Inner Peace at The Eden Project

As a holistic therapist, and a human being, I am continually inspired by the natural world around us. The Eden Project has been on my list of places to visit for a very long time, and when I finally made it, I found the experience to be humbling & serene. The variety of species and the success of nature being recreated in its purest form is both breathtaking and extraordinary. It was as if I had escaped from all that I recognise our towns and cities to have become; I felt so far removed from the pollution and toxicity of this thing we call progress that suffocates our everyday lives. 

Our world is so vast, complex and diverse, I think it would be naive of anyone to claim there is nothing beautiful about what Mother Nature has provided. Wandering round the biospheres, stunningly landscapes and carefully crafted gardens, I felt more than a little sad that we are blindly, arrogantly, destroying the delicate balance of our ecosystem….

The natural methods of sustainability and the sensitive interactions of plant life, insects, native people and larger animals are being systematically destroyed for shallow desires and quick wins. The Eden Project provides a snapshot of what we are losing every day around the world. In here, we are slapped in the face by the contrast of what our species is doing to the world outside.

To me, The Eden Project is an amazing & inspirational story of a group of idealists with a vision who went on to create a complex synergy of science & nature. To me, it is vital that everyone visit The Eden Project, even if just to see a glimpse of how small the human ego is in comparison to what science and nature offers us. 

http://www.edenproject.com

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I believe in going Upstream…

For years I’ve gone against the grain: I’ve never been happy with the fact that ‘this is just the way things are’ or ‘good enough is good enough’. I like facts that are black and white, or follow a specific pattern, I’m perplexed and questioning of ambiguous constructs. As you can imagine, my parents thought about giving me away a few times, and some teachers may have reported finding me an exasperating student, but I’m still looking for answers.

I stumbled across a Ted Talks by Rishi Manchanda and I feel a new sense of excitement for I am no longer a lone voice trying to articulate something that I don’t quite understand! Not only are there other advocates of challenging how the healthcare system* works in the Western world, but some of them are recognised professionals in the healthcare system and they DO have the language!

The synopsis of the talk is this:

There are three friends out for a walk one day and they come across a river where they notice lots of children in the water heading towards a big waterfall and drowning. The first friend jumps in to start rescuing children closest to the waterfall, throwing them onto dry land one by one out of harm’s way – he is the equivalent of a trauma surgeon intervening at crisis point. The second friend assesses the situation, then builds a raft and throws it in to the children a bit further up so they can stay afloat – he is the GP, doing what he can with resources available at any given time. The third friend walks off. She** walks up towards where the water is flowing from to find out why the children are in the water, to see what is throwing them in. She is seeking prevention upstream.

The point Rishi makes, is that not many health care practitioners look upstream. Many do not have the time, training, skill, resources or confidence in opening that can of worms. This is a whole topic in itself which I am not qualified to address. Rishi suggests that maybe an entire family can suffer from breathing problems and appear to have weak lungs, so a genetic cause is suspected and medication provided. But perhaps they are living in a damp property where the landlord refuses to do anything about he mould on the walls.

Over the years, I’ve become increasingly aware and frustrated that so often, people are offered a solution to the symptoms which doesn’t actually address the cause. The simplest example is that when you have a headache you may take paracetamol. I ask you: do you consider why you have the headache – are you dehydrated, suffering withdrawal from something you usually put in your body, have stress, have you been on your feet all day, are you constipated, is the weather humid…? Some of those causes can be treated easily without chemicals, as mouldy walls will not be cured by an asthma pump.

There is so much we just do not know about the human body. If anyone out there can explain to me why some women suffer from PMT / severe menopausal symptoms while others do not, I’d genuinely be eternally grateful. And if anyone could explain exactly how the gut, nervous system and brain interact to register pain I’d be engrossed for as long as that explanation takes. Until either of those things are explained to me, I will have a certain level of cynical disregard for any healthcare provider who tells me that the only answer is to take painkillers or nerve blocks.

As a holistic therapist, I look at the whole person. Reflexology helps the body to rebalance thus encouraging self-healing, alongside which, some simple changes to diet and lifestyle can help alleviate all kinds of ills. The more I study, and the more I live, the more convinced I become that the answer lies Upstream.  I might be described as a royal pain in the arse on occasion, but for what it’s worth, I’m going to keep looking Upstream. Because no amount of ibuprofen will regulate my pain receptors, sleep pattern, energy levels, blood pressure…..

Note:563968_10200837122950594_1855185710_n* – some people refer to the ‘healthcare system’ as a ‘sickcare system’ as it rarely aims to keep people at optimum health, preferring to treat the main symptoms of sickness.

** – I labelled the third person as ‘she’ for a good reason. In Community Work, we are taught that women are usually the ones who keep society together for they are the child carers, the informal educators, the information sharers and the ones seeking improvements for the future.

Food, Health, Resolutions and Lessons…

Essential foods (and lessons) for women of a certain age!

For those of you who know me, you know I love a good list! A couple of years ago, I took to organising my diet to help me feel healthier and get more energy, and this, as you can probably guess, involved quite some writing. In columns.

Firstly, I designed a list of herbs that help with ailments (image attached). This meant that I’d know what herb to go and pick to make my tea depending on what my body was telling me. This worked quite well until many of the herbs got severely dehydrated. Not even the mint or rosemary survived that first season.

herbs-superfoods

Secondly, I designed a list based on what one website told me were ‘super foods’ (list 2 on image attached!). I decided to use this list to help me plan meals. I like garlic, broccoli, avocado and apples so I increased my uptake of those quite easily. The meal planning didn’t go so well….

I’ve struggled for years with PMT, back pain and depression. I’ve been convinced for at least half of those years that the conditions are inter-related. Or at least impact significantly on each other which makes some days / weeks in the month particularly gruelling.  By Spring last year, I was feeling fobbed off once again by the medical profession, and it seemed that my body & mind were functioning at an average age of 7o, which I am 30 years from. So in sheer desperation that my broken, painful and exhausted body must be all my own fault, I decided that something had to change so started again to  focus on my diet… This is what I have come up with:

Cut down sugar: It’s so hard, it’s in anything processed. And I love sweet things. And Mars Bars. And Galaxy…. But it is do-able. I cut out biscuits first. Then reduced sugar in hot drinks. Now I never eat cake and chocolate on the same day. Small steps.

Reduce caffeine:  It’s a stimulant which unbalances your body’s natural rhythm. I used to do at least 2 coffees before my morning coffee! Mission 1: purchase some herbal teas. Urgh! Persevered. Powered through the caffeine-withdrawal headaches. Now I like some herbal teas and as a general rule, I only have 2 caffeinated drinks a day.

Reduce household chemicals: It’s all about the little chemical things that float around smelling all lovely, but they’re toxic. I use flash wipes. I use washing up liquid. But when I’ve got the time, I mix up some lemon juice and bicarb for the bathroom, I’ve thrown out at least half of those bottles under the sink and I rarely use candles unless they are pure bees wax.

Real butter or Coconut oil are better than the plastic stuff / fake butter that has lots of oils and stabilisers all mixed in as these upset your body’s natural balance too! I have a feeling that Countrylife Spreadable is as close to natural you can get if, like me, you’re prone to hacking up your toast / biscuits with the real stuff.

But back to the all important lists! Food that are great for lots of things:

Salmon / Olive Oil / Oily fish – Arthritis, bones & joints, anti-aging, low fat, good fat, hormone balancing

Dark Greens / Broccoli / Spinach – Arthritis, bones & joints, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, immunity, mental health

Almonds / Walnuts / Pumpkin seeds – Arthritis, bones & joints, anti-aging, good fat, mental health, immunity

Garlic / Ginger / Turmeric – Arthritis, joints, anti-inflammatory, immunity

Avocado – good fat, mental health, hormone balancing

Blueberries – Anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, mental health

Olive oil / Olives – arthritis, joints, anti-aging, good fat

Yogurt / Dairy – Arthritis, bones & joints, immunity

Tomatoes – mental health, joints, anti-aging, immunity

In addition to that list, top of the list of things I always have at home are:  

Edamame (soy) beans – Arthritis, joints & bones, anti-aging, immunity

Green Tea – Arthritis, immunity

Apples – mental health, immunity

Spinach / Pumpkin seeds / Banana – hormone balancing

So with those food top of my lists, I’ve moved towards a diet that helps my body fight back against pain, inflammation, skeletal deterioration, and moods that swing in a way only a slightly neurotic hormonal woman can understand! I’ve not included info about the benefits relating to cholesterol, lung function, circulation & more, as that’s not my personal area of interest, but it’s all on the internet if you want to add that in.  I’m not a nutritionist and I’m not saying my list is scientifically accurate.

What I am saying is that those wild New Year Resolutions of giving up alcohol, sugar, coffee, chocolate and going on a diet and going to the gym and and and…….. Pfffft! Just no! Don’t do it to yourself!  What does work is some small changes over the space of a year, three years, five years… Having some acceptance that there will be unhealthy phases. Deciding that indulging in a little of what you fancy DOES NOT mean that you have to engage the ‘guilt ridden / I’m a failure / I can see the cellulite already’ brain cell. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to a friend. By picking only foods that I already knew I liked to start making those small changes made getting onto a healthier road much less daunting. I am learning to take better care of myself, my lifestyle is changing and I’m feeling good.  And small steps are okay.

The Power of Positivity

On 14th September 2000, my wonderful friend & housemate at the time bought me a ‘happy book’. A diary to keep track of the positives. As life goes on & sometimes the world seems to run away with us, I’ve finally got into a routine of keeping a Positive Diary. At least 3 things a day: Sometimes I note what made me smile, or something I accomplished, or a positive thing someone said or done for me, or a reminder to myself of something I am good at, or something healthy that my body will thank me for, or something that I’m proud I did. I always try to have at least 1 note about personal life & 1 relating to work. It’s a tough habit to get into, but it really does help calm my mind before sleep. Take care all, be kind to yourselves & remember that you are loved X X img_3899

The poison inside us all

I discussed with a colleague recently that we tend to lean towards being good with technology, or good with people, I think it used to be recognised as the ‘sciences’ or the ‘arts’ in school language. As holistic therapists, we often fall into the latter category. Myself for example: I can relate to people, I can write with creativity and flair, I recognise the beauty in nature…. But technology and science do not come naturally to me, and somewhere, I developed a mental block, and a real resistance to them.

Having been a sportswoman and studied sports since I was 14, then working with teenagers where understanding hormones and growth helped me as a professional, I had a good basis to train for, and pass, my anatomy and physiology exams for Reflexology. It wasn’t easy, and it scared me, but I achieved. Human biology and it’s relationship to chemistry fascinates me as I strive to better understand how our bodies work in the 21st century environment, how our bodies react to the chemicals in our foods, and the natural changes that occur within us as we age. Human physiology is a complex blend of interdisciplinary sciences, so while it doesn’t come naturally to me, by starting at the point of human imbalances, disease and weakness, I am able to make sense of it.

I think this is how we need to look at life. As Eunice Ingham (mother of Reflexology) believed, the power of our mind can limit the ability of our bodies and soul. Through a deeper understanding of a wholistic approach to life, I am learning to remove my own self-limiting beliefs, I am deciding to persevere with the physiology and science, I am no longer buying into the lessons we were taught as little girls.