Snow

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Snow.

Outside the window a blanket of white covers everything and there is more of the white stuff falling from the sky. The wind is blowing the snow sideways and it looks a little bleak to be going out to ski. Looking through frosty glass from the inside it is a wonderland of white and grey.

We will venture out though because the trails beckon. New snow underfoot and our cross country skis will make fresh tracks as we climb out of the village to the newly groomed trails. There’s nothing like fresh snow for peace and quiet on the trail. The steady motion of the skis in the tracks and the mind settles as if in meditation. Each stride a glide on soft snow. Each breath a mist of warm air hitting cold. When the wind dies down the silence of falling snow is a wonder. Every flake an individual, together they float to the ground in little flurries.

The cold is invigorating but only the face is exposed. Cold lips and nose but the rest of the body is enveloped in wet weather gear; warm and snug in a cocoon. The gentle stride and glide becomes more of an effort as the hill looms large. Shorter steps, less glide, more energy. The breath becomes labored, the lungs and heart increase their work and muscles begin to burn. And at the top there is a rest as the skis glide effortlessly down the other side, following the tracks that have been made. If I have the courage I stay in the tracks and pick up speed. If I’m feeling some trepidation about the steeper gradient I step out of the tracks and snowplough down the hill; these skis aren’t made to turn easily.

There are large holes in the snow at the bottom of the hill where braver souls have let their skis run free; only to find themselves out of control. But this snow is deep, soft and forgiving and falling is a time of surprise and laughter. The snow welcomes the faller with a cushion of air and cold taking the breath from the lungs with the shock of impact.

The snow begins to fall more heavily and it’s hard to see as it clouds the glasses. Each step and glide becomes a moment of trust that the skis will follow the track. Out onto the snow plain and the wind picks up and the snow flurries bite into the exposed skin. Head down, into the wind and keep going, one step at a time until we reach the shelter of the snow gums now covered in white and bending with the weight. And on we go following the track, feeling the snow on our face, listening to the silence in the trees or the wind on the snow plains. Each hill a test of endurance as we climb up and a test of balance as we ski down.

There is so much joy in simply gliding through fresh snow. For some it is the exercise, for others a meditative calm and connection with nature, for me it is the wonder of the white stuff that gives and slides beneath my skis. Snow is yet another of earth’s miracles.

Changing work

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Changing work.

I have been a GP for over thirty years and for much of that time I have struggled with whether or not to change and do something else. I have enjoyed some of the work yet always in the back of my mind been a little unsatisfied. I have changed jobs many times trying to find the perfect GP job and stopped work for a year once to write. But each time I change jobs I find myself back in the same place I had left. Doing work that doesn’t quite fit with who I really am.

Finally I have decided to retire from conventional general practice work and will be leaving San Remo at the end of July.

This decision has not been made easily but I finally realised that I couldn’t keep working in a system that does not support the provision of holistic health care within the GP framework. In Australia our health system is time poor and drug rich; it caters for a quick fix when there are very few quick fixes that actually work to make us healthier.

I have struggled to practice holistic medicine within the GP system and I have therefore decided to give up on that particular struggle. I am sad to leave the patients who have supported me but I feel that I should follow my heart for a change. For too long I have followed my head and justified staying in general practice through logical reasoning. In a way I am moving into my own holistic wellness by shedding a job that stops me from being truly myself.

I’m taking a bit of a leap because I can’t afford to stop working completely yet I also can’t afford to keep doing a job that doesn’t fit with my passions and interests. It is a little soul destroying to do work that is not in line with who I really am.

So where to now? I’m going to continue part time at Headspace doing some youth mental health work as their model is much more holistic than the conventional GP system. I’m going to do more writing which is my biggest passion. And I’m going to allow life to unfold. Just like I write about in my book I’m going to trust the process of life and let go of the outcome and see where life takes me. I’ve tried to control the process around work for so long that I became stuck in a system that I didn’t agree with. It’s time for yet another change and I’m excited to see where life takes me now.

 

Cradle Mountain, Tasmania

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Cradle Mountain, Tasmania.

Walking up a mountain in fog and drizzle is sometimes just a process of putting one foot in front of the other. The body moves in a certain rhythm and the mind tends to become more meditative. Wreathed in protective gear with water constantly trickling down my face I begin to feel like I’m in another world; an otherworldly place. Reaching the top of each hill doesn’t seem such an achievement when all I can see is fog. I could be anywhere. We start down again but I only know it’s down because different muscles are hurting.

The mystical properties of Cradle Mountain in Tasmania reveal themselves in varied ways. Fog makes most things invisible but there is a sense of being enveloped by nature. Cocooned in the mist, cocooned in wet weather gear, trusting that the path will take you where you want to go. I notice I am paying more attention to the small things. The wet leaves, the occasional flower, the water running along the path – all draw my attention away from the mist that envelops us. I stop wondering what is beyond the fog and start to enjoy the peacefulness of walking.

The next day the weather clears and I see where I have been and I am a little stunned. The fog had shrouded not only the visual beauty of the place but also the dangers – the steep inclines and cliffs, the scree and boulder fields. Places I had trudged the previous day with my head down now demand my focused attention. With the fog cleared away the mountains and lakes are revealed and the bigger picture of where I had walked clicks into awareness. There are trees of different shades and types, cliffs reflected in the mirrors of lakes and clouds now far overhead. I feel like I had visited a different place the previous day.

The moods of wild places are part of their mystical charm. The weather can change in an instant and suddenly the blue skies turn grey and snow begins to fall. We have no control over the weather but when we live in cities and towns we think we are insulated from the wildness of nature. When we venture out to the wilderness we rediscover our lack of control over the elements. We are like a small speck in a foreign landscape. Yet it has not always been so. Once we lived with the land instead of simply on her. Once we knew her moods and respected her changes. Once we lived as part of the whole rather than as individuals. We looked after the earth because we knew we needed her to look after us.

Sometimes we need to go back to nature to remind ourselves who we really are. We are not just individuals but part of a much larger system and we want to feel connected to the larger system. When we feel our feet rooted to the muddy path we know that we belong to the earth. The mystical properties of the wilderness lift our spirits as we climb mountains and marvel at the beauty but they also help sink our roots into the ground. Wild places help us connect our spirit to the earth. And we need to find that connection now more than ever.

Transformation 5 – Allowing

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Transformation 5 – Allowing.

I have spent the last year writing a book about transformation and this week I discovered that everything I had been doing in order to transform was related to the physical aspects. I thought if I transformed my physical environment and my physical body and mind that I would be on the path to greater transformation of the spiritual kind. I tried to incorporate spiritual practices into my life and believed that by doing these practices I would be able to transform myself into someone who was more authentic and more aligned with their spiritual inner self.

This week I discovered I had been approaching the whole thing from the wrong direction. So I deleted most of the book I had written and began again. I have learnt much in the past year but not what I planned. I started out with so much purpose and direction; I planned out the book and assigned chapter headings and tried to make the transformation something logical and rational and physical. Yet what I intended was to become more authentic and more aligned with spirit; to have my inner self manifest physically. My planning and logical thinking got in the way again. I allowed myself to try to control the process instead of allowing the process to unfold.

I discovered that I need to be more allowing of the natural process of life. It cannot be forced. Of course we can try to force it, we can plan and plan but what that generally brings us is more of the same. My more of the same is more dissatisfaction with conventional medicine and my general practice work. I have gone in circles with this and each time I planned a change that might make a difference and each time I came full circle back to the same place.

Now I know that my path is to find a more joyful existence where I can live my passions and help people. I’m not sure what that exactly entails and that’s where I’ve got stuck before. Trying to plan my way out, using my brain to find alternatives. Never succeeding, rather I only find more of the same. Now I see that to transform my life and myself I need to allow it to happen. This means not forcing, not searching, not grasping at alternatives. It means allowing life to unfold in its own way. It means paying attention to signs and synchronicities that show me the path to take to my future. This allowing means making peace with the present and finding joy in the life I have now but knowing that change is coming. I can feel it.

The temptation is to plan and force and work out where the path will lead me so that I know how to get there by dint of will and logic. That is the way we have learnt, the way of control. Allowing is the opposite of control. It is giving up control to a higher force that lives inside us all. This force connects us all and unless we pay attention we might miss the signposts that show the way. The signs are always there but I sometimes fail to pay them enough attention.

Why is it that for years I have been dissatisfied with my work? It’s a sign that I should be doing something different. I always knew this yet I resisted the knowing. What else can I do? How can I make a living? What if I fail? I let the negative control my life. I still feel like most of my path has been on course; that I have needed to learn certain things through my work in conventional medicine. But now I know that I need to be doing something else. I just don’t know what it is yet. I need to allow that to unfold and that’s my new plan. Allow life to unfold.

Transformation 4 – the mind

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Transformation 4 – the mind.

Having begun the transformation of the physical body I decided that my next step would be to begin to transform my mind. I decided I needed to look into meditation and I came across a free meditation course that was included with my membership to a particular college. I had mostly rebelled against meditation in the past and felt that I meditated in a certain way when I exercised so I thought that was enough. I had done a little meditation and relaxation in yoga, in a hypnosis course I once did and as part of my job at times but I had never really embraced it.

I decided it was time to embrace it.

Not only did I decide to begin meditating but I also decided it was time to take up yoga again.

I began the meditation course and because I had already done some of the exercises I found myself getting impatient and wanting to jump ahead. I hated the progressive muscle relaxation practice so I skipped that week but otherwise I tried to practice every morning before work. I found it very hard to quiet my mind but gradually I began to improve.

I had been meditating for a couple of months and I was still such a beginner – my mind was reluctant to cease its chatter. Focus on the breath. Focus on the gap between thoughts. The gap between my thoughts was so brief as to be mostly non-existent. But gradually I was learning how to sit and enjoy the practice of just sitting. I was learning how to allow thoughts to come and go, noises to come and go, everything to just come and go. It was as the Buddha observed, everything comes and then it goes, nothing is permanent.

We are so used to doing and doing and doing that to sit and breathe and spend time with our inner self is alien. Initially I would sit there paying attention to the breathing and thinking way too much about what I would do when the meditation was finished. Eventually I was able to just sit and focus on my breath and try to find the gap between my thoughts. I was learning how to focus on the peaceful place inside me that has been overrun by my outer life. I was learning that the peaceful place inside of me is deep and seemingly unknown. Yet it is also the essence of myself that has been covered up with layers of ego and too much thinking.

My work in medicine and my writing are both pursuits where thinking is useful yet my mind is so full of thoughts that they crowd out the part of my brain that doesn’t think in that way. The left side of my brain thinks in words and sentences, it is the incessant monkey mind that chatters away all the time. The right side of the brain thinks in pictures and concepts and is often drowned out by the left side. I think the meditation was helping me quiet the left side of my brain and allowed me to hear more from the right.

I have written quite a bit about the way the two sides of the brain work in my book Holistic Medicine and although it is something of a metaphor it helps me pay attention to what is happening with my thoughts. When I am overrun with thoughts that often go around in circles I become aware that I am paying too much attention to my logical left brain and too little attention to my intuitive right brain. While meditation can help my quiet the left side of the brain unless I consciously pay attention to my over thinking I often get stuck in the logical and physical side of my life.

What I really hoped to achieve with the meditation and yoga practice was to become more attuned to my inner or higher self. To tune into that part of me that is connected to everything else – the source energy, universal consciousness, spirit, god. In connecting with this inner self I hoped to be able to better align my inner and outer selves in order to live a more authentic life. To keep becoming the best version of myself I can be.

After meditating for some months I gradually found myself feeling less and less inspired to practice. Somewhere I lost the momentum and ended up going backwards. I struggled to do my meditation, going some days without even sitting and trying. The days I did try to practice my mind just didn’t want to still, my body felt anxious to be up and doing. My yoga practice was also more difficult; my back got sore, my left knee hurt. What was happening?

It seemed as if my ego was fighting back, trying to regain lost ground and it was succeeding. Why did the ego feel so threatened by my new way of life? And why was it so easy to fall back into the old way of being? They say if you practice a new habit for 30 days it becomes a way of life. I had been meditating for eight weeks and doing yoga for almost four. Yet something within me was trying to sabotage my plans.

Ego is always trying to blind us to our dual nature – the spiritual and the physical. It is trying to have us believe that only the physical is important. It would like us to believe that we are who we think we are rather than a deeper or higher self that is connected to the rest of the universe and to source energy. Ego wants us to believe we are separate beings when really we are all connected via invisible energy connections.

I had fallen for ego’s tricks. I had started to focus more on the physical and less on the spiritual aspects. Despite meditation and yoga and gratitude and thoughts of service to others I had forgotten to connect with my higher self while doing these things and had become task oriented. I was too busy doing (even though I was doing ‘spiritual’ things) and had forgotten to be. Mind you I had also stopped writing despite my aim to write every day.

As I write I begin to reconnect with my higher self and see how much I was driven to do the spiritual thing rather then be my authentic self. To be spiritual isn’t necessarily about doing spiritual things but rather about being the person you are meant to be. How could I connect with my higher self on a daily basis? Obviously the meditation was one way but it didn’t seem to be working that well. Maybe I wasn’t finding the stillness as well as I might. Or maybe it just didn’t carry on into my day’s work. When I write I connect to my higher self but I couldn’t write all day long. I had to find a way to be in alignment while I saw patients and went about my day to day life. So I took a few days off to regroup and see where I was getting off path.

The first thing I did was step right back and try to find the bigger picture of what was happening. Why was I going backwards? While ego is in control then higher self can’t be. This seemed to be the problem. How could I let higher self have control of things rather than ego.

Then one day I had the weird experience of waking up with one thought on my mind – let go. I filed it away to think about later and got up to do my meditation. I chose a guided meditation I hadn’t done in a while and found the whole thing was about letting go. I opened my Facebook a little bit later and there was a cartoon entitled ‘how to let go’ with a picture of a leaf falling from a tree.

There was clearly a message here. I had to learn how to let go.

Let go of what?

The need to control?

Letting go of our need to control our lives is critical to becoming more aligned with our inner self. Our ego would love to control everything and it has us believing that this is possible. And it is partly possible when we are fully aligned with inner self and the source of all that is.

I decided to let go of my need to control my transformation in a logical way. Instead I decided to do those things that brought me joy and happiness and not focus on the spiritual practices that I believed I ‘should’ be doing. I stopped meditating because I reasoned it wasn’t bringing me any joy at all, instead it was turning into something I felt I had to do. Yet another task to be completed each day. I stopped pushing myself to do yoga and instead just did it when I felt like it. I spent time walking in nature and time sitting doing nothing and I let go of the need to transform into a spiritual being. I already was a spiritual being and I didn’t need to meditate or do yoga to get in touch with my inner self and spirit. It was as if walking was my meditation and writing was a spiritual practice.

Sometimes we have preconceived ideas about what we should do to be spiritual or more authentic but really it’s all about being ourselves and doing those things that bring us joy. We don’t necessarily need to meditate every day or go on silent retreats or spend time in prayer. There is no right way to transform into a more authentic person only the way that works for each of us as individuals.

I was finding out the spiritual practices that worked for me. Part of this discovery was trying things that others found useful but I didn’t have to become a slave to things if they didn’t work for me. I suspect I might try to meditate again and I’m sure I’ll be doing yoga on and off all my life but as daily practices they had become a chore and they weren’t bringing more joy to my life.

Sometimes it’s good to just examine the parts of our lives to determine whether the things we do are worthwhile or whether we’re just doing them from a sense of obligation or duty. Even spiritual practices such as mediation, prayer, yoga, silence can become chores if we don’t continually examine how they are working for us.

As I began to relax into my life and not worry about meditating or getting up early or doing yoga every day I began to feel more comfortable with what was happening in my life. I think sometimes we need to just let go of all the achieving to work out what is important to us. Letting go of the need to transform into some preconceived idea of what I might look like if I was well aligned with my inner self. My preconceived ideas where more about my image of what a spiritual person might look like than how I might be if I was well aligned and authentic.

Transforming the mind is an ongoing challenge for me. Trying to pay better attention to the intuitive right side of my brain and less to the chattering monkey mind of the left side. Being aware that I can tune into my inner self through many practices – meditation, mindfulness, walking, dreams, writing, having meaningful conversations, loving people, practicing gratitude, being of service or being in nature. What I learnt most from trying classical meditation was that I don’t have to meditate to be in touch with my spiritual side and that finding joy in all my activities is more important than being tied to certain spiritual practices.

 

 

Transformation 3 – the physical body

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Transformation 3 – the physical body.

Transforming our whole self can begin anywhere but I chose to begin with transforming my physical aspects. Decluttering my life was the initial step but then I had to look at transforming my physical body into something healthier. I had let myself go in my middle age, becoming rounder of belly and quite unfit. This was affecting how I felt about myself and I decided that what I was learning about in my nutritional studies I should put into practice and see if it made any difference.

I read and researched about what a good diet should be and came to the conclusion that although I have always had a relatively healthy diet I needed to clean up my act. I had not been eating meat for many years except for fish – so I was not a complete vegetarian. I decided initially to try the low carb high fat way of eating. In this diet, which isn’t really a diet so much as a different way of eating, the carbohydrates are kept to a minimum – mostly just vegetables and the occasional fruit. Protein and fats make up the bulk of the food. I cut out all sugar, bread, pasta, rice, root vegetables and began to eat more nuts and cheese and fish. I ate a variety of vegetables and occasionally some berries.

I managed to stick to this for some months and then went on holidays and it all went out the window for a while. When I returned to it I wasn’t as strict. I felt I had more energy on this way of eating and I avoided the swings in energy that a high carb diet causes. However I lost very little weight and it was quite a hard diet to maintain.

Further research then led me to the Paleo diet – the diet of our Paleolithic ancestors. This was very similar to the low carb, high fat diet but it didn’t restrict fruit as much. It did however mean no dairy. I lasted about two weeks on a vegetarian and fish form of Paleo but found the food choices too limited without meat. After all our Paleolithic ancestors were not vegetarians; much of their diet was meat based.

Not to be discouraged I made a major decision – to start eating meat again. I had been vegetarian partly for health reasons and partly because of the poor treatment of animals. The health reasons seemed a little unclear now. So I began to eat meat again – mostly organic free range or biodynamic.

I definitely think a Paleolithic type diet is the healthiest diet and the diet we have evolved to eat. This is the type of food I eat:

  • Vegetables – preferably organic
  • Fruits – preferably organic
  • Meat and fish – meat should be organic, free range, grass fed. Fish should be low in mercury and sustainably fished
  • Eggs – organic free range
  • Nuts and seeds – preferably organic
  • Good oils – olive, omega 3, coconut
  • Legumes – preferably organic
  • Herbs and spices – preferably organic

These are the types of food I avoid:

  • Highly processed foods especially those containing sugar and fructose, artificial colourings, preservatives and artificial sweeteners
  • Sugar
  • Dairy – many people lack the basic enzyme for digesting dairy, others are intolerant to the proteins. I have recently been reintroducing a little dairy into my diet in order to get a little more calcium.
  • Most grains – especially gluten containing grains. Some cultures have eaten grains for centuries and have ways of preparing them that decrease gut problems but for most of us grains should be avoided
  • Soy – although I may eat fermented soy sometimes
  • Processed meats – these have been shown to increase our risk of cancer
  • Foods containing chemicals, preservatives, colourings, antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides, artificial sweeteners
  • Alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, other drugs

I do still drink coffee although less than I used to and I have alcohol a couple of times a week and I’m still deciding whether either has an adverse effect on my health.

Overall I feel less tired. I don’t have those slumps during the day when my blood sugar starts to plummet because I’ve eaten too much sugar or carbohydrates. I can go for longer without food if I have to without feeling hungry or cranky. I have lost 10 kg so it seems to be working, and without too much effort. As long as I eat paleo type foods I can eat what I want so it’s not really a diet but just a different way of eating.

As well as good food I have started taking extra vitamins and minerals. Through my nutrition course and research I am taking a multivitamin and mineral that includes most of what I need. In addition I take vitamin c, magnesium and if I feel like I’m getting rundown I take an immune booster with herbs and zinc in.

I think extra vitamins and minerals are important because even though I eat mostly organic food it still probably doesn’t have as many micronutrients as our ancestors’ diet. Certainly we’re probably all lacking vitamin C. I don’t think there is any evidence to suggest that taking vitamin and mineral supplements has adverse effects. It is possible to overdose on fat-soluble vitamins but in the doses in the average multivitamin pill this isn’t going to happen.

In addition to eating much more healthily and taking the extra vitamins and minerals I decided it was important to exercise more. I began walking almost every day and bought an online yoga membership which I actually began to use.

So healthy!

Exercise

Exercise is worth focusing on for a moment. Most of us aren’t active enough in our everyday lives so exercise becomes an important component of keeping ourselves healthy. The more active we are the better although too much exercise can have adverse effects on how health with joint problems and overtraining issues. The secret is always to listen to our bodies and pay attention. If we have been leading sedentary lives then a gradual increase in activity and exercise is best, paying attention to how our body reacts to new exercise and adjusting accordingly.

Each exercise program and increase in activity is individual. It’s important to do activities and undertake exercise that is enjoyable. We want to bring more joy to our lives, not more suffering. Sometimes we do have to go through some initial reprograming of bad habits to come to a place where we enjoy the increase in activity.

A good exercise physiologist or personal trainer can help us develop healthier habits and sometimes we need a medical check up prior to undertaking exercise – again it’s an individual thing. Tailor your physical transformation to your own particular needs.

Changing our outer body, feeding it better and moving it more, not only makes our body healthier but it makes our mind healthier. Our cells rely on good nutrition to do their job and if our cells are healthy everything works better.

Sleep

The other aspect of good physical health is getting enough rest. Sleep is really important for our health; it is essential for healing and restoration. Research shows that adults require eight to eight and a half hours every night for good restorative sleep and the optimum hours are between 9 pm and 5 am. Delta wave sleep, which is the best restorative sleep, has been shown to occur mainly between 9 pm and 2 am. Restorative and healing hormones are produced in this time. Poor sleep patterns over the long term lead to an increased risk of degenerative diseases such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Tips to establish a good sleep pattern can be found on my website –  Sleep

Healthy environment

I’m going to write more about our relationship to our environment in a later blog but our physical environment is important to our health. Most of us don’t realise how much we are exposed to chemicals and radiation in our everyday lives. Compared to our grandparents’ lives we are exposed to myriad chemicals and toxins and higher levels of radiation. These can all cause illness so it pays to decrease your exposure any way you can. Clean living is more important than ever.

Ways to improve your environment and exposure to chemicals and radiation

  • Reduce cleaning chemicals. Use microfibre cloths to clean with and use only vinegar and bicarb soda. We have become obsessed with killing germs which is altering our microbiome and potentially leading to increased rates of allergies and asthma. Avoid bleach, solvents, strong detergents, air fresheners and fragrances.
  • Avoid chlorine and fluoride in drinking water – use a good quality water filter.
  • Avoid all pesticides and herbicides in the house and garden – these contain hormone disrupting chemicals and other toxins, they are designed to kill animals and plants and should be avoided.
  • Keep electrical appliances at least one metre away from where you spend a lot of time- eg bed, couch, dining table. Avoid prolonged use of mobile phones.
  • Avoid storing food in plastic – use glass, stainless steel and lead free ceramics. Plastics can contain hormone disrupting chemicals and other nasties.
  • Open your windows and air out the house on a frequent basis.
  • Eat more organic and unprocessed foods. Avoid the chemicals involved in processing and conventional farming methods and as much as possible eat organic or home grown produce (pesticide and herbicide free of course).

 

When our body is healthy it is more in alignment with our higher self. Sometimes our health is influenced directly by being out of alignment but if we can look after the physical aspects as well as we can this helps our spiritual journey. Diet exercise, good sleep and living clean are important elements of transforming our physical self into a more healthy state.

Transformation 2 – transforming the physical.

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Transformation 2 – transforming the physical.

As I began to think about transforming myself it occurred to me that what I needed to do before anything else was to declutter my life. To get rid of the old before ushering in the new.

Last year I came across a beautiful little book called ‘the life changing magic of tidying up, the Japanese art of decluttering and organising’ by Marie Kondo. I read it and started to practice the art of decluttering. The basic premise is that we should surround ourselves with things that bring us joy and not hold onto stuff that no longer brings us joy. Similar to other decluttering advice – is it useful, is it beautiful, is it sentimental?

I followed the process as described by Marie and began to shed things. I shared the start of the process in a blog a year ago. I found the process difficult at times and there are many things that don’t bring me all that much joy that I am still reticent to part with but it is a process that I am determined to follow. There is a certain freedom in getting rid of stuff; we all seem to have so much of it.

Not only can I discard those physical things that no longer bring me joy but it is also good to discard behaviours and activities that no longer bring me joy. This is much harder to do.

I am aware that sometimes I try to do too much and don’t leave myself time for things like exercise, spiritual practice and writing. Instead I spend too much time looking at my phone and my emails or going to social functions that I don’t really enjoy. Or I watch meaningless stuff on television to fill in the time so I can avoid listening to my self.

At some times in our lives we all do too much so that our authentic selves become overshadowed by ‘real life’. Part of decluttering is about pruning back our activities so that we only do those things that bring us joy on some level.

My work is one thing that doesn’t always bring me joy. The other day I had a bad day at work with a very sick child. General practice can be very stressful yet there are parts of it that I really enjoy. I really enjoy the connections I get to make with people and the help that I can give them with the healing power of the relationship we build. The ability to help people transform into their true selves as they explore their illness and health is powerful medicine. Yet much of general practice is fast paced and stressful; too many patients for the day is a common problem that is difficult to overcome when you are providing a service to the community. Is there a way to declutter my practice so that it brings me more joy and less stress? I have been reflecting on this a lot and come to the conclusion that if I can be completely present for the patient then it doesn’t take so long to help them. So I practice this more.

I began with the stuff; the physical things that fill my life. I pruned back my possessions so that everything in my house brings me joy. Of course I’m not that good at doing it so as I write this I’m still surrounded by too much stuff. But I have started the process. We can begin with small steps and physically decluttering our lives is one thing we can all try. It is a process after all.

It is important in decluttering to examine each aspect of our lives and try to let go of those parts that don’t bring us the joy we deserve. We can declutter our physical stuff, our work, our social engagements, our family commitments, our leisure time and our spiritual practices. Making my life simpler helps me have more time and space to connect with my inner self and spirit.

Transformation 1 – Intention

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Transformation 1 – intention.

This blog series is my effort to document the process of transformation that we might undergo in order to become whole or truly ourselves, the person we are meant to be. In order to transform consciously and purposefully we can’t just write about it or think about it. The change has to involve doing things differently, behaving differently. It has to involve action of some type.

In writing this blog I hope to not only learn how to transform myself but also help other people learn how to transform. The intention is to transform myself into a person who is more aligned with my inner self. This inner self is the essence of who we really are but often it is overshadowed by our outer persona. The persona we display to the world comes about as we are shaped by the outer physical world. We let ourselves become a person that sometimes only faintly resembles who we really are. We do so because it is easier than being true to our real self.

My intention when I started this blog was to become truer to myself, authentic, more whole. While I had discovered much about my true self in writing my first book, Holistic Medicine, it seemed that I still lived according to other people’s rules. I still paid too much attention to what society and my ego self expected of me.

Could I transform myself into the person I was meant to be without chaos, illness or drama?

And how was I going to do it?

Without knowing what the process would be I first set the intention that this is what I am going to do. The intention is set by the action of beginning to write this blog and document my progress. I trust that the process will reveal itself as I take each step and documenting it all not only helps me but potentially helps others who wish to transform themselves into more authentic people.

The reasons we are not authentic are many and varied. We tend to become less authentic when we let society or those around us dictate how we should behave. Often it is our own expectations and beliefs that trap us in a life we don’t really love. For surely being authentic is about living a life that is full of joy and love and service to the world. It is about living the life we were born to live, following our true path, our destiny.

How do we identify our true path? How do we know when we are not on it?

The simplest answer is that our true path brings us joy and when we are not on our true path we are not living with joy. Our life drains us and we are unhappy. But changing our life is often a long-term process.

In order to transform into the person I desire to be, all I have to do is align my outer self with my inner self. Of course it’s that easy! My inner self is the eternal part of me, my soul, my connection with Source (the universe, God etc.). This part of me is full of love and knows exactly what the path is. My outer self is the ego me, the mind that chatters away, often with negative thoughts and beliefs. Transforming into my authentic self is about being constantly in touch with my inner self and source. My intention is therefore to live a life in touch with source energy. Setting this intention is important. Like any process living my life in touch with source energy does not have an endpoint and it isn’t a physical outcome so much as a spiritual one.

Once upon a time my intention was to transform my life into a life full of joy and happiness and I thought the way to do this was to stop work as a doctor and become a fulltime writer. So my intention was much more focused on the physical dimensions. For years I fantasized about stopping work as a doctor and just being able to write. I changed jobs frequently trying to find something that was more joyful and fulfilling. Yet I always ended up in the same place. That was because my intention had such a physical outcome attached to it. My inner self and source were always leading, attempting to get me to follow my true path and my true path is to be authentic. Now my ego thinks it knows what that means but it doesn’t. My ego thinks my true path is to be a writer not a doctor. My ego plans and plans and focuses on outcomes that never happen. So now my intention is to live a life in touch with source energy and I can do this by aligning my inner and outer self. In this way my outer persona is a reflection of my inner self – that is what being authentic is all about.

If your intention is about physical outcomes then this blog is probably not for you. While I will go through certain steps or processes that help you transform into a more authentic person it is not a recipe for achieving specific physical goals. Our inner self knows what achievements we are capable of and the direction our lives can take. Our ego thinks it knows what we can achieve but these wished for achievements are often fantasies that society has sold to us. We are all special but often not in the way we fantasize about. When we manage to live our lives directed by our inner self and source we achieve things we never knew were possible but they may not reflect what our ego dreams of.

To set my intention with this spiritual focus of being authentic to my inner self is new for me. All those years I have been trying to be authentic I have just been trying to achieve an ego fantasy of what I believed was my authentic self. I believed that my real role in life was to be a writer not a doctor. Having set my intention to now be authentic I am now open to what my inner self and source have in mind for me – my ego does not know what that might involve but living life with the intention of being authentic opens me up to many possibilities that I may not have even entertained.

I have lived much of my life trying to follow my authentic path but this is the first time I have let go of the outcome in physical terms and set my intention in purely spiritual terms. I intend to live with my physical self aligned with inner self and spirit. Or in other words to manifest my inner self on the physical level. Let’s see how it goes.

 

 

 

Transformation – introduction

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I had set out to write a book on transformation but have decided for the time being to publish it as a blog. Books take a long while to write and I am keen for some feedback on the topic while I am exploring the process.

My life has been a series of transformations. This is true for most people and especially for those of us interested in personal and spiritual development. Many of our transformations are brought about by suffering or tragedy. Events that happen that jolt us out of our daily grind and make us realize there is more to life than we had been living. Positive experiences can also cause us to undergo transformation – the birth of a child, falling in love, landing the perfect job, or meeting a special friend.

Often we let our lives pass in this way; waiting for change and transformation to arise out of our life’s events. What if we were to actively embrace change and transformation? What if we were to decide to transform ourselves on a day to day basis in order to become a better person? Of course this is the basis of personal and spiritual development and there are many traditions that recommend such an approach. Choosing to actively transform ourselves into the person we were meant to be. Becoming more authentic. Allowing our soul and inner self to be reflected in our outer persona and our life story.

This is what I propose to explore in this blog series. Choosing to transform. Choosing to grow and change into a better version of ourselves. This version is already present within us but it takes some work to allow our outer persona to be in alignment with our inner self.

My first book Holistic Medicine put forward a model that we can use to understand ourselves better. Holistic Medicine sought to provide people with a way to grow through chaos and transform and heal themselves. This blog begins with the assumption that instead of waiting for chaos or other events to transform us we can choose to transform ourselves consciously.

Whilst I believe that chaos is a natural process that leads to transformation it is often uncomfortable and causes a lot of suffering. What if we could grow and learn and transform without having to suffer so much? Why not choose that path?

If chaos happens in order that we transform into something new can we avoid some of the chaos if we choose to be open to transformation all the time? Rather than waiting for chaos and suffering can we be open to change on an ongoing basis?

Transformation comes about as we bring our inner and outer selves into line so that our inner self is expressed. Our ego shrinks and our inner self or spirit grows and becomes manifest in the physical world. We become who we are meant to be and live authentic lives. We heal our fragmentation and become whole.

The process of chaos has been described in my first book but essentially it is a nonlinear process that cannot be controlled; the outcome is never predetermined and it can take us anywhere. Once we find ourselves in a chaotic process we have no control and have to rely on our inner self to bring us to the outcome. The transformation that we undergo can happen on an unconscious level but as we become more aware of our inner self and its connection to spirit we transform on a more conscious level. I believe that as we become even more aware of our inner self we can choose to undergo the transformative processes without the need for so much chaos and suffering. We can choose to grow in a spiritual sense through the power of our desire to do so. But we may have to learn how to do this.

This is what this blog series is about. Learning how to grow spiritually by choosing to do so. Let’s choose to grow and transform without waiting for life to bring it to us in the form of suffering. Let’s choose to transform into our higher self where our physical self is aligned with our spiritual self and we are whole.

 

 

Skills for living an authentic life 6

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Cultivating our community.

An important part of our life is our relationships with other people. Certainly to live an authentic life it is necessary to have authentic relationships with others and be a part of a community. Our community or tribe gives us a place to be ourselves and to support others to be true to themselves.

Community doesn’t just mean the local neighbourhood although some of us do embrace the local community, however this is becoming less common with large cities and busy lives. Our community may be a local church or a local gardening group. It may be our meditation or yoga circle or our bridge club or local school. It is important to have places where we feel we belong and we can act ourselves rather than being who we might be expected to be. For some people their work provides a community but for others the work environment is not always a place where they can be truly themselves.

Cultivating community is about having good relationships with family and close friends but also involves extending our circle beyond those we are closest to. It is a place where we can have relationships with others through finding common ground. Communities are invaluable for times when people are in need; they support their members through good and bad times and people often become even closer in times of crisis or tragedy. In fact tragedy can bring both small and large communities together in an outpouring of grief and support.

Ways to cultivate our community

  1. Talking more to people we meet in our everyday lives enhances our community. Even small conversations can bring light to someone’s day and you never know what connections you may develop.
  2. Explore the ways in which we can be of service to others. This builds community connections. We might do volunteer work or help with child-minding for the single parent or gardening for the elderly. Simple acts of kindness are a great way to increase the strength of the community and allow us to express our authenticity
  3. Get involved in community activities. Go to local activities such as farmers markets, meditation groups, local concerts and gatherings.
  4. Embrace the culture of your community. Be it a church group or school community, a spiritual group or a bridge club it is important to celebrate the cultural aspects of the group.
  5. Celebrate the individual and their authenticity. We can make sure we celebrate individual achievements especially as it relates to the community.
  6. Be inclusive rather then exclusive. Community should embrace diversity as well as being a place where we feel ourselves; we can include members who traditionally may be excluded and in that way strengthen the larger community.

 

To be authentic means that we aren’t just ourselves in the privacy of our own home but bring that authenticity to our communities and the world.

 

Disclaimer. This web site is for research and entertainment purposes only. The information given in this site is not intended to replace a therapeutic practitioner relationship.