I was born in Moldova and grew up as a Brooklyn Jew with my mama, papa, and brother. I have the thickest accent when I attempt to speak Russian. It cracks my parents up. I have also learned Italian and Spanish. I LOVE languages and how words shape reality. Education and independence were the most important values in my hard-working family. My parents taught me how to be super head-strong and not to take shit from anyone. My mom is my heroine and the strongest woman I know. She drilled, sometimes not so nicely, into my skull to attain higher education. So I did.
I graduated with honors from college with a Psych degree and a minor in International Studies from Florence, Italy. My first career was behavioral therapy with children on the autism spectrum. I returned to school to receive a Master’s in Couple & Family Therapy with a specialty in sex therapy. I’ve published articles in well-known peer-reviewed journals. I’ve gotten awards. I’ve presented at international conferences. That wasn’t enough or fulfilling for me (I became bored with talk therapy and academics). There was an emptiness in my heart that was excruciatingly painful and I was lost. I craved to know myself through my body and God, not just my brain. I had zero connection to my emotions, to vulnerability, or to intimacy. You couldn’t get through the armor with a wrecking ball. I was wound up tight. I was depressed and suicidal AF. I got to a desperate point: it was medication or meditation. I began to meditate a lot. It saved my life. I became attuned in Reiki. I became certified as a Yoga Instructor. I started doing things for pleasure, not obligation. I started to LISTEN and FOLLOW instead of strive and force. I stopped being a Pleaser.
My favorite job, before I quit the mainstream/therapy world forever, was teaching marginalized people of color with severe mental illness yoga, writing, adult sex ed, food as medicine, creativity, and leadership skills. I had a ton of autonomy so I did whatever I wanted. I experimented a lot. I played a lot. I laughed a lot. We danced a ton and crafted together. They taught me how to crochet and knit. We stitched and bitched. They felt human again just by how I treated them. I loved those people. I never felt more myself. I left that job because I wasn’t about to die in a sterile hospital. After leaving, the greatest adventures of my life began.
It started with moving to Hawai’i. Life was amazing. I worked in the kitchen of Kalani and taught yoga. I slowed down. I worked with my first life coach. I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. Then the greatest joy and trauma of my life occurred. In the midst of profound denial and pain, an epic road trip around the mainland US for 8 months visiting strangers and national parks happened. On the epic road trip, I decided I would become a vegan personal chef. I pulled it out of thin air. In September 2013, I started my first business and became an entrepreneur. Building a business and allowing myself to feel grief saved my life for the second time. Finally, Radical Pleasurist was born and here I am.
At peace, fully in love, and totally taken care of by community and God. Now I know what it feels like to belong and to love my Self unconditionally. It’s pretty EPIC. You’ll usually find me naked somewhere (or at least bare-foot), kayaking, dancing, hiking & backpacking, entertaining friends, or in Forest Park talking to trees and crying.
Read my ever-evolving Pleaser to Pleasure story below.
Hindsight really is 20/20. This is one beginning of my story as my story has had many beginnings. The event I describe was a pivotal one where the Pleaser part of me died, as well as other parts. Back then, it was the most traumatic event of my life. Now I see it differently. I no longer see it as a trauma. It was a divinely orchestrated (explaining how is a high level conceptualization and one that will go in my book or in an advanced awakening series) stage on my path of awakening to sustainable joy and peace. I don’t regret a single moment of my life and that makes me free. It’s a challenging story to read and one I know many will see themselves in.
It begins in the dark. These things always begin in the dark. Because I was committed to seeing the light, I emerged from the darkness over several years. Now I can tell the story as an observer, no longer plagued by the pain. Just another stage in the game of life.
I sat in the waiting room for hours. Push down everything. Don’t feel. You made the decision. Stick to it. There’s no turning back.Think anything except what’s happening. I’m being called. It’s time. I’m barely walking through the halls. I feel a heavy energy move through my legs as if I’m going to collapse. Keep walking. You made your decision. I’m being examined. This many weeks. This is how big it is. Push down all the feelings. They don’t matter. Push down the excitement and fear. Push down looking at the books and the birth plan. Push it all down.
More waiting. This day needs to be something other than this. He’s useless. It’s all me. It’s always just me. I am alone in this world. I take care of myself. There’s no one else. I’m in a room alone. Waiting endlessly for the first “treatment”. The beginning of the end. The first death. I’m waiting endlessly and I could leave. Why don’t I leave? Because I’m committed. I am not a quitter. I made a decision. I’m sticking with it. I won’t ruin our plans. I won’t ruin his life. I’m waiting endlessly. No one is coming. When will this be done? I step out and ask what’s happening. How long will I wait?
I’m asked, Why are you doing this now? I made up a reason that convinced me. It’s not the right time. I’m sure. Yes, I’m sure. I’m given the things. Drink fast. Don’t think. This is it. I can’t reverse this. It’s over.
Two days of excruciating pain. Aborting her in my cousin’s house. No one knows except for the boyfriend. She’s gone now. Now we can continue our road trip. Now I can be a good Buddhist (or what I conceptualized as a good Buddhist for convenience. Being like the Buddha is actually the opposite. You feel all your feelings and release them. Equanimity.) and suppress everything. Be in the now. Be in the present moment. Don’t feel anything. It’s done. Move on. It’s done. I told my best friend. She consoled me. He and I traveled around the country having some kind of fun. National parks, friends, strangers, adventures. Don’t cry. It doesn’t matter. He doesn’t care. I didn’t know I was dying.
That was 2013. It was THE turning point of my life. It was the moment I realized I was not in control. I was a yoga teacher, meditator, fantastic communicator, and so-called spiritual badass. I thought I was immune to trauma. I didn’t know the power of the inner critic and it’s weapon of massive fear. I didn’t know I wasn’t alone. All the deeply hidden beliefs (and years of programming from my parents) I had resulted in giving up the one thing I wanted more than anything in life at that time: to be a mother. Instead, I chose my boyfriend, who didn’t want a baby, and an epic road trip I had been desiring for 10 years. I asked him “we’ll be able to do this again, right?” He lied and said “yes”. If I was him, I would have lied too. I didn’t want to let him down. I didn’t want to fuck up our plans. I didn’t talk to anyone or ask for help. I believed I needed to figure it out on my own. I didn’t allow him his feelings. I didn’t allow us to have any kind of conversation. It was my decision alone. I didn’t let myself feel. I reacted. I went into PLEASER mode. I went into fix-it mode. I did what I knew best. All the spirituality I had meant nothing (I didn’t really know what it meant to be spiritual). I failed. I hated myself.
We finished our 8 month road trip (I honestly don’t know how I kept my shit together. The power of suppressing feelings is limitless). I flailed about for months. I broke up with him many times only to come begging back. I was energetically tethered to him. (that’s how the abused stay with abusers. It’s a really hard habit to break) I was lost. I didn’t know I was lost. I focused on work; on starting something. I focused on being productive. Anything except my feelings. I was in California and he was in Chicago. I begged him to take me back. I hated Chicago and yet I couldn’t tear myself away from him. My higher self knew we had more work to do together. He wasn’t done being my teacher.
So I drove from California to Chicago by myself over three days. I cried almost the entire time. I had no idea whether what I was doing was right. Turns out there are no mistakes. It took me years to come to this truth.
Feel the feelings
I drove across the country back to him. I started my first business as a vegan personal chef. I had no idea what I was doing. I had confidence and faith. Somehow, I’ve always had those. I was being led yet I didn’t exactly know that. I was hired at a high end restaurant. My work brought me immense joy and a sense of accomplishment. He and I continued to be a couple while living in a communal house. While meditating for 28 days in California, this thought came to me: I don’t need to be married or have kids. I need the boyfriend. I didn’t know that was the inner critic speaking to me, telling me I didn’t need to be married or have kids, and I believed it. Even with all the meditation I practiced, I did not know who I was listening to (the inner critic or inner wise woman). So I lied and told him I didn’t need a baby anymore just so he can take me back. He believed me. We lived in pretend harmony.
In Chicago, I went back to my therapist. A Godly woman. That’s why I liked her. I believed in God at this point in my life. I wasn’t relying on Him fully yet (God is LOVE. The pronoun makes no difference to me). I told her everything. She liberated me by telling me I was feeling GRIEF. Was that it? I had no idea. I never really allowed myself to feel grief so I didn’t know what it felt like. It was a foreign experience. She said to feel it. Just feel it. I was afraid to feel. I was afraid I would die. No one taught me how to feel. I was taught as a kid to NOT feel. NOT feeling was safe and familiar. Feeling felt unsafe and terrifying.
So I did. And I died. I sat in my bedroom daily looking out the window. I was numb. I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t leave the house except to grocery shop for my clients and to go to work. I couldn’t look at babies or couples. I sat in the bedroom and watched life go by. I allowed him to watch me die. He began to feel grief too. I told my mom. That freed me. She supported me. She asked why I didn’t come to her. I made a mistake mom, I told her. She said, “go ask him to have a baby. We’ll support you.” I said, “good idea.” She knew what she was doing. She knew he wouldn’t want to. She wanted me to come to my own conclusion. I asked him. He made excuses. Grad school this, no money that. I began to see the truth of things.
I began to feel everything. ANGER, SADNESS, GRIEF, RESENTMENT, RAGE, HATE. I allowed myself to feel everything. I allowed him to witness me. I held nothing back. Before I knew it, I began to feel better. I began to feel free. I began to feel like myself: joyful, playful, full of love and light.
In December of 2013 a friend and I were chatting. She was visiting her family in Chicago at the time. She lived in Portland and as we were chatting, she asked me to be her roommate. My immediate inclination and response was NO (which I know now was an autopilot response born out of fear). I always seemed to say NO or YES without pausing. I was committed to Chicago, to the boyfriend, to life there. Yet, I hated Chicago and my boyfriend so why was I so willing to forsake the opportunity to leave? Turns out it was based on a deeply held and reinforced belief NOT to be disloyal, flaky, or abandon the status quo (which at the time was staying in a dead-end relationship).
In February 2014, a few days after Valentine’s day, one morning I awoke feeling deep calm. I knew it was time and everything inside me was ready. I looked at him and said “It’s not you. It will never be you.” I knew it was finally over. He tried all the things to keep me to stay with him. I bet he was prepared to propose to me. I didn’t let him manipulate me. I stood my ground. We continued to live together for a month. He cried daily while I explored my needs, desires, and building my business. I explored friendships with other men. All of a sudden, he became the boyfriend I had always desired: attentive, loving, and giving. It didn’t matter. I didn’t want him. I didn’t need him. I wanted only myself. It is then that I decided what I wanted: to move to Portland. I was moving toward my desired future, not running away from something. Everything began to line up with ease (as these things tend to happen when I’m aligned with spirit). I got everything together in lightning speed as I was determined to start a new chapter of healing in my life.
On March 19, 2014 my awesome dad and I left Chicago in my minivan with all of my belongings to make my final cross-country trip. On March 21, 2014, I arrived home: Portland, Oregon. Driving through the Columbia Gorge sandwiched by trees and a wide river, an overwhelming gratitude cloaked me. It was the first time in my entire life that I felt HOME (still do!). The healing of my lifetime would begin here.
I am the light of the world
ACIM lesson 61
Still a Pleaser
I knew nothing of Portland. I had visited the year before while the boyfriend and I were on our roadtrip. We hiked in both the Gorge and the coastal mountains. I went to hot springs. We feasted on incredible food. The weather was lovely. Portland enchanted me and she landed on my list of possible places to be my forever home.
I had the one friend and she is who I ended up living with. (to read about how Portland came to be my home, go here). I already knew we weren’t right as roommates but she was my gateway to salvation so I accepted the living situation. I am forever grateful to her. I continued to be a pleaser with her, believing I was less than her. I allowed her to dictate our living situation. I was afraid to rock the boat so I kept silent a lot. She is the only person I knew and I needed her. She highlighted how much I believed I was broken. I didn’t listen to my higher self and instead listened to the inner critic constantly.
My vegan food business boomed immediately. I had a business coach and he didn’t feel right to me after the first month, yet I allowed him to convince me otherwise. I didn’t listen to myself and ended up giving him almost $10,000! I was terrified to talk to him. He was powerful at manipulative sales. I kept saying “yes” to him when I wanted to say “no”. I was a pleaser with him. I had insomnia thinking about him. One day, I mustered the courage to talk to him and I ended up firing him because he didn’t listen to me. I needed to be heard. I deserved it. I wanted to stop listening to everyone else. It was a huge move for me.
My parts returned to me
During my first month in Portland, I met my first shaman – a major healer in my journey back to my Self. She did a soul retrieval and I received messages from my baby. The part of me that left when I made the decision to have an abortion returned to me. I finally felt closure. I felt released from the grips of grief, shame, and sadness. The ex-boyfriend and I were still talking to each other. I was using him as an emotional crutch because I was scared to put myself out there. He was all I knew. After the soul retrieval, I told him I didn’t want to speak anymore. I ended the relationship in an angry way. I didn’t know how to end it in any other way (I didn’t yet have the skills to communicate compassionately as I do now). The energetic tether was finally cut. I was determined to put my best foot forward in Portland.
As usual when I chose to serve my highest Self, opportunities started to pour in. Synchronicities abounded. I met the right people all the time. I networked, made friends, and dated. I connected with high-paying clients. Life was amazing. Summer was around the corner and I was ready to play and be immersed in nature. Portland summers are the best, I was told. I had massive fun while I rode the entrepreneurial wave. Business was awesome one minute and totally dry the next. I was receiving a taste of entrepreneurial life and it spun me into periods of extreme anxiety (I didn’t yet have the skills and tools to remain at peace as I do now).
Inspiration and birth to a new business
Then the first game-changer book was introduced to me. I know now that God speaks to me through books. I read “Playing Big” and went through the exercises in the book. For the first time ever, I became deeply intimate with the Inner Critic. I began to understand its power, how I listened to it, and how it was making decisions for me all the time. I met my Inner Mentor. I longed to know her. She was beautiful, at peace, and all-knowing. I began to understand fear. I felt fear in my body and learned how to transmute it. I thought about my calling and longed to know it. I longed to stop being a pleaser. I was transformed quickly going through the curriculum.
In addition to having a successful food business, I began to see young women as my first life coaching clients. I began to use the Playing Big curriculum with these women and noticed their growth and progress. At the end of 2014 (not even a year into living in Portland), I noticed that the food business was not inspiring me and I was drawn to coaching more than anything. My food business began to recede into the background in early 2015 I let it go completely. I was leaving the food world and unbeknownst to me, entering my life’s work. So I experimented and attracted young female clients to me. I paid attention to my desire to serve young women. I noticed that memories returned to me of when I was deeply engrossed in women’s empowerment work as a therapist and organizer. I was remembering my passion to end violence against women and girls. I started to remember the V-Day campaign I organized in 2008-2009. I remembered that campaign being the first time I felt fearless. I paid attention to these memories and feelings because I knew they were surfacing for a reason. I allowed everything to flow. I trusted. I knew it was synchronicity. I followed my desire to coach.
Remembering my Feminine
In my personal life, I was drawn to the womanly arts. I knew I needed to be more in my feminine essence. Many helpers appeared before me exactly when I asked for them (via prayer). I had a delicious Goddess photoshoot. I took courses designed to teach me how to access my feminine. I learned about tantra and everything began to make sense to me in terms of how I had been operating all my life; too much in my masculine. I was fed up with being a doer, a problem-solver, and a hard ass. I didn’t understand my masculine either. I was vastly imbalanced. I craved softness and submission. I craved being with men who were in their masculine so I could be in my feminine. I wanted magnetic turn-on with men. I wanted men who would take care of me and make decisions. I craved to be taken care of.
I met my first boyfriend in Portland through Tinder shortly after arriving and received the chance to practice my womanly arts. He took me everywhere. We laughed a ton. He gave me fun and laughter; something I never really had in my previous relationships. However, there were also massive incompatibilities I ignored. The patterns of pleaserhood/ice queen were still well and alive within me. I believed I needed him. I wanted to fix him. I told myself that I could handle his mental illnesses. I told myself I was wonder woman and that I had enough joy for both of us. He had a good paying job and a car and an apartment. I thought that was enough for me and what I wanted. Turns out, it was what I was programmed to want in lieu of being honored, respected, seen, and heard. I was programmed to put him before me and that’s what I did in the relationship. The pattern was still operating. The relationship became physically and verbally abusive.
He promised to take care of me and I believed him. He was the first man I hit and unleashed my decades-long rage onto. We verbally abused and manipulated each other emotionally. I hated him. He disgusted me. He didn’t let me be myself and I didn’t let him be himself. We were co-dependent. We enabled each other’s darkness. Rarely we encouraged each other’s growth. Neither one of us had the skills to communicate lovingly. While hiking on the coast about a year into the relationship, I broke up with him on the trail (I have always been the one to end relationships – another pattern). I was profoundly unhappy and instead of having conversations with him, I just sobbed amongst the trees and broke up with him. Another relationship I put all my energy into only to end it. No friendship, no continuity. Just another dude I fucked and fled. However, I did something I had never done before after exiting a relationship.
I promised myself I would feel everything. I knew how to do that. I practiced the year before with my intense grief. I promised myself I would accept being alone forever if it meant I would never betray myself again. I wasn’t going to compromise myself anymore. I committed to knowing and trusting myself fully.
I wish I could say that I wasn’t a pleaser anymore after that relationship. It took one more abusive romantic relationship to finally end the pleaser/ice queen/inner critic reign.
Of course I wasn’t done with the lessons. I had an abundance of patterns to unprogram. I believed in magic. I listened to my Self more and more. Every moment led me closer to my Self. I allowed dance and nature to continuously heal me. I longed for touch and different forms of intimacy outside of sex. I had no idea what intimacy outside of sex would feel like.
Every person, book, and message came from the divine. My only job was to listen. In every instance, God was speaking to me. In 2015, when I officially began my biz as a sex & intimacy coach, I wasn’t talking about God. I used words like Universe, Goddess, source, the divine. I hadn’t accepted Him fully yet.
The intimacy coaching began with curiosity. I didn’t intend to have a business. I was curious about women’s sexual experiences. I interviewed dozens of women and kept hearing the same thing: community. As a result, the first women’s group called The Vagina Dialogues was born. I already had coaching clients. I dabbled with working with men and found I didn’t like it. I networked a ton. I had business coaches who honored me and listened to me. Mostly women were drawn to work with me.
In October 2015, I organized the first Women’s Intimacy Soirée in the livingroom of an aesthetician friend. I wanted a way to connect with potential clients and I thought she would be my power partner. I had no idea what it would turn into. Holy shit! It felt powerful. I learned I was a great facilitator and demonstrator of intimacy and vulnerability. Women felt safe to share and be themselves. I received more clients. My work with clients helped me develop the first Radical Pleasure program in February 2016. I dabbled and experimented all the time. I failed all the time. I began to be comfortable with rejection and failing. I was an entrepreneur for God’s sake! No time to focus on “failure”!
As I worked with clients, I also began to open up sexually and sensually in my personal life. I understood my feminine deeply. I began immersing myself in all things intimacy. I craved honesty and to be seen. I craved acceptance and community. I wanted nothing more than to BELONG. Like clockwork, Solsara entered my life. This was the secret sauce I needed to propel me into massive expansion.
For the first immersion, I walked into a room full of men! It was me and one other female student! This was the initiation into mind-blowing healing around men. What the fuck did I get myself into, I thought. Weekend after weekend of immersions for almost 2 years. At Solsara, I released the armor for good. I spoke honestly about everything in my body, my heart, and my mind. I allowed people to see me. I allowed people to hear me. I allowed myself to feel shame and anger and deep sadness. I allowed myself to feel exuberant joy. I allowed people to touch me. I asked for platonic touch. I allowed myself, against strong resistance, to fall apart in front of people. I allowed people to love me. In Solsara, my deepest addictions came to my awareness and it was there that I finally began the journey to letting them go. My sex addiction. My relationship addiction. My falling in love addiction. My addiction to only feeling good. My addiction to life being a certain way. In September 2017, I committed to releasing it all. I committed to NO MORE SUFFERING.
At the same time I met my soul sister and coach, Gabrielle Grae. She was my most influential teacher of the divine feminine. She taught me body tracking and feeling messages. It changed the way I looked at myself and men. It is with her support that I began to see men as my beloveds. Before working with her, I hated men. I used them for my pleasure. I didn’t understand them at all. I blamed them for all my ills. I was sick of them and how they violated my boundaries. Truly, I was angry with myself for allowing my boundaries to be violated. I was sick of being a PLEASER and ICE QUEEN. Through a lot of play, experimentation, dating, and deep self-love I began to honor men and see them as divine.
In September 2017, when I declared I would suffer no more, I met one of the great loves of my life. We would prove to be each other’s greatest teachers of love and acceptance. With him, I finally understood what it was to be both divinely feminine and masculine – both trusting and a solid pillar. He learned the same. We felt powerful in each other’s presence. We intoxicated each other. He was the first man I ever respected. I never tried to fix or control him. I allowed him, with grace and patience, to lead me. He was the first man I was uncompromisingly honest with about everything. I communicated with him impeccably. I committed to never being a pleaser or censoring myself. We loved each other deeply. I knew what it was to be a woman, to be completely feminine, to be accepted fully as I am, to stop striving and working for love, and to accept a man fully as he is. I knew finally the FEELING of unwavering trust and surrender.
On January 1st, 2018 we transitioned *together* (i.e. I didn’t break up with him) out of our romantic relationship and one of the most excruciating periods of grief of my life began. I, of course, wouldn’t know this until a full year later. Every day for a year I thought of him and the pain was relentless. I allowed it all. I accepted it fully. I surrendered to everything that arose.
Full open-hearted, unwavering LOVE
In the midst of supreme grief, the greatest day of my life manifested. The grief was overwhelming. I sat on my couch in April 2018 and prayed for help. Praying to God became commonplace by this point. I had read many books and gone through many processes. On this day, my prayers were fully answered. God led me to reading Disappearance of the Universe for the second time (the first reading was in 2012). As I read it, I understood it completely. I knew that I was entering a life of light. Gary’s book led me back to A Course in Miracles. I had tried reading it many times before. This time, I had a knowing that I would pick it up and never put it down. To me, it is the most beautiful work ever written. I cry daily as I study and practice its lessons.
All the beliefs I ever had about every thing began to break down. I questioned everything. I cycled through elation and hopelessness. My inner critic/ego died many times. I didn’t know at all who I was. I asked God for help. I gave all my confusion, anger, despair, and grief to Him. I trusted Him completely. I surrendered completely. In a very short time, my purpose appeared crystal clear to me. My prayers had finally been answered. God was love. I was love. Everything was love.
I asked for friends
I asked for community
I asked for money, clients, and to be fully taken care of financially
I asked for partners
I asked for support
I asked to belong
I asked for authentic intimacy through touch and words of affirmation
God gave me everything I asked for and continues to do so every moment of every day. In a matter of 6 months, I had a large community around me loving me. I released all addictions and continue to do so every day. I am completely healed because I realized I was never sick or broken! I enter every room, every conversation, every interaction fully open-hearted. Anxiety and depression never last for more than a few minutes to a couple hours. I don’t need them. When I feel my heart closing, I ask for it to be open. I have more energy than I have ever had.
I know my purpose fully. I trust completely. I ask for help all the time. I KNOW I am never alone. Everything I desire comes to me in the perfect time. I never allow fear to stop me. I am no longer a pleaser or ice queen of any kind. Peace is never disturbed within me for very long. It’s the compass that points me home. I am joyful 99% of the time. Even when I am angry or sad, I’m still joyful. Everything is clear.
Here we are. At the beginning. I’m not sure when Radical Pleasurist was born. I was playing with words one day as I like to do. Language is fun for me. I love impeccable communication. It’s one of my greatest gifts to the world. I love emotions. I love playing with them. I love giving permission to people to feel everything. I love witnessing people loving themselves fully.
It’s all play and pleasure. That’s why I’m a Radical Pleasurist and I’m inviting you to go on a journey with me! You deserve it!
Radical Pleasurist is LOVE. It’s TRUST. It’s SURRENDERING to whatever life gives you and feeling gratitude for all of it. It’s full acceptance. It’s loving yourself unconditionally. It’s speaking the truth unapologetically. It’s freedom. It’s intimacy, connection, and courage.
It’s the path returning you to your innocence, to your delight, to the belief that you deserve, that you are worth everything. It’s your path back to light. Turn around and away from darkness. The light awaits you.
There is only light and LOVE. Everything else is a lie. We are never broken. There is nothing to fix or improve. We have been buried under many lies. In one word, FEAR. Everything that appears to NOT be love can go under the category of fear. I have chosen love. I choose love at every moment. When I forget, I ask for help remembering. That is all I am here to do. To forgive myself for forgetting and to remember.
That’s what relationships and intimacy are for: to help us remember LOVE.
Let us walk together toward the light, my beloveds. Let us remember together. Welcome home.