Tami Simon: You’re listening to Insights at the Edge. Today my guest is Sera Beak. Sera Beak is a Harvard-trained scholar of comparative world religions, who’s spent years traveling the world studying spirituality with Sufi dervishes, Tibetan monks, Croatian mystics, shamans, and more. She’s the author of The Red Book, and new with Sounds True, Sera has written a book called Red Hot and Holy: A Heretic’s Love Story, where she offers an intimate and provocative view of what it means to fall madly in love with the divine as a modern woman, inspiring readers to live their own spiritual love affair out loud and on purpose.

In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Sera and I spoke about the price that is exacted to come into one’s own soul; what she sees as the difference between spirit and soul; and her own Red Night of the Soul. We also talked about what it might mean to be a distinct divine being, and what Sera calls “multidimensional spiritual bypassing”—a phenomenon that she sees in many spiritual practitioners in the world today. And finally, we talked about what it is like for Sera in the space that she calls “The Between,” and her deep fascination with the color red. Here’s my conversation with the very red hot and holy Sera Beak.

I feel truly honored and blessed and privileged that Sera Beak is here with us in our studio in Boulder, Colorado, in person, and that we can have this Insights at the Edge conversation face to face. So welcome, Sera.

Sera Beak: Thank you. It’s such an honor to be here with you.

TS: And I want to begin by talking about the whole idea of coming into one’s true voice. I had the pleasure and joy and stimulation and romp of reading your new book, Red Hot and Holy, over the last 24 hours. And I think one of the things that really impressed me the most was the quality of your voice, how original and searing and brilliant it is; and how, in many ways, you talked about how the book, Red Hot and Holy, is a type of permission-giver for others to come into their own voice. So I want to start by talking about this whole topic, and to hear a little bit from you about what you think it takes to come into one’s true voice.

SB: That’s a good question, because it took me awhile, and it’s still taking me some time to get there. But I know it takes trust—trust in yourself, all of yourself—so even the insecure or the awkward parts, or the sentences that don’t quite make sense to the logical mind that do make sense to the heart mind—all those need to be accepted, and just felt.

And for me, with this book, it was a really big task because with my first book, I had a fantastic literary writer right next to me, who edited and made the book really perfect on a literary scale. With Red Hot and Holy, I had to let go of all external editing and actually trust that I could write this. It might not be some perfect literary masterpiece, but I actually had to have the exquisite sensation of knowing that these words were coming out of my own body and coming directly from my own experience. And [I had to] even watch, as I’m writing—when I’m doing something that isn’t quite as authentic and then returning to that and trying to sink into, “Why isn’t it reading as authentic as I’d like?”

So writing as a spiritual practice, I think, is pretty common, but I think the steps—especially for women, I found more often than not, that actually trusting that our particular and unique voice does have merit just because it’s actually coming full-bodied.

TS: Now, you said “especially for women,” and I want to read you a quote from the book Red Hot and Holy that I wrote down because I thought it was so interesting. “For women, finding their authentic voice is almost, if not quite, the equivalent to finding their true identity.” Why do you think it’s different for women than for men? Why don’t we start there?

SB: Yes. Well, throughout history, women’s voices have been censured, and actually haven’t even been known for the most part. And it took a lot of time for there to be an appreciation for what some people would call the feminine voice. It’s not that you can lump every woman’s voice into something called “the feminine voice,” but there tends to be some aspects to it that have never been appreciated from a more masculine consciousness. And mostly men were writing books and men were sharing books and commenting and critiquing on books. So when a woman would voice something—especially some of the female mystics in the past—it was usually not understood and not respected and dismissed.

And so losing the voice—voice, to me, is so much bigger than the written word or even the spoken word. It’s like a full-bodied expression of, “How do I just be here in a way that’s natural and organic and unfettered and not weighed down with how I’m supposed to sound and how I’m supposed to be—or I’m only supposed to speak in a particular manner.” And this is also pretty important—I found—in the spiritual arena, because sometimes it’s easy for us to think that we have to sound a particular way in order to sound spiritual. I know I did.

TS: What way did you think you were supposed to sound?

SB: You know: “I shouldn’t swear; I shouldn’t tell dirty jokes; I shouldn’t be quite as raw or emotional. I should speak more simply.” I’ve had plenty of publishers and editors and different people say that my work would [actually] be more effective if I spoke in a more simple, pithy way and wrote in that way. I understand that that does deliver a particular message, but it’s not me. And since so much of my work is just a self-expression, it was really important—it was fundamental—I mean, even the editing of this book felt like the most rigorous form of self-reflection that I’ve ever been through.

So for women in particular, you can just feel it. It doesn’t have to sound a particular way; it doesn’t have to sound “feminine.” But when you’re encountering the words—either vocally or you’re reading something or you’re watching someone move—you usually can feel in their body if that’s their authentic voice. There’s just a resonance. It’s like a body-to-body nod.

TS: Now, I want to talk more about this idea of how Red Hot and Holy might or might not give other people permission to express their authentic voice and to come into that. Because here—this is one of the premises of the book—that by you having the courage to step into writing and communicating in the way that’s really true for you. That other people are going to go up in flames because you went up in flames and the wildfire will start.

And I guess my question is, is that really true? Or might someone read a book like Red Hot and Holy and go, “Well, good for Sera. She’s got some gift. I don’t have that gift. She learned to trust herself, but I don’t really trust myself, and I actually just am sitting here feeling a little envious of what she’s accomplished.” How do you turn it into a permission-giving vehicle?

SB: Well, I think one of the things I like about the book—because it was important for me to communicate—was my self-doubt, was how much I didn’t trust myself. I talk very specifically about how terrified I was to let go of my editor and to know that I had to write this book on my own for the first time. And the fear was startling with how big it was and how thorough it was. I can’t leave that arena of a perfect sentence. “If I do, I will fail. If I do, no one will read anything. I don’t have the gifts.” In the book, I talk about as well—I had an editor flat-out tell me I don’t have the literary gifts to write this type of book.

I’m saying this because all of us have faced that. All of us have been told that we are not enough, something we’ve done doesn’t fit a particular mold, it’s not going to welcome enough people or be smart enough or spiritual enough or even feminine enough. We’ve got it all going on. And so what I’m hoping is that the book—by sharing my own fears in this process—that other women or men can read it and be like, “OK, you know what? If this people-pleasing, shy, Midwestern woman who didn’t trust her voice at all was able to slowly start putting the pieces together to do this, I can do it. It won’t sound like Sera’s—it will sound like mine.” We don’t want a bunch of the same voices out there.

But that’s my deepest desire and intention—not to hide my flaws, because there [are] plenty, and not to hide the fear that comes. When I say it was a startling fear, it was startling because I didn’t recognize how scary it would be to just write on my own. And I think, again, we can take this out: to move on my own, to talk on my own, to be on my own. I didn’t realize the extent of fear that was there. And I do, I see it everywhere. I talk to plenty of women and men, and you can see we recognize it. We all hold it in different spaces, but we have it. So I’m hoping this book will acknowledge that fear and say, “You can move with it.”

TS: So tell us some of the things you learned about working with your own fear—and you’ve used this word, “trust”—moving to a place of trust in your expression.

SB: With this book—and more than this book, with this stage of my life, I just have gotten to a point. It’s still an awkward point for me, but it’s just a very strong knowing that it is not worth doing anything here that is not coming from my soul. It’s not worth it anymore. So even if the book fails, people think I’ve failed—if I know that I have done the best I can and I’ve done it connected to my soul, that really is the success.

And I know sometimes we hear this. But for me, it has just been driven into my system over and over again that that is the only thing that matters this time around for me. If I do not fully incarnate in my own greater essence—my own being—through things like this, it’s just playing around. And this time around, I’m not here to distract myself as much. I don’t know if that answered your question.

I just think we all get to some point. For me, it’s several points where that becomes really clear. And so when you know that—when you know that this is really all it’s about—at least from my perspective, this is it. If I am here, I am here to express my soul. She has a very specific trajectory, and she’s fluid with her message, but that connection and that embrace and that exchange of love between us, and how to be honest with that, and each moment and each word—no matter how it sounds to other people—that’s it. That is it.

So I can feel the fear. I feel it tremendously all the time. And I’m also like, “This is part of it.” I just breathe into it and take another step forward. I might fall on my ass plenty of times, but I’m doing so with her.

TS: Now, one of the really interesting distinctions you make in the book is your discovery for yourself of the difference between “soul” and “spirit.” And so I wonder if you can talk a little bit about that. Also, this discovery comes in the context—the book is structured before you met Marion Woodman and then after you met Marion Woodman. So there’s before Marion and after. The soul discovery comes right in this meeting, so talk about that. What was so important about your meeting with Marion Woodman?

SB: So much. [Laughs] So much importance there. About a week before I interviewed her, I had this sort of fluttering—and this is usually how it starts for me. That something’s a bit off in my life and my body and myself, and I can’t quite tell what it is, but it’s usually just a little bit of a fluttering and a question that will arrive from some place inside of me.

And so I think one of the answers or one of the kicks in my ass was sitting down across from her. When we started the interview, [with] the first sentence she said, I just started crying and I couldn’t stop crying throughout the entire interview.

There was a part of my mind that was confused about why I was crying. I was looking at this, like, “What’s happening?” But the felt sense that this was the first woman that [I] had been across that had truly embodied her soul. And I’d been across lots of spiritual women, but [she] was the first one where the soul was such a natural piece—it was seamless in her. And it was so alive and real and honest. So seeing that, I immediately recognized and noticed the difference between us and how that was not true for me.

TS: OK, so let’s just go slow here—because here you are, you’re sitting across from this great Jungian analyst and writer, an elder, a true crone at this point in her life. What was it that you said, “Oh, that’s what a soul embodied feels like or looks like.” What were you tuning to at that point?

SB: I didn’t even have the words. There was no—later on, that night or the next day, I could recognize and wrap these sentences around the experience. But it was a body-to-body transmission. She didn’t say anything; she didn’t hold her body in a particular way. It was just pure her. It wasn’t pure white-washed divinity—like being one with source. It was actually just a pure woman. And I don’t mean “pure” in some sort of conservative way, but I mean pure in the sense—the Jungians call it “virgin.” She was one into herself. I don’t know what she was doing, but my body completely recognized it.

TS: So this is what I’m curious about. What did your body feel like in that recognition? I mean, I realize you were crying, but what was it?

SB: It was a huge missing, for me. It was a huge recognition that something was missing, because I was witnessing it and experiencing it and actually receiving something from another woman who had it. And so my system started—it was grief. It didn’t have any thoughts around it. It was just noticing that I had lost my soul, and I don’t know if I would have learned it in any other way. I’d been reading her books for years. I had been talking soul stuff. I had been doing all this, but the recognition—or the wake-up call—was really just body-to-body.

TS: What I’m reflecting on—as you’re talking—is the power in being with certain luminaries and teachers and elders and great writers. How something like that can happen, actually, that some sort of mirror was held up—if you will—for you. That’s interesting.

SB: There was a different but similar experience when I met the Dalai Lama. What struck me was not this sense of, “I am meeting this holy, holy person!” or his spiritual merit. He’s stunning on all those levels, but that wasn’t what punched me in my heart. What did was that he was so human, and I recognized in that moment that he was the most divine person I had ever been around because he was so human. And that was a key for me.

And with Marion, there [was] that same aspect. She’s so fully human and fully conscious of her humanity, and not hiding from it or dismissing it or shoving it away. She’s not trying to be spiritual; she’s not trying to be profound. She’s just there, being and doing it. And also, when you’re around her, you can feel the work that has gone into her own embodiment. It’s hefty. It’s coming from her cells. And there’s just no holy fluff about it.

TS: So there’s this line in the book—your life before meeting Marion Woodman and your life after. So how would you describe the change that took place in you?

SB: I call it my Red Night of the Soul because the recognition that I lost my soul was mammoth for me and profoundly sad and very confusing, because I had thought I had been doing work in that arena and because of my work in the world—talking about feminine spirituality—it was a really humbling wake-up call. Everything just started crashing down around me.

But what was interesting about it was that I had to go through all that fear—[which] I think is very common when things start crashing around you—that, “Wait a minute—but I was successful; I was doing something meaningful and I really felt connected the whole time. I didn’t feel disconnected. So what’s going on?” [I was] trying to possibly hang on and being confused if it was my inner saboteur or if there was something actually really happening.

But I will say one of the clearest messages was that I got very cut off from spirit. So spirit, to me, is more the transcendent, the ethereal. It’s something that I felt deeply connected to since I was born. And being disconnected—which happened about a few days to a week after I met Marion—was terrifying and completely bizarre. I say this in the book, but it was like waking up in the morning with no hands and no arms and being expected to go and do what you normally do during the day.

I didn’t know how to function. I was so used to having this connection with spirit, and that was a big sign to me that this was—for me—serious. That there was something really trying to happen here. And instead of relying on the North Star and spirit, there was a real opportunity to start relying on the South Star—the soul. But I think what was so confusing about it was I didn’t trust the soul. I didn’t understand how it could be as good or as powerful as spirit, because spirit’s mostly portrayed in the spirituality arena more than soul. Soul definitely has wonderful people that have always been fully devoted to it. But for the most part, especially in the mainstream world—which was where I was more a part of—the spirit is the one that gets the cheerleading.

TS: And just to make sure—I want to make sure all of our listeners are tracking with you. Could you summarize how you distinguish between soul and spirit?

SB: So “spirit,” to me, is more transcendent and ethereal. Some people have labeled it more masculine. I don’t really know if that matters or not, but that’s another label for it. It’s more up there and out there. It has more of a sense of becoming one with everything. It’s losing all distinction and merging into source and love and light. All of this has more of a spirit quality, and it’s very airy. You can sense it—you can start to sense it in your body when things are more directed in a spirit way.

”Soul,” to me, is the heavier, the denser, the more distinct identity. It’s been around. The soul to me is also the part of us that incarnates over and over again, so it has a lot of experience and it also has some wounds to it. It is gruffer, it’s darker. It is where the Shadow lies, as well. It’s muddier. [Laughs] It’s not as fast as spirit. So getting to know your soul is a life-long process, but it can be a rude awakening if you’ve been overly focused on spirit for a while.

TS: Now, you mentioned that, in this discovery, you “lost” your soul. And here you were, you were becoming aware of this: “[I] lost my soul.” So where did it go? Where did you go? What do you mean by that?

SB: [Laughs] That’s a complicated question. It has different roots, but the way I know of it—I’ll just speak from my experience around this—up until this lifetime, I’ve never fully come into the body. I’ve been really good at playing human, sort of hanging out [Laughs] outside of the body. For normal reasons, I’ve been terrified to be here.

So when I woke up to this, it really was so much more than just looking at this lifetime—although that was obviously very important for me to see where I have lost my soul in this lifetime. But what I was experiencing was what I would call—and other people use this phrase as well—the sacred wound. I was recognizing that I was tapping into something that was much deeper than I realized, and that this pain of actually not really being here mixed with the fear of not wanting to be here arose at once.

The pain was nothing I’d ever experienced before, because it was multidimensional. It was physical, it was emotional, it was mental, it was spiritual. I couldn’t understand it. It did feel like this cosmic Novocain that I’ve had in my system for lifetimes wore off and I was waking up to the fact that I’ve never been here. That was painful.

TS: There was a line in the book that was funny—you have a gift for actually saying really deep things in a funny way—that maybe there could be a support group: “Disincarnates Anonymous.” I thought that was funny. And that it would probably be very well-attended.

SB: I think so! I don’t think this is uncommon at all. And I think what ends up happening is you’re feeling multiple things. For me, I was feeling, “This sucks! I have not been here in my life. I can see. I can look back in my life, and I can see in my relationships, I can see in my work—I can see in all these different areas where I haven’t fully been here. I haven’t ground my heels into life and this experience.”

The more mystical or metaphysical aspect of it was I was also feeling my soul and her longing to be here and her fear of being here. So there was a kind of complexity—in some ways—to it. A multifold level of pain. Again, I think it’s very common, but it’s a rude awakening. Or as I call it, a rouge awakening.

TS: Right. So now we’re going to have to talk about this, the “rouge awakening,” and the Red Night of the Soul. Share with our listeners a bit about your absolute fascination with all things red.

SB: Yes! I actually never liked the color red. I was like, “Pink!” as a little girl, then I went into purple. But throughout my life, I felt this presence, and didn’t start calling it “red” until I was in college. But I felt this very particular, indescribably loving, distinct, very personable, and intimate presence. And when I was in college and I was studying religions, I would come across different mystics, I would come across different stories—like Eve with her red apple; Shams is said to have come into Rumi’s life wearing red; the great mystic Ikkyu talks about the Red Thread, which is a common Zen phrase.

What I started noticing as I was reading and studying these different aspects was that there were these little red winks in them. And the red aspects were speaking directly to my own desire or excitement. They were showing and displaying elements that meant a lot to me. Even though I wasn’t fully embodying them at that point, I could tell that they were very important.

And I was also noticing how red was shoved into the corners of most religions and mystical traditions as something that was forbidden, dirty, dangerous, erotic—feminine more often than not. And that was very curious as well for a religion student.

Kali was a huge force for me when I started studying more Hinduism. Her aspect of red and her red tongue and her flavor, to me, is very red.

So I was following these red rose petals throughout my life, and they would show up in these different ways and just sort of wink back, like, “Hey, there’s something here for you.” And I would notice them, but no one else was really saying this was a red thing. It was just me putting these little pieces together. So that has been my fascination—and my calling, in some way, is to understand what red is. It’s been a very confusing calling, because red’s a color. But for me, it’s so much more than that. To come into contact with what it actually is has been my life’s purpose.

TS: So what do you see is the connection between red and its presence and your soul discovery and soul work incarnating as a soul?

SB: Red is my core essence. And so what I realized was that it was the part of my being that was beckoning to me through these different mediums—sort of winking at me, [saying] “You’re resonating so much with us because there’s an aspect of you that actually is this.”

I just kept projecting this aspect out—which is a common thing to do—but there was a flavor to her. Whenever I tried to anchor red into a tradition, or anchor red into Kali, or anchor it into Shams, it didn’t feel right. That actually wasn’t the red that was beckoning to me. That was just a medium.

And so once I began to get more in touch with the energy that coming through or the essence that was coming through these mediums, it became more and more familiar and also more and more confusing and mysterious because I didn’t know what the hell it was. There was no one telling me that this could be my own being. I knew the Jungians could call it an aspect of myself, and the occultists could say it was a guardian angel. There are all these different ideas of what it could be, but none of them ever felt really true or right.

It really was a spiritual madness, in a way—even though I stayed very mentally sane. But it was this, “What is this, and why can I not get away from it? It haunts me; it seduces me; it loves me. I don’t know what it is, but I can’t get away.” And it would show up everywhere—from billboards on the side of the street to songs on the radio.

So I know, for me, the real love story of this book—and what I feel part of my work is now is sharing that—because I know it’s not just happening to me. I know it’s happening to other people. There’s something so extraordinary about recognizing that all of these symbols and signs and synchronicities. And all of these beautiful and tragic and painful and gorgeous things that have happened in your life are actually a part of your own being and your essence reaching toward to you, trying to bring you back into your own embrace.

There’s something about getting that at a physical level where that’s it. For me, it’s home. It’s what I’ve been looking for forever without even knowing it—trying to find it in my studies and my travels and my practices, and never quite getting there until I had to let go of everything and just start to reside in myself. And be willing to know red in a way that I never heard the divine be spoken about before. So that was the most challenging, without a doubt. It’s still challenging. [Laughs] It will be challenging.

TS: So there’s several things you’ve said that I think are worth teasing out. Knowing the divine as red in a way that you had never heard about—what do you mean by that?

SB: Well, part of understanding who the red lady is—I had to actually almost be dismantled. I had to go through such a purging of all these spiritual belief systems.

TS: So just to keep everybody with us, it wasn’t just the color red, but red appeared to you as “a red lady.” So what was it that you were seeing at that moment when you say “the red lady?”

SB: It’s so much a seeing—but this presence that has been with me [since I was] a child. It’s distinct, and it’s confusing because it definitely felt divine. It didn’t feel like a complex or something like that. Over the years, “it” became a “she,” and she became much more intimate—and I mean through dreams, through sensations, just through a knowing. Most of this is just through want I consider to be gnosis—just a deep recognition that she’s with me.

But I would call her “she.” I would call her the red lady. I would say these things for years, and that was part of the sort of madness because I could see how it would sound to other people. And I desperately wanted to locate her and anchor her in a tradition. I wanted to be like, “OK, it’s Kali! OK, OK, it’s Mary Magdalene! OK, it’s this, it’s this!” I was trying so hard and she was just like, “No, it’s not that.”

But because I hadn’t—at that point—ever read or heard anything, the spiritual traditions weren’t [actually] telling me, “You’re a distinct, divine being. You’re actually in this universe as a distinct and divine being. Not just a higher self, not just a soul. It goes much, much, much bigger than that.” And because that option wasn’t presented to me—and I looked! [Laughs] I really wanted to find one. I couldn’t see myself, I couldn’t know myself, and I couldn’t love myself.

So finding out that this red lady that I had been relying upon and then throwing her out because she wasn’t spiritually correct and then her coming back again—I mean, this whole relationship, this really intimate relationship we’ve had—finding out that she’s actually me—a greater part of me—was completely mind-changing and paradigm-breaking. It still makes me nervous that it’s there.

TS: I’m right with you here.

SB: [Laughs]

TS: And the part that I want to talk more about is this idea of being a distinct divine being. Because, of course, spiritual teachers talk a lot about discovering our oneness and people often also talk about finding your voice in the world as a person. But this idea of being a distinct divine being—that’s the thing we don’t hear much about. So help me understand how you got there.

SB: A lot of pain. A lot of confusion. Through these revelations, which are just very organic. Honestly, what they feel like—as I’m remembering—they don’t feel like some big cosmic experience. I’m not shot off into the atmosphere into like, “I’m a distinct divine being!”

It’s been very natural, and at the same time, when I’m in that space—I call it “the between”—but when I’m in the between and I’m able to just remember, I remember this. I actually start to remember my trajectory in this universe and how I came in and why I came in and how much I fucked up and how much I’ve loved. This devotion my being has to this universe and to the other beings here—and to what I could call the creator of this particular universe—God/Goddess or source—the one that we all know and have different names for—it’s really humbling. Her love and her piece in this divine pie.

So the story or the memory or the recognition—and I know this sounds sort of out there—is that we are each our own universe. This particular universe that we know of as God and source and the creator decided to create a new experience. And what we did is we projected part of our own essence into this universe. We’re all doing it to each other, we’re projecting into each other’s universes and having experiences of each other’s universes.

This is all from a red perspective, but it’s an incredibly intimate experience because to come into this universe—to project part of your essence in—you have to merge with this universe. So in some ways, I see it just like a couple [who] has a baby, and they know that the baby actually did literally and physically come from the flesh of the mom and it came from the semen and it came from the blood. It’s made up of that. But most of us do recognize that the soul did not come from the parents.

So if we take that in a bigger, broader view, that is how I remember it. I came in through my parents, but they did not create my essence. My essence is actually outside this universe. It’s experiencing itself in this universe. So I am made up of the elements within this universe, and even a consciousness of this universe. I wanted this ride. I wanted to experience what was here, and it’s been a really, really, really long ride and very intense. And through the ride—through the different dimensions—I fragmented and fragmented and fragmented to experience different things, both the darkest of the dark and the lightest of the light and everything in between.

And now, the process feels like I’m coming home. So I’m collecting the pieces of myself that have been fragmented out. And home, for me, is being in my lady’s body—being with her and as her and fully extending into this incarnation as her, as a human. When I do that, when I’m fully connected with her and I’m just enjoying that distinction, I am, at the same time, connected to everything that is and every being in the universe. Because the highest part of my lady in this universe is connected to the God of this universe and all of you—just like your greater beings, from this perspective, are as well.

So after this experience—and it’s a reoccurring experience; there are different aspects of it and elements that will show up—I understand, to the small human degree that I can—this epic love story of this universe and us coming and merging not just with this universe, but with each other and still maintaining our own distinct essence. And what’s happened for most of us is that we have lost touch with this distinction—this sovereignty—this real us-ness for many, many different reasons.

If we’re going to speak more in a spiritual context, often it’s because we’ve over-focused on the oneness a little bit—to me, that’s my experience—and that once we leave this body, we just sort of merge—we go into no self or source. I so respect all of that, but that has never—if I’m going to be frank, I’ve never bought it. Some part of my being, since I was little, was like, “It doesn’t make sense.” But what I’ve done is I’ve been like, “That’s just my Western individualist ego. I’m just being narcissistic.” All of that stuff just came up and I doubted the hell out of myself, throughout my entire life.

When I started remembering this and actually having the full-bodied experiences of my lady as myself, I was like, “I’ve known this. I have always known this.” But I couldn’t find it reflected outside of me. I couldn’t find it. And that was painful. That was that sense of homelessness. “Why can’t I quite feel this here?”

TS: You used a great phrase in the book that I liked, another kind of funny twist: “multidimensional spiritual bypassing.” And I quite liked that. I didn’t follow everything that you talked about in terms of the universe’s process, but the idea that there’s something distinct about us that doesn’t go away when we touch even the most profound sense of unity—that makes a lot of sense to me. And you’re right, there are a handful of teachers that I hear talking about it, but not very many.

Now, what’s interesting to me is that you yourself came to this direct experience through being in what you call “the between,” or “in between.” And I’d like to know more what that’s actually like for you, in between.

SB: The closest that I’ve found to represent the between outside of myself is what mystical Christianity calls “the noose.” And it was the space that Mary Magdalene would go into when she would communicate with Jesus after the crucifixion. So she would receive teachings in that space and then she would go to the disciples and share with them.

The between is . . . how [should I] speak of it?

TS: I’d like to know what it feels like to you, how you recognize it.

SB: It feels like I am actually connecting with truth. It feels like the between is actually reality, and it’s natural. Again, it doesn’t feel like anything far out there. I don’t leave my body. It has this incredibly precise, organic nature to it—so what’s revealed to me is so divinely timed, because it’s natural. The way to the noose is the soul. So the soul is the real connector with the noose.

It’s through the soul that you experience the between, in my experience. And that’s where I’ve been shocked at how the teaching and the learning and even the self-inquiry has shown up. It’s made me realize that this organic process—my being knows how to unfold here naturally. She knows when to bring shadow stuff up for me, she knows when to point me in another direction. My soul has been around, like all of our souls. And they know what’s up and they know how to bring it out of us.

Sometimes what I would do is I would take a course or I would read a book or I would practice a technique, and some of them would be great and in alignment with my soul. But more often than not, I was sort of superimposing another technique or another system. So during the Red Night of the Soul, I [had] to really let go—as much as I could—of all external spiritual beliefs and practices. Then, all of a sudden, it was like this flower blooming. It was like, I got some air, I got some space. I can actually start really coming forward with this.

So the noose is that space where the truth of me and the soul of me is just very naturally there. And I have access to past, present, future. I have access to different dimensions. I have access to just really hardcore, concrete things I need to know.

TS: Now, what would you say to someone who’s listening and feeling, “I’d like to enter the noose. How do I do that?”

SB: They probably have already! It’s so familiar and natural that it’s not really a thing to achieve—like, “Now I’m in the noose!” [Laughs] It’s kind of just sitting there and being with yourself. For me, it definitely has always come from a heart center. It’s actually an energetic space. It doesn’t feel like the heart chakra at all to me—it feels like something else. But that’s where I most often tend to focus, or that’s where my focus goes. And it’s a very familiar feeling.

So when people are with themselves and they’re connected and something arises, it’s almost like you’re being burped naturally. It’s not any sort of forced thing. And that piece of guidance or that insight or that memory or that feeling arises and you just know—every part of your body knows—that that’s natural and it’s supposed to be there and it’s supposed to happen. That’s the noose.

The funny part of the noose is that often, for me, what has also been revealed there is more of this heretical information. I use [the] word “heretical” because I think other people have called it that when I’ve shared it with them in the past. But that’s been the real practice for me—is how to trust [that] the noose is just as real and just as important as this physical reality.

TS: Now, when you say “heretical information,” what heretical information have you received—information you might think other people might categorize as heretical?

SB: Well, even what I was sharing with you before—because this idea that we actually are our own universe and we actually are—the language that people would use here is we actually are gods who came into this God to experience our godself here in this God.

TS: That’s pretty heretical.

SB: It blows out of the water—I can’t find a tradition—normally, even if you’re a distinct self, you’re still going to hit the top. You’re going to hit God or source. And they also are teaching that that’s where you came from. And it’s true; part of us, of course, did come from that. My body is from their body. My consciousness definitely comes from them. But this piece—my distinct essence—actually has never been created—it’s eternal, it’s infinite, it will always be—I never got that. If anything, I would just merge back to source. That’s what I got. Or that’s where I came from.

So it doesn’t rule those out at all. It includes that, but it opened me up to a whole different situation and remembering. And that was really how I was able to understand the red lady, because she couldn’t fit into anything. I was like, “What is she? Is she just a facet of the divine feminine? Is she some crazy multidimensional being who’s getting frisky? What is this?” To actually understand that’s who I am and that’s who I will always be is powerful beyond words and just honest.

And when I say that, it’s not powerful in [that,] “I am a god!” It’s nothing like that. For me, at least, it has just been so utterly humbling. And as I said, it directly connects me with the love of this universe and of other beings. They can’t be disconnected. When I connect with her, I feel like her love for this universe and her love for every being and why she came here. And then I also feel this universe’s love for her and all beings.

To me, this entire experience of coming in has been about relationship. So relating with this particular universe—relating with each other, relating with ourselves as we keep going through the dimensions and we lose touch with ourselves—because that was part of the journey, to completely separate from her consciously and then to start gathering back the pieces and bringing it back together.

TS: Now, you’ve said a couple times that you’ve received insight into why she came here. Or we could say why you came here. And what is that reason?

SB: They’re probably the same reason you came here, and everyone came here. We wanted to experience life in this universe. And for the red lady in particular, there was a dynamic, electric, erotic experience of this universe beginning to make love to itself to create more of this universe. And that matched an aspect of her very thoroughly, and it was also something she wanted to learn even more.

So in red’s perspective, when we come in here and we’re experiencing all this stuff, we’re actually not only evolving this particular universe and growing it and expanding it. We’re also evolving our own universes. Everything that’s happening here is also helping out there. Not that that’s something to really focus on, but I think just the knowing of it begins to release this epic sense of connection that we all have to being here.

There’s devotion. Let me just tell you—coming into this universe, coming through what we’ve gone through—there’s devotion, pure devotion, that we each have to be here and to go through this. Just [to live] a human life [Laughs] you’ve got to be—it’s not the easiest thing. It’s beautiful, but it is freaking hard.

TS: I want to ask you about that. There’s a quote that you pull into the book from Bill Plotkin, who wrote a book called Soulcraft, and you quote him saying: “Entry into the soul demands a steep price.” And I’d like to know, what’s the price you feel you’ve had to pay?

SB: You have to let go continually of everything you have put in the place of your soul. This is every belief, every practice, every person. Every decision that you’ve made that hasn’t gone through or been with your soul will come up for a face-off in some way, shape, or form. And the pain and the amazement of it—it’s intense, to say the least.

For me, I’m still going through it, and my respect for the process of embodying your soul grows each day. Every time I face another part of me that has self-abandoned—that has very, very, very subtly chosen something else and has separated me from my own divinity—and hence separated me from everyone in this universe—and just life, human life.

Personally, it looked like the loss of my career and my livelihood and my friends and intimate relationships. And those were really important decisions to make, because they didn’t go away. I actually had to make the decision to let go of them. I had to be active in the process and really conscious of why I was letting go of them and seeing all the shadows around it and taking it all into account.

So, if there’s anything false, it is going to come up for a showdown. And that’s what’s happened. Then you have to go back into the world and try to exchange and still be a part of it while holding that dynamic truth in your system. It’s tricky. I think honestly, most of us abandon parts of our souls every day in little ways—just in a phone call, or maybe we said something. It’s not about being anal about it. It’s not about being hyper-obsessive. But it is about cultivating that body awareness and that heart awareness that something felt a little bit off there. What is that? I think actually that wasn’t in alignment with my soul.

And the other piece of it is our souls, again, are distinct. So our souls have a very specific trajectory each lifetime. So what might work really well for somebody else and actually very much serve that person’s soul might not for yours. And sometimes in the spiritual arena we all sort of hop on the same bandwagon if we recognize and we resonate with a truth. But what I’ve had to learn to do is to keep coming back in and being like, “Is this true for me right now? And is this appropriate for me right now? Does this serve the evolution and the [unfolding] of my particular soul in this particular lifetime?”

You get real focused with that, in some ways. And then you just start to feel it. If you’re off—if something’s happened, you feel it. You become more familiar with what it feels like not to be with your soul, and that’s a good thing to be aware of.

TS: I’m speaking with Sera Beak, and this is the conclusion of Part One of our conversation about a new book that is being published with Sounds True—I’m pleased to say—called Red Hot and Holy: A Heretic’s Love Story. Sera, thank you for your courage and for all of the red blood, sweat, and tears. Thank you.

SB: Thank you.

SB: SoundsTrue.com. Many voices, once journey.