Category Archives: Mental health

Everything is Perfect

Beautiful girl, it’s ok. Really. Everything is just fine, and nothing is wrong. In fact, everything is perfect. You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. And any which way you go will be the perfect way, too. 

You haven’t failed, expectations are worthless, and you don’t need to do anything. Really, not anything. You are worthy as you are, simply because you are. You don’t have to earn your worthiness; it’s inherent. And you don’t owe anyone anything. Not anyone, not anything. Nothing at all. 

It’s ok to relax. It’s safe to trust the process. Your journey will give you everything you need to learn and grow.

And that journey, it has no destination. There’s nowhere to arrive. It’s all simply an experience. An experience filled with both light and dark. It helps to remember that the dark can always be transmuted by the light. 

You are perfect, whole and complete, right here, right now, as you are. You are so loved. Unconditionally. And nothing can change any of that. 

You are already playing your role – perfectly – in enabling the divine purpose of the Universe to unfold.  It’s incredible and breathtakingly beautiful. And it’s impossible to mess up.

Let go. Breathe. Everything is perfect. 

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Mental Health

Social media tells me that today is World Mental Health Day, and the posts I’ve seen have prompted me to share, as this topic has been forefront for me once again. 

I’ve shared many times about my challenges with mental health over the years. And whilst I’ve made great strides this past year with my health, I’m not yet 100% there.

Many times I’ve pondered what has caused recurrent bouts of depression since my teens. The first time I saw a GP about it, he told me it was a serotonin issue in my brain. I sought counselling (cognitive behavioural therapy) during 2 separate periods in my twenties, and concluded that I had depression because I didn’t have adequate skills in managing my thoughts and behaviours. Perhaps it was a genetic issue. Becoming a parent was the scapegoat for a while. At one point I thought it was because I was spiritually lost. I’ve sometimes wondered if it’s because I lack adequate discipline in responsibly managing my energy. And at times I’ve blamed myself for simply sucking at life. 

Whilst each of these reasons may contain at least a grain of truth, none of them offer a complete answer.  They’re all stories, and they all play a part, but I’ve learned more this past year that has been so incredibly significant. 

Since finally taking control of my thyroid health this past year – I was diagnosed with postpartum thyroiditis almost 10 years ago, and later Hashimoto’s – I’ve educated myself and discovered that my thyroid issues have likely played a huge role in my mental health challenges. When my thyroid markers were at their worst, my mental state was so messed up that I wanted to die.

The beauty of this excruciating experience was that when I finally began to improve my thyroid health, my mental health was no longer even an issue. I no longer sobbed uncontrollablly throughout the day, life became joyful again, I was motivated and energetic, and life was no longer a slog – it was easy to just do life, and be content. I didn’t have to work so damn hard to be ok. This taught me that depression wasn’t a personal failing or a personality flaw. There was a very obvious and tangible reason for the depression, and working out how to treat and heal my thyroid would solve the mental health challenges too. 

Frustratingly, the past month or so has seen my mental health begin to slide again, despite great thyroid markers. This has coincided with a flare up in gut issues, which had previously improved, and which my GP and I are again working to resolve through a functional medicine approach.  Given what I’ve experienced and learned, I’m confident that as my gut health improves, my mental health symptoms will too. 

Important notes to take from my experience and learning (keeping in mind I’m not a medical professional or health expert!!):

  • If you have mental health issues, it might be worthwhile getting your thyroid checked. Research this first, from a functional medicine perspective, because my understanding is that that majority of doctors (endocrinologists included) don’t test adequately.  Testing TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) only is grossly inadequate. Look into the significance of Free T3, Free T4, TPO ab, Tg ab, and Reverse T3, as well as other related blood work such as iron/ferritin, vit D, and more. Research!
  • The gut produces serotonin. There is a gut-brain axis. Hence, your gut plays a massive role in your mental health. I used to think my guts were fine. I didn’t realise how low my bar was for “fine”.  Again, seek the help of a qualified practitioner who can support you to treat the cause of gut issues for true healing rather than band-aid “solutions”.
  • Physical/medical health issues can be a causative factor in mental health, beyond just feeling down because you’re sick. Working out why you’re suffering from a mental health condition is vital. 

What I do to support myself in the meantime, whilst working to treat the cause:

  • Mindfulness – SO worth the effort, and supports me enormously during what would previously have overwhelmed me.
  • Meditation. 
  • When meditating is “too much”, I listen to binaural beats (check out @sonesence_music – my fave)
  • Gentle exercise (yoga or walking in nature is my balm).
  • Eating well and ensuring my blood sugar levels are stable (getting hangry is no longer an issue, which helps enormously).
  • Getting adequate sleep.
  • Aromatherapy – my essential oils  are such a beautiful support emotionally and for my mood.

xoxo

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What’s going well in your life?

During a recent kinesiology session, my kinesiologist asked me to share about what is going well in my life right now. I faltered, and struggled to come up with much, apart from some aspects of my parenting that I’ve been working to improve.

I’ve been reflecting on the conversation, because it bothered me that my perspective has been so negative, that I’ve been thinking that there’s something “not good enough” about just about every aspect of my life. This tends to happen when I don’t keep up my gratitude practice, or when my meditation practice falters, or any number of other reasons. I recognised that when I focus on the positive, I feel better, so I decided to write a list of all that is going well in my life. I’m pleased to say that I almost filled the page. 

I was also reflecting on all the things that I’ve been thinking aren’t going well/aren’t good enough, and thought it might be helpful to shift my approach and write a list of “what I want to improve in my life”.  As it turned out, that list was actually much shorter, less than half a page. Writing it out helped me to realise that I’d been catastrophising. 

I also realised that a lot of what I wrote, in both lists, matched a bigger list I wrote 2 months ago, of all my desires. I realised that many of my desires have actually manifested, and for the ones that haven’t, it’s much more helpful to focus on desiring them and how good their manifestation will feel, than to lament that they’re not yet my reality, which only serves to propel me onto a downward trajectory. 

It seems to be a recurring theme for me (ahem, I suspect I’m not the only one!) that I cycle through phases of feeling good about where I’m at, and feeling not so good about where I’m at.  I’m realising with greater clarity that the circumstances don’t need to change for me to feel good about where I’m at, but rather it’s a matter of focus. It can be a conscious choice, rather than a result of what’s happening externally in my life. 

I’m becoming much clearer about what I truly desire, what’s working for me, what’s not working for me, and how I’m willing to invest my time and energy. I’m learning to let go of outdated and unhelpful standards that I set for myself in the past regarding what success means and looks like to me. I’m learning, slowly, to let go of basing how I feel about where I’m at in my life, on how I think other people are judging me about where I’m at. It hasn’t been easy to let go of that one – it’s a work in progress. I’m so aware that a life filled with choices based on the opinions of others is not a happy life. And I’m aware that even if I make choices for myself, constant angst about what others think about my choices is not a happy way to live either. Awareness and understanding do not necessarily equal integration … to be continued!

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Exhibitionist in hiding

I’m noticing, with curiosity and (my best attempt at) non-judgement, that I’m in a strange place at the moment.

These past few months have seen my health improve dramatically, after a really challenging period, in response to committed effort with the help and support of my health practitioners and family. This is such a joyful relief.

As I’ve improved physically, mentally and emotionally, I’ve become inspired to write and share again, after what felt like a long period of hibernation. It feels so good.

And yet, there’s a part of me that is holding back.

I am learning to accept and embrace that I love putting myself out there and sharing. And with my words and imagery, that is so joyful and satisfying. But it’s also safe, because I can hide behind my screen to achieve this. But there is a part of me that yearns to share more – more intimately, more of me. I don’t want to hide, I want to express myself.

There have been instances where I’ve contemplated sharing a photo or video of myself. Nothing outrageous, just more me.

But the contemplation doesn’t last long. I’m experiencing a period of self-consciousness & my self-confidence is shot, because it seems that the final frustrating and baffling hurdle of my health journey is stubbornly plastered across my face for the world to see. Painful cystic acne that has returned with a vengeance, rosacea, and eye problems that refuse to be hidden under makeup. It all got too much today, and I felt sore and sorry for myself, and the tears flowed.

I’m not fishing for sympathy or reassurance (or advice!). Reassurance is useless when you don’t believe it for yourself. And I trust that there’s a lesson for me in this experience, and that working through it myself, with selective support, will bring me to a place of acceptance and healing.

I’m sharing for the reason I always do – sharing about my experiences is part of who I am, it feels good, and it might serve someone who is reading.

It’s interesting to observe how this has rattled me. I take pride in my appearance, and like to look my best, but I didn’t consider myself to be vain or overly concerned with my looks. And yet, this experience has demonstrated that when my perception of my appearance falls so far short of what I believe to be an acceptable standard, it affects me in so many ways. How I show up in public. How I feel about socialising with friends and family. How I panic when a loved one moves to kiss me on the cheek. How much I avoid interacting with strangers. What my inner voice says when I look in the mirror. And how I hide as much as possible.

There was a point when I thought that the best thing for me to do would be to overcome this self-consciousness by feeling the fear and doing it anyway – selfies, videos, just rip off the bandaid and get over it. But on reflection, I don’t think that’s what I need, I don’t think it would be helpful, and it’s just not where I’m at. Vulnerability can be a beautiful thing, but it needs to be held in a container of trust. It’s self preservation to know the difference between baring your soul in a trusting relationship compared with the local gossip. And putting my face online right now would feel like giving the town gossip flyers to hand out to everyone with the headline “Doesn’t she look hideousl!”

I’ll come out of my shell and grow my visibility when I’m good & ready. It’s healthy to acknowledge that I don’t possess the trust required to so yet. And it’s ok to be gentle with myself. I make the rules.

In the meantime, I’ll keep sharing from the heart, from behind the screen, in the way that feels good. 😘


Image by Lidya Nada on Unsplash

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LIFE INTENDED

Thoughts: What am I doing? What do I want to do? What is my purpose? Motherhood isn’t my be all and end all, I know there is more. I try stuff, but it doesn’t quite feel right. I get excited about stuff, but I eventually lose my enthusiasm. I don’t know what to do. I’ve been floundering with this for ever.  I think I’m destined to live, stuck in this limbo of “not knowing”, for the rest of my life. I’m a failure. Always have been. Always will be.

Feelings: Frustration. Annoyance. Despair. Shame. Resignation.

Thoughts: Hold on. Practice presence. Observe the thoughts. They’re not the truth. They’re not me, because I’m the one observing them.


Frustrations climaxed as I struggled with my ego one again.  When I finally began to quiet my mind and go within last week, this 2 word phrase  – LIFE INTENDED – came to me. Since then, it has continued to flutter into my awareness, seemingly wanting to make itself known.  Something about it feels so right, but it’s taken some reflection to tease out exactly what this phrase is about for me.

My life experiences, especially since becoming a mother, and even more significantly over the past 12 months, have ignited a rage within me. A rage about the fact that we, as a species, have fallen so out of sync with what LIFE INTENDED, and that this is hurting us deeply, even destroying us. I want to share with you (a non-exhaustive list of) what is enraging me.


In our modern society, we (mostly mothers) raise our children largely in isolation, brewing stress, emotional disharmony, mental illness (particularly post-natal depression), and overall ill health. So many of us believe that if we’re not attending to everyone’s needs, maintaining our home, contributing to the household income, keeping up a social life, looking hot, and following our dreams, we aren’t doing it right. We even believe that if we’re not super busy and stressed and exhausted, we must be lazy.

We live in climate controlled, airtight (even energy efficiency has its down side) homes and workplaces, cut off from the nature of which we are a part.

We eat chemically-laden, highly processed foods that our ancestors wouldn’t even recognise, that mess with the intricate and perfect physiological design of our masterpiece bodies, causing imbalance and ill health. Even if we eat what most would consider a “healthy” diet filled with real food (fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, meats, seafood etc.), if it’s conventionally farmed, it’s still hurting us thanks to all the chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, antibiotics and more that are considered essential for modern farming practices.

We sit and stare at screens, often for hours at a time, straining our eyesight, destroying our posture, and addicting ourselves to passive digital entertainment, social media, and the dopamine rush of “follows” and “likes”.

We expose ourselves to artificial light, messing with our circadian rhythms, our hormones, our ability to get the quality sleep that our bodies need.

We expose ourselves to thousands of chemicals via air pollution, transportation, off-gassing from furniture and household fixtures and fittings, cleaning products, personal care products, air fresheners, medications and more, again messing with our physiology.

We visit doctors, expecting pills to cure our ills, creating side effects and failing to address what caused the issue in the first place.

We consume media, believing the hype, forgetting to question the source, the purpose, the money trail.

We have ravaged our environment: polluting seas and lands, decimating forests, triggering mass extinctions, slaughtering fertile lands, depleting natural resources and instigating catastrophic climate change.

We put our heads in the sand, because it’s all too hard – someone else will deal with it. Or we seek all of the answers outside of ourselves, having long forgotten the access we have to eternal wisdom within us. We’ve lost our way.

This was never what LIFE INTENDED.

Sometimes, I yearn to escape this madness, to get off the grid and back to nature to reconnect with that which LIFE INTENDED. To live how LIFE INTENDED us to live. Don’t scoff – I’m as attached to my modern conveniences as the next person, but a part of me knows that this way of life comes as a tremendous, devastating price.  And so I fantasise.

The rage has bubbled up within me again this year as I’ve suffered the consequences of living out of sync with what LIFE INTENDED. Multiple hormonal imbalances. Depression. Anxiety. Overwhelm. Brain fog. Memory and word recall problems. Addictive behaviours. A crippling lack of self-esteem. Disconnection. And more – all of the cascading set of symptoms that essentially stem from the same source: not living as LIFE INTENDED.

These consequences – this was never what LIFE INTENDED.

So, what was it that LIFE INTENDED for us?

To live in harmony with nature, because that is what we are.

To be in community (in person, not just online). To raise our families with abundant support. To rest when we’re tired. To spend most of our time outdoors. To eat from nature’s bounty. To move our bodies every day. To rise with the sun and sleep when it sets. To utilise nature’s gifts. To value and care for our environment. To be attuned to our own intuition, our connection with Source.

I know that I’m not off my rocker in recognising this. I do appreciate many of the modern marvels and gifts of our ingenuity, the advances that we’ve made in medicine, technology, science and more. I’m not suggesting that we throw this all away to live as the animals do. But I believe, with all of my heart, that we desperately need to find balance, back toward what LIFE INTENDED.

Changing our ways, globally, is a dauntingly massive task, but the ache in my heart knows that it’s vital. The rage within is a gift, communicating the urgency and importance of such an undertaking.

I don’t want to focus on the problem. It was necessary that it to be brought to my attention, so that I could crystallise what it is that I’m aiming to achieve. And now, I know.

It’s time to focus on living as LIFE INTENDED.  It’s what I’ve been trying to work my way towards, without having specifically identified it as such.  But all the research, reading, podcast listening, documentary watching, meditating, diet changes, lifestyle changes, habit changes, purchasing changes … everything has been geared towards this: supporting myself and my family to live closer to the way LIFE INTENDED.  The purpose I’ve been searching for has been weaving it’s way into my life for years now.  It’s not something else “out there”.  It’s here, what I’m already doing, for me and my family.

If you’re so inclined, I’d love to support you to do the same.



Main image by Johannes Plenio from Pixabay

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Self-care soul warnings

I woke up one morning 2 weeks ago, having had another of my recurring dreams.

The recurring dreams I have aren’t exactly the same, but they have a recurring theme.  Each time I have one of these dreams, I am observing lions, tigers, or big cats of some sort, in an enclosure, sometimes at a zoo and other times in some other random setting.  The thing that is unusual about this is that in every dream, I eventually discover that the enclosure is not secure – either a gate has been left unlocked, or the fence is broken, or sometimes it’s even just a matter of me suddenly realising that this ain’t no regular big cat enclosure – wire farm fencing or flywire is hardly going to protect me if they decide they want to come and play.

I’ve pondered on the meaning of these recurring dreams over the years.  Of course there are many different interpretation guidelines and methods I could follow, but I prefer to take the intuitive route.  I’ve always felt into my dreams, to contemplate what emotions they evoke, and how they make me feel, and what the themes and specifics symbolise for me personally.

My hunch has always been that these dreams are a warning signal for me.  A soul warning that whilst on the surface things may seem to be hunky-dory, I’m actually in dangerous territory.  It feels as though I’m not paying adequate attention to a situation that seems to be under control right now, but that won’t take much to turn into full blown and life-threatening catastrophe.

I’ve wondered what specifically these dreams are pointing to.  What is it that I’m not being careful enough with?  The past 3 years in particular have seen me dedicate to working on improving my life by practicing self-care from a spiritual and energetic perspective, and I feel incredibly grateful that I’ve found and followed this path.  If I hadn’t made the changes I’ve made, I believe I’d be in a state of worsening depression and overall mental health, and declining physical health.  So I felt that even though I couldn’t pinpoint the specifics of where I was in danger, I felt as though I was taking proactive action from a broad perspective.

So, when this dream cropped up again the other week, it caught me off guard.  Haven’t I come so far?  Aren’t I doing all the right things?

Pondering this again has prompted me to get a lot more real with myself this past week.  I’m doing a lot of stuff “right”.  I generally eat very well, I exercise, I meditate, I do yoga, I manage my energy, and more recently I’ve begun incorporating my new love – essential oils – into my life for their therapeutic benefits.  But the truth is, in so many ways, I’m ignoring a number of aspects of my self-care that are having a negative impact on my health.  I’ve made no secret over the years of the fact that I struggle with disciplining myself to get adequate sleep.  There are days when I eat an entire block of chocolate within the space of 15 minutes, kidding myself that because its 95% cocoa it’s “healthy” and therefore ok.  And since beginning my business, I’ve really succumbed to the compulsion to be “on” all the time – checking and responding to emails and messages into the night and first thing when I rise.  Then there’s also the “I don’t have time” excuse creeping in here and there: my daily morning walks have become “sometimes”, and there have been a few too many instances where I’ve let my meditation practice slide.

The truth is, whilst deep down I know these actions aren’t helpful, I do them mindlessly.  I slip into habits that are supported by cultural and societal norms.  I allow my conscientiousness and work ethic to dictate over and above my inner knowing.  I zone out and let my actions happen, rather than acting with intention.  I let my ego take the driver’s seat, bowing to her justifications for emotional eating and behaviours that set my nervous system on edge.

And when my inner truth, the voice of my soul, gently whispers to me that I know full well that these behaviours aren’t helpful or sustainable or aligned, I pretend that I can’t hear her, or that I don’t know how to do things differently, feigning helplessness.

This recent dream has prompted me to sit a little more still with these gentle whisperings.  When I do so, it’s quite laughable how hypocritical I have been, always singing the praises of self-care, energy work and alignment, and yet completely disregarding the truth of my actions.

I started this business for so many wonderful reasons, many of which centre around how it gives me the freedom and autonomy to work the way I want to work – in a way that is sustainable and flexible for me and my family.  I work this business educating others about the importance of improving our health and wellbeing using simple and natural self-care solutions, and yet here I am sabotaging all the efforts I do make.  The leaders within my team promote self-care and sustainable work habits as essential to our success.  And yet, my ego does its best to convince me that I can get away with these dirty little secrets by making up for them with the good stuff that I do actually do.

But that’s not how it works.

As I sit with these truths, I can acknowledge that when I’m not getting the sleep I need, my mind isn’t as sharp, it takes me longer to complete just about everything, and I don’t look my best.  Added to that the longer term health implications of inadequate sleep in general, coupled with the hormonal imbalances and disease I am challenged with.  When I wire my nervous system with screen time into the evening and night, my sleep is affected.  When I drown my sorrows in a block of (oh-so-delicious) chocolate, the pleasure only lasts as long as the mouthful takes to swallow, and I’m left with the sugar crash that inevitably follows.  When I skip a few too many morning walks, my body gradually becomes stiffer and I feel less and less grounded.  The cumulative effects of all of these actions include sluggish digestion, mental fogginess, skin breakouts, susceptibility to illness, long term health decline, inability to practice mindfulness, mood swings, difficulty articulating myself clearly …  this list is nowhere near exhaustive.

We all know, deep down, what we should and shouldn’t be doing.

So if we know this, why do we sabotage ourselves?  I think there are a few key reasons.

Firstly, we are seduced by the notion that ignorance is bliss, that if we just squish that little niggling, knowing voice down far enough, we can hide out in the luxury of shunning responsibility for our lives.  This happens so easily and comfortably that we’re virtually unconscious of it.

The ignorant path may seem the easier option in the moment, but when we live our lives day in and day out with the consequences of our actions, the “easy” option doesn’t seem so easy to live with.  We’re forced to live with the pain of our karma.

The truth is, we essentially know what we need to change about our behaviour.  Acknowledgement is the first step.  Then it’s a matter of taking responsibility to create the kind of life that we want to live, a life that makes us feel good.  So, why don’t we do this?

This brings me to the second key reason we sabotage ourselves.  As I’ve sat with this topic since having my most recent dream, the answer has become clearer with each passing day.  I believe it comes down to our egoic yearning for approval.  Let me explain.

So often, when chatting with friends and fellow mums in particular, I find that we’re all having an almost universal experience in our daily lives: the feelings of being perpetually busy, over-extended, drained, overwhelmed, stressed, unable to get ahead, and constantly tired or even exhausted.  And what is also almost universally similar is that so many of us feel powerless to change by implementing self-care habits that will turn this situation around.  We know we should exercise more, we know meditation could help, we know we need more down time, we know we need to review our diet, we know we should get more sleep … BUT, these things require effort and energy and time.  So, we repeat the mantra of our societal era: I DON’T HAVE TIME.

The very idea of practicing self-care feels like adding more to our already overloaded list.  So what do we do?  Nothing.  We lament the so-called fact that we just don’t have the time or space to implement these changes.

We don’t prioritise ourselves.

The truth is, we could swap out these changes for other stuff that we are doing, but we don’t make them a priority, so they fall to the bottom of the list where to-do’s that are never-gonna-happen live.

I believe there is an insidious little cultural norm that drives this pattern.  We do what appears “right” from an external perspective.  We are terrified that if we actually prioritised our health and wellbeing before anything else, that we would be judged and condemned as selfish, uncaring parents, heartless citizens, and just plain bad human beings.  We think that everyone believes that self-care is a luxury for the self-centred.

We know deep down that if we took prime care of ourselves, we would have more health, energy, and vigour to gift to our families and the world.  We would get more done in less time.  We would succumb to illness less often.  We would have the energy and motivation to give our everything to the causes that most touch our hearts.  But our ego slyly pipes up with that devastating question that shuts down our sensibility: What will everyone think of me?

What will my children think?
What will my spouse think?
What will my family think?
What will the school mums think?
What will the neighbours think?
What will my employer think?
What will my work colleagues think?
What will the world think?

And as quickly as that, we place everyone else’s opinion of us before our own knowing.

The point I’m trying to make here is not to make you feel bad about yourself.  Rather, I’m observing that we all slip into habits of thinking and behaviour that society deems normal or required in modern life, and we allow these habits to derail us.  The team I am a part of in my business fully promotes and supports sustainable self-care, lifestyle and work habits to support our wellbeing, and yet it has been SO EASY for me to disregard these and slip into habits that leave me depleted, all the while telling myself that I’m practicing adequate self-care.

Looking after ourselves isn’t rocket science.  But I’m discovering that it takes courage.

Are you triggered by this idea?  Do you feel helpless and trapped in your current circumstances?

I challenge you to sit with this notion that your wellbeing is completely within your control, and that you know what to do, right now, and that you actually can do it.  I’m not downplaying the challenges that so many of us face in our everyday lives, but I truly believe that you can create true wellbeing for yourself.  I truly believe that if you are privileged enough to be reading this right now, you have the power within you to shape your experience of life.

It’s time to take stock of our lives, and notice the areas where we are vulnerable: where are we ignorant of the fact that the lion enclosure isn’t protecting us?  I for one am spending this time in the lead up to Christmas and the new year getting real with myself about where I’m shirking my self-care responsibility and succumbing to the herd mentality that it’s all too hard to create a life of health, wellbeing, and success that incorporates caring for myself as well as others.  I’m building the courage, step by step, moment by moment, to take a stand for prioritising my self-care.  I invite you to join me in creating a 2018 where we dare to buck the trend, and place our self-care at the top of our lists.  Let’s not leave it to fate to determine whether we find ourselves suddenly face to face with a metaphorical lion, all because of our fear of judgement.  Let’s be brave together.

 


You may also find this post relevant to this topic.

Also see the previous post for ideas on how to get started with cultivating calm.


Relevant resources that I stumbled upon in the lead up to writing this post:

The Kate & Mike Show podcast: Karen Brody, Daring to Rest: https://katenorthrup.com/podcast/episode-64-karen-brody-daring-rest/

The Quote of the Day Show podcast: Work Doesn’t Work Without Play, with Shonda Rhimes: http://seancroxton.com/quote-of-the-day/289/


Main image credit: Lions by Christopher Michel via Flickr.  Used under licence.


Hmmm … seems I have a bit of a thing for lion images 😉

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Consciously Cultivating Calm this Christmas

I’ve been so challenged recently with keeping grounded, maintaining my self-care practices, and maintaining calm and order amongst so much “busy-ness”.  As Christmas draws nearer, there are moments when anxiety and fear of not being able to “get it all done” sets in.  In truth, there are times when it’s tempting to admit defeat and resign myself to a sea of overwhelm.  Sometimes it feels like it would be so much easier to throw my hands in the air, give up and wallow in self-pity and victimhood.

But I’ve come far enough on my path to know that what seems the easier option in these moments, actually ends up feeling so much worse.

I’m keeping my head above water, and I know what to do to help myself to rise above these challenges.  I come back to my spiritual practices.

Meditation is the basis of my spiritual practice that keeps me sane during good times and bad.  As I shared recently on my Facebook page, it’s often during the more challenging times that we find it increasingly difficult to commit to or keep up with a meditation practice, when in truth, these are the times when we need them the most.  It’s so easy to believe the excuse of “I don’t have time”, especially during the festive season, and yet prioritising the time to commit to this action actually has this seemingly magical effect of opening up more time – it never ceases to truly amaze me.  Then on the other hand, when things are going smoothly, it can be easy to fall into the trap of letting our practice slide here and there because we’re feeling good, and it doesn’t seem to urgent or necessary.  However, it’s important to maintain our practice so that when challenging times do arrive (as they inevitably do if you’re human!), then you have the resilience to face whatever comes your way with more ease and grace.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers.  I don’t pretend to be the perfect example.  And I most certainly do not wish to make you feel that you’re inadequate or a failure if you don’t add my suggestions to your list of “Things That I Really Should Be Doing”.  Been there, done that.  And I’m pretty sure that your To Do list is more than long enough as it is.  I share based on my experience, with the intention of inspiring you, because I want you to feel better.  I invite you to take some serious consideration of the possibility that prioritising meditation can literally turn your life around and create the space and calm you crave.

So today I’m sharing some resources that can help make meditation a regular part of your life.

Chakra Cleanse Meditation

If you’ve been reading my words for a while, you’ll know that I love and recommend Belinda Davidson’s Chakra Cleanse Meditation, which is my daily practice.  It is incredible, and it has changed my life.  Having a guided meditation recording makes things so much easier in my opinion.  I personally have found it easier to focus when concentrating on the guidance of Belinda’s words and instructions than simply focusing on my breath, which finds my mind wandering almost instantly.  And, of course, this particular meditation is specific to cleansing and strengthening your chakras, so whilst you’re getting all the regular benefits of meditation, you’re also intentionally creating a strengthened energetic/vibrational state from a chakric perspective.  This version is 35 minutes.  Read more about chakras and Belinda’s work here, and about my experience with Belinda’s School of the Modern Mystic and my chakric journey here, here and here.

Meditones

If, the concept of meditation is new to you, or you’ve tried it and it all seems too hard, then another incredible tool that I love and recommend is the amazing work of Tahlee Rouillon of Sonesence.  Tahlee incorporates binaural beats into her divine meditation tracks that she’s dubbed “Meditones”, which in layman’s terms basically means this: listen to her Meditones tracks through headphones, and you effortlessly get many of the benefits of meditation.  Tahlee’s music is truly heavenly, and I adore listening to it in the evening before bed as a beautiful way to wind down.  If you’ve attended any of my essential oils classes, it’s Tahlee’s music that I play on loop as gorgeous background tunes to help set a high-vibe tone.  I love recommending Tahlee’s work, because it essentially means that there is NO EXCUSE!  Anyone can sit back, relax, and listen to music through headphones.  You can find out more about Sonesence meditones here and visit Tahlee’s online shop here.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is another pillar of my spiritual practice, which for me is more about the way in which I go about my day, rather than a specific period of time when I sit down with my eyes closed.  Mindfulness is actually quite a broad topic, but to begin with, it can be described as being aware of the thoughts that you are thinking.  People often get caught up in thinking that they’re no good at meditating because they can’t focus, they drift off, and spend their time in meditation thinking about what to cook for dinner or the million things on their To Do list.  The truth is, meditation is not about emptying your mind of these thoughts, but rather being aware that you’re having them, and then re-focusing your attention onto the object of your meditation, whether that be your breath, a mantra, one of your chakras, or something else.  Simply becoming aware that you’re having these thoughts is progress in mindfulness!  So please, don’t give up.

My mindfulness practice sees me aiming to be aware, as often as I can throughout the day, of the thoughts that I’m having.  I found this very challenging initially, and it’s taken a lot of practice.  When I’m doing something as common as washing the dishes or having a shower, I notice with more regularity what I’m thinking about.  When I notice this, I automatically disconnect from the thought, and then I do my best to focus instead on the experience I’m having: the feel of my hands in the gloves, the scent of the shampoo.  The effect of this practice, over time, has been phenomenal in keeping me calmer, and dealing with my children with less reactivity.

A great book to start with as you embark on your mindfulness journey is The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris.  It’s a simple, easy read and very practical.  The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle is an incredible and much loved “bible” of many a spiritual seeker, but it is definitely a more challenging read, and perhaps not ideal if you’re in a state of overwhelm or new to the spiritual path.  Please don’t dismiss it, but perhaps keep it on the shelf and know that the time will come when you’re ready for Tolle’s enlightened wisdom.

Essential Oils

How can I not mention the new loves of my life as such a beautiful way to support you with a meditation practice?!  I love diffusing my dōTERRA essential oils every time I meditate to help me focus, to help me feel grounded, and to connect more easily to the spiritual realms.  In addition to the physical therapeutic properties of essential oils, there are also the more subtle emotional effects that their chemical composition has on our brain.  When you inhale the aroma of an essential oil, the scent is processed in the olfactory system of the brain, which connects to the limbic system where emotions and memories live.  As you breathe in the scent of the essential oil, the limbic system creates a response in your brain based on memories associated with that particular aroma.  Many times, the responses triggered by the limbic system can be emotional responses that are calming or uplifting, depending on the unique chemical structure of the oil as well as the your unique memories associated with the aroma, so each person can have a slightly different response to a particular oil.  However, essential oils have specific chemical elements that can create a desired benefit.  The following images from dōTERRA illustrates the properties elicited by an essential oil based on its chemical constituents.

I particularly like to use my oil blends with grounding and soothing properties during meditation, such as InTune or Balance, but it also varies depending on my emotional state and what I’m wanting to achieve.  Frankincense is a favourite, but if I’m tired I’ll add an energising oil such as Peppermint.  I’m also finding that aromatic use of essential oils are contributing to my mindfulness and presence practice, as they help me to be less in my head and more in my body – they give me something experiential to focus on.  I become aware of the aroma of the oils in the diffuser, or the scent of the oils I’m wearing topically.  In addition to these beneficial effects, they’re just such a yummy addition to my day and give me a little boost of motivation to sit in meditation and enjoy them.

Find out how to purchase dōTERRA essential oils here.

Delete or Delegate

So my last suggestion is not so much a resource, but a tip for you.  If life is so full and so busy and so overwhelming that not one of the suggestions and resources above seems possible for you to incorporate into your life, please don’t feel bad.  Try this: commit to removing at least 1 item from your To Do list.  In our overstimulated and overworked society, we have the habit of over committing and often overcomplicating things.  It doesn’t need to be this way.  Take a look at your list, and find something – anything – and delete it.  There is something that you can say no to.  There is something that you can delegate to someone else.  You don’t need to do it all.  Just lightening your load that little bit can make a difference to how you feel.  And if you make it a practice to delete 1 item from your list monthly, weekly, or even daily, it will soon add up and free up some space for you.  This practice will help you to consider what you put on your list in the first place more thoughtfully.  It’s about prioritising, about asking for or accepting help, and about knowing and believing that your worth is not determined by what you accomplish.  You are enough, you are worthy, just because you exist.


Disclosure: This blog contains affiliate links.  If you make a purchase through these links, I may receive an affiliate commission.


Main image credit: Road meditation by Nickolai Kashirin via Flikr.  Used under license.

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The glorious perfection of a messy life

For so long I’ve felt stunted in writing in this space.  In fits and spurts I manage to create a little something here and there, but consistency has eluded me, pretty well from the start.  I go for weeks or months without writing, and then announce out of the blue when I’m back.

I’ve questioned this erratic pattern, I’ve told myself that if I want to make something of my writing I need to get consistent, I need to be creating content, I need/should/must do this and that.  Constant judgement and criticism.  And that, my friend, is a prime recipe for procrastination & paralysis.

When inspiration hits, the words come flowing in my mind.  I’m consumed by them, I’m illuminated by them, I’m propelled by them.

Sometimes, I prioritise getting them out of my head and onto the paper or screen.  Other times, I tell myself “later”, because there’s the cooking and the washing and the million other things on the to-do list.  Generally, later never comes, or if it does, the words seem to have left the building – what was earlier an abundant overflow of ideas and words becomes a deserted, empty, echoing chamber.  That is frustrating.

The thing is, I know that it’s futile to wait until my ducks are all in a row to make a go of creating something of beauty, meaning or significance.  And yet, it mostly feels like life is always in the way.

My journey, particularly over the past 3 years, has bought me so far.  So much healing, so much growth, so much expansion.  And yet, so often I find myself questioning why I haven’t reached my destination yet – I have this vague concept of arriving in a place of perfection where all my wounds are healed, I’ve got my sh*t completely sorted, I’m in perfect health, I’m living a life that from an external perspective looks successful, and I’m in perfect alignment with the divine and living my soul’s purpose.  From that place, I tell myself, I’ll be able to share words of wisdom that are truly of service.

This egoic questioning is ceaseless, and the judgement and criticism of not being “there” and of being where I’m at, of course, drags me down and pulls me further and further away from this imaginative nirvana.  It also goes against everything I’ve been taught.

It physically feels like being caught in the thick and tangled web of a mammoth spider, so rope-like and thick that it chokes my breath and holds me captive, blocks my view, weighs me down and slows me to a crawl.  It feels incomprehensibly penetrating, like it pierces through my body as though it wasn’t even there.  And yet, I know there is a way out.  I know that I haven’t been wound and tightly bound by any spider, helplessly trapped and doomed for annihilation.  I walked my own way into the web, and got myself into this mess, entangling myself more and more with every egoic thought that I entertained.

And so, the time eventually arrives when I see the thoughts for what they are, I recognise that they’re just thoughts and they’re not me and they’re not truth, and I am freed.  Things pick up, and I swing into an up-cycle where I’m on top of the world and at peace within.

I know, when I’m on the high, that the low thoughts will return.  I’m aware and on the lookout.  Sometimes, when they arrive, I see them for what they are, and I sidestep another low.  Other times, they hit me and I forget all I’ve learnt, and I go through the cycle again until I catch a glimpse of the light and bring myself back to peace again.  And on and on it goes.

The downs have become fewer and further between, but they have persisted.  Sometimes, the very fact that I’ve avoided a downer in so long becomes fodder for my desperate ego to latch onto, as I criticise myself for falling victim to this habitual pattern again after doing so well.  Why, I ask myself, do I allow this to happen when I know better?  Why do I fall continually when I know how to rise, why do I fall victim when I know what’s coming?  Why do I allow myself to descend into hell when I know how to reside in heaven?  Why do I do this, as I watch my peers and teachers continue to rise and transcend their hell?  And then, in a disorienting twist of consciousness, I know that this thought is just a thought and if I allow it to it will drag me down further, and yet I believe it.  I merge with it.  I become overwhelmingly ensnared within the web.  I identify with the egoic part of me that says this is true, even though I know it’s not and I know it’s simply a thought that my mind is having.  **Exhausting.**  Confusing.

So today I’m here.  The thoughts and ideas of my morning mind wanderings are not morphing into the words right now that I expected, but they’re along similar lines.  What I know is this: just because I haven’t got it all worked out, just because I haven’t arrived in that utopian paradise where I’m essentially a saint or a guru or spiritually enlightened, doesn’t mean I don’t have value to share.  Just because I don’t have all the answers doesn’t mean that there’s not value in the lessons I have learned, or even in sharing my lows along with my highs.  My intention has never been to seek sympathy or publicly air my demons for the purpose of narcissistically offloading my woes.  I speak of my shadows and darknesses in the hope that I can aid someone, anyone, even just a little, in lightening their load along with me mine.

And then, so easefully and gracefully, everything changes.  I remind myself that the utopian paradise, the idealistic destination, doesn’t exist – it’s a figment of my imagination.  There is no destination.  Only a perpetual journey.  In the simple turn of a thought, I find myself surrendering to what is and letting go of the pain and the epic struggle.  The spiderweb disolves into nothingness.  I discover that I’m back on the upswing, and I’m once again living in heaven on earth.


Main image credit: Rain and Rust by Mooganic via Flickr.  Used under licence.

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Drumming up Drama

Oh how skilfully our ego can take us over and sweep us up in a shitstorm of drama and stress! After thinking recently that I was starting to get a relatively decent handle on catching my mind and avoiding identifying with my ego, the universe delivered me an excellent situation which perfectly highlights just how deep this unconsciousness runs, and that mindfulness is an ongoing practice. No need to be getting cocky any time soon!

My day, my energy, shifted in an instant. It had been a pretty regular day, I was out of my usual routine but it was nothing startling and all just normal life stuff. I was feeling good despite a few little niggles here and there, my energy has been refreshingly and gratifyingly on the rise lately and I am recognising the pay off from my devoted spiritual practice. All it took was a quick glance at an email that had arrived in my inbox in the early evening.

My heart squeezed. My stomach instantly began churning. I felt ill. I was physically shaking.

It’s comical retelling the story with hindsight. This instant and dramatic shift in energy, all from a short email. No terrible news had been delivered. No significant problem had been revealed. I won’t go into the details of this private matter, but suffice to say, it was a simple email. It was simply a small piece of information, and a request for my opinion.

But it’s what my ego, my thinking mind, did with that information, that sent me into a tailspin.

The thoughts that I conjured from this short email were mostly along the lines of:
– People I love must think I’ve been deceiving them;
– My words and actions have caused other people to worry, stress, and take unnecessary actions that they would otherwise not have taken;
– I’ve disappointed people I love;
– I’ve inconvenienced people I love;
– People I love must be angry with me, annoyed with me, and think less of me.

Yep, although I was very concerned about my loved ones, the crux of my freak out came down to my concern around what others think of me, and I concocted all of those assumptions based on a brief email that included no comment whatsoever about me, or what anyone thought about me.

So the drama was firmly established in my mind, and then some conversation ensued around a highly emotional topic.  Any other day, I would have simply shed a few tears. But in this situation, I allowed it to snowball me staight into meltdown city.

Situations where our reputation or character is perceived as being under threat are not uncommon, and it’s a normal human response to try to maintain a favourable standing amongst our family and community. Evolution created our brains in that way, increasing our chances of survival amongst the safety and support of the tribe. It’s a base chakra phenomenon, and our ego isn’t all bad – it’s a survival mechanism.

But this brain wiring does cause us a lot of unnecessary stress, and we’re at a point in human evolution where we are better served by being aware of this process, and how to use that knowledge to reduce our suffering.

All of my thoughts around this situation were just that – thoughts, created in my mind. They weren’t truth. No one had said any of those things. And yet, I believed them as truth, and I gave them meaning without even consciously thinking about it – I am a bad person. The churning and nausea in my stomach was a clear sign that the weaknesses in my solar plexus had taken a huge hit. My self confidence isn’t unshakeable. My ability to safeguard my energy isn’t yet quite as robust as I’d like it to be. I place a grossly unbalanced weight of importance in what other people think of me.

If I’d managed in that moment to observe my thoughts and avoid identifying with them, I’d have been able to handle the ensuing conversations much more gracefully. I’d have been able to calmly and effectively respond to the email without drama. I’d have been able to see the situation for what it was, and not attach all that meaning to it. I’d have avoided much of the pain, suffering and tears that followed.

This situation has been an illuminating learning experience for me. I’m so grateful that these days, I can at least recognise what I’m doing to myself, and diffuse the anguish and suffering a hell of a lot more quickly than in the past.

As I said to my mum earlier today, tongue in cheek, clearly I needed to drum up a bit of drama for myself, seeing as I’ve been so stress-free lately and it felt too foreign! Thanks for that ego, job well done.  Time to move on.


Photo credit: by Nicholas A. Tonelli. Modified and used under license.

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School of the Modern Mystic

Two years ago, I became a student of Belinda Davidson’s School of the Modern Mystic (SoMM). Enrolling in the level 1 course set me on a path that I never dreamed I would walk, and the most exciting part is that I’ve really only just begun.

SoMM opens its doors for enrolment once a year, and that window of opportunity for 2016 is approaching in a few days. I am an affiliate for the course, because it was the catalyst that transformed my life, and I’m SO PASSIONATE about the teachings. I’ve experienced transformation for myself, I’ve seen so many other SoMM students blossom into their most joyous and soulful lives, and I wish that opportunity for everyone on the planet. The opportunity to finally break free from the pain and struggles that are holding you back, to connect with your soul, and to live in truth and joy. And so, I’m sharing with you today my experiences. Following are some of the most significant shifts I’ve experienced thanks to SoMM.

MOVING BEYOND DEPRESSION
My main motivation for enrolling in the school 2 years ago was because I believed that it could help me to break my patterns of recurring depression. At a time when I was recognising the early signs of onset, SoMM entered my radar, and I saw it as an admittedly unconventional alternative to yet another round of psychological counselling or medication. My intuition told me that this could be my answer. I’m not advocating that abandoning traditional mental healthcare treatment is the answer for everyone. For me, I knew I needed to break the cycle, and I needed a different approach if I was to have lasting results. I sensed that SoMM was MY path. I was so right.

During level 1 and beyond, I became so much better able to cope with the everyday stresses of life as a Mum that had previously brought me to my knees. I was calmer, more effective at solving problems, and had more mental resilience. I no longer felt broken. It wasn’t that I hadn’t tried to reach this place earlier – I read books and blogs, attended workshops, practiced yoga, took advice … and whilst these things were all definitely helpful, they didn’t effect lasting change. The difference with SoMM – I was clearing the energetic blockages that were responsible for my subconscious ways of operating, so my mental patterns changed without effort, without me consciously realising.

I was elated. My husband was happy. The kids had a healthier and happier mummy. I believed I had the tools to effectively move through life permanently depression free.

As 2016 swung into gear, around 6 months after completing level 1, I began to experience some depressive episodes again. Not full blown clinical depression, but certainly not pleasant. I freaked out. THIS WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HAPPENING. Life was supposed to be easy and joyful and pain free now, filled with rainbows and unicorns and fairy dust!

As I’ve re-emerged from that dip on the roller coaster of life, I can see through hindsight a number of things. Firstly, I had unrealistic expectations of what post-SoMM life “should” be like (i.e. unicorns etc.!!?). Healing yourself and improving your life does not mean that you will no longer face challenges, hardships, or disappointments. Secondly, the massive energetic and spiritual changes I’ve begun negotiating thanks to SoMM have raised a lot of fear and uncertainty, fine fodder for the ego to go wild. The status quo is no longer a viable option in my life post-SoMM – half truths don’t cut it, hiding is futile, and the truth can be painfully uncomfortable. This stuff can feel terrifying! This is where I discovered that my mindfulness practice, from the third module of level 1, was not yet as strong as I had naïvely assumed it to be.

But … this was all a part of my healing journey, teaching me along the way. And, it was the SoMM teachings that brought me back online, back to my centre, and back to mental health again.

I believe with all of my heart that these teachings are rock solid. Foolproof.

The take-away for you from this experience is that SoMM offers you the UNIVERSE, but it sure as heck isn’t for the faint hearted. It is amazing and transformational and literally miraculous, and it will fill your life with light and love, IF you devote yourself to the spiritual practices that it teaches you. It will also crack you open, and demand that all that is not love, truth, and purity, all that is fake, all that is playing small and hiding, all that is conformity, be shed. I know from experience that that is not easy, and it’s not for everyone. It’s a choice. But if you’re willing to make that choice, you’ll find magic.

I could probably stop there, but I’d like to share with you some of the other beautiful gifts I’ve gained through SoMM.

TRIBE
The online SoMM community – my SoMM sisters (and the odd brother here and there!) – is an absolute joy and treasure. To have found a tribe of (mostly) women whom I didn’t even consciously realise I was desperately searching for has been an incredible gift. Like minded women, on a journey of the soul in this physical life, together. So much love. So much support. Connection. Friendships. The opportunity to meet with many of my SoMM sisters in the flesh has been extra special – I’ve been craving this kind of connection all of my life.

INTUITION
Putting aside my new-found fascination for psychic perception, my own intuitive abilities are steadily building in subtle ways. I imagine something, and then it actually happens. I have insights that enable me to prepare for what would previously have been unforeseen circumstances. I have the ability to solve problems based on intuitive hunches, often preventing further complications from arising. So far, this phenomenon is intriguing, helpful, and warmly welcomed.

COMMUNICATION
I’m discovering my voice, on many levels. It’s still emerging. An example: my husband and I mutually acknowledge that open communication has never been our strength, is something we must constantly work on, and is something we easily slip into avoiding. Post SoMM – it’s an ongoing work in progress, but we’re having the conversations no matter how difficult. WIN. As I said before, there’s no more hiding.

SPIRITUALITY
My prime motivation for enrolling in SoMM was to overcome depression and gain mental health. I got so much more than I bargained for, but that somehow, on some subconscious level, I was yearning for and could sense that SoMM would give me.

The spirituality of SoMM is what has transformed my life, and is what now informs every waking moment of my day. I have a new relationship with God. I have a new relationship with myself. I’m finally coming to understand a lot of what I was taught in my Catholic upbringing. Things that hadn’t made sense to me previously, things that seemed like fictional stories or outright lies, I’ve been able to reframe and discover the truths that they hold. SoMM is not a religious course, but through it and discovering my spirituality, I’ve been able to develop an appreciation and understanding of what was being taught to me through religion that I’d never managed to absorb. It turns out there is more than one path to God.

GLOW
The last thing I’ll mention here is kind of random and unspecific, but I attribute it to the spiritual practices I learnt in SoMM. People tell me I look different – in a good way. I have a sparkle in my eye that wasn’t there before. I look well. Personally, I think it comes and goes relative to how I’m showing up for my spiritual practice, but I haven’t tested that theory out for external validation. Whatever the case, I like it.


If SoMM is right for you, you’ll know. You’ll be curious. You’ll feel drawn in. Something about it will call to you. If that’s you, I encourage you to follow where your curiosity leads. In my eyes, if you choose to dive in, it will be impossible to regret it. You will be held, and supported, and loved. Strap yourself in for the ride! If you’re in, be sure to let me know, and I’ll see you in the school yard.

To find out more about School of the Modern Mystic and sign up to be notified when enrolment opens in the next few days, click here

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