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.

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.