Leviathans and Drowning Men

This is a strange question to ask, but often it is the puzzling ones which need to be explored more deeply for answers.

I have spent more and more time in meditation, asking myself, or to the best of my abilities, the subconscious, the questions that matter?

What are you hiding?

What is in the darkness in your heart?

Can you learn to confront it?

And so much of the buddhist teachings that I have been exposed to in the past few years have extolled the ‘return’ to child and further still, the return to nothing. The consciousness we were before we knew we were ourselves. And that is a hard concept to grapple with. If I am not the sum of the things that have happened to me, who am I?

Naturally, the teachings have many answers, ranging from ‘consciousness’ to ‘everything and all things’ to ‘nature’ or even ‘nothingness’. And though each of these answers resonates on an intuitive level, it is hard to accept that the nothingness and unity are qualities we are born with and can access at any time. On top of that, we have so much conditioning. We have so much baggage from the life we live. The work we do, the people we must war and make peace with. The relationships that break down. The start over and collapse, the relocation, flight, settling, beginning, ending, breaking and fixing that we all go through. We are constantly in motion, and this is indeed a core principle of life itself and at the heart of the wheel that turns the universe, but until we acknowledge that the motion of the universe and the things that it has done to us, are still not ‘us’, we are trapped. We think to ourselves: ‘why is life so hard? why am I so exhausted? this wheel is never-ending, will I suffer until I am dead?’. It leaves a person with nothing but the absurdity and mundanity of repeated experience as a basis for their lives. And the dissolution that ensues is enough to drive anyone to madness.

We were hurt. By our parents who were supposed to love us. By our friends, who did not care about us. By our employers who did not value us. By our children who did not respect us. By our observers who wanted us to be what they wanted us to be. And we wrapped ourselves in a thousand bands of scar tissue, hardened and calloused against the world that did not appreciate us. We lost loved ones to misjustice. We were violated in our trust. We were used when we were vulnerable. Life is full of opportunity for violence and tragedy and the impact is to make us hate ourselves, to hate our scars because of what they represent. Each lashing a tailored violence against the body and mind.

But to return. To return to the child. To return to the wild. To return to nothing. These are our birth right, and our destiny. We may dip our toes into the lapping waters of the ever ebbing and flowing universal tides, if only we know how. And it takes a walk inside oneself, through the rugged terrain of life’s every day circumstance, through the caverns and caves where fictitious monsters lie created by a mind on fire with fear, and to go deeper still, into the rockpools and underwater tunnels, then into the vastness of open water where nothing is and no one goes. And in this place, you are drowning and breathing, living and dying, laughing and crying, catching and caught, finding and losing, holding and releasing, and it is indescribable and it is wordless, but is you and it is me and it is us. And from this place a great knowing floods in. That there is nothing to fear, that there is bliss in life and meaning in death, and heart and spirit move beyond the confines of circumstance, experience and body, and into this place where all is meaningful and empty and profound and wordless.

So, who were you before you were cut open? Before you bled for this life. Before the sacrifices, heartache and violence? Before the betrayal, misery, misunderstanding and displacement? Go inside. Find it. Ask the questions. Soothe your wounds in the blissful deep. And despite our fear of the ocean, of the indiscernible black liquid and the visceral undertow inside of us, no leviathans live there, only the bliss that a drowning man feels when he lets go, and the salt water fills his lungs.

Brine and ambrosia. So much the same.

A last breath is the first. The drowning man breathes again.

The Maddening Stencil

Trauma is like a stencil over which we view the picture of our life. It obscures the totality, leaving only jagged shapes where an ocean vista should be.

Meditation and trauma work help us dissolve the stencil, so that we can finally see the world for what it is. Beautiful, chaotic, ugly, serene, high, wide, low and narrow. It is all of this and more, but it is allowed to exist as a complete tapestry.

This is the freedom to associate with chaos in a modality which is inherently saturated with opportunity. A wave on the scene might crash. But instead of it being the only thing you can see, the death of a wave, the end of everything, you know that more are coming, all the time, over and over again. Each movement is followed by more movement. Each opportunity is not final.

And through knowing that even when we lose something, life goes on, we can make peace with almost anything. Death, even, which scares so many, tends to lose its nightmarish quality in the wake of understanding which comes through knowing the bigger picture.

Why fear the last breath, when the wind will take it and feed the trees? Movement,flow, life, death. All are linked, all flow into each other and out again, like the rising and falling of the sea.

Dissolve the stencil. See the whole. There is less to be feared when we see everything for what it is.

There’s No Good Reason to Always Eat Sweet in the Morning

When you think about a Western diet and breakfast, you think cereal, fried meats, pancakes and waffles. These are often laden with sugars, syrups and other additives that tax the digestive system. In the east, you almost never see this style of eating in the morning. Foods are typically cooked rice with fish or vegetables. Breakfast and to be honest, most meals throughout the day are savoury, not sweet.

Sugar is a priority for the digestive system. It will happily put the digestion of fibrous/ meaty/ fatty foods on the backburner to take the sugar out of the meal. When sugar is the focus, the other foods will sit in the stomach, far longer than they should, encouraging bacterial overgrowth or pathogenic yeasts, as well as training the body to expect this style of prioritisation throughout the day. When your digestion expects sugar first, it can become reliant and expectant. This can encourage cravings which can plague you throughout the day.

So, my thought for the day, something which you can implement more easily than a radical diet overhaul, is to try and have rice with vegetables for breakfast. You could use a little sesame oil and lots of soy sauce for seasoning, but keeping it paired down and simple is best. This way, your body gets trained to expect high quality carbohydrates and nutrition in its first meal of the day, which can help offset some of the pesky sugar craving that you might expect starting with cereal.

I know from my own experience that when I start with a sugary meal, the rest of the day remains that much harder to stay on track. We should try to start our day in a way that sets us up for success, and unfortunately, for those of us who experience weak digestion or chronic pain/ illness, the Western diet teaches us all the wrong habits at breakfast time.

You’re also allowing your body to accept good nutrition first thing, which allows it to better regulate focus, concentration, and energy levels throughout the day. If you can concentrate better, you can make healthier decisions and build healthier habits. It’s in all of our interests to bear this in mind when we start the day.

As I said in my last post, something I’m finding to be a game changer is buying a rice cooker. It cooks rice perfectly every time and I don’t have to keep an eye on it at all. If you want a more tactile experience (texture is so important alongside flavour) I would urge you to try Jasmine rice, which is a little on the sticky side and have a wonderfully fluffy, chewy texture that is satisfying in and of itself. Many rice cookers also come with a steaming compartment. Steamed vegetables retain more nutrients than boiled because they are not immersed in the water which can leach nutrients. You could add fish, a soy/ garlic dressing, wilt some spinach in sesame oil with garlic, or whatever you want, but it’s a great, simple way to get healthier options with less work.

Part of healing is finding simple, easy ideas that can transform the way you live and eat. Fuelling your body with the best nutrition, not just what you’re told is good for you, is essential to a healthier and happier life. There are lots of good recipes for rice cooker rice which can be enjoyed for breakfast, and you can also do variations of porridge in it too! The opportunity for supporting your health is there for the taking.

Good health to all my readers, J

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Hot, Cold or Damp – Digestive Issues and Chinese Medicine

What we eat affects us in profound ways. It’s all the more surprising then, that what we eat is so low down on our list of priorities. Society is so fast-paced now. We’re expected to eat on the go, to pick up something quick and easy, highly processed and with very little nutritional value. This is what society teaches us, so if you feel bad about the choices you’ve made with your diet up to now, give yourself a break. Life is so complicated. There are more spinning plates than ever before. You’re bound to let a couple come crashing down, but maybe I can help you realise that what you eat is a spinning plate that should keep an eye on. Let something else go instead.

When we eat highly processed foods, with lots of sugar, dairy, refined flours and heavy fats, it taxes the digestive system. All of these foods are known as ‘warming’ and ‘wet’ in Chinese medicine. That means that they generate heat, a key factor in the onset of chronic disease. When the body generates too much heat, it leads to inflammation, which can manifest in many of the health issues which are common today. These tend to be things like lupus, fibromyalgia, arthritis, rhinitis, asthma, GERD, IBS, Chrons and multiple sclerosis (though this is by no means an exhaustive list). These are the sorts of problems which I aim to talk about here because they are largely some of the same issues which I experience myself and am on a journey of healing from every day.

Foods that cool the body can be those which are actually cold, like cold water or ice cream, for example, or raw vegetables. Anything which requires the digestive system to work hard to warm, those sapping vital heat from the system. Those who suffer from cold, tend to get ill from common colds, can be extremely thin or malnourished, and experience lethargy. Cold is less of a focus in this article, but is no doubt a very serious problem when severe.

Dampness is caused when the internal environment is both hot and wet. Again, wet foods are starchy, highly processed and sugary. When the body generates too much heat and damp, we get chronic health issues as mentioned above. Rather than experiencing just an upset stomach after a meal, returning to normal the next day, somebody who experiences damp in the digestive system, could continue to experience chronic stomach upsets, even after the discontinuation of a disruptive food type.

If you suffer from a chronic inflammatory disorder, you may be experiencing damp heat, which gives rise to longstanding conditions. As an auxiliary to whatever medications you must take to keep you healthy, it’s important to work on the foundations of good health by balancing digestion. As I have long said on my blog, digestion is the cornerstone of good health. What enters the body must be digested properly. If it isn’t, we don’t nourish the body and our other organs and systems become unbalanced to compensate.

So what is the solution? As always, I recommend small changes. We do not want to make the conditions for maintaining new habits too difficult, so we need to take baby steps. Damp is treated well by avoiding the inflammatory foods which generate damp and heat. The safest way to start getting the nutrition your body needs to heal is to eat rice and steamed/ boiled vegetables more often. These are guaranteed to be digested by the body completely and will not generate gastric pain or discomfort (brown rice may be more taxing, so try white rices, jasmine is lovely). You can essentially do a lot of good for your digestion by incorporating at least one bowl of white rice and steamed vegetables every day. I really recommend a rice cooker too, one with a steamer, which can do your veggies at the same time. It’s easy, simple and can be left unattended.

Cooked vegan meals are a good place to begin, but ideally, you want to reduce the amount of fats you mix in with your vegetable and grain dishes. Bread is almost always an inflammatory substance, so is best avoided. If you can’t avoid it, try to go for rye or less processed types. Meats can tax the digestion, especially when fatty.

You can add lots of delicious things to your rice meals. A bit of soy sauce or some chilli sauce can help lift a quick meal. For something more complex, there are loads of rice cooker recipes which can be lobbed in and produce delicious meals in next to no time.

As always, I hope the best for everyone who reads in finding health and wellbeing. Chinese medicine is just one of many ways to view health, but I like to consider it from all angles so that I can give you best information. For inflammatory disorders, eliminating culprit food types and eating a little more blandly can do wonders as a treatment and to build the strength of the digestive system. But by bland, I don’t mean tasteless. Far from it! These meals can be wonderfully sumptuous without becoming difficult to digest!

Well wishes, J

Are You Walking or Talking? – The Pitfalls of Nature Walks in Modern Times

I am very lucky to have a small group of friends who appreciate nature. They enjoy it, take it in, listen to it, look at it, say very little, and are comfortable with long pauses to admire the outdoors. Now, I am no expert, but I imagine not everyone is so patient with the countryside. Some walking partners really only want an excuse to exercise, talk, a lot, or take pictures for their new Instagram account. Please do not misconstrue me, I am not saying that, in order to appreciate nature, you should not do these things at all, walking around like some hermetical sage wizard who has transcended the responsibilities of trivial human affairs, but many people do too much else when they’re out walking.

When you’re taking pictures, talking too much, or focusing on the steps, you’re not getting the benefits of the countryside that really make you feel alive. By this I mean, the sound of dead twigs under foot, the soft rustling of low bushes, batted gently by swirling gusts, and the pale-gold sunshine warming your cheeks after the cold wind whips them rosy red. In these winter months, you relish the scarcity of bird song, and the sounds of streams, their notes richer, deeper, and more viscous in the icy temperatures. You see animals and plants that are different dependent on the seasons, and you see skies that vary greatly and elicit as many emotions as there are colours in them.

When you can tune into this, you’re communing with nature and it speak to us, in whispers at first. With other people, sometimes loud, well-meaning though I am sure, the chances of you being able to hear it, to see it and appreciate it fully reduce.

I propose that, even if you’ve never tried it before, or you think it odd, that to go out into nature alone is worth doing. If you’ve never done it before, consider it a challenge from me to you. Take a public footpath, or venture further out to a landmark with your car. Just go by yourself. Or, if you really can’t face it, take someone with you that you know you can be comfortably silent with for stretches of time. This is important. The more that you listen to nature in the quiet, the louder it speaks. I believe this can be very healing if you suffer from any mental health issues or physical illnesses. I often find myself feeling much better following a walk, more optimistic, focussed and alive. I credit this with taking in the landscape, which feeds my vitality, while talking too much or using technology, drains it.

Nature walking is a very special activity. Many of us enjoy it with others, which is no bad thing. Just remember, the sounds, sights and sensations of the outdoors are quiet, require patience and attention, and are worth a more thoughtful, tacit and pensive approach. Nature heals, if you listen. Sadly, the social responsibilities and technological commodities of the modern era can wildly distract us and decrease our ability to enjoy and benefit from nature. So, are you walking or are you talking? Choose your friends and smart tech wisely.

Follow me on Heathen (top right by my face) for more mental health tips. Be sure to share these articles with friends and loved ones who you want to look out for in these difficult times. Walking outdoors can be a very rewarding experience if you are able to tune into the landscape thoughtfully. Even if you have never tried this before, I encourage you to take a walk by yourself. See what you discover with nothing but the trees and wind for company. I wish you happiness and health in the New Year.

You’re Killing Yourself – Meditate on Your Inner Critic

It’s taken me a long time to notice that voice. Always picking faults and putting me down. That’s not me, but it’s a powerful echo from childhood that, until recently I could not even name. This voice, so hard to detect at first, has made me doubt myself, hate myself, and talk down to myself. It’s made me skip out on opportunities that could have created joy and personal growth, and it’s constantly, and tersely, requesting that I hide myself away.

It’s been a long time coming for that voice inside that’s trying to kill my creativity and snuff out my opportunities to grow. I realised what was happening when I started to pay closer attention to my body and my thoughts. This, with the help of meditation, encouraged me to understand and engage with the thoughts that drove me to self-sabotage. By distancing myself from the thoughts that came and went, causing depression and anxiety as I held onto them and let them drag me down, I was able to lift myself up. When you pay attention to the thoughts and their negative hold, you can better disengage from them. Once you do this, you can start to work the other way, catching yourself in the process of critical self-talk, distancing and changing the thought pattern.

Instead of ‘I’m a failure’, I now see that I have a thought which thinks: ‘you are failing’, but it is neither true, nor me, only a thought. Once I can get to this point, putting the breaks on things, I can then reverse engineer the thought and latch onto a positive iteration. ‘I am not a failure. I am doing my best under difficult circumstances with little support. This is hard, and anyone would struggle to be successful under these conditions.’ Also, what is failure? Making mistakes might be a failure in the short-term, but you have an entire life to live and mistakes are part of the process of learning. You can’t really be a mistake. We humans are ever-changing and ever-developing. What I am today, I may not be tomorrow. So can anyone be a failure? I’m not sure it’s even possible, so long as you believe that failure is a state preceding success, rather than something which cannot change.

What about ‘You are ugly’? So what? There are plenty of successful AND ugly people in the world. Besides which, what I may deem ugly, others may deem beautiful, as attraction varies widely. Love is about more than what you look like. In fact, I could go so far as to say what you look like matters very little. What about how well you care for your partner? What about how interesting you are? Are you funny? That goes some way, believe me! Do you read a lot? Have you got a good mind? There are so many facets of human beauty outside of what your body looks like. And let’s face it, without some serious and dangerous surgery, you’re stuck with what you’ve got, so look after it and let it be!

If you can put the breaks on your thoughts and look at them from a distance, as meditation teaches you to do, you’re no longer so close that the thought and you are one. I am not a failure because I do not belong to this thought. I am not ugly, because a thought about how I may look ugly, is not one I wish to choose to attach myself to. In the famous words of the French philosopher Renes Descartes: ‘I think, therefore I am.’ Meditation gives you the ability to pick which associations you wish to give the power of ‘I’ to, and which you do not. This is a supremely powerful gift, and one I hope that anyone can use.

Here’s a task for you to do. Meditate once a week or try to do this when you are stressed or feeling bad about yourself. Do this for 10 minutes using a guided meditation like the headspace app (my favourite). I would recommend trying the skill of ‘noting’ which is about acknowledging a thought, noting it, and giving it no further fuel to turn into a problem. Then, once you’ve figured out what negative thoughts are shouting the loudest, write three of them down on paper. Once you have these, take one at a time, firstly writing about how the thought came from your mind, but does not belong to you, the ‘I’ part of yourself. Then, think about a few ways that this thought doesn’t matter or is not important to your values. Ultimately, we are striving to learn, develop and find love, joy and happiness. If the thought doesn’t give you these things, let it be and don’t associate with it. Doing this a few times over the space of weeks and months can allow you to stop your inner critic from killing your positive inner voice.

We’re all fighting a battle with a silent killer, the critic, a manifestation of thoughts about you which do not, in reality, belong to you. They are the external voices of many of the harsh experiences in your life. Meditation can help you freeze these thoughts from the critic, become more aware of them, and then, reverse engineer more positive thoughts which you can choose to claim as your own. You are not at the mercy of your inner critic, but you do need to out it and make it visible, otherwise it will continue to kill your true, authentic self until you do.

Follow me on Heathen (top right by my face) for more mental health tips. Be sure to share these articles with friends and loved ones who you want to look out for in these difficult times. Meditation opens up to the critic and gives us tools to manage this voice. You deserve that dialogue, so you can be happier, healthier and more fulfilled in your life. Good health to you.

The SAD Survival Kit – 7 Ways to Feel Better Instantly

You’re struggling with depression, anxiety, or maybe you’re just having a bad day. Whatever is happening for you, you’re in a slump and you don’t know how to get out of it. This list is about reminders. When we’re in a low place, we need to be reminded of the steps we can take immediately to pull ourselves out and get back to normality. When you’re down, you’re not thinking properly, so it takes prompts or friends to help us back up. In a way, this article is meant as a friend. A list which can pull you up and get you back on your feet. We’re not always surrounded by company, more so than ever during a global pandemic, so we need to adapt. Here are 7 things you can do to look after yourself on your own and get back on your feet.

Keep warm

Photo by Ergyn Meshekran on Unsplash

Temperature can be a game changer for mood and in these cold winter months, we can forget to keep warm. If you can afford to put the boiler on, turn the temperature up until you’re comfortable. 19-21 degrees celsius (approx 66-70 farenheit) is optimal. If you can’t afford that, a hot water bottle under the covers can give you a much needed boost and also something to hold onto for comfort. Set a timer for heating to come on before you usually wake up for a couple of hours in the morning, and in the evening. Keep doors and windows shut. At night, tuck your curtains behind radiators to avoid heat loss and close them.

Drink something hot

Photo by Julian Hochgesang on Unsplash

Following on from keeping warm, a nice hot drink can really lift the spirits. You could have herbal teas, black tea or coffee. If you feel like you need something more, have a hot chocolate. Remember, self care is about determining what works for you and what you enjoy the most.

Go for a walk

Photo by Dan Burton on Unsplash

During the cold months, walking is not something you might typically like to do, but it is so effective at fighting low mood. If you’re particularly susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder, where mood plummets in winter, you’re likely not getting enough sunshine, and therefore vitamin D. Your body can only make vitamin D through the skin and its interactions with sunlight. During periods of lower daylight, a 20 – 30 minute walk in the light hours can really make a difference. The cardiovascular exercise of walking is also a great mood booster.

Meditate

Photo by Stephanie Greene on Unsplash

I’m a firm believer in the power of meditation and I frequently sing the praises of the Headspace app. As someone who ruminates, experiences low mood and high levels of anxiety, this app and 10-20 minutes of meditation a day, has saved me more times than I can count. Meditation teaches you to acknowledge your thoughts as just that, thoughts, with no power over you. You pay attention to them and let them pass. You don’t need to follow or latch onto a thought, but it’s very tempting at times to do this. The technique allows us a few degrees of separation from our thoughts so that we don’t have to give them control over us.

Write a journal

Photo by BENCE BOROS on Unsplash

Can you spend a few minutes thinking about what you did today or yesterday? Even if you don’t want to reflect on the past, you could write about the thoughts that you are having. Putting thoughts down on paper is an excellent way of transferring them. You’re offloading data which frees your mind up to think about other things. This is a similar unburdening as you experience through meditation, but writing can work better for some, so it’s worth a go. It’s also great to have a routine at the end of the day to spend 15 minutes writing about your day. This can give some structure if you’re feeling lost.

Tidy your space

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

This is a tricky one. I know more than most that sometimes you just don’t have the energy or inclination to tidy up, but if you can do it, a clean space makes all the difference to your wellbeing. Sometimes we let things get so on top of us and become so used to it as the status quo, that we can’t remember what it felt like to have a tidy place. If you can do it, it’s worth it.

Invest in a hobby

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

If you like drawing, find a small spot where you can do this whenever you want. Do you like to read? Make a comfy place for yourself and read. Whatever it is that you enjoy doing, do more of it, even if you don’t feel like it. I guarantee that you will feel better afterwards. A small word of advice though, if your hobby is creative and you tend to be critical, it can help to be mindful that you may not love what you create and that’s ok! Just put it aside and come back later. Perhaps it will look better tomorrow. Whatever it is that you feel about what you make, try not to give it too much power. You’re in a low place and that will cloud your judgement. You did it, and that’s all that counts.

This list is by no means revolutionary. These are things that many people may do from time to time, but when you’re in a bad place, it helps to have quick, simple prompts that can call you to action. You now remember that you can help yourself by:

  1. Keeping warm
  2. Grabbing a hot drink
  3. Going for a walk
  4. Meditating for 10-20 minutes
  5. Writing in your journal at the end of the day for 15 minutes
  6. Tidying your space
  7. Setting up a space to do more of the hobbies you love

This is a simple, but effective way to lift your mood instantly and I hope that the simple layout of advice can get you to feel empowered when you’re feeling down. We need to look out for each other, even when we can’t be together.

Follow me on Heathen (top right hand corner) for more mental health tips. Be sure to share these articles with friends and loved ones who you want to look out for in these3 difficult times. Self care is extremely important and something we need to do for ourselves. I hope you feel better soon!

C Is for COVID – 5 Ways to Get More Vitamin C in 2021

It’s been a trying year, I think we’d all agree. The news has gone from miserable to downright dire. Christmas was cancelled here in the UK as the new covid (dare I even utter the words!) variant spreads across the population. Medical experts are straddling a wrecking ball of ‘umms’ and ‘ahhs’, ‘maybes’ and ‘could be’s’, like they’re Miley Cyrus during the chaotic years. Toilet roll, our most beloved signifier of civilised society teetered on the precipice of market place extinction, followed closely by the elusive transparent liquid alcohol, feverishly sought by all.

Despite this confusion, experts agree that getting enough vitamin C can help support your health if you do get the new virus. Some scientists believe that those at higher risk, with cardiovascular disease or immune system problems are likely more at risk due to the fact that their cells are worse at transporting vitamin C. Without this vitamin, the body’s cells struggle to fight back or heal the damage caused by the virus. For this reason, we’ve got to keep an eye on our vitamin C levels before we get ill so that our cells can retain as much as they need to effectively fight viral infections. Here are five simple ways to get more Vitamin C in every day:

1. Take a Supplement

yellow medication pill on persons hand

Now this may seem like a straightforward starting place, but if you’re concerned about your vitamin levels, taking a vitamin C supplement may improve your levels over time. Again, this will depend on how well you are able to absorb the supplement and on how well your cells are able to take in nutrients. Still, getting into the habit every morning to take the supplement may help in the long run, and in most cases, will do no harm. If you have a medical condition, please consult with your doctor first regarding any supplement choices. Safety first!

2. More Fruit

round orange fruit

Fruit! The font of plenty! So villainised for its sugar content these days! BUT, if you’re not diabetic or in some form of exemption, fruit as a snack is brilliant for a high dose of vitamin C that tastes delicious and doesn’t cost too much! Citrus fruits keep a long time and are typically high in vitamin C. Berries like blueberries, strawberries and blackberries are also high vitamin C fruits that taste delicious! Little tip here, for those on a budget, buy your berries frozen. They’re cheaper than fresh, but just as healthy for you.

3. Vegetables

bowl of salad

Kale, broccoli and brussel sprouts are cheap and full of vitamin C. You might be breaking wind, but you’ll keep covid (and dear ones) at bay! Broccoli has more vitamin C than an orange, so scrap that last tip and start munching on them stalks. Cook them though, yeh? Let’s not be that person eating raw broccoli in public now shall we?

4. Po-tay-toes?

green and brown round fruits in green plastic bucket

What’s taters eh precious? Now, don’t be coy with me my hobbity friends. The common potato and its sweet counterpart, the, uh… SWEET potato, are great sources of vitamin C. That means MORE mash, and baked potatoes, and all of the good, wholesome, starchy meal ideas you can put this tuber at the centre of!

5. Juice It

carrot juice on mason jar

The thought of eating getting you down? Cooking broccoli got you giving up? Never fear, juice is here! Seriously, vegetable and citrus juices can get you tonnes of vitamin C. If you have to buy store bought, try to go for fresh juices not from concentrate. If you can afford to buy, or have, a juicer, juicing fresh produce not only gets the best results, but in my opinion, tastes better too! You’re also overwhelmed with options for juice recipes which can keep it interesting. I personally like to juice a whole bunch of celery because it’s great for digestion and helps keep the heart healthy.

Ok, so you’re armed with your covid toolkit for fighting the virus with the power of vitamin C U LATER VIRUS. You’re getting it from a supplement, fruit snacks, high vitamin veggies like broccoli, your favourite yummy starches, and, for those of us who cannot lift a finger to cook, juicing! You’re all set. Remember, getting your vitamin C levels up before you get ill will make the process easier and the recovery faster. So, make sure to follow these tips and try to get some vitamin C in your diet over this period. Hopefully you won’t have to deal with this virus at all, but if you do, you’re that little bit more prepared, and your body will thank you!

Follow me on Heathen (top right hand corner) for more light hearted health advice. Be sure to share these articles with friends and loved ones who you want to protect in these times. Maybe a Juicer in the January sale? There’s still time!

To Beat Chronic Illness You Have to Trust Your Gut

When dealing with chronic physical and mental illness, who will help us but our instincts?

Chronically Ill People

Nobody can tell you why you hurt. People call you ‘whiner’, ‘hypochondriac’, or even worse, they ignore your pain altogether. 

You’re hurting, not just inside, but in your very bones. It’s difficult living with pain you can’t pinpoint and symptoms as mysterious and worrying as they are diffuse and intangible. 

You’re not getting any where with doctors. They tell you over and over again: ‘your bloods are fine’, ‘you have depression’, ‘you need to take it easy’. And you try your best to do this, but you aren’t winning. So, you continue to push for answers. 

The problem is, nobody has the answers. Nobody who we consider reputable anyway. And by reputable, I mean medically sanctioned. The issue here is that medical sanctions apply to medical research, and when the research comes up on chronic illness, it comes up extremely short indeed. 

University was a trigger point for me. I didn’t fit in. I wasn’t part of the cut throat bullshit that kept the private school feeder college kids energized. They loved to jibe and poke at each other, find ways to get underneath the skin, and into the mind. It was an unpleasant, jarring experience. For a while, my mind took the brunt, but eventually, like an ass overburdened, my body broke too. 

I started getting ill more often. At first it was just small things, like breathing problems during the summer after exams, when the quiet period allowed my body to feel the emotional pain it had endured during the whole year. By the end of second year, however, I was a wreck. I had a slipped disk which had caused all manner of painful nerve problems, and a degree of numbness that persisted. It got so bad that I could not walk properly at one point. The MRIs spat back data suggesting it was ‘nothing serious’, but it didn’t feel like that to me. 

I endured increasingly bizarre health complications. I couldn’t breathe — something like asthma was taking hold. I had heart palpitations, more severe by the day. I experienced numbness and tingling in my hands and feet. My bones ached in my ankles, knees, and hips. My blood pressure was extremely high all of the time. The list of problems spun out of control. 

Nobody could help me. The doctors were not listening, and appeared unconcerned by the raw data they were getting back — all the while, my quality of life plummeted. I was getting nowhere. 

It’s at this breaking point —  when you really have to decide to give up and die, or get up and do something —  that you really put your life into perspective. 

I realized, ‘Julian, nobody is going to save you from this, you have only yourself, and your intuition to guide you — use it, and get better.’

So, I listened to that voice, telling me to guide myself, to trust my gut, ironically, one of the first places I focused my healing energies. I’d always had some digestive issues, but I largely ignored them. What can you really do about it? You feel kind of powerless when it comes to your stomach. It’s used every day. You seem to feel as though it should handle the task its set without complaint. Everyone else seems to manage it, why can’t you stomach it too? 

Well, I started to realize, our bodies really do have weak points — places, organs, or points that need fortifying. Many have a weakness in the stomach, but it’s just not something that we try to manage or intuitively fix. We just carry on until something really bad happens and we need surgery. This is a disaster. We need to fortify these weak points before we end up in hospital. Every single one of our organs can do its job well if we give it what it needs. 

But it takes a lot of work. We have to do research. We have to be prepared to look outside what is considered scientifically justifiable. There is so much that science has the barest grasp, and people with chronic illness are the first to know about this. They are the first to learn the limitations of science when it comes to fixing their health. Once you realize just how thin the net is, you learn to make your own net. You cannot rely on medical interventions for your health. Some of them are ineffective, some still are down right dangerous and unnecessary. Now, I am not anti-science, and I am not anti-medicine, but I do think that when it comes to chronic illness, we have a disastrously poor grasp on what is causing it. An open mind is the only way to better health. 

I’ve read some very out there stuff. How about Anthony Williams, the ‘Medical Medium’? He writes about chronic health issues, and he gets his answers from a spirit that guides him by talking to him in his head. Do I rule it out as fraudulent? No, I let my intuition guide me. Does the message seem genuine? Are people getting better? If the answers are ‘yes’, then who am I to discount it? 

I’m serious. If you’re battling chronic illness, you need to be open to ideas that fly directly in the face of the concrete bastion of the scientific method. You are not going to get the answers that you need or want there. It is going to be grueling, and you are going to doubt what you are doing at times, but you must trust yourself. If nothing else, having faith in your mind and body will help you get better. Many people who suffer from chronic illness have lost both, and that is a tragedy. 

My point is, there is much we don’t understand, and when nobody understands you, or what you are going through, you are going to have to find ways to understand it yourself, many of which will seem very bizarre indeed to the vast majority of society. That’s none of your concern. You are listening to your intuition and following a path of learning. You’re a pioneer, and a marauder on the edge of understanding. You have got to believe in yourself and use your feelers to find the truth. This truth may be heretical, even absurd to many, but that is not for you to worry about. What you care about is getting better, so get better, by any means necessary. You’re going to learn a lot about yourself on the way, and trust me, it’ll be worth it. 

Just in case you don’t know, I’m doing better everyday. Many of my health issues are clearing up. I’m becoming happier. I trust myself and my body. I listen to the birds, the trees, the earth, and the sky, and I believe in that. I believe that the universe supports us when we listen to it, so I’m letting it guide me, by putting my faith in that spiritual reality. I’m only at the beginning, and all because I listened to a man who hears voices in his head. I think I’ll keep an ear out for the plants and trees, maybe they’ll have something to say about it too? Nothing is too weird. Keep pushing for the confidence in your life, your soul, and the spirit of Earth. It is waiting patiently for you to listen.

Trust your gut. Heal it, if you need to. Be prepared for a bumpy ride. You’re going to end up in places nobody else understands. What an exciting opportunity. Use that gift to build confidence in your life and spirit. It’s a turning point for anyone. You might need to walk on the fringe, but if that’s how you get better, does it matter? I guess that’s for you to decide. 

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How Intermittent Fasting Reset My Habits

And how it can do the same for you

Intermittent fasting has been touted as one of the most miraculous health changes you can make. It’s trending everywhere. Seriously, everyone is doing it. You’re not doing it? Not very cool of you. Are you one of those uncool people? You are? My condolences.

They say it’s good for reducing insulin resistance, combating cravings, and burning visceral fat, but less is said about the habitual side of this activity.

Setting a definitive time to start eating — this is usually 12, noon — has really revolutionised my eating habits. Let’s dive in (no, not with you fork) below.

Brings Structure

For those of us who struggle with snacking (my hand is up, believe me), having some routine to the times we can and cannot eat is really important. Knowing when it’s ok to eat, and when it’s not, in my personal experience, gives me enough structure to eat less often. Paradoxically, structure helps free you from the whims of your cravings and appetite. If you know when to eat, you’re less likely to eat outside of these times. Pair that with your now improving insulin sensitivity and shrinking stomach (the stomach will change as you eat less frequently and in smaller portions), and structured eating has the potential to improve your health dramatically.

Made Me Choose Healthier Options

When your eating window is reduced, you’re more likely to eat better, knowing that you need the nutrition to get on with the day. Now, whenever I break my fast, I scream ‘HEALTH!’ as I blitz an assortment of fruits and veggies for a nutritional feast. My neighbors, they do not speak to me anymore.

Not only this, coffee, which I used to drench in full-fat milk, has to be black during your fasting period. No room on this one. You have to ditch the cream and milk and go black. Sooner than you realise, however, it’s like you never even missed it (unlike your housemate’s repeated heckling to ‘take out the trash’, which you miss repeatedly, even defiantly). Coffee still brings that delicious bitterness and satisfying buzz that it’s always done, just with less calories, and without the anti-inflammatory contribution of dairy.

I also increased my water intake (I am about 99% water now, like a sea-jelly), which, as the science suggests, can reduce dehydration and aid digestion — result! I try to go for filtered water, mainly for the taste (it can filter out impurities, like the yoga you do to block out Becky’s negativity at work). Even if you’re drinking more nasty tap water, it’s still a move in the right direction — well done!

Easier to Say ‘No’

Repeat after me:

‘No.’

‘No, thank you.’

‘Good day sir!’

‘Not today, Satan.’

‘Oh helllll no.’

‘Not even if you were the Dalai Lama.’

Seriously, you’re going to become an angel of divine declination. You’re going to get so good at saying ‘no’ to people, they’ll write to ‘scrooge-watch’ to have you visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future! When they get there, you’ll say ‘no’ to them too!

It’s actually a really good habit to get into with people. If you’re taking your health seriously and fasting properly, you’re going to say that word a lot, and people will get the message eventually. When it gets through, your life will get easier and healthier as a result.

The Takeaway (No, You Are Not Ordering Takeaway)

Aside from the obvious health benefits you can get from fasting, the habits it helps you form can give you a boost towards a healthier lifestyle. You’re given some structure to your eating schedule, you can make healthier choices during your fast, and you’re going to get better at saying ‘no’ to people. These are essential to turning your health around. You’ll thank me later. I am a genius. Very clever. It’s because of all the fasting I do, and the daily health-scream as I blitz my vegetables. That kind of primal energy really gives you vitality. You should try it — it’s great.

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