A year ago I gifted myself Kristina Karlsson’s intriguing book – Your Dream Life Starts Here. I got the Dream Life Journal at the same time and got stuck into the business of dreaming.
I decided to take my time with this process unsure of where it would take me.
Chapter 2 is titled “Be inspired by the dreams of others”. At the end of this chapter is such an inspiring story, that of Dr Tererai Trent. Discovering her story sidetracked me from the Dream Life Journal for a number of months as I explored Dr Tererai’s magical idea of sacred dreams and tapping into your Great Hunger.
By August I had 3 delicious dreams safely encased in my Dream Tin! I don’t have a suitable place to bury my dreams, like Dr Tererai did, so the tin travels with me wherever I go.
This part of the process was so uplifting and hope-inducing, particularly on the back of a previous few months of difficult times to push through.
But there’s dreaming and then there’s doing, right!
Back to the Dream Life Journal which I have now completed. Dr Tererai’s inspiration of the sacred and Kristina’s insights into the practicalities of dreaming have dove-tailed beautifully. Those 3 dreams buried in the Dream Tin now have very specific dates assigned and a master action list for each…. a couple of actions have even been ticked off already in the last couple of days!
I have always been a bit of dreamer… a day dreamer wandering wistfully through memories or drifting into future hopes.
As Master Yoda says of Luke ” Never his mind on where he was… what he was doing!”
This is dreaming of a different kind…. a dream life that is tangible and oh so possible… if I keep my end of the deal, stick to my action list and the Universe meets me half way… this time next year will look really different. Let’s see, shall we?
One way to define advent is the anticipation of a coming event. Historically Advent has been associated with the lead up to Christmas and involves particular rituals and traditions in the Christian faith.
These days advent has taken on a number of different meanings. I think for many people today the “anticipation” is simply the stress of being caught up in the consumerism juggernaut that is the lead up to the festive season, worries over finances and being able to afford the “expected” way to celebrate or sadness at what can be the loneliest time of year for some.
For me, it has always been “the most wonderful time of the year”. And what I have come to realise is just how much this season means to me and my mental and emotional well-being, of all things!
Anticipation of a coming event. To me this anticipation is the expectation of a positive experience, a child-like excitement. At my age I certainly can’t put this down to getting up at the crack of dawn to open Christmas presents…. those days are long gone!
Now advent is steeped in ritual.
Some advent rituals are around preparation for the coming celebration that is Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and the family time we are so privileged to share. Advent in my world is a way of keeping those loved ones who have passed or that live far away close by…. part of our reflection and celebration, always in our hearts.
Other rituals centre around my need to reflect – on the year that has been as it winds to a close, checking in with my dream life goals, a gratitude practice…. and gradually beginning to set the intent for the coming year.
A reflection this advent is just how lucky I am to have these positive, uplifting memories of childhood Christmases to draw on. As well as a rich source of family ritual and tradition to continue observing. And how lucky I am, being so wired to the idea of seasons and cycles, that my work allows me to take the time at this time of year to acknowledge advent in my own quirky way.
I want my life and work to be meaningful. I want to live and breathe my passion and purpose daily. I want to be a force for change – for a more loving and compassionate world.
But my character is not forceful. My leadership style is not charismatic or
persuasive. My dedication to my work, my
accomplishments and achievements often fly under the radar as I don’t seek to put
myself forward. I am also not competitive
which means I mostly defer to more extroverted characters. Perhaps this is read as weakness.
And so I have been having a little crisis of self… the
crisis of the “I’m too small” and the “I’m not enough” kind because I don’t have
a “big, out there” personality.
I’ve been here before. So time to find solitude and sit with this discomfit and then the epiphanies will come…. they always do…
As part of my journey with Dr Tererai Trent’s book – The Awakened Woman – I have been reflecting a lot about the place of ritual in daily life.
She talks of the importance of ritual in helping her on the path towards her sacred dreams. In the companion journal I am working through there is a section titled “grow your soul through ritual”. She writes about the richness of her culture in the part of rural Zimbabwe where she was born. There is such beauty in the connection of her people with natural world and the rituals that result. It is an inspiring read.
Dr Trent is not the first woman I have come across who speaks of the essential place of ritual in her life.
One of the prompts in the Awakened Woman journal was
to list any rituals you practise already.
At first it was difficult to think of any rituals in my own life. Looking to the past, my ancestry, the idea of
a rich cultural history is fraught. My
ancestors come from a group of people who’s past actions and values I would
prefer to distance myself from in many ways.
Then I started thinking closer to home, to my family and my childhood. I was lucky enough to grow up with my great grandparents and grandparents on both sides. Family tradition in abundance. As I began to list our family traditions a realisation occurred – it was me who turned many of these traditions into ritual. Especially at this time of the year as we head towards the festive season I have become the keeper of my family’s rituals. So without consciously thinking about this before, ritual has played an important place in my wellbeing – in feeling connected with the spirit of the past and in rooting deeply in the present to grow into the future.
There is another quote from the Awakened Woman journal I like,
“Rituals are the actions we can take to help us walk the path to our dreams. They connect us to a more authentic version of ourselves, allow us to pause and focus on what’s important and strengthen our beliefs”.
So what can ritual look like? I think it can be any action sacred to you, that you deliberately and thoughtfully repeat. I believe ritual becomes a very personal thing. I have rituals around prayer, meditation and a mindfulness practice… oooh and time on my Shakti mat! Finding time for stillness in the day to day busyness of life has become essential for me. Particularly as I currently live and work in a busy city – an environment that drains my energy.
The next prompt was to consider how the rituals you practise
help move you closer to your dreams. Definitely
a concept I had never considered!
One of my dreams goes around treading lightly and respectfully on the Earth. And so I got to thinking about whether ritual plays a part in my attempt at living sustainably. And upon reflection it does.
My family has a lot of ritual around food. We use food and precious family recipes as a way to commemorate family occasions, mark anniversaries and the passing of seasons. As immigrants our food rituals connect us to a spirit of place and time as well.
And what I now realise is that I have come to think of food and food preparation as a way to honour what Mother Earth provides – there is ritual in that. I still choose to eat meat – not in large quantity and only if I know where and how it was produced. I focus on what’s seasonal and grown locally. In a country like New Zealand I am extremely lucky to easily know where and how meat, eggs, milk, butter, fresh fruit and veg are produced and make my consumer choices accordingly. While cooking and preparing meals, I have now added in quirky little prayers of thanks to living things, plants and animals, that have given their energy to allow me mine. A weird ritual perhaps but one that has given me “pause and focus on what’s important and strengthening my beliefs”.
All this has made me ponder the food thing when travelling. How can you be comfortable without really knowing where the produce is coming from or how it was produced? I then remembered my time as F&B manager at an ecolodge in the Okavango Delta. The thought that went into sourcing food to provide a 4 star offering in a very remote location. We did source locally as much as possible. We did create menus based on seasonal availability. So the food side of things became as considered in the journey towards a sustainable organisation as the energy use, green building materials or waste minimisation strategies.
Above are some images from my time in Okavango…. best office in the world!
So even on safari in really out of the way places, treading lightly and living sustainably is possible. I take comfort in the knowledge that in their own way many eco-conscious tourism operations in Africa today do incorporate ritual. Ritual that makes them respectful of the wildlife and wild space in which they operate. Ritual that makes them sensitive to the communities they impact and include in their conservation intention. Ritual that ensures their guests are supported to also tread as lightly as possible in their journey of exploration.
So I haven’t posted in a month. It has been a difficult month filled with
disappointed hopes, winter illness, a family health scare and a somewhat
overwhelming feeling of disillusionment.
For me, I often have these feelings of overwhelm at this
time of the year. I am beginning to
believe it is the universe’s way of telling me to slow down, pause and take
stock – what is urgent and essential and what can simply wait a little while
until it is addressed. This is seasonal,
cyclical…. And perhaps something I should be able to plan for by now…
It also seems to me at times like these that the only
solution is to reconnect with nature.
Not something I can always act on easily with living in the city but
this year the opportunity to retreat presented and I took it…
Disclaimer: I am about to reveal just how much of a
Professor JRR Tolkien geek I am!
I retreated all the way to the end of the second age of Middle Earth…. It is truly wonderful how much of Middle Earth is easily accessed right here in beautiful Aotearoa/New Zealand. In a little corner of Northland not far from Whangarei I found another little piece of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. To me it felt like the forests at the very end of the Second Age or the very beginning of the Third Age when the Dunedain first establish the Kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor and High Elves still linger in Greenwood the Great. There is a peaceful watching of the Sacred Kingfisher and magic on every path up ahead and around every bend. Magic also sparkles in the song of the waterfall and the trill of the Grey Warbler.
It was cold – the fog rolling in of an evening and a light frost in the morning. Just as it should be this time of year. The perfect space to get back in the natural rhythm of things. A better perspective on the first world problems that brought me to retreat in the first place. A moment to refocus in gratitude at the grace afforded me and mine.
Today is Nelson Mandela’s birthday – 18 July. I chose today to share the story of this incredible woman, Di Wilkinson, because she has chosen to commemorate his birthday in her own amazing way.
I stumbled upon Di Wilkinson’s story on social media.
Hoedspruit, South Africa holds a special place in my heart. I spent many happy school holidays in that
area as a kid. The Drakensberg
Escarpment provides a dramatic backdrop to the mixed bushveld plains that
stretch eastwards. The scenic Blyde
River winds its way through the area bringing the waters from the escarpment
down to these lowlands. Interesting rock
formations abound. This unique mix of
habitats supports a wide variety of flora and fauna. It is a place of orchards – citrus, mango and
macadamia. It is also a place of game
reserves and over the years has become a hub for conservation research and wildlife
rehabilitation. There are a number of
wildlife rehabilitation centres and orphanages in this area. I follow one of them, the Hoedspruit
Endangered Species Centre, on social media.
And this brings me back to Di Wilkinson of The Platter Project.
She is a wonderfully talented artist who produces these
beautiful drawings. Most are inspired by
the wildlife of Southern Africa but as I mentioned at the start, she is
currently sharing a special print with a portrait of the great Madiba.
She “sells” these beautiful pieces – started on platters and is now mostly A3 prints. All the money you pay for her art goes to charity. Specifically charities focused on wildlife conservation, like the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, and organ donation. A strange combination of causes to support, perhaps, but there is more to her story.
In June 2013 Di was diagnosed with kidney disease. Serious kidney disease requiring dialysis
five hours a day, three days a week.
Miraculously, in May 2018 she found a compatible donor and underwent a
life-saving kidney transplant.
To think of all she has gone through during this time but not she has not given up on life, on her family, on her creativity, on her passion, on community. In fact to still have that generosity of spirit that shares her talent with the world and using it to support lives outside of her own…. Di is a truly an extraordinary woman!
And there will be more to her story too. She will be a partner, a mother, a daughter,
maybe a sister, a friend – all those things that make us who we are. But I suspect if we asked her she would
simply say she was an ordinary woman just trying her ordinary best in space she
I find her creativity spectacular. I find her resilience inspiring. I find her care and generosity moving. I find her “voice” extraordinary.
Be well, Di Wilkinson 💚
Check out her beautiful work on Facebook – The Platter Project or
on Instagram @theplatterproject.
I remember my first period really clearly. I was 11 years old and it was awful. Even though I knew what was coming, understood its reason biologically – my mother is very pragmatic and we had already had “the talk” – it was still awful. I had fairly scientific leanings even then and while my rational mind could make sense of the biological function of it all, this pretty early blooming, relatively speaking, made me feel quite defective. As an introvert I was already struggling with how to be more invisible but somehow this experience made me feel like I had a big, scarlet “P” on my forehead – “she’s a woman now!” – which completely freaked me out. Quite bizarre thinking back on it.
Unfortunately getting my period also signaled the beginning of a 30 year struggle with my body and its hormone functions – a legacy of “woman’s issues” in my family. Every doctor, naturopath, acupuncturist, chiropractor, endocrinologist visit under the sun. Countless hours reading everything about women’s’ health and I won’t even hazard a guess at the amount of money spent on these visits, procedures, tests and medication. Who would want to be a woman?
But I am not sharing any of this really personal stuff to
solicit sympathy. No, I am about to utter words of absolute gratitude. Never once have I had to wonder how I would
afford my next pad or tampon or even pairs of underwear ruined by
flooding. Never once have I had to say I
will just live with all this pain and agony around that time of the month –
there was always a new doctor to try, a new treatment within reach. Never once did I have to sit in shame, alone
thinking I was dirty or unclean. Never
once did I have to face any of the medical stuff alone or keep all this to
myself for fear of shaming my family.
Never once did I have to face as a child making the decision not to go
to school because of my period or later in life postpone happy travelling
adventures because of my period.
I have just watched “Period. End of Sentence” – a 26 minute Netflix doco that brought me to tears. One thing I know for sure from talking to all sorts of women over the years is there is nothing straight forward about periods. The documentary highlights what is going on for women in rural India with regard to their periods. They can’t even talk about it, don’t understand why its happening, have no access to even basic sanitary products never mind trying to navigate pain, complications, disease, hormone imbalance and all the other complexities that often arise around our monthly bleed. My heart is broken. And then all I could think was these are disposable pads they’re making! What about the waste, what about the planet! These women have only just found some empowerment, access to a basic need. Just in time for others to probably tell they are clogging up landfills with their waste! My heart is broken again.
In my little bubble of a world the new conversation is all about waste-free managing-your-period alternatives like moon cups, period underwear or reusable cloth pads. Most of these options come with a hefty price tag. You would have to approach this with an investment in the future mentality. While trying to find an option to suit me I came across a New Zealand start up – I am Eva. Brilliant! I invested and I am sold – great product!
But no sooner had I started congratulating myself for
another little waste free win than I read something that shocked me. Period poverty is thing. Right here.
Right in my backyard. Young girls
in New Zealand are missing chunks of school every month because they cannot
afford sanitary products! Even older
women working minimum wage jobs are sometimes missing work for the same
reason. This is insane to me in a
country like New Zealand. Thankfully
there are amazing things happening out there to try and solve this. I am Eva is one example – you can buy period
underwear on behalf of women and girls who cannot afford this basic need. Australia has just taken sales tax off
sanitary products… perhaps we should be doing the same?
In May I am adventure bound once more – an elephant conservation project in Mozambique. Part of our plan is to visit village schools along the way with environmental education materials but also reusable cloth pads for girls. The importance of girls staying in school cannot be overstated, not to mention a little dignity with a side of empowerment. I am humbled to be a part of this Journey with Purpose and to help in a small way support the work of armswideopen.org.
In my early 40s now I have finally learned to stop fighting my body. I have learned to find stillness and listen to the sacred rhythms of womanhood. This may sound weird or airy fairy but it is truth. Seriously. And I wouldn’t even consider myself a feminist. All I can speak to is what I have learned about life from tapping into the wisdom of what makes me feminine – our periods are so much more than biology. My wish is for us to find a way to lift taboo and allow all girls to tap into their sacred feminine too. And we can’t even consider that if most girls don’t have access to basic sanitary products.
Here we are at the end of IQS Week 8 and the end of our little experiment. In an effort to think about moving forward this week I decided on a further cleanse – internal spring clean if you will. This took the form of a homeopathic based liver elixir and drops of a habit relief formula.
The first 2 days of this process was just awful – headaches, nausea and very low energy (in bed by 8pm those nights). I also cut back on coffee to coincide with the cleanse so I am not sure if the two days of awful was actually just caffeine withdrawal? However, by the third day I was feeling fine again.
I did experience a few odd cravings this week so I am not convinced those habit relief drops were actually that useful? Spicy fruit toast and deep fried chicken were the cravings, although not simultaneously. I am most certainly not pregnant!
With cutting back on the coffee I am trying to instigate new rituals around drinking tea morning and evening. In the morning a cup of organic rooibos or green tea in a pretty cup is most rejuvenating. And a chai infused milk in the evening makes a great dessert replacement.
So in conclusion:
Was sugar controlling my mind and messing with my body? YES
Has this 8 week IQS process recalibrated my system? YES
Do I feel more in control of my cravings? Definitely
Has the past 8 weeks been worth it? Absolutely
Do I feel substantially better in my health? I do
More than anything else I have tried previously? Yes, again
And the question everyone is asking – did I lose weight? Well, I have not gone anywhere near a scale or tape measure but I venture a yes here too based on my clothes fitting more comfortably, especially round the middle.
So moving forward once more:
Yes, I do think I will be incorporating the IQS principles “for life” and minimising sugar intake as much as possible without becoming an anti-sugar bore. Mostly I will strive to be gentle with myself always.
I have a more balanced relationship with food and I want to keep it that way. Food is fuel for every day. I need to pay attention to the cues of my body (a different sensation from cravings). I have the idea of no sugar more the 3 – 6g/100g at the back of my mind most of the time and certainly minimising processed foods as much as possible.
But I will also enjoy every moment of times of celebration with friends and family that invariably involve food and indulgence.
No more “cold” comfort on my own after a hard day at work. I will look to new forms of comfort such as making tea, lighting a candle and meditating, walking on the beach, sitting in the garden, fresh linen on the bed, splashing out on a manicure, buying and arranging fresh cut flowers, etc.
So I congratulate myself for all the times during the past 8 weeks I did not give in to the cravings or temptations. But also for all the times I bounced back from a small lapse. I will not berate myself for the fried chicken or that bag of potato chips.
Ultimately I now think our relationship with food and getting a balance between mind and body is not ever a one-off process or stumbling luckily across one cure-it-all. Rather it is a journey (like life is). A journey of reflection, growth, refinement and finding your flow.
I am also looking forward to checking out Dr Libby’s new book – Sweet Food Story.
After the lapse in IQS week 6 it has been amazingly simple to bounce back now in week 7. As Sarah puts in the Week 7 chapter of her IQS book, you revert back to your blank slate by eating fat and crowding out with lots of fresh greens.
Like I mentioned in my previous post, there is a much better mind body balance at play here. I feel more balanced, the cravings no longer control me.
Having previously (for years) struggled with headaches and a fairly constant foggy brain state, I am feeling so much clearer and focused and energised. I have had practically no headaches in the last seven weeks.
My energy levels are so different to what they were before this little experiment. I wouldn’t say I leap out of bed in the mornings but I am not waking up with a heavy head feeling more tired than when I fell into bed the night before.
This is such an incredible sense of freedom. I never would have believed it possible. I must admit to having been quite sceptical before starting this process that I would feel this level of result after seven short weeks.
I’m feeling happily full after meals. I only eat when I’m hungry and this week have had almost no cravings between meals. My portion sizes are much smaller too. It is all becoming a lot easier to manage. What felt like quite a chore to think and plan through the meals for the week and shopping, etc. is now coming quite naturally.
Even my supermarket choices are improving, more controlled. I stick to my list and listen to the cues of my body as I’m wandering the aisles. My body is not signalling a need for the bad stuff.
Another thing I have noticed is I seem to be processing water more effectively. What I mean by that is, I have gone for a number of years now feeling almost constantly thirsty. As a result I would drink about two to three litres of water a day and still feel thirsty. I struggled a lot with water retention at the same time. My weight could fluctuate 2 – 3 kgs in a single day! In the past weeks I am definitely not as thirsty. I am still drinking about one to two litres of water a day but it makes me feel full and seems to be doing what it is supposed to instead of sitting around where it is not supposed to and making me feel huge and unhappy.
All rather miraculous really. Long may this last.
Check out the IQS Store online for lots of other info and ideas from Sarah.
This week we went on holiday. Beautiful New Zealand in the spring time. I know people complain about spring weather in this part of the world – the wind, the rain, its changeable nature. But at this same time we see the gorgeous shades of green of paddock and forest, washed bright and fresh by the spring showers. The aquamarine blue of the water washing up along the white sands on the Pacific coast. The blues and greens of spring are rejuvenating, whispering hope and growth.
We put aside IQS restrictions and took advantage of being on holiday in every sense we could.
I didn’t feel guilty but rather relished indulging in a few of the delectable delights on offer – a 2 hour wine tasting plus accompaniments at a local vineyard with my mom; a delicious tapas meal with smoked beer in a converted church and tiny tastes of yummy baked goods at the local cafe chased with a fabulous macchiato (difficult to find a good one of those in this country in my experience). The perfect break from our normal.
And so we head into Week 7: Recovering from Lapses. This seems pretty appropriate considering the the week 6 we just had. Reading what Sarah says about IQS week 7, it seems we are ahead of the game. This week’s conscience lapse has reminded us of why we quit the white stuff in the first place. So we focus back on being mindful in a gentle and kind way of how our bodies responded to a little sweetness. In my case, I can definitely say that I have broken a bad habit and feel better for it. I can hear my body’s voice asking for whole, fresh, vital and nutritious food. I feel more in balance and not fighting against the cravings. That makes staying without sugar a much easier choice. I am motivated to continue…. maybe IQS for life?