This morning I watched Dr. Gabor Mate ("Love is not Enough") explain that Babies are 'directly shaped by the emotional availability of the parents' and "babies need caregivers who are non-stressed, non-depressed, emotionally available and consistently available".
Last week I was tenderly exploring with my own mum about how our bonding and lives were impacted by a series of traumatic events including postnatal illness, anxiety, financial stress, hospitalization for both of us, difficult operations and separation during my baby-hood and pre-school years which directly impacted our attachment, our stress levels and our perception of the world and relationships.
Sometimes we can't help the early circumstances and have to drop any blame, compassionately surrender and accept 'it's just life', be kind to each other and remember we are all trying to do our best. It's taken me 40 years to get to this deeper place of understanding, and begin to recognise and dissolve many of my highly primed fight or flight survival strategies. The impact of stress and trauma is both intergenrational and long lasting - taking care of our mental and emotional health is vital for ourselves and future generations.
As Gabor Mate explains, our earliest neuro wiring impacts our lives. I agree, and even though I have done 20 years of exploratory self development work, and know that the brain is forever capable of re-writing, pruning, and growing new circuitry which enables new responses, and I also acknowledge it's also hard work to change these early patterns.
Yet being able to access feeling safety, peace, pleasure, relaxation, connection, intimacy, kindness, and really BE there for ourselves, our babies and loved ones is absolutely worth it.
If my own experiences of stress and trauma and my subsequent work with women during pregnancy and birth is anything to learn from, it has shown me that stress reduction, relaxation, rest, repair, intimacy, creativity and all aspects of self-care and are crucial to support us as we raise families. Especially in these increasingly stressful times.
In 2014 I came across Yoga Nidra Sleep Meditation as a way of building inner safety, cultivating deeper rest, relaxation, stress reduction, rewiring the brain and resetting responses. Here is a link to access a full 30 minute yoga nidra sleep meditation from a session I ran with women a few years ago based on the work of Karen Brody.
Gabo Mate Video "Love is not Enough":
This month I realised that three of my working worlds and friendships had collided beautifully.. that perhaps it was fate!
I began to train as a birth educator, doula and therapist back in 2009 with an amazing wise woman called Olivia Seck and she taught me far more than how to be helpful at births. She taught me how to develop the deepest practice of being present in everyday life. She is still the best person at asking the hardest life questions, reminding me to trust in the mysteries and flow, supporting my work and my personal life and through genuine laughter, tears and reflection she can has always helped me open deeper into love.
We have worked together and played together and our bond is truly precious to me. In all these years we had always talked about holidays but never managed to take one together. So when the chance came for us to go on a Wise Heart Wild Love women's retreat with my other superstar of a colleague Kalindi Jordan I was over the moon!
I have been working with Kalindi for nearly four years now and it has been an absolute treat. She is an incredible mix of kind, playful, sensual and has a breadth of organic embodied self learning about the art of the energy system that makes her a master in her field. It's a delight to see her shine as she shares her gifts with women and runs a retreat with so much energy and lightness that you come away feeling truly yourself again.. she facilitates in a way that your true essence just flows out and is absolutely welcomed.
The retreat content was delicious! A private house in Granada, Spain with Moroccan inspired decor, a yoga studio, dance hall, infinity pool and sauna which gave us the space to enjoy morning yoga, energetic practices to awaken our hearts and expand our sexual and creative aliveness, afternoons by the pool, loosing layers and inhibitions on all levels, afternoons spent in shamanic trance dance, cacao ceremony and movement medicine and evenings spent in beautiful rituals and joyful celebrations.
Having this retreat, with the added bonus of Olivia there was simply fantastic. The cosmic cherry on the top was being invited to share my yoga nidra facilitation skills with the group one evening. I haven't been running my own rest circle sessions for sometime but I have been working closely with the wonderful author and leader in this field Karen Brody who is using Yoga nidra medicine in the most exquisite and heartfelt way to inspire the women of today to honour rest and rise up to action in a whole, authentic and rooted way.
Karen's Daring to Rest movement is very close to my heart. So what a perfect treat that I was able to weave Karen's work into this magical retreat by offering her Daring to Rest Red Tent yoga nidra meditation to the women one night.
My body came online as the words came through me like a transmission and I rocked like I do with oxytocin in a birth as I delivered the Rest Medicine on this wise heart wild love Spanish retreat. It reminded me of my Powernaps for Superwomen circles back in the day when I would drop into the words and my body would move and my mind moved out of the way and the Nidra would do me and I shared it's truth serum medicine!
I smiled and cried as I realised that the three women who each play significant and beloved roles in my life were dovetailing in this magical retreat week. Like a constellation of stars, everything connected: Friendship, leadership, sustainability, the sacred, pleasure and play.
And I realised that I bridge these different gifts and worlds.. birth, facilitation, sensuality and yoga nidra meditation.. I do all these things both personally and professionally. Sometimes I'm visible out front and sometimes I'm in the background supporting these women doing the admin and helping oil the cogs of business wheels.
Just like yoga nidra moves awareness from point to point around the body and invites us to breath the left side of the body and then the right side of the body and feel opposite beliefs and ideas in deep states of aware sleep, I too move between roles professionally and personally.. Yin and Yang, sacred and mundane, being the backbone and structure and then offering the creativity and energy. I am a shape-shifter and a bridge working between worlds.
Being on retreat was a gift.. sun and rest and play helps us all! And sitting in circle with wonderful women and reaching into the sacred with no outside distractions for a whole week is such an easy and pleasurable way to effortlessly drop the armour, bringing our essence to the forefront, nourish our inner light superpower to then come back out and meet the world with refreshed resourced resilience. This is what we need for these times. Inner strength and community and offering our unique essence and gifts into the collective weave.
I am so grateful for these women in my life and the gifts they have shared with me and for all the ways they flow through me too as a woman, mother, sister, friend, lover, colleague.
Coming home to the domestic grind after such pleasurable relaxation and play and the sights and smells and novelty of being overseas is always a challenge for a freedom loving woman like me. But as I embraced the sacred within the mundane, of food shopping, the school run and a pile of admin projects at my desk I realised magic is everywhere.. as I looked up at a scribble on a piece of paper on my pin board that I wrote two years ago and it says Kalindi, Olivia, Karen, yoga nidra, birth work, sacred sexuality, women circles, Jade eggs... And clearly it all came true in one week! Law of attraction and reflection. It works somehow..
One days I wrote these ideas down, and then something in time and space bent to orchestrate that I work and play with these three women and I am a doula, facilitator, administrator, yoga nidra teacher and counsellor in training and I sell Jade yoni eggs on the side! All of this happens alongside being a solo mum and doing the school run.. so rest and retreat is always so needed and welcomed!
Below is a picture from the retreat.. and some of these beloved coworking-friends ... so much fun and I'm left with such sweet memories and gratitude.
From Work to Play.. From serious and deep, to downright silly... touching the sacred, the mundane and the simple joy.
Wise Heart Wise Love 2019, and co-working friendships with Kalindi Jordan, Olivia Seck plus Karen's book Daring to Rest.
In the last couple of weeks, I've been trying to reach inwards and repeatedly asking myself what I believe in and what matters to me...kind of like trying to identify a guiding North star value that I want to live my life by, especially in these times of busy madness and distraction. The whisper which continually came back to me was my favourite quote by Maya Angelou - "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
Embracing the whole spectrum of feelings and making deep soulful connections are was has and will always be my fuel in life. My heart is filled with a little visual collage of people who I've been blessed to make connections with. People who helped me feel, heal, grow, and give...people who allowed me to show up as I was in that time and just enjoy the miracle of life in all it's rawness and beauty.
Carly was one of those soul buddy connections in my life. We met when I was 19 and she was maybe 20... and we stayed connected over the years as we grew from wild girls to women trying to find their way to mothers taking care of our lovely sons. My love for her was timeless. It didn't matter how much time went passed or that we lived across other sides of the globe. Our story and messages and hugs weaved together at key moments over the 21 years.. and she would always feel like one of my inner world soul tribe. I can still hear her laugh as I type this and see her incredible face... she was an Aussie stunner who was a cross between Meg Ryan and Sharon Stone and she lit up the room with her bright wild child light.
Carly didn't use social media much so when I did hear from her last week out of the blue, I was delighted to see her make a comment on a picture of my little boys dressed up for a recent wedding...and I had a niggle that I needed to remember to write back... and then on Sunday I picked up my phone to scroll facebook I discovered that she'd died. I went into absolute shock and disbelief...and I weeped and snotted and cried for fucking hours. Actually the last few days have been full of tears, talking to her in my thoughts, looking out at the field behind my house and remembering and celebrating our connection.
Only recently I heard someone talk about a Mexican belief that there are 3 kinds of deaths - the first when you discover that you are mortal and you will die, the second being when you physically die, and the third being the last time that someone living speaks of your name. That message really touched me. I felt into the depths of that and felt the tragic irony of all that we strive for and live through and struggle with...only to know that one day...someone will be the last to say our name, and then we are forgotten. So perhaps this has given me even more of a nudge to write this reflection...and to name my beautiful friend and talk about how I will always remember the way she made me feel and the adventures that we shared. And if I write this and share it on my blog...maybe it will exist in the internet cloud as well as deeply in my heart.
When I was around Carly I felt like I could be exactly who I was. I could be silly and crazy, talk of love, make mistakes, and laugh...yeah...really laugh with her. She brought out my ability to play (something that I sometimes struggled with). Now that she's gone, she also helped me be a bridge. A bridge to connecting the past with the present and reconnect with some of the tribe of that time, and the way our lives intertwines with each others over the various oceans and years.
Healing has already happened since Sunday...sadness, connection, grief, and celebration between a bunch of beautiful misfits who once met in 1997. Her death helped me touch into part of me that remembered how happy I was back then..the summer of '97, when we met in Nagano, Japan, we were both crazy in love, had no responsibilities, no phones, no internet and we'd meet up at a little Pizza place called 30s covered in Newspaper as wall paper. She would laugh about my teenage obsession with Robbie Williams and The Spice Girls and how I was an absolute boy hungry love bunny!
Japan was my first experience of leaving my home town in the UK and I went on a GAP project to help out as a nurse in a red cross hospital in Nagano, Japan. Being a volunteer nurse wasn't exactly a well thought out plan for me. I had no former experience (I was hoping to go to a different gap project to be a tennis coach, but instead I found myself in Japan and I thought it would be fun to wear a uniform at least!). But I was always up for an adventure.
I was paired up with a fabulous girl called Poppy, who was kind and funny and London streetwise cool...she was about to go to medical school and was probably a far more concientious nurse than me! Anyway, Poppy and I started our Japan adventure in the mountain city of Nagano, working in the hospital in the daytime and then jumping on our bikes in the evening to meet other foreigners (affectionately known as gaijin by our Japanese friends) who were all out there teaching English. Included in this soul buddy pod was my lovely friend Ken from America who told us that his amazing girlfriend Carly from Australia was about to join him out there. And then she arrived - the blonde bombshell with the smiling eyes and big laugh and immediately made you feel at home in your own skin. She was awesome in every way. Move over Kylie, Neighbours and Home and Away - Carly was my first proper Aussie mate and I loved how she would say 'Are you shitting me?!' when I said something outlandish.
Before I left for Japan, I had this little secret wish that I would leave Salisbury, the old teenage grammar school bullshit, family divorce and stuff from the last few years behind and I'd go somewhere really exciting, and just maybe I'd find this sense of 'belonging'... it didn't make much sense then...but now I understand what that was about. I found a sense of belonging and tribe from this fresh start. To show up as who I was in that moment - with all my immature teenage qualities still blazing away...but I was ready for something new, adventures and connection. My eyes and world was opening up and I found so much richness in this place and with this bunch of friends from different parts of the globe.
That summer of '97 was perhaps my favourite of all. The friendships with Ken and Carly, Poppy, Travis, Boyd, Marcy, and Jim... the laughs, the passion... when we broke into a local outdoor pool and all went skinny dipping, going to these drink all you can bars on a Sunday afternoon and getting worse for wear on massive tankers of Japanese beer. Cycling home after too many drinks, loosing mutiple bicycles, and of course the food and Kareoke was on another level. And I fell in head over heels love with a Canadian guy. When I left to go back to the UK I was heart-full and heartbroken.
I remember coming home with all these photos of the time in Nagano - barely any of Japanese architecture and landscapes, but reams of smiling photos of these friends. And until this week, I'd never realised how much all those fabulous photos would mean to me. I took so many because back in the day before mobiles and social media, I really didn't know if I'd ever see them again.
But luckily I did!
The following year, I was working in a sales job I hated and I called Carly and Ken on the work phone (opps sorry ex boss that was probably expensive in 1998) who told me they had just finished working at the Nagono Winter Olympics and they were going to Thailand later that week with Travis and Marcy. Impulsive and wild as I was then (and with a student loan in my bank account - yes I know I didn't learn about money management until later in life) I said right I'm going to quit my job right now and come and meet you there! I'd never backpacked before and Carly cracked up saying that I wouldn't need my hairdryer, make-up and to come with as little as possible - she'd seen my bedroom clutter in Japan! I really think they thought I was joking about coming, but they still told me that they would be staying at My House Guest House on Khao San Road - which I wrote on the back of my hand as Cow San Road...and as soon as I out the phone down I told my boss I was quitting, and ran out to buy a backpack a lonely planet guide book and a plane ticket.
I'll never forget the screams of surprise and laughter and happy tears when I found them! I turned up in Bangkok with literally no clue what I was doing or where I was going, and it took me two hours of searching for guest houses and looking for their name on the front reception guest books to find them (and I was getting a little bit nervous and oh fuck what have I done by that point)..but I saw their names..and I ran up to their room and said Surprise! Oh my god we laughed so much. Those hugs are still etched in my being. One of the greatest silly wild loving adventure moments of my young life.
I was such an non-savvy traveller compared to Carly who had way more experience and just looked super cool...it was effortless for her. We explored Khao San road, bought clothes, picked up heaped of pirate CDs and mini discs and then we took a ridiculous cheap overnight bus with old seats, a toilet door which swung open at every corner, no air-con and with Dusk till Dawn and Rambo 1 playing on repeat...all to save 50 cence to please frugal Ken (haha I forgive you!) down to the islands. I'd never seen a tropical island before and was in heaven. I was so excited to be there and to be with them.
I remember Madonna just came out on MTV with her new look releasing Frozen, I got my eye brow pierced (and nearly a tattoo I would have regretted), we swam, and took some unforgettable and slightly lethal motorbike rides...including across some broken wooden bridge in Chaweng which felt like it was something out of an Indian Jones movie! Carly and I set up my first ever email account there..good old hotmail. At last we would stay connected when we got home!
My first full moon party, where Carly beamed Aussie bronzed beauty, and I hilariously got so sun-burned across my face than snogging some Italian guy was so painful that I had to quit - much to eveyone else's hilarity. And snogging an Italian still did nothing for me getting over the Canadian love. Part of the soothing quality of being with Carly again was being able to talk about him and she totally got it and knew I was heartbroken and missed him.
Another year later, Carly and I met up again for a second trip to Thailand and this time she was single and heartbroken too. She was travelling with a girlfriend of hers, and I was trying to leave yet another relationship and running away to Thailand was my go to strategy at that time! I think I got in trouble with some Kiwi hunk on that trip...and Carly would just shake her head and affectionately call me a Dag! Every time we met is was always as if no time had passed. I could be at ease, be wild, be sad, be all of it, and it was always an effortless joy to be around her.
A few years later I moved to Australia, and I'd met the future father of my kids. Nic and I took a camper van trip down to Melbourne and Carly and I got to reconnect once again. She was working in a travel agency and living with a guy who liked fast cars. It was brief visit but always much fun. She took some of my favourite early pictures of Nic and I ..when we had matching surfer hair and flared light blue jeans!
My last trip to see her was in 2009. We were both mothers by then. Carly had married a gorgeous chap called Marc and she had little toddler Jack and a little baby Thomas. It was amazing to be reunited now as mothers. We still talked of our adventures and old stories of boys, bars, silliness and now our new mummy tummies! But nothing had changed. Perhaps except for our new grown up responsibilities and getting more serious about finances and holding homes and stuff. But in essence we were the same kind of soul buddies. She got to meet 2 year old Beau, and we took the boys to Melbourne zoo. I met Stan and Joy her lovely mum and dad. I remember telling her that I was about to start a change of career and train as a birth doula, and she always loved that I followed my dreams. Just this week I've looked through old facebook message between us and she told me that I inspired her and she was glad I followed my dreams. Wow that made me tear up. Some days I find it very hard to stay on track with my dreams...yet I know that as I go further into working as a therapist, my calling to support people with feelings and reconnection is a part of the plan...and when I loose hope, feel scared and overwhlemed about work and home-life, about love and contributing to the world.. I'll think of her face lovingly encouraging me to keep going.
We've been in less and less contact in the last few years, but that's busy family life for you! I didn't know she was sick. I wished I had known. But then I would have probably been pissed off at myself for not being able to travel to see her now anyway. In the big picture of things, this really doesn't matter. Real connections are timeless. That's what matters. I'm so so sad to think of her family left without her. That is the part that is the most unfair about death.
So this week my heart has been prized apart and flooded with tears, and memories of Carly. Of Carly's special place in my life. The timing of our connections and why those times meant so much to me. She helped me live out the part of me that wanted to expand and adventure and try new things and was still always emotional and vulnerable and a hopeless romantic.
I am grateful for being that avid people photographer, and messy enough to still have a box of wonderful photos to shift through and find lots of pictures of her to connect to my feelings of sadness, happiness and faith in wonderful connections and the mystery of life. I am grateful to the Internet yet again that I'm able to get a message to the other souls in that Nagano pod about her passing, and we've reconnected and shared memories and asked each other about our lives now 21 years on. Carly was really loved and appreciated. I even finally found some peace with my old love flame... he said he wishes we'd had more time together and he didn't realise what he had at the time. I really apprecuated those healing words years later, and I said yeah I know, and life has been damn good to all of us, and we have to trust we are all where we are meant to be now.
It's incredible how a bunch of youngsters from different countries met in this little place in Japan, and like the caste of Lost, their stories and lives would continue to interplay and affect each other for years to come.
So, this is why, even more so, that when I'm thinking about the guiding light principles in my life, I think about Mya Angelou's quote - for me, the only thing that really matters is that people will remember how you made them feel.
I love you Carly and I'll miss you. Thank you for everything we shared. I hope you are at peace and surrounded by a love I can't even begin to imagine. I'll speak to you in my dreams and on my walks in nature, and I hope I can see your spirit in photos of your boys growing up...and that your name is never forgotten.
Words inspired after a week of high anxiety, and after reading this fab article about modern exhaustion in women: https://bit.ly/2wSOr4O
Just this morning I had to turn down an opportunity to be involved as a facilitator on an online program basically because I'm stretched too thin in too many areas of life. As much as I loved the host and the opportunity, I knew I was overly comitted and sailing way too close to an anxiety episode.
I've lived a lot of my life on adrenaline and often enjoy it and even glamourised it. But, as I've got older and my responsbility load and levels of tasks and busy-ness has increased, anxiety is getting louder, more often. When anxiety kicks in I'm no good to my kids as stressed mum takes over, and I eat more sugar, drink less water and go into my very well practised fight or flight warrior mode of survival and I often break things/relationships or do a 360 on scenarios that were actually fine as they were. I think that's called catastrophising self sabotage!
It made me sad, to let go of a lovely collaboration and potential, but I had to choose. My focus right now is grounding and building. Grounding my home life. Taking care of my boys. Grounding my work. I've chosen to commit to a further counselling training for the next two years and balancing that alongside single mum life and paying the bills is going to be my biggest stretch that requires heaps of emotional and practical support so I can do it without burning out, over commiting or internally combusting!
Last night I had an incredible listening and coaching session with Olivia Seck. When I was about to throw the towel in with my deepest fears taking over.. she said HOW can you work with your fears to juice the wisdom out of them and not let them take over and drive the car. Fears can be helpful as a passenger but they are rubbish as the driver. With her support I was able to clarify what I'm struggling with, and which fears are useful to listen to, those which are out of my control how to gently accept their existence.
We created an action plan and the key was building my support system around me.
So, this was the learning of my week. A large undoing. Letting someone down (who I still retained a wonderful connection with thankfully), and reaching out for help.
The first step is admitting you have a problem..say NO more often...then leaning into wise support.. receive that support fully... see the humour in it all, smile..make a plan and then lovingly keep going! 💛✨
Note to friends: I may well struggle with doing any of these things consistently but to my friends out there - I ask you to please watch out for me and from time to time ask me if I've drunk enough water!
#tortoiseandhare #selfcareloop #dareingtorest #roarmojo #restphase