therapy journey

My journey to better mental & spiritual health

Tag: awareness

Into the heartspace.

We’re bored. We’re all bored now. But has it ever occurred to you, Wally, that the process that created this boredom that we see in the world now may well be a self-perpetuating, unconscious form of brainwashing created by a world totalitarian government based on money and that all of this is much more dangerous than one thinks? And it’s not just a question of individual survival, Wally, but that somebody who’s bored is asleep, and somebody who’s asleep will not say no? – Andre, ‘My Dinner With Andre’.

Some time has passed since the last time I wrote on therapy journey. In that time, therapy journey has turned one year old, and a new calendar year has also commenced with haste. It has been a period of readjustment and coming around. It has been a time of cold winds and hot baths; long goodbyes and short days; high hopes and low pressure; a time for shining brightly in the dark. I feel like I’ve been gathering myself up, and expressing what I am in all that I do more clearly than ever before.

I’ve cast out the old. In a literal sense, I’ve got around to a task I’d been putting off for years, namely selling, giving away or throwing out hundreds of old possessions that I no longer need. This has been a difficult operation to get my head around, as many of the things I’m disposing of still fit, are current or have plenty of use left. But I’ve realised I simply have too many of these things – mainly clothes and accessories – and rather than hang on to them while they depreciate (and for it to cost me, in various resources, for the privilege), I made the decision that it would be better for them to find a new home while they still hold some value.

It’s been a shaming but humbling experience. From the spiritual side of my being, I can say with certainty that things don’t matter. But from the point of view of minimising waste, allocating resources efficiently, enabling others, sharing my prosperity and respecting the abundance of the planet, it has been important to me that my unwanted possessions go to homes where they too can find a new lease of life until planned obsolesce kicks in, as it inevitably will. I aim to live not only more frugally but with what I already have, which is perfectly adequate in every way. Items may need to be replaced over time but at a more ambling pace. It is my hope that while adjusting to less, for every new item in my wardrobe I get rid of two already in it.

I wrote on this blog some weeks ago about the awful situation that befell me when I unexpectedly ran out of anti-depressant medication. Recently I wrote a letter to my GP informing him of exactly what my predicament was. I chose the letter format to express this because I didn’t want to miss anything out, and one can be more formal and cogent in writing. It also served to express how cut off I was when I requested his help, as I was rebuffed contact by phone and email, leaving only the medium of fax which has been entirely useless for the past fifteen years. I was jubilant after delivering the letter, if only with the hope that the doctor thinks twice about prescribing this medication without a well-thought out weaning-off method worked out. It was my own fault however, to leave for an extended trip without thinking through how to resupply, but I naively thought it would be easy.

In that letter I was able to express some of my darker moments which while I am not proud of, were important to keep hold of during my recovery. “I had an episode where I became convinced that I would kill myself, not out of depressive thoughts but because I became paranoid that the drug was intended to kill me, control me and rot my mind and I would never be free of it. I phoned a couple of my friends and they talked me round.” I am more grateful to the people (and dogs) that surrounded me and comforted me, than to the medical establishment and its wider structure of red tape and loopholes which let them off the hook.

These matters are behind me now, thankfully. Tonight I took myself off to a local meditation group in its second week. This meditation aims to go deep into the heartspace, using sound and our ability to listen to our own heartbeat to focus on emotion. This is in contrast to breath meditation in which mental thought is channelled or invoked. We allow our inner processes to interact with the outside. But we wore earplugs, so all we heard was within ourselves.

Others reported peacefulness, space around them, seeing flowers and wanting to smell them, being enveloped by a cushion that turned liquid. I have to admit that during the powerful 45 minute meditation, I didn’t feel anything profound, no vital energy bubbling up within, nor visions nor even a clearing of the mind. I felt acutely aware of my body and of time passing. I didn’t “go” anywhere. It was beyond me, a beginner, to give into the fullness of the meditative experience, especially one that wasn’t guided. We are meant to learn about our inner nature but I only learned that my energy is not settled in this place. It is shifting, it is unsettled. No matter what I do to gloss over the fact – and I am not consciously aware of it, but I found out tonight that it is wanting to return to a place that is more home than this one.

And then I realised I was the earthchild.

The title of this post comes from a creativity meditation I attended a couple of nights ago. I felt it strongly and powerfully and it made my aching soul sing just a little bit. I’ve been feeling strangely misaligned recently – that really is the best word for it. My intentions are out of kilter with my reality, my perception isn’t in accord with true nature, and I’m failing to see abundance and joy some of the time. I’m experiencing anger rising sometimes. I’m rubbing up against people’s bad sides. And I’m experiencing that most ungodly of all emotions: fear.

However this is just one small part of who I am today. Yes there’s fear, neuroticism, panic, worry, anger, paranoia and doubt. But there are also measures of true authenticity, joy, laughter, the ability to see absurdity, as well as magnetism, happiness and the pure sublime. Above all the feeling is freedom, which propels me forward in a world without limits.

My wishes for this most sacred of times, the winter solstice of the year 2014, are to trust myself, to live with authenticity and to see the abundance that is all around. I also wish to be kind to myself, although I find this concept the hardest to understand let alone put into practice. I wish to acknowledge some of my struggles of the past as I work hard to put them behind me. There is literally no time for the past.

A friend sent me the link today to an article which puts everything I wanted to say better than I ever could on this auspicious day. We learn that by facing up to our deepest, darkest emotions we can move forward.  I believe that no-one is broken and ‘healing’ is a redundant concept but I agree with the sentiment that self-forgiveness leads to the release of toxic and self-sabotaging patterns. However challenging this may prove to be, writing about it here is one of the steps to making it reality.

As part of the ‘releasing the darkness’ stage, we are urged to write an intention, and then burn the paper on which it is written, followed by smudging sage. I am not doing this myself because I can’t get my head around rituals yet, coming as I do from a tradition full of them, and finding pain and inauthenticity there. Rituals still freak me out. Nevertheless the words Syma Kharal uses are beautiful and I wanted to share them here:

“Dear Higher Self/God/Spirit/Universe: No matter what has happened in the past, I am now willing to release everything about it that brought me fear and pain. I surrender to you all that no longer serves me for healing, cleansing and purification. Help me to forgive and be forgiven by all involved. Align my vision that I may see everything from your enlightened perspective and move forward with wisdom, grace, strength and love. So be it.”

Speaking of rituals, it is my fond hope that in the future I overcome my fear of ritual and prayer, and participate in spiritual rituals in order to experience what’s called “liminality”, derived from the Latin limen meaning boundary or threshold. These boundaries might separate the sacred from the profane. A ritual is a dynamic and engaged creative prayer that allows us to set aside the time to recognise, honour and celebrate seminal aspects of life. I’m currently reading about this in ‘The Red Book’ by Sera Beak. The book is all about igniting one’s divine spark and is intended as a no-nonsense guide for young women.

It’s a very inspirational book that I wish I could have read fifteen years ago. But – no regretting the past in any way, shape or form, as the present time is all we have. That’s why the present is a gift. Beak writes that when we open ourselves up to the divine,

“[…] life becomes much  more flavorful. Profound meaning illuminates even the most mundane of events. My relationships deepen. My voice becomes clearer. My work excels. My personal issues become less draining and dramatic. I am less affected I require less outside approval. My self-confidence beams. I laugh more. I judge less. My sexuality roars. Random acts of kindness become a necessity, not just a whim. […] My perspectives are amplified. I see the world around me at much more than face value, and as a result, I make clearer choices across the board […] I realize I’m not just some well-dressed biped trudging through life but actually an incredibly powerful and integral piece of the divine pie.”

She’s a spunky chick and I aim to go deep with my learnings into my divine spark and how to enhance it and be true to myself. Remembering always that authentic divine truth never separates people from each other, countries from each other, religions from each other. I’m receiving the tiniest spark of divinity but it’s possible to smother it with too much kindling, or to let the fire go out without the right nurturing. I want to see this through. Intention is everything. There will be times when I am rude to people. There will be times I am frustrated and utterly disappointed. I will continue to be angry some of the time, because this is a divine part of me, but these will be fewer and further between, I hope, as intentions and reality align. I am the earthchild, I am divine, I am myself, I am everything and nothing.

“It’s all about paradox, mystery, meditation, sexuality, long walks, and momentous haircuts.” – Sera Beak, ‘The Red Book’.

abundance

I have no self. I am not a self. There is no I. There is nothing.

I chanced upon an entirely philosophical idea recently that has mind-boggling power. There is a universal notion that we all take for granted – the notion of I. Me. That is, the first person self or “unified being which is the source of consciousness”. The thing I refer to as I is separate from the whole. It is unique and we each have a special personal duty to our individual Is. It is almost impossible to dispense with oneself as the source for the individual’s thoughts and actions. Every society has the idea of accountability or personal responsibility once we become adult.

It is interesting to see what happens when we shift our understanding and start to see this I as a fictional creation. What happens? We now the world as the seamless, dynamic and discrete organism that it is. Now consider that I am a part of this thing without an enduring ego or self. Suddenly there are no static pieces of the puzzle to be removed, reassembled and replaced at will. There are no meaningful boundaries between one organism and another. There is just what is. The detail dissolves into the bigger picture. It helps if we imagine consciousness as a mistake.

Of course we need Is in order to function in society. On the whole, we avoid what is threatening and seek out that which is beneficial to our survival and personal fulfilment. I search for ego validation constantly to confirm my sense of self. We all do. Self-affirmation proves that people that matter understand me, love me, accept me, respect me or whatever it is I’m craving at any given moment.

I’m considering the idea that the I is not real in an ultimate sense. It’s a meaningless fiction that only exists in our minds in the manner of a useful collective delusion. It represents a shallow and restrictive way of being that for many people, is absorbing to the point of obsession.

I know I am quite deep and self-obsessed. I like the I that… well, I have constructed. Not only does it serve me well in my interactions with other people, but it is endlessly fascinating. But suppose for a moment I consider the alternative. The Śūnyatā is a beautiful Buddhist concept which refers to emptiness, vacuity, openness. I have been watching a lot of maths programmes lately and an interesting connection is that Śūnyatā comes from the very culture that gave us the zero (śhūnya). The scriptures of the Theravadan Buddhist tradition, called the Pāli Canon, uses the Śūnyatā term in three ways. Firstly as a meditative dwelling. Secondly as an attribute of objects. And lastly as a type of awareness-release. It’s Śūnyatā as awareness-release that I’m most interested in.

One simply notes what is present without identifying those things with one’s own self. It is achieved through intense concentration and increased awareness of shifting and subtle levels of disturbance. This is an exchange between the Buddha and his attendant Ānanda:

Ānanda: It is said that the world is empty […] in what respect […] is it empty?
Buddha: Insofar as it is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self: thus it is said, Ānanda, that the world is empty.

I love this idea of emptiness as a huge positive affirmation of life, its interconnectedness and oneness, rather than a sadness. Tonight I went to a creativity meditation class, in which we focussed on feeling awareness in our bodies rather than minds. It was a welcome relief as my mind has been chattering incessantly since I stopped taking paroxetine a week ago. The good news is the withdrawal only lasts between 2 and 6 weeks. I’ve started a heady cocktail of herbal medication which should combat some of the side effects of the withdrawal. The remedies I’ve started are Omega 3 EFA complex (for head zaps); B-Complex 100 (to boost mood as well as supporting metabolism and nervous system); melatonin (for sleep); ‘Scullcap’ (Scutellaria lateriflora for sleep, relaxing and overcoming anxiety); and an anti-anxiety blend of kava kava, passionflower, bacopa, albizia & lavender. I took my first dose of the anti-anxiety stuff a few hours ago and feel a little better already, plus the head zaps have abated touchwood as my brain readjusts.

Last night was one of my worst experiences. I didn’t fall asleep until 11am and then only for two hours. During the night I took six herbal sleeping tablets I had lying around to no avail. By 7am I was cold, bored and at my wits’ end so decided to go for a run around the neighbourhood. It helped warm me up, but I just couldn’t feel tired. The insomnia wasn’t even the worst part. That was saved for the fog of confusion in my head, the uncontrollable crying, feeling sadness so palpably, sheer irritability, feeling nauseous, diarrhoea every few hours – and the mind zaps.

That’s one of the worst things. Mid-morning, before I fell asleep, I counted how often they came. There were between one and four zaps every five seconds on average and this is for a few hours. Coming off paroxetine it feels like my mind just does not work. It takes a long time to do very simple things, and they feel utterly pointless. Earlier all I wanted to do was curl up and shut the doors on the world, but I’m making a huge effort to go about my life in a normal way, meeting friends for coffee, going to spiritual meet ups, doing my artwork, feeding myself, writing, playing with the dogs etc. I have faith I’ll get there, even if I have to go about everything in a slow and forced way for the time being.

Overthinking and freedom from prison.

G, my psychotherapist, pointed out that it was obvious the inflated emphasis I put on cerebral activities. I had not realised before that there was an alternative. My mind is always crowded with thoughts about something and nothing. These aren’t necessarily productive thoughts such as ideas, but can instead be circular, neurotic, mildly paranoid and self-sabotaging.

Perhaps I seek validation for my overthinking in the books that I read. In the same way I gain comfort from writing neat little accounts of my progress, reading books loosely about self-improvement helps to rationalise, provides solace, and in a sense, to shuts me off from experience with the excuse of ‘yet more research’. But nevertheless, I feel it’s beneficial and interesting to read in order to get the ideas under my belt with which to really live my life.

It is through books and the internet, alongside talking to therapists and reaching out to others that I am slowly developing a sense of the other side that’s out there. This other side isn’t even out there, it’s already here, within me. The opposite to materialism, the opposite to depression, the opposite to enslavement, the opposite to overthinking. So G can say that I use my head a lot more than my feelings, but for me this is a huge step up. It was not that long ago that my feelings were overpoweringly, cripplingly depressive and I was too fragile to contemplate anything like self-improvement with the ultimate and ongoing intention to set myself free from the constraints that are mere figments of my imagination.

There’s a passage in F**k It Therapy that really made me laugh and wake up to what freedom isn’t.

“But most of us have a fantasy about freedom. And that’s why those movies and music work on us, but not because we’re free and on the open road of life. Do you think the true rebels and pioneers are watching Thelma and Louise and listening to The Clash? No, they work on us because we’re still in our chains. Do you know how many white-collar workers there are out there with big motorbikes? Do you know how many Audi drivers listen to Eminem? How many grandfathers are listening to punk? How many media people say ‘cool’? How many of the dudes at school became financial advisers? Don’t knock them. It’s probably me. It’s probably you.” – F**k It Therapy by John C. Parkin.

The book tells you how to identify the prisons that you are unwittingly incarcerated in and then to change them if you want. We are imprisoned by the constant and ultimately fruitless search for meaning when it isn’t there in those places where we seek. A sense of perspective on life is important. The stories we surround ourselves with imprison us. We have an idea about who we were, who we are now and who we’d like to become. The human state is to move from naivete to experience, from playfulness to seriousness, getting older, weaker and wearier all the while. These stories don’t reflect reality; life resists the stories we tell in order to try and fix everything.

So we have the prison of our search for meaning in the wrong places. We have a prison of our stories. We also construct a prison if our aims take over our lives. We construct prisons of thought. A thought-less life is not what’s being advocated, merely the suggestion that eschewing an entirely thought-based approach to life can open you up to amazing things. This speaks to me and is very timely in the light of being ‘diagnosed’ a chronic overthinker. The other prisons we might find ourselves in including fixing ideas to ourselves. These might be religious, materialistic or spiritual beliefs. Hold all ideas lightly, is the f**k it approach. Sure, dip your toe here, dabble there, get a new perspective there. The one possible spiritual truth, Parkin dares to venture, is that we are all connected, maybe even all one. Our perception of separation is an illusion that creates suffering.

My own personal prisons are:

1) my unwillingness to change and push my boundaries. However I have done a lot to confront this issue over the past 12 months. 2) my reliance on thinking… – now that I know about my habit to over think – and have awareness there is an alternative – I will try not to give much attention to those persistent and nagging thoughts. 3) …and the anger and negativity that this leads to. This is the biggest and scariest problem that I have. I am acutely disappointed every time I let myself, my partner and my friends down.

 

Love is the ultimate reality. It is the only. The all.

There is only one reason to do anything: as a statement to the universe of Who You Are. This is a powerful idea and underlines the importance of personal responsibility, the duty to be authentic, owning our own creations, both collectively and individually. Events are created by man’s collective consciousness. All thought is creative. Emotion is the power that attracts. It is energy in motion. Move energy and create effect. Move enough energy and create matter. Thought is pure energy, it never ever dies. A thought is forever.

The power of thought is simply huge, infinite. There are no victims, no villains. We create all that we say we detest, and having created it, we have chosen it. This has a serious upshot for anyone, like me, seeking to change their life. As long as we harbour the notion that someone or something else is causing our distress, we disempower ourselves to change anything. So, I understand and accept that my prior negative states were chosen by myself. I seek change not because one thing is right and another is wrong, but because my negative state no longer makes an accurate statement about who I am.

The Laws (of the Universe!) are as follows:

1) Thought is creative
2) Fear attracts like energy
3) Love is all there is


Reading about magnificent cosmic ideas almost makes me wish I was into mind-altering drugs so I could enter into beautiful philosophies fully. It’s all very well reading and writing about God/Love but the challenge is to make it stick, to make the ideas contained within this book (Conversations With God by Walsch) more than flavour of the month. I’d like to bear out the messages that I am reading about with every fibre of my being, for them to become automatic and ingrained in time. I do believe these things. I do want to believe that love is the only ultimate reality. I am going through a shift, and like all changes will take time and commitment, that’s all.

This book is not at all wishy-washy and in fact contains some of the most logical, clear arguments that I’ve encountered in a book. The conversation style of pertinent question and astute answer is incredibly well put together. I would urge anyone looking for the smallest iota of spiritual guidance, who is feeling lost, alone, bereft, depressed or unwell to pick up this book and just start reading.

Sometimes in my own life I have an impulse to shut down, to dismantle and wait it out until I am better rested or in a better mood. I put it down to exhaustion but how real are tiredness and grumpiness? It’s all in my mind. Also there are still other times when I behave in a way that doesn’t show who I want to be and what I am. For example I might take half an hour away from my desk at work to lie on the toilet cubicle floor wrapped in my coat. This is less than authentic behaviour, but I do it because at that moment I am tired, cold, bored and craving the most basic comfort. This is a clear sign to me that my destiny lies elsewhere, in a mental and physical space where I do not feel like shutting down. Allow each soul to walk its path.

Conversations with God. Fear and love.

I recently chanced upon the writings of someone that I know and respect and they said there was a book that awakened her. She wrote that, after reading this particular book, “for the first time, [I was] in deep peace and comfortable in my own skin. I knew this feeling as love, without condition just as it was, without the need to change a thing. A moment of surrender, it was bliss.” With a recommendation like that, I was curious, especially as this person spent much of their life with all the comforts and amenities of first world living, yet still felt a lack on some level (and the guilt that that entails); and on still another level, an internal, deep-rooted sense of inadequacy.

I picked up the book that kickstarted my friend’s journey. The book is called Conversations With God by Neale Donald Walsch. I don’t believe in God. Not the God of the Bible, Quran, Torah or Veda. I didn’t believe in God as a spiritual being that gives life and love to all, as the beating heart of the cosmos. I never understood the idea of God as Love – though I often wanted to even as a child and young adult. Now as I stand on the cusp of a new decade, having just received some decisive news about my health and the necessity of an invasive operation with a 5% mortality rate, I am ready and open to God in a way that I never have been before. I am open to the spirit, chi, life force, God, soul… and I know that it is within me in a way that brings tears to my eyes.

Walsch wrote a letter to God and got a response. This book is God’s response. The insights, truths and answers that ‘God’ gave show nothing more or less than the fact that God is in all of us, that’s what this book is about. There was nothing special about Walsch, he wasn’t the chosen one. He simply had an inspiration that feeling is the language of the soul, and that which comes from God is our highest thought, our clearest word, our grandest feeling. Anything less is not from God.

How did he know the communication was from God? It only matters that what Walsch felt was real, that he had chanced upon fundamental truths. What would be the difference whether it was imagination or madness? We all have a duty to receive the messages of God directly. Experiencing and interpreting them is our responsibility. Most of us are not willing to listen.

Love is another word for God. Unconditional love doesn’t exist in the human sphere. I certainly have trouble understanding God that loves unconditionally. This really struck a chord with me: “It was your parents who taught you that love is conditional – and that is the experience you take into your own love relationships. It is also the experience you bring to Me.” We have forgotten what it is to be loved without fear of punishment, without fear, without qualification.

Human actions are based in only one of two things. Fear or Love. There is a beautiful passage about these only two thoughts that there are.

“Fear is the energy which contracts, closes down, draws in, runs, hides, hoards, harms.
Love is the energy which expands, opens up, sends out, stays, reveals, shares, heals.
Fear wraps out bodies in clothing, love allows us to stand naked. Fear clings to and clutches all that we have, love gives all that we have away. Fear holds close, love holds dear. Fear grasps, love lets go. Fear rankles, love soothes. Fear attacks, love amends.”
– Conversations With God, by Neale Donald Walsch


					

Craniosacral therapy the second time round.

Doing all these different therapies gives me a chance to evaluate where I am from one set point in time to another, as I can see how far I have come from one session to the next. Today I went for my second cranio-sacral therapy treatment (CST). Around 7 weeks had gone by since my first session and I remember how different I felt then while talking to the practitioner, B. When asked about how things are for me, there is a tendency to talk about whatever’s going on in relation to what my mindset was the previous time. I remember feeling very different the last time I was sat on that couch in B’s therapy room. Today I felt really fine. I have no conflicts, internal or external, that I know of. I have no stress in any part of my head or body (apart from the right shoulder blade where I hold tension and I am becoming increasingly aware of the discomfort there). I feel lucky to have the bounty the universe has bestowed upon me and I am at great pains to be thankful and kind in this moment to all that inhabit the earth.

I got up on the bench and the treatment began with meditative breathing. B placed his hands on my shoulders to start with. The contact is so slight there I wonder if there is contact at all. We stayed like this for probably ten minutes and I felt so very relaxed, almost as if I could nod off at any moment. He asked how I felt and I said very fluid and stress-free, consciously aware of every part of my body that touched the bench and feeling those points melt into the bench. There was a long pillow underneath my upper thighs, meaning my lower back was flat against the bench rather than being arched upwards, which was a blissful feeling. He next placed his hands under my lower back. He stayed there for 5 minutes or so. While he was there, I had the sensation of shivers going up my spine twice. He said it’s quite normal for the body to perform strange movements and have unusual sensations while the lower back is being treated. It’s the spine’s energy being released.

He moved on to my head and behind the neck. I didn’t feel such a strong feeling of any kind. I felt totally relaxed, or so I thought. After I was off the bench, I asked him what energy he felt in me. He said that my nervous system wasn’t giving of itself today. It isn’t anything to worry about but there just wasn’t such a strong reaction as the first time, when I felt my skull moving. It takes time to build rapport, and so much time had passed since my last CST session too, so it’s normal that my nerves weren’t quite so receptive. There was a block in my energy, an impasse through which B could not penetrate.

According to their website, CST has been said to provide for patients, “comfort, inner peace, a sense of relief, deep stillness and relaxation, connection, feeling accepted, feeling more fully alive, feeling whole again”. This time round, I cannot say I experienced any deep peace and satisfaction which I did during my first session. It was relaxing, yes, and it felt like it had meaning – but this could be the experience of being in close proximity to another human being who is proferring healing. The feeling of being pampered and being given permission to enter fully into a moment is a compelling reason to give it validation.

blue skies

Fruit & the truth ripen simultaneously.

At my psychotherapy session yesterday I spoke about the positive changes that I’ve been going through. It was good for me to voice them hence giving to them the real weight they deserve. It makes them feel more real to me, as I don’t talk about them to anyone else. The changes are real and will be lasting – at the most fundamental I have to believe that. The new me is young, G says, and must be both allowing and nurturing.

I am training my beat-up psyche both to allow ‘bad’ states of being when they occur; and to nurture the positive ones. Years of conditioning and wallowing in misery have made contentment all too short-lived when it does occur, and it’s time to break out of that cycle once and for all, slowly so it sticks. It has cost me many years of thwarted happiness, even wilful unhappiness. The new way of being will unfurl gradually like a fruit ripening. Savouring each moment whatever mood states it holds, because it’s all I have. From Kabat-Zinn:

“It is best to encounter each moment with freshness, its rich potential held in awareness. We look deeply into it, and then we let to into the next moment, not holding to the last one. Each moment then can be fresh, each breath a new beginning, a new letting go, a new letting be.”

I talked about the current happiness in my relationship, and G asked why is is like this now. What characterises the happiness? I think it is the easeful and considerate communication we have established for one thing. How is it that in becoming more tolerant, we actually become more considerate? Strange really. I guess that is the power of rapport. Secondly I no longer resent not having time to “myself”. I really love the times when I am around my boyfriend. This might sound like I’m losing sight of who I am or something, for the sake of my relationship but not at all. As I said this out loud, I realised for the first time that this is a truth of mine: I have the strongest sense of self at the present time than I have ever experienced at any time in the past. I hope this powerful feeling continues, and I will make it. It feels brilliant right now and that’s what matters. Not the worries that it is illusory, or temporary, or will become inadequate. These are all just non-existent potential problems with my perception. I have stopped making problems or myself, and instead accept that I cannot control outcomes, only my own thoughts and actions.

G said it this is a momentous transformation that I am undergoing. Knowing that all the resources I require for it were in me all along is a huge thing to take in. All this time I was looking for other people, places, connections, prescriptions and stimulants. I’m finally ready. But couldn’t have done any of this until the time was right. I have decided to be at cause in my universe.

“The journey is one of heroic proportions, but so much more so if enlivened by wakefulness and a commitment to adventurous enquiry. As a human being, you are the central figure in the universal hero’s mythic journey, the fairy tale, the Arthurian quest […] this journey is the trajectory between birth and death, a human life lived. No one escapes the adventure. We only work with it differently.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are.

Kundalini. The curl of the lock of hair.

I’ve started a new class in Kundalini yoga which is known as the ‘yoga of awareness’, utilising life force energy located at the bottom of the spine and combining breath and a lot of movement. Kundalini is a relatively new branch of yoga, based on the writings of spiritual teacher Sivananda Saraswati who founded the Divine Life Society on the banks of the Ganges in 1936. Influences come from tantra and shakta schools of Hinduism. It was popularised in the 1960s by  Harbhajan Singh, also known as Yogi Bhajan. Kundalini yoga is said to strengthen and balance the body, give clarity to the mind, release tension, make contact with your infinity and innate inner wisdom, and help you to feel peaceful and fully charged.

According to Saraswati’s treatise, it aims “to cultivate the creative spiritual potential of a human to uphold values, speak truth, and focus on the compassion and consciousness needed to serve and heal others.” This sounds absolutely beautiful. The name ‘kundalini’ has a poetic metaphor behind it, meaning “the curl of the lock of hair”, a reference to the energy and consciousness that flows within us.

The long class uses a blend of postures, pranayam, music, mantra and meditation, which teach the art of relaxation, self-healing and elevation. You get very deep into the soul of yoga. One of the exercises was to move from baby position to caterpillar on your belly with spine curled upwards, then back into baby and up into a downward dog, which is like a triangle shape with your bottom in the air and head down, feet flat on the mat. It’s going to take some practice. This and all the exercises were done with breath being the momentum that carries you onward, and so the movement of the body. and the inhale/ exhale is totally synchronised.

It felt very good performing the breath of fire. This isn’t when you’ve had too much vindaloo but a step away from Western breathing using just the chest area. The breath of fire is awareness of your breathing using the diaphragm to its full extent. Taking intense rapid breaths through the nostrils you fill your abdomen with new air and quickly expel the old. We must have looked like a class of hyperventilators. The technique is said to be good for clearing deposits from the nasal cavities and extending lung capacity, both of which are great for me as these are two problem areas.

Another exercise that I found surprisingly strenuous was lying flat on your back with hands placed under your bottom so the lower back is flat against the mat, then lifting straight legs to a 60 degree angle and opening and crossing them closed, with alternate legs being on top. You do this exercise at a fast pace in a sudden 3-minute burst of energy, which is very taxing when your body hasn’t the discipline for any sustained physical activity whatsoever.

All the physical exercises were tough for me. My body felt tired afterwards and a little achy rather than rejuvenated. All the more reason to stick at it, so that perhaps in a few sessions’ time I can actually feel the benefit. The day after (today) I have no aches but have become more aware of the awkward ways I hold my body, in particular my tense right shoulder.

Aside from the physical exertions, there is also a more meditative aspect to the class I attended. There are spiritual affirmations that are repeated – either chanted in a way that exercises the voice and you really feel your voice; or sung in a way that clears out old air from your lungs. You do feel a bit silly doing the Hindu chanting, but it’s easy to suspend that feeling and just give in to it, like when you dance and after loosening up a little your inhibitions go.

Kundalini yoga uses the energy locks system and focusses on the locks around the lower back. All that energy is contained within the spine – Kundalini wakes it up and shakes it out of its office-life imposed sloth. Sometimes a pose or an exercise will involve connecting the tips of your thumbs together or connecting your thumb and index finger as if circling an imaginary egg, which seemed arbitrary before but I’m beginning to see how this all makes a big picture.

I’m not a natural yogi, I even found sitting cross-legged with a straight back too much at times, but I saw the goodness that is at the core of this teaching and I will endeavour to continue whenever I am free on class night. I feel really lucky to have discovered this amazing way of tapping into inner resources and seeking all that I wish inside my very soul.

Body and mind.

It’s time to start focusing on the physical body as well as the expanding mind. As often happens in life, you devote your energies to a current project that interests and consumes you, but logically there has to be something else that suffers. For me, I have clearly been addressing my psychological wellbeing, and on top of that have spent more time cultivating existing friendships, working on my relationship, excelling at my job, eating and resting well, and generally being super. What is lacking is any sustained physical exertion, or attempt to train my body. I bang on about a holistic approach to therapy, yet neglect how important the physical body is to mental wellbeing.

Yesterday I was given the once over by a Tanita Body Composition Analyzer and the results were predictable. Most of the time I feel like I’m wasting away. When I stepped up onto the scale, I felt like the 7-year old with too-big clothes. My weight had dropped again. I have an ongoing health issue that has given my lungs a battering in recent years. The infection has become something else from the disease I had in 2011, but it doesn’t affect my day-to-day life very much except having to take medication every 12 hours. I am sure that the medication or the disease itself causes weight to drop off me. I have always been skinny but there is less of me now than at any other point in my life.

Being skinny is something I don’t really think about. Sure, I know I am lucky to be able to wear skimpy things without rolls of fat hanging out, and it’s great being able to eat like a horse and not pile on the pounds, and also there’s something very efficient about taking up less space, that really appeals to me. But for me, my current uber-skinniness is connected with the unpleasantness and uncertainty of being long-term ill. It’s the suspicion that I might be disappearing, gradually, almost imperceptibly.

Tanita complete

I’ve included some of my data here, including blood pressure (some diastolic readings were red-zone low, but overall, normal). I was shocked that my ‘ideal body weight’ whatever that means, is 15kg more than my current weight. I have to remember that this kind of meaningless garbage is purely theoretical tosh based on averages and is only meant as a guide. But just so I can get it out, here are the stats. Fat mass: 7%. BMI: 16.5. Degree of obesity: -25.2. BMR (how many calories I need at rest to function effectively): 1146kcal. On the plus side, my metabolic age is 14. So lots to build on for a fitter, happier, more toned future.

I went to a Pilates class last night as a baby step. I had been told during the day during an exploratory neck and shoulder massage (combining Eastern techniques and Chinese meridian points with Swedish deep tissue massage), that I have a tendency to raise my right shoulder a little when in repose. As soon as the masseur said it, I realised he was absolutely spot on. My body holds tension in that right shoulder and I can feel it right now as I type. It’s not to do with being right handed, just a bad habit. The lop-sidedness is no doubt terrible for my energy flows.

The Pilates class was incredibly fulfilling, and while I couldn’t hold all the positions for as long as others did, I certainly felt very eager to learn and to try. I can see myself getting better at it. The feeling afterwards was of being incredibly refreshed, in mind and body. A tightened core makes you feel good from within. I didn’t feel tired until late last night, despite a demanding professional event I attended post-class.

Life has really been amazing recently. Life is amazing, but I mean I’ve really stopped to notice it and to revel in how lucky I am. The book, by Jon Kabat-Zinn continues to inspire me. This is about the character of awareness.
“Awareness is not the same as thought. It lies beyond thinking, although it makes use of thinking, honoring its value and its power. Awareness is more like a vessel which can hold and contain our thinking helping us to see and know our thoughts as thoughts rather than getting caught up in them as reality.”

And this is about the dangers of positive thinking.
“If we decide to think positively, that may be useful, but it is not meditation. It is just more thinking. We can as easily become a prisoner of so-called positive thinking as of negative thinking. It can be confining, fragmented, inaccurate, illusory, self-serving, and wrong. Another element altogether is required to induce transformation in our lives and take us beyond the limits of thought.”