27: Therapeutic Meets Transformational Spaces - Part 1 (with Mia Mor)

postcast episodes Jan 30, 2023


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There has been a divide being made between transformational and therapeutic spaces- and some say this apparent divide is resulting in harm.

Mia Mor has a background in art and movement therapy and a passion for psychology. After years of exploring transformational spaces, she is trialling ways to bring more of her therapeutic background into spiritual, temple spaces. 

We discuss

  • Mia's experience with Highden and ISTA, and why she moved away from those schools
  • Group dynamics and transformational processes
  • Compassionate V challenging approaches 
  • Power dynamics in containers
  • Resistance and overwhelm
  • How Mia brings her therapeutic approaches to her spaces.


Luna: All right. So today I have Mia Mor with me from… Where are you originally from? You're Finnish, was it?

Mia: I'm from Finland. That's really well remembered. 

Luna: Finland to Berlin to Australia. Do you want to introduce yourself a little bit?

Mia: I don't really know what to say. I feel like I'm this chameleon of the world that just keeps travelling and gypsy-ing around and finding herself in different communities, different projects, different ventures, but mainly centred around embodiment and in recent years sexuality and relating. I feel like the embodiment and creativity threads have kept on going for the longest. Now, I'm pursuing potential academic futures.

Luna: Ooh, lovely. Mia and I first connected live with each other on a panel for people that had been in the adult industry and the intersection with the spiritual folks that had also done adult industry work as well. So that was nice to have that conversation. It was a really good one as well for people that were on that shadow side of the feminine summit. Today we wanted to connect and chat a bit about… like there's quite a few topics coming up around this. It's about the kind of power and spiritual communities and the intersection of therapeutic healing work, especially around sexuality and spirituality and then the transformational realm and kind of things that are coming up a lot in our field at the moment. So, do you want to first start with a bit of your story? You're navigating this field and what you've learned and come to.

Mia: I think I want to mention something since I've been in a really big backtrack of my own history in life and how did I end up in this place in the end of 2022. I was really interested in psychology and arts therapeutics and I went to study therapy quite early on and really was excited about making a difference in the world through creative means of therapy which was really based on movement and play, particularly with the adult world and I left that community back in 2013 partly because it wasn't handling sexuality, partly because it wasn't dealing with that aspect and I realized if I become a therapist I'm not allowed to touch people's genitals, I'm not allowed to even almost like address this whole functioning of our psyches which is so interlinked with our genitals and our interrelationships in the world. As a young woman, I had quite a lot confronted all kinds of advances and attentions and prepositions and I didn't really know how to make sense of it and I knew that, that was something that I needed to pursue and a friend of mine recommended that I go and do a course with ISTA and hence it was almost seven years ago now that I got involved with that and kind of met one of the teachers who I became an apprentice or assistant to really quickly and pursued that thread for about two years and saw the glory of the kind of what transformational sexuality work and archetypal play can bring to people. I also feel like I saw the shadow and the dramatic, cathartic, almost dissociation from what's healthy psychological growth versus what's delusional, dogmatic world of self-aggrandizement. As a summary. 

Luna: So you started playing around with that and exploring that realm and then where did you go from there after starting to apprentice and assist with ISTA? 

Mia: I didn't apprentice with ISTA, I apprenticed particularly with Bruce’s work. For those who know, he's a really famous character and has done a lot of his own approach to  psychosexual healing and he was doing his own workshops completely separate from any affiliation. They were called WILD, this series of workshops and it was literally the first statement was I am not your father, I am not here to hold your hand, this is for you to go through and take whatever you can out of it and I thought that was amazing coming from the therapeutics where we're so safe and in a way in like there's a similarity in terms of giving up the leadership position like for me as true teacher doesn't actually lead by example, they're almost like stepping back and just being part of a circle of like, okay we're all equal here and we all make observations of each other. So I was like, okay there's something to it. And yet obviously as a young, naive apprentice to this lineage, I feel like definitely there was a modelling of the behaviour of my teacher, my elder. I think I didn't really feel like there was a problem with it up until things kind of changed towards when Haydon began and Haydon became this mystery school. So I saw the process of being formed or signed contracts for and the fundraising around it and the hype around it and then coming there and assisting the first training essentially. And then because of the experiences that I had during that first training and I was like this is not healthy work like we've somehow stepped far far away from what's healthy to the psyche for what's healthy to the people to go through and I felt like I just saw nervous systems getting fried and even in terms of having lived in community experiments before, it was so intense. It was so out of the radar of what's possible and how to do things, including relating, including just the pace of temples and practices and psychological processing. It was just nonstop. I kind of got used to it, I had a pretty good threshold to it, but also I saw how people got burned out and you know started to have my doubts and yet you know at that point, Hayden was this rising beacon of transformational work. So it was really hard to go against it, speak about it and get kind of diminished based on like, oh that's just your personal experience. So I've been on a journey trying to work through that and I guess all of my friends have been a part of this community in some way in the last six years. I'm coming out of the other end and really wanting to find the way to bridge the therapeutic and the transformational work saying that they're not separate and they shouldn't be separate like there's something from both baskets that we need to integrate and look at. I answered your call in calling that in. 

Luna: Just before that, could we just clarify for people that might not be so familiar with ISTA Hayden, do you want to give a little bit of a quick brief of what that is?

Mia: ISTA is the International School of Temple Arts. I feel like they're quite worldwide and famous by now, which I think they weren't at the time. Seven years ago it was still like you kind of her like it was referenced through a word of mouth so someone would have told you like oh my god I went to this amazing training and like everything changed for me and came out completely different and that's that's the pitch I heard and watched some videos online and it was really mystical. I read the book by Des and Kamala Devi before I went so I was like okay there's a familiarity to the concepts they were teaching and Hayden came off the back of that, particularly initiated by Bruce Lion and it is a modern day mystery school, which doesn't really say a lot to a lot of people. I feel like mystery schools have then again popped up like mushrooms everywhere, so there's also a trend that I'm seeing but he's got a particular dogma, particular philosophy that it's based on, and a lot of the teachings are, let's say they're affiliated but they're not the same as ISTA. So there's definitely a difference that I see in the techniques.

Luna: ISTA runs like one week-based trainings in different levels and then Hayden's a six week in-person, well I mean they did online during the pandemic. I'd actually applied in 2020 to go but then the borders were all shut because of pandemics so I didn't end up there, but I was hearing some interesting things about it where everyone's like it's intense and there's all kinds of stuff going on that you're not going to get anywhere else. But also people saying I'm also not sure if I could recommend it to people because it's so intense and because of some of the stuff going on, and I seem to be hearing kind of mixed things. I was kind of challenging myself, would I be able to go to a place that I kind of know is basically a cult and get some medicine from it and get to experience some really cool rituals and really cool things without getting pulled into it because my observation was quite a few people that were in that scene, there was some really awesome people but then there was also a lot of people that I found kind of the spiritual narcissists like really intense people that I'd like kind of seen with very culty language where there's very much a language of people that are part of that school and part of that dogma or the tradition. There's a certain way that they speak and a certain ethos and stuff that I feel like a little bit of a resonance with, but also a little bit not. So I found it quite interesting to observe and consider myself going there. 

Mia: I feel like it's interesting because I was probably on the other tidal wave of leaving the school around 2019 and then really seeing the same effect like watching my friends online speaking in gibberish. I was like, this actually like the more I'm peeling layers off, it just doesn't sit with me anymore, it doesn't apply to the outside world. And when you're in it, and I still fully acknowledge that whole piece around like you can't get this sort of experiment human laboratory anywhere else in terms of relating and all of that. I really appreciate and I feel like everyone who's gone through that process hopefully appreciates the gifts of the intensity in the experimentation and yet there's just like all these troubling characteristics that start to become more obvious the further distance you take from it. which is now under a big debate. 

Luna: I was at a training earlier this year that also was very intense, it was more based on like Osho, the Osho style work and that was a lot of intensity and it was quite interesting noticing how I was before the training and feeling quite balanced and grounded in myself and quite comfortable and confident and feeling quite empowered and then after so much intensity and so much shadow intense like we're gonna crush your ego, we're gonna pull apart all this stuff and I really was feeling so… I don't know, separated from myself and so it was really hard to describe the kind of thing that was happening to my psyche even after just those few weeks and with me trying to keep pretty good boundaries and stuff like that. I was quite surprised, even for myself, she's done quite a lot of work like previous to that kind of environment and felt that I was pretty solid in myself and have developed a pretty good level of self-esteem mixed with ego dissolution work and feeling pretty, able to be in that oneness and that unity and not take things so personally and all that and then how much I kind of fell apart within just a series of a few weeks and it really taught me that these environments are no joke like going into that much intensity and kind of patterns of fawning that show up when you have this leader and even if you don't agree with them how you can start to question yourself and your sanity and all your beliefs and I mean that falling apart could be good if it was really held with deep love and compassion and there was enough of motherly holding, where it's like, oh, you can fall apart and we'll hold you and cuddle you back until you're feeling strong again. But when that peace wasn't there, I was just kind of like, what's even happening? And I was like, OK, I need to take this more seriously about what environments I go into with this kind of work, because if I could end up so shifted in a negative way within just a few weeks. I really see how these environments can kind of really negatively impact people, especially if they don't already have that much of a foundation before they get into the space and they're coming in they're way more naive than I was when I was entering the space. 

Mia: It just brings up so many good points around resilience or how much psychological work have you already done versus even such as yourself I feel like being equipped to handle quite a lot of like holding yourself up but then being in a group environment everything's just like magnified to a whole other level and there's a group hypnosis that I'm tracking in spaces. I mean like I had it even in my therapy education, we did dance therapy and we had a group process and for the whole time, even if it was two days a week, we were in a process altogether. So like whatever you're signing up for, whatever the length of it is, you are going to be in a process for that long plus probably the downfall afterwards is going to last for potentially years, which I've noticed with integration from a high-end training, like it's six week package and then if you leave and you try to integrate it into your life it might be a year or at least six months before you kind of like return to some form of normalcy and I guess it's designed as a way of not doing that as a lot of transformational work I suppose is queued as being like your life will be transformed forever. So the problematics of why would you want your life to transform in the first place like are you running away from problems that you're not facing and you just want a quick fix solution to it? Going into a place that's potentially not held by anyone and that's really a personal inquiry I suppose, how much holding do you need and stuff? We were definitely trying to hold each other and yet there's you know as someone coming from a psychology and therapy background, I am incapable of holding a room of 20 people or 24 people going into their childhood wounds and processes consecutively for six weeks of time if I'm also a part of it, if I'm also doing this process. It was just like a matter of fact, I can't be both a participant in the experiment and holding people that are going through it. So I'm really hoping that our kind of conversation is on the basis of how do we bridge and how do we actually find the sweet spot because we want to do this work in the world of like, hey, I want to offer people a safe space to go into spaces that they need to process information in and I'm so happy and proud of our generation for doing a lot of childhood mother-father wound work. I do feel like it's carrying some effect hopefully. 

Luna: It's interesting, I was mentioning this like kind of… I mean they say there's like the sort of motherly compassionate holding and then there's the fatherly challenging energy and I found different teachers will definitely hold and it's not even related to their gender because I've definitely had female teachers that are very like father challenging energy and I've had male teachers that are very compassionate and it's just interesting noticing because for me working in the adult industry and having a pretty intense like getting into drugs very early when I was younger and I've had a lot of the challenge and intensity in my life and I've always lived outside my comfort zone and done a lot of crazy shit. So when I look at the spaces that I have entered and the trainings I've done and stuff like that, the thing that was healing for me was getting compassion and sweetness and, invited to slow down and having people really like you're beautiful, you're powerful, like you got this and like this really sweet, like, yeah, you got this, you can do it, you're amazing and like, okay, yeah, I can do it. And like letting my guards down and being like, okay, it's alright to let people in, it's okay to trust, it's okay to allow myself to be held because I was an avoidant attachment. So for me, it was always like, I've got this, I'm sovereign, I can take care of myself, don't check in on me. If I'm triggered, I'm just gonna leave and take care of myself, and some of these spaces will be like don't go in a caretaker mode, people can ask for help if they need it, but my avoidant attachment didn't let me ask for help. What actually was supportive was to actually then have teachers or care team or whatever like come to me and be like, "Hey, it's okay to get support. We're here for you. It's okay, you're not a burden." So it felt like a burden. That for me was where so much healing and upgrading and change and real deep shift in my life came from having much more of that compassionate, loving, supportive, then of course, going into some intense processes doing the deep work and screaming out the intergenerational trauma of witch burnings and blah, blah, blah, and doing all that kind of stuff, but definitely feeling that love and support around it. While when I've been in environments that are just all challenge, sovereign, challenge, sovereign, then I've just kind of felt myself just shut up more and just go back into old patterns. But I guess different people are different. I've noticed now when I'm running trainings, there's definitely some people who haven't been challenged, they haven't done the edgy stuff, they've always played it safe in their life and they've always had people taking care of them or whatever. So they do need a bit more of an edgy challenge zone for them to kind of get a little bit tougher and stronger, it's definitely not the same for everyone. I definitely was just redoing patterns of intensity junkie and radical sovereignty. That was me, so that's not healing to just do that again. 

Mia: I can totally relate to, “Hey, I just want to be challenged and I want to do the edgiest thing in the universe and see how I feel about it.” I'm totally up for it and I want to recognize that in psychology you talk about transference and counter-transference, the fact that whoever you're teaching is going to become the child and if you're a teacher position you're always going to be the parent. I feel like the biggest choice in the field is like, are you going to be a good parent or a bad parent and are you going to model your own parents or are you going to really try to like what I hear from your description is actually trying to fix those patterns of parenting to be encouraging of the freedom of the child and the exploration of the child. So ultimately I feel like it comes down to having enough freedom in the space that people are allowed to explore and challenge their own edges. I've been trying to do this with my dance field where I don't really interfere, I don't really do a lot, but I'm there and I'm not getting wrapped up in any personal dynamics whilst I'm holding space in a way of like, okay, I'm still holding safety in the field. If I see someone who's out in the corner, I'm gonna go check on them. These little bits of, you know, you're actually parenting 20 or 100 children together. It takes a lot. It's like a full-time job.

Luna: This comes down to also the big talk around resistance or when someone's in resistance and if they're not doing it right and they're not having a big enough release or something. As a facilitator, are you kind of getting in there and trying to push people and be like, oh, you're in resistance and you need to have a bigger experience and then recognizing where's that my ego and my shoot, like I'm shooting them it should look this way. And there's the way that the practice is meant to be done where everyone's screaming and crying and orgasmic and having a big experience, and if you're being soft and not doing it or just doing something else, then you're doing it wrong and I need to fix you or something. There's the noticing and that impulse to want to change or fix and recognizing where is it, that someone actually does need some encouragement, they've gone in a freeze or they're going into some destructive pattern or something like that, where do I really do need to intervene and where is it just their experience to have? I found when I've gone to events and I've been in resistance and I've kind of like not done a practice and I'm sitting there in my resistance and actually I'm learning a lesson right now that this actually is resistance and actually I'm hiding and what am I hiding from? And then I kind of go through an internal process being in the resistance and noticing that I'm not doing the thing and why aren't I doing it and there's so much evolution and growth that happens from just sitting in your resistance. Well when I've actually tried to sit out of things because I've known like that's not good for my body right now, like I have some weird body chronic illness-y things or it's just not what I'm meant to be doing, maybe I'm on my bleed and I'm like that's just too intense. Then I've had people push like you're in resistance, you gotta do it, and then I eventually let down my boundaries and I do it, and then I end up overwhelming my nervous system or hurting myself or being in pain. I'm like, hey, that wasn't actually resistance, that was genuinely a boundary. Actually what would have been healing for me is to have held my boundary and to be respected in it and that would have actually been a really nourishing experience for me and maybe just witnessing what everyone else was doing. So for myself as a facilitator, I'm always checking in on that, like, okay, Is my intuition telling me that this is really a time where I do need to call someone in and maybe encourage them? Or is it just that I'm shooting them and I am holding some belief that they should be healing or growing or transforming in a way that I've done it or the way that I think it should be done.

Mia: I'm so careful of the ego getting in the way of having a result which I totally understand. Something that I brought with me from dance therapy studies was how if there's a person that we want to connect to, even in the group field, you go and mirror them. You don't go and interrupt their process, you don't try to push them, you actually just mirror what they're doing in your body language so that whatever this person's going into, they're not alone in it, almost like slowly it starts to unfold from that place. I'm starting to track more carefully these little bits that I actually got from the therapy training before I got into this field that I'm still using because it's such a piece of nervous system safety in feeling like oh I'm not actually here to do that and go against whatever your experience is. I'm like I'm gonna join you in that experience and try to just understand what's going on and fully trust that everyone's experience is whatever they're meant to be going through at the time. As soon as you choose a theme for a group experience or a temple space, I feel like it's going to reveal what everyone's stuck is around it in any way. 

Luna: There's just such a trust in that piece of everyone's going to get what they need to get and you just have to kind of trust that in a way even if it doesn't look a certain way and it looks like they've just. Even in breath work sometimes I'll be like this person looks like nothing's happening at all and do I need to like breathe breathe breathe breathe come on and I feel like I need to push and at some point I just kind of surrender and then afterwards they're like “wow I was like flying through space and having all these epiphanies”, and they had the most powerful transformation in the group but it looked like nothing was happening and I've just had that happen time and time again so that again just really teaches me they import it so just kind of stepping back and just trusting and allowing and knowing that people always can come to a future event or do a process again or if they are kind of missing out on the transmission, maybe it's just not the time for them, maybe their nervous system isn't ready for it, maybe their psyche is not ready for it and it's fine and not every practice is for everyone. They don't need to get the transmission of every single practice to have a worthwhile transformation in your space in general. 

Mia: I've had some people fall asleep in… I was doing a temple space called void and it is very much like going down into the subtle body or into the nervous system stuff. It's actually nice, like someone's just been sleeping through half of it, and that trusting actually what your body needs. Then whatever the higher mind or whatever we're trying to access actually knows that that's what the body needs, like it's not ready for more intensity. I'm super happy when someone falls asleep whether it's body work or group space, that's safety for me.


The second half of this conversation will go up in the coming weeks!


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