Reconnecting to your inner wisdom

Reconnecting to your inner wisdom

I’ve been pondering how, at many points in history, we had, what seemed to be, genius’s born every minute. Coming up with and revolutionising theories in all manner of fields that completely shifted the way we understood life. Now it seems as if someone has ripped up the handbrake, we have made minor adjustments but nothing like before, no individuals like the Telsa’s, Freud’s, Jung’s or Nietzsche’s of times gone by.

I wonder what happened. Has all the chaos in our lives now made it hard to focus or find clarity?

“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” – Joseph Campbell

My thoughts are that we no longer sit with our own ideas, and draw conclusions as we used to, previously we were freer from constant connectivity and interruption. Questions are now answered within seconds, facts are within arms reach of being checked (albeit controversially). Even as I write this, I’ve had to place my phone in a separate room and have taken refuge on the verandah, drenched in the late afternoon sun. And even then, I notice my mind wander to what notifications may await me.

During the great depression, Joseph Campbell spent 5 years living alone in a cabin in the woods, reading mythological tales for 9 hours a day from all manner of societies and taking notes. From these he went on to develop “the hero’s journey” which became the guidebook for storytelling to this day, influencing the likes of George Lucas and Jim Morrison. That sort of dedication to a passion project is something we seem to struggle to immerse ourselves in these days. We are lucky if we can clear a weekend, let alone bring ourselves to stay off our phones for the duration (speaking from personal experience here).

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.” – Joseph Campbell

The battle for our attention seems to be leaving us void of major breakthroughs and developments. We are more knowledgeable than ever but we haven’t the mental capacity or time/space to absorb the information to know how best to use it. We have become more intelligent and far less wise. There has no doubt be other factors at play, food quality, sleep quality, even our tap water contains chemicals which block out ability to expand our ideas.

In an effort to try to regain some of this space I have a morning routine in which I’ve been using “morning pages” for a while now. A practice of writing 3 handwritten A4 pages each morning. Mostly it’s just whatever is on my mind at the time, to-do lists, recounts of dreams etc. It sounds tedious, but it clears my head and occasionally gems come through from “somewhere” often as reframes of ideas or guidance. I think these little nuggets of gold are a byproduct of that space I’ve been cultivating. After journaling, I try to do 10-20min of meditation and some light stretching before turning my phone off flight mode.

This Christmas break (summer here in NZ) I plan to recapture a little more of this space for reflection and creation. Step clear of the constant chatter and connectivity with others and cleanse my mind and body in an effort to try to rediscover my own personal truth by removing some of the muddiness. How far I will take this I’m still uncertain, but it will definitely involve a restriction on podcasts, and social media, and an increased amount of time spent in nature. I look forward to seeing if anything comes up.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” – Joseph Campbell

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.

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

Compliment anxiety

Compliment anxiety

Them: “I like your trousers”
Me: looking like a deer in the headlights replies “oh yeah, I’ve had these for ages” while frantically trying to think of a new subject to talk about.
This is how I used to take compliments (occasionally still do). They can make me so uncomfortable. There was a time when I’d just shut off, freak out, not know what to say, and go red in the face. I think it was because all of a sudden I was the centre of attention and that made me extremely uncomfortable, especially when it’s in a group of people. All eyes were suddenly on me as if checking if the compliment were accurate, or that’s how it felt at-least. Thankfully I’m getting better at pretend accepting them and trying to be grateful for them, instead of deflecting them and being self-critical.

I think it’s also a challenge when we live in a society in which it’s far less common for men to give/receive compliments, especially to other men. Girls seem far quicker to complement each other, whereas guys will most likely make observations and keep it to themselves.

We are prepared for insults, but compliments leave us baffled – Mason Cooley

Not to get too esoteric on it, but there is something to be said for acknowledging compliments. I mean, no matter how we react, they are nice right? Why wouldn’t we want to allow more of that into our lives? I still remember people who complimented me on things as a kid.
It’s been a process of learning not to close off when I’m complimented. I try not to overcomplicate it, not try to return the compliment in some way unless it feels true or comes easy. Starting with a “thank you” and a smile, then leaving it at that, instead of finding a way to cut myself down afterwards.  I try to feel a little gratitude toward the person. It’s nice to be complimented and the more appreciative I can be, maybe the more it’ll happen as I open up to it.

“It is a great mistake for men to give up paying compliments, for when they give up saying what is charming, they give up thinking what is charming.” – Oscar Wilde

I still struggle a little with giving compliments (ask my previous girlfriends..) so I really try to say something nice as I think of it. It can sometimes come across as a little awkward, but then again, I am a little awkward. It feels nice to be complimented even if it feels a little uncomfortable at the time, but it’s far better than the opposite, and it feels even better to give them as I’m gradually finding.

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

Ups and downs

Ups and downs

Last weekend I was feeling pretty down. I had just arrived at my friend’s house and was sitting in my car when I had the desire to write, weird I know, but I’ve learned to make the most of inspiration when it strikes. I was in one of those slumps where I just wanted to be left alone, but also not, if that makes sense.

I wrote the following:

There is a certain irony that I write this outside my friends’ house as I’m about to enter on this sunny Saturday day afternoon, but I guess the mind is a complex creation. The fact of the matter is I am incredibly lonely here in New Zealand. I do wonder if my memory plays tricks on me and that this has been the case in Sydney and London too. Sure there have been numerous occasions when I’ve felt a connection but right now that feels like a distant rose-tinted memory.

It’s difficult to move to a new city, and in a lot of ways, Auckland feels like a new city. People and places have changed, as have situations. I fantasise what it would have been like to be one of those people with a huge circle of friends, the type who can fill a whole bar, and I guess I am, unfortunately my community is scattered all across the globe.

It seems surreal to feel so isolated when I live in the most open country in the world right now, especially when so many of my oldest and closest friends live so close by.  It leaves me wondering if there is something wrong with me. I feel fine, healthy even. Just isolated and terrified that this is how I will always feel.  I’m not sure what the answer is. A relationship? no, maybe I’m just scared of not fitting in, or feeling like I matter. Who knows, all I know is that I’m probably not the one who feels this way, and oddly enough, that brings a little sense of hope.

“A great fire burns within me, but no one stops to warm themselves at it, and passers-by only see a wisp of smoke” ― Vincent Van Gogh

I read something a while ago that said the reason humans fear loneliness or being an outcast is that only a few generations ago that would have meant certain death, either through starvation or being attacked by predators.

“I am lonely, sometimes, but I dare say it’s good for me…”― Louisa May Alcott

I got out of my car and went inside and was welcomed with hugs, warm smiles and was invited to come along to a birthday BBQ someone I’d never met. I really tried to talk myself out of going but I’m so glad I went, I ended up having such an awesome time. I met some great people, ate good food, had stimulating conversations and laughed harder than I have in a long time.

“The emotion that can break your heart is sometimes the very one that heals it…” ― Nicholas Sparks

When these challenging emotions arise it often feels like they will never end. Sure, this week since hasn’t been all sunshine and kittens but it’s nice to remember that we can draw on these previous experiences as evidence that it won’t always be like this. I also find doing something I know I enjoy, even if I really dont want to always helps. For me that’s yoga, sitting at a cafe, walking amongst nature and swimming in the ocean.

“A season of loneliness and isolation is when the caterpillar gets its wings. Remember that next time you feel alone.” — Mandy Hale

When I speak on these sorts of things there is always a fear that people will think I’m miserable. I don’t believe that is the case, I feel that these experiences need to be discussed more openly and with compassion. Life isn’t always easy, sometimes it feels like nothing is going how we want it. But I fully believe that we are never given any challenge we cannot overcome. 

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” – Haruki Murakami

These type of scenarios played a role in renaming my website too. We have these romantic ideas of how life should be, but the beauty comes from the polarity of emotions in the human experience.  Our romantic ideals versus our often challenging reality, which, in a way, often makes positive experiences so much more profound.

Conspiracy and Me

Conspiracy and Me

I fell deep into the rabbit hole. I know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering what kind of moron gets sucked into COVID conspiracy theories. Well, as someone who fell way down the rabbit hole, I’m here to tell you it’s surprisingly easy. One minute you’re minding your own business, engulfing yourself in enriching podcasts, trying to better yourself, then before you know it, the people you have faith in have changed tack. You don’t notice it at first, you trust them, and they speak so rationally, but gradually a new narrative arises, you feel like you know more than the average Joe and this new narrative you seem to be hearing everywhere seems all too convincing, logical even.  Long story short, there was no way I was taking the COVID vaccine. I would never have called myself an anti-vaxxer though, as I still agreed to the use of certain ones and saw the value in them.

To be fair, for a long time now I have always been a little suspicious of mainstream narratives, especially concerning what happens in the US when we know that the CIA was proven to be up to some pretty wild stuff back in the day. I think you’ll find far more people than you might be lead to believe have conspiratorial ideas on COVID, most are just smart enough to not say anything.

After COVID hit, several personal development “coaches”, “influencers” “health experts” yoga teachers (essentially the whole alternative wellness industry) began doing their own “research”. I think this started with the effectiveness of masks, or maybe question the accurate number of cases (which is a mind field). They would take studies out of context and create strong arguments for things like the effectiveness of masks. 

“Why do we love the idea that people might be secretly working together to control and organise the world? Because we don’t like to face the fact that our world runs on a combination of chaos, incompetence and confusion.

– Jonathan Cainer

As someone who takes their health seriously, especially when it comes to the use of pharmaceuticals, it didn’t take much to convince me to not want to take a vaccine I “didn’t need”, and for all intents and purposes that still stands true, but it’s not about me, it’s about those who can’t take it.

The likes of JP Sears will tell you that we just need to look after ourselves, build herd immunity, and the death rate is a mere 5% of the infection rate (he actually says 0.5% and won’t correct it for some unknown reason), and that 95% are over 70 years of age. These stats sound great and make sense until you realise only a tiny percentage of the world has been infected thus far, and to reach the ~70% required to achieve herd immunity would mean literally 100s of millions of people would die as a result (if we were to maintain the current ratio). Sure, the current dead may have numerous comorbidities which also sounds like a strong argument, but come to think of it, how many of us don’t?

I for one have been diagnosed with asthma. It hardly affects me, but it still a comorbidity, and in countries like the UK, US, NZ, and Australia, all with obesity rates over 25% that comorbidity number becomes pretty damn high. This all but negates the “well they were going to die of something” argument.

“There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure truth.” ― Maya Angelou

As far as the argument for being healthy and you won’t get sick goes, he’s kind of right. But unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to convince billions of people to eat their veggies and go for a walk, when we can’t even convince them to stop smoking, drinking sugary drinks or eating fast food. I guess that’s why the WHO stick to “stay inside, wear a mask, wash your hands”.

Thankfully I started to question some of the narratives being pushed by the likes of JP Sears, Marcus Aubrey, Shaun Stevenson, and Kelly Brogan. This was tough, because they helped me grow as a person and I do owe each of them a great deal, and I often aspired to build something like they have or even work alongside them. Even mentioning their names here feels like I’m burning bridges that lead to dreams of working in their circles.

My concern went much further than I like to admit, and at one point I was very really considering the logistics of going sovereign. For those who don’t know, that essentially means handing in all governmental documentation and removing yourself from the “system”, more or less becoming your own authority and no longer identifying with the same system of law within the country you live as regular citizens.

Lucky for me I dared to discuss these ideas with my therapist who, without judgment listened to my concerns and later suggested I listen to the Conspirituality podcast. A podcast shining light on, and debunking many of the alt-right influencers on social media, including anti-vaxx material. Although I don’t agree entirely with all that is said, especially as they are so anti spirituality, it definitely helped me step away from the edge.

It seems that maybe the system these influencers are trying to take down is creating something just as toxic and that whether they like to admit it or not, their egos are getting the better of them. That, and the fact many of them have grown hugely in popularity since pre-covid. I’ve even noticed a trend in attractive influencers jumping on the conspiracy bandwagon in order to catch the “woke” crowd. Why would they do this? Because most are selling something, often supplements, which, might I add, ironically don’t require the same rigorous testing as the vaccines they so strongly oppose.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better”. – Maya Angelou

Here’s a question that I’m glad I had the rational to ask myself: If these “spiritual gurus” really believe that they are eternal spiritual beings having a human experience, then why are they so worried about their physical bodies taking a vaccine? 

And if that’s not enough, ask yourself why we still aren’t seeing ID chips in vaccines, “benefits” to being vaccinated (i.e. you still can’t travel), people getting sick in droves from vaccine testing, or lockdowns on “predicted” dates.

These influencers will have you blame the mainstream media (MSM) and the agenda “they” push. But that media is made up of average Joes like us, doing the best they can, unfortunately, it’s funded by large corporations focused on ad revenue which will have an impact on narratives,  but I genuinely think those in the system are doing the best they can to do right by the community. There is one thing I’d like to mention about MSM which does bother me, and that’s that they lead the audience to believe that if a “conspiracy theorist” believes one thing, they believe in all manners of conspiracy, I can assure you this is not the case, especially (and I really cannot iterate this enough) when it comes to the earth being flat, or that they all support Trump.

I’m not saying that the world is perfect and that you should believe everything you hear but if you ever find yourself invested heavily in a thought or idea as I was, maybe take a step back from it all, listen to the other sides case even if its grating, try avoiding podcasts or social media for a while, catch your breath, go for a walk in the woods, pause and reflect. Keep in mind, that only a few months ago, not taking the vaccine was a hill I was willing to die on. Lifes a journey hey.

“The most fatal illusion is the settled point of view. Since life is growth and motion, a fixed point of view kills anybody who has one.” – Brooks Atkinson

Don’t get me wrong I am still wary of injecting something into my body but I’d like to think that now it’s from a healthy point of view. If I can I will avoid it, but I also understand that sometimes these things are necessary. I don’t regret the time I spent toying with these ideas, and if anything it really pointed out how flawed the system that we live in is. That these conspiratorial ideas don’t seem so hard to believe and at times make far more sense than the reality we live it.

In short, this is a cautionary tale of echo chambers, and that sometimes you don’t even realise you are in one until you take a step back.

That being said, Carol Baskin killed her husband, jet fuel can’t melt steel beams and Epstein didn’t kill himself.

“Belief and Change: They’re different.
Knowledge changes all the time. When we engage with the world, when we encounter data or new experiences, our knowledge changes.
But belief is what we call the things that stick around, particularly and especially in the face of changes in knowledge.
While more knowledge can change belief, it usually doesn’t. Belief is a cultural phenomenon, created in conjunction with the people around us.
The easy way to discern the two: “What would you need to see or learn to change your mind about that?” – Seth Godin