All posts by larken

What Would Wilderness Do?

Altaer Education is a collective of artists, teachers, and wildlife educators who recognize Nature as our Master Teacher and lead somatic/movement expeditions–in our urban communities and out in the powerful Nature spots– to listen and learn the language of our wilderness. Our workshops and retreats balance our inner relations with our outer landscapes (and visa versa).  These explorations encourage our expansion into the most bold, authentic, and courageous versions of ourselves.

We are activists, advocates, and co-creators for the “Divine Feminine Voice”  through body-centered arts/somatic therapies and cross-cultural education. We see the vision of uniting the continent of the Americas by supporting the vibrancy of our cultures through exchange and artistic residencies throughout South, Central, and North America.  Wherever we are, we take time to unplug from the virtual, digital stress system and plug-into the Mother Nature’s complex technology and wisdom. In breaking through the stifling concrete of modern society, we break through to new earth, fertile relations, grounded actions. We remember our indigenous roots and mend our relations to our “homes” of the body, community, and Earth.






Crucial Information for All Mothers.

In celebration of Mother’s Day, (which is in exactly 1 week) Altaer Education will host informational blog posts  about practical ways to limit our exposure to harmful ingredients found in everyday use products.

If you are an expecting Mother. ie: if you are a Woman who is currently pregnant or would like to someday have a child–this information is particularly relevant to you. The chemicals found in our cosmetics, which do not need to be listed often contain yucky stuff that can cause cancer, brain damage and seep into the umbilical cord. They can mess with our hormones and make us feel sick.  Please share this post with everyone who needs this information. This is serious.  The reason you haven’t heard this before is because companies do not want you to know. The cosmetic industry is a multi-billion dollar enterprise and there are ZERO regulations on anything that is sold as cosmetics. Even if the packaging says it’s safe-there is no way to tell. The only way to tell is to know and trust the people who make your cosmetics. Or make them yourself.

A popular Mother’s Day Gift is perfume. Fragrance is one of the easiest ingredients to spot on a lablel.  When you see the word “fragrance” you know that a company has something to hide. Let’s stop investing in companies who try to sell us beauty in containers filled with chemicals. Let’s choose healthier, safer alternatives from sources that we trust. I know, use, and highly recommend: Welstar Organics, Sappho Cosmetics and Garden of ONE.

All natural, handmade, organic, uplifting. Shifting the paradigm this Mother’s Day.  Garden of ONE has put together 3 awesome Mother’s Day Specials for every budget.  Click here to view, one for her and one for you: $20-two for one Vibrational Essences!

More on Fragrance From the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics Website: 

What’s that smell? Unfortunately, there’s no way to know. Fragrance is considered a trade secret, so companies don’t have to tell us what’s in it – often dozens or even hundreds of synthetic chemical compounds.

Almost half the products in Skin Deep contain the generic term “fragrance,” from shampoos and deodorants to lotions and shaving creams. Even “unscented” products may contain masking fragrances, which are chemicals used to cover up the odor of other chemicals.

What’s Really in the Bottle?

Some hidden hazards that may be lurking in products that contain synthetic fragrance include:

Allergens and sensitizers: One in every 50 people may suffer immune system damage from fragrance and become sensitized, according to the EU’s Scientific Committee on Cosmetic Products and Non-food Products. Once sensitized to an ingredient, a person can remain so for a lifetime, enduring allergic reactions with every subsequent exposure. Fragrances are considered to be among the top five known allergens and are known to both cause and trigger asthma attacks. Product tests conducted by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics in 2010 revealed an average of 10 sensitizers in each fragrance tested.

Phthalates: This class of chemicals has been linked to hormone disruption, which can affect development and fertility. Although some phthalates are being phased out of cosmetics under consumer pressure, diethyl phthalate (DEP) is still used in many products, including fragrance. In 2010, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found DEP in 12 of 17 fragrance products tested for our report, “Not So Sexy.” Product tests conducted by Consumer Reports ShopSmart magazine in January 2007 found the phthalates DEP and DEHP (which is banned in Europe) in each of eight popular perfumes tested. DEP is a ubiquitous pollutant of the human body, found in 97 percent of Americans tested by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recent epidemiological studies have associated DEP with a range of health problems, including sperm damage in men. Most fragrances don’t list phthalates on the label, but hide them under the term, “fragrance.”

Neurotoxins: As far back as 1986, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences identified fragrance ingredients as one of six categories of neurotoxins (chemicals that are toxic to the brain) that should be thoroughly investigated for impacts on human health. However, this research has not been demanded or funded. The FDA has taken no action on a petition submitted to the agency in 1999 requesting fragrance components to be listed on labels.

Synthetic musks: A 2009 study of Austrian college students found that those who used the most perfume and scented lotion also had the highest levels of synthetic musks, including Galaxolide and Tonalide, in their blood. Research by the Environmental Working Group has even found synthetic musks in the umbilical cord blood of newborn U.S. infants. Preliminary research suggests that musks may disrupt hormones. Both Galaxolide and Tonalide can bind to and stimulate human estrogen receptors and have been shown to affect androgen and progesterone receptors. Tonalide has also been reported to increase the proliferation of estrogen-responsive human breast cancer cells. These musks have an environmental impact – they have been found to be toxic to aquatic life in numerous studies and can accumulate in the food chain.

What You Can Do

  1. Choose products with no added fragrance: Use the Skin Deep advanced search to find products that do not include fragrance. Read ingredient labels, because even products advertised as “fragrance-free” may contain a masking fragrance.
  2. Less is better: If you are very attached to your fragrance, consider eliminating other fragranced products from your routine, and using fragrance less often.
  3. Help pass smarter, health-protective laws: Sign our petition to Congress to voice your support! Buying safer, fragrance-free products is a great start, but we can’t just shop our way out of this problem. In order for safer products to be widely available and affordable for everyone, we must pass laws that shift the entire industry to non-toxic ingredients and safer production.
  4. Sign on to our letter to the celebrities whose fragrances we tested – Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, Halle Berry and Miley Cyrus – and ask them to show their true leadership by taking a stand against toxic chemicals in personal care products, beginning with their own fragrance lines. You can also contact other cosmetics companies to ask them to disclose their fragrance ingredients. We’ve put together talking points to get you started.
  5. Support companies that fully disclose ingredients in their products.

There are alternatives and I am happy to share that Garden of ONE has special Mother’s Day Packages for every budget with all natural, handmade ingredients-most of which are grown right on the farm in Upstate New York.  Their website:  Chemicals cause health problems. Natural ingredients induce healing.  Remember Beauty is Natural! Support local beauty. Celebrate your Mom. Nourish your Cells. Occupy Beauty!

check out this awesome project

My ARTner Laura Lee Gulledge met this fantastic Lutheran pastor, Ben McKelahan, who uses collaborative art and social participation games to create loving relationships in Brooklyn (or wherever he’s invited to do so).

Check out his website:

I got a message today from ARTner Brynn Ronning, who is creating an artist residency program at the Jail House in Buena Vista, Colorado. I’d love to bring my pARTicipation and spiritual practice pARTners together at the Jailhouse to dream, sew, dance, pray, sing and meld in an ART church for a month.



Occupation of the Body Radio Show with Thea Blair

This is an interview with Thea Blair, a Certified Massage Therapist, a Certified Pediatric Massage Therapist, and a Waldorf teacher, as well as a mother of two children. Her son is 16 and her daughter is 9. She lives with them and her ex-husband in a small intentional community and farm in Nevada City, California.


Occupation of the Body Radio with Thea Blair by SongbirdRadio

Listen: Occupation of the Body with Peer Massage Educator, Thea Blair by 365songbird

Written Transcript Below.

“I am passionate about the healing benefits of touch. It started with my experiences with the children in my home kindergarten. I was amazed at how simple touch, either comforting or playful, worked like magic to transform aggressive and anti-social behavior into calm and friendly willingness to play.

Later, after my massage trainings, I discovered that I am gifted in helping parents and teachers achieve greater connection and collaboration with their children. My own children are the “guinea pigs”! Because of my training and experience as a Waldorf teacher I am able to create simple massage routines in imaginative ways that are fun and easy to do.
My work extends to Personal Consultation. Its all about connection and learning to live to our full potential. With children its about helping them live to their full potential. The sense of touch is integral in this process.”


You call yourself a Touch Educator. How did this journey begin and what is your mission?

My mission is to bring awareness of the importance of nurturing human to human contact in healthy human development and in the evolution of empathic and enlightened human culture, because touch is our primary language of acceptance and belonging, safety and security. Nurturing touch, or touch-with-presence is a physical, tangible form of love.

What is the significance of touch for an evolution towards greater compassion?

Well, this comes straight form Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf schools: In his view, touch is the first and over-arching sense, culminating in a perception of the sovereign being of another. Namaste, if you will. I call it Empathy, or the capacity to perceive self and other simultaneously. If you think about it, thats what touch is on a physical level – a simultaneous perception of self and other. When this is received, especially at developmentally important moments, it translates into the social sense of mutuality.

What role does the sense of touch play in personal development?

I became aware of the significance of the sense of touch to the quest for self-knowledge when I was in massage training. Suddenly all of my spiritual, emotional and intellectual strivings since adolescence began to integrate! It was a very exciting moment when I realized that I had not been “in my body” for years.

My first clue was a couple of years before this when I was going through a dark night of the soul. Once, in the midst of my deep despair, I had a flash back of being an infant and crying out and no one came. The ensuing panic and terror sensation in my body was almost more than I could bear.

My second clue was when I became aware of the lack of nurturing touch in my marriage; in my childhood; in the
culture. How normal this was and how inhibited I felt about touching. (This is what I mean when I refer to a “touch barrier”.)

I began to do a lot of research and read that others, such as James Prescott, discovered that touch deprivation leads to violence. I found, through my own introspection, my personal research, that this was so. Furthermore, I have discerned that if violence is not “acted out” it is “acted in”. I don’t know if anyone else is saying this. Now, I had the answer as to why I had feelings of self-loathing, feelings like I had done something terribly wrong and voices in my head berating me for not being enough”.

Humans are social mammals and as such, touch is our primary language of acceptance and belonging. When a social mammal perceives itself to be outside of the group, either left behind or banished, this is extremely stressful and the brain goes into the survival mode of fight, flee, or freeze. The Hormone that stimulates this is Cortisol. With Cortisol everyone and everything is seen as potential enemy. Now, Cortisol lives in a balance with another hormone and that is Oxytocin. Oxytocin is known as the bonding hormone, because it was discovered in infants and mamas when they are forming attachment. Nurturing touch stimulates the secretion of Oxytocin, which views everyone and everything as a potential friend. This is why I refer to this duo as the “Yin and Yang of Survival” and why I believe that touch and Oxytocin will lead us to an Empathic Civilization.

Is your work primarily with parents and children? Do you work with couples? What is the nature of your Personal Consultation service?

Educating others, especially parents, about what it is that infants and children need is part and parcel of what I do, because the first thing they need is touch.

I offer a service for coupes that I call Couple’s Massage Personal Training. wherein I teach them to give each other a massage made-to-order. It is a lot of fun for everyone!

My Personal Consultations always focus on what is right about a situation. What is the wisdom that is trying to be revealed through certain behaviors.

What poses the greatest challenge to this work?

I would say, all things considered, that denial is the greatest challenge I face when bringing an awareness of healthy touch to adults. Because touch deprivation in infancy is traumatic and because it is the nature of the brain to numb out painful experiences; because touch is portrayed as violent or sexual in the media, most people just don’t get what I am about until they hear my presentation and experience Peer Massage for themselves. So I face a challenge in being invited to speak. But once I do, my work is always received with enthusiasm and gratitude.


Tell us about your work with children and massage:
How did you come to do this work?

For fourteen years I held a Waldorf inspired pre-school in my home for ages 2 through 6. In my last year of teaching I became acutely aware of the significance of touch, either comforting or playful, in resolving children’s difficulties whether between two children or a disturbance they brought with them from home. This coincided with my own awareness of the lack of touch in my marriage, the lack of touch in my childhood, the lack of touch in my culture.

I stopped working with children to process a divorce. I enrolled in a massage training, because it was something I always wanted to do. One of my fellow students told me about massage in the classroom and zoom! I had another way to contribute to my life purpose of supporting healthy childhoods!

How do you bring it to children?

All the routines on my DVD developed spontaneously with my pre-school children or with my own children. My daughter is 9 and my son is 16. During my massage training I practiced on them and was amazed at the immediate change in attitude and behavior it effected! This fueled my fervor to bring awareness of healthy touch to parents and teachers.
I give talks and teach workshops. I visit classrooms. I work one-on-one with parents and their children, teaching the parents how to massage their child.

Why is touch so important?

Touch is our first sense to develop. It is our primary language of acceptance and belonging, safety and security. We need touch our whole lives, but some times more that others. Most people are aware that infants need touch, but are not aware that touch deprivation in infancy is trauma and has an affect on how the brain develops.
Touch is also important at adolescence, which I think of as the second emergence, a very stressful time.
To understand the importance of touch it is helpful to understand that when we are stressed the adrenal gland secretes Cortisol which stimulates the Fight, Flight, or Freeze response. This causes blood to be diverted from the digestion, the immune system and the forebrain (the place that makes creative thinking possible) and shunts it into the large muscles of the arms (to Fight) or the legs (to Flee).
Nature is wise. Sometimes we really need this response to get us out of immediate danger. At all other times it is most advantageous for our survival to collaborate, to think rationally and creatively. There is a hormone which stimulates this, too, and it’s called Oxytocin. Oxytocin is known as the bonding hormone, the love hormone, the friendship hormone, the community hormone. It was initially discovered during parturition: it stimulates contractions (babies first massage!), flow of milk, and bonding. It is secreted by the pituitary gland and when it floods the blood stream it is like a sigh: the breathing slows, normal digestive and immune function resume, relaxation occurs; everyone and everything is seen as a potential friend.
What brings on the Oxytocin? Connection. Any kind gesture, any attempt to understand another, any way we share a common purpose, will bring on the Oxytocin. By far the most significant contributor to the secretion of this “peace hormone” is our primary language of mutuality: Touch. That is why a hug is so comforting.

How can it help in the classroom?

In the classroom it is called Peer Massage and is conducted student to student with the teacher telling a story and overseeing the activity. It helps the children be calm, focused, and friendly. It dissolves cliques, reduces bullying, increases social inclusion. In addition to all of this, it establishes a respect for physical boundaries and empowers the children in ways to get their needs for touch met in non-sexual ways.

How is it received?

From my experience in Waldorf schools the children of Kindergarten age and younger receive nurturing touch from their teachers and then share it with their friends and family through imitation. I bring Peer Massage to the grades and high school. I have found that up until 6th grade the children need very little explanation. Beginning with 6th grade I encounter gender-embarrassment, yet they do not want to hear much explanation. They definitely do not want to hear the word “sex”, yet they are responding to the messages they get from our culture about touch and sex. By high school they have calmed down quite a bit and can engage in a conversation about how touch is depicted in the media. The challenge in high school is that the social boundaries are more established and some of the youth identify themselves as outsiders – they have given up on trying to belong – and will opt out of the activity, not giving it a chance to work.
At the end of every session I ask, “How was that for you?” I have never had a negative response. Usually they say, “Relaxing”, or “Peaceful”. A few 6th graders once said, “This was the best day of my life!”
My greatest challenge is that, until parents and teachers and school administrators hear my presentation and experience the peer massage for themselves, they are skeptical or even uninterested, because the value of healthy touch is not a reality for them. And I can empathize! But once they receive my presentation they are always enthusiastic. One 8th grade teacher said that it wasn’t until my presentation that he saw he was touch-phobic and that was why he asked me to bring peer massage to his class. He knew he was not capable of bringing this valuable skill to his students.

Many children are very sensitive to touch, how does massage work for them in the classroom environment?

Every case is different, but on the whole it gives them an opportunity to communicate exactly how they want to be touched. I have seen children who are touch-sensitive teach their partner to touch them in a way they enjoy. It is very empowering. They are in total control of the massage. Checking in with your partner is part of Peer Massage. They are also free to decline the activity.

What might parents do at home to bring conscious touch to their children?

A couple of things. First, experiment: instead of arguing or punishing anti-social behavior bring in touch. Say your child comes home from school and gets sassy or shows angry behavior to you. Invite them to sit on the couch and tell you about their day while you rub their feet. Or perhaps your child will respond to playful wrestling. A hug, a shoulder rub… get in as much touch as you can. I have done this and watched in amazement and gratitude as the anti-social behavior simply dissolves.
The second thing you can do is examine your own “touch biography”. When I did this I saw how much of my life had been lacking in touch so the amount of touch that I considered normal was not enough. I still have to push myself through my own “touch barrier”.

Is this good for adults too?

Most definatly! Just remember, touch is our primary language of acceptance and belonging, safety and security. People behave differently when they feel loved and accepted in this tangible way.

How can teachers, parents and child care providers learn more about bringing touch to children in this way?

First of all I can be contacted through my website: There you may purchase my DVD called Playful Touch, 10 massage routines for your child. You can also subscibe to my weekly newsletter called Let’s Stay in Touch. I am available to do a workshops such as “Breaking Through Your Touch Barrier” and “Getting in Touch, Staying in Touch”. I also offer Personal Consultations for parents, teachers or anyone else. What is blocking you from getting what you want? You may schedule a complementary conversation with me through my website.

Listen to Your Body and Treat it Like a Temple

Occupying the Body with Lead Formulator and Founder of Welstar Cosmetics, Mahara Ashlie.

Occupation of the Body with Mahara Ashlie of Welstar Organics by 365songbird


My every day pretty girl female beauty regime used to include daily toxic chemical doses of awesome products with pretty packaging that stayed on all day and made me look absolutely fabulous!  But it turned out after bathing myself in these household names and cutting edge boundary pushing styles that these companies who I have trusted–some of whom I have actually worked with, actually have, when used alone and in conjunction with other products– very undesirable side effects to my health. Ones that I experienced were: breakouts and extreme allergies. After educating myself through literature and the resources available at the Environmental Working Groups’ Skin Deep Data Base (which list the side effects of the ingredients listed on the back of cosmetic bottles), I realized that I was using ingredients who’s side effects are linked to hormone imbalance, cancer and genital mutilation in male off-spring. I recently lost my favourite Uncle David, My darling Grandma Evie and a sweet family friend Kay to cancer acquired through unknown means.  I know my Grandma who was the head Nurse for most of her career in Los Angeles County,  trusted a cosmetic company whose branding looks like a pharmacy and is a staple in every mall nation wide as a clean and solid choice for personal care-but who in reality has many chemicals in their products which are proven to cause cancer.

At the dawn of my 30th year, I decided to transform my chemical beauty regime into a series of empowering and uplifting lifestyle beauty rituals.  As a former sorority girl this seemed almost impossible I had to throw out everything I owned even things that were sold at big health food store chains in their bath and body section and had packaging that read:  natural and organic.

I discovered 900 companies on the Campaign for Safe Cosmetic Compact for Safe Cosmetics website that agreed to refrain from the use harmful chemicals and to create their personal care products in compassionate and healing ways.  I became focused on handmade products in small bathes with raw ingredients with female formulators and got introduced to Welstar Organics.  Their comprehensive line of skin-care products, tinctures, aromatherapy and herbal remedies has helped my healing process. Founded and Formulated by Mahara Ashlie, Welstar Organics helped me realize that when I began incorporating natural ingredients, intentionality, and love into my daily personal beauty rituals–I had to give up the appearance of super natural polished clear skin for clear skin. I had to give up the investment and the work to cover up and make up for all the things that I lack to celebrate who I really am and to heal from the inside out.

The cosmetic industry is self regulated. They believe that their products our safe for people in the US. In Canada and the UK they have been forced to re-formulate and take out all of the potentially dangerous ingredients. In the US they are still getting away with putting questionable things in our eyeliner, hair products, nail polish and lipstick. The skin is our largest organ.

If you would like to research your cosmetics and the ingredients and possible side effects from the building blocks of your current beauty supplies visit the most comprehensive study done on cosmetics the Environmental Working Group Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.

Support female entrepeneurial healers and invetors

get your self some Welstar Organics

Our current home of Altar Education Radio will be the 365songbird Sound Cloud.

If you or someone you know is interested in sharing your perspectives on Occupying the Body, please contact: to schedule a radio interview.

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Yoga at the Oakland Occupation

Today together with my friend and fellow yoga teacher, Sarah Kent, we led a free, all level Occupation Yoga Class in Downtown Oakland. We are both admirers of public practice and sharing radical self expression.  Also a recent relocee to the Bay, Kent came from Nebraska last July.  She is a seasoned yoga teacher whose passion includes bringing yoga to people in homeless shelters, incarcerated youth, and to women who have experienced violence and are in transition.

Today in class she proclaimed, “Let’s take all of our positivity and just put it out into the world the best way we know how. I know it may sound cliche, but this world needs a lot of positivity and the more you can put it out there right now, here is your chance…shine some positivity outward.” I started singing outloud. A girl in our class started laughing hysterically.

Sarah and I used the definitions of OCCUPY while we prepared for class:




to take or fill up (space, time, etc.): Hundreds of Tents occupied Oscar Grant Plaza in Downtown Oakland.

to engage or employ the mind, energy, or attention of: Occupy the fullest capacity of your lungs while you are breathing.

to be a resident or tenant of; dwell in: We occupied the four corners of our feet all eight points sticking into the earth

to take possession and control of (a place), as by peaceful uprising

to hold (a meeting, a collaboration.).
verb (used without object)


to take or hold possession.

We are asking yoga teachers, meditation leaders, singers, dancers, artists and healers to use the definition of Occupy in your work and share it with us through a video! We will be sharing our ideas as the weeks go on—please chime in!

Oh and our yoga class and a pretty picture of Sarah got covered in the SF GATE: 

iQuit using toxic chemicals in cosmetics

I recently did some spring cleaning and through out everything in my cosmetic bag, bathroom and purse which wasn’t serving me.  I became interested in the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics a few months ago and began incorporating independent handmade cosmetic lines who are transparent about their ingredients or have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics into my beauty regime because they promise to never use ingredients that are harmful or linked to cancer. Continue reading

Safe Sunscreen

Loving Naturals is the company who has signed the Compact for Safe cosmetics who makes the safest non irritating 30+ sunscreen.

From their website:

“We received our order Saturday, and my husband was quick to try it out while working in our yard.  It was 103 degrees here in Houston and our UV index was classified as extreme, and your product worked wonderfully!!  It went on beautifully and performed just as well! Thank you for providing a safe product that I feel comfortable using on our entire family (including our 2 month old daughter). We will definitely be return customers!”
C.A. – Texas

Company Commitments

Safe & Natural

We are committed to offering safe and natural products. You can be assured, we will earnestly research every ingredient we use, use the most safe, natural and organic ingredients available and always disclose every single ingredient.

Our products never contain solvents, sulfates, synthetic fragrances, parabens, phthalates or petrochemicals.

We are fully compliant signers for the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a voluntary pledge of safety and transparency and every product we carry is highly rated by the EWG’s Cosmetic Safety database.

Earth Friendly

We are committed to earth friendly practices that minimize waste in the manufacturing, packing and shipping processes. As part of this commitment we also are a cruelty free company and never test our products on animals.

Customer Satisfaction

We are committed to our customers satisfaction. If you are ever dissatisfied with a product, please let us know. We are happy and willing to assist you, whether it be more information or a replacement, refund or exchange at no additional cost to you!