Phoenix rising…allowing that inner fire

There comes a point in any healing journey when deeply harboured feelings need to come up to the surface and, when that happens, we must let them out…which can take courage and determination to see it through; to not just make it all nice and polite and tidy again by suppressing what wants to be said but to open the throat chakra wide and just let out that primal scream, whatever it sounds like. Because, yes, to make sure they are really “out”, we sometimes need to express those emotions out loud, to rant, to rage, to share them with others, to tell our story (which is what I am doing here) and it can help to feel that audience on the receiving end, whether they comment or not or, indeed, whether any one listens at all. Just the act of articulating ourselves can help make the release of what has become pent-up more real for our bodies to realise as a release of immense pressure at the cellular level; pressure that may have been anchoring us to an illness for a long time without us even knowing it. “Out” is the only healing point, the moment of release that sees that hidden bundle of emotions rise up out of the body’s cells and allows lasting healing to occur. No longer pushed down, nor swept under a rug,  not smoothed and comforted away  by nice words…but allowed to spread their fiery wings and rise up, these emotions become like the phoenix from the flames that, but a moment ago, threatened to consume you with absolute overwhelm.

Such a release can be the key to transformation that we have been seeking…and yet we may have held it at bay for the longest time, telling ourselves it is not right to say or even think what we need to give vent to. Counter-spiritual is something else we tend to think about the kind of powerful emotions that seem unruly or hot under the collar and yet what nonsense is that when it holds us locked up in yet another imbalanced relationship; that relationship we have going on within ourselves, between head and heart. And when a problem seems otherwise unsolvable; when the stuck point in our recovery seems to have no other answer, it is often this emotional rockbed that holds the solution to the riddle of why we are still so self-defeating. This has much to do with the throat chakra and, though I have worked on this area extensively, I had begun to suspect there was much older “stuff” waiting still to be expressed and which remained locked up in my body as a result. As to what this emotion was, I couldn’t work out if it was sadness or some long-remembered pain I still carried; what was it? I never suspected anger…yet anger it was and this is how I found out.

For me, the clue came when all avenues lately pointed at my liver being tired-out. Not pathologically in trouble…I’ve had all that checked…but functionally exhausted, weary to the core; I can feel it is so, have (if I’m honest) sensed it for quite some time. My therapist, my thyroid test results (that point at an issue to do with converting T4 into T3), my blood tests, my dietary issues, my instincts…all roads seemed to point at this tired out liver. It had to be emotional and it felt like the last bastion of my healing process, like it was tired of holding something and that the need to detox this thing out of me could be the make or break moment of the whole process of healing I have been on for so long.

So it, at first, startled me when a friend pointed out that the liver is all about anger. Angry me? No…I’m the least angry person I know, such a gentle demeanor, all love and light, no fire in me at all these days (sometimes that feels like my very problem). So I denied it…at least for a time, but then the more I read into Ayurveda, the more it rang true. There was a level where I  could sense that I associated the fiery dosha, pitta, with anger and so, whenever the rebalancing of my doshas came into consideration and more pitta was required (I’ve been taking steps to do this through diet for the last few weeks) it’s as though my body recoils from the rising pitta in me just like I would from an angry voice…Then, I realised, this was not like I was afraid of this “anger” heat like something coming in at me from the outside of me, as such, but because I was afriad of my own anger being stoked up and then unleashed within me. It felt home-grown, like it was lurking at my very core, the lion in its den locked up and kept closely guarded by the side of me that holds no truck with anger.

Was I so very angry inside, was there still anger harboured in me (for, oh yes, I had my fair share of this in the past…over my first marriage, and over the loss of my mother to, ironically, liver cancer, amongst many other things). I thought I had dealt with all of this but had I really held them under lock and key? Did I fear that unleashing them again would harm me and (worse) others around me if I let it all out? Had I learned to keep it in check for too many years? Is this why a pre-menstrual episode these days could feel like I was wielding a force I could hardly control; a lid that wouldn’t stay on? And in turning that force inward, was I making myself wearier than I had ever felt before; like I could contain it no longer and was on my knees, barely able to function in a body that was failing me at every turn? Did I need to let the anger out to survive??

So here I was, feeling somewhat like that when I heard a a bang, some screams and sobbing outside my door this morning…and it turned out that a white haired woman lying oh-so-fragile in a pool of blood on the road just steps from my house (she could have been my mother) had been knocked over and then reversed over by a van leaving the “supermarket” opposite my house.

I call this shop a “supermarket” since apparently it isnt one; to this day, the owner denies  that it is anything more than a very small village shop…and yet those of us who took the time to look over the plans for the conversion of what used to me a miniscule post office selling greeting cards and stamps into something that is now so massive inside it has shopping trolleys parked up on the forecourt could see that a supermarket it most certainly is. And so, although I was hardly well-enough to cope at the time, I fought those plans for almost two years, pointing out (though it should surely have been obvious to anyone with half a gram of common sense) that a shop of this size was a nonsense in our village centre that has a 40mph speed limit, far too much traffic and very poor parking facilities. The forecourt of said shop is tiny and only allows for 3 vehicles to pull in facing towards the shop window…thus reverse out into the road, blindly, in spite of 40mph traffic and pedestrians on the pavement. The other (many) visitors to the shop park haphazardly all over the place in front of houses,  on pavements, against my windows, across driveways, creating blindspots for motorists and pedestrians alike. I outlined to the planners and local counsellors, at length, all the considerable hazards involved in allowing a shop of this scale to be created in a busy-residential spot such as this…I told them it was only a matter of time before someone would get seriously injured or killed if they went ahead. Yet my pleas were ignored and the plans were waved though by a local council that seemed to be fully taken-in by the soft soap of the shop owner. That pink bubble gum included his insistence (in spite of drawings to the contrary…) that the shop would be very small, stocked only by a few things delivered using his family car (not the huge lorries that now pull up day after day), that it required no shoping trolleys (ha!) and that “adequate” parking spaces parallel to the road (not at right angles to it) would be created, though of course they never were since there was no room. He also assured everyone who cared that no unsavoury behaviour would be attracted to his massively expanded shop…no youths or troublemakers in the evenings, no litter, no noise, no disturbance. What balony; things have never been the same since it opened 18 months ago, traffic is horrendous and I watch near-misses occur daily from the windows of my house.

In the space of just the last three weeks, my worse fears have been realised twice.  Last month, having just returned from holiday, we were woken to the sound of the shop window being ram-raided by youths in a stolen car who removed the cash machine. We were all shaken up by what was seen taking place and a night spent shivering on the pavement being interviewed by police.  Now, today…this white-haired woman lying on the road in a pool of blood twenty steps from my door. I watched as, for over two hours, she was tended to on the road (too difficult to move) and then in an ambulance before being taken to a hospital in the next county as she will apparently require reconstructive surgery to her arm, amongst other things as she was a mess. I heard the police say to the driver of the van “If she dies…” The van driver had apparently pulled out without double checking his mirrors. The woman, who had had no choice but to walk behind his huge vehicle to get to the shop door, wasnt even in his blind spot when he accelerated into and over her; he just didn’t look. The traffic was forced to stop when the police arrived although, until they did, huge heavy articulated vehicles continued to drive past her on the road, just two feet from her head as she lay sobbing in pain in a pool of her own blood. Once the road was closed, I witnessed angry and self-righteous behaviour from people held up in the cars; without any sensitivity to the situation.

Meanwhile I offered help though two wonderful women had taken practical matters in hand, talking to the woman reassuringly and making her comfortable without moving her until the ambulance arrived. It was like watching the worse kind of television drama right in front of my house and it took almost three hours until it was over. The irony was, like most people, yet perhaps more so than most in the circumstances of my last decade with my health issues going on, I thought I had created in my home somewhere safe to withdraw to, away from the harshest aspects of the world. Yet here, again, the more traumatic aspects of life seemed quite determined to come right to my door.

You might ask why…several hours later…am I just so bothered; after all, I wasn’t hurt, I didn’t even know the woman and yet I have felt close to tears yet fired with simmering rage about what happened to her all day long. I was forced to ask the same thing of myself…and this is where I started to gain some interesting answers; to draw some interesting dots between what had happened and other things like it in my life. I had noticed a pattern, you could say…and when these patterns arise out of the seeming randomness of our lives, there is usually something they want to say to us.

For it was a road traffic accident that, you could say, started this whole health journey for me because my back problems all began when I was run over when I was 21. I was knocked off my bike, sent flying over someones windscreen, by a man talking on his mobile phone whilst driving all those years ago and from there began the years of back pain around which the later episodes of chronic pain hung themselves like baubles on a christmas tree. He was never charged and I was unable to take action myself, having only just graduated from uni. I was offered just two sessions of physio on the NHS though the pain went on for years; and was unable to afford to pay for treatment myself until many years later.

By some strange twist of circumstance, a decade later my work involved taking witness statements for a legal firm that specialised in road traffic accidents, something I did for several years in a self-employed capacity. I had such a knack for this that they saved for me (and only me) all the cases that were “serious injury”: fatalities, lost limbs, complete loss of amenity etc. I would have to go into these conversations with a clear head and the aim of obtaining all the very finest details of what had happened; not only a descriptions of all practical circumstances of how the accident came about but also all the emotions, the terror, the reoccurring nightmares, the loss of livelihood, the loss (in some cases) of a spouse or a child, the loss of the will to live…the list goes on. Afterwards I had to dictate a coherent statement in the “first person” as though it was me speaking; and, indeed, it did all became terribly personal, as though I was living these experiences vicariously through all these people I spoke to day after day.

As you can imagine, it was a terrible thing for these people to have to talk about what they had been through though, for some, there came a release in having someone listen and they would inevitably end up using me as a sort-of counselling service too. The calls were meant to be entirely business like but mine were often very very long as I was not prepared to go into them being gung-ho and brutish or without showing the tenderness that these people so obviously required and deserved. So I would have them weeping and pouring things out to me, there would be long gulping pauses, there would be anger and despair…and I would never rush them through any of it, even if the interview ran well over time. Many thanked me for the help that I had been to them, the patience I had shown, for being the one person they had felt they could tell things they had never managed to tell another soul. Different stories with many different details are what I heard and yet, often (bizarrely) it was almost as though I was hearing the same story over and over again; the same mistakes, the carelessness of other people, the lack of tact or aftercare (especially from insurance companies and the like), the bad handling, the money-mindedness, the unsung heroes, the terribly pointless sadness of a life turned inside out in a single moment. It was easy to come away feeling shell-shocked and drained from re-hearing this one-story-many-stories over and over again, like I was a peg being hammered into the ground by the hopelessness of it all. Looking back, it was like a long slow process of acquiring second-hand PTSD as these accounts would colour my thoughts, my dreams, would affect me as I drove to work “seeing” road traffic accidents play out in my mind’s eye… were they real, a waking nightmare or was I having premonitions (I became unsure which…) I began to struggle with night driving, became horribly tense at the wheel, would break down at the end of a long day at work when I still had to get myself home yet felt too tired to turn on the ignition and negotiate the rush hour traffic. Slowly but surely, the nature of the interviews I was conducting got to me on top of everything else that I was going through, which was already such a lot.

Because at that time I was going through a divorce (possibly one of the most vitriolic and protracted ones I have ever heard about) and was trying to keep a roof over our heads for myself and my young daughter, who was only 4 or 5 at the time. After my divorce, money was unfeasibly tight and I was forced to accept a full-time job in the same office that supplied my statement work so I was doing a stressful 8 hours of that then coming home to do these interviews on the telephone in the evening…with my daughter sat in front of the TV in the next room. I would be so exhausted and emotionally drained by the time I got back to being an appropriate mother to her that I felt terribly guilty about that too…and then had to get some sleep (though I became an insomniac), get up early to get my daughter to a minder, commute to work and start the whole thing all over again the next day.

Half way through my time doing, basically, 2 stressful jobs my health began to unravel and the rest (as they say) is the history of the chronic health issues that I have had for the past 12 years. I continued working for over a year after I got sick and would drive to work in heavy traffic still “seeing” car accidents take place in my mind’s eye as I went along, feeling more and more like they were a premonition of something yet to happen. I was in a terrible state of adrenal fatigue; everything became too much for me and my health fell apart. Later, as my emotional health restabilised ( years after I had completely given up work altogether), the issues with driving receded and I got the joy of it back but I realise now that I never fully dealt with the internalised trauma that I buried inside of me at that time (the emotions surrounding the work I was doing all mixed up with my own personal emotions about the circumstances I was in). I saw also that my way of coping has been to withdraw from the world, avoiding trauma whilst sitting on the unresolved adrenal fatigue and all the pent-up emotions still locked inside my body.

Those emotions (though I have only recently come to know it) became a pit of frustration and disappointment with the human race (both versions of anger) and it just stayed there with the lid politely placed on top of it; deemed no longer relevent to my circumstances or my health since, on the surface of it, life was a lot smoother for me now. All that stuff was in the past, wasnt it…and yet its themes remained out there in the world, playing out on nearly every street corner, in the dubious behaviour of so many people, on the overcrowded and over speedy roads that take and destroy lives in a split moment while people concentrate on getting to their next meeting or to the next thing they are so desperate to consume. They play our as the decisions of people with bureaucratic power that affect whole communities and yet those bureaucrats don’t look at what is going on at the real-human level to see what impact their decisions have and no one ever seems to learn from mistakes or to redress the problems when they arise. It plays out as the ever more frenetic world that is steadily encroaching on everyone’s doorstep (like it or not and wherever you happen to live…it will get there sooner or later). We can’t afford to just watch and bury our feeling of discomfiture inside of us where they rot away unseen and undermine our own health; as I said above, we have to stop worrying about being so nice and let them out.

In this specific, my anger is that no one seems to listen or to care about the ordinary people who are affected the most when dubious planning decisions are made. No one is immune (not really) to these misguided behaviours that are rife everywhere and they are really ugly when they start to affect human lives in some really detrimental ways as I saw today. As I lift this lid, I find there is so much anger in me about the way people treat each other, anger at the way we dont listen to each other, how we walk on by, how we prioritise the bizarrest things. What I saw today was only one relatively minor example of it; though the fact these things are happening (increasingly) right outside my door tells me I can no longer ignore them and that I must deal with anything inside of me that prevents me from being able to cope with looking at them or roaring my opinion when it is called for. I cannot afford to make myself weak by stifling my feelings in such a way that they make me ineffectual (none of us can), allowing my health to fail because of carrying such a heavy burden of unexpressed opinion like a weight in my heart. All of this anger wanted to come up in me today…and you could still say, why write about it? How does this help? I hardly know yet. But it helps me enormously to let it out of my cells, to get it out from where it was only turning inward on my health and making me weaker; to allow it to have its say, to rant and rave, to not be the one who stands by and says “oh well never mind, these things happen”. Maybe its a sign that my pitta is, indeed, rising…and maybe it needed to for, without it, I wont survive but, rather, quietly fade away.

Women do this especially well; we tell ourselves we have to keep our unruly emotions in check and are almost too afraid to give them full rein in case we offend anyone or lose people’s good opinion but what if the release of those locked away emotions is the very power we seek or holds the key to our transformation; at the very least, our healing? For me, this wave of unleashed feelings is necessary for today at least…and I am letting it happen… and then tomorrow? Who knows how I will feel but I hope to find that something will have cleared through the mists as a result of this very necessary process of speaking my truth.  I hope that I am learning, at last, how to allow my heat to rise up in a way that fuels what is most positive and without burning myself or others. I hope that, in our own small way, we can all start to offload these emotional burdens from our deep-storage, fuelling something new through our truth and our energy; for  I suspect each small part of “emotional honesty” that we contribute to the whole plays a surprisingly key role in the way that we get to shape our future world together. Maybe, then, we all get to heal as a human race.

 

 

 

Getting to know your dosha

What do you do when, at the age of nearly 50, finding “the right food to sustain you” defeats you nearly as much as at ever did? When this happened to me, what hit me the hardest of all was a sense of not feeling welcome in my own body or, indeed, my own life…as though there was nothing left in the cupboards of life that could even pretend to want to feed me anymore; it was looking me straight in the eye and shaking its head. No exaggeration to say it felt like a version of abandonment all over again (chronic illness can repeatedly feel like an abandonment scenario; as though the same ordinary life that supports everyone else leaves you left out or lacking in some way). After all my hard work striving to improve my lifestyle to heal, it felt like yet another slap in the face.

This happened to me after receiving the blood test results (refered to in my last blog) that told me I had 24 food intolerances planted right on top of some of my core foods as an organic, “clean” eating vegetarian. Really, I had been doing everything I could to heal myself through diet and here, now, was this.

There had to be a gift in it…and there was; and it was that it got me to stop and look again at Ayurveda. Ayurvedic healing is something I had danced around with an interested eyebrow raised many times before on my journey through alternate modalities and as a yogi seeking a more yogic lifestyle yet something had kept me from going deeper; and that thing? Oh yes, me. Maybe the time just wasn’t right yet.

Now feels right. You know when you’re onto something; synchroncities line up to flag this one thing up from every corner of your experience and this happened to me about Ayurveda. Even my husband, who was deep into reading books about Ayurveda as a lifestyle in connection with yoga, kept reading anecdotes out over breakfast and then flagged up for me, in the most timely way, that we have a local practitioner (Angela Hope-Murray) of some renowned that I could seek access to so maybe I should consider it. Straight from the Chopra Centre’s website in answer to what is Ayurveda: “Thousands of years before modern medicine provided scientific evidence for the mind-body connection, the sages of India developed Ayurveda, which continues to be one of the world’s most sophisticated and powerful mind-body health systems. More than a mere system of treating illness, Ayurveda is a science of life (Ayur = life, Veda = science or knowledge). It offers a body of wisdom designed to help people stay vibrant and healthy while realizing their full human potential”. These titbits I kept hearing whet my appetite again so I allowed myself to go in deeper this time; googling Ayurvedic diet for healing as a starting point. Then I purchase Angela’s most accessible book, “Ayurveda for Dummies” and that completely opened the door since it gave me an accessible (and relatable) overview of the whole “system” in one easy to read source.

Straightaway, I remembered doing those familiar Ayurvedic tests to “see what dosha you are?” in the past. They have a habit of popping up on Facebook and, again, on the Chopra Centre website which I knew I had completed at some point. Yet I was vague about what I had come up with…something about being a vata-pitta…and had certainly never acted on it in any coherent way (how many of us do these quizzes and think “oh, how interesting; sounds just like me” and then flutter on past?). There are numerous quizes out there and I recommend you type “dosha quiz” into google and try at least three as the results can vary depending on the depth of their questions Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 14.46.05.png(there’s also a very thorough one in Angela’s book). You will soon start to get a feel for what is your type and then you can start to play around with getting to know the three doshas – vata, pitta and kapha – (there’s plenty of information about that online) and doing what it takes to tweak your own lifestyle to bring it back into balance. Most people are a mixture of at least two. Some of us, unsurprisingly, tilt precariously into one dosha and the healing process involves working to rebalance that by pursing a diet and lifestyle that no longer provokes that dosha into its prevailing dominance. In fact, the system is remarkably simple and intuitive once you get the feel for it; you will probably start to feel the “truth” of some of the characteristics that come up and notice how the suggest adjustments work closer with you innate preferences than some of the things you have been doing with your life.

So I will leave you to explore as its a personal process; but what I really wanted to share here was my growing theory that, where chronic health conditions of the fibromyalgia kind are concerned (you know, those health conditions where we are almost too sensitive for this world; we feel too much) our vata is probably well out of balance. This brings with it a particular set of dietary and lifestyle requirements which, if we are following any kind of conventional healing path, might not be being met or could be being plain ignored in the name of pursuing better health. Often, we do this through eating fresh or even raw foods like it is going out of fashion, even avoiding too much sweetness whenever we suspect it is being used as a source of comfort (as I’ve been doing for some time) to our own detriment. Let me explain:

The qualities of vata are (and this is just a summary) lightness, dryness, mobility, subtleness, coolness, roughness, clarity and inconsistency (description taken verbatim from Ayurveda for Dummies by Angela Hope Murray). It is all about nerves and hyper-sensitivity (things I talk about such a lot); about feeling things and receiving energetic messages at their most subtle. As a quality, it is quick, agile, exploratory, flighty, playful, sensitive, light, creative, in fact quite astonishing in its high-frequency approach to everything and capacity to expand viewpoints or uplift the mundane. Out of balance, it presents as muscle cramping, nerve pains, paralysis, hopeless indecisiveness, feeling far too much, ungroundedness, anxiety, feelings of abject overwhelm. When I hear vata out-of-balance  (and how this manifests as illness in the body) being described, it sounds such a lot like the endemic Epstein Barr symptoms that Anthony Williams’ (The Medical Medium) talks about being the basis of most modern chronic health complaints; for, indeed, I suspect they are much the same thing, impacting the nervous system at a very profound level that becomes autoimmunity (to ourselves and the world that we live in). In other words, we feel like we can’t stay in our own bodies, or our environments, anymore…like we are no longer welcome here and must move on to somewhere beyond the physical; a long slow departure. Healing our relationship with our bodies, via food, plays a crucial part in returning ourselves to these bodies under a brand new set of terms that makes us feel more than welcome, and valued, once again (so, an end to all those abandoned feelings) in order to thrive like never before. And its time this became a  much more readily available healing path for all those vast numbers of people burdened with wearisome chronic illnesses; which, I am beginning to suspect, Ayurveda may supply if we start to use it to get to know ourselves better. One of the best things about it is that it is a process that we can do ourselves, simply by familiarising ourselves with the doshas and the ways that these get out of balance. And if you think you know yourself really well already, consider this; so did I…but I have been forced to completely reconsider my diet since opening this box of knowledge, and am already reaping the benefits.

To do this, we quite literally need to befriend our most pitta-like qualities since they govern proper digestion (of ideas too!), temperature regulation and hormones plus the release and appropriate use of all those enzymes that keep us in balance, those all-important engines of the metabolism that are so key to health and energy. The good news is that, I suspect, for those of us who started out as mainly chronically fatigued but who now notice a real fire in our engines…yes, maybe one that, for the moment, seems to make us feel even more depleted and, well, burnt-out, this is actually a sign that our doshas are trying to get into balance. But…here’s a catch that we need to be aware of and it can actually feel like a setback in our recovery process if we misinterpret the signs…

Based on my own experiences, where inflammation and extreme pain co-exist with that super-sensitivity and ungroundedness I’ve already referred to, I suspect rising pitta is creating this issue and, like I said, it can feel like things getting worse as it starts to rise. This happened very markedly to me, two and half years ago, when I was really starting to feel like I was gaining traction in my recovery, then suddenly I was burning up inside and out, I developed electro-sensitivity and all sorts of new environmental triggers around heat and my pain levels and intolerances became worse than ever. This only made my strongly vata tendencies entrench more; I felt more anxious, flighty, ungrounded and out of sync with the world I live in, like I had to hide away just to survive it all. I felt toxic all over again…and this build up of ama (toxins) is exactly what happens when vata is off-kilter since it this dosha is the most crucial to our nervous system and its proper function, delivering messages that direct all those other processes involving digestion and elimination etc. When it is out of balance, digestive processes, cell regeneration and all kinds of subtle processes impacting our thyroid, our pituitary and so on suffer for it in a downwardly cascading process; and we can then feel too weak to cope with devising the next steps we need to take to recover ourselves (I think a lot of people reading this will know that feeling all too well).

In other words, we need our life-force back; a bit of jet-propulsion beneath our rocket in order to recover…so we need some pitta to rise up in us. But then we are not exactly on the best of terms with pitta since we are still smarting from being “burned” the last time we became inflammed (isn’t that what started off this whole process of illness?) so we are distrustful of it in the extreme.

It’s as though the relationship between pitta and vata (the two most dominant doshas in a person with such a play-off) are suddenly competing for attention and the feeling between them is suspicious and strained. They are like the odd couple who fell out a long-long time ago; no one remembers why but it has left an old scar that has never been forgotten or forgiven though they still live together. So occasionally they bicker and sulk but they  largely ignore each other, muddling by, falling into a strangely distorted (and silent) relationship for a very long time…until, one day, the balance of power starts to change and the one that always kept very quiet decides to have their say…loudly. Even though what they have to say is just what is needed to break the painful stalemate, the other person reacts like they have been hit.

Likewise, many of us have become used to our vata-dominant way of life for years; we learn to adapt and lead oddly self-protective lives in order to survive the world and, in time, the extreme imbalance between doshas lessens through a lack of aggravants (since we have virtually eliminated them all with our careful lives)…which can feel like we are getting somewhat better. So our life-force fires up, our pitta is on the rise again; and we push our own boundaries, daring to make new commitments and plan to do more “normal” things. In other words, we step back into a more grounded existence; one that is more involved with the world. When this happens, vata recoils in shock at all the heat that is suddenly released inside of us and, voila – our recovery is set right back again (or so we assume). This certainly feels like what happens to me at these times. When pitta comes up in me too strongly, too fast; especially early in the day or when I am least expecting it, it can set me back further than I was to start with and it makes me loathe to try new things. So what do we do next? We vata-pitta types tend not to want to mess with our kaptha (the third dosha) at all since excess kaptha, to us, can feel like depression, laziness or complete loss of purpose; in fact, our moderate but reliable and steady kaptha qualities are probably the very thing that have kept us level and pragmatic, continuously plodding us onwards like the donkey that never tires through all the endless years aof recovery and setback without losing heart and when other people might have gven up; but we dont want to become any more accepting, more stolid than that. Really, we know we need to work with the energy of fiery pitta (which can feel like the very essential life force that we lack) to recover the good health in our bodies…but how, without getting burned?

In other words, this plays out something like the off-kilter relationship between yin and yang (or, feminine and masculine aspects) in this out-of-whack world of ours; we know we need to fix it but don’t know how to go about it without giving ourselves away to another dominant force that will potentially “hurt us”.

Yet, as I talk about endlessly, we have reached a point where the feminine is rising AND where the yin and yang must (crucially) learn to get on with each other…to work as a trusting partnership…so that we can get ourselves into balance and know “perfect health” both as a planet and as individuals. See how they correspond, these two healing opportunities; our bodies and the whole rest of the world? When we crack one of these conundrums, we play our part in the other and they are a remarkably similar process.

In my own case, I thought that to heal, the very best thing  I could do was to pursue the most direct-sounding and popular healing-diet modality that is out there and eat the most turbo-charged fresh, often raw and preferably young and vigorous (think sprouts and micro herbs) organic veg and fruit I could; to neck green juices around the clock and crunch my way through endless nuts, seeds, beans and crackers smeared with homus…all great stuff…keeping it all in as natural a state as possible rather than cooking or heating too much (in fact, I had all-but convinced myself I no longer like my food warm at all). But this turned out to be completely wrong for my vata constitution and, when I saw this for the first time, it was so obvious I could have laughed. My ideal diet has a lot more in common with the food I ate as a child, as it turns out, than the meals I had been so lovingly preparing for myself these last few months, especially since my intolerance tests took dairy out of the equation against my will (the extreme-vegan angle that forced me to admit I wasn’t thriving at all on these cold-raw foods). I had honestly felt like I was quietly dying; unsustained, lacking in vitality, crashed-out and unenthusiastic about meals, doggedly washing salad leaves (again) and telling myself it was all good stuff. Well it was; but not quite right for me.

Vata is already physically fragile, ungrounded, not quite as embodied as it needs to be as a fully functioning human being. Vata struggles somewhat with the physical processes of mulching down food to extract the nutrition since it is far more used to pure energy of the kind that comes straight from the star system and all this physical-human shove and grind to extract energy from substance can feel way too much for its delicate constitution to have to deal with. To stuff its constitution full of cold, raw and dry foods, unsoftened fibres, hard little nuts and sharp little seeds without doing at least part of the work first is to do it a terrible disservice; like feeding a whole tree from the roots to the seeds hanging on its branches into the most delicately calibrated food-processor imaginable and expecting it to extract the pure life-force in one attempt. I see now, oh-so clearly, where I was going wrong putting all this extra strain on an already delicate and exhausted system; which is where I began to realise how intuitive Ayurveda is, like coming home to the healing modality that feels most natural of anything I have played with before.

Dhal.jpgVata craves warm, comforting, sweet and flavoursome (so, yes, also salty and sour) nutrition that is grounding and quick to release its fuel. It likes smooth, light, moist and slightly oily dishes; but also food with good life force (so, not processed foods or two-day-old leftovers). Its cravings are grounding, nourishing, stabilizing; basically, it favours the opposite qualities to itself…to keep itself in check. When out of balance, it doesn’t like hot spices (preferring gentle warmth…not full-on fire, for obvious reasons) so is it any wonder that chilli came up as one of my prime food intolerances. It favours sweet bananas, not green; cooked broccoli and greens, not raw – you get the picture. When I made up some lists of what I should and shouldn’t eat if I want to pacify my vata, I was astonished to find how many of the foods in the “avoid” list were already on my confirmed intolerance list (from my recent blood test) and also amongst my personal dislikes, going back many years, some of which I had been trying to ignore (rather than admiting against trend that I only like dark greens when they are cooked and strongly disliking raw apples whatever the doctor says about one a day, nor do I enjoy dried fruits at all…unless they have been soaked before I eat them). I can now openly admit without excommunication that I really do love sweet and comforting foods (yum, rice pudding!) – and these are not only “allowed” but necessary for survival when your constitution is vata (preferably achieved through through natural means such as beets and honey etc). My intuition, it seems, was on the right track all along; and I suspect those few intolerances that I have (such as dairy) may only be temporary until I can heal my gut from all the damage I have done throughout years of bending to dietary habits that didn’t suit me at all.

The proof, as ever, is in the pudding and though it is very early days with this (less than a week since I took some Ayurvedic advice from the books that I am reading), I am noticing some positive effects. Since adhering to these guidelines and replacing cold granola, toast or raw veg and humus for breakfast with warm (not hot!) porridge made with almond milk, sprinkled with cinnamon and sweetened by raw honey and a few other allowed extras such as bee pollen and arctic blueberries (I buy these freeze-dried), I have been feeling far more balanced and sustained. The chronic sugar crash and/or nausea half an hour after eating breakfast has dramatically softened (nor has it worsened as it did when I ate very hot porridge in the old days). Certainly there are no starving hunger pangs mid-morning or desperation for lunch; in fact I sometimes have to remind myself its lunchtime. My eyesight and my head feel somewhat sharper and my breathing less erratic, my pulse less flighty, my thoughts more calm; you could just say, I feel more grounded on this warm start to the day. Once I’ve grounded this way, I can allow some “fire” qualities (a little edginess, courage, go-get attitude and lets-get-things-done mentality) into my day, facing most kinds of music without needing my metaphorical smelling salts; which is big news indeed as this means I can start to enjoy a more “normal’, productive and predictable routine without hiding from the world.

Then, for lunch…instead of those mountains of crunchy-crunch-crunch on a bed of leaves…I’m making up a warm quinoa bowl with a variety of vegetables and some gentle herbs, maybe the tiniest teaspoon-handle-tip pinch of paprika…and finding this does the same job of sustaining me in the afternoon as the porridge does in the morning. Kicheree (an Ayurvedic staple made from yellow split mung beans) will do the same thing from what I read and is on the menu for today’s lunch. By way of a test, yesterday I was forced to resort to the crunchy-salad option once again as I was out in town and my favourite cafe had run out of their veggie soup; nothing left for me but some cold grains topped with raw brocoli and nuts. I felt awful afterwards, like my stomach was digesting razor-blades; I also felt irritable and depleted and could have chewed my own arm off for food by the time I had to gather all my energy for the fifty minutes drive home with very tired eyes, having had nothing more than a fruit and nut health bar (more cold-dry food) to tide me over. Even after I had managed to eat a home-cooked meal, my energy felt “off” for the rest of the day and I went to bed feeling hungry and irritable (by the way, vata likes its main meal in the middle of the day and to eat several sustaining portions throughout the day to avoid that long-fasting feeling). This, I can’t help feeling, is because my stomach has already got used to its warming (not hot or spicy) quinoa bowl or similar for its midday fuel and that “other healthy stuff” made from raw things doesn’t cut the mustard for me any more; I wonder if it ever did. Perhaps not while I am in a healing phase; and I am prepared to be the dedicated healer of myself for as long as it takes to stabilise my health, even if it is sometimes challenging or an inconvenience to do what is necessary or make certain changes in routine (including cooking food on a stove twice a day). I suspect it will be worth it and look forward to noticing any differences in how I feel come September this year, having eaten a more sustaining diet for some weeks by then.

Of course, there is a seasonal element to all this and I am prepared to concede that my body actively craved those crunchy raw salads and plentiful juices in the spring. This, I suspect, is because our kundalini rises in sync with the rising sun towards summer solstice…as do creative urges, our very life force…between March and June in the northern hemisphere. However, once past that midsummer point, my body actively seeks the warmer, more stabilising food and (until now) has had to beg in vain for it until, maybe, the end of September or October when I usually “allow” more substantial food onto the menu. No wonder September has always been a month of such chronic fatigue, dullness and pain for me; the worst month of my year for as long as I can recall (Ayurveda also tells me that September is a key transition month). I have been running my tank out of fuel before I even get there because of months of summer salads and inappropriate snacking on cold, dry foods. The key is to listen to your body and its seasonal requirements and not make anything an engrained habit, not even because the sun is shining or someone’s blog (even mine!) suggests you eat a particular way.

I mentioned already that I suspect that rising pitta also comes into this for me and, perhaps, for many others who have the chronic fatigue and super-sensitivity type illness but also the long-running issue with unresolved inflammation and pain. For me, I notice a pattern that each time I start to feel more “well” following a success in my healing process, or when the seasons, my female cycles, my rising kundalini (mid-life really activates this for a woman!), exposure to high levels of electro-magnetic pollution and even solar flares, conspire to inject more fire into my system, this has been all-too-much for my vata in its current dominant state. What this feels like, in my mind’s eye, is that I am a house made of paper and that pitta rising in that can feel like a struck match at its core…it burns me down in my current state. So, if this is the case, there is a need to have methods at hand to keep pitta in check (allowing it to rise on your own terms, for your best wellbeing) but also to bring the vata aspect down somewhat to meet the pitta that, after all, is your very own life-force energy working to ground you and bring you into better alignment with the physical processes that you rely upon to enjoy a healthy human existence. Just like the yin and yang balancing act that I have made my own particular fascination (across all aspects of life), here is an opportunity to bring vata down and encourage pitta up so that they meet in the middle on the level. And, yes, once this starts to occur, kapha elements can then be encouraged (without fear of developing complacency or depression – the deepest dread of someone with chronic illness) since it is a balance of all three doshas that is the aim of the game; but when healing from a chronic condition, reconciling the two primary doshas should be the initial focus of your efforts and the rest will, I suspect, fall into place of its own accord.

Perhaps it is a too-simplistic description to describe kapha as an “excessively grounded” state, vata as “not grounded at all” and pitta as the bridge or the conduit that connects the two; yet this might be a helpful visualisation. Therefore, for someone who exists fully on the physical plane (extremely kapha dominant), encouraging pitta could be the means by which they get their wheel pulled out of the mud and awaken their spiritual sensibilities or most vibrant life-force, not to mention their metabolism, bringing them into a broader sense of themselves in the universe and a more vital way of experiencing life. But for those of us who have already lived most of our lives feeling ungrounded and not entirely, or convincingly, “in” our physical bodies, our primary aim is to make it so we really want to come back into our bodies at this juncture; to bring ourselves back into our humanness so that we can start to really thrive as physical beings and know what that feels like in all its glory. You know what I mean; a body that doesn’t feel clapped-out in exhaustion or pain all the time (what a nice idea).

There can be a reluctance here and I know it all too well. Hard to articulate it but there is a subtle but present fear for many of us that if we bring our most expansive spiritual selves fully back into the body, we will lose everything we have gained as an enlightened spiritual entity; that we will forget or have to forfeit what is so precious to us. If I’m honest, some of my most bliss-filled moments have occurred when I have been feeling least grounded in my body for those are the times when I have fully let go of my physical preoccupations, surrendering to (what can feel like) an alternate reality outside of that to allow me to cope. Yet the true reality or, you could say, whole reality –  where it is not a case of “either”/”or” (perhaps this is the brand new reality, since we are going through a transitional phase in our evolution) – is that we can now ground fully into our physicality and bring all that spiritual stuff with us, without losing a thing.  How do we know that? We just need to trust it is so…but I find that, with ever more conviction when I tune into highest wisdom, I know it to be so and I take the time to remind myself of that every day. In other words, we can literally have all of it and, after all, that is the whole point of what we have been striving towards for the longest time.

I feel sure I will be sharing more about my experiences with Ayurvedic healing as I deep dive into more reading and go for my first appointment with a practioner in a couple of weeks but, in the meantime, I encourage anyone who has found this intriguing to take a deeper look for themselves, perhaps via Angela’s book which is a wonderfully accessible introduction to the doshas and the right diet to suit yours to get you started.

Useful references:

Ayurveda for Dummies – Angela Hope-Murray

The Chopra Centre

Several books by Dr David Frawley (available on Amazon)

Vata-Pacifying Foods – article on Banyan Botanicals

Get down to business with healing the gut

Yesterday I received back the results of some lab tests I had done for food intolerance. The fact was, and I knew it, I wasn’t getting any better in a sustained way. Yes, I have plateaux where I feel so much better than I think I’ve felt for a very long time…but then the crashes come and this last couple of weeks has been a big one; I’ve been in such a lot of pain and exhaustion. The gut is so-often a starting point for what is going on in the body; I knew…and had been postponing the fact that…I had to go much deeper with uncovering any food intolerance that might be triggering me off. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done massive work with my diet (as I’ve written about before). I’ve been fully vegetarian for almost five years and, even before that, ate grass-fed and free range without compromise. Since then, I’ve been unremittingly organic, farm-fresh wherever possible, almost nothing packaged or processed apart from healthy snack bars and the occassional organic sauce. I know my “good oils” and had embraced coconut as my substitute of choice for spreads and food prep (apart from when I drizzle organic extra olive oil on my salads). I drastically reduced gluten and wheat 2 or 3 years ago and then became fully “free” of both just over a year ago. I gave up alcohol 19 months ago and never looked back. I gave up milk as a drink half a decade ago, though I kept cheese in my diet for balance (and because I love it and its such a vegetarian staple). I eat seeds and nuts, plenty of fruit, green juices, superfoods galore…what could I possibly still be doing “wrong?” Yet I knew something was as I wasn’t really healing.

It was my myofasical therapist who first suggested I get my own lab tests done. I’d danced around the possibility of hiring a nutritionist many times but an email dialogue with just one of these was enough to put me off as he had fixed opinions that were very different to mine and seemed to want to throw all my own intuitions and know-how in the bin. But my therapist said “why do you need to see a person; why not go straight to the lab…you’re knowlegeable enough” (and then recommended Yorktest Labs in the UK who, I admit, I had not come across before). Everything about my body in that last session seemed to indicate to her very-sharp intuition that my current issues started in the gut. I didn’t need it suggesting twice…two hours later I had spoken to York and arranged for their Modern Living test (distinct from their more general Food & Drink scan test, based on the fact I already eat a less than mainstream diet) and I was on my way.

This process of taking the leap to seek “scientific” answers for myself felt like I was blasting through a long-standing obstruction to my own healing. Though I had done so much research based on symptoms, had gone deeply into “self-love” and doing all it takes to nurture and support myself to a firmer footing in my health, there was still a sense of fumbling around in the dark when it came to  healing. It was like there was a giant “stop” sign when it came to seeking medical intervention beyond the home-knitted variety.  This is largely because I parted ways with my GP surgery years ago as all they seemed to want to do was push pain killers or antidepressants my way and hurry me out the door. Lab tests for thyroid and diabetes etc consistently came back “normal”, though we all know that is typical of chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia which defy standard margins or behaviours when it comes to testing to “prove” their existence. Doctors I saw didn’t seem to have the know-how, the desire or the time, to probe any deeper. So I pulled myself back from conventional medical care whilst wishing, at some level, that I lived in the States or Canada; somewhere that, because you are paying, you are still treated like the client and not pooh-poohed for your theories before being shown the door once your five minutes is up. I’d done with being on the end of that disdainful look over half-moon glasses as soon as I mentioned I had “read something” and formed a theory…so I’d been going it alone for all these years; a stance which had become like a “never back down” brick wall between me and some of the help I was really needing. Yet in a world where doctors have become to medical science what priests try to make themselves in organised religion, I was left with no intermediary…stranded, with no access to the information that could allow this final layer of healing to really happen. I clearly needed to go direct but, for some reason, had never got very far with that ambition until now.

Perhaps “arrange it yourself” lab tests weren’t so readily accessible last time I looked; I certainly don’t remember anything as glossy and easy to navigate as Yorktest Labs are. Two “live chats” in and my kit was on its way for me to carry out the finger-prick test and send it back. In my heart-of-hearts (though a negative result would have been almost as galling to someone desperately seeking answers…) I knew something “big” would come up; something inconvenient and difficult to navigate around in an already complicated way of life. But I also knew I needed to be prepared for that and to take it seriously, to do what it takes to get better using their advice, no compromises…or what was the point of even going there?

Yorktest.jpgWhen the package arrived a week later, my heart did a thud and I resolved to open it slowly over a cup of something soothing in the garden. However, out of its wrapper, my eye zoned in on the top line of the accompanying letter before I had even sat down and my stomach turned to liquid. Gulp! The words said “You will notice that you have a high number (24) of REACTION & BORDERLINE ingredients. Please do not be alarmed by this, we are here to help you manage changes to your diet…”

So this was it then! Before I went any deeper into what the results pack was about to tell me, I texted my husband to tell him I had it. “Take it steady” he said, “breathe…keep a clear mind and remember, whatever it says, we’ll get through it and its information to help make you well”.

Yes. Though I suppose I had certain likely “culprits” in mind and what came up was part of the shock of what I was digesting here (excuse the pun) since they were some of my very “core” foods out of an already simplistic diet by supermarket standards. To pull them out would mean my whole diet pyramid falling down.

In fact, my red and orange-zone intolerances (most were in the red!) include eggs, all kinds of animal milk, coconut (a pivotal food-type for me), chilly, coriander, cumin and GARLIC! (all of which I use liberally in my vegetarian diet), wheat (no surprise), yeast (goodbye alternative bread, pizza bases, pitta), a couple of really common seeds found in just about every health food known to man, peanuts, hazelnuts, kale… it read like the contents of a healthfood store.

It was a roller-coaster afternoon after that; my emotions didn’t know whether to guffaw outloud at the irony and ridiculousness of the situation or whether to weep quietly at the pathos (in the end, I did both in equal proportion). A trip to the fridge to see what there was for lunch delivered up the dregs of a week’s supplies and I was non-plussed at what I managed to throw together…but took heart from the fact it was shopping day. Then I sat there – for over 3 hours! – attempting to place my weekly shopping order from the two main suppliers that I use and was fluxmoxed by how many “no longer allowed” products there were on my typical list. I fired off questions to makers of one or two of them: “what do you mean by ‘spices’; can you be more specific?” and awaited their consistently disappointing answers as there were those spices, yeast and garlic tucked away in nearly everything. They were in my organic pesto sauce, my favourite organic baked beans, my paleo snack bars (with only 3 or 4 ingredients in them…but one of them was always “wrong” for me), most non-gluten sugar-free cereals, the gluten-free pita breads I love to stuff with healthy goodies for an easy lunch, my favourite sweet potato falafel, the mayonnaise I use to make my homemade coleslaws, the frozen coconut icecream we have as a treat at the weekends…I took one body blow after another.

When my husband got home, my gun-ho attitude dissolved into girlie tears and, while part of me felt pathetic (its only food), I just had to surrender to it for an hour or so…it felt like a kind of mourning for the death of a lifestyle I had grown attached to and with no ready alternative presenting itself (yet) to fill its shoes. I felt lonely in my weirdness. I watched my daughter prepare a “normal” meal and felt envious. I felt hungry…in advance…and “rabit-in-the-headlights” about preparing that evening’s meal. I felt alarmed at how to keep my energy levels up eating what my husband tried to joke was the “no-food food diet”; given I am already struggling with chronic fatigue on a grand scale (no joke to say even taking a shower or keeping upright has been too much for me some days this week). I tried to google articles and blogs for meal ideas but most people avoiding one food type compensate with at least one or two others off my “do not eat” list. I felt utterly dejected as I set about making a garlic-less tomato, onion and carrot sauce to spoon over some mushrooms, sans the cheese topping that would have made it the meal I would have relished. No delicious Booja-Booja chocolates (made from cacao and coconut oil) after dinner tonight; the only sweet treat I tend to have and now it was gone (my inner child stamped her feet).  In the end, I felt done-in by my own inner protestations, which seemed to come at me from ever cell and fibre of a being in resistance to “what is” laid out on a lab report. What could I do about it but accept it? This was what it looked like I and had to deal with the words on the page if I wanted to feel better. End of story.

matthias-heil-156834So we went for an evening walk to watch the sunset and I started to pull myself together; after all, no one had been maimed or died. I knew,  via some higher aspect of me that is party to the “bigger picture” and which was knocking at the door of me to come in, that out of this new challenge a new level of healing and personal growth was about ready to be birthed. Some of the changes might only be temporary until my body gets it together again; others…well…but what if they are necessary so I can start to enjoy the radiant health I have been keeping at bay for so long. After all, I knew I was quite capable of registering  subtleties in my diet at a level way beyond the rational mind. Two of the most “modern” things on my intolerance list were ones that I already knew didn’t agree with me – kale, for instance – which I tried so diligently  to incorporate, akin to most other health-food aficionados, only to find it didn’t make me feel very good at all. In light of this very strong intuition (which had clearly told me what I needed to know the moment I consumed it) I began to suspect the part played by learned behaviour and nostalgia when it came to ignoring the adverse effects of those other foods on my list. Part of me, I knew, had stuck it heels in and refused to give them up, even when I had (long) suspected that, say, cheese may not be making me feel all-that rosy. If this was the shake-up call I needed and it was the only thing stood between me and vastly increased energy, far less inflammation and pain, no more brain fog or unexplained nerve pain, no more crashing, unpredictable health…etc., then I was in for the ride.

That’s not to say that the timing, in the summer heat, right before several trips away (always a food-challenge anyway) is ideal…yet when is? Doing this in the autumn or winter months when I feel generally lousier would be even harder. For me, there was no looking back, not even a “last super” once I opened those results even, though I had no idea whether how long I was giving them up for or I would ever get to eat some of these foods again. I was uncompromising as a way of setting the pace of how diligently I was prepared to work at this, no short-cuts or cheats. I am now working on spinning my new diet in the most positive light I can, the one that sees me gain the foothold on recovery that I have so-long been seeking. See it as a opportunity for even greater innovation in the kitchen than I already demonstrate on a daily basis, I told myself; and hopefully, once it starts to have an effect, I should have the energy back with which to tackle the new challenge that cooking might (temporarily) bring. Perhaps one day I will look back and applaud the time I made the changes that altered my life, resoundingly, for the better as I already do about some of the earlier shifts I have made along the path. In truth, I find I know this already…so now to get on with it and to look forward to the steady progress I expect to make in the coming weeks.


 

As part of the package with York there are a couple of half hour consultations with a nutritionist and I have just had my first one. It was explained how the intolerances are ranged in order of reaction and that this can be used as a guide to how much to work at eliminating a particular food trigger, at least while the body heals. I was told that my results were a clear indication that I have leaky gut (long suspected; though the first time its been confirmed). The program is aimed at a 12 week period of total elimination of the red zone foods, with a slightly more relaxed approach to those on the orange/borderline list (phew, I can eat some garlic) though I intend to take both lists seriously in an effort to heal my gut. Some supplements were suggested to help me to do this, one of which I am already taking (curcumin) but an increased dose was recommended. Two or three other solutions were suggested to get around foods that I am needing to “tweak” or replace, both of which I was unaware of before so I found the session pretty punchy, given the relatively short time, but very useful. The key thing is that if you pursue your own test, a personalised set of recommendations can be provided for you, to help you get your own gut healing underway. Resources such a handbook and daily diary for tracking progress are included in the kit.

As a result of this doorway swinging open in my mind, suggesting to me that I can go after the results I need to heal, with or without a doctor’s say-so, I have ordered two addtional blood tests with another entity called Medicheck. There is (sorry to keep harping on about this but it feels so relevant when your aim is to achieve balance…) the sense of yin and yang components coming together on new terms about a person who has been at sea, seeking to self-heal from chronic illness using primarily intuition and natural methods, now agreeing to seek out the assistance of the scientific community that may well afford them the completion that they are after. In other words, I feel my left and right brained approaches to healing have just come together and met in the middle; which makes for a powerful team. Sometimes you reach a point when you could use that “get down to business” approach to healing that comes from an unremitting scientific stance and I seem to have reached the point where I want to add that to my mix; which taps into an aspect of me that relishes “geeking-out”, crossing and ticking all the boxes. When you block your own access to information that could benefit you, you only delay your own facility to come into balance and harmony and this cannot fail to impact on your state of health. I have no regrets – at all – about self-managing my own healing process to the extent that I have thus far and I have delved very deep into the processes of my own biology in ways that have been utterly life-changing but there is no doubting that I need to reach my hand out towards method that could now help me make further headway by producing some data. This is nothing like the feeling of surrendering that going to the GP’s surgery, to be belittled or persuaded into all manner of prescription medications without getting to the root causes, would have given me if I had agreed to it all those years ago; this is all on my terms and retains full respect for everything I have come to know about my own body and my particular state of health. By ending my own stand-off with the more mainstream aspects of twenty-first century medicine, I have made a personal shift into the centre of my own healing process and I can feel that as a tangible turbo boost to the headway I am now making.

In particular, there are questions I want answering regarding my thyroid, the function tests relating to which are set at a ridiculously high margin in the UK (somewhat lower in the US but still higher than the threshold necessary to detect some auto-immunity presentations of thyroid issues such as Hashimoto’s…and yes there is still a good chance that my lab results may demonstrate nothing “on paper” since there is such a thing as a subclinical thyroid issue, which can still throw your health into serious disarray, especially combined with other auto-immune conditions, as I clearly have. But its a big start to at least investigate this (whilst seeking to heal the auto-immune component through a more personally appropriate diet as I am now doing…) and the very fact of feeling I deserve these answers, at last, feels like another major healing step at the psychological level. There is a giant declaration of “I’m worth it ” underwritten into the very fact I have financially invested in myself, through these tests, giving them priority out of all the things I could spend my limited means on right now (and I am lucky enough to have the full support and encouragement of my husband, whatever the outcome). It’s no coincidence that many more women than men have thyroid issues. Thyroid function, being to do with that butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, has a great deal to do with a woman’s feeling of power, worthiness and safety to “speak her truth” (the return of the “yin”) and I am actively giving my butterfly flight by exploring new data (made available via the most scientific means  at my disposal – “yang”) in order to take whatever next steps are called for in order for me to heal completely. There is already a post on thyroid in the pipeline (coming soon) and I will report back on that next stage of my exploration, and how I am coping with the new diet, in the coming weeks.

Getting to grips with OCD

A new article about OCD popped into my emails this morning and it was so compelling that I felt I had to share it with my readership here.

I willingly admit that OCD has woven in and out of my health journey since I was a very young child experiencing bullying at school and as something that reappeared, to varying extents, during my adulthood at times of particular stress. I have also encountered it in a family member and in the life of a close friend, not to mention comparing notes with other friends and acquaintances over the years (its one of those conversations that can prove strangely ice-breaking  in a way that forms a close bond built on vulnerability and deep-understanding when you identify others who have been through it).

Often it seems to indicate a person who is particularly sensitive or who has survived some  very profound emotional “stuff” (or both). Often very highly intelligent and prone to arranging what they know into categories, I have long noticed how this seems to be a way of keeping their emotions in check. After all, in my own case, diligent pattern forming and shape-sorting are the methods by which I draw the conclusions that feed into my writing and research (so they can be skills that serve me well) yet it can be such a bugbear when the trait extends to personal behaviours and the endless creation of little rituals that become the prison cell of your own existence.

This certainly crosses over with my favourite topic of how the left and right brain hemispheres co-exist and (ideally) agree to collaborate together and what the best relationship between them looks like once they do. When I imagine my own OCD traits, it feels like my left-brain chasing around my right hemisphere with a butterfly net, trying to box up what feels most unruly and out of control; yet a situation where we allow them to work together (some flux, some structure) feels like a place where OCD no longer runs rife. I had also long suspected that it went much deeper than a learned response to emotional trauma; into the very wiring of the brain and possibly some of the chemical influences that we get exposed to. This detailed article goes deeper into the “whys” of OCD than anything I have come across and in a way that makes perfect sense to me; of which this is just a snippet.

To highlight how OCD can begin to emerge in an individual, imagine the example of being bullied in school. The first time you are bullied, electrical charges in a certain part of the emotional area of the brain will heat up. This heat subsides once the bullying episode ceases, although you may suffer from mild post-traumatic stress disorder. A few days later you are bullied once again. Immediately, electrical charges heat up that same area of the brain. Fortunately, this area again cools down once the bullying ceases. Perhaps bullying occurs a third, fourth or fifth time, and the same part of the brain experiences intense heat during each episode. Continuous, intense heat to this area without ample time for the body to heal can lead to calloused brain tissue for adults and children alike. Medical science and medical research have not yet discovered this widespread phenomenon. Have you heard the term hotheaded? Well, it may actually be an accurate description in certain instances. Bullying is not the only situation that creates this intense heat. The physical burnout that occurs can arise from a number of emotionally heavy events and result in a small area of calloused brain tissue.

I’m glad to say there is life beyond OCD and I hardly notice it at all in my behaviour these days to the point I can say that it has pretty-much gone. It remains there fairly unobtrusively as the tendency to over-think or research (without respite) when I am hooked onto a project, checking the house (repeatedly) before I go out and having certain comfort-zones that I stubbornly refuse to step out of (even when I want to outgrow them); though I am getting better at identifying and tackling those when they come up. ocdThis is a long way from the OCD rituals that I used to play-out in my early days, adding to all the complication of an already over-complicated life. I suspect this success story has a lot to do with how far I have opened up my emotion-box, rewired my neurones through new positive behaviours and healed my body through diet and other means; which shows this is entirely possible and can have great results. In fact (I suddenly realise) its absence is one of the reasons I feel I have transformed my life to the degree that I have in spite of some remaining physical symptoms; as though a breath of fresh air was injected into my life once I released these compulsive patterns of behaviour and took back control for myself. This article offers hope to anyone still wrestling with OCD and who is looking for a foothold on how to go about it (the first step of which is understanding why it occurred in the first place).

It’s a complex area and as the article says “there is not just one type of OCD”; it is extremely diverse and can be so subtle that it is not even acknowledged. To read the whole cutting-edge article and access the audio, here is the link to Anthony Williams’ Medical Medium website and the feature on OCD.

Deepest relief

There’s a feeling that keeps sweeping over me this week and its like a ghost of a memory and a healing balm, all in one. Its been happening since the hot weather turned back to June’s usual cloud and rain yet the days are still comfortably mild; enough to keep fresh air moving freely through the house in a way that is distinctly “summer”, not least because of the tinge of honeysuckle on the air. With doors flung wide open, the dampness is like a welcome coolant on frayed nerves and I find I can only hold gaze with softened eyes, as though the whiteness of the sky is almost brighter than the constant sunshine they replace. Recently fledged birds chirrup in unison from trees where they take shelter between excitable reconnaissance dives upon the bird feeder yet there’s, otherwise, such a stillness in the air as though the thick cloud cover is made of cotton wool. I find I just want to surrender into cushions, to curl up wrapped around my own torso, to seek out books to read yet to fidget between options, to not fully pay attention, to close eyes, to drift-off, to just be. There is a sense of deep release, of profoundest relief like when a great weight has been suddenly lifted. Even though there are still various things trying to agitate me;  family things, life things, mini-dramas that irritate and make inevitable demands, my driving impulse is to keep finding this place and to lose myself to it whenever I can, for as long as I can….and the rest can wait.

It struck me as I returned to it this morning (family gone, doors flung open, house quiet…) that this place in time that I am “remembering” with all my senses is the summer when I was sixteen and had just finished my exams. These were probably the most demanding set of exams I ever undertook, from the sheer breadth of the dozen subjects I had been expected to know in such depth, my life taken up by piles of notes in every corner of my room for months. Crammed – don’t we use that expression; I was crammed full of “stuff” to the point of almost bursting and now…nothing, it was all over. The feeling, I recall, was quite sublime. No set books, no timetable, not even a school anymore, having left ready to move on to college and many of the people I had known for years said goodbye to once and for all (in some cases, another relief). No point in worrying, no need to plan. The soft wave coming in to carry me on its shoulders was one of, yes, sweet relief and I found myself suspended in the kind of void I don’t think I remember ever experiencing before that and have probably never got back to, not fully, since becoming an adult. Really, had it been 33 years since I was last there?

Honeysuckle.jpgSo, I recall in fleeting glimpses, like old sepia photos in my mind (though the feelings coming through are much stronger than the images) how I surrendered to just such a summer as I am being reminded of now. Warm and damp after the intense heat wave that (of course) had burned its way through all my exams; white skies were now the blank-canvas backdrop to a summer-verdant garden. The scent of moist honeysuckle growing up the wall beneath my bedroom window perfumed the air day and night, as though to remind me I had now entered the sacred garden of my own deepest tranquility. The overwhelming contrast of “nothing to be done”, no demands upon my time must have been stark against the weeks of relentless pressure, like nectar to the senses. The jar I had been held-captive in had smashed and I was free to enter the garden of life; that’s what it felt like, and all I wanted to do was to examine each moment like I was breathing in the scent of a flower. I gave myself over to a long summer of reading many novels (deep diving deep into DH Lawrence and Brontës – is that why my recent craving…?), of alternate sleeping – reading  – dozing again. I was waking at dawn, eating breakfast long before anyone else got up, going back to my bed, staying up past midnight, lying down on the grass, contemplating abstract thoughts, pursuing transitory ambitions that often “popped” before they developed, letting them go without a care. The scent of sweet rain and hot buttered toast and the ceaseless bird chirrup being enough, being everything, that stimulated the senses.

It’s not the event but the feeling of such a time that is wanting to rise up in me again; to remind me so that it can be experienced anew. For when do we ever let ourselves be like this once we become adults; do we ever? I mean, really surrendering into it, giving up the rhythms of time and allowing that now is all there is? Giving ourselves to it just as it is – void – without seeking to fill it up.

Tuning into your own most-treasured time of “void”, of a feeling you once stored-up for such a day as this, a distant memory of what it truly feels like to have nothing to do and nowhere to go can be such a gift to yourself. Especially if you can allow yourself to accept it as it is, on behalf of who you are right now, not making it about nostalgia as though you are trying to recapture some long-lost essence of your past when “life was better” or “you were more deserving of it”. The biggest challenge is to allow it, to really give yourself over to it and not seek to make it into another project by orchestrating it or making it conditional. How easy do we find it to be in void and not allow the mind to seek something to do, to worry about or a way to make the time more “useful” or “constructive” (as we tend to regard it when we constantly keep ourselves busy)? Yet empty space is anything but lacking in use; and it might be the very thing we are needing most, the refinding of which will be the missing jigsaw piece that makes all else suddenly fit together. Like the hidden portal  we couldn’t see for looking, it might be the doorway to exactly where we were trying so hard to get to with our minds…and there it was, all the time. For most of us, memories from childhood are like the eager guides waiting to take us there and I urge you to take whatever opportunity arises when you ask “when did I ever feel like that?” and just see where it takes you. Then, once you have it back, make an honoured place for this state of being in your life and watch it take on a new state of harmony; which is just an outward reflection of a far deeper state of harmony that has just found its space in you.

Absolute healing

The body, as we probably all know by now, stores emotions and memory and that process doesn’t ever stop. In effect, our cells “are” the stories we embody; each one of them began life as a particular story that they took on as their guiding aspect in the womb and they have continued repeating that same story time and time again (our liver has a story that it is a liver, our eye that it is an eye), which is how we remain here in human form. As I recently explored in a post on my other blog, the countless stories we are the  composite of are not “bad” and it is a nonsense to think we must fight them or drop them by the wayside to live a spiritual life beyond having a story (that would mean surrendering our human form entirely – and the word for that is death); yet we need to be selective about which ones we keep and which ones are calling for release so that we get to choose patterns that serve us and reflect who we truly are in this moment, not at some time in the past.

Even though I have undergone some monumental releases of old emotions and memories from my own body (I give you my most recent post Love Letter to Myself as point in case), I still keep on creating more emotions which take up residence in my human body…and we all do, that’s called being human. My mental visual is that the body’s cellular structures, its finest most cobwebby strings of enzymes and fluids, its fascia in particular and then the groups of cells that make up entire muscles (perhaps especially the psoas), organs and skin serve like washing lines on which we “peg” our most emotive memories, intending to deal with them “another day”; particularly when they hold a charge that we are not quite ready to deal with in the moment when they occur. Typically, something happens to generate an emotional response in our day and we are busy doing other things, or it touches upon an old nerve, or we haven’t quite got the tools yet with which to clean up the out-of-resonance feeling that it triggers, and so we peg it there for later…and it can remain there attached to that cellular washing line (and then remain there and remain there and remain there…) for a very long time, snowballing into something that gets bigger and, often, more distorted. In time, like attracts to like and so emotions around a particular theme form crystalline structures in the part of the body that we have selected to become “its” storage area. This instigate restrictions in flow, then hard nodules of pain, then wholesale breakdowns in function…and all because we allowed emotions to build up without checking back in to to see what was calling for our attention.

So, as far as I’m concerned, there is no breakthrough moment when this process ceases to happen…not while we are in a human body. We do get quicker and somewhat more skillful at not allowing the unattended emotions to require deep storage in the first place, true (I like to imagine that I now have a temporary holding space for stuff requiring my attention rather than a heavy vault where I try to hide things)…but we can only process so much “as it happens” and we are always likely to store at least some of our stuff “for later” as long as we are in physicality. So it pays to get shipshape and organised about this by instigating the mechanisms that mean you regularly check out and work through what you are holding in those cellular storage zones  – whether that be meditation, some sort of talking process or physical/energetic therapy that gives you a regular springclean before anything has the time to become chronic. A rule of thumb for me (learned the hard way…) is that the better I feel, the more crucial it is to remember to book myself a regular appointment for the kind of treatment session that helps me to process emotions out of the body while they are still held subtle patterns and not yet the ingrained kind of distortions that lead to more lasting problems. It’s that old adage that prevention is better than cure!

For me, that audit is a trip to see my wonderful myofascial therapist, who offers so much more than just a mechanical approach to bringing about relief in my body. Whether I have a particular problem or not, I try to see her once every two to three months as I have (repeatedly) found that this pays dividends versus trying to leave this to an annual or six-monthly visit where it only becomes more messy to tackle all the things going on. This week, I scheduled a session for the day of the summer solstice which, as you will know if you have read that Love Letter post, presented a powerful conscious opportunity for me to release a great many emotional memories out of the cellular structures of my body once and for all and so I went in there charged up with the intention to play my part while she played hers (the most powerful scenario of all in any healing session). Without even needing to tell her what I was working on internally, we somehow met in the middle and this presented one of the most powerful healing opportunities I have every undergone. In fact, I scheduled that post to get published ten minutes into my session with her, by which time I knew I would be lying on her treatment table – now that is a powerfully conscious process of release!

True to form, her skillful manipulations of myofascia and energy releases being mirrored by all the inner work that I was already doing, the session turned out to be a particularly powerful yet incredibly serene one, from which I walked feeling so calm and brimful with wellbeing that I almost floated out of the door. It felt like a real milestone and a great deal was covered, functionally speaking, providing me with a startling amount of tangible relief in the physical body. In particular, a painful knee that I have been experiencing for quite some time felt markedly better and, that evening, I was to be found striding out with my husband and dog to watch the solstice sunset feeling more lithe and lissom that I had for quite some time.

That left knee, I feel I want to point out, had all the traits of a functional issue and yet (when I first presented with it some months ago) she strongly suspected it related to an emotional issue about my daughter. I immediately felt the affirmative of that and knew it had taken form many years ago when I was consumed with so many fears, doubts and, yes, guilt, about how well I was parenting during the years of marriage breakdown and single-parenthood (“could I support her” = knee; you get the picture).  The problem I have with my knee has been emerging for a couple of years and, every time I had an emotion release around issues of self-doubt, the knee itself felt spongy and over-extended…which has felt like a functional “problem” though, really, it was signifying a release of defunct old emotions, making the knee feel lighter, less rigid. That is because, for literally years, I had been creating all the cells around the knee bone and ligaments to a pattern of self-doubt and a need to try harder at being rigid, supportive…so, take that away and, suddenly the knee felt like it was a knee no longer (literally, it didn’t know how to exist anymore without those old-defunct structures that it had been modelling itself to, making it feel artificially strong). In other words, what was a very necessary emotional release, as I learned to accept that I had not let anyone down, presented as a further “problem” that felt like the strength had suddenly gone out of it (though it had actually relaxed). Then, as the knee panicked at the void of all the familiar emotions it had been using to structure itself and grasped for any kind of  replacement it could from the kind of emotional debris that it was most familiar with, it had managed to rebuild itself upon some of the somewhat different yet equally potent ideas around parenthood and self-doubt from my current circumstances (as my daughter becomes an adult and flies the nest)…which had led to the knee feeling less spongy lately yet, suddenly, being in all-out pain which now affected my leg all the way to the hip (in other words, “the problem” now seemed bigger than ever, came back “stronger” or “escalated”). All of this understanding came to me because I was able to relate the therapist’s intuition to what I had been experiencing at the subtlest levels of my awareness and thus let go of the idea that the softening knee was a problem (so, I now know to allow it as a necessary passing phase) as well as shining a light on all the self-doubts I have been putting myself through and working on them, rather than storing them in the body.

By the next day, after my myofascial session (in which the knee issue was only one of many that she worked upon), I was sore yet was still able to manage some gentle yoga. By the afternoon, I was tearing-up at almost anything that rocked my emotions for so-much of a nano second and began to feel a little unhinged, not to mention restricted to the sofa. By this morning, I felt like I had been in some sort of road traffic accident (more accurately, like I had gone through one of those car crushers at the landfill) as every inch of me was in pain and restriction; which is where I am now…except…I’m not.

Now to the most important bit I want to share with you, which is how I have already turned around how I felt on waking this morning. When this happens (whatever the release modality is that brought you some respite but may then have made you feel worse straight afterwards), the body’s dominant impulse is to take you back into more pain or restriction and this is so important to know. And it’s not because your body hates you or is working against you; it is really out of learned behaviour patterns and fear and the sooner we understand this and work with it, the sooner recovery comes; in fact, we can look at this kind of “low point” as the most powerful kind of opportunity, a darkest before the dawn moment.

This is because the cellular structure of the body is a “yang” impulse and is all about creating and maintaining structures and routine, predictability, order, staying well within the boundaries of “what it knows” from prior experience and repetition and making sure that form is maintained on the basis that form is equated with life. “Void” is a state that it fears like death itself….it must have substance to feel like it is thriving and so it races to fill up the space…any space that it detects…with more of what it knows. Even if all it knows (from prior experience) is pain and restriction, those are regarded as preferable to emptiness, a void; and so it races to fill that space with more more more, which is the yang impulse to a tee. To this aspect, void is nothingness and this triggers all its fears; it would rather have distortion than nothing at all. If you’ve ever created for yourself a day when you have absolutely nothing to do and thought you would really enjoy that and yet, when it arrives, you find you can’t sit still, you get horrendously fidgety as though some part of you feels it must fill the space with something, anything, even if that “thing” is to worry or create artificial problems to solve…that is what goes on when we first introduce the idea of spaciousness to some part of the body that has been constricted for a very long time. It is not a destructive impulse but, rather, a creative impulse…one that allowed us to become form in the first place; yet it can run amok when not in balance with an opposite impulse to allow spaciousness to coexist with it. You could say, one keeps the other in check and, together, they form the ideal state.

Fortunately, this is only one side of the story as there is a yin aspect to the cellular structure of the body too; an aspect that is more about space than structure. If this sounds like the yin doesn’t play a very significant part in the body, being all about an absence of structure, think again. More of our physical body consists of space than it does of matter…the 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (7 octillion) atoms that make up our body consist mostly of space (the nucleus part comparable to “a fly in a cathedral”) and if all that space was to be compressed out of us, our body would fit into a cube less than 1/500th of a centimetre on each side (from one of many articles quoting these details). You could say, space its our defining feature (if we allow it to be…) so why are we so afraid of this? Rather, when we work with it, we get to have our say about the kind of patterns we store as the arrangement of cells in our body, which can only lead to feeling better than ever before; you could say, more aligned with our true self, our highest Self beyond the limitations of the physical body, and not all the distortions triggered by emotions we have found too challenging to deal with in the past along with all their incumbent belief systems relating to fear, lack and survival.

This space is where consciousness resides, flowing in like water through a newly cleared channel, levelling the many stories of the cellular body by finding things in common and bringing them into alignment with your highest aspect. There are no distortions here; this is so important to know and we have access to this levelling aspect any time we invite it in consciously; this is also big news when we are healing our body.

When we allow ourselves to notice how we are already conscious in all of our cells, we tap into this aspect. This is what gives us the sensation of having a physical bdy in the first place. Just lie there and allow yourself to notice two different parts of your physical body simultaneously and you will realise how this aspect can be in more than one place at a time; how awareness of relativity between those different parts and how differently they feel offers the sense of “body” that we take largely for granted. That aspect, you could say the third point in the triangle, is your awareness. Try doing this with multiple parts of your body, holding awarenss in all of them at once. Now expand this outwards to acknowledge how this awareness is who you are…and that it is not contained by the physical body but that the body resides within it. In other words, you are really a vast sea of awareness and the body is but an aspect of that…the slowest moving, lower vibrational aspect of it (which is why we are able to exist as form, to touch and to see ourselves) but, by no means, the whole picture of what is going on.

Our body arises out of that sea of awareness; just more of the same fabric, only slowed down to where it manifests into the physical dimension. I like to think of my physical self as a patch of sparkling ripples or intersecting currents on the surface of an otherwise glass-like expanse of water; mere undulations in an otherwise seamless energy field. Regarding myself like this for the last few years has enabled me to drop the “hard outer shell” perspective that tends to keep our human experience feeling so non-negotiable. Holding the perspective that my body has a far stronger relationship with that broader field of energy than it does with the learned patterns of behaviour perpetuated by my cells has been one of my most powerful healing modalities.

That vast sea of awareness is available to us in every moment, for creating and repairing our bodies (in fact, we owe our existence to it), yet we modulate the access we give ourselves to it though the learned mechanisms, the repeat patterns, of the yang impulse that is our cellular body; like a tap that we seldom turn on more than just a fraction in case we get flooded. In other words, the one aspect has been rationing our access to the other thus far. We have been so guarded about it and allowed what we think we know about the body to direct our experiences much more so than taking that deep-dive or even a gentle swim into the considerably broader waters of all potential. So, what would happen if we started to trust that sea of awareness and allow it to come flooding in? Is this the largely unexplored territory of our next great leap in evolution?

When we allow that awareness into our cells, the physical body starts to register itself as an energetic field exactly like those other energy bodies some of us now talk about having, rather than as a solid mass of cells (if somewhat more slowly vibrating). As such, we start to allow that we can influence this field of experience in exactly the same ways; through intention, thought, belief and what we assume based on past experience. As such, we can start to choose our intentions, give them form through our thoughts and leave beliefs that no longer serve us plus assumptions based on the past by the wayside. After all, where we are headed, there can be no assumptions made since we are forging all-new territory. At the energetic level, our instructions are very quickly read and carried out, so understanding where those instructions derive from (are they arising out of the vast field of awareness, or some tight little nodule of emotional pain we are holding onto) makes such a lot of difference to our experiences. Emotions and thoughts are wonderful things; we’re not trying to turn them off here. But allowing them to be more flux, to be like passing colours that come in, morph into a kaleidoscope of experience that leaves an impression on our consciousness, then pass though to be replaced by something else, allows the energy body that we know as our physical state to remain what it is designed to be – an energetic and vibrant extension of the universe – not stagnant and anchored into a non-thriving state with no room to grow.

When we find the place where the energetic field of the body seamlessly meets the vaster field, we can notice the similarities and allow the boundary to soften significantly. This welcomes the vast sea of awareness that you truly are into the physical body and begins an uninterupted tidal flow of feedback and receiving that dissolves any further blockages, like unhindered breathing clears any blockage on the lungs. Indeed, it is like receiving the breath of life fully into yourself for the first time when you start to make this your normality; renewing and creating cells from this place of non-distortion and broadest perspective. Passing through the layers of energy bodies of which we are made in varying frequencies of vibration (all the unseen layers such as emotional, mental and so forth), this energy flow starts to, as it were, cleanse the processing of these aspects before they have a need to be stored as unresolved cellular debris in the body and we become, quite literally, lighter.

felix-russell-saw-102513.jpgThis marks another homecoming, a reunion of sorts, as we reclaim the lighter aspects we have been estranged from for quite some time. The body celebrates its new status as an energetic phenomenon rather than this idea of a fixed structure we have tended to hang around its neck for so very long; and you can feel that celebration in the way that you feel, which can register as such profound relief and a lifting of immense burden without having to leave the body behind. The body no-longer has to suffer the wound that it is, at some level, regarded as a hindrance to wellbeing or achieving a spiritual state; a label you can’t blame it for trying to live-up to sometimes, given how often it is unfairly bestowed. It can shed the injustice of that stigma once and for all and bask in all the gratitude we experience for the beautiful experience of physicality that it makes so abundantly possible (again, I explore this in Love Letter to Myself).

We realise also that the body is in perpetual flux, not this fixed state we tend to assume it has locked itself into. Every thought, every moment of attention, influences its energetic field. We can notice how the sensations we are having very subtly change even as we watch them with our consciousness; try applying this to some area you would really notice, say a migraine you are having, and prepare to be in awe. Notice how the energy in that area of your body seems to expand, become more spacious, releases pressure and relaxes the very hard boundaries that were creating resistance and pain just moments before. The energetic component of our physical experience becomes more acknowledged and integrated and this utterly transforms the experience we are having of the body. Fear seems to dissipate, relaxation can be summoned at a moment’s notice, learned postures soften all the way down to the least seen aspects of our organs and all the intricate processes they carry out day by day. It’s as though your body is under new management and everyone is happier, more relaxed and diligent, laughing a little as they get their tasks done. I remember the part in the book “Eat, Pray, Love” where Elizabeth Gilbert is told by the Balinese healer to smile with her face, with her mind, even with her liver and I know now what that means. This is not some trite one-liner straight from a bumper sticker; it is how we tune our cells to the frequency of the universe (all the better to receive what it never ceases offering to us).

As these higher frequencies are allowed to flood into our body via the pathway we have just created through our conscious perception of them, and the physical body reintegrates with the vast sea of awareness that it is really “just” an expression of, absolute healing is allowed to happen, is made possible…no further hindrances. Just allow it time; no stop-watches, no marks out of ten, no impatience, no expectations, no applying logic to how we assess its performance, no self-judgement…none of that since these will flip you back over onto your back with your legs kicking in the air like an upturned beetle until you get back to that simple state of allowing without all that blasted mental interference!

Some of us are holding the patterns of multiple lifetimes, more experiences and stories and repeat traumas than we can even imagine, in our bodies this time around…for a very good reason since we are playing a key part in clearing these old patterns out of humanity at large. For those of us that this applies to, we may feel just so stuck to these old patterns at the cellular level, in spite of all our best efforts to let them go, that we feel somehow like failures or victims of circumstance, unsupported by the universe or just too weary to keep believing that a state of healing really awaits us up ahead. The degree to which we feel this is fair indication of the super-powerful healing potential that we are modelling for the world at large; the intensity of our pain serving like a run-up or a turbo-boost to what lies up ahead. We took this enormous task on so that, when we finally get out of our own way, on all the multi-layers of numerous held wounds and beliefs and traumas and learned behaviours and fears…etc, at just the right moment for them all to line up (similar to how a powerful planetary alignment might arrange itself in the skies), which could happen at any time, the release of this will reverberate across the sea of awareness and be made available to countless other beings all at once. In fact we may have experienced powerful releases like these many times and hardly known what to make of them, having tried to understand them by applying the logic of the mind; and we will have integrated those breakthrough moments yet, in some cases, flipped ourselves back to some of the learned behaviours that were ready to be released. All the more important for us to continue believing that what we seek lies in spaciousness, not in the hard definition of what we think might be going on with our bodies; and never underestimate the enormity of what we have taken on and are really doing so spectacularly here (however it might look at ground level; not loosing faith in spite of this, as it is all part of the challenge we have taken on so courageously). Doing this is the true essence of  what we mean when we say we are “holding space” for something to happen and we are becoming world experts at that.

To do this all the more effectively, I am dropping (but not disowning) the stories of how I got to here and this has been my big gear shift since the summer solstice. There is a subtle but important difference between these two approaches. I am not throwing away my story and nothing (no tired-old belief system!) could induce me to do so; it is far too valuable and to seek to erase it as though it never happened would be to dishonour and fragment from the aspect of self that has so bravely processed through that whole set of experiences (for very good reason; again, I refer you to my post Don’t Feel You Have To Ditch Your Story (Unless You Really Want To)). Rather, I will allow my story to come up of its own accord, carried on the flow, whenever it deems this to be useful as a point of reference; this is so important and is like leaving the door open with a welcome mat at the threshold. However, I choose to lay-off the habit of seeking it out or the frequent repetition of what I have been through in my own mind since it might not always be relevant and, when led by the mind, these habits can become hard structures that pin us down. Instead, I am allowing a sense of void to step in through the doorway of me in equal part with the “story” aspect; like yin and yang in equal partnership. Again, my task is simply to hold space. Having honoured my story so thoroughly in my Love Letter to Myself, I am better positioned to do this than ever and this “write it all down” method might be one that you could use to consciously clear your own way to allow more spaciousness to arise in your experience, going forwards. In essence, I have pumped every experience I have ever had full of love and then dropped it into the creative void  where I will leave it all to cook without my interference, neither disowned nor beaten onwards like a marching drumbeat. This approach is a yin-yang balancing act and can serve as the very vortex out of which you manifest your next great experience of being in a human body; which is, after all, what healing is all about.

Back to my day; recognizing the patterns reinstating in my body, I took myself into meditation and I focussed on the profound and seamless relationship between my body and the sea of awareness, as above, whist holding feelings of love (light), kindness (expansion) and compassion (harmony) towards my body. Just noticing how these particulars that we know so well from our human experience match up with the energetic expressions that relate to the out-of-body experience helps ease the seamless flow between the physical and non-physical aspects of awareness, bridging the seeming gap, and I felt at once how the edges of physicality softened and my pain levels dropped down to the bare minimum. The cells readily take on the energetic interpretation of these experiences once a match is made…and, literally, I felt more expansion where, before, there had been constriction whilst light and harmonious experience seemed to flood me where, before, there had been discord and lack of flow. I have remained in that state all morning and what felt like extreme pain is like a subtle sub-plot that I can leave to its own devices whilst I have concentrated on other, more uplifting, things. All we need do is turn that flow on; our bodies will always default to the higher state, as do all things given the choice and, once those barriers to experiencing them dissolve away, we are allowed to float out into the calm waters of an experience that, at once, supports us without defining us in any way. Defunct patterns have no place here; they do not gain the repetition or the physical traction to make themselves solid enough to be sustained. The longer I remain here, in this void of conscious creation (directed by intention and thought), the more supported my new patterns – my chosen patterns – become and it only gets easier from here…

I see my cells flooded with love, kindness and compassion…and this is my only task. Not such a bad one to place my focus on, really; knowing that all the most joyful pursuits I allow myself further support this, along with all the kindnesses, the slowing down, the relaxing, the letting go, the careful focus upon what is most uplifting, the positive thoughts. Listening to my body’s signaled responses to whatever I choose and responding in that moment, without added drama. Meeting the body in its relative slowness whilst allowing it to taste the higher frequencies passing through without alarm. Why should it be alarmed to welcome in what is here to support it? Both physical and non-physical have their place in our humanness; its time to allow this and we get to experience so much, across such a broad spectrum, when we do. Fast and slow moving streams of energy, met as form; it is all…just…so…beautiful so why not make it our default. I suspect this is the opportunity we have always been waiting for.

 


The term “sea of awareness” that I use here was coined by Jeddah Mali, whose wonderful three-part series of meditations Seeds of Enlightenment, Embracing Freedom and Infinite Grace I completed about six years ago and served as one of the foundation stones of my conscious expansion. I’ve lost count of how many times I have now listened to these invaluable audios, so much so that their vernacular is inseparable from my own. They are still my go-to when I want to be led through a guided meditation and I have never found a term more fitting to describe that which lies beyond the physical experience than “sea of awareness”. I very highly recommend her work as a way of encouraging the process of integrating the higher aspects of experience with those associated with living in a human body.

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Love letter to myself

Summer Solstice, 2017

My body, my physical expression, all that I am as a complex, emotional, thinking and feeling human being, I love you so much. I know I haven’t said it nearly enough. I relied on it being “obvious”, as we tend to do; did I really have to spell it out? All those little gestures when I directed you at the cross-roads, helped you to intuit what  best served you, dropped clues of synchronicity, showed you all those sunsets, flooded your heart with inexplicable joy, inspired you over and over and over again; these all spoke of love without the need for words. But if you still need me to say it, to point out all the ways that I love you, then I’m saying it now.

When did we drift apart; why was it that you stopped listening? Or, more like, became suspicious of me like we had different agendas. We used to sing to the same tune and then you started to believe all those ideas being flung at you; thought that you hated the shape you are, the way you looked, that you were odd and didn’t fit in. Oh my body, those were just a reflection of how you were being taught to think about yourself; none of it was real except that you made it so by believing in it. If you’d only listened to me…but, that wasn’t what we had planned was it? You needed to learn these things all for yourself. And so you turned to your intellect, you put so much effort into that; you could say, you made your mind up, you were always so determined, stubborn even. But how exhausting, to have to feel you were the one driving everything with your decisions. Life became so complicated when it could have been far easier with me by your side in equal partnership; you became a control freak, you felt responsible for absolutely everything and with responsibility came blame, so much blame if things didn’t go your way. It drove you nearly mad with over-thinking and you weren’t even an adult yet; so you loaded your plate so high with those rocks you insisted on carrying. I watched you do it and I tried to drop you clues (sometimes, if you thought they were your own idea, you would cautiously pick them up…) but I had to allow you your freedom and, after all, it was all still an experience for me, either way. But it could have been so much easier for you. I had to admire you for the challenge you took on, to grow yourself and others by taking the harder route, the long winding road. That took such courage; do you know how courageous you are?

Really, you always knew I was there; but you didn’t always want to know about it. There are times when I vibe so high it frightens you, even now. It used to excite you, when you were little; it would make you pirouette around and be into everything, to touch things in nature and feel so much joy from everything life had to offer; simple things without strings. But then it alarmed you because it made you feel different to be like this, so exuberant and uncool, so you hid me away deep inside. Once you learned about the world, some of its scary stuff, the excitement of feeling me switched-on in you sometimes felt too much like fear…all that energy, pouring through you; like it would burn you, destroy you, take you closer to the edge than you wanted. Or you felt like the calm I gave you made you into a horrible person, in denial about all the fear people kept telling you that you should be feeling; like you were cold and lacked feeling. So you tried to suppress me away with alcohol, all that rubbish that you ate, those people you used to hang out with who told you were nothing because that was what they believed about themselves. You tried to bring the feelings I gave you crashing back down to earth with all those layers of toxic experience but I wouldn’t let you. So we played tug of war for a very long time but I kept coming back. In your darkest moments, I would always do that and you would lean your head on me, knowing where you stood with me when all else failed. You would never have relinquished me back then, not really; I was your safeguard, your hidden truth.

We maintained such a bizarre partnership, like terribly different twins joined at the heart; the outgoing one and the one who was increasingly afraid of her own shadow. We cared so very deeply for each other and yet it was like we didn’t know how to talk to each other at all any more; we lost our easy parlance when you moved away from home, from the safety of the nest. You could say, we got out of touch like once close friends who had drifted…which was only possible because you made life feel conditional and I no longer fit with that. You made it all feel like that; life all one giant trade-off, tit for tat. You had to turn down all your own dials to believe in all that nonsense, to be like other people, which you thought you had to do to survive. When your father died on the Summer Solstice, just as you turned twenty (still a child pretending to be adult), half way through studying for the degree that he had thought was too much for you…being a girl, you didn’t know how to react to your first close brush with death so you pushed it inside, denying so many uncomfortable feelings. You really thought at some level that it was your fault somehow; another trade off you had accidentally set in motion because of all the hurt thoughts you harboured about him and your guilt that you and he had drifted apart. It was like you still understood your immense power but you had forgotten about love and that you can do no harm to anyone from this place. It unnerved you about the nature of misplaced thoughts and intentions, about unruly sadness turned to venom, and it made you pull inside even more as though you were too dangerous to let out. You felt horribly unsure of yourself and you looked for your father in unlikely people, seeking answers from “men”; ones who only let you down.

Then four years later, along came that time when you almost let me in again; this time you were flying so high on the midsummer vibe, feeling me switched on and remembering how good it felt when we are partners. You became so excited to feel me lifting you from beneath your wings that you just wanted to come with me again, to forget about everything else and we spiralled higher and higher that night…but then you had come to equate that feeling with alcohol and you also drank too much, thinking it was all the same feeling of exuberance but it wasn’t and you fell crashing back down to earth, into a deep sleep. When you woke up, everything had changed because something had happened, a liberty had been taken when you were off-guard and it was something you wouldn’t forgive yourself for; though really you wouldn’t forgive me. You felt that you had trusted me and that I was the one who had led you out of your body on a spiral of joy and left it lying there, vulnerable and exposed so you pummelled your fists on me though really you blamed yourself. Really, you didn’t know who to blame (perhaps both of us), though I didn’t think blame came into it. This was what made things worse in your mind; you knew that, at some level, I didn’t really care what had happened, I knew it was unimportant since nothing could sully what you are, not really (I tried to show you that but you weren’t ready to hear it). I already saw the much bigger picture, where this was a wake-up call of sorts, and I just wanted you to know it was out there (this other way of looking at things) but you slammed it in my face, felt such guilt for even acknowledging for a brief second that you were not damaged by what had happened. So you play-acted the deep deep crashing hurt to perfection, strapping the rock of it to your back since it was what was expected in such circumstances.

Then I provoked the same conflict of perspective when your mother died almost exactly four years later (how the summer solstice took such a beating). You didn’t know how to handle the grief of another lost parent, on the back of all this, yet when you came to me, I didn’t take you into the abject fear or deep mourning that you thought was appropriate. I showed you, didn’t I, that it was all perfect at some level; that it was by design and that you would survive, stronger and wiser for it and that your mother had even agreed to this but you weren’t ready for that; to hear and feel that death could be strangely unemotive, exciting even, for all parties seen from this higher perspective. You hated yourself for feeling these higher vibes even fleetingly, as you could for a mother with whom you had such a profound connection that you were able to sense that, where she was, she was more than alright, was already in a state of profound bliss and that she only wanted the same feeling for you too. She even came to you to tell you that; you felt her there in the unfamiliar dark room where you lay the night she died and you heard it straight from her but you didn’t want to know it yet; it made you feel too weird. So you kicked and pounded against this thrilling secret, you picked up your heavy rock of mourning and placed it deep in your heart and you slammed the door in my face, even more firmly than before, for even briefly allowing you to see this alternate perspective…so I gracefully withdrew. Your flame, that inner torch, really flickered around then….it felt like such a dark time for you but I could only come to you if I was welcome.

So you began to distrust heightened feelings more than ever before; they felt like the gateway to all your problems, your deepest guilt and self-abhorence, instead of the gateway to greater understanding and bliss. And, of course, you began to think I was cold-hearted, aloof and superior, a heartless know-it-all but, don’t you see, that’s what everything looks like where I reside. I don’t get drawn into all the emotions and learned behaviours, that’s the point – you do that for me, which is fascinating to watch, but I don’t have to. I have already reached my nirvana where there is no good or bad, no cycle of loss; in fact, I never left and I have brought you here with me, so many times but you began to pretend you had never seen it, this place where it is all perfectly fine and nothing is out-of-joint or a “mistake”. You’ve had access to this place all your life because I’ve always wanted you to know that, to cut to the chase, to ride high on its wave and feel its relief and its solace; it got you through so many experiences when you were bullied so relentlessly at school (when you were small and still prepared to listen to alternate realities without picking things apart) and, ever since, I’ve dropped you so many clues to get you back here…But then I see how it was in conflict with what you saw down there on the ground. It simply didn’t fit with how fear, possession, conflict and loss count for so much that is considered relatable in your world so you suppressed what you knew and hid it away like a guilty secret that you denied with all of your human effort.

On the back of all those big hurts, one after another (and there were more around relationships that you formed believing you were so worthless), we stopped talking to each other around then, which is when you were nearly 30 and life seemed so stuck in this groove. You were so despairing and lost and, even if you remembered anything I had shown you, you didn’t know how to integrate this with what the world seemed to count as important for survival (and you were all about that in those years). It was a parting of the ways, of sorts…for a time. Until you got my attention back again with all those health problems cascading around your ears (it was a summons of sorts); since, without me, you really didn’t thrive, as though your inner light had almost gone out. Perhaps you were testing me…or did you think you were giving me what I really wanted; an opportunity to leave you behind, to drop the millstone of a human body and go back to where things are always lighter, less complicated than you seemed to make them. Well, I didn’t leave you, did I? I was straight by your side, tentatively at first (then one day, six years ago, I dared to stop tip-toeing and came back to take residence, like a golden ball of love light beneath your heart space) and we stuck it out together. Already (and you acknowledged it at last), I had stood by you through thick and thin, through the birth of a daughter, through the loss of almost everything material that you had amassed, through the loss of your health. Don’t you see yet, my love was always unconditional; not about how “good” an experience you were giving me but about having any experience at all. Perhaps its time to talk about all the things you have given me; to redress this one-sidedness you have always kidded yourself exists here. This has not all been all about me trying to give something to you (and you, out of stubbornness and hurt, refusing to accept it)…You have always given me so much in return, never stopping for a moment.

You see, without you, I wouldn’t get to feel a thing….not one thing. You allow me to feel the breeze on my skin, to hear bird song as more than what I register it as (a frequency but not a beautiful sound through the ears). To feel warmth and cold, laughter and longing. To hold a paintbrush, to create with my hands, to touch someone’s skin. To know food fresh from the plant, sand in toes, exhilaration and, yes, great stirrings of emotion, embraces, tears, deep sorrow. I wanted all of this and more; and there was no other way than through you. I chose you because you feel all the minutiae, you colour every feeling, you seem to know how to express all the nuances and make even more of them than they were before through the medium of yourself. All your senses cross over in great fluid waves creating a rich tapestry of almost indescribable experience and I get to ride that magic carpet with you, every single day. The super-sensitive that you are, that you think is all about pain, gives me the ride of many lifetimes; so I wouldn’t want to do this with anybody else but you, my partner and my beloved. I long for you to keep going, to prolong this particular ride, to keep putting coins in the slot to keep it turning. I want to have it go on for many moments, years, decades. Everything in me is focussed upon you thriving to make that wish possible and all I ask if that you focus that intention upon every cell and then switch it on like the elixir of love that wants only for you to heal from anything that risks compromising the time we have left together. Don’t you feel that? Its true; and its all yours, anytime you want it.

It’s not so very hard for us to come together now; to get to know what it feels like to walk as one. You already know me as your inspiration; that is how I was allowed back in the door…and then I was there for you in all your quiet moments of profound healing. We began to meet up again in designated places; when painting, in meditation, on the yoga mat, walking in nature…but really, you began to see, I am everywhere and we have become fast friends again, you and I. Like in childhood, only better. Yet there is still some part of you that denies me from coming all the way in and its time to let go of any reasons why that hesitation is necessary. You have come such a long way; there is no more fear left around those things that seemed to take you down and then allowed you to come fountaining back up into a new way of experiencing life. You have forgiven and sent compassion to everyone, accepted everything as the gifts that they really were, including yourself. How do you think you were able to do this, to heal on such a profound scale, if I was so absent? See, I never abandoned you; we were always right on track, guided by the message of love that I never allowed you to forget the feeling of, calling you home like a warm embrace. This is what wholeness feels like; outstretched arms and your essence filling them – you hold me and I hold you.

I AM love and you have held me inside of you and in a high-vibrating field all around you for as long as you have walked this earth. If you are honest now, you already know that, don’t you? So, step into me, allow this union, drop this idea that we are out of sync or want different things and we can do this thing. You see now, don’t you, that I was always on your side; not for a single moment did I ever leave you or work against you. It could only feel “off” for us to come together if we were vibrating at completely different frequencies; speaking, as it were, a completely different language but we don’t…at all. You know as much about love as I do; you have learned unconditionality through the very experiences of your life, the hard way (and I bow to you, for you have added so much more to what I understand about this, realised – as you have – where it is so much harder to achieve, from within the human field). You have shown me unconditionality and awe and wonder and joy and immense love and so many other things from within that complicated and messy field of experience, which is where these things truly hold sway. You think you have reverence for me, as though I am some sort of perfect version of you, a so-called “Higher” self who never gets anything wrong. Well, let me tell you, I have such reverence for you!

You have anchored love to this planet and everything about you mirrors love to everyone you meet. And I want you to know and acknowledge something else about yourself, one thing you have always denied – you are kind! You are kindness personified and yet, for one reason or another, you have judged yourself as unkind, emotionless (no, that was just me showing you that all was always well…), even selfish when really you were focussing on the area of your expertise, your own recovery. You have modelled this for all those who seek permission to do this for themselves. I see kindness in everything you do, the way you selflessly share your experiences from the heart, give of your time, reach out to others, take such care with how they are doing though they may be virtual strangers you have never met. Nearer home, you think you have been a terrible mother; I see the very opposite (what you confuse for this is your uniqueness as you model alternate ways of being a parent, allowing the child to feel and explore their own sovereignty, just as you got to play with yours all those years ago; in the end, it served you well). All this time, you see yourself as broken, as a let down, as not doing so well, but really you are being love in every moment; like a child riding a bicycle all on their own thinking they are still being held on to but they’re really not. You are doing it all without my help; all it takes is owning it to let the flood gates down and allow the tide of sameness to come rushing in across the breach of this commonality we share, the place where we both match through speaking the language of love. It won’t burn or destroy you; we are not so out of sync that anything I am would harm you in any way and, in any case, love could never destroy you (don’t you know that yet). Who knows, as one we might get to experience something neither of us has ever got to experience before. It could mark the completion of us both…


 

suresh-kumar-155029.jpgTwenty-five years ago this solstice dawn, I woke up on my own floor to face a circumstance that had come about while I was asleep and which rocked my world. It was not the definitive event of anything that I ever lived through (externally, I picked up and carried on the same and, as mentioned, there were several other “key events” that played a part) but it was certainly the one that sent the camel’s back buckling and dropping all its cargo in the slow-motion emotional and physical collapse of the following decade. It marked a parting of the ways of sorts, an estrangement between two equally important aspects of self; so that I was forced to either come back together in a whole new way or not be here at all. Like watching a dummy lurch forwards against a windscreen in one of those car crash videos, the rest is, as they say, (my) story and I own that story, consciously, as the very making of myself. In effect, I get to wake up all over again…this time on my own terms.

The last decade has been a self-righting, a sort of rescue operation and a slow-steady reunion of two aspects of myself that had become exaggeratedly fragmented (I know now) expressly so I could learn how to put myself back together again!

This powerful time of planetary poise, summer solstice (a time that was such a favourite in my childhood, when more light meant even more playtime and joy) became attached, through association, with a hurt which, in turn, became the very pivot-point of all my efforts to “return home” to myself this last quarter century. Perhaps this period of maximum light has made it all the more painful for me to see more of myself yet not like what I saw across all these years of the wound that I was harbouring being, as it were, spotlit by this anniversary. A stark contrast was set up and the rub of it became my very growing point; a navigation aid as I brought myself into better alignment with what truly felt like me, year-on-year. At the higher level, its as though I have been working with the summer solstice…and my task, now, to work powerfully with it in my favour as such a life-affirming time of the year, unconditional upon any associations I have ever formed around it. I see now how I have been working to redress an alleged moment of self-abandonment (although I never really did fragment or separate…not for one moment, though it may have seemed to be so); to both offer and receive the love that was never, in the first place, either refused or denied.

Last year, I surrendered the story of it by writing what had remained so hidden and putting it “out there” in my other blog Spinning the Light; this year, I claim the pure white glistening pearl that it always was as I lay it all to rest as my own profoundest healing potential. The story of it is no longer required since it has served its highest purpose, along with all those other stories about myself to date; neither discarded nor crystallised through further repeating but, actually, left there tenderly, suspended in a whole new place between substance and nothingness. This is what the meeting place of self and Highest Self feels like to me; like a quantum void out of which all potential births…we get to choose. I never felt more unconditional love fountaining and overflowing from within every cell and with love comes wholeness. So much love…so many tears…so much love…a sea of pain washing out of me, almost overwhelming me like a surprise wave that almost knocks me over, but I am sturdier than that and I won’t need to engage with it again…so much love…so much release…I AM the wave. Such moments are how we heal ourselves to heal the world.

Writing this letter to myself has been such a powerful instrument of healing. I hope to inspire others to do likewise; to let such a letter pretty-much write itself and see what comes out for you. You may well get to hear the words that you always longed to hear…

 

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