This post is raw, real, and rich with life—and it will take an investment of your time for you to have the complete experience.
Here we go.
The time has come to write—and share—this f****** post; the one I’ve been mulling over for months.
Have you ever chewed on something over and over and ovvvveeerrrrrrr? Until there's nothing left to chew? ...and all that remains is an unwavering awareness of what is?
Like Astro, my childhood dog who loved to chew shoes and purses. After an intense bout of destruction (or creative expression), he'd finally settle down and sit peacefully under the table amidst the leather and suede spattered chaos surrounding him.
For months, I've expended profound mental energy chewing on what I would say here, right here. There's soooo much I could say, and want to say, and so much that wants to be said that the energy of this post has at times felt to be too much for me to hold in my nervous system, let alone write.
Fortunately, this post is ready to come through, because I’m ready. I feel relieved and I notice that relief as an expansiveness in my chest. My breath is deeper, I feel a newfound lightness in my shoulders and a spaciousness around the boundary of my skin. It's like there's a buffer between the physical skin I can see and touch and the actual interface where the skin receives sensory data from the environment.
I've been holding this post in my heart—for what I could say is far too long—but in fact, is exactly how long was required, to remember what needed to be remembered, and to embody what needed to be embodied in order to arrive to this sacred moment of profound expression and ownership.
I know that it's time to write this post and share this photo because I feel completely equanimous regarding what I say and what comes through.
I am in flow and I am in service to the muse within.
Potential is condensing into form and there are infinite possibilities of potential form. The truth is, the exact form this ultimately takes is but one of infinite forms.
Each word, each sentence, forming form.
And with each word I type, I grieve for the collective of forms whose destinies are but to remain within the realm of the infinite formlessness that is.
So, here we are. I’m holding the pen, and Spirit, as Ken, is writing.
It's been nearly two years since I updated my profile picture. A seemingly inconsequential detail, but quite significant for me, in my experience of reality.
Clearly, I could have just posted this new picture (as some have suggested) and moved on with my life, but that's just not how I roll.
Pictures tell stories, as do I.
Marry the two, and you have something special.
A story about a story—a story within a story.
...and this story—and this photo—are special.
For they capture something.
What is that something...?
Well, what do you see when you look at this photo?
Certainly, you see something, but what is it?
What are you aware of when you look at this photo?
Maybe you notice the way I'm positioned, the paint on my face, the contrast of the colors of my clothing, the tone of my skin, or something else.
Now, look into my eyes.
What character qualities am I reflecting for you?
What do you notice in your body?
What do you sense?
...and where is that sense-sation?
What is the nature of what is arising within you?
Are you thinking? Notice the thoughts. What are the thoughts?
Are you feeling something? What do you feel?
What is the sensation of your felt experience?
I invite you to get curious. These questions are simply words. That is until you stop and allow them to facilitate an experience for you. The choice is yours.
Regardless of what you see, you’re being impacted by this photo.
My life and the medicine that I carry is impacting you, your life, and the medicine that you carry.
This photo contains the impact of every moment of every experience.
Those remembered and those long forgotten.
From this life and the lives of my ancestors.
And the impact of September 2018 - April 2019, seven of the most challenging, albeit rewarding, months of my life.
The impact of uncoupling from my former partner, Aria. The dismantling of our co-created reality. The grief, the sorrow, the sadness. The cracking open of my heart. The dissolution of a vision. The dissolution of The Lion’s Den, our epic temple space in Santa Barbara. The ocean of tears.
Followed soon thereafter with the experience of my greatest fear.
The death of my dad, Alan Fried
Who passed sometime between the night of December 21st and morning of December 22nd.
Six days for my brother Aaroo Illuminated and I to plan a funeral, which had no prior plans. In another state, with zero funds. The impact and weight of challenging the laws of the Jewish tradition. Leading when required. Being led when needed. The mental, emotional and physical effects of stress. Saying yes, when yes was required. Saying no, more often than was comfortable. Changing directions when the heart instructed. The impact of trusting the unreasonable voice. The power of prayer. And the power of commanding reality. Allowing for the magic to manifest. Like the magic of getting our father buried in the same cemetery as his brother and father—a cemetery which had no open plots.
Feeling everything. Facing everything. Leaning into everything. Recording everything (with my iPhone, for a documentary).
The impact of spending my 35th birthday on a flight from LA to NY. With my bro by my side, on the way to our dad's funeral the following morning. Ironically despite the crying babies and Lenny—my bro’s cat—meowing the entire flight, it literally was a spa experience relative to the days prior.
The impact of that sacred moment when a boy becomes man, by giving an extemporaneous eulogy to 30+ family and friends, which included honoring—by acknowledging my rightful place on the throne as the eldest son—and publicly declaring myself crowned as the primary lineage holder. For this, I was aware needed to happen during this traditional Jewish funeral service. As did playing my hand-built Eagle Head Native American flute, purchased two nights earlier from my friend and brother Adan specifically for the funeral. Tradition juxtaposed with humble authenticity.
A single day of rest after the funeral.
Then hundreds upon hundreds of decisions, during months of deep ceremony and shamanic ritual with my dear brother as we cleaned and cleared out our childhood home in Long Island (with the extraordinary on the ground, in the house support of Grandpa Dave & the love and conversational breaks offered by Lee).
Which wasn't just a home filled with frivolous objects, but a literal treasure chest, a reliquary, a mausoleum and museum of a time past, an unregistered and unrecognized General Motors historic site, for that was our dad’s passion and life—new old stock, classic American car parts—and film photography.
Parallel to this, I was navigating a divinely timed and precisely orchestrated intense and beautiful sensual and sexual connection with a powerful woman, unknowingly stepping into yet another high heat, high pressure alchemical container in service to the complete and total annihilation of any trace of self who sought comfort or escape from reality through Disneyland romance.
If my plate wasn’t full enough, these circumstances catalyzed a profound internal alchemical process, which showed up via the direct experience of preverbal/nonverbal states of consciousness, and the illumination of unintegrated fragments of self through the awareness of trauma contained in that developmental realm of consciousness. Requiring me to intensively study and learn to navigate and renegotiate development trauma (which like so much of the inner work is an ongoing process). Only now can I describe it in this way. During the weeks this awareness was coming online, I was confused as fuck and literally had no words to describe this facet of my experience, until I did.
What I experienced during the first three months of this year was a complete reorganization of my internal landscape—a system reboot, cleanse, and detox. A process and protocol which required every micro sliver of my deepest presence, attention, and willingness to remain curious.
Fortunately, I was surrounded by love and supported by family, friends, and healers.
I also took refuge in the dharma, by leaning as deep as I ever had into the core of my spiritual life—my ten-year meditation practice—practicing up to three times daily. My life had become meditation, and I was on a retreat to reality, staying warm by the heat of catharsis during the cold dreary winter days of NY.
Then there was the complex and highly nuanced journey to arrive at the decision, in February, that it was time to release my d.e.e.p.l.y cherished dreadlocks.
The 11pm, night-before-I-leave ceremony while on retreat at Will Rēzin's and Aurianna Joy's home. A ceremony to release the version of Ken that had died when my dad died. To honor the death of my greatest teacher. To symbolically consecrate this rebirth, by letting go of this form of self.
Will’s presence, Aurianna’s encouragement, Rumi and Gaia’s sweetness, Yaima's new album, and a scissor.
One final moment to notice, to feel, and to honor my relationship with each dread—and then snip.
The release of an entire means of orienting to the world and to unseen, but felt data, via this particular antenna system.
Followed by the most pleasurable ten minutes of my life—literally—the epiccccc scalp massage which followed the cutting of the last dread.
Followed by a two-week identity crisis of the highest caliber, making those of the past feel like a walk in the park.
Pressure and heat form the diamond, so the geologists say.
And yet amidst all of this, I had access to a space within myself of ease and peace, silence and stillness—joy and the simplicity of naked bliss. A place completely unaffected and untouched by time and circumstance. My sacred temple. My holiest of holies. The space containing the holy grail of pure awareness.
From this place, I was available for laughter. For beautiful and precious moments with family and friends, the joy of being together. For late-night fits of laughter and hilarity with my mom Sharon and her husband Thom. The gift and pleasure of entire cartons of Coconut Bliss. Massages. Float Tanks. Long walks in the Valley Stream State Park and on the Long Beach boardwalk. Salt and essential oil baths. Tantric explorations. Late-night drives around my old stomping ground. The innocent excitement of the budding of trees as winter became spring. Writing powerful content for Facebook at Starbucks, one of my places of peace. Adventuring around NYC, talking to strangers, wandering without plan, agenda, or destination. Showing up and serving, a handful of individuals, when and where asked of me, with a smile on my face and gratitude in my heart. Littering Long Island with Love—and smiles.
This is the highlight reel and covers up until April when I returned back to California. There’s an entire field of experience and awareness I simply do not have the language to communicate and so that too remains in the infinite. The realm of the shaman. What I haven't shared is all I haven't shared, which amongst actual story, and events, includes the ineffable details of healing which transcend expression. The ascension work, the grounding work, the release and remembrance work. The reprogramming of somatic circuitry. The collapsing of timelines. The dismantling of distortion. The breaking of spells. The shock and developmental trauma work. Salsa dancing with profoundly complex seen and unseen personal and collective dynamics. Engaging with individuals who embodied the entire spectrum of consciousness. Navigating ancestral entanglements and lineage issues with grace. Exposing and releasing attachment. The moment to moment blossoming of awareness and the upgrading of the software of the internal intuitive and energetic GPS system.
The integration. The endless integration. The Rest. The Relaxation.
The continuous journey, in real-time from the mind—and thought—to body, heart, and sensation. The unceasing movement from discursive thinking to somatic awareness. The destruction of wishful thinking.
Many months of death and rebirth, and a profound roto-rootering of the miles of the internal psychosomatic plumbing by the great purifier that death, loss, crisis, and crossroads can and often are. Resulting in a deeper and stronger connection to Self, Spirit, power, and truth.
A solidified connection to family and ancestors, and to my/our place and space of origin.
In short, through these rites of passage, initiations, and countless other shared and unshared ordinary—and extraordinary—ceremonial and non-ordinary experiences (and states of consciousness) I have awoken to my Self and continue to anchor into who and what I AM.
By way of descent. By dropping to my fucking hands and knees and embracing life. By learning how to be with discomfort—and all sensation for that matter.
I'm grateful for everything I've experienced—all of it— for every experience is and has medicine. I'm grateful for the life I’ve lived and the life I have yet to live.
I'm grateful for the infinite ways life is schooling me. I'm so grateful and feel blessed for my specific Divine lesson plan. This curriculum is intense, but I would never trade it. I asked for this—and for that, I am proud of myself. For only a lion would choose such a path.
I would not be who I am if not for all I've experienced.
I'm so grateful, so so grateful.
My heart is beating. I am alive and to live is to learn.
So, what do I, Ken, see, when I look into the eyes of mySelf?
Awareness aware of awareness.
The handsome man in this photo is aware, of life.
The grit and bliss of life.
The pleasure and pain.
The tears and the laughter.
The sorrow and joy.
The love and the loss.
I see infinity.
I see Ken.
Defined as one's range of knowledge or sight.
The ken in this Ken is infinite.
And he holds a drop of infinity in the medicine bag of his heart.
Here he is.
Here I am.
As life, with life.
In service to life.
❤ ❤ ❤
Thank you Bro:
I'm blessed to call you my brother from the same mother (and father hahah), and brother from the great mother. You are my greatest shamanic counterpart in this life and I am grateful to stand by your side. I am grateful to have your council in times of need. I’m grateful to receive your support by way of your extraordinary awareness and wisdom. I’m grateful to feel the depth of your immense love and care for me—the generosity of your heart. To experience life with you as my bro and best friend is a true honor and one of the greatest gifts I’m blessed to experience in this life. I’m grateful for the fun, the laughter, and the ridiculousness we get to share. I wish for everyone to experience your profound medicine, it’s of the highest order. You truly are a mountain of strength.
Thank you Will Rezin:
For your infinite ocean of love, the expertise of your support, your immense competence and skill, for assisting me to feel safe in this world, for your care, concern, and compassion, for the depth of connection you make yourself available for, your willingness to go against the grain of the collective, your guidance, wisdom, encouragement, mentorship, your HUGE heart, your tender masculinity, and your profoundly nourishing and juicy presence in my life. I love you, brother!
Thank you Mom & Thom:
Thank you, Mom and Thom, for your sweet love, your deep care, your seemingly limitless ability to listen and offer grounded feedback. Thom, for your joy in shooting the shit and your curiosity. Mom, your limitless love and for your ability to lighten the ‘vibes’. Most especially thank you both for your ‘no questions asked’ opening of your home and hearts in times of need, and for always making me feel welcome and at home. I cherish our late-night hangouts in the living room. Thank you for being there, day or night. I love you.
Thank you Grandpa Dave, Lee, and Nicolette:
Thank you to Dave, Lee, and Nicolette, for being there—for us and for our dad. For your willingness to witness and engage with suffering, strife, and struggle. Lee, for the immensity of your courage to engage with what most would turn from. Dave, for your grounded presence and your NY, gets shit done attitude—your presence was a saving grace. Nicolette, your smile, your love, your sweetness. Your hearts are deep, Lee, your Italian dinners are fucking epic, and being together is always a blast. Thank you for offering your hearts with a smile. I respect and honor each of you for your desire to be of service. Thank you for helping us through what was once my greatest fear. I love you.
To the beautiful woman in NY who danced with my heart and helped me to dissolve some critical distortions so I could awaken to Self. You know who you are 😛 Thank you for what you received and what you gave, for diving in and meeting me in the scorpionic depths of the psyche. For speaking and honoring your truth even when it was the last fucking thing I wanted to hear. I honor your depth, wisdom, and love born from your earthly journey. Thank you for your dedication to living authentically. You are a rare gem from the core of the earth. I love you.
Thank you to the Pellegrino family for opening your home to my brother and me, for your generosity, kindness, and love.
Thank you to the friends and family who remain unnamed, who were there for me when I needed and when I wanted. Thank you for your love. I love you.
Thank you Dad:
For the 34-year apprenticeship in compassion and unconditional love—the bodhisattva curriculum and codes. For teaching me the way of tenderness and gentleness. Thank you for teaching me to honor our ancestors. To honor the past, to turn around, to remember, to make space for—to honor tradition. Thank you for cherishing history, for your gift of storytelling, and for sharing so vividly, with words and photo the richness of life you were aware of. Thank you for reminding me, thousands of times of how amazing of a man I am. Thank you for seeing me, for seeing my gifts, for encouraging and supporting me to express myself creatively and intellectually. Thank you for demonstrating a level of strength, faith, trust, and fervent devotion to a degree that was on par with the greatest spiritual masters—cultivated in the container of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual suffering and torment few, but myself and bro may ever understand, to the degree we can. Only a master would choose such a path and curriculum. I honor you for the master you were and are. I honor your insanity—and your genius. Thank you for helping to sculpt me into a man of the highest caliber of integrity and purity of heart. Thank you for demonstrating and teaching me self-respect and dignity. Thank you for fully embodying passion. Thank you for training and preparing me years prior to your death, for your death—for death and loss. Thank you for teaching me about acceptance and surrender. Thank you for your radical uncompromising authenticity. Thank you for encoding me to live from the heart. Thank you for teaching me to notice, love, and attend to the elderly. Thank you for your unwavering willingness and desire to be in the thick of the human experience. Thank you for your deep belly laughs, giggle fits, and childlike curiosity and charm. Thank you for honoring me with your poetic praise. Thank you for your smile. I see you, dad, with clarity, all the gore, and all your glory. Thank you for checking my blood as a kid. Thank you for being my dad. I love you so much.
Thank you Great Spirit.
Thank you Life.
Thank you, Ken.
For your discipline, commitment, and devotion to metamorphosis— and to life.
For choosing to be right here, right now.
We as your ancestors are proud of who you, who you’ve become, and who you’re becoming.
We see you.
I see you.
I see me.
We love you.
I love you.
All this to say, I cut my dreads.
So be it. So it is. It is done. Ashe.
In Lak'ech Ala K'in
❤ ❤ ❤
TO YOU MY DEAR READER,
If you made it to this point, I honor you, truly. Before returning to business as usual, I invite you to close your eyes and be with what is alive in you, at this moment. Soak yourself in this medicine of the heart. Be with your heart. Be with what you're feeling. Close your eyes, rest here, notice, and breath.
Photo Credit: thank you to my brother Eric Senchuk for capturing this shot
Photo Location: SACRED Sons Convergence II at Liberty Arising Healing & Retreat Center
You can see the original Facebook post here.