The Middle way – Navigating my first shot

The Middle way – Navigating my first shot

I got my first jab last week. For those who know me, this will probably come as quite a surprise. 

The bind here in New Zealand is getting tighter now, you can feel the dense stickiness in the isles in the supermarket. People are getting restless and frustrated, and unconsciously projecting it on each other. I too was starting to feel the pressure and decided I would rather get my shot while I had a choice, not be forced it (as this seems to be the direction we are headed).

In the last few weeks, I have tried to find “the middle way” in regard to my thoughts around the vaccine. Trying to release from the rigidity of definitive “no” and make space for alternatives. The goal was to remain sovereign as best I could, should I go ahead with getting the jab. I took a huge step back from social media (probably for the best either way) and found I kept coming back to the same question, “what would Ram Dass do?”. He was an American Spiritual teacher whom I admire for his ability to see all situations with joy and love. My conclusion was, he would probably just laugh at the whole thing. And in all honesty, it was a great reframe, I was able to see the gems in some of the information that is out there. Synchronicity stepped in and it lead me down the path of looking into the realms of detoxification after the shot, the aftercare, the one thing that seems to go unmentioned.

“Because to take away a man’s freedom of choice, even his freedom to make the wrong choice, is to manipulate him as though he were a puppet and not a person.” – Madeline L’Engle

A brief bit about myself that might help understand my perspective:

  • Growing up I was an incredibly sickly child and spent a lot of my time on antibiotics (which I definitely needed at the time) but they ruined my gut biome and in turn my immune system.
  • At 29 I started looking into alternative medicines and therapies as a way to rid myself of asthma, frequent chest infections and medication that was beginning to fail and having challenging side effects like depression.
  • Since then I have spent 10s of 1000s of dollars on my health and wellness, with therapists, at workshops, and in clinics, and have dedicated countless hours to become the best/healthiest version of myself through practices and research.
  • I understand the sensitivity of my body and its systems and am cautious of how I treat it.
  • I barely touch alcohol.
  • I don’t smoke.
  • I seldom do recreational drugs.
  • I promise I’m more fun at parties than I sound.
  • I eat relatively well.
  • Don’t drink coffee or sugary drinks.
  • I meditate, exercise and have a sustained morning routine.
  • Through this journey of wellness, I’ve not been to the doctor for at least 4 years (except for checkups).
  • I avoid any pharmaceutical medications unless they are absolutely necessary.
  • I owe my writing to the channels it comes through as a result of my journey of clearing trauma and cleansing my body and mind, and I actively try to foster that link.

I’m not entirely sure what caused my shift in direction to go ahead with getting the first shot. I think a few factors were at play:

  • The hope of silencing the voice in my head, that’s been an incessant nagging day in day out the last 18 months in hope of making the “right decision”.
  • The fear of not having a choice in the future (a very real concern in NZ).
  • Mercury in retrograde combined with the new moon in Libra (joking..ish)
  • The hope of “quieting” the barrage of announcements coming through in all forms of media. 
  • Travel restrictions. My dreams involve visiting the pyramids, and to doing more training abroad.
  •  I think, more than anything it was not wanting to upset friends, inconvenience people, or cause a scene.

“Not in my 10 years of being in this field have I seen public shaming change people’s opinion a topic, it comes from kindness and compassion” – Richie Hardcore

The irony is that none of those people telling me to what to do had to sit in the self-deprecating thoughts I had for the days that followed. I felt I had gone against my instincts and disrespected my body. I was furious at myself. I kept it quiet as I didn’t want either side to know. I was ashamed at my decision. That was until I was reminded by a good friend that what’s done is done and all I can do now is send myself love and gratitude for I’d learned a valuable lesson in self-sovereignty. We all deserve equal opportunity to have our human experience and feelings seen as valid, and no one deserves to be forced into anything that affects their mind and body. Even the act of this alone can generate trauma, the trauma that the perpetrator will never have to live with.

I do believe that there is more to this effort to “save” the world than meets the eye. The virus is a very real threat, but never has a narrative been so driven home or had opposing views from just as reputable sources silenced en masse. For some reason, right now, we aren’t allowed to ask questions. Maybe it’s purely for financial gain (many of the worlds wealthiest people have seen huge increases in net worth since March 2020), or in order to tighten control, or to limit population growth, or to restrict consciousness. Maybe it’s all of the above, who knows, we can only speculate. But my stance did loosen somewhat when I took a step back and saw how little encouragement we need to become enslaved, just look at the way we consume content, choose poor quality food, live stagnant lifestyles, rely on drugs and alcohol to avoid feeling and causing all manner of disease and illness. Unfortunately, a sizeable portion of society doesn’t really need any help along the way.

“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” – Isaac Asimov

Something that came through for me heavily a few days after my first jab, once I’d settled my mind, whilst I was headed to work was this: “I played your game. I beat you fair and square, and now I’m coming for you. We will win the war on consciousness”. I felt my entire body light up, and it felt true to me, with every fibre of my being.

I had mild side effects from my first jab, a sleepless night, sore arm, run down for a few days, nothing major, although a week on my nerves in my hand (the arm I got the shot) are still foggy. I put my limited symptoms down to my aftercare routine which began a week prior in order to detox and reduce the load on my body. I will continue this aftercare for at least a month in an effort to reduce the possibility of unknown long term effects (The current NZ side effects stats can be found here). I’m not entirely sure if I will get my second. I have time to decide, at least 10 weeks according to actual science, not the media/governments attempt at speeding up the process.

“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” – Nikola Tesla

All I wish from this post is that it may help those on both sides remember that we are all human and deserving of love no matter our choices. This is YOUR life, and for better or worse no one else will live it for you. Not your highs or your lows, nor the consequences of your decisions. It’s heartbreaking to think that we are on the brink of living in a world where family members, lifelong friends, and lovers, may fall out based upon a single decision.
Please do not attempt to use this work as a means of forcing your opinions on others.

Personally, I feel I will fully recover from this, as I have done for so many other things in the past, but I put that down to the effort I go to in taking care of my body and mind. If anything, I have doubled down on my practices leading up to and following the jab. I hope that what I have learned in regard to aftercare may benefit others, as it seems there is very little talk of this important aspect. Kind of like how there has been no talk of how to take care of yourself though-out this pandemic, to the extent where the New Zealand prime minster’s only suggestion in a press release last week for people suffering from mental health issues as a result of lockdowns was to “go to the pharmacy for medication, and get food delivered”. I’m sorry, what?…

Below is a list of aftercare tips and supplements that I have been using and firmly believe in. Im sure there are others but I cannot speak to them.
This is NOT medical advice.

NAC: I would go as far to say that I would take this regardless of the shot. It clears heavy metals (sometimes used in the manufacture of vaccines), cleanses your liver, reduces the risk of blood clotting (a known side effect) etc. And best of all its inexpensive. Make sure you supplement with magnesium, zinc and copper. Doses and more information can be found here. Get in touch if you are having trouble locating it.

Magnesium: I’ve supplemented 350-400mg a day for the last year and seen the impact it has on strengthening my immune system and helping with sleep. More here.

Water: Stay hydrated and help flush toxins out.

Boron: Another inexpensive, powerful detoxification tool that is worth looking into regardless. Doses can be found here.

Dandelion Root: Extract or tea. Blocks the viruses spike proteins from attaching to cells. Personally, I have an infused Dandelion Root Chai tea, which is filled with other powerful natural healing ingredients too. Another study here.

Celery juice: Unfortunately this one has coped a bad wrap from influencers trying to make it their own a reducing its effectiveness. Although there is little science for this one, and its sourcing is somewhat esoteric. That being said I know of many individuals who have seen the benefits including myself. I use a Breville juicer which I got second hand super cheap as its one of those things people buy with the best of intention and never use. You can read more about it here.

Time: There is evidence to suggest that waiting at least 10 weeks between jabs both reduces viral load on our body and improves the effectiveness of the vaccine.

Earthing: The practice of walking/standing barefoot on the grass and in nature. This reduces inflammation which can lead to illness, thins blood and improves blood pressure, and helps calm the nervous system (amongst a plethora of other benefits). And the best part is, its free.

Prayer: Yeah, I probably lost you there hey. But what have you got to lose? Sometimes releasing to a higher power in the name of the greatest good can take a huge load off, and it doesn’t need to be religious in any way. I most definitely am not. I choose to surrender that which I cannot control to a higher power for the greatest good.

“We are the card counters at the blackjack table, and we’re turning the odds on the house”- Billy Beane (Moneyball, 2011)

If you have any other tips I’d love to hear them.

We’re in this together

We’re in this together

I started writing an article about where I was at in my journey thus far, but I think what would be far more valuable right now, especially considering its World Mental Health Day, would be to talk about the dark days of personal growth. Those days, weeks, months when you feel like no matter how much effort you put in, you feel as though you are slipping further and further back into your old ways. Sometimes it all feels too much like there is nowhere, and no one to turn to. It’s funny how quickly my mind jumps at the chance to decide that this is the way now.

“All emotions, even those that are suppressed and unexpressed, have physical effects. Unexpressed emotions tend to stay in the body like small ticking time bombs—they are illnesses in incubation.” – Marilyn Van M. Derbur

Recently I have been staring that dark cave of self depreciating thoughts in the face. Made more challenging by the strict lockdown we are currently under restricting that much needed human connection, especially hugs. It helps knowing that these dark thoughts will always be there but that I have the tools which I can use as a spotlight to shine through the darkness even if just to create some breathing space. Enough to let a little light in.

“What fire does not destroy, it hardens” – Oscar Wilde

For me, the tools I’ve been using the most recently are journaling, breath-work, reaching out to friends, grounding, cold water swims and fun.
I don’t think I’ve ever included the term “fun” as part of my tool kit before, but it’s been hugely beneficial as of late. For me, fun can look like practising (and failing) to do handstands in the park, going for a run with some uplifting music, an impromptu bedroom dance party, jumping into the ocean, anything that puts a little bit of a smile on my face or gives a small sense of accomplishment. Something a little childlike is great too. That’s why I love handstands, it’s hard to be serious when you’re so focused on not slamming your face into the ground, whilst metaphorically turning your world “upside down”. It also means I can get my feet and hands on the earth, get a little grubby and connect more deeply to nature, grounding my energy.
It’s spring here at the moment, and I’ve taken up flower pressing. I know, it hardly screams masculine man, but maybe that’s the point. There is something quite therapeutic and creative about going for a walk and compiling little snippets of nature’s beauty. It takes me back to my childhood and being in the garden with my family.

“Have fun, even if it’s not the same kind of fun everyone else is having.” – C.S. Lewis

Another thing that I think is worth mentioning, especially as of late, is that sometimes people lash out at us and we feel like we must have done something wrong. Especially when we are already struggling ourselves. I would often beat myself up about it. “You do all this inner work, but you’re still a bad person”, that sort of stuff. It’s been an important lesson to realise that, in actual fact, that person probably just has a lot going on and you just happened to get in the way. I’m learning to navigate what is actually mine to sit with, and what I just got in the way of.

“I know it is wet and the sun is not sunny, but we can have lots of good fun that is funny.” – Dr. Seuss

I know the frustration in having a daily practice, having done so much work, and hitting a point where you are feeling like back at square one again. I think if we look at things rationally, we can see how far we have come. Even to be able to observe the intricacies of our own mind is a huge step in the right direction. A useful reframe is to look five years in the past, where were you? where are you now?, and where would you like to be in 5 years time? Have you moved closer in those last 5 years to your future goal? You most likely have, be proud of that.

Right now I’m feeling infinitely better and I know that I owe it to reaching out to friends with unfiltered vulnerability, forcing myself into the ocean even (especially) when I don’t want to, and embodying the childlike nature of joy.

“Life is a great big canvas; throw all the paint you can on it.” – Danny Kaye

A song that helped me, maybe it will soothe you too.

Dance like no one is watching

Dance like no one is watching

Excuse the title, it’s kind of accurate, and I couldn’t resist. One day I will write an equally as questionable one titled “Live, Laugh, Love”.

A few weekends back I participated in a workshop called The Initiation with Wild Grace. It was centred around the embodiment of four of the masculine archetypes. Don’t know what that means? cool, neither did I. I only attended it because my good friend insisted that I should give it a go, and I had no idea what to expect. As I signed into the first Zoom call I was extremely apprehensive. I remember coming in feeling all judgemental and gross. Big ego stuff as it tried to protect itself.

I stuck it out and even after the first introduction session I felt some subtle shifts, and now, looking back I’m not sure I can ever look at movement the same again. The time we had to dive into that stagnant energy was inspiring, albeit challenging. The workshop was based around four archetypes, The Lover, The Brother, The Dark Father and the Magician (my favourite). I couldn’t help but laugh, as, at the time of the call, I was deep in some interpretive movement, while my housemates were in the room next door charging down bottles of prosecco and dancing in the lounge. Two very different but arguably quite similar practices.

“Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.” ― Rumi

Essentially we were guided through a series of practices over two days which involved tapping into each of these archetypes within ourselves. The practices varied from erotic touch to communication with spirit guides, to interpretive/spirit-led dance. I had a blast, it was so fascinating to witness the changes in state from such simple practices.

When I think of embodiment, it brings to mind the tantruming toddler in the supermarket. Free to let all that stuff out without fear of judgment or consequence. Then moving into the school system where they were punished for such raw expression and expected to use our limited comprehension of language to communicate complex emotions. If we’re lucky, in adulthood, we find some sort of movement such as football, running or yoga, which allows us to dip our toes back into that ecstatic expression and release.

“We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.” ― Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

The weekend with the amazing facilitators at Wild Grace showed me the power of uninhibited movement and did so in a container in which I felt seen and safe. I’ve often shied away from such liberal movement, even in front of those closest to me. I think that’s probably a reason why I drunk at parties and festivals. I loved to dance, but in order to do so, I needed something to loosen that veil of discomfort and fully allow myself to express the freedom of movement to the visceral beat. For me personally, that has been a journey of allowing myself to be seen while sober in a more full expression in said spaces, trying to drown out the fear of judgement. The weekend helped that feel all the more obtainable and more loose in the manner in which my embodiment is expressed.

The Initiation felt like a welcoming. An offering to dive into all the stored energy interfering with my nervous system and creating consequence throughout my life.

I’m so grateful for the experience to expand my capabilities to go deeper. To experience more fully what I’ve been trying for years with the limits of my dialect. Embodiment may well be the origin of self-expression, from the screaming toddler, to the ceremonies of civilisations of  long since forgotten. So yeah, time to dance like no one is watching.

“Dance is the hidden language of the soul” – Martha Graham

To check out when they are holding their next workshop click here.

Breath in, breath out

Breath in, breath out

I first was introduced to breathwork without even knowing that’s what I was signing up for. I was sitting on the couch one night scrolling Instagram, and a heavily tattooed, fashionably dressed looking brother caught my eye. He was standing next to a guy I follow from the US, a man by the name of Aubrey Marcus, and he appeared warm and genuine. Quite out of character I decided to give this guy (Lukis Mac) a follow. Maybe I could learn something from him? A few weeks later I saw a post in which he said he was currently in managed isolation in NZ, up until this point, I had no idea he was a Kiwi. He mentioned that he and his partner, Hellè, would be holding a workshop. I decided at that moment that no matter what the workshop was I would head along.

Flash forward a few months and I’m in a packed out room in the Ellerslie convention centre with 100 other people and still have no idea what I’m in for. I’ve seen a few of their videos now, people crying, screaming, laughing, so I’m understandably quite nervous. Call it divinely guided, call it whatever you want, somehow I knew I was exactly where I needed to be.

Lukis and Helle are beautiful humans and equally amazing facilitators. It’s not often you meet people who can safely hold space for so many people and all manner of trauma. The two-day Owaken workshop was life-changing, and I don’t say that lightly. I learned a lot about myself with the guidance of the Owaken crew and their support team.

“I was able to feel into things from my past that were unresolved and finally fully process, heal and let go of the pain that was holding me back”. – Lukis Mak

In those two days of the Owaken workshop, during these consciously connected breaths (different to yogic breathing (pranayama), or Wim Hoff style), I cried, I laughed, I got t-rex hands (a common and kind of hilarious, albeit painful occasional side effect), met a guardian of the land, was visited by people no longer “with” us, let go of a lot of stuff (“stuff” that I didn’t even know I had!), and I connected more deeply with my intuition and purpose. One thing that came up was that while I was experiencing a great deal of physical pain, the thing which kept coming through was “this is how it feels to not be your true self”. It showed me that that constant pain in my chest I’d been feeling recently was a is a physical manifestation of the amount I hide who I am.

What I love most about breathwork is that it’s all you. You are at no point giving your power away to someone to “heal” you, and that alone is a profound knowing. I would liken aspects of it to the depth you can reach with that of plant medicine, but the best part is, its all under your control, your breath dictates the depth you go, unlike plant medicine in which you are locked in for at least 6 hours you have far less control.

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Since the Owaken workshop, I’ve done three more journeys in Auckland, and look forward to doing more. I’ve also incorporated a daily breathwork practise into my morning routine. If you’re interesting this can be found on the Owaken website here. It’s the 10min video halfway down the page. Essentially, while in a seated position with a straight back, you take ten conscious connected breaths through the mouth, then after the outward breath, hold your breath and pause for 10 seconds. Then 20 conscious connected breaths, followed by another pause for 20 seconds on the out-breath, finishing with 30 breaths then holding for as long as feels comfortable. Then just enjoy the ride, maybe ask your intuition if there is anything you need to know. You can do this 3 times in a row to go deeper, and is even more powerful if you practice it in nature. I love going out into the backyard, flicking my shoes off and, with the sun on my face, seeing how deep the practice can take me. That marinating at the end is always pure bliss.

As a side note, more recently I’ve learned that there are some under-qualified facilitators in the industry, those who feel called to help, but have not yet gone deep enough in their own journeys or have the skills needed to guide people safely through their suppressed trauma. Just something to keep in mind when looking to experience breathwork for yourself. When searching, recommendations are great, or if not possible, ensure you feel comfortable and connected with the facilitator. A few local facilitators I’ve worked with here in Auckland, and can recommend, include Fiona Moore and Loren Honey. Feel free to message me if your like more information.

I love that as someone who has been challenged with asthma, the one thing that has had the most profound effect is using my breath. I have often felt this in yoga, and while focusing on embodiment during therapy sessions, and even during my ayahuasca experience, but now even more so in breathwork.

Breathwork changed my perspective on healing. I’ve always been pretty cautious of the term “self-healer” but a breathwork session with an experienced guide will show you that you have all the tools you need to heal your life. And with the daily practice to help cultivate connection, you can keep doing the work on your own, you may not go as deep, but like water flowing over rock, it slowly washes away the hard shell of our deepest wounds.

“Breath in, breath out” – Ludacris

Finding balance around busyness

Finding balance around busyness

Before I begin, I just want to make it abundantly clear that I love my Dad and we have an amazing relationship, I do with all my family. And that this post is not a criticism, as I know his work ethic is a product of his own upbringing in which he didn’t have the freedoms his efforts have allowed me.

As I sit in my car, welcoming warm light on my chilled face, giving me life after diving into the ocean out here on this sunny winters day, I’m left reflecting on what in me is actively avoiding being proactive and engaged fully with life.

I’m reminded of my Dad’s incessant need to keep ticking off a never-ending list of tasks . The “busyness trap” they call it. From his perspective I understand it. He wanted his family to have the best life possible, good food, a range of experiences and a quality education, but as a child, unable to apply this logic, I often saw someone who prioritised work over family.
It’s a common occurrence, especially in my parent’s generation. I think priorities in life have shifted a lot in our generation (people in our 30s), as a result of witnessing how our parent’s priorities influenced their lives. Thankfully he has slowed down a little in recent years. Of course, there are a multitude of external factors which create a belief system, but you get the idea.

“Those who are wise won’t be busy, and those who are too busy can’t be wise.” ― Lin Yutang

I think the glorification of “busyness” is a tradesperson thing too. Ever go to a cafe and over hear two tradies discussing how much work they’ve got on.
“How you going mate?”
“Yeah, busy as mate, you?”
“Oh yeah mate, so busy, all over the place”
“Yeah good on you mate”
Recently I overheard one of these conversations with two strangers, and I interjected with “so are you being just busy or are you productive?”, probably not my best move, and I was given a look like I’d just spat in his mocha but I thought it was funny. I think it’s an important differentiation to make. Busy does not equate to productivity. Its easy to run around like an apprentice packing up when he’s been told he can finish when the site’s clear, but that doesn’t mean the necessary tasks are being completed.

“It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” ― Henry David Thoreau

For the longest time, I’ve been trying to pursue my interests or personal goals and found myself losing motivation or focus. With this in mind, I’ve been reflecting on my often active avoidance of creating structure/routines in order to be more productive and do things like exercise and write more, even though I know the process would be beneficial. Unfortunately, this avoidance of being busy has also meant I don’t actively pursue things as much as I should. It’s made me passive in a number of areas in my life. Instead of creating, I wait for the right conditions, or the opportunity to present itself, and as Alan Cohen says “ Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect”

In the spiritual community, there is a somewhat toxic interpretation of how to “manifest”. Some people will have you believe that you don’t need to do anything and you will get where you need to be. It sounds idyllic but for someone like myself, it’s just an excuse to avoid taking action when required. Those I know who have “manifested” their dream have done it through commitment and perseverance, and often they have excelled beyond their ambitions, but they have done so by putting in the work. To a certain extent, I think the statement is true, you probably can achieve all that’s necessary to exist by remaining passive, but if you want to truly live, I believe that requires inspired action. There is a concept in yoga of soft action. Holding poses, actively engaging muscles, feeling into them, but not forcing your body, and I think the same applies in life. Being active, but with a gentleness that allows for space for the universe to assist you.

“Inspiration is a spark. It is nothing unless we use it to build a fire.” – Vironika Tugaleva

There is a need in my life to find a balance, a place where I put those things which matter most to me first, without waiting for something to happen or pushing too hard in one area. Pushing myself when necessary while still softening to allow the universe to conspire with me.

“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”― Paulo Coelho

Last week I saw the analytics of my website for the last few months, after not posting for a long time, and felt physically sick. It is so important to me to share my ideas and experiences, it helps me develop my ideas, and I know others benefit from them too. Seeing the sharp decline made me realise I need to step away from this passivity. Of course, it’s easy to go the other way too, so I think the next obvious step is to make that damn daily planner.

As a foot note, I watched this great video on finding your passion which some of you may find useful too

Watch the vibe of your tribe

Watch the vibe of your tribe

They say “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” The statement has rolled around in my mind over the years. I think it was one of the first lessons I came across when I was introduced to this holistic understanding of our lives. It’s especially powerful when you understand that these may not be your closest friends, just those you spend most of your days with i.e. workmates, house mates, family, or clients.

In recent years I’ve often felt like those I spend the most time with weren’t on the trajectory I would like for myself, not that theirs is wrong, just not aligned with my own. My ideal vision would be to be surrounded by people with expanded world views, those wanting to be the change, and who had found a deep connection to themselves and the world around them.

That being said, in some ways not being surrounded by the “perfect” tribe has been beneficial. Being the type of person I am, I like to help people achieve their goals as best I can, seeing the good in people, and accepting the less than ideal traits we all possess and it forced me to learn to not try to “save” people and waste my energy. This has been a long lesson, and in the past few years, I’ve found my own energy seriously depleted from trying to connect with certain people in their way and not having that energy reciprocated. It’s forced me to carve my own method for working through life and develop my own tool kit. I think it’s also why I find myself spending so much of my time alone and in nature. When I’m around people who aren’t the best for energy I do my best to mitigate that by surrounding myself with the inspirational words of others through books and podcasts.

A while back I found myself around some people who, in my perception, had made some questionable choices with the potential of hurting people close to them, which isn’t ideal, but I noticed that I wasn’t impacted by it like I would expect to have been. I’ve been reflecting on it and realised that what they were going through was something that I had gone through as a child, albeit in the receiving end. I had had a sort of subconscious disassociation from it. In a way, it made me grateful to experience being able to relive that experience in some way so that I could revisit it. It brought the issue to light, where otherwise I may have never had the opportunity for growth. If I’d been surrounded by the “perfect” people all the time, there mightn’t be that opportunity for reflection. It’s a bit of an abstract way of looking at it but sometimes we don’t have the privilege to be surrounded by the “right” sort of people and maybe that’s okay too. Maybe it’s a blessing as it drives us to pursue our own goals and ambitions and develop techniques to do so.

“It’s always hard when you’ve known a person a long time and then you have to recognise that you have nothing left in common but your memories.” ― Eva Heller

That being said, I have been trying a little harder to create a community. Recently I have been trying to surround myself with more like-minded people through attending events, workshops and going to spaces such as yoga studios, the bush, and parks. So far it’s worked surprisingly well. There is a vulnerability and shared interest within those spaces which helps forge meaningful relationships in short spaces of time. I love this approach as I get to learn something along the way too.

I’m also trying to be more honest with the people currently in my life about the sorts of things that interest me, in hope that that may open up the opportunity for deeper connections to be made. Even if this approach doesn’t impact the relationship, at least I’m living more true to myself.

“Brotherhood” has been a key focus as of late. With my passion for men’s mental health, I feel drawn to creating some sort of community where men can connect and communicate freely, stand in their power and foster meaningful connection. I feel drawn to this because it’s something that I too have been searching for and have been unable to find in my life, although I do feel like I’m making progress.

“I don’t believe an accident of birth makes people sisters or brothers. It makes them siblings, gives them mutuality of parentage. Sisterhood and brotherhood is a condition people have to work at. ” – Maya Angelou

Creating a powerful community is a work in progress, and maybe one day I will be surrounded by those ideal 5 people. For now, I will continue to strive for that, and in the meantime, I will do my best to not pass too harsh of a judgment and appreciate the “good”, with the “bad”, learn from the interactions, and continue to be mindful of who I give my energy to.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.” – John Donne

Quitting coffee (with mushrooms)

Quitting coffee (with mushrooms)

I wrote this post in August 2020, but for some reason never posted it. I guess in fear I’d relapse. After a year without coffee, it’s safe to say our relationship is over.

A while back I released a video discussing why I stopped drinking coffee, however, I think it missed a few of the crucial components for why this was so important to me.

I would have considered coffee to be a part of my identity. I was particular about the stores in which I drank it, the quality of the coffee and the ritual. Part of my ego identified with it, I would make judgements of people based on where they purchased coffee from and how they drank it.
But I wouldn’t say the connection I had with it was all bad. I made so many amazing friends all over the world by bonding over this little brown bean.

A few times in the last five years or so I have stopped drinking coffee, usually while I was sick or getting run down. I just completely stopped craving it. I started to wonder why it was that when I was run down my body actively resisted the craving for coffee? I pushed the thought to the back of my mind. In the months leading up to quitting I had felt completely flat. We were deep in lockdown and I’d been doing a lot of internal work through this time, and unfortunately coffee seemed to be the next habit to examine. A quick search on google gave a plethora of examples of people who had quit coffee and found tremendous benefit from ditching it.

Effects of coffee

Coffee activates your sympathetic nervous system, also known as the ‘flight or fight response’ this leads to:

  •   Anxiety (we know this, there are memes about it)
  • Reduces blood flow to organs
  • Reduces blood flow to the brain
  • Increases blood flow to heart and brain = alertness
  • Lowers testosterone production (which is already a massive problem)
  • Creates adrenal fatigue which Inhibits recovery 
  • Digestion, effects on the stomach
  • Increases your blood pressure
  • Inhibits quality sleep
  • More here

    Some of these may not seem so bad, until you times that by that coffee or two you have every day for months or years on end. That’s a huge accumulation of stress on the body.

As I side note, I was recently informed of the vast amount of pesticides used in the production of coffee, many of which are banned in several countries and have strong health warnings from the WHO, so if you don’t plan to quit, maybe at least look into drinking organic.

“Once vice becomes a code of conduct, there ceases to be any possibility of cure”

– Seneca

Why I stopped:
  • I had had a sore throat and a recent illness.
  • My levels of anxiety had heightened and I was finding it increasingly difficult to feel grounded.
  • Meditation was becoming difficult.

After my morning coffee:

  • My ears would block during conversation and I would have trouble focusing on conversations I was having. 
  • Things I needed to do which required sitting and being focused I would put off as I couldn’t focus. Ironic considering, like many of us, I was drinking coffee to give myself the energy to do said tasks.
How I quit:

I have quit coffee before but always came back after a few weeks. In an attempt to find the source of why I felt the need to drink coffee and the effect it had in my life, I decided to do a small quantity of mushrooms and get my pad and pen out and journal it out.

I just want to stop here for a second, as I think it’s important to note that this isn’t a regular occurrence, and I left this out of my initial revision of the post. I was concerned with the way it would be received, but at the same time conflicted, knowing that I hadn’t been completely honest. I think the same results could have been achieved without them but I also don’t think that many people are aware of the benefits that can come from the use of mushrooms in the correct environment with the right intentions, and supervision. If you are interested to know more I suggest reading How to Change Your Mind.

Okay, back to it,

During the mushroom session, I began journalling and a few things became apparent. I’d been drinking coffee pretty consistently for the last 10 years and what I found was that I first started drinking it while working as a builder with my Dad after I left high school. It was a great way to take a break and get away from the building site, especially to avoid doing a job I didn’t want to do or get out of the cold. It was also something I associated with my Dad, we would go to cafes and bond over a mocha bowl (I know…). Then later, I went to university, it became a way to get away from the computer screen, socialise with my friends, or plan group projects ( read “procrastinate”). I noticed this as a reoccurring theme, even 10 years on I was using coffee as a way to avoid doing things I didn’t want to do and each cup took me back to spending time with my family and friends. Once I made these connections the answer seemed obvious, coffee was doing me no favours.

Effects of giving up coffee:

Oddly enough I haven’t missed coffee at all since I quit, however, the withdrawal symptoms were pretty savage.

The first few days I had mild headaches which I could handle, but for the first 10 days, I had progressively worsening muscle aches and pains in my legs and hips. The muscle and bone aches got so severe after the first week that I spent much of my day in pain and would wake up in the middle of the night in agony. On investigation this seems pretty common, something to do with caffeine no longer dilating blood vessels, I would assume as your body has to learn to take control again without the assistance of caffeine. I also experienced a lot of fatigue, tight muscles (to the point where my hips hurt as I bent to tie my shoelaces), minor headaches, and trouble focusing. I had an increased appetite (probably due to trying to fill the craving with something else), and generally quite poor sleep.

“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.

– Benjamin Franklin”

How I feel almost a year on:
  • I feel far more grounded
  • More focused
  • Decision making improved (somewhat)
  • I’ve become less reactive or affected by issues that may come up throughout the day.
  • Sleep is slightly better
  • I don’t wake up groggy and needing a coffee to function (which can make me a little abnoxious to coffee drinkers in the morning)
  • Appetite is more consistent.
  • Interestingly my facial hair is growing faster. (A recent blood test showed I had a healthy testosterone level)
  • My memory is improving! something I’ve struggled with for years
  • I don’t have to factor in a coffee stop on the way somewhere
  • One thing I do miss is the manic motivation. I’m not sure I can directly link it to coffee, but I haven’t been as active as I was a year ago. Ofcourse that could also be linked to moving countries or a number of other things going on in the world, but it has caught my attention.

If you don’t want to give up coffee, maybe try:

  • Ideally eating, but definitely having a big glass of water before your morning coffee. This is to help combat the acidity of caffeine of your stomach. Water also helps flush all the toxins for your body that your organs have been clearing over night.
  • Ordering a single shot instead of a double.
  • Ritualising your coffee consumption, taking time to savor the taste and smell, how it makes you feel. After all, coffee was regarded as a sacred plant in its origins before western society commercialised it, much like chocolate.
Will I drink coffee again?

I’ve tried a few times, just to see how I would feel, and every time I had to let it go to waste. I could feel discomfort in my body even after the first sip. I even tried decaf, but no luck. Now after all this time, I think it’s safe to say, my days as a coffee lover are over. I do miss it a little, especially when I’m at a nice cafe, but hey, my mental and physical health has improved. Honestly, I think the hardest part is not sounding like a douche bag when you tell people you don’t drink coffee. The ego loves it.

Next vice to let go of, swearing. This will be a real challenge.

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Stressed as, mate

Stressed as, mate

Ever find yourself lying in bed staring at the ceiling, mind spinning so fast that you just know there is no point shutting your eyes? Or maybe your stomach is upset, your body is aching, feeling anxious or you are getting headaches. Maybe all of the above.

Stress affects us all differently and can have crippling effects on our body and mind. There have been times when I won’t sleep more than a few hours for weeks or even months if something is causing me stress. Until recently I would never have connected that external stressors were in fact creating illness in my body. I would often get sick when I was busy at work or had burnt myself out by taking too much on. I’d feel the drain on my body, fight it and carry on, then eventually get sick and blame it on some sort of flu, virus or asthma. Sometimes what brings it on may not even seem like a big deal, some minor challenge in life that I’m struggling to overcome.

Recently it was all getting a little too much for me, the constant unknown (as I’m sure we can all relate to in this past year), and the frustration of feeling stuck so I took a different approach. I put my headphones on in my room and put on an upbeat playlist. I started with a swing of my hips and after not too long I was having a wild solo dance party. I felt so good after, getting out of my head and moving some of that trapped energy through my body was just what I needed.

“Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.”– Ovid

Unfortunately, stress is and always will be a part of our lives. We can however grow from it. Whenever there is a stressful challenge there is an opportunity for growth. Consider the number of times you have been put in stressful situations in life and emerged stronger and more resilient. A few years back, things that would have left me with sleepless nights no longer bother me at all. I’ve grown through being put in these uncomfortable positions and coming out the other side. Even if that just means learning to worry less about certain circumstances.

“Stress is the trash of modern life-we all generate it but if you don’t dispose of it properly, it will pile up and overtake your life.”― Danzae Pace

What works for me is to notice when the effects of stress are rising and manifesting in my body and do my best to mitigate them. Whether that be through going for walks in nature, talking honestly and openly with friends, listening to a meditation, journaling, or focusing on my breath. Life can be challenging and I hope that you understand that no matter what you are going through you know that you are not alone. Stress affects each of us in our own unique way and we are doing the best we can, so be gentle with yourself.

“Relax. No one else knows what they’re doing either.”― Ricky Gervais

Review: The Body Keeps the Score by B. van der Kolk

Review: The Body Keeps the Score by B. van der Kolk

A friend posted this book in her Instagram story, then in the same week it caught my attention at my therapist’s office. I can safely say it’s one of the most fascinating books I’ve read in a long time. Bessel van der Kolk has spent the last 30 years working with patients severely affected by trauma, mostly veterans or victims of sexual abuse in this book he outlines what he’s learned and how its informed and developed his practice.

“Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives.” – Bessel van der Kolk

“As long as you keep secrets and suppress information, you are fundamentally at war with yourself…The critical issue is allowing yourself to know what you know. That takes an enormous amount of courage.” – Bessel van der Kolk

After noting the way certain traumas were held in the body and finding tradition therapy had its limits he began trialing different methods in which to shift it, using more physical practices including theatre. The book is packed with enthralling anecdotes, brilliant facts, techniques for you to try at home, and is backed with just the right amount of science to not leave the average reader feeling bogged down or out of their depth.
That being said, considering its size, it did take me a month or so to get through as I was frequently left reflecting on what was being said.

I think one thing I found most fascinating was that “economists calculated that every dollar invested in high-quality home visitation, daycare, and preschool programs results in seven dollars of savings on welfare payments, health-care costs, substance abuse treatment, and incarceration, plus higher tax revenues due to better-paying jobs.”

“The greatest sources of our suffering are the lies we tell ourselves.” – Bessel van der Kolk

Embodied Emotion

Embodied Emotion

This morning I woke up at 4 am my mind already racing with nothing in particular. The familiar tightness in my chest that I’ve had for so long now that it feels normal. The only difference is the severity of the discomfort. The best way to describe this mornings was the feeling that I’m trying to breathe while someone is pressing on my chest. The sharp pain allows for shallow breathing at best. I find that when it’s at its worst I need to be especially conscious of the way I breathe as the added” weight” causes shallow breathing.

Sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think, I’m not going to make it, but you laugh inside — remembering all the times you’ve felt that way. – Charles Bukowski

his morning there is an added delight, a slight nauseousness/discomfort at the pit of my stomach. I tried all the usual techniques, breathing into the discomfort, questioning it, sitting with it, but nothing seemed to help, so I end up going and grabbing my phone and scrolling for an hour or so. Yes, I know that’s the opposite of what I should have done, but hey, no one is perfect, and I was sick of my mind spinning through ridiculous scenarios.

I had the same sensations yesterday as I left work. A thick nausea at the bottom of my stomach. I’m aware these feelings don’t last forever but I’d really like to understand where it came from, and what caused it.

I know that it’s possible to live without it. After Ayahuasca the chest tightness completely left for a month or so. I’d never been able to breathe so freely but then it returned, seemingly here to stay. It leads me to believe that its psychosomatic, caused by unresolved emotion or thoughts and that there is potential for it to go, if even for short periods. It’s frustrating to be in a position where I am are aware my thoughts are playing a vital role in these physical manifestations in my body, especially when I spend so much of my time trying to understand them.

It leads me to wonder how many people never make these connections. Those with anxiety or challenging emotions, not seeing the responses in their bodies or maybe suppressing them, not wanting to acknowledge the effect they have. I think that I do the same. It feels like I am blocking myself from fully feeling into the discomfort no matter how much I try. In all honesty, I’m quite scared of the day when whatever it is finally making its way to the surface and I have to deal with it. All I can do is keep turning up, keep going to therapy, and allow myself to be as present with the sensations as my subconscious will allow. Frustrating, but from what I can see it’s the best I can do.

The largest part of what we call ‘personality’ is determined by how we’ve opted to defend ourselves against anxiety and sadness ― Alain de Botton

I was recently reminded of Søren Kierkegaard’s quote “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” I’m not sure I entirely believe it, but it’s a nice idea to help toward shifting the feeling of complete loss of what to do into one of excitement and anticipation for the future.

One thing that helped to ease the pressure in the short term was a walk and some good music. I spent an hour or so wandering the streets and admiring the houses along the way. It’s quite funny actually, I grew up here and until that walk, I’d never really appreciated the gardens, old cottages and 70s bungalows tucked away on the busy main road. I’d never notice them as I was always zooming back and forth by car or on a bike. I think walking is extremely underrated but maybe that’s a discussion for another time.

As I often tell my students, the two most important phrases in therapy, as in yoga, are “Notice that” and “What happens next?” Once you start approaching your body with curiosity rather than with fear, everything shifts.” – Bessel A. van der Kolk