This past weekend I went down to the Body Mind Spirit Festival in Addington, Christchurch. This is a 2 day event, with 3 floors of all things holistic and metaphysical: tarot card readers, psychics, reiki, massage, intuitive coaches, crystal shops - you can imagine the type of vibe!
Ever since I first discovered this festival in my early twenties, I've loved going along to it. As someone who was magnetised to things like earth religions, wicca and nature spirituality when I was about 15 years old, finding an event like this felt like a massive relief to my soul. I'm not the only one! It's not just me who feels that there must be something more! There's other weird people out there who believe in magic!
I have immense gratitude for the creation of this event, because any setting that brings together like minded people (whatever your jam is) brings a sense of feeling understood and accepted as well.
There can be a kind of dark side to self help when we're not feeling balanced within ourselves or we've fallen out of self trust. Let's face it, many people come to spirituality after a particularly challenging time in their lives and unfortunately, some people do take advantage of that. We all feel broken at times, because that's the nature of the human experience. As Rumi said, "The would is the place where the light enters you." Our wounds show us where we need to love ourselves more and they are the guides in our own self healing. They are not a flaw that has to be eradicated so you can finally feel "perfect".
Now, I'm a massive believer that we all contribute to each other's success. I love working with coaches, counsellors and yoga teachers who can help guide me to better understand what my body, mind and spirit are trying to tell me. There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help or needing support (actually, I think we could all do with being a bit more willing to admit we need help). But there is something completely heartbreaking when we believe that the answer to our happiness lies anywhere else but within our own heart.
I know of someone who has been told by a palm reader that they'd never get married. I had someone tell me that I had blocks from a past life that only they could remove (and of course, if I didn't get them removed then I was doomed to failure in my professional life). When you are at an emotionally fragile time in your life, it's really easy to give your power away to someone who seems to be more certain about the way the world works than you are. But no one is more special or more powerful than you. No one knows you better than you do. Not your doctor, not your tarot card reader and not your husband / best friend. If anyone is giving you advice that doesn't feel right for you - act on that feeling.
In both personal and professional relationships, find people who see you as the love that you are... that happens to have a few wounds. Be open to their perspective, but only if it resonates with you and it takes you to a place of more openness, acceptance and love.
We live in a world of qualifications, hierarchy and 'experts' but truthfully no one is more special than anyone else and no one is more qualified than you to know what you need in this moment.
Your struggle is showing you where you need to love yourself more and is an opportunity to build your self trust. Are you listening to what your body, mind or spirit is trying to get you to hear?
I fell in love with the coaching industry about 6 years ago, when I hit a major turning point in my life where it felt like everything was falling apart. My job didn’t feel like the right fit for me, my long term relationship feel apart, my friends were moving away and I realised that I had lost touch with who I really was a long time ago. I felt like I had done everything ‘right’ - I’d done well in school, got the degree, been a loving partner, travelled around the world….but I still wasn’t happy. In fact, I was depressed, anxious and scared a lot of the time. Something inside me knew that there had to be more than this - that there was a bigger part I had to play in the world and that there must be a better way to live life than in this state of insecurity or anxiety.
Over the next 6 years, I dove deep into figuring out how to reconnect with myself; getting clear on what I really wanted and how to design a life that worked for me. I went to counselling and realised how incredibly important it is to simply have someone listen to you from a non-judgemental space. While many of us are lucky enough to have great friends or partners who support us, the people we love often have agendas for us or have a perspective on what they think is best for us rather than listening to what we really want for ourselves. And let’s face it, often we also want to be seen a certain way by our friends or lovers and that causes us to hide some of the truths behind a mask of wanting to be awesome / confident / have it all together. I’ve seen massive breakthroughs happen for myself and my own clients just through having someone listen to them and really feeling heard. (I know this sounds simple, but truthfully, there’s not always a lot of listening going on in our society most of the time).
My counselling sessions led to me studying a course in Positive Psychology at the University of Canterbury, and then working with a coach at the Tony Robbins Institute. I realised how excited I got learning about psychology and human behaviour and from thereon in most of my spare time was spent reading blogs from inspirational coaches or books by authors of human behaviour or spiritual psychology. It was around this time when I fell in love with learning about the law of attraction and A Course in Miracles and the importance of changing our thoughts and beliefs in order to see changes in our external world. I was led to the work of Gabrielle Bernstein, Marianne Williamson and Abraham Hicks, all of whom focus on increasing happiness by learning to live in a state of love rather than a state of fear. This was a game changer for me.
All you need is love
While this might just sound like an idealistic and spiritual belief, this premise has also been backed up by science with people such as psychologist and emotional intelligence expert, Jeanne Segal, and nutritional biochemist Dr. Libby Weaver verifying that in our current world we are living in a state of fear the majority of the time. Our thoughts and emotions are causing us to activate our ‘fight our flight’ reflexes (otherwise known as our sympathetic nervous system) and it is having a massive negative impact on our physical and mental health. This can be seen in the way we are holding onto weight, suffering panic attacks and developing digestive issues, to name a few. On the other hand, when we learn how to live with more love - through kind thoughts, meditation, having more fun and making better food choices - we activate the parasympathetic nervous system. The part of our body that knows that we’re safe. And when the body feels safe it can start to heal and repair. Too many people are suffering from physical and mental illnesses because they aren’t giving themselves enough time in this safe space to let their body help them to heal.
My love affair with food
I’ve always been a massive foodie, loving farmer’s markets and good coffee and wine but once I realised how important food was in relation to mental health, I began exploring further afield. I began to follow the work of Kris Carr (who was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and is still alive 10 years later after going Vegan) and Mark Sisson (who was an athlete who became burnt out but healed himself by going Paleo). All of this helped to confirm to me that no one diet is right for everyone, and even one diet isn’t necessarily right for anyone at different stages of life. Only tuning in to what your body is telling you will give you accurate guidance on what you need. Not long after this I found The Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN) and straight away, it felt like home. I graduated as a certified Holistic Health Coach in June 2015 with a year’s worth of learning under my belt encompassing not only food and exercise, but everything else that truly makes up health: functional relationships, self-love, a fulfilling career and eliminating stress.
Getting real about work / life balance
Before I found IIN I had a great job, but the 9-5 wasn’t working for me. It didn’t give me the downtime I needed to learn all the new material my spirit was hankering for, and when I looked ahead 5 years, I realised it wasn’t in an industry I could see myself working in. When I saw that I was giving away 40 hours of every week to learning more and more about stuff I was less and less passionate about, I knew I had to make a change. I refocused on what I was passionate about and began working at lululemon athletica. It was a perfect fit for me, with less hours each week, different shift times (which surprisingly, I loved!), and a focus on health and exercise.
Finding Exercise I love
So many clients say to me “I hate exercise.” I think most people hate doing things they don’t enjoy, don’t feel like they’re good at or feel like they have to do. Life’s too short! But our bodies are born to move, not stay stuck at a desk and I’m 100% certain that there’s a type of movement out there that suits everyone. I hated exercise growing up, but started begrudgingly committing to it about midway through Uni. I did it, but it was kind of like getting a pap smear - I only did it because I had to! Once I started working at lululemon though, it was inevitable that I’d be introduced to Yoga, and I finally found exercise that I really loved doing. This then lead to Pilates, and basic body weight exercises which I actually enjoy doing. I don't push myself to do any exercise my body doesn't want to do anymore and my body seems to work better for it.
But most importantly...
I’m a more relaxed and much happier person. By learning how to create more love in my life, I’ve become a much less stressed person and a much better friend and partner. I make time for meditation or deep breathing every day. I actively choose to live from a place of love rather than fear. And I choose to create, as Albert Einstein would say, from the energy of the solution rather than the energy of the problem. I know that everyone has the potential to create the same health and happiness in their life as I have found in mine - all you need is support and the tools to get you there.
Sometimes, we're so focused on where we want to go that we forget how far we've come. We're so busy wanting more money for that holiday, working hard to get promoted or trying to 'succeed' in our business that all we can see is what we don't have. We are constantly striving, but often when we reach our goals we don't let ourselves settle into that delicious feeling of having actually arrived. We don't celebrate, or congratulate ourselves longer than maybe a night out and a few drinks. The next day, we're onto the next challenge.
I think it's awesome to always want to expand and grow but there's something magical that happens when we also let ourselves just reflect on how far we've come and make peace with where we are. Us humans are pretty good at actually forgetting the progress we have made in so many areas of our lives because we spend so much time focused on chasing the thing we don't have yet. Writing a victory log can be a great way to not only celebrate yourself, but also to refocus and build confidence for whatever step is next in bringing your goals and dreams to life.
Last week I was wondering down Colombo Street (near my home) distributing flyers to some of the business owners who might need a bit of extra support. After the recent earthquakes in Christchurch, I know that anxiety levels have been higher than ever and I also know that the antidote for a lot of that is simply allowing people to be heard. Being able to share how we're feeling with someone who listens completely and allows you to feel what you want to feel is massive when it comes to processing emotion.
It was quite busy in most of the businesses and most people didn't really have much time to talk. Near the end of my paper route, I spotted a sign outside that said "Devonshire Tea". I thought "That's weird, I didn't know there was a cafe here", but devonshire tea and air conditioning sounded like a great idea so I began to walk into the carpark. As I got closer, I noticed that the roof came up to an Apex and I started to stagger my steps. A woman was coming out of a car at the same time and must have seen how uncertain I looked. She asked if I was coming in. "Sure..." I answered, "But...um, is this a church?" "Yes," she answered. "Come on in."
Despite a Catholic upbringing, its been a long time since I've set foot in a church. I was apprehensive. But not wanting to be rude, I followed her in. Inside was a beautifully set up room with old fashioned china, a tea service, home made scones, raspberry jam and cream. All free. A couple of women sat at tables chatting to each other. When I asked her what all of this was about, she said it was something they were putting on for people in the community who might need a break, someone to talk to or a bit of personal connection. I laughed, thinking that was exactly what I was out doing. We ended up chatting away for hours about disconnection in our society, the way people don't feel valued and how the unraveling of many communities has meant that people don't feel that they are a necessary part of contributing to a big picture vision for the future.
I walked home thinking about the amazing people in my life who are so 'successful', so well qualified but who are all dealing with the same struggle: finding a sense of meaning in their life and wanting to know that they belong and are needed in the world.
We have so much abundance available at our finger tips but so many of us are feeling more and more unfulfilled. A big part of this is because we try too hard to control everything and 'have it all together' rather than being okay with saying "You know what - I don't know." Without this honesty and vulnerability we can't have real love and connection.
I was reminded of Brene Brown's amazing talk about vulnerability and how not being vulnerable impacts us, not only from having loving relationships but in terms of numbing out though food and other addictions. When we are not willing to feel vulnerable, we usually do things that negatively impact our physical and mental health as well, including over eating. You can watch here TedX talk "The Power of Vulnerability" over here.
What comes up for you after seeing this?