Hardship and challenge are quintessential parts of the human experience, yet suffering is more optional. The turbulent times in our lives are an invitation to lift our consciousness, make choices about our perceptions and be the alchemist of our life. Alchemy simply put, is the intention to transmute something of perceived lesser quality to a more noble and great quality – like turning stone to gold. We are called to investigate where we move into judgement, and categorical thinking of right or wrong, and bring responsibility for how we choose to perceive life’s events. This kind of black and white thinking applied to the world, to people and ourselves contributes to feelings of anger, anxiety, blame, fear and self-loathing. The opportunity found in life’s challenges, is to acknowledge the presence of these emotions, whilst also turning our hearts to the potential blessings and gold, knowing that they will surely come.
The alchemical path has a few methods to support you in creating a golden and shimmering life, you can begin with;
‘Feel the feeling, don’t tell the story’
Emotions and feelings come and go like the weather, bringing with them an ever changing blend of sunshine and storms. In the company of uncomfortable and painful emotion, it is important to be aware of what thoughts, stories, judgements and assumptions we attribute to the feelings and emotions we are experiencing. If we believe the unhealthy or unhelpful thought processes, we can prolong our suffering by perceiving events, the future or even people as bad and unwanted. We move into the head and away from the heart, turning our backs on possibility. Practice holding your thoughts and beliefs lightly, like you might hold a feather in your hand. After all, our thoughts are based on perceptions, and the goggles we wear in life are based on our belief systems, which have been inherited, accumulated and sometimes forced onto us through past experience. These thoughts then, aren’t necessarily the truth of the event occurring in the present moment. Falling into the trap of believing that unhelpful thoughts are true or wise, is like creating a dead end in your experience. Use your breath as a support in navigating through challenging emotion, by expanding the breath deep into the lungs and abdomen, exhaling longer to release accumulated tension. The breath is your sacred anchor to the present moment, keeping you out of your mind and connected to infinite doors of possibility.
Look for the blessings around the corner
This can be a real feat when the heart and/or ego are suffering after a personal loss or hurt. There can be a temptation to hold onto the hurt, as a way of honouring our suffering and not approving of the ‘wrong doing’ of others. But by being curious and looking for the blessings, you are learning to hold space for both the pain and the possibilities in your awareness. This does not imply the hardship did not invite suffering into your life, it simply means you are also prepared to look for the gold in your life. There is a rolling movement in life. What once appeared to be a disaster, suddenly unfurls itself to carry blessing and gold. An eternal blossoming and expansion, moving from one shade of colour to the next, sometimes the darkest indigo, to lightest white. If in the wake of hardship, we are willing to unveil the gifts, opportunities and personal developments that may arise, the harder events in our lives can become more palpable, perhaps even sweet. Invite the gold into your life, by asking yourself, I wonder what miracle will come from this storm?
“Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away.”
~ Frida Kahlo
Have acceptance and compassion as your life travel guides
The personal growth journey has no final destination, it is an ever deepening, ever expanding path. This can bring its own set of frustrations, and means that at some stage we will realise that we never get to be that ‘perfect’ ideal version of ourselves that we are so diligently striving towards. Life also won’t go according to plan, and neither will people behave the way we always hope for. Support yourself along this journey by treating yourself and others with compassion and acceptance. Life, if we are lucky, can give us a long road, so choose thoughts that are encouraging, loving and accepting, as you trundle along the path. Know that there is a whole planet of people, trundling alongside you with their own backpacks full of self-doubt and uncertainty.
It is the very contrast between dark and light that brings beauty into the world. Think of the first day you wake up feeling fresh after battling the flu, or the delight of the first sun filled sky after a winter of grey. There is a mighty magnificence, gifted only through the contrast of dark and light, challenge and ease. Each is needed, each is sacred. Without both we would miss out on the gold. So how could one be better than the other? Rather it is the dance of challenge and ease in our lives that can create the bliss and blessings we long for.
Are you sifting through the dust, letting it fall away to reveal the gold. Or have you got dust in your eyes?
Contact Natalia to explore how you can support yourself in managing life’s challenges.
“All I could think about was food. Even when I became aware that my scrabbling in the dirt after raw vegetables and wild plants had become an obsession, I found it terribly difficult to free myself. I had been seduced by righteous eating” – Stephen Bratman
Orthorexia Nervosa or ‘Healthy Eating’ disorder was coined by American doctor Stephen Bratman in 1997 after his own unhealthy obsession with ‘healthy eating’. As yet, it has not been classified as an official disorder, however Orthorexia Nervosa appears to give some people the label they have been looking for to explain troubling behaviour. It is important to clarify, that the concept of Orthorexia Nervosa in no way criticizes ethical, spiritual or moral food choices. This is an exploration and a voice, for those people who find themselves trapped in making extreme dietary choices that cause psychological distress and ill health, whilst in the quest for ultimate dietary purity.
So what is Orthorexia Nervosa?
Orthorexia Nervosa is an obsession with ‘eating healthily’, which becomes extreme and negatively impacts the psychological and sometimes physical wellbeing of the individual. Fundamentally, individuals with Orthorexia become so obsessed with being healthy, they make themselves sick.
A person with Orthorexia obsesses about food purity, and seeks to attain ultimate health by eliminating foods and entire food groups that are believed to contaminate and compromise the body. A disproportionate amount of time is dedicated to researching, planning, preparing and acquiring food that fits the bill. Unlike Anorexia Nervosa, where individuals are preoccupied with weight loss, suffer a deep dislike for the appearance of their body, and fear gaining weight, people with Orthorexia are concerned with food purity. Food groups are whittled away so severely, that in some instances leads to malnutrition and in rare cases death. Individuals may take on an almost righteous or spiritual relationship to their food choices, and it becomes a deep part of their personal identity, and a place where they can gain self-esteem and self-worth. People who are experiencing Orthorexia may begin to feel guilty, anxious and even worthless if they slip outside of their own rigid ‘healthy eating’ regime.
There is now such an abundance of information available to us regarding our food. We consider the origins of our food, food quality and nutritional profile, whether it is grown, produced and manufactured within ethical and sustainable guidelines, and the potential healing properties of particular diets for a diverse list of health conditions. All these domains are important and need our conscious awareness, as we craft and influence the wellbeing of the earth, animals and people with our food choices. However, with such an array of information, and a myriad of self-created authorities and experts that come with the terrain of the internet, it can be difficult to determine what is indeed healthy, and how far to commit to a particular food regime.
Food choice has for many become packaged with a healthy lifestyle that includes particular hobbies, exercise, clothing brands, and cafes and restaurants. Vital living is not only a healthy goal, but has become a new platform for social comparison, and has the potential to be the new hamster wheel for striving to attain happiness and acceptance.
When we get in the habit of comparing ourselves to others, and striving for any kind of perfection, it isn’t long before we arrive again at feeling ‘not enough’, because perfection is an unattainable goal. Most human behaviours serve a psychological function, even the ones labelled as unhelpful. Obsession can function as a method of gaining a sense of control when other areas of life are uncertain, and obsession can arise when we try to avoid an area in our lives that isn’t working, and we are unable or unwilling to attend to it.
Our best chance at ‘getting it right’ is to check in with our values, and our physical and emotional wellbeing as the compass for wellness. If committing to a food lifestyle is causing significant psychological distress or physical ill health, it may be an invitation to contemplate the choices being made, and how they are serving you. Are your food choices contributing to vibrant health, or are they detrimental to your wellbeing?
Here are a few questions to consider (although by no means absolute indicators of Orthorexia Nervosa) if you are concerned that your commitment to healthy eating is becoming unhealthy:
*Are you isolating yourself from friends and family because their dietary habits and beliefs are uncomfortable for you?
*Do you struggle to go out to social events, dinner parties and restaurants because the food available will not be appropriate for you?
*Have you had sudden or significant weight loss due to dietary changes?
*Are you eliminating multiple food groups from your diet such as dairy, grains, fruits and meat?
*Do you experience guilt, feelings of contamination or distress when having eaten something outside your dietary regime?
*Is the quality of your life in areas outside of food becoming impoverished?
*Do you believe it will solve many of your problems if you can just ‘eat right’?
*Have your food choices created financial debt or burden?
If you believe your food eating choices may be causing you stress or physical ill health, speak to your doctor, dietician, or naturopath about your concerns, and have your general health assessed. It may be necessary to connect with a therapist to support you in finding healthful ways of relating to food.
Happy Tips for healthy Eating:
Enjoy your vices. People who live in Blue Zones around the world (known areas where people live the longest), enjoy their food and beverage vices. A piece of cake or a glass of wine can bring great pleasure in life, and may contribute to greater longevity and happiness.
Unless your values, spiritual practice, or medical advice require it, avoid rigidly eliminating entire food groups. Consider food groups as ‘sometimes’ foods and ‘everyday’ foods.
Eat meals communally when possible. Humans are social creatures and communal eating has great positive impact on human health.
Reflect on how you relate to difficult emotions and uncertainty, perhaps there is scope for you to develop a meditation practice, find a creative outlet, or invest in a few sessions with a counsellor.
Monitor how you engage with social media. Are you looking for the next ‘way to eat’ as the answer. Are you comparing yourself to others? Reflect on what you have to be grateful for in your life, and in yourself.
Eat mindfully. Slow down, and connect to your food with gratitude and enjoyment.
If you would like to learn more about Orthorexia Nervosa or make an appointment for individual counselling, please contact Natalia.
At times of great change, uncertainty and crisis it easy to slide into a preoccupation with what has been lost, and what challenges may lie ahead. The mind swiftly moves into fear and seeks out potential danger; a natural and at times helpful design function of the human brain, which has helped us survive many thousands of years as a species.
Change and uncertainty are the basic principles of the universe we live in, necessitating destruction and death, for the creation and evolution of life into new forms. Without being forced towards our growth edge, many of us would remain in our comfortable routines and habits, missing out on the experience of discovering our strength, expansion and creative potential. These times in our lives, are the fertile ground for our greatest shedding, greatest growth and blossoming.
Despite all these wonderful possibilities incubating in change, change is still unsettling for many and it can be helpful to have a few guideposts for the journey ahead. Here are a few breadcrumbs to help you find your way;
Knowing the lay of the land
Unless there is an immediate risk to your health or life, in the presence of great upheaval and change it can be wise to slow down. Instinctively our urge is often to retreat or run from our fears; instead be still in your new life long enough to have the mud of your turbulent emotions settle, and take stock.
Liken this to waking up and finding you have been dropped in a desert. Running in desperation towards the horizon is hazardous; whereas grounding yourself, observing the landscape, and sensitising yourself to your new surrounds at least briefly supports a wise response in relationship to what is, rather than a rash reaction to your new found location.
“Before taking any important decision in life, it is always good to do something slowly” Paulo Coelho.
Balance your perspective
Being second nature for most people to focus on what isn’t working, it is vital that we make the choice to widen our view. News and current affair outlets are also guilty of the same charge, and feed us only a small percentage of what is really happening in the world. For every disaster and crisis there are wonderful people dedicating their time and lives to positive change. Similarly in our own lives, even though we may be experiencing hardship, there is much going well. Seek out the people, communities, organisations and even nations that are often quietly, making positive changes. Then connect, and get involved. Rather than getting dragged down into the swamp of despair, shift your focus and search for the over-hanging branch and pull yourself out onto dry solid land. On a global and personal scale, find the hard ground. Find the people who are shining a light, find what is working well in your life, and make this your new home.
Your values are your personal light house
Use your values as your travel companions to navigate the dark and unknown terrain of life’s challenges. When the survival of the ego, or even the globe are at stake, reaction, the illusion of separation and fear can take the lead. Return to yourself, and reconnect with the qualities that you wish to embody in your life. At times of change and turbulence, a connection to our values ensures we aren’t as easily swayed by the values and actions of others. Difficult decisions are made less so, by asking “which choice best serves my values?”. You may find it helpful to write your values and goals down, and keep them where you can see them, as a gentle daily reminder.
Fear and anger can serve to remind us of what we hold dear, but are also uncomfortable to experience in their entirety. Culturally, many of us have been conditioned out of connecting with the full spectrum of our emotion. Feel your emotions deeply, and let them fuel your heartfelt action. Find your heart space, connect to your values, and ground yourself and your actions in them. Your emotions are the fertile ground for heart navigated action, as scholar and environmental activist Joanna Macy explains, “Don’t apologise for the sorrow, grief, and rage you feel. It is a measure of your humanity and your maturity. It is a measure of your open heart, and as your heart breaks open there will be room for the world to heal”.
Trust in the self-organising and creative power of life.
Creativity gives birth to the new. It exists unknown and unexperienced, until it emerges from a process of letting go and trust; much like a baby bird throwing itself out of the nest to fly for the first time. This cycling from comfort to discomfort, to only discover a fresh and original new comfort has been the movement of the universe from its inception, as Thomas Berry so beautifully reflects;
“Two billion years ago, when the atmosphere became so filled with oxygen, all of life was deteriorating. The only way for the life of that time to survive was to burrow deep into the mud at the bottom of the oceans. The future of Earth seemed bleak. And yet, in the midst of that crisis a new kind of cell emerged, one that was not destroyed by oxygen but was in fact energised by it. Because of this miracle of creativity, life exploded with an exuberance never seen before.”
With this knowing, when reflecting on a crisis or a death of the old, whether personal or communal, we can sense the conception of a new delicate seedling, the evolution of our hearts, and the continuing expansion of our home, the universe.
You may already know that Tinnitus or ‘ringing in the ear’ has many possible causes, such as exposure to loud music or sounds, unwanted side effects to medication, or earwax blockage. For other people, there are no obvious reasons.
Although there are many possible causes, and many different types of sounds actually experienced by the individual with Tinnitus; there is a lesser known commonality. How you react to the Tinnitus can significantly influence your emotional responses, which in turn can lead the brain to interpret the sound as a threat to your wellbeing.
As with any perceived threat, a healthy brain mobilises itself and the body into a fight, flight or freeze state, creating many very real changes in the body and mind. These changes are designed to keep you alive and safe. However if this state is activated when a real threat isn’t present, it can potentially create all sorts of unpleasant feelings such as stress, anger, anxiety and depression. For some individuals, Tinnitus can initiate a cascade of mental events, leading to the activation of the fight, flight or freeze response, which in turn can increase the distress associated with Tinnitus.
It is at this point, individuals living with Tinnitus may decide to explore the benefits of Mindfulness Therapy under the guidance of a trained Psychologist. Mindfulness is currently experiencing a surge in popularity across many health sectors, and research supports the benefits reported.
Simply put, Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention, on purpose to the present moment; whilst learning how to respond with non-judgement and acceptance. Although it sounds simple, many people find the idea of acceptance and non-judgment challenging, and really benefit from partnering with a Mindfulness trained Psychologist. With this support, it is possible to learn how to respond to Tinnitus as a neutral and tolerable sound.
If you would like to learn more about Mindfulness for Tinnitus or make an appointment, please contact Natalia.
Many people seek out therapy for various challenges in life. The common thread that presents itself more often than not, is an underlying quest for self-acceptance. Learning how to come to terms with our imperfections, conflicting desires, and challenging emotions, is the journey of self-acceptance.
Acceptance as a general concept is often confused with the condoning and approving of negative or unfavourable experiences, emotions and behaviours. It is also misunderstood as being passive, and giving up. This is far from the truth of what acceptance is.
Jon Kabat Zinn, one of the founders of Mindfulness training explains it here;
“Acceptance doesn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, mean passive resignation. Quite the opposite. It takes a huge amount of fortitude and motivation to accept what is- especially when you don’t like it-and then work wisely and effectively as best you possibly can with the circumstances you find yourself in and with the resources at your disposal, both inner and outer, to mitigate, heal, redirect, and change what can be changed.”
When we struggle with self-acceptance, we create resistance and tension with the present moment. The voice of the inner critic can dominate our inner-world accentuating our limiting thoughts, behaviours and challenging emotions. It can deeply impact the quality of our lives, and damage self-esteem. The first step toward change is awareness, the second step is acceptance.
Self-acceptance is having an awareness of your perceived imperfections and shortcomings, whilst simultaneously knowing you are worthy, and deserving of compassion and kindness exactly as you are. When we meet our experience with acceptance, we discover the loving and wise wholeness of our true nature.
Here are a few suggestions to support the development of self-acceptance:
1. Consider the struggles and challenges that you face, as part of a shared human experience. All human beings are suffering with uncertainty, the meaning of life, wanting to feel loved and ‘good enough’, and parts of their personality or person that they wish were different. It can be very comforting to be reminded that you are not the only one.
2. Take small steps to practice being your ‘true’ self. Notice where you are making choices and living your life from a place of ‘should’. By listening to, and acting on your own internal preferences, needs and wants you strengthen your sense of self and your boundary. Although scary to start, it feels good to be who we are. Being authentic in our lives, creates opportunities to receive positive reinforcement for being ourselves, and we attract those that appreciate those qualities, which in turn helps develop self-acceptance.
3. Cease the quest for perfection, whilst continuing with your effort. If you are relying on being perfect in some way as proof of your worth, you will never get there. In which case, you will never feel worthy.
4. Savour your accomplishments and achievements – often we are too quick to jump to the next thing, which means we are never truly impacted by our efforts, never deeply acknowledge our good work, and we miss out on the positive affirmation.
5. Avoid comparison. It is impossible to embody and have all of that which we admire or appreciate in others, and it diminishes the value of the treasured qualities you have as a person. Variety is essential, and your unique self has a necessary and valued place in the tapestry of humanity.
6. Practice gratitude for the self. At the end of the day, contemplate your efforts, achievements and joyful moments. The mind, for evolutionary purposes is geared to paying attention to the negative aspects and events of our lives, whist quickly letting go of the positive. If you feel you don’t have many positive qualities, successes or experiences, it is likely to be the bias of the mind, and is an opportunity for you to train your attention towards the blessings.
If you are interested in growing your self acceptance, book in for an appointment with Natalia.
The terrain had been beautiful, and at some times challenging. We had been walking for 8 days through the steepes of the Altai Region of Mongolia, flanked by Russia, Kazakstan and China. I was about to write that on this Mongolian adventure I discovered I had a fear of heights, but that isn’t quite accurate. I discovered I have a fear of snow covered, icy praecipes coating slippery scree at a height over 3500 metres altitude. The day after this discovery, we marched our way to the final destination, Tavan Bogd Mountains. A Spectacular set of 5 snow capped mountain peaks, laced by 2 glaciers. A glacial murrain, or rather what looks like an infinite set of lunar-like dunes made of crushed rock and boulders, separated the green plains we walked, from the gigantic river of slow moving ice. Eagles circled the vast blue sky, so high they look like a speck of dust. The next day, the group were set to climb the summit of Murcin Peak, where at the top, you could step one foot in Russia, the other Mongolia.
We pitched camp in prime position. Unzipping my tent, all I could see from the comfort of my sleeping bag, were the imposing and majestic mountains, against a lavender sky. Flanking the rear of my yellow tent, a traditional Mongolian Gur, occupied by a leathery skinned man, who monitored the local weather conditions and tracked climate change. We had come to the end of our journey, and on that last night, I decided to not climb the mountain.
The next morning I woke with a crème-brulee like sheet of ice on my sleeping bag, and immediately began to scan my body and mind for signs of regret or indecision. To my surprise I found stillness and comfort, which in itself raised some anxiety. Would I come to regret my decision to not join the group on the climb? The chances of returning to this part of the world, a remote corner of Mongolia accessible only by an internal flight, 4WD-ing and days of hiking would likely never come again. But my body was clear. It was content, and I had to be brave and trust my decision-making process. It might not make the ego happy, but the verdict was clear.
The whole reason I had decided to come on this trip, was to connect with my creativity. I wanted answers from my inner world, and I wanted to immerse myself in Mongolian culture. So far, the trip although wonderful, had been a mismatch to my desire. I had been left wanting, and really realised I had one day left in this magical place to connect and stay still. We had been moving since arrival in Mongolia, and any rest breaks were about eating or sleeping, and I was craving presence. So I stayed at base camp.
There were a small group of us, waving them off in the morning. A few gentle sighs of contentment rolled through as we settled in for a day of rest. My first task was to set up my picnic chair in the sun, facing the spectacular peaks, with a coffee and my beloved art supplies. The sun warmed my back, whilst I watched eagles hunting in pairs. It must have been a squirrel or some other little rodent that was being dropped and passed between the 2 birds of prey as they soared high above. Once satiated with feeling like David Attenborough, I meandered over to the murrain, exploring the rocks and venturing over each undulating rise, expecting to reach the glacier, only to find another rocky dune. So I sat, and stared out at a distant, turquoise glacial lake, a tiny fleck of blue against vast granite and white....
more to come....