Heartache to happiness

“It is an absolute human certainty that no one can know his own beauty or perceive a sense of his own worth until it has been reflected back to him in the mirror of another loving, caring human being.”
 John Joseph Powell

As as pondered what I had learnt this week and what I could share that was interesting and meaningful, I scrolled back through my posts. I’m not sure what compelled me to do so but I stumbled upon this unpublished draft and wondered why I had shelved it. Even as I wondered I realised, despite my willingness to share and be vulnerable, that perhaps this was too raw, too private, something to be kept under wraps. As I write this introduction I have second thoughts about sharing. I have a gnawing unease. Will people think I’m mad? Probably. Will people think less of me? Does it matter? Will people judge me and ridicule? Perhaps.

Then another set of questions were raised. What’s the point of sharing? What’s the value in it? Is it self-indulgent? Is it interesting and meaningful to others? Oh, heck. I don’t know. Maybe it is self-indulgent but perhaps it could be cathartic and healing. This story might set some eyes a rolling but then it might also hit a nerve for one or two. Interesting? Most assuredly not. But confirming and validating for some, perhaps.

Well, I figure, you  can’t change if you don’t feel uncomfortable. Right?  I’m feeling VERY uncomfortable. But it’s interesting too, to see that so much has changed in 12 months. This post was written a year ago (I had almost forgotten how desperately dark and ill at ease I was) and maybe that’s why it’s begging to be released now. When all is said and done I believe there is a place for celebrating change and growth and new found peacefulness. There is room for celebrating life and choosing a different focus. Life can change. We can change it with small actions and with a choice to be, think and act differently.

Okay, here goes. I have resisted making any changes to the original post, it is as I wrote it all that time ago.


Moved to tears over years of anguish. And for what?

I recently read a brilliant post by Elizabeth Gilbert in which she shared a personal experience of releasing pain after fifteen years. She eventually. After trying everything sat quietly and asked her body what it wanted her to do to heal a knee injury. She got a clear message and was from then on able to move freely after following the advice she received.

I’ve tried this strategy myself many times with mixed degrees of effectiveness. Too often my rational brain pops in to make its voice heard, as does my ego.  Anyway, I felt, after reading this I’d give it another go.

I sat quietly, hugged my knees to my chest and asked my body what it wanted me to do to help it heal. The answer brought tears to my eyes. Very clearly I heard the words “Love Me”.

I cried for several reasons. Imagine being unloved for 40 odd years. I cried too because after 40 or so years of not loving my body, I didn’t know what that meant. How was I to do this?

Suddenly all the hateful self talk, all the anguished bathroom mirror rantings and frustrations flooded back to me, all the times I’d compared myself to others and felt lacking, all the times I’d ‘hidden’, dressed in nondescript clothing, refusing to wear make up, not wanting to stand out, came flooding back to me and I was ashamed. I was also suddenly aware why things weren’t working, why there were imbalances, why there was extreme fatigue and lethargy. Wouldn’t anyone feel this after being treated so poorly?

I saw the pattern of my behaviour over many years mapped out in an instant behind my closed eyelids. I recalled too an agonising self depreciating tirade my sister had delivered just the week before. She was on a diet. Another one. To lose weight for a wedding in which she is to be Matron of Honour. My sister is the mother of four beautiful children. She is stunning. If you were to see her you wouldn’t think she needed to lose weight at all. She looks fabulous, stylish and she is an outrageously entertaining woman. I asked her why she thought she had to lose weight. Her response was that all the other bridesmaids were younger and skinny.

She felt she had to be skinny to be accepted, to be worthy. All this was said in front of her teenage daughter.  I couldn’t help but wonder how very damaging family patterns can be. I’ve read a lot recently about the importance of mothers teaching their daughters to love their bodies. How can broken women do that? How can years of patterning be reversed? Do we even realise these patterns exist? Does our walk match our talk?

I remember saying to my niece that our family had always equated being thin with being valued. That she should be aware that she was so much more than her body and that her personality, her intellect, her talents and skills were the bigger parts of her that contributed to the world, that her body needed to be healthy to help her reach her goals. There I was, telling her the very thing I couldn’t and had never been able to do for myself – value me for me and be grateful to my body for enabling me to move through life. There I was encouraging her to ignore what she heard us say and saw us do. I was asking her to understand what she’d just heard her mother say about her own body was unhealthy, irrational and unfounded. I was so impassioned that my beautiful, strong, energetic, sporty niece should not go down the same path we did, without realising I should have been preaching to myself.

I recall too, many years ago sharing my self loathing with a massage therapist and she didn’t understand. She had never experienced it. Her story was equally foreign to me. She told me she often looks in the mirror appreciatively and thinks “Hmm, looking good!”.

What to do? I’m thinking start small. I’ve been writing a gratitude note each day this year. I’m just going to shift my attention to focus on my physical body and thank it for something each day. Surely gratitude is one step along the path toward self -love.

I can barely see through the tears in my eyes. I guess I’ve just found a kernel of truth right there.

Sending you all love and wishing for you great wads of self-love and appreciation.

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Giving up to get it right.

Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance. Life is really simple but we insist on making it complicated. Confucius

Image by Flickr.

Image by Flickr.

I was discussing health and wellness with friends recently and we agreed that there are so many conflicting articles, studies and recommendations regarding health, lifestyle and fitness that it really was no wonder people were confused.

For example: should you subscribe to the three meals a day camp or should you enjoy three meals and two snacks or is intermittent fasting, where you skip breakfast and consume your calories between the hours of 11 am and 7 pm, the better option?

Similarly, is low carb high fat, Paleo, raw food, grain free, sugar free, high carb low fat, Aitkens, blood type, Mediterranean the way to go with diet and food choices?

Let’s not even start with exercise and supplements because the list goes on.
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I like to educate myself on healthy choices, new research and the latest discoveries in the health and wellness field. Not everything I read resonates and I’ve come to understand that certain protocols do not fit everyone’s lifestyle, budget, personal taste or health requirements. I’ve been alarmed, intrigued and tempted to try some of the tips I’ve learnt about.

Recently, in the face of some health hiccups, I’ve been overwhelmed by the latest and greatest offerings, by well meant advice and practitioner recommendations. I’ve tried and tested, I’ve followed and dabbled and been left wanting.

In the end, I’ve come back to what I knew all along but ignored. I’ve just got to do what’s best for me. But how?

Like a lightening bolt it struck me. You’ve got to give up what you know and listen to what you need instead.  Simple, but not easy. We are not used to tuning in and listening to what our bodies require.  Our bodies know how to heal. Our bodies can tell us what nutrients we need. We just need to observe carefully and pay attention.

imageSo this week I’ve made a food plan based on what really resonates with me and resisted the temptation to swing toward popular opinion. I’ve stopped thinking and engaged my intuition instead.  I’ve created a list of meals that delight my senses, appeal to my taste buds and contain healthy, fresh food that will energise and heal my body. I stocked up at the markets, my health food store and supplemented with a few items from the grocery store. I’ve left behind my “regular” eating plan and I’m actually really enjoying the change. I feel really different about food, I feel vital energy seeping into my body, my mind is more alert and I am not fussing over calories. The most interesting offshoot is that I’m not thinking about food all day long which is something I’ve always done.

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I reckon Henry Ford was right; “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.”

What do you know that’s not working for you? Is there an area in your life where you need to give up what you know and listen to what you need instead?

Shannyn

Reconnect by disconnecting: are you a stakeholder in your own health in our information, data driven world?

Frayed and frazzled by data overload

Frayed and frazzled by data overload

Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Linked in, Flickr, Skype, You Tube, Pinterest, My space, Google Plus, Instagram, Mylife.  Are you feeling a little frazzled due to the increase in social media options, notifications, updates, requests and the need to stay informed and up to date with what’s new, what’s on offer and the advantages of joining in?

Do you recognise the signs and symptoms of social media and sensory overload? Have you noticed a slight irritability, frustration, tiredness and just a little crankiness clouding your days? Have you noticed an increase in muscle tension, headaches, clenched jaws, fogginess and brain drain? It could all be associated with keeping up with and managing your email accounts, news feeds and blogs. Not to mention tapping into your social media sites and dealing with requests to join others. The TV, radio and newspapers also contribute to the maelstrom churning in your head.

The problem is you’re too connected. Yet at the same time, many of you feel isolated and on the fringe. So what’s the solution? You need to take action to reconnect and return to your centred, grounded place; your place of peace, of confidence, of joy.

If you’re done, for a while, with the constant barrage of smoise (social media noise) the obvious thing to do is log off and tune out for a while. Sever the link and exit the social media vortex and really connect with life. But let’s be real about this; many of us simply can’t live without social media, smart phones and the like for extended periods. In the interests of self-care, self-preservation and sanity commit, instead, to reducing the number of times and the length of time you check in. Turn off your notifications and check in once a day to catch up on all the ‘news’. Set yourself a target of say a day, or a week of reduced input and, in that time, rebalance yourself.

Rebalance, refresh and rejuvenate by creating a list of things that make you feel good and commit to doing one or more of them, each day, for at least a week (without phones, iPods, iPads, laptops etc). My list includes things like heading off into the forest to enjoy the wildlife, taking a walk on the beach and burying my feet in the sand, meeting a friend for coffee at one of my favourite cafes. Meditating in the garden, tending to my new herb garden, buying a beautiful book and reading it on the deck, with a pot of tea, are also high on my feel good, reconnection list. Get the idea?

Might I suggest that you include a sojourn into the natural world somewhere on your list. Go hiking, surfing, bike riding, pack a picnic – anything to get outside into the fresh air. Greater benefits will be felt if you connect with the skin of the earth. Take your shoes off, stand, sit or lie down on the earth and breath deeply.

Find some quiet time, in a space that makes you feel calm and relaxed, to just sit. If you are not a regular meditator don’t worry. You don’t need to sit in silence for hours. Some days five minutes is all I have but those five minutes make all the difference. A teacher once told me to simply sit and concentrate on the breath. Feel it being drawn into the nostrils on the inhale and feel its warmth on the upper lip on the exhale. He suggested, instead of trying to clear my mind completely, I should start by trying to empty my mind for one complete breath. Sounds so insignificant doesn’t it? Let me reassure you, one whole breath without a thought is pure bliss.  Give it a go. You can work your way up to 10 or 20 breaths. Eventually, you won’t need to count your breaths, you’ll be able to sit in peace for the time you have.

What about your diet? How aware are you of the impact your food choices  are having on your brain and your body? When we are stressed and overloaded we often make poor food choices for a whole range of reasons. As part of your rebalancing regime limit processed and refined food. Nourish your body and brain by eating fresh, real food. Drink more water and less coffee. Start by planning a healthy eating menu for one day, it will be a good start to taking the toxic load off your body.

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Do you value yourself enough to step out of the information vortex to reclaim your equilibrium?

Are you ready to short-circuit the overload, to rebalance and reconnect with yourself?

Are you ready take action?

“Yes?” Then go ahead, make your list. Commit to a time frame and “just do it”. You are so worth the effort. You never know, what begins as a day of self nurturing may become a habit. Now, wouldn’t that be something?

We can’t escape our modern world but we can live in harmony with it when we make taking care of ourselves a priority.

What will you do to rebalance, reconnect and re-establish your equilibrium when you find yourself overloaded by the torrent of data and information that bombards you each day?

Nature’s pharmacy: What potent ingredients do you require for good health?

I am currently travelling through Europe and have had the opportunity to hike in a number of different landscapes: while all have their own unique qualities I am drawn to certain landscapes more than others.

In the Dolomites I was awed by the stark harshness of the bare jagged rock but felt quite misplaced. I had this feeling once before after catching the cable car to the top of the Argille Du Midi in Chamonix, France, a 3842 metre peak. I enjoyed the splendour of the mountain terrain coated in white snow and ice but after a while I began to crave the earth beneath my feet; I had a driving need to place my bare feet deep into moist, aromatic soil.

The rugged landscape of The Dolomites

The rugged landscape of The Dolomites

The Scottish moors are mysterious and magical. The roaring silence deep within the moors is at once unsettling and peaceful. The landscape, birds, animals and flora play to my senses

I am most at home, however, in the forest. Be it the lush humid Australian rainforest or cool dark European forests surrounded by Oak, Rowan, Ash, Juniper, Elm and Pine trees. I love the raw, dank smell of the soil, the richness of colour and the closeness of the majestic trees. The sounds of these wooded places draws me. The melody of native birds to the hushed silence one experiences deep within these places are soothing. The interplay of species within the forest and bushland are works of art to my eye. I revel in the twisting of vine around trunk, the round woody burls protruding from trees, the buttress like flanges that extend from the base of trees that can cradle a weary walker and the colourful fungi and mushrooms that remind me of childhood stories of fairies and their homes. All this and more draw me back to the forest time and again. There have been times in my life I have needed to return to the Australian Blue Mountains to rejuvenate by lingering in that vast National Park. The mountains call to me.

The ocean too is a place of healing, refreshment and rejuvenation for me. I have only to step onto one of our sandy Australian beaches to feel my troubles roll away on the tide. The strength of the ocean waves crashing on the beach or gently rolling over each other as they reach the shore is music to my ears. The very vastness of the ocean, viewed from a small section of beach, puts my thoughts into perspective. Twice, I have soothed a grieving heart by the sea. Having lost cherished grandparents I was instinctively drawn to the beach when my grief overwhelmed me. After several days of walking, bathing, sitting, praying and being nurtured by the energy of the ocean I could return home, still nursing a grieving heart but one that was less raw, one that allowed me to function again in the world.

Pottsville Beach, Australia

Pottsville Beach, Australia

Nature is a powerful healer. I know this to be true yet I am constantly amazed and pleasantly surprised when I experience a deep solace, heightened senses and raised spirits after a hike, a walk on the beach or time in the garden. Do you draw strength from the earth? Where do you go to recover, rejuvenate and heal?