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

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: Already Free by Bruce Tift

Review: Already Free by Bruce Tift

Already Free by Bruce Tift was recommended by a good friend of mine mid last year (I’m a little behind with my reviews) . Bruce Tift is a psychotherapist who practices Buddhism and brilliantly portrays how two compliment each other.
It bounces between the approaches psychotherapy would take toward challenges and the Buddhist perspective, covering all manner of topics including our thought patterns around relationships and decision making. Bruce uses fascinating anecdotes to help portray his ideas. I think an aspect I found most fascinating was “embodied awareness”, sitting in the sensations of a thought or emotion.

All in all, it’s really jolly good, so I’m just going to leave you with a bunch of quotes.

“Its actually when we try to avoid our feelings that we tend to “solidify” them and make them appear significant” – Bruce Tift

“Although we look like adults, and have the adult capacities in other parts of our lives, in the arena of intimacy, we’re like a child trying to have a relationship with another child”- Bruce Tift

“As we cooperate with ourselves, we cooperate with life, and strangely enough, we begin to experience that life is cooperating with us”- Bruce Tift

“If I stay, I’ll be disturbed. If I move on, I’ll be disturbed” Once we are clear that any choice we make will never represent all of our very real and valid feelings, we can make decisions based on criteria other than the avoidance of disturbance”- Bruce Tift

“We approach neurosis not as “wrong” but as our best out-of-date effort to take care of ourselves”- Bruce Tift

“We may discover that the most satisfying life is one that is fully lived, rather than one in which we’ve accumulated the most positive experiences”- Bruce Tift

Returning to New Zealand

Returning to New Zealand

When I think of moving back to New Zealand it creates a well of emotion. It’s been a long time since I lived there and in many ways, I was a different person then. I left New Zealand unsure of myself and without any understanding of where things may lead. Five years later I return with a lot more tools to deal with situations and a world of new experiences. I’m not entirely sure what New Zealand holds for me, but in many ways, I feel like I no longer belong there. I know that sounds ridiculous as that’s where I was born and my beloved family is there, but aside from that, it feels foreign move back there to live. But then, what is home anyway, right? 

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” – Miriam Adeney

I remember when I first moved to the UK it held very little interest. I was only going there to get out of Sydney, and I wished to see more of the world while it was possible (visas, etc). I intended to move to Canada and was more or less just moving to the UK purely so I didn’t miss out on its youth visa. I had no interest in the UK or Europe, I craved the mountain-scapes and wilderness of Canada. It didn’t take long, maybe a week until there was an overwhelming feeling I don’t think I had experienced before, it felt like home. This was peculiar to me as even before I was 20 years old I’d moved house well over 17 times. I think I wasn’t used to feeling settled in one place, to the extent that I even made an effort to decorate my bedroom. I’m sure that seems foreign to many, but when you move as much as we did, living in everything from caravans to barns, not to mention all the places I lived as a student, it just doesn’t really make sense to make an effort with my living space.

“Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.” – James Baldwin

There are so many things I love about the UK, the diversity of cultures and languages, the ancient trees, the wild parks, and the beautiful old homes, the public transport system (that actually works), and the fact that so many are willing to make an effort to make new friends. Then there is the freedom that comes with living in the UK. The feeling like whatever you desire is possible, even when your current situation feels so far from your goals. I met so many amazing people from so many backgrounds and was able to discuss ideas openly and honestly and in a lot of ways it completely changed my worldview. There was an opportunity to surround myself with so many amazing individuals and create an diverse bunch of friends so many belief systems, ideas and thoughts to discuss. I understand a lot of these examples are my own experiences and subjective but I found the UK such an amazing place to grow and learn. 

“Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee and just as hard to sleep after.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

In a lot of ways, for me, New Zealand feels quite the opposite, withdrawn, recluse, and a place where life has a different intention. I know I sound whiny, but I accept that to not acknowledge these feelings would be to ignore a side of myself just to please an external force and that isn’t the point of these posts, but with that, I’m sure there are a lot of positives to returning too. I cannot wait for the fresh air and crystal clear waters, the hiking, and biking, friends and family, but I’d be lying if I wasn’t apprehensive about returning to a country where making an effort to improve yourself, your life, and achieve your goals is seen as a character flaw by many, where you have to sit in traffic for hours because there isn’t adequate public transport, and where, I fear, a lot of the freedom I have experienced will be lost.

I guess, like everything, this is where “the real work” begins, right? The integration of tools, ideas, and growth put forward into a challenging environment that is less open to such concepts and ideas, and maybe this return is the most important part. I always thought I’d find a way to stay this side of the world longer, and maybe I will, maybe this is part of some bigger plan greater than myself. For a long while its felt like my sister and I would benefit from reconnecting, so I’m looking forward to seeing more of her. Maybe its this very return and integration that is what my soul so needs to move forward.

I’d always planned to return to NZ in the long run. I think it’s one of the greatest countries in the world, but I’d always wanted to do so after I had found “success”, what that means to me I am still growing to understand, and I guess that’s entirely subjective as I have had, any “successes” in these past few years. Interestingly, since around the start of the year, I’ve had a feeling like I would be returning to NZ sooner that I would have liked, a feeling I spent the majority of this year suppressing. In writing this post I see by the way that I speak about New Zealand that there are many things I need to work on to let go of these unhealthy emotions and ideas.

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” – Maya Angelou

For now, I all I can do is be grateful, grateful for the friends I made, the conversations I had, and the experiences I was able to enjoy, from a garden party in Stockholm, Sweden, to a stranger buying me a bottle of water in Brooklyn, NYC, grateful for all these connections and memories that would never have been possible had I not stepped both feet into the unknown and booked that one-way flight seemingly at random while living in a tent in Byron Bay, Australia. I’m so truly grateful for all of it, the joy and the challenges, the love, the loss, none of it could have been experienced without first leaping in faith. So I guess that’s what I’ll do now, I’ll make that same leap of faith. 

“To live, to TRULY live, we must be willing to RISK. To be nothing in order to find everything. To leap before we look.” – Mandy Hale

I will do my best to put aside my own preconceived ideas and biases, It’s been 5 years since I lived in New Zealand, nine since I lived in Auckland, and I’m sure a lot has changed. I will do my best to move with the gratitude that I am from this beautiful little corner of the world where thousands if not millions could only dream of calling home and would be grateful to live with such freedom. Its time to practice that trust that things will all work out once more.

“To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float” – Alan Watts

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Being aware of the content I consume

Being aware of the content I consume

When we speak of consumption it’s normally in reference to the foods we eat, and the liquids we drink, but what I’ve been focusing on lately is the consumption that comes in the form of entertainment/media.

“Social media not only snatches your time, but it also teaches you attention deficiency.” – Neeraj Agnihotri

We all know and have for a long time, the powers of social media and entertainment such as films, tv shows, and the news, but I think sometimes we underestimate the impact it can have on us. It is influencing not only the items we purchase, the foods we eat, and where we holiday, but also the characteristics we find desirable in potential partners, the current events issues we focus on, and most importantly, how we feel. The opportunity for influence is everywhere, from targeted advertising so subtle that laws had to be passed to ensure ads on social media were labeled as such, to movies depicting idealised relationships.

I have chosen to be extremely aware of the content I choose to consume, whether it be opting for documentaries over violent movies, what ads I allow on my Facebook feed, and especially, what accounts I follow on Instagram. Sure, some meme accounts belittling the mundanity of life might seem funny, but how is that impacting your subconscious. As the focus on mental health awareness increases, I’ve noticed an increase in accounts creating content mocking personal growth. This includes content like faux conversations with therapists discussing topics like creating healthy boundaries or creating coping mechanisms with punchlines of the clients ignoring their advice and taking unhealthy actions. I know many would argue that these are just a way to lighten your day and are insignificant, but I believe they have a compounding effect and are mitigating our opportunity for growth through the perpetuation of unhealthy ideas.

“You are what you share.” – Charles Leadbeater

As if that wasn’t enough, there are all the beautiful people scattered throughout your newsfeed who we constantly measure our own attractiveness against. Many of us are not aware of the extent of how manipulated these images or videos often are, not to mention surgery, implants, and steroid usage (and that includes both sexes). There are now apps which allow you to live to edit your appearance including facial features such as your eye shape, jawline sculpting, and even altering your complexion whilst recording video. Who’s to say the amount of damage this may cause as we grade ourselves and those around us against individuals who don’t even exist in real life. I used to follow these sorts of accounts, that was until I realised how it was affecting my own relationships in the real world.

Personality Joe Rogan before face tuning
Personality Joe Rogan after face tuning

While I’m at it, I may as well say that it’s been a long while since I watched pornography, not to say that I don’t still entertain myself, just that I don’t use external sources (TMI? sorry but someone has to talk about it). The main reasons that I stopped are that it creates and perpetuates a connection of sex without intimacy, can lead to depression, devalues real-life partners through living in a fantasy world, can lead to sexual dysfunction and impotence (!!!!), and can increase sexual perversion. Not to say kinks aren’t perfectly healthy, it’s just that these include the likes of rape and sexual violence fantasies. Find out more here and here.

“What the mass media offers is not popular art, but entertainment which is intended to be consumed like food, forgotten, and replaced by a new dish.” – W. H. Auden

When it comes to movies and tv shows it’s fascinating to look back and think how far we have come. I remember when I was about 20, I walked out of the cinema during Hills Have Eyes because I was so disturbed by the senseless violence. Now in the last 10 years, that level of violence has become commonplace. We are so desensitised from violence. Hollywood has begun to normalise rape and pedophilia to the point where now when those same celebrities get put on trial for it we hardly bat an eyelid. Even without going to that extreme, let’s just consider the implications of the perpetuation of stereotypes, no wonder people are so confused and divided, whether you like it or not, consuming these narratives passively in front of a screen is going to influence your perception and bias.

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” – E.F. Schumacher

When it comes to current events I think it’s important to consider that only a hundred years ago we were more or less entirely cut off from the outside world. We were extremely limited to the goings-on of the outside world, and now, in our highly connected world, we are given the issues of over 7 billion people. Sure, I agree it’s important to stay informed, but at what point does this constant stream of information start to take up too much of our energy and affect our mental health, our brains literally haven’t been developed for it.

Personally, and I know many will disagree, I chose to limit the news I watch and have blocked all mainstream media from my Facebook feed and Instagram. This may seem like a close-minded perspective, but let’s keep in mind that until recent times institutions like coffee houses were created as spaces for discussion. Ideas were discussed amongst members of the public and now media outlets using clickbait headlines and write in such a matter that is designed to inspire intense emotion, often anger. There is no longer democracy in the matter in which we are delivered current events, instead, we have a series of heavily financially and politically influenced echo chambers. For the last few years I have chosen to learn of current events through podcasts, discussions with friends, or if the topic affects are certain demographic, I seek to understand their perspective from them.

“The more screen-time you consume on your device, the more revenue can the big tech make. So, your health, your wellbeing, your sanity and serenity are nowhere closer to their priorities. That’s why, your health is in your hands, your serenity is in your hands, your sanity is in your hands.” – Abhijit Naskar

I am doing my best to create awareness around what I consume, avoiding violent movies, listening to music with a neutral or ideally positive agenda, and most recently restricting the accounts I follow on social media, meaning no more Instagram models. I’ve gone as far as to cultivate my discovery page by choosing “not interested” on images I deem to not be beneficial.

Who knows the effects our media consumption has had on us already, especially as it has gone on since we were children watching sexualised cartoons and being sold toys, sugary drinks and processed foods, but at least now we have a choice. Do we feed ourselves inspiring and enlightening content or continue the consumption of harmful narratives generating a spiral of self-loathing, desensitisation and disconnection from fellow humans? For me, I choose to become more conscious, I choose podcasts over violent movies, Instagram for learning and creativity not perving, and coffee shop conversations for connection not comment sections for meaningless quarrels. Not only does our consumption impact our mental state, but it also wastes our most precious resource, time.

“One day you will look back and recall all the time you spent on social media and wonder why you didn’t invest that time someplace else.” – Germany Kent

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The Rude Awakening.

The Rude Awakening.

As I become more connected to this spiritual aspect of myself, the process of growth seems to increase exponentially. I went from minor insights and changes to times when it felt like everything around me was morphing and falling apart and I had to learn to become okay with it (and am still learning) using the tools I’d developed along the way to try help come to terms with the new challenge. The last few weeks have been no exception. It seems that off the back of a lot of work I’d done on myself in recent times and a healing session I did with an amazing teacher/healer friend of mine from back in New Zealand, a lot has suddenly shifted. After that, and I mean almost straight after that, things began to change and fall away, my job, friends, living situation, it all shattered. Sure it wasn’t at all what I was hoping for. There isn’t much joy in watching your world fall apart, but all I can do is try see try to see the connection to a bigger picture.

All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware – Martin Buber

“We are all equally capable of spiritual awakening. It may not seem that way, at times. Some of us are so caught up in the drama of our day-to-day existence that we have lost track of who we really are. But eventually, all of us will make the discovery of our true nature.” – Victor Shamas

During this time I have been waking up at random hours of the night and feel called to write ideas and thoughts. This is often out of necessity to help slow my mind as it spins at a million miles an hour. It’s usually a choice between lying in bed with my mind racing with no sign of sleep in the near future, or making the effort to get up and get it out then drifting gently back to sleep. Sometimes I’m not even sure where the things I write come from, my pen seems to have a mind of its own, words just pop into my head and form sentences. Somehow these are often the most profound statements in all of the journaling. It’s as if some deeper part of me is allowed to express itself in these early hours. I don’t always understand what’s being said at the time, but generally, it feels like a weight has been lifted when my pen reaches the page. Journalling has become a key part of my practice for shifting ideas, energy, clearing space, and understanding myself better. In fact, out of all my tools, I would say it’s the one I turn to the most, with the most to gain from each session.

 “I want to write. But more than that, I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried in my heart.” – Anne Frank

Dreams have become another fascinating resource too. Often actively referring to a present area of my life which I have been working with. Most recently the area of relationships, glimpses of valued friends, or newfound acquaintances which now seem to have opened up and been given new meaning. They may not always be obvious or resemble the person in waking life, but they will have a sort of energy or mannerisms which help identify them. It’s quite fun to play detective and take these abstract representations and see how they reflect my waking life. There are plenty of websites online which can offer a little guidance too.

“Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation. We have to stop pretending we are individuals that can go it alone. ” – Margaret J. Wheatley

It all seems a little crazy when I put it into words, but this has been my life for the last few years, and sure, it is not always plain sailing, sometimes the lessons can be overwhelming, but that’s usually comes when I try to ignore the signs or a deep-rooted feeling. It may sound silly, but I choose to believe that there is no obstacle or emotion that I cannot overcome, and the reason the challenge is given to me is that something greater than myself (or maybe even that part of myself I glimpse while writing) believes that I am ready for the challenge. This gives me the courage to know that things will eventually get better if I continue to put in the effort. I would be lying if I didn’t say there are days (often weeks) when I wish I could go back to my less awakened life, without concern for what the purpose of my life was, but at the end of the day, I know it’s all exactly as it needs to be, and that something better is just around the corner. There is a whole other world out there/within myself, that I am opening up to, and I’m sure a few sleepless nights and rude awakenings seem worth it in the end.

“You read and write and sing and experience, thinking that one day these things will build the character you admire to live as. You love and lose and bleed best you can, to the extreme, hoping that one day the world will read you like the poem you want to be.” – Charlotte Eriksson

If this has been something you’ve been experiencing too reach out, let’s guide each other or even just confide in our experiences. It’s a wild world and those of us committed to finding deeper meaning need to stick together.

“Everything is created twice, first in the mind and then in reality.” – Robin Sharma