“The way the modern world has developed has resulted in so many of us becoming disconnected from the subtle shifts in rhythm that the seasons bring, disconnecting ourselves little by little from the heartbeat of the planet and thus the flow of Life...”
- Rebecca Campbell, Rise Sister Rise
It’s winter outside and I’m tempted to become like a Bear. All I need is a dry cave, a full belly and a warm fur to keep me comfortable until spring blooms once again. Instead, I’ll settle for a heater, uggs, warm tea and some good books to read when I’m not watching Netflix…
There is a reason many of us feel this way in winter. When we existed without electricity and lived in connection with nature, winter was the season for more sleep – we would go to bed early when the sun went down and wake up later when the sun rose. It was a time for conserving our energy to stay warm, and reflecting on where we were heading next. It was a time for rest rather than action.
With this in mind, here are some suggestions to help you hibernate this season:
#1 Uggboots – the popularity of uggboots has exploded in our lifetime, no longer a daggy relic of our past but a practical and socially acceptable winter footwear choice. My favourite winter outfit is to wear yoga pants, a warm cardi, thick bed socks and my uggs – comfort factor 1 million.
#2 Box Sets – it’s almost worth saving up your favourite series to be enjoyed over long winter nights in front of the heater. I give the same advice to my pregnant friends – box sets are your best friend at 2am when the baby will only sleep in your arms on the lounge. Relaxation is important!
#3 Tea – it’s common knowledge that I love my tea, and winter is the perfect time to brew a pot or two to share over a chat. My favourite tea is chai, and I use coconut milk heated on the stove with boiling water to brew my pot. My hubby can’t get enough of it.
#4 Bushwalks – I class bushwalking as a winter hibernation activity as it connects us back to nature, and the elements. We can rug up against the cold and warm up as we walk. The National Park is gorgeous at this time of year.
#5 Connections – I view winter as a time for deep connections, with ourselves and also with those closest to us. It is a season to move past the surface and deal with the real thoughts, attitudes and emotions underneath. Winter is a time to go within and discover the little ideas that are starting to grow, and nurture those parts of us that need rest.
#6 Reading – don’t you just love reading an engrossing book on a comfy chair with a glass of red wine in front of the fire? I can only really do this on holidays (we don’t have a fire...) but finding a snuggly spot at home to read is so nourishing to the body and soul.
#7 Sleep – winter is made for sleeping, and there is no better time to make sure we have developed a sound sleeping routine. Ditch the mobile at least one hour before sleep, make herbal tea, do some bedtime yoga or stretches and find some minutes to meditate before bed. You may also want to write down what you were grateful for during the day, and put down any thoughts buzzing around your head so you can pick them up again in the morning. Sweet dreams.
If you have any other favourite winter practices I’d love to hear about them!
One of my lifestyle dreams in my mid 20’s (when I was working 60 - 80 hour weeks in my law firm) was to have more freedom. Over the years, my goal steadily shifted from becoming a successful lawyer, to having more flexibility and balance in my career.
It's no surprise that when I finally made the (difficult yet essential) decision to leave my career in law, I took refuge in a position in Local Government - a place where I enjoyed a flex day once a fortnight, was able to take the pressure off in terms of my ambition and gained the time and space to contemplate what my next move would be. It was a period of transition, and like all transitions in life - there came a time when I had to leave the comfort, the perks and the easier hours - to stretch myself once again - throwing myself (well, sensibly applying myself - I was a lawyer after all) into the career path my soul wanted.
Don’t get me wrong, my transitional government role was not without it’s own challenges. I had to get used to having a lot more ‘down time’ and learn how to be with myself without needing career achievement to bolster me. I had to let go of the huge ego boost I had built up for myself as a lawyer and take steps to detach my ‘real self’ from my ‘career self.’ I had to find my own self worth without the title of ‘lawyer’ and let go of some long held ideas about who I was. There were times when I was bored, periods when I didn’t feel like I was stretching myself and living up to my potential and times when I felt confused and without clear direction.
But I did learn and grow a lot, so much so, that I cultivated openness, discovered my soul career, married and created a life much richer and not just focused on work. It was here I was led to Life Coaching and began the journey of accreditation. It was also in this role that my son was born, and I was able to take generous paid maternity leave.
I also picked up some great tips about how to be grateful for the work we may find ourselves in - even if it is not our ideal fit, our dream job or career. I discovered the most powerful step we can take is to shift our perspective on what we have in our lives, and instead of looking for what is missing, incomplete or wrong - we can focus on the positive aspects and opportunities available to us in the moment. Because life really is one big transition period!
We can apply this philosophy to almost any aspect of our lives - but as we are dealing with the topic of career at the moment, let’s focus on our work lives:
My little family love getting away -
and simple holidays on the South Coast at a cabin owned by my hubby's family are both a pleasure and a necessity for us.
Limited mobile reception at the cabin, makes switching off a great deal easier. We are forced to connect in with ourselves, with each other and the bush surrounding us, which is a balm for the soul.
There are so many beautiful, wild and secluded beaches as well as dog friendly enclaves that allow us to paddle under the warm sun as our cavoodle takes on her greyhound persona and tears around the sand, occasionally splashing us with sea-water in her gleeful freedom.
A little bush track takes us from the cabin to Pretty Beach nestled in the National Park, and once we arrive and kick off our thongs to start to walk along the soft sand, our stress starts to ebb out from our bare feet. I encourage my son to call out to the ocean – “aaaahhhhhhh” and I can feel the tension seeping out of our bodies, engulfed by the massive, frothy waves.
We collect rocks along the shoreline as an Eagle soars overhead. The rock pools reveal starfish and bright red sea anemones - I can never pronounce this word so I let hubby explain what the creatures are to my son.
But our time away can also be a little confronting. Having space to be quiet can conjure feelings that may have been overlooked, which without distractions demand attention. I have been in busy juggle mode for such a long time, that even the daily pockets of self-time I carve out are seemingly not enough to address all of the transformations occurring.
I can feel some familiar emotions arise as we make our way to the mystical singing rocks. My stomach feels heavy, and throat constricted. 'It's ok,' I tell myself, 'let it out' and as we reach the edge any emerging tears are swallowed up by the power of the air whipping off the swell as the rocks sing their song.
We spend a lot of time in our homes - even if it’s just to sleep, our homes play an important role in our feelings of being grounded, safe and comfortable. When we have a home we can relax in, our ability to recharge and recalibrate is enhanced.
Have you ever stayed somewhere that felt heavy, dense or uncomfortable? Can you recall walking into a room after someone has had an argument and felt the tension in the air? Is there a place you can visualise that seemed somehow hostile, dark and uninviting - even if the space was big?
This is negative energy, and such energy can collect in our homes - often without us realising it – impacting on the way we feel, behave and think.
When my husband and I got married some six years ago we held our wedding at a historic home in the Southern Highlands. The grounds were beautiful, and our ceremony was in the garden with our reception following in the dining room and ballroom. Most of our guests stayed overnight in separate guest rooms. At this time, I had not opened up my awareness as much as I have today - but I could still tell that something wasn’t quite right when it was time to go to bed. Sometime during the night I was woken by a deep sensation of dread - and when I opened my eyes I saw a dark figure hovering over my bed with its mouth wide open right next to my face. At first I froze, and then I screamed so loudly my new husband jumped 5 metres into the air, before reaching over to find out what was wrong. I kept screaming until eventually the shape vanished - but I was really shaken. So was my husband.
I have had similar experiences in old cottages where I have stayed - hearing menacing footsteps pacing in the middle of the night, feeling the sick, heavy dense energy of fear in the shower block of an old gaol I visited in Adelaide, unwittingly tuning into the deep childhood sadness of a friend when I meditated in their old bedroom, sensing the stagnant energy underneath piles of papers and files in a workplace, picking up on angry vibes when I have entered a room after someone has had an argument and feeling an intensity at the front of my forehead, like a fog and feeling the need to squint my eyes if I’m in a room and people are attempting to manipulate me or others.
The great news is, we can work towards clearing our homes and other spaces we frequent of any residual heaviness, sadness or negativity and cultivate a space full of light, clear and joyful energy.
Seven Steps to Clear Your Space
There are many ways to clear your space, but here is a simple guide to get you started.
Equipment - Before you start you will need:
You may also feel called to light candles, burn essential oil, place high vibe crystals such as selenite in a key central spot next to a bowl of water, play soothing music or use a feather to spread the smudging smoke. Anything that feels nurturing and comforting to you.
WARNING - Please remember - if you feel any sense of dread, unease or heaviness during any part of this process, immediately visualise yourself enveloped in a clear, loving and protective energy and stop the clearing. There is no need to panic, but I would advise you to stop what you are doing and reach out to the professionals. This is unlikely to happen if you are clearing your own home - so don’t be fearful, keep your vibes high and your intentions loving.
Clearing Process -
Step One - Prepare your space - Open windows, set out objects, light candles, oils and play music before you start the process. Have your smudging tools at hand.
Step Two - Check in with how the space is feeling - My favourite way of checking in with a space is to start from the outside and ask the space how it would feel if I walked in. You will feel, sense, hear or see the answer. It is also a great idea to ask the nature spirits surrounding the space and also any trees, plants, animals as well as mother earth for help to heal and maintain the space. This knowledge can help you later to set your intention for the clearing.
Step Three - Ask the space if it’s OK if you clear it - If the space is your home, it is likely you will get a positive response - but if there is a big, negative reaction, feeling of dread or discomfort please do not proceed with the space clearing and seek out help from the professionals.
Step Four - Set an intention - Set a clear and loving intention for how you want the space to feel - you can visualise this or speak it out loud. For example - I want this space to feel calm, clear and filled with love. I want my home to have a loving, prosperous and relaxed energy.
Step Five - Visualise a protective bubble - Visualise high vibe clear energy from the heavens entering in at the crown of your head, then see it engulf you in a protective bubble. You may wish to call upon your spirit guides, ancestors or angels to help you with the process.
Step Six - Smudging - Enter the space and light the sage or palo santo and walk around the edges of each room allowing the smoke to blow where it needs to. You can walk in a clock-wise or anti-clockwise direction, listen to your intuition. Keep the windows open so the smoke (and the negative vibes) can waft out of each room.
Step Seven - Bring the light - When you have finished smudging each room, thank your space (and your guides) and imagine a huge ball of light energy radiating out from your heart centre and filling every corner of your space, spilling out into the street.
Clearing your space regularly will help to keep it fresh and the energy uplifted which will have an impact on all areas of your life.
Fear is energy. It is attracted to itself. When we are in a cycle of fear, we attract more of it.
At several points in my life I have felt fear so deeply, at the time I had no idea how to pull myself out. I was literally trapped in a whirlpool of energy that was so momentous it influenced almost every thought about me and my world.
I still don’t know exactly how, but one day, in the evening - I made a clear, firm decision that I couldn’t keep living in the way I had.
It was this spark that inspired me to stretch my vulnerability threshold, get really honest about the horrible self-talk happening in my mind - and I asked for help.
So began the first slow climb out of burn-out and depression. It took all of my strength and courage to open myself up to ask for help - because I had to admit I needed someone else, and I had to expose the horrible thoughts.
When we are in the midst of fear, even if it is not so big and dramatic, we need simple and gentle ways to pull ourselves out. Having a clear plan brings back a little hope and optimism, which is the starting place for shifting fear. We need a solid, uncomplicated action to pull us out of the heavy momentum we have lived in, sometimes for months.
What helped me?
Exercise - fear is energy, we need to move it out and connect with our body.
Sleep + Meditation - when fear gains momentum we need to shift it.
Focusing - what we focus our attention on, manifests.
Getting help - fear energy likes us to feel as if we are small, alone and beyond help - this is not true.
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I need to start by saying there are so many ways I manage my anxiety. There is never a ‘one size fits all’ approach - and I have learnt to be patient, flexible and adaptable to what I need at any particular time. This has taken practice and a commitment to discovering all parts of me - the light and shadow aspects.
Over the years, I have realised how much strength is required to see a therapist and work through confronting aspects about life. I have been in and out of therapy for almost eight years - and my personal growth and self awareness has been exponential. My empathy and capacity to understand humanity has increased tenfold. I am strong, resilient and emotionally intelligent.
Self-care has become integral in my life. I have many activities, resources and avenues that I use to look after myself and I have developed this knowledge over time. I have picked up tools, tips and techniques from multiple sources and experimented with ideas until I found the methods that work best for me and the particular point in life I find myself.
Spiritual practice has also become a huge and amazing part of my perspective. Meditating, yoga, chakra cleansing, energy healing, channelling, connecting with nature and mother earth, sacred women’s circles, deepening my intuition, seeking knowledge and understanding of spirit through podcasts, books, lectures, workshops and teachers.
But there is another way I manage my anxiety on a day to day basis - I take a mild SSRI.
Is this a big deal? Does it need an announcement?
For me - the answer is yes and no.
The concept of taking medication troubled me for a long time. I was so resistant to the idea and so against it, that even at my worst - I would not even contemplate taking tablets. It felt like defeat, like I was giving up and not working hard enough to make myself better. I wasn’t good enough as I couldn’t heal myself - I was a perfectionist about fixing myself - like I was a project that could reach particular milestones if I worked hard enough. Like I could get better if I could just uncover one more issue, if I could just understand why I reacted negatively to one additional situation, if I could heal myself just that little bit more.
There are many sectors in the online community that echoed my fears and made it difficult for me to accept the need for western medicine in dealing with anxiety and depression. I found that there is an undercurrent of shame, and also a feeling that you are ‘not really that spiritual’ if everything is not organic, based on energy or nature. Of course, these were all projections of my own feelings about the ‘weakness’ of taking tablets to ease my suffering.
In a similar way, I started to attract some spiritual friends and mentors, as well as holistic health advocates who advised me of the dangers of taking tablets and how it would influence my energy field, my health, my growth and my perceptions - however mild. The thought of taking tablets caused me a mountain of shame and resistance. To even consider taking tablets felt inauthentic and inadequate.
I took all of these ‘warnings’ and opinions on board and I rejected tablets in favour of upping my self care routine. I wholeheartedly embraced daily meditation, yoga and bush walking. I gave up coffee, did a 6 week liver cleanse, continued eating a low fructose diet and took a daily probiotic. I saw a psychologist, had massages and acupuncture regularly. I journaled, listened to podcasts about health and wellness and scheduled alone time to rest and recharge. I had energy healings, set boundaries, read, spent time with loved ones, focused on positive aspects and was open and connected with friends. I prioritised self-care, planned events and activities that I enjoy, took regular breaks to connect back to myself and with nature as well pursuing a career that I love.
I could not see anything else that I could do to ease symptoms that were becoming increasingly more debilitating.
The truth is - while all of these practices are beneficial, deeply helpful, and healing - it was only when I started taking tablets, that I felt consistently better. The tablets were a last resort that when combined with consistent self-care practices have brought me back to myself.
I have not given up any of my self-care pursuits. I do not see medication as the ‘fixer’ and I will not be on them forever. I know that tablets are not for everyone - and I truly respect each person’s views about what is best for them. I do believe there is some truth to the detrimental aspects of taking medication - and that this needs to be weighed carefully with the benefits.
However, combined with my self-care practices, anti-depressants help me to live a life that is full and rich and mostly happy. And for now I am calm, centred and at peace.
It does take strength to admit you need help.
It takes courage to see a psychologist, counsellor or other therapist to confront your past and work through your fears.
It takes commitment, focus and openness to truly examine your present and explore what you want for your future.
The most important thing, I believe, is to look deep within and make a decision about what is best for us as individuals, to stay open and flexible when circumstances shift in order to make new decisions when they are needed, and to commit to living with grace, authenticity and kindness.
Having experienced the effects of anxiety, I have a lot of empathy for people who struggle to maintain their day to day lives while living with these confusing, unpredictable conditions.
And because the Universe puts us in touch with people who have similar energies to our own, my friends and clients tend to demonstrate an all too familiar resistance to acknowledging their anxiety and would rather keep working hard and pushing through in an effort to ignore it, in the hopes it may just go away.
I totally get it, as I still have days when I want to distance myself from “it”.
It’s irrational, counterproductive and unhelpful - but if I dwell on the fact I have anxiety it makes me feel less. Less of a success. Less strong. Less capable. Less balanced. Less, less, less.
In fact, these are the types of questions I asked myself before I decided to write about my experiences with anxiety. The thought of ‘putting it out there’ felt risky, dangerous and made me feel vulnerable and tense. I tried to put myself in your shoes, as the reader, and work out whether my fears were real.
Even after years of introspection, therapy, journaling, meditation, research and work I don’t completely understand the full impact of anxiety. It still likes to surprise me and keep me guessing.
Are labels good or bad? I don’t know. In some ways it is fantastic to have an explanation for feeling a particular way and being able to get help - but in other ways labels can be limiting and constrictive.
Anxiety is tricky as there are no shared universal experiences of the symptoms, and it can be insidious and manipulative.
At the end of the day, my current conclusion is that anxiety is just an aspect of me - just like my green eyes, capacity to love, size 7.5 feet, love of nature and my deep desire for meaningful conversations.
Neither good nor bad, with gifts and challenges on either side of the coin - it is what it is. I will keep on focusing on the positive aspects and doing my imperfect, perfectly perfect best to live my most fulfilling life.
“You don’t know why you’re exhausted? You’re fighting a war inside your head every single day. If that’s not exhausting I don’t know what is.”
I have anxiety.
It has taken me a long time to rid myself of the shame of having anxiety. Shame is counterproductive, especially when you use it to hold yourself hostage to an issue that can wreak havoc with your life. I still carry a little around with me, I haven’t fully embraced this aspect of myself - I still see it as a shadow part.
I have always been proud of my strength, focus and determination. I was the person who willed myself into a legal career - through sheer hard work and determination. When something felt difficult or too hard, I pushed through it and steamrolled myself to success.
Being diagnosed almost six years ago was a relief in some ways, and a burden in others.
Many highly intelligent people who have high expectations of themselves suffer from anxiety. Maybe being super perceptive of the world around you, and personalising all of the social and cultural rules, conditions and barometers of success becomes overwhelming.
Perhaps the nagging feeling that you do have the skills and abilities to create a big, impressive, magnificent life is just too tempting to ignore and then the inevitable realisation that you are a human being after all, with highs and lows, deep feelings and contradictions, successes and losses - does not fit into the ideal you have set up.
Maybe it's a combination of many things - genetics, early experiences, chemical make-up, self-perceptions, sensitivity, personality etc.
Whatever the factors – anxiety is part of my life, and it is one of my challenges to learn to accept this aspect of myself and look for the positive things it brings to my experience such as growth, compassion. empathy and being the catalyst for self reflection and deeper understanding..
The more I can accept who I am, learn about how anxiety affects me even today, and be open about my experience, the easier it becomes. And this is still a work in progress…..
“you will be transformed when you make peace with your shadow”
- Debbie Ford
Expectations are tricky. Especially when you have high standards, especially when you're really hard on yourself and have perfectionist tendencies.
If you can recall my last blog about my journey to self acceptance (if not, you can read it here) you will remember I started introducing changes to help optimise my physical health.
However, my overall intention was this: “... my ultimate aim is to learn to love myself exactly as I am right now - and then from this place of self acceptance, take steps towards creating the body, health and vitality I really desire”
Looking back, it was this deeply felt intention that led me into my own journey into the darkness once again.
I call ‘darkness’ the energy you hold in your body which relates to the changes you are seeking to make (whether consciously or subconsciously) and can arise as pain, fear, resistance, stuckness, depression, anxiety, negativity, sadness, overwhelment, self-criticism, grief, anger, rage, hopelessness - or any other ‘dark’ emotion you are harbouring.
The universe is consistent, and It's so easy for me to see this when I'm working with others. A person will set out to deal with an issue that is holding them back, and at some point in the journey it is time for the ‘darkness’ to emerge so it can be purged and transformed. Sometimes it is a short and relatively painless aspect of the transformation and at other times it can take on a life of its own.
Because that is what happens when you start to change a part of your life, particularly one that brings up resistance - your inner self takes the opportunity to alter things at a deep level, and darkness and light are intertwined. We need to experience and accept the darker parts of ourselves to fully appreciate our light. When we seek to alter our ‘surface’, there is a depth that is aching to be transformed. We are all trying to become whole, after all.
When you are going through a period of darkness it can be really tough, especially because you don't always know when it is time to come out the other side. It can feel like you never will. But from lots of experience, I can assure you that the darkness does end. And it is such a relief. It is the beginning of the next phase in your growth, time for the ‘next level’ you to emerge.
For me, the intention to focus on ‘body’ issues stirred up a lot of old, unacknowledged emotions, energy and patterning I didn't even realise I was still carrying. It has allowed me to look at my own darkness through fresh eyes and to both broaden and deepen my journey into self-acceptance.
Amanda is a (reformed) lawyer turned holistic life coach, self-care advocate, workshop facilitator, writer, speaker, avid reader, nature lover, chai tea drinker and mother to a curious, active toddler. A spirit seeker who loves connecting with others on journeys of self-discovery, Amanda believes we can all find our own version of success and live an empowered life.