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).
This month I want to introduce you to the FIRE Aspect of Health (and Self) as per the concept of Food and Spirit™. We will slowly be working our way through each Aspect, though I have more “generic” explanations is the pipeline! I am gradually weaving the concept of Food and Spirit into my way of practicing, focusing more and more on helping people specifically with struggles around food and emotional eating.
Having spoken to people in interviews about this over the past weeks, have given me further insights. Food and eating can be so complicated sometimes… And when it is, it can become all-consuming and very draining too. A real energy sucker, that’s for sure. I know, because I have been there.
So with that in mind, lets dive into the FIRE Aspect. This Aspect is all about, digestion, energy, thoughts and transformation.
I think that the FIRE Aspect is where most people can easily recognise their own imbalances. We live in such an incredibly fast paced society, and it seem to be increasing by the minute. Faster internet, shorter attention-span…
We consume more added sugar than ever, which means quicker energy into the body. We often relay on easier and more convenient ways to eat, whilst we take less time to stop and enjoy it. We always seem to be going somewhere, doing something. We’re encouraged to think BIG. Do more. BE more. And sometimes it begins to feel like we’re on this never stopping merry-go-around…
Visualise a burning fire. If you pour petrol on it you will have a big blaze, but it will burn out quiet quickly. This is us when we are living the fast paced lifestyle. We don’t have time to plan or shop, let alone cook meals from scratch. We crave sugar, which is natural because the stress hormone cortisol is tied in with the liver and pushes blood sugar levels up. So we eat more sugar. Of course it’s just so super easy to do, because all the added sugar tends to hangout / hideout in processed convenience foods. And as you know, eating healthy on-the-go is like an (almost) non existent option. Ever paused to notice what’s on offer in every petrol station and corner shop? Unless you bring your own food with you, making healthier choices when on the road is so hard.
When the blood sugar drops, we get low in energy and to pick us up we fuel up with caffeine and / or something sweet and the roller coaster ride continues. I actually wrote a more in-depth article about it for Workout Empire here .
What people also told me in these interview were, that when they would “cave in” and have something sweet / processed they said that they tend to start beating themselves up about it, or even obsessing about what they had or why they had it. Adding more stress and more fuel to the already blazing fire. And that leads us on to the part of the FIRE Aspect that’s connected to thoughts.
It’s estimated that we have between 50.000 – 60.000 thoughts per day. Luckily most of them are filtered out. However the thing is that, the ones we do tend to pay attention to are mostly the negative ones, which we play on repeat over and over. And other times we are so wrapped up in our minds and the speed of life that we don’t really pay attention at all. We hold such incredible power within when it comes to our thoughts. So much more, then we appreciate sometimes I think.
I’ve come to realise that this power can best be harnessed by working on changing our perception to what we are experiencing. (I was going to write either, or but to be honest I think changing our perception is really where it’s at). Changing our perception means that we are then empowered to take a different approach entirely, or respond to an event that’s happening to us with better clarity and this may mean not to take any action at all. Sometimes leaning in and experience the uncomfortableness or pain is (only) what it takes to let it pass, because it may just be a thought or feeling. Not an actual event that needs solving…
We really don’t have all that much control over what happens in life, as much as we like to think we do! But we have the power to choose how we respond and react to things that comes along. For me to release (and relish) this power it has to start with awareness. Without awareness, any kind of response will always be subconscious, out of an old established pattern and on autopilot. When I am aware; aware of the situation, aware of what I am feeling, aware of how these feelings feel in my body and aware that I now have an opportunity to decide for myself how I want to react and respond, that’s when I am empowered.
How does that old saying go?
“Life is 10% of what happens and 90% of how we react to it”
From experience, I’ve found that sweeping things (feelings) “under the carpet” is not the way to go. They tend to show up in some other form at a later stage. And this is coming form someone who use to clean her room by simply sweeping everything on the desk into a drawer – to be dealt with later… How symbolic is that?
Luckily I have learnt a few things since I was 10… One of these being that when life is hard, as it is sometimes, the most efficient way of dealing with these hardships and curve balls is to not run, but to face them. And by not running, I mean from the emotions themselves. By all means if you realise that you are in a situation that is not serving your health and wellbeing, then use this realisation as away to muster up the courage you need to get out! (I’ve had a few of those too.)
So cut a long story short, we hold some tremendous power if we choose to harness our thoughts in a positive way. This doesn’t mean that you will always be happy and think positive thoughts though. I’m not sure that it’s even possible, natural nor necessarily healthy. But it will mean that YOU have the power to tune into how your thoughts are effecting how you feel, and with some awareness practice you will be able to pay more attention to which ones you want to fuel and feed, and which stories that you need to drop.
The Digestive System is also included under the FIRE Aspect of Health. It makes sense as our digestive system is where the assimilation of the food we eat happens. This is the system where what we take in from the outside world is transformed into fuel and energy for our cells, which in turn make sure that our bodies function as a whole.
If you have, or have ever had, issues with your digestive system you know how it can take over your entire life. When it’s functioning well we don’t worry about it or hardly notice it at all. But, boy when it doesn’t function, is it ever present on your mind! As a Nutritional Therapist, it has been drilled into me from the start that all health / disease originates in the gut. Gut health is the place to start, with almost everything, regardless if your patient is presenting with mood / mind symptoms or if there’s an autoimmune condition going on. Why? Because it’s all connected. (If you’d like some help to sort your digestive system out, then please feel free to contact me)
In the past few years, research has also intensified on what is going on within our digestive system, particularly when it comes to intestinal health and the bugs that live there. These organism are called Microbiota and their collective genes are called Microbiome. It turns out that we have MORE microorganisms living in our digestive tract than the amount of cells we’re made up of. So who’s the host really?
As research is emerging we are beginning to understand, not only who these guys effect the digestive process, but also how they can influence other areas of our health, such as cognition, mood, immunity and skin. I even recently heard at a conference that our microbiota is the first line defense when it comes to detoxification(!) So we need to mind these dudes. Best thing to do is; to reduce stress load, reducing added sugar and intake of processed foods and to make sure that they get fed their preferred fuel, which happens to be good for the rest of our bodies in general to. The preferred fuel? Colourful wholesome fruit and vegetables!
So how you can keep your FIRE nicely fueled whilst preventing it from burning out? Here are three tips and take aways that you can put into practice straightway!
1. Food – Do a food inventory. How much added sugar are you consuming? What colour is the food on your plate? Is it full of colour from the rainbow or is it mostly brown / yellowish foods dominating the picture? Is your food representing a symbolic “burnt out” state of you?
Focus on adding more warming spices like ginger and turmeric which are also bright yellow. And other spices like cinnamon and cardamom which support blood sugar balancing and digestive health. And add more brightly coloured yellow fruits and vegetables to your diet too. This soup from last month is a great place to start!
2. Eating – Are you eating to pick yourself up when you feel tired? Are you eating on the go? Do you eat when you are stressed? Once you have gathered some awareness around what your eating habits look like, try to counter act it by carving out at least one meal a day where you take your time to fully engage with your meal. Slow down, smell it, tastes it and chew it! You will most likely be more satisfied and may even eat less as a result. And I can guarantee you that your digestive system will thank you too!
You can pick up my Food & Emotion Log here if you need some help to get clear on this.
3. Lifestyle – Do an energy inventory. This exercise is one of my favourites from Food & Spirit™.
Divide a piece of paper in two. In one column write down anything that gives you energy. People, places, foods and activities. If it feels a little hard, stay with it for a bit and try to dig deep. Make it as exhaustive as you can.
Then on the other side, make another list of everything that takes your energy. Again make it as exhaustive as you can.
Now compare the two lists and imagine that you only have one pool of energy to draw from. Where would you rather spend your energy? It might not be possible to let go of all the energy drainers, but see where it actually is possible to make a change. As well as that, see what you need to do more of! Balance is always where it’s at.
I love this quote (not sure who said it) when it comes to energy and life balance.
“If we are not willing to spend our energy on creating what we want, we will have to spend it on what we get.”
P.S I’ve included a picture of my dog Ojay as he’s one of my greatest ways of balancing my stress & FIRE Aspect!
This month I want to try something new. Because being healthy isn’t only about what we eat, it is also very much how we live and how we integrate with the world around us, so I thought it’s about time that I start talking about all those other things that is connected to lifestyle and hopefully probe you into thinking a little more about how the way you live influences how you think, feel and the food choices you make.
The idea is to share one of the 7 Systems of Health each months, as according to the concept of Food & Spirit™ which I am integrating into my own work like a thread running through. Food & Spirit™ is an integration of physiology and psychology through food, eating and lifestyle woven into the 7 Aspects of Self. It becomes a colourful lens to view our entire life experience through, which in turn gives us opportunities to work on our health, happiness and wellbeing in a variety of ways.
I’m hoping to also infuse these monthly posts with some seasonal pictures as well as a couple of tips to take away at the end to help you nourish and balance what ever Aspect I’m talking about.
Let’s start off with the ROOT. This is the base, the foundation so to speak. So it feels only right to start here.
What do you think of when you hear the word ROOT?
For me it’s things like, root vegetables, the colour red, earth, and being physical. Within Food & Spirit™ other things that is considered belonging to the ROOT are also our sense of safety and survival. And our sense of belonging, our family and our community or tribe.
From a physical prospective, the hormone glands connected with the ROOT are the Adrenal Glands.
All our bodily structures are part of the ROOT – the foundation. The building blocks here are our skeleton, (joints, bone, muscles) but also the skin (a physical boundary), our genetic make up, i.e our DNA and of course our feet which are directly in contact with the ground.
The ROOT is our physical structure, our physical body. With structure comes boundaries. When we feel grounded we feel safe, connected to our family, friends and most likely “at home in our body”.
But when we don’t feel grounded or “Rooted”, we either feel unsafe in our environment, or perhaps even in our own bodies. Did you ever hear the saying “I feel comfortable in my own skin”? To me that means feeling safe and secure being who I am in the situation I’m in.
The feeling of not being “grounded” can manifest in many ways. If we are in constant “Fight or Flight” mode our adrenals are on constant overdrive, which means our immunity is lowered, because part of what the hormone Cortisol does it to lower the body’s immune response. The reason for this is that Cortisol is an effective anti-inflammatory modulator through being able to down regulate histamine response. Thing is, all these intricate, delicate systems have evolved to be quick responding and short lived. Because of survival(!)
Problem is that in our world today, most of our stress experiences are perceived ones, which in turn makes it easier for the stress to become chronic… You may even have experienced this for yourself, how a stressful event, (perceived by your mind) has eventually manifested as a physical symptom in your body.
I’m not going to go much deeper into the science of how Cortisol works in the body here, but I came recently came across this particularly well written article. If you want to go a bit deeper into understanding how our stress response works in our body, I strongly suggest you read it.
What about the ROOT when it comes to Food and Eating? As we all know, eating is an essential activity for our survival. If we stop eating we will eventually die. Food is the nourishment for our physical body and is a great way of physically anchoring ourselves into the present moment. Though, in my experience not many people do… Including myself on occasion!
When it comes to eating and survival, tuning into our signals of hunger is key. We have a built in signaling system which will tell us to eat when we are running out of fuel. However this delicate system can easily be overridden by our intellect. I’m sure you have done this, just like I have, many more times than I’d like to admit…
There are a whole range of “excuses” we tend to use for this one. Like “I’m too busy to eat” or “I’ll save myself for dinner later” (even though we may feel ravenous and almost faint…). The other side of the coin is that we are often so busy and in “our heads” that we don’t notice the initial more subtle signals of hunger our bodies are sending out.
If we don’t eat when we are truly hungry, what will eventually happen is that our blood sugar drops too low. In order for us not to pass out, if we don’t supply the body with more energy through eating, the liver will kick in and release glycogen to bring the blood sugar up. Cortisol is also involved here to help the body regulate the blood sugar levels and to ensure a steady supply. Thing is, if we are already living on the edge with daily stress (and stressors), chances are our adrenal glands are already working on high drive. Not a great idea to put further pressure on them by overriding our hunger signals then…
Thing is of course, it’s easier said than done to tune in to actually hear those signals when we are busy chasing our tail around the place! And it’s even harder to know what true physical hunger feels like if we have spent years dieting.
This month I invite you to take some time to nourish your ROOT Aspect of yourself. Here are three ways you can do it:
1.Food – Focus on eating red foods, root vegetables and protein
2. Eating – Focus on listening to your body’s hunger signals. What does it actually feel like in your body when you are hungry (especially way before you end up being ‘hangry’!)
3. Lifestyle – Connect with family and / or friends. Spend some time hanging out with people who are part of your ‘tribe’. It is truly nourishing to be around like minded people, those with whom we feel safe, supported and who gets us.
HOW ARE YOU GOING TO NOURISH YOUR ROOT THIS MONTH IN ORDER TO FEEL AMAZING?
Please share with me below! I’d love to hear 🙂
If you are curious to see how balanced the Seven different Aspects of You are, Sign up below and take the Questionnaire!