Poles Apart

Those who have read my book A Journey of Creative Healing know that I put a great deal of value on listening to my intuition.

A couple of years ago I committed to write 75 days of a daily intuitive FB post. Today I got that inner nudge again to write as the muse or intuition directed. I found a quiet spot in the winter sun to quietly ask for guidance – ‘what do you want me to write?’

‘Intuition is perception via the unconscious that brings forth ideas, images, new possibilities and ways out of blocked situations.’    Carl Jung

My intuition gave me  a vision of a large pole stuck mid center of a space and the words ‘going round and round the pole.’ Vexing to say the least. But I did visualise myself doing exactly that — going around and around the pole.  ‘So what am I supposed to learn from this,’ I ask?
87706685The pole is seemingly immoveable, too tall to jump, too solid to push aside and there is only one way that I can get past it – is by going round it. I see it as something ugly —  a pale concrete column dominating a space while understanding this is an essential part of a building’s construction. I am irritated with my muse as she has set me a thankless task. I mentally tell her so. ‘Poles are poles,’ I say ’nothing more than holding up a roof, so what is the point of this exercise?’
My vision of the concrete column morphs from a pillar to a totem pole, carved exquisitely with its story of lineage, cultural beliefs and important events. I am intrigued with its significance. It seems that each figure on the totem pole represents a part of a story.A-Corbis-42-24133246_nlilf7
Carved from the cedar tree, totem poles are monumental sculptures that recall the characteristics of the clan or an historical event.
My perspective is changed —  here is the comfort of quality, tradition, art and lofty ideals embedded in my ‘pole’ vision.
An idiom springs to mind like ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover.’ My moralistic little pest of intuition has set me on my heels again. But she is not finished with me yet – ‘what is obvious about this Mary?’
‘Well,’ I answer smugly, ‘ it is obviously the way we look at things, we can either see it as an obstacle or an opportunity.’
‘Yes it is Mary —  but reflect again,’

‘The pole or obstacle is you.’

You can make a choice to embrace it and make it an intrinsic and artistic expression of yourself,’

‘Or you can simply go through life trying to go round it.’

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Great-fully-Grateful

gratitudeIn my book A Journey of Creative Healing, I write that half a century ago my Aunty G’ advised me to ‘always seek the silver lining in any situation.’
Finding the silver lining is one of the six steps that enabled me to return to full health. Today we know it as a practice of gratitude.
Back in the early 1960’s, the double wammy of grief and illness – death of my husband and the diagnosis of an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis — made it unbelievably hard to be grateful. I was numb, I felt like I was in a dark cave, people’s voices came from afar and even the most effective circuit breaker like a smile or chuckle from my children did not reach me.

 Grief is a Process

 But now I see that those fearful dark days did have the nub of silver within. The long months of emotional hibernation had to happen to enable me to process the enormity of trauma and loss. The loss of my champion: our life together as I knew it, and as my sickness gripped harder, the dependence on others for my life.
The biblical metaphor of ‘death’s dark valley,’ fits the lonely dark space that had to be traversed, so change could occur.
As I emerged onto the gentler slopes of acceptance I started to appreciate the smallest things in life. I remember one morning hearing the birds sing, it had been long since I had heard their melodic call. As I listened and delighted in the bird’s song, I became aware of the blue-blueness of the sky. Life was no longer grey.

Determined Practice of Gratitude

Gratitude became a determined practice. I looked for it constantly. I pushed past other emotions like anger and confusion to find it. It became easier and easier to identify and expand that feeling of joy. And becoming more grateful with every passing day, I lost sight of things I lacked.
Scientific studies show how the practice of gratitude improves physical and psychological health, and it allows people to form stronger relationships and become more resilient.
I still practice gratitude today. But I do not say out loud ‘I am grateful for…..’ I do not keep a journal, or lie in bed at night and push myself to list three things that day that gave me a sense of gratitude. It is more a habit of awareness, being present in the pleasure and stretching the feeling so the warmth floods through my body.

I love ………

I love sun-kissed clean sheets on my bed, a garden tended with passion and dedication, a slow dance with my husband and singing loudly, a little off-key, in the shower – ‘I am still standing ……Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid, I’m still standing after all this time ……… ‘

Come on share with me,  what makes you grateful?

Diet & Health – Yesterday & Today

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“What we eat now is firmly linked to risks associated with ill-health in the Western world in the 21st century.

It makes perfect sense that “radically changing your diet” is a must in today’s world. As well as dietary changes being a king hitter from the Heart Foundations, Diabetic Association, Cancer Council, Obesity Australia, and every other health authority. MS is no exception.”

Why ‘Radically Changing My Diet’ Was Not One Of My Steps To Health

“Fifty years ago, diet would not have been on the collective horizon, as a contributor to disease. Our diets in that time had been shaped by WW11. “Dig for Victory” was a wartime catchcry, and so the community tore up their flowerbeds and planted vegetables and fruit trees. The first six to eight years of my life we ate mainly vegetables and fruit, homegrown and tasty, and no pesticides. Wartime meat rationing was miserly, as was butter, and so my mother took our allowance in soup bones and made good quality stocks for casseroles with beans and vegetables. One egg a week per person did not go far, but this was supplemented with tinned powdered eggs. We ate a lot of fish, as this was not on ration. Bread was dense and salty (no talk of salt is bad for health back then), and even today I still miss the Hovis loaf, a small brown loaf of nuttiness and intensity, which my mother cut into lacy fine slices to eat with the vegetable casseroles.

I remember clearly the first and only times in my first eight years I ate a freshly boiled egg, the first time I had a piece of steak, the first time I ate a piece of chocolate, and an orange, which was a Christmas stocking treat. Rationing continued until I was sixteen, and so the nation continued to have a plain but reasonably healthy diet.  It goes without saying apart from the ubiquitous cup of tea, water was our drink of choice. In my family, we only drank alcohol on festive days, a sherry on Christmas morning or a whiskey with the Christmas cake or the occasional noggin on an evening out to the pub.

The English were used to home-grown produce, and by the 1960’s most folk still grew these in their back gardens or on small parcels of land called allotments. The seasons controlled our eating — for the average family there was no expensive imported out of season fruit or veggies.   Mind you, everyone had a chip saucepan! But for many postwar years, meat was not on the daily agenda for the average family – instead, egg and chips (one egg) or baked beans and chips became regular family meals. For my family, fish — as both parents were keen anglers — was the more frequent meal compared to our meat consumption.”

“It appears the British were at their healthiest in WW11.”

Today:  

“Kelly Turner’s Radical Remission research has demonstrated, the numero-uno on this list is “Radically changing your diet.” For many survivors of cancer or people managing chronic disease, diet is their first thought and action, and it is a proven life-changing step.” (Turner, Kelly. Radical Remission – Surviving Cancer Against All Odds. HarperCollins 2014)

“Professor George Jelinek, in his early sixties, runs and swims regularly and says he has never felt healthier. In 1999, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. This was a devastating blow for him, as he had watched his mother battle the disease for sixteen years, and when she could no longer take the pain or the dependence on others she took her own life. At the time of his diagnosis, he was the professor of Emergency Services at a leading hospital in Perth. He was 45 years old, and a family man with three children.

Immediately, he researched all he could on the disease and his findings led him to the work of American neurologist Roy Swank, who had published a paper in the Lancet 1990 “Effect of Low Saturated Fat Diet in Early and Late Cases of Multiple Sclerosis.” After many years of refining his findings on his seven-year recovery back to health, Professor George Jelinek wrote his first book Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis,” published in 2016, which features his seven-step program for recovery. This program is widely accepted as an excellent way to manage the disease. It has been tried and tested by many sufferers around the world who have found considerable benefits from living this lifestyle.”

One of key steps included: Changing your diet — ( Professor Jelinek also recommends the use of quality supplements like Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin D)

Excerpts from A Journey of Creative Healing-  Chapter 9:  The Elephant in the Room – Radically Changing Your Diet

 

How Open Are You to Possibilities?

I saw a post recently that dumbed down someone’s healing from multiple sclerosis. Several people posted to the effect that the person had been misdiagnosed and the assumption being that his beliefs in being ‘healed’ had no real foundation.
 IMG_4972When I was a young bride in the early ’60’s and a new mother I had episodes of muscle weakness, paralysis, impaired vision, headaches and painful nerve twitching for nearly five years.  This was put down to severe morning sickness, having two babies close together – exhaustion and in pregnancy  – the babies’ lying on the nerve’.  50 years ago there was no MRI, so sophisticated tools for diagnosing MS save a rubber mallet and a pin.  They basically went on the past history and presenting symptoms.  When I was diagnosed my random symptoms like pendulum waves created the perfect event for the first and second opinions of what they called back then ‘aggressive’ MS and that I would be wheelchair bound within a very short time.
But I recovered – full health – and have been in remission for 54 years.  Yes, of course, it could have been a misdiagnosis – but consider that at the time it was extremely difficult to diagnose with the tools available to neurologists.  They would have needed to have the strongest evidence to support their diagnosis.
Nevertheless, to me, it does not matter whether I had had a series of small strokes (as a medical friend later hypothesized) or MS. Simply  I was extremely sick.  Back then there also was no drugs, no medication to help.  Instead, I listened to my intuition and through rest, mediation and focusing a daily creative practice I came back to full health.  The only possible indicator that I had a severe illness is in my feet -peripheral neuropathy – a result of damage to nerves (or could it be simply old age?!)
The point here is what the heck does a label of a disease matter? People do recover from 18053023catastrophic illnesses, life-threatening illnesses. Read Radical Remission by Kelly Turner – visit the Radical Remission Project  FB page or website to see authenticated stories of people healing. In March I received the privilege of being Radical Remission’s Healing Story of the month – amazing being alongside so many who have returned to wellness.
Over the years I tried to tell my story to people who suffered MS but their eyes glazed over, ‘yes, but …..’ so I stopped until I could prove the steps that I had taken ticked all of the scientific boxes only then did I write my story  ‘A Journey of Creative Healing.’  Naturally, I would love you to read it,  but more importantly I want to ask – how open are you to possibilities, or still open after disappointment and disappointment in learning to live with the disease?
 I know the disease is wretched but please don’t close down to possibilities.  My story, like virtually all the stories in the Radical Remission Project records, was no ‘pick up your bed and walk’ miracle, it took time, resilience, focus and a powerful belief that I would recover from whatever ailed me.

Creative Journeys

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My parents and I on a summer holiday 1952

 

In my book A Journey of Creative Healing I tell how I believe  that committing to a creative project every day, come rain or shine, helped heal me from multiple sclerosis.

When that intuitive message came to do something creative everyday it made total sense as I had learned the joy and satisfaction of being creative from an early age.  My mother was the ultimate creative,  and an eminently kind gentle soul – I was her shadow,  I loved her beyond the widest ocean, higher than the sky and all of the tea in China!

My grandfather was a self-made man, he was an importer of coffee and dried fruits and conservative to the bone, which meant he did not believe in women working. Instead, Mummy learned to sew a fine seam, make all of her clothes and hats. She loved hats and wore clochethem well, so much so they became her signature dressing, ‘choose the hat first darling and the decision on the rest of the outfit falls into line.’

imagesWhen eventually my Grandfather gave permission for my parents to marry after seven years of ‘courting,’  in setting up her first home she rebelled against the heavily Victorian style of the house of her childhood and embraced the 1930’s cutting-edge-fashion of art deco. She was an avid collector of Clarice Cliff, the legendary ceramic artist’s pottery.  In the Blitz, we lost our home and everything in it.  Later when we lived with our grandfather, his house was hit by a V1 doodle bug and again all we had were clothes we stood in.

make do and mendMake Do & Mend’ was a government catchphrase during that time and my mother was very good at. She found a semi-detached house to rent and once again created a stylish home. There were no quarterly household item collections, there were no flea markets and furniture was scarcer than hen’s teeth with everything rationed. But she begged borrowed and made make-do-&-mend into an art form. Today’s home-stylists  would have adored her as she was the Queen of renovation.  She bought the old, tired and worn back to life;  recovering threadbare chairs and settees, French polishing scratched and dull furniture to a glowing patina and painting the house inside and out.

lampshadShe especially loved the spill of lighting from table lamps, overhead lighting was never used, and graced all of her many lamps with her hand-made pleated chiffon lampshades. She was equally at home in the garden and our small colourful blooming patches, both front and back, were the envy of neighbours.

She was a good cook, and when her father died and left her a small inheritance she set pinkup a small café. Immediately her morning and afternoon tea concept was a winner, people loved her sense of style, pink bone china for tea and for coffee, the first of its kind shatter free glass cups and saucers. Soon the market demanded luncheons and she started her day before sparrow twitter preparing, baking and cooking and achieving a regular sixty covers a day for lunch and a steady morning and afternoon trade.

She smoked, a pack of cigarettes a day, but elegantly like a glamorous heroine out of a forties film and died too young. She was a casualty of the English class system,  she identified herself as ‘upper middle class’ and fought to hang onto to this label throughout her life. Sadly if she had been asked to define herself her first priority would be ‘I am middle class, but upper middle class,’ instead of saying what a magnificent all-round nurturing Goddess that she was.

It’s Here!

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A Journey of Creative Healing

I was a mother of two small children when my husband was tragically killed in a light plane crash. I rejected treatment when doctors told me I would be wheelchair bound within months. Instead I acted upon a powerful intuitive message that prompted me to do something creative every day. It did not matter what, simply my daily focus should be on planning and creating something I had never done before. It did not matter what—I simply needed to focus on the planning and joy of creativity.

 

Within twelve months I could once again walk without aids.I have now been in full remission from MS for more than 50 years.

In A Journey of Creative Healing I share my remarkable story and reveal how listening to your intuitive voice, exploring creativity in all its guises, can deliver recovery from disease and trauma. I believe the six steps I  took in my recovery will inspire and help others to find their own path to health.Recent scientific research supports my six-step program, which I undertook to help heal from overwhelming grief and profound illness more than 50 years ago.

 

If you read it and found it valuable, can I ask you please to review it.  Reviews are the most effective way getting this book into the hands of people who may find the steps in this book beneficial.

The Dreaded ‘D’ Word

62d90016fec43840b0d4702abc79b425Serendipity — I have always had a love/hate thing with dieting and was gearing myself up to go on yet another diet to rid the extra kilo or two, when I found this article from the New York Times (2016) written by Sandra Aamodt, neuroscientist and the author of “Why Diets Make Us Fat: The Unintended Consequences of Our Obsession With Weight Loss.”  – “Why You Can’t Lose Weight on a Diet -The problem isn’t willpower. It’s neuroscience.You can’t — and shouldn’t — fight back.”

‘SIX years after dropping an average of 129 pounds on the American TV program “The Biggest Loser,” a new study reports, the participants were burning about 500 fewer calories a day than other people their age and size. This helps explain why they had regained 70 percent of their lost weight since the show’s finale. The diet industry reacted defensively, arguing that the participants had lost weight too fast or ate the wrong kinds of food — that diets do work, if you pick the right one.

But this study is just the latest example of research showing that in the long run dieting is rarely effective, doesn’t reliably improve health and does more harm than good. There is a better way to eat.

The root of the problem is not willpower but neuroscience. Metabolic suppression is one of several powerful tools that the brain uses to keep the body within a certain weight range, called the set point. The range, which varies from person to person, is determined by genes and life experience. When dieters’ weight drops below it, they not only burn fewer calories but also produce more hunger-inducing hormones and find eating more rewarding.

The brain’s weight-regulation system considers your set point to be the correct weight for you, whether or not your doctor agrees. If someone starts at 120 pounds and drops to 80, her brain rightfully declares a starvation state of emergency, using every method available to get that weight back up to normal. The same thing happens to someone who starts at 300 pounds and diets down to 200, as the “Biggest Loser” participants discovered.

This coordinated brain response is a major reason that dieters find weight loss so hard to achieve and maintain. For example, men with severe obesity have only one chance in 1,290 of reaching the normal weight range within a year; severely obese women have one chance in 677. A vast majority of those who beat the odds are likely to end up gaining the weight back over the next five years. In private, even the diet industry agrees that weight loss is rarely sustained. A report for members of the industry stated: “In 2002, 231 million Europeans attempted some form of diet. Of these only 1 percent will achieve permanent weight loss.”

The specific “Biggest Loser” diet plan is probably not to blame. A previous study, found similar metabolic suppression in people who had lost weight and kept it off for up to six years. Whether weight is lost slowly or quickly has no effect on later regain. Likewise — despite endless debate about the relative value of different approaches — in head-to-head comparisons, diet plans that provide the same calories through different types of food lead to similar weight loss and regain.

As a neuroscientist, I’ve read hundreds of studies on the brain’s ability to fight weight loss. I also know about it from experience. For three decades, starting at age 13, I lost and regained the same 10 or 15 pounds almost every year. On my most serious diet, in my late 20s, I got down to 125 pounds, 30 pounds below my normal weight. I wanted (unwisely) to lose more, but I got stuck. After several months of eating fewer than 800 calories a day and spending an hour at the gym every morning, I hadn’t lost another ounce. When I gave up on losing and switched my goal to maintaining that weight, I started gaining instead.

I was lucky to end up back at my starting weight instead of above it. After about five years, 41 percent of dieters gain back more weight than they lost. Long-term studies show dieters are more likely than non-dieters to become obese over the next one to 15 years. That’s true in men and women, across ethnic groups, from childhood through middle age. The effect is strongest in those who started in the normal weight range, a group that includes almost half of the female dieters in the United States.

Some experts argue that instead of dieting leading to long-term weight gain, the relationship goes in the other direction: People who are genetically prone to gain weight are more likely to diet. To test this idea, researchers followed over 4,000 twins aged 16 to 25. Dieters were more likely to gain weight than their non-dieting identical twins, suggesting that dieting does indeed increase weight gain even after accounting for genetic background. The difference in weight gain was even larger between fraternal twins, so dieters may also have a higher genetic tendency to gain. The study found that a single diet increased the odds of becoming overweight by a factor of two in men and three in women. Women who had gone on two or more diets during the study were five times as likely to become overweight.

The causal relationship between diets and weight gain can also be tested by studying people with an external motivation to lose weight. Boxers and wrestlers who diet to qualify for their weight classes presumably have no particular genetic predisposition toward obesity.

Yet a 2006 study, found that elite athletes who competed for Finland in such weight-conscious sports were three times more likely to be obese by age 60 than their peers who competed in other sports.

To test this idea rigorously, researchers could randomly assign people to worry about their weight, but that is hard to do. One program took the opposite approach, though, helping teenage girls who were unhappy with their bodies to become less concerned about their weight. In a randomized trial, the eBody Project, an online program to fight eating disorders by reducing girls’ desire to be thin, led to less dieting and also prevented future weight gain. Girls who participated in the program saw their weight remain stable over the next two years, while their peers without the intervention gained a few pounds.

WHY would dieting lead to weight gain? First, dieting is stressful. Calorie restriction produces stress hormones, which act on fat cells to increase the amount of abdominal fat. Such fat is associated with medical problems like diabetes and heart disease, regardless of overall weight.

Second, weight anxiety and dieting predict later binge eating, as well as weight gain. Girls who labeled themselves as dieters in early adolescence were three times more likely to become overweight over the next four years. Another study found that adolescent girls who dieted frequently were 12 times more likely than non-dieters to binge two years later.

My repeated dieting eventually caught up with me, as this research would predict. When I was in graduate school and under a lot of stress, I started binge eating. I would finish a carton of ice cream or a box of saltines with butter, usually at 3 a.m. The urge to keep eating was intense, even after I had made myself sick.

Fortunately, when the stress eased, I was able to stop. At the time, I felt terrible about being out of control, but now I know that binge eating is a common mammalian response to starvation.

Much of what we understand about weight regulation comes from studies of rodents, whose eating habits resemble ours. Mice and rats enjoy the same wide range of foods that we do. When tasty food is plentiful, individual rodents gain different amounts of weight, and the genes that influence weight in people have similar effects in mice. Under stress, rodents eat more sweet and fatty foods. Like us, both laboratory and wild rodents have become fatter over the past few decades.

In the laboratory, rodents learn to binge when deprivation alternates with tasty food — a situation familiar to many dieters. Rats develop binge eating after several weeks consisting of five days of food restriction followed by two days of free access to Oreos.

Four days later, a brief stressor leads them to eat almost twice as many Oreos as animals that received the stressor but did not have their diets restricted. A small taste of Oreos can induce deprived animals to binge on regular chow, if nothing else is available. Repeated food deprivation changes dopamine and other neurotransmitters in the brain that govern how animals respond to rewards, which increases their motivation to seek out and eat food. This may explain why the animals binge, especially as these brain changes can last long after the diet is over.

In people, dieting also reduces the influence of the brain’s weight-regulation system by teaching us to rely on rules rather than hunger to control eating. People who eat this way become more vulnerable to external cues telling them what to eat. In the modern environment, many of those cues were invented by marketers to make us eat more, like advertising, supersizing and the all-you-can-eat buffet. Studies show that long-term dieters are more likely to eat for emotional reasons or simply because food is available.

When dieters who have long ignored their hunger finally exhaust their willpower, they tend to overeat for all these reasons, leading to weight gain.

Even people who understand the difficulty of long-term weight loss often turn to dieting because they are worried about health problems associated with obesity like heart disease and diabetes. But our culture’s view of obesity as uniquely deadly is mistaken. Low fitness, smoking, high blood pressure, low income and loneliness are all better predictors of early death than obesity. Exercise is especially important: Data from a 2009 study showed that low fitness is responsible for 16 percent to 17 percent of deaths in the United States, while obesity accounts for only 2 percent to 3 percent, once fitness is factored out. Exercise reduces abdominal fat and improves health, even without weight loss. This suggests that overweight people should focus more on exercising than on calorie restriction.

In addition, the evidence that dieting improves people’s health is surprisingly poor. Part of the problem is that no one knows how to get more than a small fraction of people to sustain weight loss for years. The few studies that overcame that hurdle are not encouraging. In a 2013 study of obese and overweight people with diabetes, on average the dieters maintained a 6 percent weight loss for over nine years, but the dieters had a similar number of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease during that time as the control group. Earlier this year, researchers found that intentional weight loss had no effect on mortality in overweight diabetics followed for 19 years.

Diets often do improve cholesterol, blood sugar and other health markers in the short term, but these gains may result from changes in behavior like exercising and eating more vegetables. Obese people who exercise, eat enough vegetables and don’t smoke are no more likely to die young than normal-weight people with the same habits. A 2013 meta-analysis (which combines the results of multiple studies) found that health improvements in dieters have no relationship to the amount of weight they lose.

If dieting doesn’t work, what should we do instead? I recommend mindful eating — paying attention to signals of hunger and fullness, without judgment, to relearn how to eat only as much as the brain’s weight-regulation system commands.

Relative to chronic dieters, people who eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full are less likely to become overweight, maintain more stable weights over time and spend less time thinking about food. Mindful eating also helps people with eating disorders like binge eating learn to eat normally. Depending on the individual’s set point, mindful eating may reduce weight or it may not. Either way, it’s a powerful tool to maintain weight stability, without deprivation.

I finally gave up dieting six years ago, and I’m much happier. I redirected the energy I used to spend on dieting to establishing daily habits of exercise and meditation. I also enjoy food more while worrying about it less, now that it no longer comes with a side order of shame.’

Sandra Aamodt, neuroscientist, the author of “Why Diets Make Us Fat: The Unintended Consequences of Our Obsession With Weight Loss.”