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I was 20 years old and devastated. I had just had a falling out with a friend - we had one of those intense friendships that sometimes, like in our case, burn out. I sought solace in a local meditative art class facilitated by Toni Carmine Salerno, who now runs Blue Angel Publishing. It was a pretty amazing class. One day in the class I painted out the story of our friendship and told my story. A kindly woman reached into her pocket and drew out a little piece of paper. On it was drawn the outline of a person sitting in meditation, with spots running up their spine in the 7 colours of the rainbow. "You need to balance your chakras" she wisely advised me.
I thought she was crazy.
I took the paper politely, but I couldn't see how I could possibly have rainbow coloured spots running up my spine and never have noticed, nor how this strange little drawing could be of any use to my situation.
And yet, for some reason, I never threw out that paper.
You could say my embracing of chakras and their energy was a slow burn. And it's easy to understand how these strange drawings and stories of wheels of light and energy and long Sanskrit names can feel off-putting to the more practically minded amongst us.
Funnily enough though, later at uni I studied respected psychological theories such as Maslow's hierarchy of need. Guess what? It approaches the same content, but using the acceptable language of Western psychology.
Over the years I have got so much benefit from balancing my chakras and energy healing. I have picked up strategies that have seen me through times when my thoughts were too unwieldy to manage and my heart too broken to try. I see energy work as another piece of the puzzle. And further studies in counselling psychology opened up the world of metaphor and symbology and their potent use in therapy.
The pieces have come together - whether chakras and energy healing are taken as literal or metaphorical, they provide an ancient set of tools that speak to our unconscious and subconscious mind to create shifts our ego won't consciously allow us. I've experienced enough myself to believe directly in the power of our energy system, but if this idea seems as crazy to you as my helpful lady did to me all those years ago - don't worry, I get it. But use the tools anyway as a form of supporting that ancient part of your mind which works in pictures and metaphors, not words and strategies. The part where dreams and nightmares, phobias and inspiration exist. Here are 7 places to start, 1 for each chakra.
So whether you love the idea of diving into the chakras, or whether for you they are a useful metaphoric guide to the growth of the human spirit, try the practices above related to the chakra you instinctively feel is the weakest for you. If you don't know where to begin, always begin with the first and develop a grounded foundation for your life, from where all else can grow.
And I'd love to hear from you! Do you already work with your chakras? And if this is new, which practice will you experiment with? Let me know in the comments below and share with a friend who could benefit too.
Growing up, I loved to sneak a peek at my older sisters' fashion mags, and by the time I was a teenager I was voraciously reading my own with friends at school. Every month taught me a new way to be pretty or lose weight or be more popular or stylish.
The problem was, these instructions were built on a broken foundation. The paradigm was wrong - we were taught that our bodies were ornaments and the goal was to be "perfect", whatever that meant.
Years later, some of the magazines caught onto a trend of teaching us to love our bodies. The way to do this was to accept that only 8 people in the world could look like supermodels, the rest of us must just "disguise our flaws" and "focus on our good points". Besides, we were told, it is okay to have curves because men like them! This created a double whammy of telling us we're only acceptable if men deem us to be, and divides us according to our build.
Unfortunately this still works on a belief that our female bodies are wrong and broken, and we must just make the best of them that we can. Or worse, that approval of ourselves needs to be based on whether we have earned the approval of men.
But the problem is not our bodies. The problem is that we are conditioned from birth to think our bodies are ornaments to be made into an accepted standard of beauty, that other people - particularly men - have the right to judge us based on our appearance, and that we are fighting a losing battle trying to achieve a body type that we just weren't born with. It doesn't matter whether the magazines are telling us to "lose 3 dress sizes by lunchtime" or "men want you to be curvy" - we're still being dictated to for our self worth.
So how do we fix this conundrum? As Albert Einstein famously said, "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them".
It's clear then - we can't fix this by telling ourselves that despite being size 16 in a world that wants us to be a size 10, we at least have a pretty manicure! What we need is a whole new way of thinking about our bodies. We need a paradigm shift where this malignant messaging is shown for what it is, and where it no longer makes sense.
So work with the following paradigm shifts. They are uncomfortable. But when they really drop into place, a whole new sense of freedom exists where all this conditioning just doesn't apply. Here they are:
When we view our body as an ornament, we believe our worth and value is tied up in how attractive we can make our body, according to cultural standards, men's judgements and other external messaging. For example, I used to have the belief that for my body to be acceptable it must be size 10, tanned, with shiny straight hair and aged from 16-25 years old. This is a broken paradigm because the vast majority of us will receive the unconscious belief that we were born into a body that isn't good enough. We may have some of the attributes we think we need, but always be aspiring for the ones we perceive as lacking, and therefore never truly satisfied. And even those who do fit the preferences of the culture they live in will probably face the same self doubts when they look in a mirror and realise their body is ageing. And so the diet industry, the anti-ageing industry, the fashion and beauty industries keep us hooked as we are told "You're not quite good enough, but don't worry, with our product you can be!".
The new paradigm: Your body is a sacred vessel that contains YOU, your life, your spirit and your unique expression. In this paradigm EVERY body is perfect, because every body provides us a vessel within which to live. We laugh with our body. We pursue our dreams with our body. We hold our loved ones with our body. We gaze on beauty with our body. Our body is not an inanimate object to decorate into beauty, it is a vessel with life breathed into it, for our self expression in this life time whatever that may be.
Modern medicine has extended our life and given us new expectations of our bodies. We don't expect to be struck down "before our time", or to have our lives changed by our health in ways we didn't control. Even when we have colds, we often reach for a medicine to stop the symptoms, so we can "get on with it". But the gifts have brought a shadow with them.
We've begun to see the symptoms of illness as our body letting us down. When we have a headache, we feel attacked by our body. When we have a chesty cough and runny nose we feel frustrated by our body. We think our body is doing this to us. In truth, symptoms are mechanisms the body uses to correct an imbalance or fight an invasion. They are our body's attempt to save us.
That headache is the body trying to tell us our blood sugar isn't right, or that we need to drink some water or get some sleep. The runny nose may seem gross, but it's the mechanism our body has for removing a virus so that our body can heal. This is NOT a post about not using conventional medicines - there is a time and place for them and we must each make that decision for ourselves as adults.
However, when we operate from a paradigm of "illness is my body attacking me", we can see our body as the enemy, something we need to "control" or combat. And regardless of our state of physical health, being on a different team to our body is damaging on a deep level. I have been pretty healthy for most of my life, but I experienced this following a series of very traumatic miscarriages and infertility treatment. I was angry at my body and its shortcomings for some time.
Eventually, when I went into a deep meditation with the intention of forgiving my body for letting me down, I instead experienced this paradigm shift and realised it had never let me down at all. Sure, things had happened TO my body I didn't want, but my body had only ever done its best.
The new paradigm: Your body is always doing everything in its power to keep you alive and well. This is medical fact; the term for it is "homeostasis", a phenomenon in our body where almost every function and chemical reaction has signals that trigger our brain to let it know if that function is within a normal range or not. From there, the body will try to course correct. It may release different hormones, store excess energy out of the way as fat, make us thirsty so we drink, make us blow our nose or sneeze to remove a pathogen. Sometimes our bodies can get things back on track, sometimes they can't. But it will always, always try its best. So this means your body is on your team. It is your best friend - nothing on earth will fight for your wellness like your body. So wherever your state of health may be, approach it with your body as ally. Because you're in this together.
This last paradigm is possibly the most subtle and insidious. We are raised with mixed messages over who has rights or a say over our body. The #MeToo movement has certainly brought visibility to this issue. But confusion over who has a say can happen within longterm partnerships and marriages. Women often feel a sense of obligation to a partner, perceiving a context of what the partner "needs", which shifts the conversation to whether we are a good wife or partner by how much we look after the "needs" of our partner. If we reframe this to a more accurate word - such as "wants" or "preferences" the obligation is diffused and we can view the situation with more clarity.
Another place this happens is in the healthcare system. I have worked my whole career within this system, so I am not about to bite the hand that has fed me. I don't suggest that Dr Google knows more than an actual doctor, or that remedies with no research should be preferred over scientifically backed remedies in critical situations. However, we are taught to "obey" healthcare professionals without question. It's worth noting that as amazing as healthcare professionals can be, they are humans who sometimes make mistakes. Almost all treatments carry some risks and potential side effects. And the person who has to live with the results is you.
The paradigm shift: Your body is yours and yours alone. Reclaim your power and your body. Yes, be compassionate and allow your partner to be seen and heard and validated - but not at the expense of retaining the power of choice over your body. And accept that when you visit a doctor they bring expertise and experience to your situation and take that into consideration when you make your healthcare choices. But ask questions, and find healthcare professionals that you trust and feel respected by.
I'd like to hear from you - which of these paradigm shifts can impact the relationship you have with your body? Which do you already live by? Let me know in the comments.
Many of us as women are brought up to be compassionate towards others. By the time we are adults, this comes naturally to us.
Compassion for others is wonderful both in creating a kinder world and for our own happiness, but the cornerstone piece is missing - we need to begin with compassion towards ourselves.
Without self-compassion we can feel like we never give enough, we become vulnerable to the judgements of others and it is all too easy to crumble if we feel not good enough in our efforts. We dim our lights out of fear of our imperfections shining through.
When we stumble and fall, if we don't meet the expectations of others, if we realise we are flawed and human, it is our self-compassion that allows us to nurse our wounded parts, dust ourselves off and continue shining our light in this world.
So practice kindness towards yourself. When you have one of those moments - I am having one even as I write this - don't berate yourself. Consider how you'd respond to your dearest friend.
"Don't worry, you're human like everyone else. Learn and keep going. The world needs your light".
If you struggle with this, then begin here.
When we are all kind to ourselves in the privacy of our own minds and hearts, it becomes natural to be kind to others. It's not by "being better" we develop self worth, it's by being gentler in the midst of our own frailties and strengths.
Shine on, sister.
I'd like to hear from you - how will you be gentle with yourself today?
It can be daunting to consider beginning a mindfulness practice. We are struck with images of people sitting diligently in lotus position, presumably completely at peace in themselves. It feels unreachable and perhaps even a tad boring.
This image is misleading though. Mindfulness is less about a specific activity and more about the state of mind we rest in as we go about our days. You see, if we sit for an hour in meditation and then return to a life where we work ourselves into a tizz, have a short fuse or dwell on the past then our mindfulness is not yet filtering into our lives. Meditation is still fantastic, but is a means to an end and not the end itself.
Rather, begin a mindfulness practice which flows throughout all the aspects of your life. This is where transformation happens. Here are my top ways to start:
I'd like to hear from you - which of these ways of practicing mindfulness calls to you? How will you implement a mindful moment into your day?
I think I had a minimalist in me from the beginning. I remember even as a kid, wanting to stay home to sort my messy bedroom into order when my friends would be knocking on the door to play. I have a natural tendency towards disorganisation, and an equally natural one towards wanting to find simplicity, ease and essentialism amongst the chaos.
In exploring ways to create meaning in my everyday life and live below my burnout threshold, I discovered that keeping life in all its aspects - possessions, time, relationships, pursuits, socialising, career etc - simple was pivotal. I stumbled across blogs through downloading Flipboard onto my iPad back when that was a cool and innovative concept, and one of the first topics to leap out at me was that of mimimalism. Leo Babauta, Joshua Becker and Courtney Carver were early inspiration, later The Minimalists joined the ranks as did Marie Kondo.
Language becomes important and powerful when we discuss embracing changes of lifestyle. At first the term minimalism was the only one I had for these ideas. And it's true that not all the minimalist blogs have the same benchmark exactly - some bloggers reduce their possessions to 100, their items of clothing to 33, their home to a tiny house etc. These stories captured my imagination. However, apart from the occasional fantasy of owning a tiny home (as my husband said, "Where will we put the wedding presents?"), what it boiled down to for me was keeping life simple, being minimalist in possessions while giving myself the freedom to go at my own pace, and creating space for what was essential for thriving in a meaningful life of my own creation. I hold all these terms loosely, and allow the interpretation of what that means for my life to flow with the changes. I have no real desire to be minimalist in enjoying my baby for example -I rejoice in the adorable outfits, the snuggly blankets, the cute toys all as expressions of love and support and joy from others in welcoming our little girl. Gradually we will find our balance.
One thing is for sure - this journey needs inspiration and support. Enter The Minimalists' recent speaking tour and their book (affiliated) Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life.
Their tour came at the perfect point in time, my sisters and I needed a night out together and what better way then to eat tapas and discuss what gives life meaning and creates ease? A favourite reminder from the evening was to focus on the why of what we do - if we are truly inspired by what something will do for our lives, the what and how will take care of themselves. This was balancing to my sometimes action-focused approach to simplicity. Questions and answers were poignant, baffling, funny (Australians laugh at everything) and reaffirming. Their classic quote reignited something within me, "Love people and use things, because the opposite never works".
Reading their work provided something more solid and tangible to accompany me along the actual journey. We are reminded to pursue meaning in our lives, and that aligning our short-term actions with our long-term values leads us to living purposefully.
My practical steps that I took from the book are:
1. Look within to discover what the "anchors" are in your life - the things keeping you stuck
2. After this honest audit, take action to remove these. Start with the easiest if you need to, but start.
3. Avoid "shoulds" which keep us powerless. The Minimalists recommend determining our "musts" for a meaningful life in the areas of health, relationships, passions, growth and contribution
4. Take small actions each day for these areas of life, to radically improve your life over time
The book then explores each of these in turn and a 21 day journey into beginning with minimalism in a style that is both simple and compelling. Occasionally I find their habit of referring to themselves in the third person and the presentation of themselves almost as a single entity as a bit grating, but really this is their creative choice and fades into insignificance compared with their grounded wisdom.
If the idea of living a more minimalist way of life instinctively calls to you as one of the paths out of stress and discontent then I highly recommend that you catch these guys on their next speaking event or have a read of their book.
And I'd love to discuss with you these juicy topics - what anchors do you need to let go of? What are your musts for a meaningful life? And what are you going to do about it?
In the early 2000s, natural products were just beginning to become readily available, and I was keen to adopt this lifestyle for the planet and my own health. In the process of experimenting with the early products, I had more than my share of rashes, breakouts and at the worst point my armpits managed to become red and scaly and yet still somehow sweaty. It was not an easy road! Luckily these days the products available are prolific in number and many of them work well. To make things even easier, I want to tell you everything I've learnt about making the switch.
To begin with, there's no need to throw out all your products and buy new ones. That can be overwhelming and expensive. Instead, it's much more manageable to experiment with one product at a time. This way there is no more financial outlay than you normally would spend on products, less wastage; and if it takes a while to find the right replacement product, you won't be battling with a bathroom cabinet full of items that don't work for you.
My go-to website is the Environmental Working Group's Skindeep Database .
Reason to avoid
soaps (liquid/ bar)
disrupts thyroid and reproductive hormones
Vitamin A/ retinyl palmitate/ retinyl acetate/ retinoic acid/ retinol
increases sun sensitivity and when exposed to UV damages DNA of skin
SPF above 50
Only slightly improves sun protection but increases chemical load and leads to false sense of safety in sun
aerosol spray and powder sunscreens with nanoparticles, baby powder
spray and powder sunscreens
penetrate the lungs and enter bloodstream, inhaled baby powder hazardous to the lungs of babies
potential hormone disruptor
coal tar derivatives and lead
dark hair dyes
formaldehyde/ formalin and chemicals that convert to formaldehyde in the body such as bronopol, DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidzaolidinyl urea, quaternium-15, methylene glycol
chemical hair straightener
carcinogen, respiratory irritant
nail polish remover, nail polish
potent neurotoxic, can impair fetal development, toxic to immune system
nail polish, hair spray
may damage male reproductive system and should be avoided by pregnant women
fragrance - non-specific ingredient which could be anything
perfume, and perfumed creams or skin care products, makeup, hair products - almost anything
can disrupt hormones, allergenic
potential carcinogen, causes depigmentation, in animal studies produced liver damage, interferes with thyroid and reproductive system functions
boric acid & sodium borate
liquid cosmetics and as a preservative, thickener or emulsifier in many cosmetic products
hormone disruptors, may harm male reproductive system, long term use may affect kidneys
parabens , propyl-, isopropyl-butyl-isobutyl
preservative in cosmetics
may disrupt hormones
PEG/ cetearet/ polyethylene
base for creams, toothpaste
probable carcinogen, hormone disruption
alpha & beta hydroxy acids/ lactic acid/ glycolic acid
anti-ageing products and facial peels
increases UV skin damage
hydroquinone, mercury derivatives (calomel, mercurio, mercurio chloride)
can cause permanent skin disease; mercury in overseas lighteners is a poison
petroleum extracts/ mineral oil
moisturisers, hair conditioners, lip balm
often contaminated with carcinogens, organ toxicity
Now I'd love to hear from you! I'm still learning all the products out there and as you can tell, while I have some products that are very effective and very pure, I'm a bit less committed to others. Please share any pure products you love in the comments below, so we can all benefit from each other.
I have a beautiful journal, in which I write letters to my daughter Ava Grace. I've been doing this since I was pregnant with her. I tell her the story of her birth, my hopes for her, how we chose her name and of course how dear she is to us.
Recently I knew I must write her all the things I want to make sure she will always know, her whole life. As I wrote I realised they were things we all need to remember, so this specific letter is for you, too. In case someone forgot to tell you. Or if you stopped believing it. These words are written through me but not by me - they are words from your loved ones, from your truest self, from Life, to You. Please keep this letter where you can refer to it whenever you need to.
There are certain things in life it is so important that you know, and always remember. These things are few and simple, but essential. Here they are:
You are SO loved
You are deeply protected
You are divinely guided
You are seen
You are heard
You have unique gifts
The world needs you
You are here for a specific purpose
Your life matters
I love you.
Let me know below - -what will you be adding to your letter?
And if you would like more heart healing, then sign up below for my free gift to you, 7 steps to self love. xo
Now I'd like to hear from you. What strategies will you be implementing to avoid or recover from stress and burnout? Let me know in the comments! And if this post could help someone you know, share the love.
For more on managing stress by dealing with dysfunctional thoughts, sign up below.
My childhood summers were carefree ones. I stayed with my best friend at her beach house, and we spent our days running barefoot to the beach, taping (yep, it was that long ago!) songs from the radio and learning to bodyboard.
It took some practice. The waves were big enough to dump us, leaving us disorientated and not knowing which way was up. We had to learn to anticipate the wave as it came, to know when to jump on, and to paddle hard enough to stay afloat.
Overwhelm can feel like this. It's certainly a powerful enough experience to completely disorientate us, to leave us gasping and not sure how we might get through to the other side. But like a wave, we can learn to ride it. I've been dumped by the waves of overwhelm before, and know that enough waves one after the other can lead to longer term stress, anxiety and burnout. Learning to ride overwhelm is pivotal to staying afloat in our lives.
First, we need to become better at seeing it coming. For me, it creeps in by stealth through coping strategies like escapist TV/ social media, craving junk foods or feeling tired at the thought of what I feel I need to do. I now know these are my warning signs, and use them as a cue to cut back on projects and expectations, prioritise sleep and keep life simple.
Next, we learn our limits. I used to say that I had only 2 states at work - boredom or overwhelm. I always wanted more projects, more working parties and more clients to stay engaged and excited. But it was the finest line between engagement and becoming stressed and counter-productive. Too many projects and this adrenaline-junkie approach to life is intertwined with stress. The answer is not boredom! It lies in engaging more deeply rather than more broadly. Instead of flitting over 100 projects, deeply connect to a handful. Be present and practice mindfulness to draw fulfilment from life, rather than the pursuit of shiny objects.
We practice managing the expectations of others. I used to assume that those in both my personal and professional life expected me to bend over backwards for them, the way I expected this from myself. So imagine my surprise after a period of grief and burnout, when I set new limits in all my key relationships and no one battered an eyelid. Try it for yourself, you'll be amazed how the world keeps turning as before.
And finally, I surgically removed the word "should" from my vernacular. True, it tends to grow back from time to time, but I just cut it out more vigorously than before. If you take nothing else, try at least this. A large part of overwhelm lies within our own thoughts. When we remove the "shoulds" from our thinking, we allow ourselves room to fall short, to breathe, to be gentle to ourselves.
When we do these things, we see the wave becomes smaller and more manageable as it rolls towards us. We find strength to paddle, and may even enjoy the ride.
If you'd like to reclaim your time and learn to surf the overwhelm, I have a great 3 day video program, completely free for you below. And I'd love to hear from you - which of these strategies will you be using to surf the overwhelm? Let me know below! xo
I've always been a girls' girl, more at home in the company of women. But over the years, as one by one my female friends became mothers while I battled with fertility demons, I felt like I stopped fitting in. I sat on the sidelines of more conversations than I can say; one particular recurring theme being "How having children has messed up my body".
The conversation goes something like this, "my stomach has never been the same since pregnancy - I used to have abs!" followed by comments on boobs, stretch marks and scars. I find myself sitting in silence. It's not that I can't relate to bodily changes - but mine have been caused by miscarriages, surgeries, injecting increasingly heavy doses of hormones, and comfort eating when all of it failed. I too have forgotten what my stomach muscles looked like in my kickboxing days, but no one wants to hear the story of losing one's abs to lost pregnancies and IVF. It makes people uncomfortable and kills the camaraderie, so I kept quiet.
In my outsider state, I envied the women whose bodily changes were rewarded so richly with children. At times I felt resentful... I paid the price but didn't get the reward, and yet I lost the right to voice my complaints also. I felt bitterly that my physical changes were markers of trauma and loss, and that I would gladly take the changes that resulted in a live baby.
And then... I got pregnant. Years later. Out of the blue. After working out the chances of me giving birth to a living child was less than 1/2 per cent. And I swore that every physical change of pregnancy would be valued as part of this gift. I even prayed for nausea and mood swings so I could feel confidence that I was actually pregnant.
I felt both terrified and grateful (and so tired!) for the duration of the pregnancy - never taking any particular outcome for granted. I noted my physical changes with a detached fascination, but the last thing I wanted to do was begrudge any of it. I was happy to sacrifice the body I knew on the altar of the fertility gods. It seemed like the smallest thing in the world.
Somehow though, in the last weeks of my pregnancy when pre-eclampsia and the accompanying football-shaped feet set in, I found myself forgetting my pact and wondering if my feet would fit into my shoes again, or if I'd have to start shopping at those special comfort shoe stores. I forgot that physical changes are calls for self compassion, not vanity or self judgment. I forgot that my pillowy feet were markers of my great fortune. I forgot that only months before I'd resented this very trait of oblivion to all those women who fight battles with their bodies without this precious reward.
And this forgetfulness may have continued if it werent for a photo on social media. A friend had posted a collage of memories of an old classmate I'd lost touch with since school, and it hit me that the classmate had died. Flipping over to her social media page where she chronicled her illness, I saw one of her last photos - swollen feet with defiantly and courageously painted toenails.
It was a punch to the heart. My memory lapse was gone. I remembered the old me who sat in self imposed exile as the mothers talked of the bodies they once had. I looked at this photo of swollen feet, the last photo before death. And I looked at mine, the small price paid for new life. My tears were of remorse and gratitude for the swollen feet I was dealt, and so much compassion for those so bravely born by my classmate.
We all carry our bodies with the tattoos and memories and histories of our lives worn on them. Sometimes secretly and with shame; sometimes bared to the world; sometimes even held with pride and courage. And if I can only do one thing to honour my old classmate and her pedicured, swollen feet it will be this - wear the history of my body with courage and compassion, and encourage other women to do the same.
I'd love to hear from you - how have you learned to hold your body with more compassion? And if this is something you struggle with, you are warmly invited to the free Body Love Challenge. Every body deserves to be loved.