We live in an era where so many people cook less, eat in a hurry and yet often are more preoccupied with the effect the food they eat have on their health than ever.
My mother became a health conscious vegetarian in the late 70s, not too long after my grandparents had given up their Aga for an electric cooker and the novelty of powder that could turn into mash, rather than cooking the potatoes that they were growing in the fields…
In the ten years since I began my path to study and immersing myself in nutrition and nutritional science, the field have just exploded!
Online summits, upon online summits. Webinars, books and online courses.
Whether you are looking for a professional career in the field of health and wellness or simply want to educate yourself further to be able to take your own health into your own hands, the opportunities these days are endless. And so is the amount of information available. Endless. With lots of conflicting information at times…
Yes I find nutritional science really interesting and exciting, but like one of my colleagues in the HAES (Health At Every Size) community pointed out, when it comes to it (food and eating and nutrition), “there’s always a human involved”.
The relationship between food and eating and its many layers of complexity is becoming increasingly fascinating to me. There’s so much to it!
I feel like over the past few years my work has gradually evolved and I’ve become more clear on in what way I want to go. How I want to work, what message I am sending out and how I serve in this world.
Less about black and white thinking.
More about colour and creativity,
Less about guilt and shame.
More about joy and happiness.
Less about rules and shoulds.
More about embracing and trusting intuition and inner wisdom.
Less about eating from a place of head-knowledge.
More about eating from embodied needs and heart.
Less about the goals, more about the process.
Less fear, more care.
Less head “thinking”, more heart “feeling”.
It often feels counter cultural to move in this direction, yet it feels like TRUTH to me, so I’m heeding my calling.
And I am really hope that you will join me!
This is a journey about marrying nutrition with intuition.
To eat in a way that honour our bodies physical needs, from a place of care.
Without moral judgment attached to neither the food nor the eating.
Where we can learn to use the nutrition knowledge we have to look at food as supportive vs. non supportive and realised with mindful awareness that this may change depending on context and circumstances.
Breaking up with diet mentality and taking the path to freedom with mindful eating is one of courage and care, of kindness and compassion, of trust and discernment.
It is a way of looking after ourselves in the best way we can, because we are worthy and worth it.
Let’s do it together!
Why is it that sometimes we need to repeat the same learnings over and over?
Last week, I started the week with all guns blazing, lots of enthusiasm and energy for the task at hand.
Sometimes I get so consumed with a project and the desire to complete it that pretty much everything else take a backseat. Including selfcare and eating… It’s back to that ever repeating lesson of learning that thing called “balance”, and what it takes to keep it so, in our daily lives.
Of course, starting out the week with such a fast and furious pace, set me up for arriving at a the place of feeling a bit “burnt out” a few days later. No surprise there really. Yet this is something I often find myself doing. Even though “ I should know better”… Sigh… Why is it when it comes to certain areas of our lives, we may be slower to pick up on the message in the lesson?
Last week I also happen to come upon some lovely and relevant insights around this topic of “doing”, that’s so prevalent in our modern lives. These insights weren’t about the fact that we sometimes attach our self-worth to how much we are doing (or not doing). The point and angle the author was coming from, was the fact that we so often move from doing one task, then on to the next and the next, without ever stopping to reflect on our accomplishments, learnings or achievements.
In a sense, that’s very much like constantly moving the goalpost, just that little bit out of reach, meaning we can easily end up defeated or deflated because we’re feeling like “we’ll never get there”.
This brought me back thinking about some of the life lessons and the metaphors I’ve learnt from hiking.
I can still remember the time I did my first summit, about 6 ½ years ago. We don’t have huge mountains here in Ireland, so getting to the top is quiet doable for most people. That said, it wasn’t without its challenges. Though for sure, all the huffing and puffing was worth it, as we were blessed with the clear view from the top (not always guaranteed).
Here’s the thing though, whether we are out hiking, or we use and apply hiking as a metaphor for life in general; There is much beauty to behold on the way to the top. So if we just keep our focus on our feet and our minds on the goal for “what awaits when we get there”, we miss out on so much!
Since that first summit, I’ve done more hikes and hopefully 2107 will bring more opportunities to get out and explore the beautiful Irish mountains.
The other metaphor and life lesson on this very same theme that I’ve picked up from hiking is.
“It’s only when we turn around we realise how far we’ve come”
So it’s not just about pausing once in awhile to take in the view, it’s equally as important to turn around to realise the distance we’ve already travelled, to acknowledge the hurdles we’ve overcome and the challenges that have shaped us along the way. No, of course I don’t think we should dwell on the past, or get stuck there, but I do think that there’s learnings to be had by realise that we are stronger than what we often may think.
Here’s another thing, metaphors from the mountains does not just apply to life at large. We can zoom in and take them as a way of looking at our relationship with food and eating too.
The dynamic we experience between emotions, food, eating and our bodies is one that keeps intriguing me, with a desire to explore it deeper and deeper.
As much as I believe in the power of food as medicine, I also believe in the power that is healing our relationship with food. Because until we do, making choices that truly serves our bodies and our health is challenging. (I will speak more on these barriers in another blog post).
The result of my sprinting start this week, followed by the burnt out state a few days later ended up much reflected in my food choices too. Like a burger and chips from a chipper one night…!
I know, I may just have shattered any illusion you may have held of me being perfect, as a trained nutrition professional. But here’s the learning. I no longer struggle with guilt or shame, after eating something like that. There was a time I would have, especially if I were on any kind of diet, but these days I see these food choices more like cues. When I find myself looking for quick carbohydrates and fried foods like this, it is usually a sign that my inner state of being is that of “fried” as well. So rather than beating myself up for what I just ate, I take stock to see what it is that I really need. Like going to bed a little earlier so I can have some more sleep, a hot bath to unwind, and a good conversation with a friend.
From looking at the symbolism in my food choices, I see that my own selfcare has been neglected and that is what needs attention! And usually my own selfcare routine also includes feeding myself with fresh colourful foods.
If I was still stuck in my old “dieting mindset”, chances are that I would have beaten myself up for my food choices at that time, followed by “sure I’ve broken it now so I may as well keep eating” , and probably ended up continuing on with some kind of binging… Maybe you recognise yourself in this kind of pattern? Truth is, it’s a harrowing one. One that’s draining both on our precious energy as well as on our self-worth and self-esteem.
But you know what, truth is, it IS possible to overcome it! Because that project that I was so feverishly working on, it is designed to do just that. Go and check out the Happy Healthy Me Programme.
Food freedom is possible. Though it can be bumpy ride at time, or a challenging path to walk (just like mountain hiking), I promise that the view from the top is totally worth it! And so too, is the beauty of the surrounding i.e the unfolding.
Do you long to let go of obsession around food, eating and weight? Would you like to feel freedom and peace around meals and beyond, but need some help and support to get there?
It would be an honour to walk with you on this path. Please email me HERE to set up a free 30 min consultation to explore how this may be possible for you too.
We are at the final Aspect on our rainbow journey of the 7 Systems of Health! This is the SPIRIT Aspect.
I can’t remember when I figured out that I was ‘spiritual’. Perhaps I’ve always believed in something Greater.
Though a “man-made” religion never felt like it was for me, I do find it difficult to believe that there’s not something more out there…
How can we not believe when we look all around us and realise how it is all so beautifully and intrically connected. Everything so finely fine-tuned to dance in synch and harmony. In balance. Surely that’s no coincidence?
To be honest, I don’t believe in extremes. Because when we’ve wandered too far either side of the spectrum we’ve lost that precious balance. Spirituality becomes religion and religion loses heart. It all becomes rigid and stuck.
Perhaps we don’t need strict rules to live a spiritual life? Maybe all we need to do, is to pause and open our eyes and other senses to all that is?
Within the 7 Systems of Health, the SPIRIT System is where we bring the most subtle elements of who we are, together.
We look at circadian rhythms, electromagnetic fields, and light. When it comes to lifestyle this is where looking at cleansing fits in, as well as being aware of toxicity in our food supply and environment.
The master gland for this System is the Pineal gland which is a tiny, pine cone shaped gland located pretty much in the middle of the brain, at about the same height as the point between our eyebrows.
This gland was the last endocrine gland whose function was discovered, and we may yet not know all that there is to know about it either. What we do know is that the Pineal gland secrets and regulates the production of melatonin which is our sleep hormone.
This is done through the recognition of light and darkness, through receptors. This regulation and recognition, is important to make sure that our 24h day-night cycle, circadian rhythm works as intended. Apart from being our body’s internal “clock”, melatonin also influences our reproductive organs and our immune system.
And if you’ve ever suffered with insomnia, or even a few sleepless nights, I won’t have to tell you about the effect this have on ones mental health, ability to make wise choices or to even function at all.
This Aspect of ourselves, can be considered our soul. In fact I read that the famous French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes was fascinated with the pineal gland. He even regarded it as the “principal seat of the soul, and the place in which all our thoughts are formed.”
So with that in mind, if we so wish and to ensure that this WHOLE system is in balance, it becomes important to look at what we feel is our (life) purpose.
The word CONNECTION becomes important here, which to me represents the spiritual underpinning that we are ALL connected.
Connected to eachother as humans, the interconnection between our body systems, and of course our larger connection to nature and all of life.
And although though religion belongs to the ROOT System, what you will find is that every major religion honours and teaches the importance and understanding of connection. So in a sense this is also how we circle back to the foundation and close the circle…
Lack of connection and a feeling of lack of purpose is one of the big imbalances you’ll find in this system. When we are feeling lonely, isolated and have a sense of hopelessness, it is most often because we’ve lost our connection. We feel dis-connected, which causes us to feel dis-ease and may eventually become disease. Because of course mind and body isn’t really separate.
So when do we lose hope and why? I don’t know if I feel totally qualified to answer a big philosophical question like this, but I’ll try doing it from my own experience.
Hopelessness can often come from a lack of connection when we feel misunderstood which in turn makes us feel alone. And when we feel alone or lonely we feel cut of from the rest of the world. When I look back at times in my own life where I have felt that hopelessness, it has almost always been because I lost connection as well as a sense of purpose.
Like those times when I’ve been in jobs in which I did not feel valued, respected and which did not give me a sense of satisfaction, rather they were just a means to an end. Which may be ok for a bit, just not indefinitely…
In an unsatisfactory intimate relationship, where again, I felt lonely, undervalued and “stuck”, but not sure how to get out of it and how to move forward.
And perhaps the biggest one of all, when I lost someone I loved and got struck by the pain of grief…
With some distance to these different events, some personal work and some self-reflection, I’ve come to believe that all these different kinds of hardships that we get handed in life, are part of our spiritual growth. It is in these times that we really need faith of some kind, as well as some guidance on how to live a life wholeheartedly.
These are the times that we will have to face head on the universal truth that we don’t have any control over what happens to us, only over how we choose to deal with it.
And here religion or any other type of spirituality is handy, maybe even essential for our survival, as we need tools to guide us so that we can pivot and grow, rather than becoming stagnant and stuck.
To me a big part of living a spiritual life is to take in the awe of nature. To stop and look up once in awhile and take in the grandeur of the starry night sky or (on the rare occasion that I’m up early) allowing myself to completely immerse myself in a beautiful sunrise.
This is being present. A gift. A gift which you can gift yourself, by paying attention to what’s going on around you as well as within you. Embrace it, try not to judge what is, and simply watch it unfold.
So with all of this I will give you my three suggestions for how you can nourish your SPIRIT through Food, Eating & Lifestyle
1. Food – Try minimising toxic exposure from your food as much as possible by choosing fresh, unprocessed foods, preferably organic as much as possible. Avoid drinking from plastic bottles or heating food in plastic as the toxic compounds from the plastic can leach into the food.
2. Eating- Give thanks to all of those who have provided you with your food. Gratitude is a powerful practice as a path to inner peace and happiness. The more we practice gratitude the more we realise all the things that we already have in our lives to be grateful for, which in turn brings us more to be grateful for. So why not start with the plate and your food? Doing this is also a beautiful way to acknowledge our interconnection with all of life.
3. Lifestyle – Do something that gives you meaning and fulfilment. Only you can know what this is. If you don’t yet feel like you’ve found your life’s calling or your higher purpose, then start small. Do ONE thing that gives you a sense of purpose and satisfaction. Perhaps it’s as simple as a random act of kindness? Or you give yourself permission to star gaze for 10 min? Or to finally go and buy those tubes of paint and a canvas to that you can play.
Whatever will fill your soul, do that. It is not only satisfying, it is also healing.
As we have now concluded our colourful journey through the 7 Systems of Health and we have traveled across the rainbow bridge from ROOT to SPIRIT, I will leave you with these words from what’s become one of my favourite authors, John O’Donohue;
“When the sense of destination becomes gracious, the journey can become an adventure of beauty”
If you want a recap of all the other Systems, you’ll find them here:
If you are curious to see how balanced the Seven different Aspects of You are, Sign up below and take the Questionnaire!
We travel upwards and on to the sixth System of Health – INSIGHT. Welcome to the place where your intuition, imagination, dreams and visions live! This is the system that includes eyes, sight, moods and sleep.
The main organ of the INSIGHT Aspect is the Brain. And the hormonal gland is the Pituitary gland. This master gland, together with the Hypothalamus (which is responsible for the production of some of the signaling hormones, that tell the other hormone glands what to do) oversees and orchestrates the show of what’s happening in the rest of the endocrine system.
The pituitary gland is made up of two parts, of the anterior lobe and posterior lobe. The anterior lobe produces and releases hormones. The posterior lobe does not produce hormones per se—this is done by nerve cells in the hypothalamus—but it does release them into the circulation.
It is the Pituitary gland which tells the other hormonal glands in the body what to do. This includes growth hormone, Thyroid stimulation hormone (TSH), Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) which in turn stimulates the adrenal glands to produce the stress response hormones. The Pituitary gland also affects and stimulate Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) which works with the Luteinizing hormone to ensure normal functioning of the ovaries and testes. Luteinizing hormone (LH). LH works with FSH to ensure normal functioning of the ovaries and testes. And finally the Pituitary gland has something to say about Prolactin hormone which is the hormone that stimulates breast milk production.
So this System is about hormones that affect the rest of our body. And it is about what we can see with our eyes, about the information that we take in, and how we use our intellect to process this information.
However, INSIGHT is also very much about what’s within. The inner wisdom that we all have, yet so easily brush aside, or struggle to trust…
Have you ever had a “hunch” about something? Perhaps you just said yes to something that simply “didn’t feel right”, but since it looked and seemed fine you went ahead anyway, only to find out afterwards that your intuition was right…
I sure do. One major life event, from many years ago now, that still stands out in my memory was when I went for an interview for a job. It seemed to be an excellent proposition on paper. An fabulous opportunity to further my career, decent pay and reasonable hours. I was moving on forward and upwards. Or at least so I thought. The interview itself went well, I got the job, we set a start date I and went back to hand in my notice for my other job. However, I can still recall the very subtle notion I had when leaving after the interview that something was not entirely right, though I couldn’t put my finger on it. So I pushed it aside and forged forward anyway.
I was going to write that this was a BIG mistake, and in many ways it was. The following months turned into some of the darkest days in my life. It is so many years ago now and I rarely think about that time. It was a brief moment in my life, though I am convinced that if I haven’t managed to pull myself together enough + having the support of some caring people at the time to sort out some logistical stuff, I’m not sure I would have made it as I was feeling worse by the day.
Now looking back, it was perhaps a mistake to not listening to my intuition at that time, however it also turned out to be a major learning opportunity. Since then, I’ve had many more great learning opportunities, and each time I get better and better at trusting my intuition.
So we access our inner wisdom by listening in. As well as reflecting on our life experiences. It’s only in the last few years I’ve come to realise the power of self-reflection, coupled with an attitude of openness and curiosity. Dropping any judging when doing any kind of reflecting is important, otherwise we just get stuck in a negative spiral, but when we approach it with an open mind, everything and everyone becomes our teacher.
Like my dear friend Marihet says “we hold the mirrors for each other”.
And when we turn inwards we will “see” that we already have all the knowledge within…
So how does the INSIGHT Aspect play out when it comes to Food, Eating and Lifestyle?
Let’s have a look and see, what ways you can strengthen your own INSIGHT!
1. Food – Any food that will affect our moods and cognitive function belongs here. So things like caffeine, cacao and berries are all good foods to strengthen your brain function and memory. Recent studies have shown blueberries to be particularly good to protect the brain against neuro-degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
We often forget about the healing powers of spices. Yes they are amazing to add to any meal to make it taste great, but they have very potent medicinal actions all by themselves. Just ask any herbalist! My own favourite ones are Turmeric (really strong antioxidant, anti inflammatory spice), Cinnamon (great to balance blood sugar and support the cells insulin sensitivity) and Cardamom (which is great for digestion, congestion and metabolism).
So up your intake of spices and aim for variety, eat more blue / purple foods and do indulge in some high quality high cacao content chocolate from time to time!
2. Eating – Start practicing using your intuition when it comes to making food choices. This may sound scary, difficult or even impossible. And for sure, it requires a hefty dose of trust, mixed with some practice. One of the arguments when people here the words “Intuitive Eating” is usually: “Oh if I ate that way I’d be huge, I’d be living on chocolate cake”. The thing is, maybe you would, for a little while. But our bodies are so much more intelligent than we give them credit for. However if we have spent a long time looking outside for answers, then it is going to take some time to “tune in”.
Going with our intuition requires a certain amount of surrendering. It is a bit like if you are having a conversation with a friend and you are too busy thinking about you’ll say next, so you don’t pay much attention to what your friend is actually saying. Before you can become really supportive you need to pay attention and listen.
The same goes for your body. Start with simply listening too what it has to say. Then in the beginning of this practice, if you still feel the need to override your intuition with your intellect, go ahead. (Just like I did when changing jobs…) It will be a really valuable learning experience!
3. Lifestyle – Make sure you get enough sleep. We need sleep, this is the time the body detoxify and restore. If this is an area of your life that you are struggling with, look at what you can do to improve your sleep routine and sleep hygiene.
Try adding some guided meditations and visualisations to stimulate your insight and your imagination. Visualising can definitely help us access the possibilities, whether for healing or creative pursuits. As the saying goes “If you can dream it you can do it!”
If you are curious to see how balanced the Seven different Aspects of You are, Sign up below and take the Questionnaire!
Let’s continue our travels on the rainbow journey of discovery, of our Whole Selves. We have so far traversed the ROOT, the FLOW, the FIRE and the LOVE. We will now venture higher up and into what within the 7 Systems of Health™ is called the TRUTH. This Aspect of ourselves is the part where we express ourselves as who we truly are. Something that often takes courage, openness and a willingness to show up and be vulnerable.
The master hormonal gland of the TRUTH System is the thyroid gland, a gland that is deeply involved in our body’s metabolism. If this gland is out of whack, it will affect your whole body. This little butterfly look-alike gland, located in the throat area governs not just our body temperature but practically every cell in the body needs the stimulation of thyroid hormone to convert oxygen and calories into energy.
Some of the signs of a dysfunctioning thyroid gland are:
Overactive thyroid symptoms:
- Increased heart rate / tachycardia
- Increase in free circulating T3 & T4 hormones
- Swollen goiter
The most common reason for hyperthyroidism is the autoimmune condition Grave’s Disease, which can be brought on by a stressful event such as loss of a partner.
Underactive thyroid symptoms:
- Depression / low moods
- Difficulty in losing weight
- Dry skin
- Lethargy/ fatigue which seems unexplained and hard to shift
- Memory problems
- Sensitivity to cold
This is by far more common than an overactive thyroid, and many people go un-diagnosed. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and still struggling to figure out what might be causing it, getting your thyroid function checked may be worth looking into.
(Source; Textbook of Natural Medicine by Joseph Pizzorno & Michael Murray; 2006 ed.)
But it’s not just the thyroid gland that is part of this System of Health. Our mouth, throat, neck, nose and ears also belong to the TRUTH system. Which makes sense if we dive into the symbolical meaning of “truth”. Because it is with these faculties we can express who we are and what our perception of our world looks like.
I think we sometimes forget the power that is held in words. Both how we communicate with others and the words we choose when we do, as well as becoming aware of how our internal dialogue goes. When we tune into that inner conversation, we often become amazed how negative and degrading it can be… That constant chatter that goes on inside our heads, which we may not even be consciously aware of, yet is there.
You may have experienced the power of words for yourself, like when someone gives you a compliment, or shared words of affection for you, with you. And likewise that harshness and hurt that comes from a negative comment, or even a misunderstanding because how you read or picked up someone else’s words triggered something in you, yet it may not have been the intention of the person who said it.
What particular words we choose to use can change the entire connotation of a sentence, which is why I think we should be as mindful as we can, when we communicate with each other. Or at least have the awareness that what I say may not always be received the way I intended, as it may also depend on what current experience the recipient is having. So how they respond may not actually have anything to do with me per se.
Within the TRUTH System we speak about Authenticity, Choice and Voice. Basically how we show up in this world, being true to ourselves and who we are. It sounds so simple and obvious, yet it can be so so difficult.
Most of the time, I think the reason for not showing up as who we are, standing in our personal truth with integrity is because we don’t believe it is safe to do so. Instead we might tell lies (to ourselves as well as others), perfect, people please or just stay quiet and say nothing at all. To be able to stand in our own TRUTH, we need to first define what that looks like, what our values are, those that we cannot compromise and bend on if we are to stay within our integrity.
And then we need to have the courage to be vulnerable and not compromise on them, which may mean having difficult conversations at times.
I also believe that in order to feel safe to show up and be vulnerable and true, we need to hold space for each other with non judgment, curiosity and compassion.
One of the current leading teachers on Courage and Vulnerability is Brené Brown. She has written a good few books on the topic, of which both Daring Greatly and Rising Strong are excellent reads and will help you realise that if you want to live a braver life, then you will fall, but that is also possible to get back up. And most of all, we need to discern who are the critics that actually count!
And if you haven’t already watched her excellent and funny TED talk on the subject, I suggest that you do so!
One interesting observation on this System of Health is; Can not speaking our Truth, and living a life true to who we are, affect the physical areas of this system? Maybe… Maybe not. Our personal TRUTHs may look different for everybody – only you can know what living your authentic life looks like)
But one thing I do know for sure is that it is definitely one questions that is worth exploring.
Your answers may come through looking at some of the other Aspects though, but being true to who we are and having the safe space to express that, is very healing indeed.
So what then can we do to support our TRUTH through means of foods, eating and lifestyle? Well here are some of my favourites:
1. Food – Any type of food that will moisturise your throat will support your TRUTH. So basically we are talking about soups, broths smoothies and other liquids like herbal teas. The one particular food that also belongs here is seaweed as it contain the all important mineral of iodine, which is integral for optimal functioning of the thyroid gland. We are lucky here in Ireland that we can get good clean sources of seaweed, however they question is, How do you incorporate it into your diet?
One way is to add some as sprinkle of seasoning to soups and salads. Or add strands of kombu seaweed to your soups and casseroles when cooking. The other option is to use Chlorella or Spirulina which are both micro algea and can be bought conveniently in powder or tablet form.y
A word of warning here is that, A. They are pretty potent so a little goes a long way, and B. The flavour is very green, so until you get use to the flavour and want to use it, I suggest getting tablets rather than destroying your smoothies with it…
2. Eating – How do we eat in a way that supports our TRUTH? How can we actually eat in such away that is congruent with who we are? Well the best way, is to cultivate awareness and become more mindful. Mindful about your food choices. Do they serve your needs and your health? Mindful when you eat; let all your senses be fully present and engaged in the experience. This will allow you to enjoy your meal in a whole different way, giving you more pleasure and satisfaction which can translate to eating less overall.
Choice is also about variety. So get curious and try new things and aim for a wide variety of different types of foods. Remember about eating the Rainbow?
And lastly, don’t forget to chew! This simple tips can have revolutionary effect on both the amount of food you eat as well as your digestive system. Digestion actually starts in the mouth (well even before that as our stomachs even get prepared from the smells of food. Ever been salivating when you’ve smelt something you find delicious?) So please use your teeth. They are there for a reason.
3. Lifestyle – Try to define your non negotiable values. What are these? What does it look like when you are living in your TRUTH / integrity? What are the triggers (situations, people, foods, choices, thought, beliefs) which may keep you living outside your integrity? What may standing in the way of you living and expressing your whole self? Journal on these questions.
Words hold power – create some positive affirmations to write on post-it notes, and stick them in strategic place where you can see them daily. I know have a whole bunch of word and affirmations around my office, as gentle reminders and as a way of programming my subconscious mind. If you are struggling to come up with your own, then go and check out Louise Hay, the queen of affirmations!
One thing to note with affirmations is to pick ones that feels true. If they are not congruent with how you feel, if it is too far of a stretch from where you are, and saying the words feel forced or false, then go and find another one. If it is feeling false or forced, then it is not aligned with your truth.
Lastly, singing, humming and / or chanting can also be a supportive vehicle to get your TRUTH System more balanced. Have fun with it!
If you want a recap of the other Systems of Health that I’ve already covered you’ll find them here:
If you are curious to see how balanced the Seven different Aspects of You are, Sign up below and take the Questionnaire!
It’s time to dive into the LOVE Aspect of Self, and the Seven Systems of Health™! And perhaps this is the perfect time to do so with May Day, Beltane and Valborg (as it is called in Sweden), all celebrations to mark the beginning of Summer, having just been.
May is one of those beautiful transition months with a special light and feeling of true renewal. And when everything is bursting into bloom, expansive and GREEN. Summer is not yet here but Spring is out full force. Just like LOVE.
Most of us think about romantic love when we hear the word LOVE. That thrilling, exhilarating feeling that can be totally all consuming. But LOVE is so much more that that. It is truly the glue that holds everything together. When we talk about the LOVE Aspect in the Seven Systems of Health™, we talk about service, compassion and even passion. And not just towards others but for ourselves as well.
The Heart is the organ connected to the LOVE Aspect. It really couldn’t be anything else could it! The other body parts connected to this Aspect is areas connected to the heart in some way, by direct function or by area of location. Arms and hands. Both body parts which we use to offer loving embrace and connection to each other.
The Lungs and blood vessels as well as Lymphatic System belongs to this Aspect. All part of circulation and oxygenation, bringing the nutrients absorbed from the small intestine into the blood stream and filtered through the liver to the rest of the body. So that it can get the nourishment it needs.
But what about all the more “non tangible” parts of this Aspect? Like service and compassion.
In the past few months, I have been on what feels like a book bingeing mission. Blended with some self exploration. It has been really healing I have to say.
A. Because I’m so curious and I love learning.
B. Because I believe that if you are on a mission to help others then a must in this process is to learn more about yourself, so you can be of service in the best way possible. Somehow it seems much easier to relate to others’ struggles when we can see and feel our shared common humanity. It becomes much easier to relate and to have empathy. To say “me too”.
So let’s talk about service.
We give and take care of others as a way of being of service. It feels nice to be nice. But here’s the catch. How we give, plays a big role in how we’ll end up feeling.
What place is our giving coming from?
If we give selflessly and endlessly without boundaries, chances are that we will either be taken advantage of, or end up being burnt out. Or maybe both. And then resentment festers and grows… It may even feel painful. Not nice.
If we give from a place of always expecting something in return, then we are also setting ourselves up for resentment. Why? Because people may, or may not return the favour. And when they don’t, we end up feeling disappointed. Because we assumed or expected that they somehow would or should.
And if we do things for others just to “keep the peace” or to keep them happy, whilst compromising on our own integrity we are operating from a “people pleasing place”. Which can also lead to… Yes you guessed it! Resentment and burn out.
Then there’s the other side of giving – receiving. Oh boy it that a hard one!
For me this receiving bit is certainly something I have been struggling with. And I’m guessing (I hope!) I’m not alone in that either… It takes vulnerability and courage to ask for help, and to let someone in. Especially if / when we are so used to doing it all ourselves.
Look at it like this though, if your bank account it full of out goings but there’s never any money coming in, eventually you’ll end up with no funds. Which mean you’ll simply have nothing more to give…Whether it is money or energy.
If we are burnt to a crisp, full of resentment and self-loath, as an aftermath of struggling with people pleasing and perfectionism, then we certainly have nothing to give to others, regardless if we want to or not.
We cannot give from an empty cup. And sometimes we need to allow someone else but ourselves, to step in and to fill it up.
A few years ago, after having had my life running on high speed for months, I realised that if I did not make some kind of change, my health would suffer. So I went and booked myself into a silent (yes, silent!) Vipassana retreat.
Anyone who knows me knows that I love to talk… And my friends where all like “Linn how will you manage being silent for five days??!!”. Turns out that being silent wasn’t the hardest part for me. The greatest challenge at the time was actually learning how sit with boredom. But that’s a story for another day!
As a complete meditation novice, sitting still and trying to observe my thoughts was so difficult and trying. We practiced a few types of meditaion over the course of the retreat, both formal Vipassana (insight) meditation, walking meditation and another form of Buddhist meditation called Metta or Loving-Kindness meditation.
The experience of practicing loving-kindness meditation left me with a tool to practice more compassion. A way of open my heart, both towards myself and towards others. Because even if we are struggling to wish ourselves well, when we extend the intention to ALL Beings, that includes us as well.
Also to me, with my busy mind, having a mantra of some kind made it a little easier to stay focused. I love this kind of mediation so much and I want to share the benefits with all of you here! So when I was preparing to write this post I invited someone with more experience and expertise in this area than me.
Please say hello to my guest contributor – Lyndsey Burton!
Lyndsey Burton is a Holistic Therapist, Coach and Mindfulness Teacher. She helps people reduce stress, calm the chatty mind and heal on mind, body and soul level so that they can enjoy the journey we call life.
Lyndsey will give us the reasons of why we should introduce some loving-kindness mediation practice into our lives, so that we can support and nourish our LOVE Aspect.
3 Benefits of the Loving Kindness Meditation
Most of our powerful thoughts and emotions can be described in two words, Love or Fear. Now, I’m not talking about the mundane day to day thoughts and emotions that help us get jobs done, I’m talking about the ones that can lift us up or knock us off our feet when we are least expecting it.
Sometimes all it takes is an unintentional negative comment from someone and our critical self-talk and emotions take front stage.
This is where the Loving Kindness Meditation can really help.
Basically the Loving Kindness Meditation (or Metta as it was originally named) is a practice to help us become more caring, loving and compassionate towards ourselves, others and all living things. It is a way to connect to love and shine a light on fear. It is the practice of the heart and we are planting tiny seeds of loving-kindness, that in time will grow into something more beautiful than you would ever be able to imagine.
If you like the sound of becoming a nicer, happier, kinder, more compassionate person then read on my friend.
(Ed. note; And who wouldn’t?)
How can this practice help you I hear you say? Well to be honest there are hundreds of ways and the list is never ending, however it can all be stripped down to that one word LOVE. But to give you some clarity around the practice, I will share with you three benefits that I feel (from my own experience and that of many of my clients) have helped us all get on the path to compassion.
1. It will help you become more MINDFUL of your inner reactions to the outer world
Yes people will do and say things that piss you off. Someone might pull out on you on the motorway. You may not get the coffee you asked for and your kids may not give a damn that you have changed all your plans to taxi them around the country (the latter is common in our house).
However if you spend as little a 5 or 10 minutes a day for a couple of weeks, these outside occurrences tend not to upset your inner world as much. This means you will learn to respond to life rather than walk around reacting to everything. All of this = A nicer you!
2. It increases your positive vibe
The meditation is all about spending a little time wishing yourself and others well. This in turn helps you to see that we all just want to be happy, which increases your ability to feel more positive about life. You can feel a greater sense of life purpose and meaning in what would normally seem like mundane daily events.
3. It decreases stress
We all suffer from stress in our daily life. Some stress is good. However if we experience high levels of stress over a long period of time it can become detrimental to our health and wellbeing. By practicing the loving-kindness meditation we can step into the realm of forgiveness. We forgive others from the past, like the idiot that cut us up on the motorway and the kids for ruining our social lives.
The main person I had to learn to forgive in my loving-kindness practice was me (but thats’ a whole other blog). If there are less people out there to rock our inner boat, there is less to stress about. I share with my students that forgiveness through compassion is nothing to do with the person who has hurt us as they have their own karma. It IS about letting go of the fear, anger, hurt, sadness or whatever we have carried around in our beautiful bodies.
So, there are just a few reasons to give the Loving Kindness Meditation a bash. I would gently guide you towards practicing it for 30 days so you can let it permeate your cells.
Thanks Lyndsey for these words of wisdom and benefits of loving-kindness meditation.
If you want to know more about all the beautiful work Lyndsey do, head over and check out her website.
So apart from bringing some loving-kindness mediation practice into our daily lives, what else can we do to nourish our LOVE Aspect?
1. Food – There is no escaping vegetables! Green ones of course, which will give us important minerals like magnesium but all kinds of vegetables have important effect on our health and wellbeing. And it’s not just the vitamins, minerals and fiber that they contain, it is also all the hundreds of plant specific compounds, phytonutrients, that they contain which plays a roll in heart health, immune function and feeding our friendly gut bacteria. If you are not in love with vegetables already, then it’s about time you start courting that relationship! They are truly your best friends when it comes to health.
2. Eating – To be perfectly honest here, this is one of my personal missions… To support people to start making food (and lifestyle) choices out of care and compassion for themselves. I believe that if we are making choices from this place, rather than from external influences, our choices may be different and that there would be less struggle with between body-mind-plate.
What food choices would you be making if you where using this approach? Would it differ from what you are doing now?
3. Lifestyle – Movement / exercise falls under the LOVE Aspect too. Our heart is a muscle and like all our other muscles it needs exercise to strengthen. And so does our lungs. My one (well two…) tips when it comes to exercise is; keep it varied. Mix up strength training ( weights, yoga, Pilates) with some more cardio based types (walking, running, cycling, swimming, hiking, dancing) so that you get an all round experience and let all of your body work.
And make sure that you choose exercise that is FUN whilst you are at it. It makes it much easier to return to the next session even if you feel stiff and sore the next day(s).