I've learnt some valuable lessons in life recently; interestingly perhaps, they began just at the point my youngest child left home. I see this as life's way of re-adjusting things; calling things into question as suddenly the space open up to do that; to contemplate.
When my son left, I found I was already thinking about the labels we apply to ourselves and others and reflecting on why we do that. Does it make it easier for us to categorise difference rather than seeking 'sameness'? Is it easier to protect our soft and tender places when we make a decision that someone not the same as us must be 'wrong' about the world,and therefore 'wrong' about us too just because they are different? Why do we separate, segregate and need to be 'right'?
I began to recognise two things; one, that labels create tension and tension creates dispute, and secondly, we can find ourselves backed into tight corners when adopting these 'labels' for ourselves, and once wearing that label, we may just realise it isn't actually right for us any more, and perhaps it never was.
It's easy to label people, and much harder sometimes to keep an open heart and mind, to truly listen to another person's experience without needing to jump in an offer an opinion before even really accepting what has been shared.
Over time, the labels I have applied to myself or which have had applied to me have changed a great deal; trouble, addict, sex worker, slut, whore, bitch, ballbreaker, entrepreneur, business woman, employee, mother, breathworker, vegan, heterosexual, bisexual, vegetarian, teacher, shaman, coach, etc; the list is endless! Some were reclaimed words, others not. Some levelled at me in anger or hate, others not. Some gave me the comfort of belonging, the feeling of tribe, of community, others left me distinctly an 'outsider', but the one thing they had in common was that somehow, in some way, they created separation or identity, neither of which are especially helpful.
Of course some labels can be useful; 'what do you value in the world XXX?', or 'what do you offer?' Questions that can be asked to get to know a person better, but when does that knowing become a label, then become a 'decision' about the person?
I have built a fair amount of my career around healthy eating, clean food and eventually plant based living. Prior to that much of my career focussed on addiction services and sexual freedom campaigning. Many different labels!
Inevitably when I came to change some of those labels recently, several things began to happen; firstly people felt it was ok to challenge my personal process. I'm ok with that, I have some very public social media pages so discussion is welcome, but what I'm less ok with is people telling me I'm 'wrong', and that they therefore must be 'right'.
The thing that really disturbs me about this is that the older I get the more I realise that there are as many versions of 'right' in this world as there are people, and that the only thing that's truly certain in life is change and death! We experience the world and we are changed by it, and when we aren't open to that possibility, we stagnate, freeze or become rigid in our thinking. We become so attached to our own worldview that suddenly, that view becomes dogma.
This list above - number one on the list of synonyms is 'teaching' and surely teaching is about sharing knowledge and allowing discussion? A principle and an ethic can be a great pointer to the values and choices we make, but the words laws, rules, beliefs and convictions leave me a little less comfortable. These suggest rigidity, and punishment for breaking the 'rules', and whilst to a degree we all have to learn to live within society's rules, when we start making our own sub-sections of 'rules', it's game over! More fighting, more dispute, more dogma.
Recently, a person tagged me in an Instagram post pointing me to a long winded rant about what was good for the body and not good (food wise). This was done to disprove some current things I'm exploring personally, and yet it's fascinating because on another page in the very same feed this morning, there I saw the long-winded advice person heralded as 'right' by my friend, being called out as a charlatan and a scammer by another nutritionist in the same forum, and the truth is that none of that matters because I'm doing it for me...not for you, not to prove anything, and definitely not to be 'right'!
Go there and go down a rabbit hole folks!
My best advice to all in my work is learn to listen to your body, find what works for you. Listen to your heart too, and use the mind for discernment only, and not for judgement or criticism and segregation. What's right for one isn't always right for another.
Today's post is to make a plea for us all to take a moment to step out of attachment to our ideologies before they become dogma; as the saying goes, "you do you and I'll do me". Let's listen more, and judge less.
Have a beautiful Sunday, and whether your particular 'church' is a religious or spiritual place, hanging out in nature, dancing or some other healing place of sanctuary for you, wherever it is, be there and be there with love, compassion and understanding...
...and always keep an open mind.
Every year at Christmas, three things usually increase; our weight, our stress levels and the prevalence of depression. This of course means our physical, mental and emotional health are all being impacted by the pressure to please, consume, over-eat, be enough, do enough and give enough!
We are bombarded from as early as late October with Christmas adverts promoting plush gifts, expensive food tables, and a kind of shark-feeding frenzy of consumerism and pressure to join in the many wild office or personal parties out there, whilst inside perhaps all we want to do is curl up and nourish ourselves in other ways.
This pressure creates a tension that I'm sure many relate to and affects our sense of peace, wellbeing and balance, so let's look at some ways we can avert this 'crisis' before it hits us.
The Danes have a lifestyle concept called 'Hygge', a 'concept which can't easily be translated to one single word but encompasses a feeling of cosy contentment and well-being through enjoying the simple things in life. If you've ever enjoyed reading a book indoors on a rainy Sunday or a cup of hot cocoa on a snow day you've experienced hygge'. If you love to curl up in home made dens, nestle with blankets and hot water bottles, and simply gaze into the fire, this is Hygge, but actually, this more widely put is just great self care.
Hygge is a prevailing sense of stillness and peace in the present moment, and an appreciation of a deep and nourishing sense of cosiness. Sounds great right? For most of us however, we get caught up in consume, consume, consume and we lose our centre in the crazy whirlwind that is this time of year; a far cry from the rest and hibernation nature shows us is more appropriate in these dark days and long, cold nights.
If you are prepared and if you are mindful, you can avoid the common pitfalls and really 'have yourself a merry little Christmas', so here are my top tips for a wonderful Christmas season.
Lastly, befriend Winter! The video below is from one of my new absolute favourite people. Listen with awe as Jonna Jinton explains how she is learning to make peace with the darkness and the cold.
Reach out if you're struggling; I will be offering my one to one sessions throughout some of the Christmas and New Year Period, and if you are really struggling, please refer to the helplines on the Integration Protocols page of my website.
Have a lovely run up to Christmas everyone, with love and health! Steph x o x
Many of you know that I'm just back from about 2 1/2 months of travelling and adventure. Prior to leaving the UK, my youngest child left home and I spent some time feeling into these new spaces in myself, and in my life. Then, BOOM! suddenly it was done...my 'grieving' felt as though it had moved through me and a sense of freedom began to grow. Was that it, I thought? How present you have been to this Steph, I thought. No! I had simply made space for more 'stuff' to reveal itself.
Today, bumping into some dear friends and laughing about life, we pondered "is there always more stuff"? YES! We decided there is, and this, in essence is the nature of being human, staying authentic and allowing oneself to:
A) Be vulnerable
B) Be present to all that arises
C) Not act like an arrogant sod!
But this is not the same as getting stuck there, taking root, becoming comfortable in that space of habit. It's more that as we increase our awareness and bring it to presence, we have the chance to rub off the sharper edges, soften the rough surfaces, and our core wounds and sufferings become easier to navigate and lighter each time they surface.
Es Vedra, Ibizan rock of magic and mystery. How you tested me Ibiza! I won't go into story here, save to say that every part of me was forced to really feel, and I mean really feel my weak spots, my sore points and my deepest insecurities. It probably came on the back of the three weeks I had just completed in Mallorca with my dear friend Fran. We were hosting two back to back detox retreats, and detoxing does that, it brings E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G to the surface! Physical, mental and emotional...all there served up on this enormous platter called LIFE!
We were also both calling into question much of what we have learnt or believe in as detox and nutritional coaches and healers. What if everything we know is wrong? Always a great question to ask....
I was posing this question to myself this whilst also reading Dr Joe Dispenza's amazingly inspiring book "Becoming Supernatural" - it was having an effect - I was questioning my habitual behaviour, beliefs and thoughts, and consciously working to change them. I was experimenting with myself if you like.
All of this felt something like vigorously shaking up the sand in the bottom of a lake, and combined with the trauma release training we were doing as part of our graduating student's Alchemy of Breath Breathwork training, stuff was most definitely moving and I did not feel comfortable one bit! How can I push this down, pretend it's not there, make it smaller, I asked myself? 'Can I fake it until through the other side' I asked myself, but I couldn't, and if I tried, the energy leaked out in other ways anyway and just made everything worse. So surrendering to what needed to be felt and released, I practiced what I preach and just allowed myself to be raw as f**k, wide open and lost.
When lost, before long, one finds oneself....
And so, passing through the eye of the storm I came home, still open, raw and vulnerable, to begin the integration process, a part of the journey so many people skip, and possibly the most vital element of self mastery.
Every night since I got home, I have dreamt of my time in Ibiza; every single night until a couple of days ago! This tells me my sub-conscious mind is processing deeply, and I'm grateful for the autumnal darkness and hibernation possibility of this season. I can go within and 'take stock'. It's not just been about letting go of my son, my previous life, or my sense of 'self' (ego), it's been about being willing to face my deepest fears and let go of EVERYTHING. Then, and only then, can we walk through the fire and see what's left in the ashes.
My work is evolving most clearly as a result. My diet is changing, my path is revealing itself and my self awareness has come full circle into self acceptance, an acceptance that meets me exactly as I am. I wish that we would all give ourselves this gift of both vulnerability AND integration. I wish that we may all find the courage to be less than perfect; the world would be a better place for sure in doing so, and in being so.
I have already begun the task of re-writing my website, re-structuring my work and I know that more will evolve over winter. I welcome you all to these quiet months; go within and seek solitude and stillness. Grow yourself and most importantly, question everything to you think you know! It's a very humbling process!
CHANGE YOUR LIFE!
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