Shamandome @theBurn 2016

It’s been almost two months since I returned from my first Burning Man experience, and yet still I wake up thinking, You’ve just GOT to blog about that amazing experience at Shamandome!  OK, so here it goes:  After a long night out on the playa riding Puff the Magic Dragon with friends and hearing music from my childhood, I seriously felt as if I was in a dream.  I kept looking around, like am I in the Truman Show where everything is master planned for my enjoyment?  Well, Yes, actually, I know now that it is.  Fast forward, to seeing the sunrise at Radio Heart which is the most loudest music gathering in the middle of the morning I’ve ever experienced and it was epic.  There were people I had never seen before.  It was for the true burners if you asked me.  And again, I am loving this experience and feeling like a scout ant surveying the scene from every angle to know more about what makes this place tick.  Why would 80 thousand people work so hard and buy tickets to be here for this?  It’s the magic.  Pure and simple.  That’s the reason I came.  I wanted to witness it for real.  Not the little movies or blogs, but the real deal.  And let me tell you, nothing comes even close.  I watched and read everything possible and even rode with a burner who trained me on the way there about everything.  What to expect, what to do in certain situations, how to navigate the place.  But getting there and doing it, was a whole other experience I will never forget.  I wanted to witness a true community of gifting.  Not bartering, no way.  Really gifting from serious people who wanted to be there, and took time to plan ahead and get there to share their gifts.  It was truly magical.  I’d think of how I really wanted ice cream and within moments someone would walk into camp and say, Do yall like ice cream?  Because I can bring some over.  And I’d say, but do you have chocolate, and he said, Yes, I’ve got chocolate sauce.  YES! I got what I wished for, and every single time.  Except for some things, but they are on their way.

It was Saturday morning, and a group of us got back to camp by 9:30am, after walking to find our bikes from all the party hopping. I was starting to feel my feet, and they hurt.  But as soon as I got to my tent, I set my alarm for 64 minutes so that I could get up, change clothes, and head to Shamandome where I’d been invited to support a group healing.  And I felt so blessed to even get the invitation, that I wasn’t going to sleep through it.  So, 64 minutes later, I got up, and took off on my bike for Shamandome.

I got there and I was one of the first bikes to park outside the tents.  I went in and found the tent and while two others were talking, I finally ended up lying back and putting my hat over my face for a short snooze, when a guy comes in without a shirt, and looking around at us says, I’m starting a sound healing in the smaller tent and you’re all invited.  OK, I thought to myself, until he came up to me, and with his tanned skin and blue eyes, he looked at me and said, You would really enjoy this, Why don’t you join me, before he exits the tent.

I’m thinking, Well OK then, let’s go.  I head out to find him and a small quant group having already gathered in a small teepee tent and being the last one in, I took the last seat to his right towards the front, but next to another lady who seemed to be a part of the camp.  Shamandome workshop offerings were all about find your spirit animal and other offerings.  The day before I had ended up there with a new friend and participated in the workshop and was not surprised to find that my spirit animal is a Large White Crane.  Which I’d already known for some time, but it was fun to witness my partner in the exercise tell me again.  Plus, then when we each had a questions and meditated on answers for each other, my question was, Where am I going to live? Because I just knew that my road trip had to pause somewhere.  I couldn’t keep going from friend to friend to house sitting to house sitting forever!  So, when my new friend says, that all she could see where white butterflies flying out and out and out and out and that they never stopped coming out that she gave up asking over and over, but where is she going to live.  That’s when I knew it was just another journey after journey.  Sacred journeys of the white butterflies that always showed up when I was in a light energetic time warp with tears gently streaming down my eyes.  I smiled.  Yep, that’s me.  White Crane moving slowly and graciously in motion, watching from the side of a pond everything happening and endless amounts of white butterfly journeys.  So, being here in this small teepeee for a Sound healing with this beautiful man was exactly where I knew I needed to be.  I could feel it.

Quickly and succinctly he says, I spent time with indigenous people in south america, and this is a sacred snuff ground up from a local berry used in ceremony.  He shows us this pipe that is bent down and up as he says, you will need to look into my eyes as I initiate you before blowing the snuff up your left nostril to connect your crown chakra to christ consciousness before  blowing the snuff into your right nostril which will ground you. Then, I was already in a meditative state as my mind was tired and I was open to new experiences.  It was my seventh day on the playa and all the old programming had already ceased for the magic to happen, which really ramped up on Wednesday.  But now, we are all seated in lotus and in between closing my eyes, i was watching as he started with two people to his left.  Soon enough he was in front of me, and I loved looking into his eyes.  By now, I am a bit nervous and excited but I am not moving.  I am here, this is what Burning Man is all about, just be Sandy, but let it be.  Then, it happened.  He is breathing with me, and then poof! the snuff is up my left nostril so quickly and I could feel the entire left hemisphere of my brain activated and alive, pulsing all at once.  And my eyes looked away and opened up instantly, like I was stunned.  Immediately I could feel my rings were getting tight as I looked down and my fingers were swollen.  I was resonating with my own beat vibrating like a metronome side to side and then forward and backward.  I was moving in teeny little circles that felt like massive circles moving my entire body, until it happened and I knew it was another gateway to enlightenment.  My circles immediately reversed themselves.  This has only happened one other time for me and it was after witnessing December 21, 2012 at Chichen Itza when everything was in alignment and I had a spiritual experience while seated in lotus position in front of the main Rothko paining at the Menil Chapel in Houston days after we returned from Mexico.  But this time it was just a profound and just as mysterious.  I wasn’t sure what was happening.  All I knew was that this time I could not move.  I could feel my nose running and I wondered where I could find a kleenex.  But it was in my backpack which was behind me.  Shit! How am I ever going to get that? As I continued to reverberate and the guy has his hand on my knee because he is still in my space right there with me watching me, when he looks around and whispers, I can come back for the right nostril.  When I move my hand to his, motioning to wait, and then he says, I’ll give you a smaller portion this time.  And he does.  I am trying to hold still as we are connecting visiually, and breathing when he puffs the second portion up my right nose and that’s when I experienced grounding like never never ever before.  And I teach students how to ground, but nothing had or has ever come close to this feeling of truly connecting to the ground, to the grid, to the planet.  Honestly, I felt my hips disappear.  Completely gone, I was conscious from the waist up.  That was it and the top half was vibrating with the pulsing of the planet anyway.  But now, I am totally and completely connected to the void.  And it felt super fantastical.  By now, I am a total spec of consciousness looking down at myself going, YEAH! SANDY!  You GO Girl!  It’s HAPPENING!  You are truly connecting to the ground and the grid of life and you can do anything from that space.  You only thought you were grounding before, but this, wow, this takes the cake!

Remember, this is all in my head and from the spec perspective above me.  From the outside, I am like a weeble wobble silently rotating with the planet, puffy faced I’m sure, tears gently running down my face, eyes wide open, and I don’t even remember blinking.  I’d close my eyes and could feel the top half and the bottom half as I also started breathing faster and even let our a slight moan I think, but no one else noticed.  Everyone was in their own experience.  Except for the lady next to me.  She turned away from me a bit, which was perfect because she was not having the same experience I was, that’s for sure.

Then, suddenly I was shocked to find music reverberating through the teepee and shocked to open my eyes and find the guy in front of my again holding a bowl he was playing about an inch from my heart.  I tried to look down and closed my eyes as the sound wave grew bigger and bigger and I don’t remember if it was before this or after, but I could specifically feel the difference between both halves of my body literally clicked into place together.  That’s when I knew that I was at Burning Man just for this one major experience of a lifetime.  I would have never signed up for this if I had read about it or was invited.  No way, but now that I was here and drawn in and in the middle of it, I knew deep in my heart of hearts that this is what I had come for.  The timing was perfect.  I couldn’t over think it, or be distracted.  No way.  I was there.  I was solid.  It was happening, no matter how scarey it looked from the outside.  And I was better for it.

By now he has been playing the bowls on everyone’s heart and even over their head since I was seated with about say twelve other people and as I opened my eyes every now and then, I could see the others and they were all slumped over motionless or laying back on the ground, which looked great to me.  But how can I do that?  I’d have to turn around or move and I still needed a tissue for my nose.  Time must have sped up, because soon others were coming in and somehow I dragged myself to the ground and then back up to get my things and leave.  I really wasn’t sure how I was going to actually ride my bike back to my camp.  When I exited Shamandome, I could barely get to my bike since there were about a hundred or so in between me and my bike! I had to pick it up and walk out to the road with my bike.  Put on my shades.  And started riding slowly.  I wasn’t even a block away when two guys are in the road shouting, Champagne!  Champagne Lounge!

Again, I am looking around, is this for real?  Thinking to myself, Oh, Holy Jesus, Thank You, I need some bubbles and a place to chill for a bit.  I pulled over, locked up my bike and went in.  Standing in line, I get my backpack and remember that I lost my cup last night when I had to pee in it while riding Puff the Magic Dragon… Shit!  Looking around everyone looks clean?  WTF.  Oh, yeah, I heard about this.  The people who show up for the weekend and then leave.  Whatever.  I’ve been here for a week.  I’m at the front of the line, when the pourer is looking at me search my bag yet again for anything to pour some champagne into, when another lady says, I think we have a glass leftover.  She is looking around and finds a plastic champagne glass and then finds the container of disinfectant wipes and just starts cleaning the glass for me.  I look at her with thankfulness and bless her for the cup.  Then, I get my own glass of champagne and I couldn’t be anymore happyer.  Seriously.  The lounge is covered and full of seats and even a DJ as I take a single seat and somehow relax with my used plastic champagne cup all to  myself.  Never. Happyer.

I notice all the beautiful clean people with the same hammered copper mug most likely from Williams Sonoma and it makes me laugh.  If only I knew where my pee cup was, I would have used it for champagne!  But alas, it was back in my tent.  And now I have a real champagne glass even though it’s plastic.  And I hung it off of the back of my backpack and rode home feeling super fantastical.  I knew that I was complete.  I was hungry and tired, but I was ecstatic at my journey from start to finish.  The universe had opened up and I’d arrived prepared and ready to experience my first burn, but this was the cherry on top.  When I got back to camp, I told everyone about my experience when one of my friends says, that sounds like a Yopo Ceremony.  I thought, huh? And pulled out my phone to google it.  I was worried for a second about what had just happened when Google says, that it’s the grandfather ceremony to Ayahuasca which is considered the grandmother medicine and that it was another form of DMT.  Perfect, now I’ve experienced them both and my body needed them to heal and expand my consciousness.

Without proper grounding you can not and will not, not matter what you think, you can’t make anything happen.  Manifesting is a mess without grounding.  Just like the trees, you can’t be any taller than how deep your roots have extended.  It’s a law.  No way around it.  While seated in a circle outside my tent in Yoni Village, Dr. Awkward returns from giving a workshop on Plant Medicines and seated across from me says, since we are all together, I think I’ll give the talk again for you all.  He explained the difference between plant medicines and which supplements to take at what time before during and after to optimize the journey.  Talk about perfect.  It all made sense.  Then, he handed me a handful of supplements and told me to take them all at once.  Gulp, they are all gone and within minutes he was right on the money, because it was again like the easy-bake oven, I know immediately when something is working and DING! I automatically felt better, less tired, more alert, what was that?  He gave us all the list which included some items I didn’t have at home, but now I do.  I feel amazing and ever since I returned from the burn I’ve been a manifesting mamma.  In less than a month upon my return back to the default world, I got my web site cleaned up after years of trying, received cleints for big energy work to help them shift into a happyer life, and then FB fairies offered me a house and roommates within minutes of each other and I moved to Telluride, Colorado where I will continue to inspire others through teaching spin and kundalini classes, offering healing sessions through the Spa and even support the spa boutique at a private club.  The name given to me while at the burn was Sparkle Sponge since I really do want to enjoy and soak up as many experiences as possible and so now I go by Sandy Sparkles.  You can schedule a session with me and I will support your own personal growth and healing utilizing Theta Healing, EFT and even Channeling your guides to help you through transformational journeys opening up your own life to what is truly possible.  Thank you.

Please Support My Scholarship to Attend the Breast Cancer in Young Women International Conference

Today is a victorious day, because today I received my own address for the first time since I drove out of Austin on July 15th for my very first road trip.  I packed everything I wanted in my car, including my two dogs Zoe and Giselle, and headed towards Colorado. I’m excited to report that for the past three months I’ve been house sitting for friends, supporting so many clients and friends on their journey, and even landed in Telluride on Tuesday and will start working at the Spa at the Peaks starting November 18th, which allows my participation in the scholarship awarded to attend the upcoming conference, but I need your help!

Earlier in the year, I had applied to receive a $1,000 scholarship to attend the 3rd Annual Breast Cancer in Young Women International Conference in honor of Amber Gillespie and all the beautiful advocates I’ve known over the years who are no longer with us.  I was thrilled when I was notified that I had won one of a few scholarships to attend the conference that is being held in Lugano, Switzerland.  This conference is hosted by the European School of Oncology, or ESO and The European Society for Medical Oncology or ESMO.  The only caveat for the scholarship is that I must pay for all of my expenses upfront to attend the conference and then I will receive the scholarship funding once I’ve returned.  This would be my first trip to this conference and I am thrilled for numerous reasons to attend including:

  1. The opportunity to witness, discuss and bring back to the states information and highlights from presentations based upon scientific research covering topics such as Familial and hereditary breast cancer, Tumor biology, logo-regional therapy, Fertility and pregnancy, Survivorship and quality of life issues, and Advanced breast cancer.
  2. Because I spent a year living in Geneva, Switzerland before moving back to Houston to be later diagnosed with breast cancer as a young woman myself.  You see, the attitude towards breast cancer has changed considerably since I was first diagnosed in 2009 and some of my friends from Europe thought they would never see me again.  Not because I couldn’t fly to Switzerland, but because the cancer would take my life.  Little did everyone know that I was sent back to Texas during a divorce for a reason, and that was to survive and thrive after breast cancer under the guidance of Dr. Yen from North Cypress Cancer Center and then to Dr. Osborne and the amazing staff at Baylor College of Medicine.
  3. The opportunity to return to Switzerland to participate in the Patient Advocate Sessions and workshops chaired by our very own Young Survival Coalition President, J. Merschdorf seemed amazing since I’ve been a State Leader volunteer hosting socials and support groups for survivors on behalf of YSC ever since I was diagnosed.

Yet, my journey that started on July 15th has been an amazing ride.  Kind of like the trip most young people take between High School and College or College and Grad School kind of big.  Not to mention that I am also applying for Grad School.  So as I confirmed my new address and chose to use funds to help secure a rental property with the help of three roommates, I am now unable to attend the Conference and would like to ask for your support to get there on behalf of breast cancer survivors and patient advocates everywhere.  I say this because being a patient advocate is a volunteer job that I take very seriously.  For years, I’ve attended conferences and symposia all over the country as a scholared advocate to learn, network and promote the new opportunities in survivorship that include happyness and even road trips to find a heart centered community.  Raising money for YSC seems easier than this request, but now it’s about my own development so that I can continue sharing and disseminating the information that is so vital so those that are newly diagnosed.

No matter where I go, or what I do, it’s about sharing information and educating those about taking care of themselves to prevent future diagnoses caused by undue stress.  It’s the silent killer.  If you are going through a divorce, death in the family, relocation or any other kind of emotional catastrophic incident then please know that you are not alone.  I’ve been through all of the above at once, and then was diagnosed with breast cancer and have flipped the script on my story to one of thriver and over-comer to become a Global Patient Advocate.

There are many ways to support my journey to the 3rd Annual Breast Cancer in Young Women International Conference coming up on November 10-12 in Lugano, Switzerland:

  1. First and foremost is securing a flight to Zurich from IAH allowing my attendance to the entire Conference.  If you have frequent flyer miles through an airline that flies to Zurich, then I would be most grateful to hear from you.  Or if you’d like to support the purchase of a ticket, then I could make the reservations in advance so that it could be purchased.  As of today, flights range from $1,153 to $1529 for roundtrip airfare leaving on Monday, November 7th and returning on Monday November 14th and I am flexible on the dates. Expedia reports that the airfare will rise 18% over the next 4 days.
  2. Second, I’d need financial support to cover the travel expenses including the train from Zurich to Lugano, and three nights stay at the hotel during the conference.  The train trip is $98 each way Economy.  Booking a hotel in Lugano during the conference is around $251 per night and doesn’t include taxes.
  3. Good News is that the registration for the conference itself has already been waived since I am a scholarship recipient.  I can get a ride to and from the airport, and pack light.  Plus, a good friend in Geneva has volunteered to be my host for any time before or after the conference, which would allow time to share the message of hope and happyness to friends and those at the American International Women’s Club in Geneva, plus also a visit to the United Nations.

Please make a donation to support this valuable experience for me to attend the Conference as a scholar recipient so that together we can continue to spread the message of hope to not only those newly diagnosed in the states but those around the world that there are numerous stories of hope and happyness after being diagnosed with Stage III Breast Cancer.  If I do not receive any support within the next four days, then I will have to miss this incredible experience.  Please make a donation of any kind before Halloween.

Please contact me and/or send funds via apps including CASH by Square to 713-232-9796 or via VENMO to @SandySparkleCastillo.  Thank you!

Cancer Advocate Advantage

I think I’ve always been a Global Patient Advocate, now that I think about it.  Seriously, I’ve been teaching group exercise since high school and got really used to talking people into trying something new, like step aerobics, or slide or even spinning which is the stationary form of cycling.  It’s always been totally fun for me to draw in a new class of students and then take them through a beginner class teaching them how to do it and how to do it safely and then of course, how to have fun doing it!  That’s just me.  That’s the story of my life, as my dad would say.

So when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, I continued to share information and my experience with my community via social media with the intention to inform and educate others so that they wouldn’t be as surprised as I was!  I for one, almost never did my own self breast exam, much less monthly.  And I didn’t know of any family history of cancer.  Plus, I was a yoga teaching, vegetarian at the time I was diagnosed so I really didn’t believe the doctors.

Fast forward to seven years later, and I’ve continued to find new and valuable experiences in advocacy that I kept sharing with my inner circle of friends.  And when it comes to young breast cancer survivors, the circle is still super teeny.  Yet, I kept blogging and sharing great things through Facebook and Twitter until my dear friend and advocate soul sister passed away of metastatic breast cancer at the age of thirty in 2015.  We both went to Texas A&M, we both had two dogs, and we both even had the same birthday, but not the same birth year.  Actually, she was born when I turned sixteen and started teaching aerobics in 1985.

Today she is not with us, and I am going into my thirty-first year of teaching group exercise, but now I specialize in Special Populations including cancer survivors, newly diagnosed, Alzheimer’s Caregivers, and my favorite form of teaching is through group retreats.  I remember when Amber got just as excited as I did at the idea of advocating in DC, Austin and even rode 200 miles along the PCH1 for the Young Survival Coalition.  I loved Amber and miss her so much.  But now she is kicking me in the tukus to share the love and grow my sphere of influence to include Austin and beyond.

With that said, I am continuing the Cancer Advocate Advantage as an email newsletter to all those that keep asking me to remind them when and how to get in to a certain advocacy program.  It’s time to get more survivors inspired to become advocates for not only their own story, but all those stories that aren’t here anymore.  This is why I continue to blog and share and tweet and post because of so many that can’t be here today, including Amber Gillespie, Judy Gulgun, JoAnna Myers, and Rachel Midgett among others.  If you’d like to join the newsletter please send a message to sandymcastillo@gmail.com and use the word CAA in the subject line.  And if there is something in particular that you’d like to know about, then by all means ask.  I plan to share my own schedule of dates, application guidance and can even offer a recommendation if needed.  Once you know then you know better.  In one year alone, I won so many scholarships that I spent every single month at the airport to attend a conference, meet the doctors, meet other advocates from around the world, shared ideas, got inspired, learned new things and then came home to share the details with my community.

Advocates Inspire others to Speak up about their Health!