I’ve been reading some of Brene Brown’s work recently in which she talks about the ways we numb our emotions.
We live in a culture saturated with opportunities to stuff down how we are really feeling - entertainment, shopping, internet, alcohol, coffee, sugar, processed foods, sex, drugs, TV, busyness. But there is a heavy price to pay.
When we turn away from our difficult emotions they don’t go away, they just hum underneath the experience of our lives every day, making us feel sluggish, low, tired, anxious, or any other descriptive word that isn’t clear, vital or alive.
The thing is, running from pain is a hell of a lot worse than actually turning to face it. Learning to sit with, allow and feel our difficulties all the way through is a large part of mindfulness practice.
A huge reason why so many of us run away from ourselves is that we have been shamed for feeling certain ways, leaving us believing that we have ‘no right’ to feel how we feel. This is a completely false assumption. We feel how we feel. It is fact whether we like it or not. The only choice we have is in deciding what to do with our emotions.
If we numb, push away, deny and pretend they’re not there, then they are much more likely to seep out at our loved ones without our meaning to. They’re outside of our awareness and out of our control.
We can never work skilfully with ourselves or our lives until we have learned to acknowledge the realities that dwell within.
By learning to feel what we feel, we create a lot more space within us. If we can develop the ability to tolerate discomfort without lashing out or shutting down, we are free to respond more skilfully and wisely in every situation, improving our life experience exponentially.
Pain can be triggered from emotional wounds in childhood. Think of this as like landmines buried in our bodyminds. If an external situation touches just the right sensitive spot, then we can explode with undealt-with emotional trauma, splattering ourselves and anyone who is nearby.
Often we didn’t lay the landmines, it wasn’t our fault. But it is still our responsibility to clear them up.
Finding a landmine is actually an opportunity in disguise. Your life force, or chi has been trapped in that landmine for years – decades even. Learning to turn towards your pain, feeling it all the way through, is an opportunity to process and reintegrate all that energy, leaving you feeling clearer, more whole, more creative, loving and happier.
At it’s heart, pain is the seed of wisdom. As Glennon Doyle Melton has been known to say, pain isn’t a hot potato we need to throw away as quickly as possible, it is a travelling professor, full of the life lessons that are ours to learn.
By turning away, denying or pushing away your pain you are prolonging your learning, pushing away the possibility that you could become a bit more wise, a bit more compassionate, alive, vital, healthy and a bit better at this human gig.
Pain can also be a real indicator that something in your life isn’t working, that you need to make changes. It is an inbuilt regulatory and warning system that we ignore at our peril.
Mindfulness meditation teaches us the skill of opening to ourselves in every moment, whether it is brutal or beautiful. And the thing is, really feeling your emotions isn’t that bad. It’s a bitter-sweet release.
The trick is to let go of the story your mind is telling and sink deep into the body, feeling how the energy of that emotion is landing in you. It might be sharp vibrations through your solar plexus, pangs across your heart, a feeling of ‘stuckness’ in your throat.
Whatever it is, see if you can get curious. Welcome it even. Know that it has something to teach you. Feel it deeply, all the way through. Your body might burn up, you might shudder or shake, burp or yawn. All of this is healthy and natural ways of releasing dirty chi.
Felt all the way through to the end, emotions burn away. And you are left clear, calm, centered. Your understanding of a situation might shift to a new perspective. You no longer feel the need to reach for that numbing agent.
In order to do this, developing some kind of practice is extraordinarily helpful - yoga, tai chi, meditation. The container and the discipline of the practice helps you learn to hold your pain without becoming overwhelmed, lost or stuck in it.
None of us get through life without pain, it is an inbuilt part of the human experience that we can never dodge.
Turning to face yourself is harder, realer, better. It’s a medicine for our times. There are lessons waiting in our bodyminds . We must gather the courage to put down our running shoes and receive the wisdom our lives are waiting to teach us.
Growing up I was exposed to a lot of different cultures and ways of thinking. The first four years were spent in the Highlands of Scotland in a small rural community. This was followed up by attending the Maharishi School – an educational institution that taught the Mahabharata instead of the Bible and Sanskrit instead of French. I was given a mantra at the age of 5.
At the age of 8, I was moved to a public school in Lancashire. Life was rougher here. One girl broke a boy’s arm by pushing him over in the playground.
Then we moved to Guernsey where I attended Melrose. The fancy all girls school was worlds away from either the Indian influenced Maharishi school, or the scarier world of UK public school. It was scary in a posher, cliquier way.
As a teenager I was then sent to one of the top co-educational boarding schools in the country set on Canterbury Cathedral. The girls wore broaches and tails and the boys wore top hats.
Amidst all of this change I was trying to define a sense of self. Learning the ropes of society and culture, except society and culture didn’t seem to agree on very much. I tried to conform, to morph myself to fit in to each new environment.
It didn’t feel very good or powerful. There were so many questions, so much about my previous experience that didn’t fit into the context in which I found myself. A powerful and well-liked girl at the Aristocratic boarding school commented that she didn’t like poor people, people laughed and nodded. But I knew plenty of ‘poor’ people that I loved and treasured.
Everybody in these cultures seemed to know the ropes, and more confusingly, they all thought they were right. But they couldn’t all be right.
It’s all made me think a lot about truth. What is true no matter where you are? And who am I in this hugely varying world?
As a child it was very confusing. As an adult it has been amazingly liberating. If there is no absolute truth of culture then perhaps I’m free to define myself as I see fit. I get to choose what’s true for me.
It is my practice to question every cultural assumption and sift through it for any wisdom, discarding the rest. This mirrors a lot of what you would hear from healers and coaches about ‘limiting beliefs’, the ideas masquerading as truth that we all carry around in one way or another.
Vipassana insight meditation (or mindfulness) has been an incredible tool with this. I feel like it has helped to wipe clear my internal decoding system to be able to connect with what is absolutely true for me.
After all of this reflection - testing and verifying beliefs and ‘truths’ - I’ve come to what I hope is a reasonably depthful and robust framework of beliefs.
I believe that everyone is doing the best they can with the resources and information they have available to them at any time. If you walked a mile in someone else’s shoes, you would understand their viewpoint better.
I believe there is more that connects us than disconnects us. Family, food and laughter is universal. We all cry tears, we all bleed red.
I believe this dance of life is a mixture of birth, death, fear, joy and above all love. That in the end, only love is left. I believe that understanding that one day we will all pass away, helps us to live with greater integrity.
I believe the world and the universe is an enormous place and it’s always good to know how much you don’t know. I try to continually be open to reassessing ideas, should new information or ways of being become clear. I believe in diversity - everyone is different, everyone has a place, everyone has a story - and that this makes the world stronger and more interesting.
I believe that in the end, we all have to be true to our own internal compass. Society and culture will impose ideas and beliefs upon us, but in the ends it’s up to us to decide which ones we take into our hearts and live by until our dying day.
Whilst studying actor training at university, we went a lot deeper than you might imagine. We used presence practices to bring awareness to the internal process of being human. We spent a lot of time working on impulse – what drives human behaviour? Desire for status? Approval? Love? Money? Or something deeper and intangible? How could we believably portray this on stage?
This exploration coincided with the first time in my life when I was actually able to make choices for myself. I began to wonder a lot about how I would decide what to do next after leaving university. I was also preoccupied with a 'knowing' I had had.
Before attending my course, I felt an incredibly strong pull towards it. It was beneath rational thought. I just knew.
The course had lit me up in a way I could not have conceived of before. It was like a road map to creativity, depth and meaning, helping me to find myself.
Before I attended, I was deeply lost. So much movement and change and other factors saw me limping out of adolescence, broken and afraid, not knowing where to turn, except for this knowing, pulling me to Exeter.
How did I know?! I could not have dreamed up a better place to heal myself. What part of me was pulled in that direction? It seemed to me to be the same depth of impulse that we were seeking to achieve in our actor training. An instinctual, intuitive body-centred impulse that arrives through the life force of a person, rather than just from their heads.
We spent the first term at university trying to unlearn the conditioning of school – (sit still, reason, analyse, control your emotions, ignore your body), and learn how to play, be creative. Our society values rational thought and control, but it leaves out huge amounts of the human spirit. It strangles it.
I noticed again and again how powerful it was to work with genuine, natural impulses from the body, rather than from the head. It created theatre that was moving and profound with a deeper connection between the audience and actor. Creating from the head was removed from the moment. It was stilted and awkward, disingenuous.
I started to play around with impulses in my daily life. In simple choices we all make like ‘should I go out tonight?’ I began to sit quietly and listen in to what my intuitive body response was. My head usually had strong opinions, but my body spoke in a softer quieter voice.
As part of the actor training modules, I was training in a martial art and learning how tan tien, a spot about two inches beneath the naval, is the seat of our internal life force, or chi. It is the gut, the second brain, that we refer to when we say – ‘I just had a gut feeling about it’. I was learning how to make my body movements originate from this central point.
And outside of training sessions, I was curious about listening to this place as a guide for shaping my life.
It was always right.
My mind would be begging for me to take action on something, but a voice deep in my gut would say no. I would take action anyway and it would all end appallingly. Or vice versa.
I came to feel it as my homing beacon, my compass.
For three years I deepened my connection to my body through the different practices I was taught and it changed me.
Bringing presence to your body again and again unlocks all the ways in which you have buried your emotions within the body mind. It cleans your system, creating more space for your life force to flow. The more it flows, the more you cannot look at a sky without feeling awe and wonder.
As well as that, it makes you more sensitive. And the more sensitive I became, the more I felt like I could sense a guiding hand behind me. I didn’t know what it was, or what to call it, but I felt its presence and somehow, I felt it was connected to the intuitive body centred nudges that I was starting to learn to move from.
I began to be hungry for a sense of spirituality, of connectedness to something bigger than myself that explained the knowings I was experiencing, or a deepening sense of belonging to the natural world I could feel.
Too soon it was time to leave the cocoon of university and step out into the ‘real’ world.
I looked around at the adult world I was about to enter and honestly, it didn’t look good. I saw stressed, frustrated, miserable people chasing their tales for money, the light deadened behind their eyes. I saw people disconnected from each other and their families. I did not see any role model or any career choice in which I felt I could profitably use this sense of deeper connection to myself and the nature of being human that I had found at university.
I had no map of how to create my future, but I did have a process. I had the process of moving from one internal nudge and gut feeling to the next. I could see how this had created incredibly profound and connected theatre. Could it create a life worth living?
I had no responsibilities and so I decided to conduct an experiment into intuitive living and craft my life from this level of impulse within me, with what felt like a guiding hand at my back.
It’s been thirteen years and my conviction in the process has only strengthened. Ignoring the body and its intuitions creates disease, addictions and apathy.
Following the call of your soul leads you to face your fears, your inner demons, your past conditionings and it also leads you to find passions, callings and a profound sense of universal love. It is the path for the courageous and the people who want to genuinely live. I believe it is the path home to ourselves.
There’s this voice in me, she sounds like the voice of societal reason and feels like shame and fear and she tells me what will and will not be acceptable. I know who she is. I’ve battled with her many times. She’s my inner critic and she’s got opinions. She strongly feels I should just keep my head down and maintain the status quo and she also asks repeatedly ‘who am I to think about such lofty notions as creating a better world?’
Except there is another, much stronger force within me – the voice of my soul. She speaks through whispers and nudges, a sense of just knowing. She has innocence and playfulness and is the well-spring of my creativity. She couldn’t care less about the voice of societal reason. She urges me towards growth, expansion and living a wild, fulfilling and meaningful life.
The interplay of these voices can create internal dissonance – anxiety, depression. Your soul wants to go one way, a life time of conditioning says something else.
It is hard-wired in us to follow the rules of our parents and the communities we live in. Our tribal selves depended on the security and belonging this afforded. To leave the folds was to die.
And yet the rules of society have taken us down paths that we cannot tread for much longer. Our children are set to inherit a dying, drowning, burning world, devoid of animals and edible food.
The massive amounts of people experiencing mental health symptoms are not indicative of broken people, they are indicative of a broken world. And a societal toxic soup that believes some people, or forms of life are more important than other people. Humans are more important than animals, white people are more important than black, straight people have more rights than gay people, men are better than women.
We’re seeing such global chaos as these norms are challenged and a truer, deeper balance is struck. We each have depth and beauty, we are each a unique expression of divinity.
Inside each of us is the enforcer of the status quo and our conditioning. And there is also the voice of the soul. We drown her out with alcohol, with numbing Facebook scrolling, with never finding a quiet moment to sit down. If we sat down we would no doubt encounter the fear and the anger and the frustration of giving our lives for actions that do not align with the deepest truth about who we are.
Underneath that though, there would be a nudge. The soul doesn’t plot an action plan. Unfortunately, she doesn’t speak rationally. She will often point directly towards that which you most fear.
She just tells you the next step to take. And then the next, and then the next. Take enough steps and a truer reflection of yourself starts to form.
As you face your fear, you become stronger. A different, wiser, more loving you is forged in the fires of the transformation process. As you listen and then act, you feel lighter, freer. You start to like who you see in the mirror. Meetings crop up that help take you in a new direction.
At first it’s fucking terrifying. You don’t really know where you’re going, you only know you can’t carry on in the old way anymore.
Emotions surface relating to childhood instances when your soul was silenced in order to teach you to fit into the world as it was. In order to claim back your soul, you need to unearth and absorb all those painful moments. It’s a journey and a process. It’s horrendously painful at times and extraordinarily bright. But above all it’s wickedly meaningful.
That’s the direction to go in. Big money, flash holidays, status and approval within old systems mean little to the soul, who is the deepest truth about who you are. Pursue those if you must but everyone I know that has found themselves at the pinnacle of that pedestal has found it to be all glimmer and no substance. At best it's fun for a while, at worst it is a road to burn out and apathy. Eventually, we all crave something deeper.
Following the soul is a profound and mystical journey. It is what we are here for. It is a life truly lived.
Sit quietly dear one. And listen in. Who are you really? And what is your next step?
In the bright future of humanity I see each individual house with it’s own electricity and power sourced from wind, solar or ground to air source heat pump. I see people understanding that we are custodians of the land and the other creatures and so I see ponds for frogs, flowers for butterflies and bees and patches kept wild for other animals. I see cities of green vertical skyscrapers - housing birds, growing the food necessary to sustain life and cleaning the air.
I see no plastic. I see homes that understand that humanity is part of wider eco-systems where nothing is wasted, everything is reused in a constant cycle of death and rebirth.
I see people growing fruits and vegetables, keeping animals for food and trading goods at a local level so that all our food and shelter needs are taken care of.
I see the incredible empowerment of people that happens when they feel they can sustain themselves, rather than relying on large utility systems that ultimately keep us in bondage.
I think it has to happen at a grass roots individual level – we cannot rely on governments to make the changes we want to see in the world – we have to do it ourselves. I see it already happening.
I see each household making small incremental changes in this direction. I see more outside time, a much more visceral understanding of the sacredness of the earth and the fact that our deepest responsibility as human beings is to care for her and all the other inhabitants. We are not masters of the earth, we are sacred custodians.
For this to happen, each individual must drop that feeling of powerlessness that we all have – the feeling that we are nothing in the face of giant global forces, that large institutions run the show.
I see that this future is being helped along by invisible hands – the spirit that moves in all things. Statistically, evolution happened at a rate far exceeding that which would have happened if the universe were entirely chaotic and random. There is an intelligent design at play. You can see that when you spend any time in the natural world and observe the incredibly intricate dance of connectedness, death and rebirth.
There is a force within us all that is propelling us forwards. In your quiet moments, you can feel it. We have to lean into that and trust it. It knows the way. Just like migrating birds have a compass that only they can hear, we humans have an instinctual knowledge of how to get ourselves from where we are to a place of empowerment and harmony.
The enemy is fear and feeling not good enough and ultimately not trusting yourself – trusting instead the misunderstandings that some are better than others, and that wisdom, approval, satisfaction and empowerment can come from anywhere else but within.
Always, we think someone else has the answer. But they don't. Only we have the answer. We each have incredible value and talents and it is our sacred duty to unearth them.
This brings me to the second part of the future I see for humanity – with security in the fact that we can feed and house ourselves, I see each person freed up to work on whatever brings them joy, whatever they are passionate about. I see dancing and art and so many technologies and structures that we can’t even imagine right now.
We will be healthier, with more nutritious food and plenty of time outdoors, with deeper social connections and a sense of purpose.
It may seem like a far-fetched vision, but the reality of the digital age would have seem far-fetched only 50 years ago.
I see businesses that are rooted in social conscientiousness and collaboration. With an understanding that there is abundance – enough for everyone – people collaborate in similar areas when appropriate and compete less.
I see education systems that understand it is their responsibility to unearth the spark in each child, that it is a given that each individual will bring something new and valuable and unique to the community.
I see an understanding that rich or poor is irrelevant – at a soul level no-one is better or worse than anyone else. I see the resilience of the human spirit and the abundance of the earth – there is more than enough to sustain us humans on the planet if only we could organise ourselves properly.
And we can. Ants do it. Bees do it. They all work alongside each other harmoniously because they are all connected to a field of energy that has the codes within it for everything to run smoothly. Humanity also has those codes. We just need to learn to trust ourselves enough to listen and follow.
I think we all need to start learning how to hold this vision and working towards it. You cannot create something unless you can first imagine it.
At the moment we are bombarded with distressing images of rainforests being cut down and pollution while the media portrays the very worst in the human spirit. It makes us feel overwhelmed, distressed, hopeless. You can’t create a brighter place when you feel like that. You need to start to think differently, to shift yourself towards trust, hope, optimism. From there you feel more empowered to make small steps in the right direction. Once you’ve made small steps that bore fruit, you have the confidence to make bigger steps, and so on.
We are so much more than we know and we can create incredibly beauty here if we all work towards it, shifting all of the ways we give our power away. What if all the things you believed to be impossible actually weren’t? What if you could create more than you could imagine? What if you were connected to a force that WANTS you to grow into the best, boldest, most extraordinary version of your soul actualised on planet earth?
I'm not that worried for Mother Earth - she will carry on regardless. It's us I fear for. We're going to die one way or another - our way of life is going to die in order to rebirth this new future, or we are actually going to die.
What I would really like is for everyone everywhere to throw their arms up and say 'enough!'
Enough speed, enough stuff, enough running around like headless chickens in broken systems to prove that we are enough.
We have valued 'more! Better! Faster!' and totally lost touch with the magic and beauty in slow and soulful. It's like a deranged merry-go-round that we're collectively complicit in maintaining.
Whatsapp messages, Facebook messages and emails ping into our living environment 24 hours a day demanding immediate responses, unrealistic expectations on house management, childcare and working commitments meaning we feel like we do nothing well.
It's affecting our mental health and I believe is part of the environmental challenges we face as we don't give ourselves enough time to be open, to listen, to be free to create something new.
We look around at each other and we feel like we need to keep up, to compete with the Joneses, suck it all up, keep it all together. We tell ourselves that everyone else seems to cope (they don't), so why am I not enough?
Lynne Twist in her excellent book The Soul of Money describes her 40 years of experience working for The Hunger Project - a charity that aims to solve world hunger. She states that it is not a lack of resources that keeps some people well-fed while others starve - if it were simply a matter of redistributing food then the problem would be solved. It's humankind's issue with insecurity, with feeling like there is not enough and that we aren't resilient/capable/worthy enough that drives inequality, keeps us clinging to safety and normality.
She says that we all have the capacity to create positive change for ourselves and our communities - the first step is the belief that what you have and where you are is enough. And the second is being open to see that what you need is often hiding in plain sight.
It's really hard to do that when you're pulled in one hundred different directions and saturated in a collective soup of 'not enoughness'. You need space and time. Often finances feel like a rope around your neck, mortgages shackling you to payments, but I would counter that if you have a roof over your head and food in the fridge (running water! Mechanised transport!) then you have more freedom than you might think.
I'm committed to turning in a different direction. As a mother of 2 small children sometimes it seems like the pressure to be all things to all people is immense - a breadwinner, a carer, a PTA helper, a cook and a house manager. Trying to keep up with modern life can so easily make you feel anxious and overwhelmed. This is not because there is something wrong with you, it's your body/minds very natural response to an environment that is swiftly hurtling towards the edge of a cliff. All while you feel like you're rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
I want to get off, so I'm slowing down. There is a new way of being emerging and I know I want to be open enough, to believe in myself enough and to follow my instincts in order to move towards what will truly serve myself, my family and my community.
It's slower, deeper, better. At times it's scary and can feel very counter-cultural and it's not something anyone of us can do alone. We all need to move together.
Please then, let's drop the neighbourly arms race and this persistent feeling we all have of having to keep up with each other. Let's be honest about how exhausted we are and how overwhelming it all is and make space to start listening to the deeper whispers of who we are. Into that space, a new future for humanity is coming.
Because we really are enough. All of the solutions we need are here to collectively broker a new deal that benefits our health, our communities, our children and our planet.
There really is nothing more important than that. Enough is enough.
As a young girl me and my body were friends. We climbed trees, did cartwheels, danced and swam. But as the teenage years hit, things started to change.
I got my period, which I was taught to ignore. I didn’t understand my body’s rhythms so I became estranged from her. I also came to understand that she was a commodity, desired by men. Conditioned to please, I entered into situations that I didn’t feel totally comfortable with. As a commodity, I viewed my body harshly, I judged her hairy bits and wobbly bits, bits that were too big or too small.
At school I learned to sit still, to ignore my body’s need for movement, and to spend all my time in my head, in my rational mind. I felt dull and bored by life.
Then I began to practice yoga, tai chi and martial arts, being schooled to ‘drop in’ to my body. I was taught to sense my feet on the floor, to try and open up to an embodied awareness so that ‘the body becomes all eyes’. In this heightened state, the world is alive and vibrant, the colours more radiant. I learned to feel my body from the inside, rather than judge her from the outside.
I trained 3-5 time a week for 2 years and my sense of my body irreversibly changed. I began to FEEL. Feel the wind on my face, the deep pleasure of simply moving. I made peace with body’s appearance too. I decided that since this was the only body I was ever going to have, I might as well love her. I accepted all her wobbly bits. Except, she was having problems. She had acne and digestive issues.
I believed now that while I was OK with her appearance, there was something wrong with her from the inside. I sought to heal her. I took conventional medicine for the acne – antibiotics and roaccutane. These didn’t solve the problem but they did give me other issues with my liver and an unhealthy gut.
I tried Chinese medicine and herbal medicine and nutrition and juice fasts and Ayur Veda and meditation and yoga. All of these helped somewhat but not completely.
I learned about sex. After a beautiful week of juice fasting in Goa, India, I allowed my body to enter into an act that didn’t feel comfortable for me. For the last time. From a deep and fierce place inside me, I vowed to never, ever, ever let anything happen to my body that I was not 100% comfortable with. No one was ever coming near me again with anything but complete and total love for me, my soul, the person on the inside.
I realised completely and utterly that beauty and attraction are about the energy you put out, not the quality of your skin or the fit of your clothes.
I found complete and total love and came to understand that my body was utter perfection, that the acne and the digestive issues were not malfunctions but my body’s very clever way of attempting to achieve balance within her. I learned that I actually didn’t need healing, that all of me was whole and complete. From this new place of respect, I worked with a nutritionist and my digestive issues and acne went way.
I became pregnant. And now my body - who I had come to know and love – was changing. She was growing to accommodate a living being. It was frightening and wondrous.
I came to realise that the medical profession, in their well-meaning way, were absolutely terrified of the process my body was going through. They subjected my body to a never ending assault of tests, each midwife appointment leaving me with a sense of fear as they performed their duty by warning me of everything that could go wrong.
I learned about medical procedures at birth and how there is often a ‘cascade of intervention’, where one procedure creates effects that necessitate another procedure leading to emergency invasive surgery. I read about the dance of oxytocin – the cuddle ‘love’ hormone in birth and how this is the fuel of the process. I read that it is shy, it doesn’t like strangers and that adrenaline slows or halts the labour process. I couldn’t help but feel the midwives I was speaking to didn’t seem to understand that their fear was creating the very hormone that would interfere with the birth.
I became my body’s fierce gate-keeper. I trusted myself, I trusted my body. I birthed two healthy babies and the raw power of my body in labour took my breath away. She was magnificent.
I came to understand that my birth experiences were unusual- calm and natural. Almost everyone I spoke to had received intervention they felt uncomfortable with. Often, they felt powerless and traumatised.
And then I came to understand in a much greater way about my cycles, about menstruation. About the times of peak energy (ovulation), when it’s great to get things done. I understood that after this, my energy would start to wane and I could alter my schedule accordingly to fit in with my body. If I took responsibility for my own self care in this way, my mood and energy levels were much higher and healthier and my whole family benefitted as a result.
I never again wanted to work to a schedule that could not accommodate my body’s rhythms. I wanted to honour her – this incredibly complex collection of heart and lungs and digestive processes that allow me to feel and see and love and dance. What a spectacularly amazing thing to have a healthy body!
I learned of the deep, restorative power of menstruation, how it is the most potent opportunity to connect to my deepest wisdom. People pay vast amounts of money to learn meditation or have massages to relax and once a month, women have this opportunity to surrender to their bodies and receive deep nourishment and intuitive guidance if we can let go and retreat from the world. My cycles, rather magically, started to line up with the moon. I felt like a fairy goddess warrior queen.
I came to look at my body and at the earth and see a microcosm within the macroscosm.
The way we treat our bodies as women is the way we are treating this earth. We ARE the earth. Her bounty becomes our food, which becomes our bodies. Her air becomes the oxygen that runs through our blood, her water in our veins.
We have raped her of her sacredness. We have treated her as an object we are entitled to use as we please. This is not the truth. She has life inside her that is precious and beautiful and sacred.
In this crisis we find ourselves in, I believe that one of the first things we can do is start to honour our bodies. Get into her. Feel what she feels. Open to her pains, her longings, her tiredness and nourish her. Grow to understand her cycles and honour them (Love your Lady Landscape by Lisa Lister is a good place to start).
Listen to yourself. Put away the scales for good, drop the diets and eat what will love your body the most. Women’s way of being in the world, standing powerfully in the truth of our experience, is sorely needed right now and our bodies hold the key.
She has riches for you. She has the capacity for a juiciness and pleasure that is not normal for our times. She has an incredible radiance and a capacity for love that will blow your mind apart and break your heart open in the best possible way.
But we must learn her language, her rhythms and what she feels like from the inside. Become your body’s fierce gate-keeper and let nothing but love pass.
Humanity is going through a breakdown/spiritual awakening.
When I was 18, I’d been taking drugs daily for 4 years. My way of life was unsustainable. I had pain I hadn’t processed, I wasn’t looking after myself and my body was falling apart.
Things had to change. It was an undeniable fact I couldn’t deny any longer.
It was painful. It hurt to lift the hazy veil of drug fueled self denial and see my life for what it was - all the places I had not been taking responsibility for my actions, all the places I had been brushing things under the carpet.
Because the universe is more loving and beautiful than we can possibly comprehend, I was doing a degree that meant I practiced yoga, tai chi and a martial art with a specific emphasis on bringing awareness to the body. As I broke down, I woke up. The practices helped me become more embodied and listen to the truths my soul had been whispering for a long time.
I cried for 3 months straight. I cried about all the ways I had abandoned myself for other people’s approval and all the ways I had attached my identity to things that were ultimately meaningless. I decided to rebuild myself in a way that was heart felt and above all, truthful.
The introspective practices provided a discipline that allowed me to grow stronger and gave me a framework to explore what was happening within me. I had the feeling that I was being guided throughout. It was a time of deep truth and beautiful grace.
This is where humanity is. Our lives don’t work anymore. We are depressed, anxious, obese, stressed and sick, rushing about to make money for institutions we don't really care about, while the oceans fill with plastic, the air gets more polluted and natural disasters disrupt more and more lives. Half the wildlife on our planet has been wiped out and Trump has been elected president of the USA.
Meanwhile, incredible individuals make bold steps to usher in a new way of being on the planet. People and institutions like Tree Sisters, Mark Winn, MOE, Lucia Pagliarone, Andre Duquemin, Grace Galliott, permaculture, Lisa Berkovitz and Earth Ships (to name just a few that I am inspired by and grateful for) and so many more both locally and internationally. There is so much hope and brilliance and human ingenuity.
Each and everyone one of us has the power to be a change maker, has the strength to share our gifts with the world. Each of us is a force of nature.
But first we must do the introspective work to get very clear on how we are living. Often we must shed the old in order to birth the new. Then we can explore what lights us up, what we are passionate about, what we are called to work towards above anything else. We can harness the extraordinary power of the human spirit that lives within each and every one of us in service of our world and each other.
For many of us - the exponential amounts of people experiencing depression and anxiety, panic attacks and insomnia - the time is already here. The Earth is speaking to us.
We must sit quietly with ourselves, learn to listen to our wise inner guidance and be bold about who we are and what needs to be done. We must heal our collective pains and surrender to what is unfolding.
For me, the other side of breakdown has been more beauty than I could possibly have comprehended. It is magic and love and depth and a sense of belonging, brought about by honesty so searing it has broken my heart open many times. It is also commitment and discipline and a willingness to face what needs to be faced.
It is a deep realization that we are of this earth and what is happening to her is happening inside each of our bodies. By healing ourselves and waking up to our inter-connectedness, we heal our home.
Imagining a future where humanity manages to course correct (as I did at university), rewiring institutions and personal relationships to me feels dazzlingly bright. I can taste it. I can see homes fully powered by renewable electricity, food grown locally full of nourishment, the animal populations thriving and bright-eyed humans relating lovingly and consciously to each other, exploring passions and creativity. It's not a million miles away from my life right now.
And yet my children's future hangs precariously with dangerously apocalyptic projections of what the next 50 years might bring.
I have come to realise that my part is to help be a guide for people to cross over. I know the terrain. From depression to joy, from lethargy to meaning, from anxiety to deep trust. It is a path of surrender, of feeling your emotions all the way through.
Mostly though, there is a shift from self critical, to self loving, from ‘not good enough’, to realizing that you are more than enough. That within you dwells a spark of the infinite. No one else can offer what you can.
I know that one of my greatest gifts is to hold deep presence for people – to share my practice. To guide people into a deeper experience of their bodies, their lives and their souls. That, and writing about it!
Look within my lovely, and bring it out.
Let go my lovely, and light up.
I’ve been sitting on something in me for a long time – the call to write. Not write about other people’s experiences, or features articles or paid commissions, but putting the whispers of my soul down on paper (the screen).
It’s utterly terrifying honestly. I’ve blogged a bit in the past about various things, I’ve done travel blogs and mama blogs, but what I feel compelled to write about now is addiction and recovery, about mental health and about spiritual practices. Above all, I want to write about learning to deeply listen and trust your own intuition and what magic can happen when you run and jump, trusting what your soul already knows – that you will find your feet in brand new territory.
My relationship with the universe began at university – which seems apt given the closeness in the words. I was a recovering addict at the time and I felt pretty cynical about almost everything.
Boring school assemblies droning on about something that happened 2000 years ago had done little to connect me with a sense of something bigger than myself. Ecstasy and cannabis had made me feel good though, until I became reliant on them to go about my days. I felt dirty and hazy and like this had to stop.
I confided in my dear mother who started to talk about her spiritual beliefs. My complex, beautiful, damaged mum had been a follower of 2 Indian Gurus (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar) in her time and raised me with an eccentric mix of Eastern practices and Glaswegian fieriness. My teenage self despised anything that made me different and rebelled against her bizarre beliefs, until I was desperate. Until I was thirsty to understand more about life and my role in it.
I listened to her descriptions of a loving universe, how god is magnificent and unconditionally loving. I read books like Friendship with God by Neale Donald Walsh, The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield and The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo. All pointed to an understanding of the world that was intimately connected and intelligent. They spoke of developing a relationship with God/the universe/source by praying, asking questions and listening.
The Celestine Prophecy spoke of keeping your energy high to be able to clearly distinguish the internal pointers, nudges and messages you might receive. It spoke of a connection to the natural world that helped facilitate this higher, more vibrant way of being.
The Alchemist talked of noticing signs in the external world and following them. It talked of looking for treasure, travelling the world and realising that what you were seeking was at home, had always been at home, you just needed the perspective shift that came about by traveling in order to see it.
Friendship with God (and it’s predecessors Conversations with God 1, 2 and 3) spoke about cultivating an actual conversation with a higher power, one that was informal and easy and personal. Author Neale Donald Walsh journalled and asked questions and found that answers would arrive in his head as he sought to write them down.
I liked these books. Life seemed painful and at times hopeless. I felt tearful and depressed and yet as the layers of emotional pain moved through me, I was beginning to settle into something that felt strong and clear and true. I wanted to believe, but I was cynical.
A friend of mine had given me a little seed and planting kit that I had put on my windowsill months ago. I woke up one morning feeling exhausted and very alone.
‘Ok universe,’ I thought, ‘If any of this is real and you actually are guiding me, (A la Alchemist) then give me a sign… let my plant have sprouted.’
I lifted my curtain to reveal said plant and took two steps back in surprise. Much more than a tiny show of green, the thing had sprouted an inch over night.
Irrationally, a thrill of excitement and hope went through me. It was small, but it was a start.
Since then I have developed a much more regular relationship with my higher self/intuition/source. I journal, I listen, I act on what I hear. My internal nudges took me around the world where I experienced the most unimaginably profound things that blew apart my world view and broke my heart open. They lead me to become a mother and to face all of the demons in my closet. They lead me to a richer, clearer, significantly more beautiful experience of life and carved me out to be a generally bit nicer person.
I believe. I more than believe, I deeply know.
I trust that my intuition knows better than my rational mind about how to make life decisions. I believe that the world massively needs to learn how to follow a deeper internal GPS. The rational mind reviews what has been done, it tries to imitate or discard learning. You can only build upon what has already been done. But the world is changing fast. What has already been done will no longer do. Our systems and institutions and personal lives require us now to go deeper, to question. Who are we really? What are we doing here? How do we carve a meaningful life?
I think that within each one of us, we have the answer.
And yet, I’m still scared. I'm scared of putting something so deep in me out there for EVERYONE to see. It's vulnerable and challenging.
I’ve been having the internal nudges to write some of this down for a long time. But my intuition is starting to speak more loudly now. If I don’t get some of this out, if I don’t put my fingers to the keyboard, I'm going to get frustrated and depleted with the effort of trying to do anything different.
So I’m in. It’s coming. A tale of learning to listen to the whispers of your soul and how to follow that, of traveling round the world to find the treasures that had been there all along, and the changes of mind and heart that were needed to see it.
The thing about life is – it has many different shades and layers to it. Some of life is bright, beautiful, glaring white full of sunshine and energy. We love those bits, want more of them and can feel like we're doing something wrong if we're not there all the time (we're not).
Some of life is dark and it burns so hard we think we're going to die from baring it, but by moving through it we emerge wiser, humbled, different, (better?) at the end. Some of life is musty and sore and difficult and bruised. Much of life is somewhere in between – hum drum, cozy jammies and average TV nights. And there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING you can do about that. There will be highs and lows and many mediocre bits in the middle.
Anyone who tells you there is only rainbows and ‘up, up, up’ is trying to sell you something.
Life is full of peak experiences, but with the highs come the lows. For every incredible holiday you take, there will always be the blues when you re-enter normality. Lottery winners descending into chaos, best-selling authors struggling to re-create their success.
For every beautiful love experience comes the feeling of separation (you can’t stay deeply, intimately connected to someone ALL THE TIME), every boozy night has a hungover morning. Even every deep meditation or spiritual experience has the feeling of incredible expansion, followed by the feeling of releasing difficult emotions you didn’t even know you were holding.
I am wondering, would you really want only white light? Does the heartache prove that you loved? Do the hard times build your strength and character? Is it true, as Khalil Gibran suggests, that 'the deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain'?
A well-lived life will contain so many different seasons and flavours. But what we don’t want to do is add to the suffering. And this comes when we try to hold on to the good stuff and push away the bad. We use unhealthy coping mechanisms so we don’t have to feel our pain. We long and pine for the good times and struggle to adjust when things change. Instead of rolling with the punches and flowing with the great river of life, we worry, live in denial or push away reality in favour of our misguided fantasies. We tell ourselves victim stories or ask: ‘why me?’ We compare and contrast our unique journeys with those of our friends and acquaintances and find ourselves lacking.
We spend so much time wishing our lives were different that we fail to acknowledge the lives that we have.
Mindfulness is a route to bring you closer to your life. It helps you open to what’s right there in front of you – whether you’re in a peak bright white time, a frightening black or all the shades of grey. By becoming a keen observer of your body – your vehicle to experience the world through – you begin to notice the extraordinary depth and variety of flavours, feelings, moments and sensations that make up your miraculously ordinary human life.
By practicing mindfulness it becomes easier to move through the harder times and to draw nourishment from simply being alive and awake in this very moment of your time here on earth.
Some time in the future, it might be better. It might be worse. You can bank on the fact that there will be many, many moments of varying shades to take you to the end of your days and that on your death bed, you will probably feel like you want to have LIVED. To have FELT. To have absorbed every painful, beautiful moment of loving and moving and shaking and grooving here on planet earth.
So now. Take a deep breath. Notice the life in the air that enters your nostrils, feel it nourish your body down to your toes. And OPEN. Open to all of who you are – your struggles, your dreams, your wishes, your curiosities, your fears and your ambitions. Especially open to the bits of you that you wish were different – invite them into your heart and just for this moment, let them rest.
Open to your life in THIS MOMENT. Right now. Stop. Be aware. Awake. The planet is spinning round and round our incredible sun, the stars shine to us from light years away and you are the results of millions of years of evolution. Drink it in. You live.