Life as a Doula, Journey of a Woman

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Relax!




 This is a photograph of a place I go to in my head to visualise the sea when I want to relax myself.  I chose this picture of it above more traditional sunny photos because it shows that visualisation for relaxation can mean different things to different people, and different things to the same people at various stages in their lives.

Maybe this reflects my sometimes moody and introspective nature, but I love the subtle soft colours and feeling of coolness and the sensory nature of this image.  Relaxing and calming clients is a big part of my work as a reflexologist.  During the pre-treatment consultation that I go through with clients, it frequently emerges that they are experiencing periods of anxiety, with adrenaline flowing and a temper that's easily frayed.

I call this state 'fast idling', like a car engine that's running unnecessarily fast at tick-over and burning up too much fuel in the process.  People can be in a fast-idling state for different reasons. Habitual negative thinking and worrying engages the sympathetic nervous system which governs our fight-or-flight response, causing the release of adrenaline and other stress hormones.  Over use of stimulants like caffeine and nicotine can do the same thing. This state of constant arousal can compromise the body's natural ability to heal itself, as well as being unpleasant for the person, who cannot relax fully, may experience disturbed sleep or gastric symptoms due to an adrenalised system.

Part of my reflexology practice encompasses going over healthy lifestyle choices open to my clients, so that my treatments can support their quest for health at all levels.  We talk about things like addiction to aspartame, nicotine, caffeine and sugar.  If clients have particular areas of concern like nutrition, sleep patterns, lack of exercise or low mood, we can also discuss ways to support a return to health, and incorporate sequences into the reflexology treatment that will help.

I also find that many clients benefit from the relaxing aspect of reflexology. Many find that the first benefit they notice after a treatment is the better quality of sleep they enjoy, as well as ease in falling to sleep. Over a course of treatments, this benefit extends to lowering the 'idling speed' of the body, reducing stress, anxiety and that constant adrenalised state disappears.  This is the perfect scenario for the body to then begin the re-balancing and healing process, creating a space for repair and new growth and creativity to be expressed.

My relaxing and welcoming home clinic in Hassocks


If you would like a treatment, please email ReflexologyInHassocks@outlook.com , call or text 07515 287 968  Treatments cost £40 for an hour and 15 minutes and you can take advantage of the offer to book 6 treatments and get the last one free!
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Beautiful Feet!

Feet are beautiful!  Feet remind me of motorcycle tyres.  Bear with me on this if you're not a motorcyclist, but anyone who rides will know the importance of the machine's tyres.  You can own the most amazing, high-spec vehicle that is a wonder of modern mechanical and electronic engineering, but if the tyres are worn out or not inflated to the correct pressure, all that marvellous potential will be compromised.  All it takes to destabilise the bike is the poor condition of that very small area of rubber which connects it to the road, because that tiny area of connection is crucial to the machine's functioning.  I think it's the same with feet.

Our feet are in most cases, our connection with the earth, and if you ever want to try being a barefoot person, you can read about the benefits here. Information about the environment is received through the soles of your feet, and likewise, the soles of the feet reveal much about the soul of their person.

In some ways, a reflexology treatment on a foot tells me more about the person than looking at their face. Nobody plasters makeup over their feet, or injects them with fillers or botox!  Some will have removed toe hair and had a pedicure, but the sole of the foot is seldom seen, so rarely has any attention paid to it.  In fact, people are sometimes apologetic about presenting their feet to me as I give them a freshening wipe before treatment, but I see their feet as nothing but beautiful, noble and incredible structures that bear the weight of a life.


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Tuesday, 27 September 2016

8 week blood sugar diet week #4



It's the picture I hoped I wouldn't be posting...but I have to be honest here and tell you that I'm struggling!

The food on the diet is delicious, and easy.  I don't get hungry, and I'm enjoying the increased activity and finding that it feels normal to do 10000 steps most days now.  I've dropped 11lbs, and stayed there, but my sweet tooth and sugar cravings have not yet been beaten.

I can go all day, most days, without a hitch...and then the evening comes around and I crave sugar with every fibre of my being, or so it feels.

Michael Mosely talks about dealing with hunger in his book on the 5:2 diet.  He talks about finding other activities to occupy the mind, whilst acknowledging that hunger is a temporary state and will subside, rather than get worse over time.  I don't experience very much actual hunger, but am going to use these techniques to try and cope with my cravings.  I'm going to up my mindfulness practise, and keep on keeping on.

I don't have willpower.  I need to use distraction techniques, but this sugar demon needs to be slain.  Onwards and upwards.
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Thursday, 22 September 2016

Dreaming the Real

"The Dreamer is the person responsible for the continued existence of the people as a psychic (that is, tribal) entity.  It is through her dreams that people have being; it is through her dreams that they find ways to function in whatever reality they find themselves...the dreamer, who is the mother of the people, not because she gives physical birth,...but because she gives them life through her power of dreaming." ~ Paula Gunn Allen, The Sacred Hoop (1986)
.Every so often, most of us wake up in the morning with a fascinating, multi-layered drama still playing in our heads. It’s so realistic, so complex, charming, funny, scary, beautiful, artistic, colourful, moving.  What does it mean? Why did you just dream that?  My dreams feel like such a part of me, and so relevant and important despite seeming to make no sense at all, that I don't accept the theory that they are nothing more than the irrelevant wanderings of my off-duty mind. That is the mysterious thing about dreams, they feel so familiar and important as well as appearing random and mad.
The reason that dreams use such a different method of communicating their meanings is that the messages dreams convey arise from the old, intuitive part of the brain, rather than the logical neocortex that controls thinking and language. Dreams are visual, imbued with feelings, and use visual and language puns, often showing humour and lateral thinking and a creativity that often eludes me in waking life, especially when I'm sitting at my keyboard.
For this reason dreams are a valuable tool for problem solving and in the area of personal growth and creativity, as well as being something enriching to enjoy. Dreams are inextricably linked to our innermost physiology and hormones, where body and emotions meet. Have you ever felt tension and stagnation around daily issues give way to fresh energies and creative solutions in tune with your menstrual cycle or the cycle of a woman close to you?  Dreams and our female cycle reflect one another, weaving their beauty through our lives, bringing depth and colour, tension and release, energy and creativity in a way that can be felt by those around us.
 Recording dreams 
If you want to start logging your nightly adventures in dreamland, the most important thing to realise is that dreams are very, very easily lost upon waking.  Lots of us experience waking with the knowledge that you have just undergone an in depth and meaningful dream experience, and at the same time perceiving that the details are slipping away. Dream details recede more rapidly the more the conscious mind gropes for them. All that remains is a feeling, as all-pervading and at the same time formless as a mist.
The reason for this is that memories of waking events are laid down in the brain along certain nerve pathways. Memories of dreams are not laid down in this same way, however. In fact, memories of the vast majority of dreams are not laid down at all in any kind of automatic way.
To create the memory of a dream, the dreamer must lay completely still (any physical movement or interruption will disturb the process) and mentally ‘go over’ the dream and in this way, commit it to memory. Interestingly, when you do this, you may observe that the dream has a different chronology than expected, and it can be difficult to decide which event came first, as though it happened in a circular or spiral time rather than linear time, or as though all events occurred simultaneously. Go over the dream in your head (pretend to your partner that you’re still asleep as conversation at this point will destroy the moment) until you have all the details clear. Its nice to remain in this wonderful meditative state for as long as it takes to relish and enjoy the feelings of the dream; we don’t always accord our waking emotions this fullness of expression and experience, but try to just dwell in the dream as much as you can.
Then slowly, slowly reach for your recording equipment of choice, which you will have placed as close to your bedside as possible. A voice recorder is great, or you may prefer pencil and journal, as I do. Be as detailed as possible, the devil is in the detail here.  Even seemingly unimportant elements are there for a reason and have a message of their own to convey. If a particular colour is prominent, include it in your description. 
For those who don't remember dreams at all:
  • set your alarm to ring 90 minutes into your sleep
  • when you wake, record what is in your mind, then reset alarm for 90 minutes time
  • repeat as often as you can stand!
  • remember gratitude for any results, this usually prompts a recall habit that lasts.

Dreams are messages from the unconscious mind, and they are our allies in the quest for wholeness and healing, which is why it is beneficial to pay attention to them, and what they are offering us.Sometimes dreams appear to offer incredibly perceptive, almost psychic insight into people and situations in our lives. Personally, I accept that so-called psychic phenomena are a part of our range of human abilities, although some people don’t agree with this opinion at all.
The ability of the dreaming mind to shock us with its insight may not, however, be the result of some mysterious, inexplicable power, but something far more simple, and understandable.It is all about the difference between what we actually perceive through the senses, and what we consciously remember perceiving. A man walks to work every day down a road lined with lamp posts. When questioned about his walk to work, and asked if he knew how many lamp posts he passed, his answer was that he had absolutely no idea. When asked the same question again under hypnosis, a state, which enables access to information normally locked in the subconscious, he answered instantly, with the correct number.  Which incidentally, was something like 150 lamp posts, and his mind had, without his conscious knowledge, counted the posts and stored that information. 
Everything that happens in our vicinity is seen and recorded by the subconscious in detail. When our conscious perception of a situation does not match what our subconscious knows, it may send warning messages to us, in the form of anxiety, doubts, intuitive feelings that something about a certain situation does not add up. It may also send us a warning dream. In this way, dreams can be used to work on problems in daily life, providing insights and clarity on difficult situations.
Tips for successful recall and recording
  •  Keep recording equipment, pencil, pens paper etc close by so that you don't have to move too much and also as a way of setting your intent to become more in tune with your dreams.
  • Always add the date to your dream record, as well as menstrual cycle day of yourself or partner, moon phase,and any significant events that may occuring in your waking life.
  • Use the alarm clock method detailed above, if you have recall problems
  • Record dreams immediately, don't put it off until later
  • Remain still, eyes closed, whilst you go over the dream in your head
  • Make specific requests to the subconscious for help
  • Thank the subconscious for any help, and ask for more dreams to remember.
Dreams and the Menstrual Cycle 
Dream research, and my personal experience of working with women shows that the dream diaries of women dreamers of childbearing age (and sometimes their partners too) almost unfailingly contain  dreams about ovulation, around the time of that event, as well as symbolic reflections of the physical events, and emotional responses at all stages of the cycle.  
It is as if the dreams naturally reflect bodily events back to the dreamer. In my reflexology work with couples preparing to conceive, and with others working on a health challenges, this communication from deep inside the body can be invaluable. 
 Ovulation is a significant event in the life of women whether they are hoping to fall pregnant, or worried that they might.Typical ovulation symbols in dreams are tiny, precious jewels, sometimes split into two, or four segments. Moons, small friendly animals, fish, babies, pregnancy and the sea all commonly appear, month after month, reflecting the woman’s connection to the forces of life on the planet. Stunning dreams of conception shortly after it's occurrence have been recorded by women, and remembered years later.
The entire menstrual cycle is regularly reflected in women’s dreams, and also in the dreams of her partner. Science has shown that men have no significant cyclical hormone pattern arising from their own physiology, but when a man is in a relationship with a woman, he does develop a cyclical fluctuation of hormones that mirror hers. There is nothing unmanly it is just part of the way we all relate and bond with one another. Around the time of menstruation, the male or female partner, or the woman herself might express the darker creative energies of the time in dreams of Dracula, blood and other disturbing symbols. From personal experience, one of my partners who struggled with feminine energies experienced disturbing bloody dreams just before my period whilst I enjoyed exciting, busy, visually stunning dreams, usually waking to find that my bleeding had started.
 Personal dream symbols heralding my period were swimming with others up to my neck (spot the pun) in a rough sea, under a stormy, expansive sky of stunning colours, with several planets and moons visible. Also, I would dream of dark nights lit up by fireworks, huge old church windows lit up in the dead of night by a shaft of sunlight, and red power animals like foxes and dogs. This reflected my state of entering the dark part of the feminine, where the creative force is strong. It could be at odds with the demands of my everyday life, making me wish to be unavailable to the needs of others, but I found it an intoxicating and transformative energy. The trick is to embrace the natural fluctuations between ovulation, where a woman’s energies belong to the human race, and may be used to create a child, and menstruation, when they belong to herself and may be used to create whatever she may wish.
 Acceptance and inclusion in the dream diary of the subtle yet enormous influence upon society of this natural cycle is a wonderful healing thing, both for individual premenstrual tensions, and for society which largely denies the workings of Mother Nature in favour of our ‘superior’ knowledge. Awareness of the forces of the cycle is crucial for anyone working with women in the areas of personal growth and healing.
Try dream journaling for yourself...
Take a note of the date, first and foremost. My dreams have more than once reminded me of a birthday or appointment that I’ve forgotten. Next, add your cycle date. Day one is the first day of the new cycle, on the first day of your period. If you are in cronehood, the moon phase may well be a new anchor, or the cycle of a woman you see regularly and are close to, partner, friend, daughter. Lastly, include the phase of the moon, as it is interesting to note whether the proximity of this heavenly body has any influences upon your own personal tides (you are, after all, 90% water!) like it does on the waters on the earth.
Leave a space on the page you recorded your dream for any interpretations. You might immediately interpret the dream, or work on it for a while.  You may want to ask for dreams of clarification, or you may wish to add to the interpretation some time later, as life unfolds and other significance is revealed. Good luck, and please leave your comments and experiences to share!
As a note of caution: delving into the world of your subconscious for the first time can be disturbing and in some cases dangerous. Consult your physician if you are disturbed by anything you experience, and confide in someone you trust.
References: The Wise Wound, menstruation and everywoman ~Shuttle and RedgraveWomen Dreaming ~ Brenda Mallon Alchemy for Women, Personal Transformation Through Dreams and the Female Cycle ~ Shuttle and Redgrove
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Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Mothers baby milk freedom power and our future.


"Formula is not breastmilk.  Saying it's closer than ever to breastmilk is like saying if I climb a step ladder I am closer to the moon" ~ Maureen Minchin.

Mumma nursing her sweet healthy boy. Shouldn't our whole world revolve around their needs? Their bond is securing a healthy future for our species and our planet. Our world revolves around money and power and something, a nameless evil, I don't even know what...something that is the opposite of goodness,health, peace, love and growth.

Some people get it and respect their fellow humans, the other residents of our planet, and our mother earth herself. Many haven't given it much thought. Some have been so damaged by our prevailing culture that the sight of the loving exchange in this picture does not arouse in them normal human feelings of altruism, respect for fellow members of the species or protectiveness of our young. In contrast to these adaptive, protective and normal human feelings, some people feel hostile and maladaptive emotions in response to this scene. Instead of questioning this, or suppressing this emotion, or simply moving on without comment, they actually feel able, empowered, impelled, in fact, to disturb this dynamic. When you consider the possible consequences for the infant and mother and therefore also for their family and extended network and for our whole society, the fact that a person, corporation or culture would be capable of doing this to a baby is astonishing. The vulnerability of the baby and the fact that a mother is not likely to shout or fight back because it would upset her infant and stop the flow of milk temporarily, means that individuals feel safe to rudely intrude on this human function in a way that they would not dream of doing if the pair were mammals of a different species.  Because we all know what happens when you frighten, stress or disturb a mother cat.  Her bond is broken and she rejects her babies.

 It is a testament to many mothers' courage, determination and love that their bond with their baby is as healthy as it is,when the prevailing culture has built in subtle, insidious and all-pervading interference with bonding and continuous nurturing at all the most sensitive and significant points.

 Questions spring to mind.  How can we do this or allow it to be done to the youngest and most vulnerable of our species?  Why would we think it is a necessary or valuable contribution to the human race to jeopardise the bond a defenceless baby is developing with the human who is going to care for them? Why would we sabotage our species' future like that?

Human milk is the only harm-less, healthy, complete, healing, short and long-term health promoting, ecologically sound, delivered by a system that promotes neurological and social development and love, individually tailored, adaptable, responsive food that we have we have. Oh, and it's free. People can nurture and nourish their young free of dependence on big corporations or the need to spend more money or time than is necessary.

Maybe our love and our milk is too powerful.  Maybe it makes us too free.

These helplines are available if you need to speak to a breastfeeding counsellor in the UK:

ABM 0300 330 5453
NBFH 0300 100 0212 
NCT  0300 3300 771
LLL 0845 120 2918
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Friday, 9 September 2016

My week on Instagram



That looks like a blissful week of dog walking, telly,  journaling and baking.  In between getting back to reality after the summer and getting the shop back open, I have had a beautiful week as you can see. Ernie and I are walking even more than usual due to my attempts to get fitter and the beauty that surrounds me stops me in my tracks every day and has me reaching for my phone to snap another cloud-strewn sky or down land view.

I just cannot pass this scene without wanting to capture it.  I even tried this morning in the rain but my phone drew the line and the camera froze out.  Just Love Love Love where I am lucky enough to live.
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8 week blood sugar diet Week #3



Almost two weeks at this thing and despite my sugar demons coming out to torment me and win a couple of times, I have managed to keep the 8lb weight loss, and not beat myself up to badly, and get back on it straight away.

I love the fact that the food I can eat on this diet is fat-rich, otherwise I'm not sure I'd cope at all.  It is also food which I'm quite used to...fish, eggs, greens, nuts, seeds, cheeses, beans and pulses.  I like the confidence of knowing that I don't have to go out of my way to shop specially for my diet, as this sort of food is in my kitchen anyway.  My meals are super-tasty and filling and I almost never feel actual hunger, and when I do its more to do with the fact that I am combining intermittent fasting with the blood sugar diet,

 The tough part is dealing with my crazy afternoon and evening sugar cravings.  Yogurt with one or two raspberries and blue berries is helping a bit, I have been adding the tiniest smidgen of date nectar...figuring that it is preferable to rummaging in Dave's pants drawer where he has hidden a selection of Mr Kipling's finest sugary shit and various chocolate biscuits for everyone's packed lunch.

I have had a couple of glasses of red wine over last weekend, which threw the sugars out a bit the next day and possibly made my cravings worse.  I have had two cherry bakewells and two bramley apple pies during the evenings following the weekend and it's been a week since my last confession.  I actually felt really ill after the two apple pies, which is good!

The fasting is going great, I have slipped nicely into the pattern of 11am breakfast then tea around six pm.  There are a couple of long days at work where I juggle the times about a bit, but no biggie.  I'm loving the walking, and most days I get in around 10,000 steps, but I'm not gonna lie,  some days I am too damn tired to go out on that second walk.

I was so pleased with the initial big weight loss that I did my usual trick of falling straight off the wagon and rewarding myself with some sweet calories, but I haven't let that little wobble which I almost expected, to throw me off track.  The photograph shows a little breakfast selection, I seem to be eating non-stop plates of smoked salmon and eggs...not bad eh!!  The top picture shows a grilled portobello mushroom with creme fraiche and toasted almonds, so tasty!
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Monday, 5 September 2016

The start of the Season

Summer begins to give way to autumn and August gives way to September with that sublime, mellow, honeyed afternoon sunlight peculiar to this time of year. Everything has given all its got, groaning with over-ripe fruit and going brown round the edges.  People feel the shift in the seasons, and before we had electricity,  daylight inexorably waning each day lead us to appreciate the life-giving warmth and light of fire.

Flaming torches in the dark sky are my earliest memories of bonfire marching. The feeling of being dressed in costume on a cold night, the smell of accelerant and smoke and cordite in the air. Standing cold and dark with an unlit torch in my hand,  the silent march around the dark corner reveals the bright torches ahead as the pipe band strike up.  A friend stands in the road with his torches, lighting our torches which illuminate the smiling faces around me.  Bonfire is my thing.  It's my sanity in this crazy disconnected world.

 Sussex Bonfire's history is long and full of rich local and national significance.  Going further back in time, it recalls the bone-fires, as older livestock  were slaughtered to save on winter feeding.   At all Hallows Eve, time stops for me and the veil is thin. Everything is dark and the earth has drawn her energies deep inside. In the chill and darkness and silence, we remember.  That is what we  do at bonfire, we remember our war dead, we honour them.  And then, just like the ancient Celtic fire festival of Samhain, we celebrate the warmth and light of fire.

Something old and Celtic and deep and pagan stirs within me on the nights that we process, sometimes for miles, through utterly dark, deserted country lanes, my people and I, carrying our torches. Folk might line the road, transfixed by the spectacle, but sometimes it's just our ragged band, rich and wicked under the hissing torchlight that keeps the dark at bay. I look into faces I know as office workers, taxi drivers, academics, nurses, labourers by day, who are now an entirely different and exotic cast of characters from another time.  I look into faces I knew as teenagers, who are now grandparents in their fifties and sixties.  Some of us are wearing some of the same costume as we did back then, all are still wearing the same smiles.

  In many ways, I could say bonfire is about the people in it.  Not everyone of course, like any family there are  some who try my patience to its limits and whom I just don't like.  No doubt the feeling's mutual.  Bonfire and me though, we go way deeper than all that stuff.  People, opinions, emotions, actions... It all fades in time, but the fire remains in the sky which is crusted with ancient stars seen through flame and smoke.  When I'm walking the road in my costume, with my torch, the feeling in me is one of timelessness.  I could be from any age, and I could be any age. I am connected with my ancestral line.  The sense of connection to the the tradition and to the people I bonfire with is insanely good.

  I could tell you about meeting those same faces in little villages, year after year, the laughter, the singing.  I could tell you about the sheer physical hard yard work, the coldness, the tiredness, the rain, the deadline, the diet of junk food and beer, the torch makers thumb and the hessian lung.  I could tell you about Sunday mornings in September, and October, down at the yard.  A big circle of friends, and sticks, and wire, and hessian, tractors, trucks, drilling, painting, creating. Creating something amazing so that we can burn it all and blow it sky high.  Chin-wagging stories of last night, of the out fires, the beautiful fireworks, or the coach ride home.  Chatter and laughter and tea and cake.  Busy hands and laughing faces, old boys in their eighties and nineties with all their bonfire stories, and little ones too young yet to make a torch, but who gather up the torches we've made and carry them to the growing pile in our shed.

I am so blessed to have this tradition and these people in my life, so blessed to see another September.
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