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Denial as a Path to Wellness? Not normally, but…

Generally speaking, denial isn’t a good thing—the more clarity we have around an issue, the easier it is to move through it.

But in the case of some absolutist diagnoses that box people in to a life of medication and/or restrictive thinking, I might suggest that considering a less fixed view—possibly even complete denial—isn’t always such a bad thing.

In my case, being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and clinical depression many years ago was, from the perspective of the health professionals I saw at the time, a life sentence of unavoidable management through psychotropic or antipsychotic chemicals with common side effects such as; blurred vision, dry mouth, drowsiness, muscle spasms or tremors, nausea and weight gain (not to mention forever feeling like you were “on drugs”—and not in a good way!).

For me it was basically a mental and physiological prison sentence — but I had plans to break out… somehow.

So whilst I took the diagnosis seriously and tried medication for a period of time, I eventually got sick of the complete stagnancy and discomfort of it all, chose denial as my path—at least, denial of the perceived permanence—and explored numerous natural avenues of management instead.

Here’s what worked for me:

  1. a few counselling sessions to overcome triggers,
  2. a healthy microbiome-focussed wholefoods diet,
  3. avoidance of all processed and toxic foods,
  4. light exercise (although I’m not very disciplined with this!),
  5. mindfulness and
  6. meditation.

These days, completely free from any sign of the “disorder” or clinical depression, the only side effect I experience from these “treatments” is genuine bliss, mental clarity and general wellbeing…. So thanks denial! 😉

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Why I Stopped Looking for “Happiness” (or even using the word!)

Most people’s desire for happiness is driven by a type of remembering and also a definite delusion.

The remembering is because, as I’ve discovered, when we strip away all the delusion of perception we find at our core we are indeed already at peace, contented and even joyful. Or as Sean Meshorer puts it;

“Bliss is our highest calling and potential. When we scrape away the false layers of sensory pleasures, worldly attainments, and the delusions of our mind, we discover it quietly dwelling inside us.”

I think as babies (and before, no doubt) we live in this state of contented being — of absolute presence — without the mind getting in the way with any thoughts about what the previous moment “meant”, or what the next moment will be. So when we’re older, we’re trying to recreate that feeling, but we look in the wrong places (outside of ourself) because we’re blindsided by the media and other stories we get told about what brings happiness.

Sure, fleeting feelings of happiness can be found in external things—relationships, experiences, money, fame, etc—but then (as the Dhammapada rightly suggests) we’re ultimately left with more sorrow, because once the moment has passed (and they all do) and the fleeting happiness disolves (and it always does), what are we left with?

All is transient. When one sees this, he is above sorrow. This is the clear path.” (Dhammapada 277)

The delusion is, as mentioned, in part this idea that we can “arrive” at happiness and stay there — that anything outside ourselves will give us lasting happiness. Another aspect to the delusion is often that we’re somehow broken or incomplete and need something outside of us to fix us or to make us whole. This is prevalent in western society; mostly because of our deep rooted mythology and culture (for example, old religious beliefs that we are born in “sin” and need “saving”, or simply the western proclivity towards capitalism and comparison — that “I’ll only be complete when I’ve reached a certain financial goal, or own certain things”, etc).

I’d take contentment over happiness any day.

In short, happiness is about perception, and it’s possible to generate a lot more happiness by changing your perception of your experiences. But even the word “happiness” can make people unhappy, because it is so loaded, and so externalised—so event-based—for most people. So I prefer contentment, because that, in it’s meaning alone, already gives a huge clue to what is important here. I can’t be “happy” all the time, but I can choose to be content all the time. I can be choose to be content with the way things are right now.

Many people react to this by saying “how can I be content when my life is so bad?”. But that’s where perception plays it’s most powerful part (and perhaps the only time that comparison can be useful). Because my response is always “how do people in certain countries live in circumstances of abject poverty and extremely limited resources, yet seem completely content—blissful even?”. If we perceive that what we have is not enough, we will experience the same degree of lack in our level of contentment. If we look for the good within ourselves and our lives, accepting all aspects as they are in this moment, we inevitably find it.

Yet, a mental agreement to the idea of contentment is not really enough (unless you are an extremely advanced yogi who has reached the Buddha-like state of full realisation, or Nirvana). On a very practical level, there are 3 simple things to do to increase the emotional enjoyment of your everyday life…

1. Eat yourself into brain bliss.

I’m not talking about a chocolate donut sugar buzz here, but sustainable, natural equanimity and mental health… I think the simplest (and often most impactful) is consistently eating more fresh, whole foods and avoiding processed foods, refined sugars, alcohol and other drugs (including too much caffeine). Research about our body’s microbiome (the good bacteria that mostly live in our gut) shows that what we eat directly affects the production of our neurotransmitters and “feel-good” chemicals. In very simplistic terms, unhealthy food hinders our ability to feel good, and healthy food (like fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, spring water, etc) effortlessly builds our physical and emotional resilience… Ever tried to feel good emotionally when your body is unwell?

2. Move yourself into body bliss.

Incorporating a little more whole-body exercise (running, dancing, martial arts, cross-fit, etc) into your schedule will work wonders too, because that’s been proven to help improve a person’s mood in a sustainable way as well.

3. Meditate yourself into boundless bliss.

Notice I put this last. In actual fact, this order is very intentional because, whilst meditation can potentially have an incredible effect on your wellbeing (because it leads you back to the source of who you are at your core, which is bliss), it will be very challenging (and mostly ineffective) if your body or brain are not supported.

So there we go. I’ve gone a little off track perhaps, but I’m sure you can see why I’ve stopped looking for happiness—those fleeting moments of external event-based response are a very poor and unsustainable substitute for deep contentment, peace and the genuine bliss that our inner reality has to offer in every moment.

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How To Self-Sabotage Your Failure (& Finally Get What You Want)

Some days we find ourselves exactly where we don’t want to be … again. Why is that so? How does that happen, over and over — are we simply not committed to our own happiness? Are we lazy? Are we just completely broken?

No. As it turns out, we don’t really have a commitment problem per se, it’s just that sometimes we’re committed to the wrong things (subconsciously at least). In fact, when things are really going badly, it’s important to realise that we’re not un-committed to our success, we’re just MORE committed to our failure… because, if you look closely and review life with an open-mind, you’ll probably find (like I did) that it serves us somehow. But rather than launch into an exploration of why failure “serves” us, I think it’s more important to consider how to end this vicious cycle of self-sabotage.

So here are seven action-steps to help put an end to self-sabotage. I admit that they’re pretty simplistic, but to cover everything in detail would fill a whole book, so these are just great starting points that will help move you towards “self-sabotaging” your failure and finally getting what you want out of life…

1. Be honest with yourself

It’s not easy to admit we are responsible for what we can’t achieve. Open yourself to the possibility that you are sabotaging your efforts. Self-sabotage can affect all of us. The key to overcoming them is our ability to be candid with ourselves.

2. Build your self-confidence

A large part of self-sabotage is related to how you feel about yourself. Our ability to be confident is the catalyst for anything we want to accomplish. Create unique strategies to build and reinforce your confidence; It’s an important step to ending self-sabotage.

3. Criticize less, love more

There are two type of people in the world, those who blame others for their problem and those who blame themselves. Which one are you? Until we learn to stop self-criticisms and to love ourselves, we will never stop standing in our way.

4. Take small steps towards your goals

One way you can diminish your fears and end self-sabotage is to take small steps towards achieving your goals. The benefit of incremental steps includes: Objectivity, focus and clarity. It will also reduce the likelihood of self-sabotage.

5. Remove Obstacles

The ones listed above and any that interferes with achieving your goals. Other obstacles to consider includes: Expecting easy, being resistive to change. Take proactive steps to pinpoint obstacles standing in your way.

6. Be Fearless

Fear is one of the main reason we self-sabotage. The moments you feel fear is an excellent time to find perspective. Remember the reasons you are pursuing your goals. Fear itself will always be a part of us; learn to face it and deal with it. Make every possible effort to believe in your abilities, remember no one is perfect. Be fearless in spite of your fears.

7. Do The Deeper Work

Don’t let self-sabotage rob you of the opportunity to succeed at your intentions. Consider the instances in your life where you might be sabotaging your efforts…

1) Uncover ALL your hidden, unhealthy thought-processes and beliefs that are out of alignment with your goals and
2) Repeatedly replace them with thought-processes and beliefs that support your desires and compel you toward the successful accomplishment of your goals.

This is the deeper work. It’s challenging and worth getting some professional help (from a well-seasoned counsellor, for example) to speed up what can otherwise be a long process, but this will change your life… just like it changed mine.

Good luck!

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Q&A: “How Do I Control My Thoughts During Meditation?”

This is a common question, but the point is to not control your thoughts during meditation. As soon as you try to control something, you are in a state of resistance, which is sure to prolong the very thing you’re trying to stop.

The point is to realise that you are not your thoughts; you are the one watching your thoughts. Simply noticing each thought as it arises, feeling separate from it and allowing it to pass without adding anything to it will, over time, lead to a quietening of the mind.

Also focussing on a physical sensation (like the breath through your nostrils) or an external sound (e.g. the wind in the trees, or meditation music, etc) can make it a lot easier to quieten the mental chatter.

If all else fails, I might ask the mind a question to keep it busy and/or to become more grounded in the present moment, such as “what does peace feel like in my body and where do I feel it right now?”.

Hope that helps!

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Old Paradigms & Broken Hearts

Because of my personal prior history with clinical depression, it breaks my heart when I read things like this…

“My daughter, 17, has been prescribed 4 different depression meds in 3 months. All of them make her sick. She was suicidal and the professionals INSIST that she needs meds. I don’t believe any of these meds are helping her but am afraid to go against the professionals opinion. Help!”

I don’t blame the “professionals” directly—they’re taught from the perspective of an OLD biological understanding, and for acute conditions, they’ve had much success with this in the past and have not been given any alternate tools or paradigms, so I can see how it might make sense from their perspective to maintain their limited paradigm (even though they’ve not had so much luck with chronic conditions).

However, in the last decade or so, NEW biological research and revelations have shown us that our feel-good brain chemicals are largely produced in our gut, by our MICROBIAL counterparts, rather than our mammalian/human cells (that most current pharmaceutical medicine is focussed on).

So if we are talking about a chronic situation (such as most non-communicable diseases, including depression and chronic anxiety), then the PRIMARY point of focus should be improving diet (for ideas, search “how to improve your gut microbiome“) and reducing toxicity—restoring healthy function of our microbiome—rather than simply trying to control a surface symptom with narrowly focussed pharmaceuticals (some of which, e.g. antibiotics, actually harm the microbiome—thus, ultimately reducing our capacity for good mental and physical health).

This image shows the common factors for almost ALL chronic NCDs… none of which are permanently resolved by psychotropic or other pharmaceutical symptom-focussed medications, and most of which are within your immediate sphere of control.

BTW, if you’re taking psychotropic (or other) medications and/or seeing a professional about your mental health, I’m definitely NOT saying you should stop. There are a growing number of excellent holistic health practitioners out there who are doing marvelous work to help people. I’m not a “professional” and this is not medical advice. You should do your own research and decide for yourself.

BUT do also take a pro-active part in your own health, and I think, like me, you’ll be AMAZED at what some simple changes in diet to support your microbiome can do for your overall mental and physical health, so give it a shot!

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The Transformative Power of Holding Space

Lately I’ve been learning more and more about the power (and discomfort) of holding space…. oh, and gardening.

It’s funny in this world of massive action, outward signs of “success”, idolised gurus and endless to-do lists, that the place of real power is in the unknowingness, in the in-between, in the space within.

But of course, that ‘space’ isn’t empty like we imagine. It’s the incredible vibrant flux of potentiality that forms and maintains worlds and manifests trillions of new micro miracles every second of every day. It’s a pulsing aliveness, awaiting intention and consistent clarity to call it into form. It is infinitely complex, yet devastatingly simple at the same time.

I’m struggling with words right now…

…because how do you clearly convey the formless flux that implies all possibilities at any given moment? As soon as I put some sort of feeble construct around it, I am vastly limiting its truth and undermining it’s potential in my experience with my own mind.

So perhaps the only answer is to feel your way into it… not that you are ever “out” of it of course! But I mean to feel your way into the openness of possibility — to hold space for the things you yearn for, just like a gardener holds space for seeds to turn to crops and for crops to yield abundant provision… all the while gently watering and removing weeds as needed.

I love the analogy of the gardener.

The “work” of planting and tending is pretty simple (not always easy, but simple at least), whereas the miracle of death, deconstruction, rebirth, expansion, flowering and fruiting is incredibly complex. And all this time, the gardener has such great trust in the mechanisms of nature, that all unfolds beautifully, as it was intended to do.

Where I’ve had it wrong in the past is that I was stuck more in the doing, not the being. I lacked trust and somehow believed that the outcomes and experiences were more about what I did, than what was going on under the surface.

Now I am understanding that fertile soil is the key.

You see as we clear away the toxicity and the coagulated thought patterns, memories and calcified emotions, then growth can occur with ease.

Here’s a really great explainer video by Christie Marie Sheldon that talks about how you can “prepare your soil” (although she doesn’t use these words at all of course)…

For me, focussing more on inwardly clearing the “soil” (and being able to hold space in a far richer vibratory “garden”) rather than predominantly focussing on the outward actions, has transformed my mental/emotional (and even financial) health, and also my overall experience of life.

Now, the process of growth is far more effortless.

I spend more time initially on clearing the weeds that would have choked growth (through meditating, mantras, energetic clearing, avoiding toxic inputs, etc) and this results in many little miracles in my day-to-day life. Once I plant a new seed, I water with a highly potent mix of gratitude and love, and find that these seeds bloom and fruit so much faster than ever before.

Holding space can still have its discomfort at times and still requires patience, but wow, what a difference!