Skills for living an authentic life 3

The third skill for living an authentic life is to do with the mind. I have written extensively about the mind in my book Holistic Medicine so today I am going to just go over some of the basics.

The mind is made up of two parts that I call the right and left side; these correspond roughly to the right and left sides of the brain. The left side is the rational, logical part of our mind and the right side is the intuitive side. The two sides think in two different ways but we have got so used to the incessant chatter of the left side that we forget to pay attention to our intuitive side. Or sometimes we rely too much on our intuition without using our logic.

The left side thinks in words and sentences and follows thoughts in roughly a straight line; this is what makes it logical. Our left side is very useful for solving logical problems and we shouldn’t forget this. It can’t however solve more complex problems that aren’t logical in many ways. Here we need to use our intuitive side. The intuitive side doesn’t think in words but often in images or symbols and often we aren’t aware of it thinking at all, it simply pops the answer to our problem into our awareness.

To help solve our more complex problems we often need to pay more attention to our intuitive mind. This doesn’t mean we discard the logical mind but we don’t try to rely solely on it for problems that don’t have a logical answer. How do we know when something requires an intuitive insight or answer? Usually it is that chaotic process or problem that we get stuck in. Our logical mind is going a million miles an hour trying to figure out the answer and we feel like we are going crazy with all the thinking. This usually means we are caught in the middle of chaos and the only way out is to tap into our intuition.

To do this we may need to spend time trying to help quiet the logical side of our mind – we can do this through meditation and relaxation or we can do it through occupying the left side with a logical task. This might mean distracting it with a puzzle or using it to identify what parts of the problem can be helped with logic.

To tap into our intuition there are many tools we can use such as tarot, runes and oracle cards but often when we bring some quiet to our left brain, the right brain can be heard. The answer may come in meditation or relaxation or in our dreams. But it doesn’t come by thinking more about the problem.

Some times we might rely too much on our intuitive side and stop paying attention to our logical side. This can lead us into problems as we are out of balance if we don’t bring the two sides together. The two sides of the brain are designed to work together and we should never rely on either side in isolation. We can use the logical side for logical problem solving and the intuitive side for providing answers to more chaotic problems.

Both sides are also involved in the creative process with the intuitive side often coming up with unique and seemingly spontaneous new ideas. The left side then tests the ideas for strengths and weaknesses and helps refine them. As we learn more about how the sides of the mind work we can begin to pay more attention to the power of logic and intuition in our lives.

If all this sounds very confusing I go into much more detail in my book Holistic Medicine and that might be helpful to read.

 

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

Skills for living an authentic life 2

This week, in the second blog of the authentic life skills series, I am going to write about being aware of our physical body. For me there are two main aspects of awareness. The first is the actual physicality of our body and the second is the spiritual dimension of our physical body. By paying attention to both our physical needs and the spiritual messages that relate to our symptoms and illnesses we can learn to live more authentic lives. Our inner self is sending us messages by way of our physical body and as we learn how to pay better attention we learn more about our selves and what we need to be healthy and whole.

We sometimes forget that we have a physical body that we need to look after. We eat too much of the wrong foods or we drink too much alcohol or use drugs or we put too many toxins in our body or we don’t get enough sleep or we don’t keep our body active. Our body will generally tell us when it isn’t happy but only if we’re listening and paying attention. Sometimes we push our body beyond what is healthy for it but our body will give us messages that things are not right. We need to get used to paying close attention to our body and its messages.

These messages show us how we might treat our selves better by eating good foods, getting enough rest, doing enough activity or exercise and avoiding toxins and pollutants. The messages also often have a spiritual message that we can interpret through our intuition or with the help of intuitive healers. I have mentioned some books previously and my favourite is The Body is the Barometer of the Soul, by Annette Noontil. With this book we can decipher what our physical symptoms mean on a spiritual level.

Recently I have been suffering a bit of vertigo, something I experience intermittently. This episode is relatively mild but lasting longer than usual. It makes me feel off balance and slightly dizzy. Without looking at any books I can tell something is out of balance in my life. Maybe I am not grounded, a bit floaty and probably I’m not looking after myself properly.

I dip into Annette’s book and it tells me that vertigo is about not taking personal time for yourself. It says I am going round in circles and not being organised for the straight path, that I need more inflow of insights for what to do next and that I should make a solid direction for self. Of course this is all very apt because I have been writing my book on transformation and exploring the concepts of going with the flow and not focusing on outcomes. Obviously my body is telling me I need to ground myself more and make solid directions and be more organized on my path.

I look at another book by Inna Segal, called The Secret Language of the Body, and it tells me that vertigo is about feeling unstable, out of balance, ungrounded. It is to do with difficulty accepting things as they are and going round and round in circles, not being sure how to make changes or what direction to take. While I don’t like to admit it this sounds like what is going on in my life. I have only recently moved to a new job near Phillip Island and I love the location but am finding the work has the same frustrations as all my previous jobs. I am feeling unstable because I am living in two places neither of which is permanent and have just spent three weeks in a holiday house while working in the very busy tourist season. No wonder I’m off balance. I have begun the process of paying better attention to the physical symptoms and need to make some changes. I need to ground myself more and make some decisions on the direction of my life. By the sound of it, it would be good for me to stop going round in circles in my life and settle on a firm direction. Of course there are other things to pay attention to like my intuition but paying attention to the physical body gives me information about what my inner self is trying to tell me.

It is in this way that we can become more aware of what our inner self needs by paying close attention to our symptoms. We can look at the various physical ways that we might not be looking after ourselves and address these. Then we can go deeper and look at the spiritual meaning behind our symptoms. If we address both the physical and spiritual needs the symptoms often resolve and we can find a greater understanding of our true self.

 

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

Skills for living an authentic life 1

Well it’s 2017 and time for new beginnings and changes. We all like to think about making changes to our lives at this time of year but so often we don’t follow through on our resolutions. What if our one resolution was simply to be better at expressing our true self? I have been writing some of my new book on Transformation and I have been thinking a lot about how people might be more authentic and true to their inner selves. For most of us this is a journey of discovery about who we really are and who we want to be in the world. Living authentically may seem a bit of a new age cliché but a lack of living authentically is what causes many of the problems in society and many of our personal problems. We are trying to be some version of ourselves that is not who we really are. When we can be the version of ourselves that is truly who we are then life falls into place. Yet we often don’t pay attention to the skills we need to live authentically. Over the next month I am going to discuss at least seven skills that help us live a more authentic life and they are –

  1. Dealing with our emotions
  1. Being aware of our physical body
  1. Dealing with our mind
  1. Listening to our intuition
  1. Following our passions
  1. Cultivating our community
  1. Appreciating nature

Today’s skill is dealing with our emotions.

Young children are usually in touch with their emotions; they feel sad they cry, they feel angry and they yell and throw a tantrum, they feel happy and they laugh. Yet society doesn’t feel comfortable with such overt displays of emotion so most of us are taught that some emotions are not acceptable. We are taught not to cry when we feel sad because it is a display of weakness, that it is not okay to feel anger much less act it out, that even laughter and happiness are not always appropriate. We are taught to bottle up our feelings in many different ways. What happens when we are taught to suppress and deny our emotions isn’t that the emotion disappears but rather the emotion simmers beneath the surface and can erupt if the conditions are right.

Most of us know the feeling of anger building as small frustrations mount up into big frustrations and anger boils over. Instead if we allow our anger to be felt and let the feeling permeate our being we can begin to understand what the feeling is about. As we feel the anger we begin to learn about what is causing it. Maybe it is an injustice that we need to speak up about, or maybe we are allowing people to control us, or maybe we need to change something about ourselves. Emotions are not useless inconveniences they are one way our inner self lets us know when things are going well or not so well.

Feeling our emotions is not always easy especially if they are emotions that have been labeled as bad or wrong at some time in our life. We sometimes have to just sit with our feelings and emotions as they bubble up inside us but if we let ourselves feel them they rarely hang around for very long. As we feel them we can usually become aware of their message. So-called negative emotions are a signal that something is not right. Positive emotions signal that things are on track and that we are following our path. When we experience a lot of negative emotions it is good to pay better attention to them; to actively sit with them and feel them. Usually when we sit with them we discover deeper meanings that encourage us to change things – either the situation or our reaction to a situation or something about ourselves.

There are many ways we try to avoid feelings – we drink alcohol, use drugs, work too hard, project our anger onto other people, gamble too much or sometimes we just pretend that everything is fine and put on a happy face. Instead of avoiding our feelings it is wise to simply sit with them, allow them to have their way with us and experience them more fully. This doesn’t mean acting them out but rather allowing them to move through us. If we have a lot of trouble doing this then sometimes it is wise to see a counselor or psychologist to learn better strategies. I have written more about dealing with emotions in my book Holistic Medicine but there are other books around that have been written primarily on the subject that may be useful, such as Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. Whatever way you choose to learn more about your emotional self it will help you discover things about your inner self that help you on the path to becoming more authentic.

In my next blog of this series I will discuss how we can be more aware of our physical body.

 

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.

 

 

The Tarkine

Last week I spent four days in the magical Tarkine. This relatively unknown location in Tasmania is a great place to experience old growth forest and get in touch with the natural world. The Tarkine is located in the north west of Tasmania and houses some of the most spectacular forest on the planet.

This rainforest is unique in that many of the plant species are ancient and there are many species that don’t exist in other places; it is said to be a living remnant of prehistoric forest. To spend a few days walking and camping in such a place is rejuvenating for the spirit and soul. We desperately need to protect such wilderness areas as they are still under threat from mining and logging.

The Tarkine has been listed as one of the top ten places to visit before it disappears and the main threats are not just logging and mining but also climate change. While such cool climate rainforests are generally fire resistant because of their moisture content increasing temperatures and droughts may dry out the forest making it vulnerable to fire.

To help protect the Tarkine there are a number of things we can do. The first is to visit it and experience its magic. The second is to work to preserve it by opposing mining and logging in the area. Go to Save the Tarkine website for more information. Thirdly we all need to recognize climate change as a major threat to the ecosystems of this planet, including the Tarkine, and work to change our reliance on fossil fuels and other pollutants. Our health depends upon the health of our planet.

 

Seven steps for dealing with overwhelming stress

In our busy western lives stress can often become a problem. Sometimes there are so many things happening that we become overwhelmed. This is when our stress hormones really kick in and we find it hard to cope with the many demands. I have written about dealing with stress in my book Holistic Medicine but here are seven simple steps to follow when you find yourself overwhelmed and stressed out.

 

  1. Recognise that you are under stress. Sometimes we are so busy and overwhelmed by our lives that we don’t even realise that we are under stress. It helps for us to step back for a moment and take some deep breaths. We can pause for a few moments and just pay attention to the fact that our lives have become too full.
  2. Ground yourself. When we are overwhelmed we lose touch with our self and pay too much attention to what is going on around us. The process of grounding starts to bring us back to our selves. Grounding can be as simple as going for a walk outside (bare feet is best), doing some grounding yoga poses or lying on the earth.
  3. Focus on simple things that you can do. When we are overwhelmed with so many things going on in our life we need to focus on those things that will make a difference to our level of stress. What can we do to make a difference in the short term?
  4. Ask for help. Sometimes we try to do everything by ourselves. It is good when we are overwhelmed to ask for help from our family and friends. We can let them know things are overwhelming and that we need some help.
  5. Centre yourself. This is a process of paying attention to our heart centre. We can tap into our inner self and pay attention to the calming effect the heart centre can have on our whole self. Our intuition may help guide us to how to deal with the stress and how to prioritise our time.
  6. Pay attention to what being overwhelmed is telling you about your life. Most of us do too much and we forget to take care of ourselves. Stress shows us that we are not looking after our own needs very well.
  7. Let go. We may need to let go of the need to control everything in our lives. We may need to let go of doing so many things and being so busy. If we can let go of our busyness we can make some time in our lives to listen to our own needs better.

 

We become overwhelmed and stressed when we don’t listen to ourselves and forget to pay attention to our own needs. These seven steps help us take some time out and begin to listen to what we need in our lives. Our priority should be to simplify out lives and pay better attention to what makes us happy.

 

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.

Photo from Unsplash by Tim Marshall

 

Sea Change

Yet another change is on the horizon. I have decided to make the move to Phillip Island, a place I have spent so many wonderful holidays. I’ve got a new job at San Remo Medical Clinic and I start next week – September 7th. I’ll be working there Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to begin with and will keep working at the NIIM clinic in Hawthorn on Tuesdays. I’ll also continue some of my work with RACGP in the medium term.

The change will be a bit challenging because I haven’t done rural General Practice for a while. I’ll have to update my emergency medicine skills and learn to remove fish hooks apparently. I’ll continue to offer Integrative Medicine at both NIIM and San Remo practices but the San Remo practice will be more conventional general practice.

I hope to eventually have more time to spend writing as I haven’t written a blog since March and haven’t updated my website with new information for almost as long. The website is getting more visitors all the time so I hope to increase the amount of information available as soon as possible.

 

 

 

Stress

Stress is a term that is bandied around an awful lot these days but what does it really mean and how does it affect our health?

Stress comes in a number of different guises and it affects our health primarily by putting extra demands on our adrenal glands (although it is much more complex than just the adrenals). The adrenal glands secrete a number of different hormones such as cortisol, DHEA, adrenaline and noradrenaline. Acute stress causes a surge in some of these hormones that puts us into a flight or fight response which is very useful if you are faced with a sabre tooth tiger or other acute stress. Chronic stress,such as most of us face in today’s fast and stimulating society, leads to chronic increases in these stress hormones and this leads to health problems of many sorts. Our adrenals may react by increasing secretion of the stress hormones at the expense of restorative hormones such as DHEA or eventually they may react by decreasing secretion of the stress hormones leading to fatigue and other health issues.

Sometimes we think of stress as only the emotional kind and it is true this is a major source of stress for many people, but we shouldn’t forget the other sources of stress that contribute to our health problems. Stresses can be divided into four main groups – environmental, psychosocial, physiological and biological.

Environmental stressors

  • Pollution – air pollution and contamination of our food supply with pesticides and herbicides puts extra stress on our body. Heavy metal toxicity is a problem for many people. Noise pollution can also be a problem.
  • Radiation – Electromagnetic radiation (EMR) is a major problem in today’s society. We are exposed to millions of times more EMR than our grandparents and the effects on our  cells can be severe. We are also exposed to more ionising radiation than ever before with the increase in X-rays and air flights.
  • Weather – weather extremes put our bodies under stress and with climate change these weather extremes are becoming more common.

Psychosocial stressors

These are the emotional type stressors that we all think of as affecting our health. In today’s fast paced society there is increased performance stress in schools and work places. The constant pressure we put ourselves under can lead to adrenal exhaustion and burnout. Many of us also face financial pressures, relationship pressures and anxieties about the future.

Physiological stressors

  • Ageing – as we age our bodies have to cope with the accumulation of many years of ongoing stress of all sorts. Our cells age and the powerhouse of the cell – the mitochondria – decrease in number. Ageing puts at us increased risk of infections and degenerative diseases both of which contribute to increase stress on the whole body.
  • Illness – any illness puts extra stress on the body. Something as simple as a cold will increase the stress response. Chronic disease causes even more stress with both physical and emotional components.
  • Trauma – physical trauma is an obvious stress but emotional traumas can take a larger toll. Grief is a major stress with increases in many health problems in the first year following the death of a loved one.
  • Nutritional deficiencies – our poor diet and poor farming practices have led to an epidemic of obesity and deficiencies in many nutrients. If we don’t have the basic building blocks for our cells to work with then there is physiological stress at a cellular level.

Biological stressors

The main biological stressors are infections; all infections put stress on the body but there are some chronic infections that can affect us profoundly. Viruses, bacteria and parasites can all be to blame. The Epstein Barr virus (EBV), the cytomegalovirus (CMV), the hepatitis virus, the herpes virus and others have all been implicated in chronic diseases. Bacterial infections such as Lyme disease are now thought to be a major cause of chronic ill health.With the increase in overseas travel many people are exposed to bacteria and parasites that cause an increase burden of disease.

With all these stressors it is amazing that the human body works as well as it does and that for the most part good health is the norm. But with all these stressors affecting our body and our adrenals we do need to look after ourselves as well as we can. The seven key ways to decreasing the effect stress has on our lives are as follows.

  1. Eat a healthy diet. I have discussed this on my website and a good diet is essential in providing the building blocks for the body to replace and restore cells and to manufacture hormones and produce energy.
  2. Get a good night’s sleep. Also discussed on my site – 8-81/2 hours sleep between the hours of 9 pm and 5 am is the most restorative and healing.
  3. Exercise daily – 30 -45 minutes of exercise a day is optimal. Too much exercise can be an additional stress on the body.
  4. Meditation – daily meditation decreases the stress response and calms the sympathetic nervous system.
  5. Relax with family and friends and cultivate community.
  6. Consider nutritional supplements and herbal tonics to help the body cope with stress.
  7. Avoid artificial stimulants. Caffeine, alcohol and other stimulants may provide short term relief from stress but long term they create more problems for the adrenals and the body as a whole.

 

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.

Changing jobs

In a couple of weeks I’m changing jobs. I’m leaving Modern Medical in Balwyn where I have been for three years and moving to the NIIM clinic in Hawthorn. (NIIM – National Institute of Integrative medicine). This is much more than a change in practice location it is a change in practice philosophy.

While I tried to practice my version of holistic and integrative medicine in conventional general practice it is difficult to do so. There are time constraints and a certain set of patient expectations that occur in a conventional general practice. Changing to an integrative practice will give me more scope to practice a better version of holistic and integrative medicine.

The change came about somewhat serendipitously. Modern Medical was sold to a steel company and while we were reassured that nothing would change the sale gave me the opportunity to look at other options, one of which was the NIIM clinic.

As they state on their website “The NIIM Clinic is a leading provider of integrative and complementary healthcare, located in Hawthorn, Melbourne.

Housing Melbourne’s most prominent integrative General Practitioners and complementary medical staff, the NIIM Clinic facilitates treatment for a wide range of illnesses, including everyday ailments as well as chronic diseases such as diabetes, bowel disease, and heart disease, metabolic and endocrine disorders, cancer and others.”

While I am sad to be leaving such a great group of doctors and staff at Modern Medical I am very excited to be able to join the team at NIIM. I am really looking forward to helping empower patients to bring about their own healing through holistic and integrative approaches.

My book, Holistic Medicine – beyond the physical, discusses how people can gain more control over their health and learn how to heal themselves. I hope to bring these ideas to my practice and help patients to explore their health and illness in a holistic way and discover how to bring about greater healing.

www.drcarolhead.com.au

 

My five favourite books on health and wellness

The following are my five favourite books about general health and wellness. They are mostly written for the layperson rather than being for a medical audience although health professionals will find them all useful.

Chinese Medicine. The web that has no weaver. By Ted J. Kaptchuk. 

I love this book. It was my first introduction to Chinese medicine many years ago and I found within its pages a new way to look at health and wellness. It explains in relatively simple terms the theory and practice of Chinese medicine, mixing up to date scientific knowledge with ancient oriental principles. It is a very enjoyable read although some of the concepts and theories are hard to grasp on first reading. It is a book to go back to time after time.

chinese medicine

 

The Body is the Barometer of the Soul. So be your own doctor. By Annette Noontil

This book was originally self-published by Annette many years ago and has become a classic reference tool for people who want to understand the messages from their physical body and their symptoms or illnesses. She shows people how to change their thinking about their symptoms and help heal their illnesses. Annette lists many symptoms and diseases and their deeper meanings. There are other books written in this vein by authors such as Louise Hay and Inna Segal but I think this one is the best.

bodyisbarometer

 

Good Health in the 21st Century: A family doctor’s unconventional guide. By Carole Hungerford.

This well researched book covers a large amount of information about why we get sick and how we might live healthier lives. Hungerford discusses some of the politics behind health issues and delves into diet and supplements in depth. As well as covering general issues around health she writes in an easy to read way about some specific illnesses and health problems of our time. Another book to keep as a great reference.

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Awakening Intuition. Using your mind-body network for insight and healing. By Mona Lisa Schulz.

While this may not sound like a book on health it certainly explores the mind body connection and how this affects our health. Schulz explores various methods of accessing our intuitive powers that can make a difference in our lives and improve our health. She also discusses specific body areas and how they might seek our attention through the language of intuition. This is a book about paying attention to both your body and its physical symptoms and to your intuition.

awakening intuition

 

Anatomy of the Spirit. The seven stages of power and healing. By Caroline Myss.

Myss has written a number of books on the human energy system and its application to improving health but I like this one the best. It is based upon many years of research and work in the field of energy medicine and looks at how our illnesses are related to our emotions, beliefs and attitudes. Myss presents her work on the seven centres of spiritual and physical power, which correspond to the chakras, and gives us a blueprint for cultivating our personal power and spiritual growth. This is a book about wellness in its broadest sense of the word.

anatomy of spirit

Wellness

Wellness at its most basic is a feeling we have when we are free of illness and balanced in our body, mind and spirit. How do we go about balancing ourselves better to achieve wellness?

In my first book – Holistic Medicine, beyond the physical – I divide the whole person into five parts in order to investigate how we might find better balance and wholeness..

The first part is the mind (air) and is characterized by the right and left sides of the brain that I have discussed in a previous post called Mind. Many of us are unbalanced in the way we use our mind relying heavily on our left-brain logical thinking and disregarding our right-brain holistic intuitive thinking.

The second part is the physical body (earth). Our physical body is fairly obvious, although many of us try to deny that we have a body that actually needs looking after. We try to use the power of our logical mind to control our body, to make it do what we want. In our culture, we are taught to disregard the messages from our body. We run marathons and compete in sports that stress our bodies and then wonder why our bodies let us down. We feed our bodies a diet of junk (both physical and emotional) and then wonder why they don’t work well.

The third part of our whole self is the emotional body (water) that we are also taught to disregard. We learn early on that some emotions are just not okay and that we should suppress them. We don’t need to act out all our emotions but to not feel them is to ignore one of our parts.

The fourth part is more difficult to classify but is represented by the element of fire. At its simplest, fire is the part of us that drives us to grow and create. It is the passion that burns, the creative flame that leads us to great works of art or scientific discoveries. It is the part of us that seeks to grow and expand. Fire is our closest link to the spiritual world. Our intuitive abilities stem from fire, but we experience them through our other elements.

The fifth part or element is represented by ether and is by its very nature ethereal, it is the element that is unworldly, spiritual, immaterial, intangible. This element is very difficult to fully describe but it symbolises the connections between our parts and the connections between us and everything else. It is the energy that is at the basis of all life but it is not simply energy, it is connections. Some would call this etheric element God or The Divine or All That Is. Some would call it the Holy Spirit or the Web of Life or Mother Nature or Gaia. This element is so much a part of everything that we cannot distil it out to discover its nature. We cannot reduce living things to all their parts and call one of these parts ether and expect to then understand what this means. Because ether more than anything is present most in the harmonic combination of the parts.

So here we have the concept of five elements – fire, air, water, earth and ether. Keeping these elements in balance helps lead us back to wellness and wholeness. Western society values fire and has a heavy reliance on left-brain over right-brain. It devalues the emotional body and most of us don’t take good care of our physical body. Many of us are only just becoming aware of the etheric body and its connections to the rest of the universe. So we are all often unbalanced, or living in a society that is unbalanced. Yet despite this, the human system has the uncanny ability to find its own balance and to seek wellness and wholeness.

To focus on our wellness is to firstly become aware that are made up of these five parts and then to nurture each of them. We need to nurture them as a whole rather than as separate parts but conceptualizing them as parts helps us to become aware of which parts we might be neglecting.

I have written a whole book about this but paying better attention to your parts is a vital step in promoting wellness. We can do this by balancing our right and left brain more, by looking after our physical body, by feeling our emotions instead of suppressing them, by following our passions and our intuition and by enhancing our etheric connections. This is a very simplistic version of a quite complex process but it is worth contemplating especially if you are not currently experiencing wellness.