 Wilshire Blvd #101, Los Angeles, CA 90025

Dreamwork Constellation Workshop

Dreamwork Constellation Workshop

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Dream Constellation Workshop

Join us for a dynamic day as the two powerful practices of breathwork and dreamwork come together for a heart-opening and illuminating experience. The dreams you have each night are an essential tool for self-reflection, deepening spiritual connection, and transforming blocked or avoided energies into empowered presence. You just need to learn how to use them!

In this in-depth workshop, you will be immersed in the world of your dreams and given the perspective necessary to decode even the most confounding experiences found there. Through the unique dream constellation process, you’ll be given to access to the depth of feeling and love you’ve been longing for in your life. After we delve into our dreams, we will then use breathwork to help process and assimilate the experience.

Together, the natural practices of breathwork and dreamwork weave a gentle, tender container where you will be held and supported through your journey. Nathaniel and Kezia have worked together for a number of years and bring a fierce presence of heartfelt honesty and unconditional love to all that they do.

Since 2009, Kezia Vida has studied under numerous shamanic and Jungian dreamwork practitioners to develop her unique and transformative approach to dreams. Nathaniel has helped clients heal using breathwork for nearly a decade and has studied under Kezia in the dream world for the last five years.

This is a rare event that is not to be missed.

If you dream, please write down the dreams you want to explore in this class! If you can’t remember your dreams, here’s a quick and dirty guide to remembering them:

There is no need to bring a dream with you to participate in the constellation process and breathwork, but if you have one you would like to explore, send it to us via email at and

We look forward to seeing you there!

April 21 1-4pm


unplug meditation

12401 Wilshire Blvd #101, Los Angeles, CA 90025

Register here: