Nicholas Petricca’s inner child is a tiny, Technicolor bird-person. At least that’s how the WALK THE MOON frontman, 32, describes it within our moon meditation circle on a mid-January evening. “I see a brightly feathered avian creature with yellows and reds and big shiny black alien eyes,” he says excitedly. Petricca is famous for getting arenas of fans dancing to his band’s pulse-pounding synth-rock, but he’s equally comfortable channeling lunar vibes under the guidance of Los Angeles-based psychological astrologer Danielle Beinstein. She’s leading our ceremony not because of some connection to WALK THE MOON’s name, but because this sort of thing is an important part of Petricca’s life when he isn’t touring. In fact, we’re sitting in the Santa Monica, Calif., studio he co-owns: Kundalini Yoga by the Sea.
If growing up in a churchgoing Ohio family taught the musician about faith, and a 2012 shaman-led ayahuasca trip was the “slap in the face” that opened Petricca up to mysticism, it was his father’s death in 2017 that moved him to find a union of the two in Kundalini, a deeply spiritual form of yoga. “It was a dark time,” says Petricca, who was working on the band’s fourth album, What If Nothing (WALK THE MOON has earned a combined 1.7 million equivalent album units, according to Nielsen Music). “The strength I found in Kundalini enabled me to find not only peace but also creative expression to transform those painful experiences into something awesome: an album.”
Tonight we’re trying an hourlong meditation Beinstein has tailored to current celestial conditions: We’re approaching a full moon (a time for release) in Leo (which represents the inner child) that also happens to be an eclipse (amplifying the effects threefold). Hence, we’re using meditation, writing exercises and group therapy to figure out what joy or havoc our inner-kid plans to reap.
Beinstein, who typically works with groups of women and private clients during $250 sessions on the new or full moon, says her work is “woo-woo but not crazy woo-woo.” Yes, there’s a moon altar with candles and tourmaline crystals. Star charts and tarot are involved, though the archetypes they describe are merely lenses for looking inward, like Carl Jung’s. Her practice is meant to “reach anyone wherever they are.”
It certainly seems to work for Petricca. Presented with a worksheet listing questions such as “What limiting beliefs are arresting your inner child’s expression?,” he fills the page. During the optional sharing portion, he speaks so freely that the session runs an extra hour. “One aspect I got into,” Petricca begins, “was creating space for the child to play. As a kid, I couldn’t wait to sketch or build with Legos. My mom says I’d focus on something long enough to bring it to life, then be on to the next.”
He thinks he may have given up some of that freedom by seeking validation from others or buying into a rigid definition of himself. “I feel like we’re conditioned to play certain roles and believe it’s inauthentic to diverge,” he says. “In fact, our identities are so fluid.” He also tells us he wrestles with what it means to be a man, in part because his dad developed Alzheimer’s when Petricca was 16: “He was such a good king, a positive masculine force, but I didn’t get to experience that as an adult, so it’s a thing I’m navigating now.”
We’re breathing with our eyes shut again, imagining a cord extending from the base of our spine into the earth, and all the junk in our lives sliding down it. “Connect with the heart and a sense of possibility in front of you,” says Beinstein as she winds down. But Petricca already seems pretty open to what’s out there. In the end, he says a moon meditation, yoga class and a concert are all really the same thing: “a place for you to have a profound experience.”