Friday, 30 November 2012

Healthy? Sometimes…

I reckon I look at myself in the mirror at least 50 times a day. There are mirrors everywhere in my flat. But that’s not the reason. I’m vain. If the wind blows then I want to see where my tresses have landed: do I still look ok? Before I head out for my morning walk, often before the sun is even up, I’ll spend at least a few minutes preening myself and worrying about the bags under my eyes before I’ll head out into the dark where no one other than an occasional jogger or man with his dog treads. As if they’d care what my hair looks like. Which incidentally, is usually under a cap anyway.

Not only do I stress about my naturally frizzy and unkempt hair, but also about my body. Which frankly, a lot of people would give their right arm for. If two thirds of Australia is obese then I’m pretty sure they’d be happy with my size-8  4-times-a-week yoga bod. I’m doing alright for 41. Yes, I can say that on one hand (the one that holds a cup of ballerina tea), but on the other hand (which clutches my second homemade brownie of the day – and it’s only 10am), I clearly do not approve of myself, otherwise I’d be able to walk past a mirror without a forensic self-assessment.

But if I step beyond the mirror for just a moment – note to self: please, just walk way from the glass – then lack of self-worth is the ugliness that I’m really managing, isn’t it. What else would drive a slim, reasonably attractive woman to obsess over her looks? It can’t be about the looks, can it? My gut says it’s deeper. And my gut has plenty to say, let me tell you. On my way to brewing a pot of tea, I found myself shuffling around the back of the freezer for the brownie I mentioned. I didn’t want a brownie; I was making tea. But as has been a lifetime habit for me, I reach for food to fill the gap that sits somewhere between my neck and my derriere. I’ve yet to completely identify this hole and what it signifies, but I’m telling ya, there’s a hole and it’s a mighty big one!

So, let’s talk about my hole then shall we. (Yes, I am aware of the euphemism there)…

I have a hole that continually tells me it wants to be filled. And I’m pretty sure it’s not asking for brownies and cupcakes… or tea and toast… or a half wheel of Danish White Castello cheese… or a delicious Indian banquet with peshwari naan to mop up the spicy curry sauce. This definitely isn’t about food, or looking in the mirror: what I reckon my hole really wants to be filled with is love. (And that’s not a euphemism.)

So why am I unable to do that? How is it that with all the self-help books I’ve read and all the healings I’ve received (and given), I cannot satisfy the one thing that my soul asks for? Why does self-worth elude me? And I’ll take a stab in the dark here, but my guess is that you’re much the same, right? Otherwise why are you reading this?

But this isn’t about you (well, indirectly it is, but these words are in my head, so you follow what I mean, right). [Stopped for a slurp of ballerina tea, helps to keep me regular…]

Even though I am writing this, there is still an element of procrastination within me. Even though I am writing about the very thing I wish to fill, I feel inauthentic. I’m hoping that as I write, I will uncover some of the mystery that lives within my heart space and learn to fill it with something other than sugar and cocoa. Thankfully I no longer reach for a caffeine fix first thing in the morning, but before I get all self-righteous about that, let’s not forget that chocolate brownies are not exactly health food either. Unless they are of course, and I do believe that sometimes that’s exactly what they are. It’s not the ingredients themselves that will kill us, it’s the underlying attitude that we’re harbouring as we eat or drink, that is the silent threat. And as self-aware as I am, it’s only very recently that I’ve tapped into the self-loathing that accompanies much of my calorie intake. I realised very recently, that when negative emotions begin to surface, I very quickly and very adeptly place one hand on their head and submerge them back down below the surface (where they become hidden from my conscious mind, but are very much apparent to my unconscious mind/self). Meanwhile, my other hand is generally reaching for food.

The art of self-denial is a tricky one because until we can see what it is we’ve been hiding from ourselves, nothing will enable us to understand why we do the things we do, when we’re sure we don’t really want to. Such as overeating, not exercising, not being grateful, moaning about other people and on and on…

I suppose that’s why some people are averse to the idea of self-help books. If you don’t think there’s anything wrong with you, then why would you need to fix it? Similarly, why would I head to Bunnings for a power drill when a) I have nothing that needs drilling and b) I wouldn’t know what to do with it, even if I did have one. Is my drift catching you here?

But see how easily I deflect onto people who don’t even believe in personal development? Can you see how that’s just another layer of my own self-loathing? When we lack self-worth we fill part of the hole with self-importance. Not that I would say I was actually doing that here, but I certainly am guilty of a tucking into a nice bowl of self-importance every now and then.

Oooh yes, how scrumptious it is to know I am better than someone else. The lofty heights it lifts me to! From up here I can see how bald you are! From the rooftop of self-importance I get to rise out of my grave of self-loathing and sugar coat it with the idea that I know stuff, or that I can do stuff and basically leverage my mind to a point where it makes me feel better. Kind of.

Unfortunately that only worked until I realised I was doing it, at which point I had a conflicting reaction: Wow! How incredible to now understand this about myself… coupled with: Boy, what a self-righteous cow I’ve been.

Thankfully, the great thing about realisations is they tend to come with a side serve of compassion. Phew. So the thoughts of how self-righteous I’ve been actually don’t sting like they would have done, had I not realised I simply lacked self-worth. And I can now see that when other people leverage themselves above me (or others) that the same pattern is in play.

There’s a difference between seeing someone else’s self-importance as ugly and righteous, and seeing it as their lack of self-worth. When I see it from the latter viewpoint, it comes with a feeling that melts my heart. Now I realise that all those times people are perching on their high horse, it’s actually masking a deeper feeling of unworthiness. Wow, what a new way to see the world! Had I known this years ago I could have saved myself a lot of angry feelings and been a whole lot more compassionate toward my fellow humans.

Still, better late than never eh.

And it’s also worth saying that sometimes people simply are better than us at doing or being a certain way. I wouldn’t begrudge Usain Bolt the fact that he’s a better sprinter than me. That’s not him being self-important, that’s a proven fact. If the Dalai Lama invited me to a meditation competition, I’m pretty sure he’d win. So I’m not saying that blowing your own trumpet is always wrong, on the contrary, I think expressing our talents is a great thing. But there’s a difference in the energy behind “just saying” and “told you so”.

And yet again I digress… weren’t we discussing my mirror hogging and chocolate brownie intake?

Gosh, this really is difficult to get to the root of. Part of me wants to say, You know what, I’m doing alright here. How about you give up giving yourself (me) a hard time and just be whatever you are? Look in the mirror if you want to, it’s ok. Eat chocolate for breakfast, lunch and dinner if you want, that’s ok too. I doubt you’ll do it all the time anyway. Oh, and if you ever decide you don’t want to get up at 5.30 and go for a walk, then hey, feel free to stay in bed till 6. It won’t kill you!

I don’t know if I’m making any sense here, but what I’m getting at is this: I do almost everything I can to live a wholesome, kind and healthy life and yet I still beat myself up for not being good enough. Just imagine if I were to eat pizza and ice cream every day and never exercise, would my internal story be any different? I doubt it? From what I can see, we’re all telling ourselves we’re not good enough. And as it turns out, even when I tell myself I am okay, I can be masking doubts and fears that I don’t even know I have.

Sheesh. Do I get to have time out from myself? No! And that’s I guess where this is leading.

It’s not my actions that need to be addressed is it, it’s my attitude. I can choose to drink 10 cups of coffee a day if I want, and I can choose to be nice to people or not. Conversely, I can choose to eat healthy foods that nourish me, and occasionally punch down a piece of cake if I so desire. After all, that’s the bonus of being human right? If I wanted to be an enlightened master I’m not convinced I’d have chosen Earth as my habitat. So, as I sip the last of my ballerina tea and get ready for my fifth yoga class this week, I will begin a new way of life with a beautiful affirmation given to me by the queen of self-help herself, Louise L Hay. As I check myself in the mirror before skipping of to a vinyassa class I shall repeat over and over again these words:

“I approve of myself, I approve of myself, I approve of myself.”

I hope you say the same.

H xx 

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Tantra – the missing link

As I write this today, I have limited knowledge and even less experience of tantric sex, but I want to learn about this meditative form of copulation because something about it intuitively feels right.

I lost interest in banging, poking and prodding a long time ago. Rampant sex can be great and certainly has its place in my sexual history, but breathing in the scent of a man and exploring his body as the masterpiece that it is, holds a far higher curiosity for me. And instinctively I know tantra will open me up in ways I can’t even imagine at this point.

To paint a picture, let me share some intimate details with you: Will was the last guy I slept with. He’s a very buff fitness instructor who looks after his body and is hugely successful at what he does. His body is a masterpiece for sure. He’s mentally sharp and lots of fun to boot. Our first physical encounter involved him giving me a massage and pulling out all his best tricks (which were highly adept) in the desire to make me ‘come’.

I didn’t.

When I add up Will’s sex CV it looks good: everything’s in the right place, he says the right stuff (tells me I’m sexy and beautiful), and he certainly knows how to toss a good bean salad. Yet despite everything looking and sounding fantastic, I knew there was zippo chance of my floodgates bursting open. Why? Because Will hadn’t yet stolen my mind, so therefore he had no access to my feelings, my heart or my vagina.

And this is where, I feel, tantra comes in.

From the little I know about tantra, it seems to be the missing link between sex as a physical encounter (much like masturbating), and a true opening of the sacred sex organs; which I believe have the potential to instigate a prodigious opening of the heart and soul.

Surely, if we can tap into the very essence of our sexuality, therein lies a well of emotion and sensuality that isn’t possible to reach by holding on to your headboard while Mr X rogers you from behind?

Or maybe that’s just me?

Before I’d even read about tantric sex I sensed that I had a desire for something ‘more’ from my sexual experiences. I want to communicate with my eyes and body in ways that run deep. I want to tap into the core of my Goddess and experience the volcanic eruption of juice and passion that old-fashioned sex just can’t access. I’m not dissing a good old seeing to, but tantra is a form of sexual communication that makes so much sense to me.

I mean, why have just one chocolate when you can create a whole new box?

Tantric sex really works on a ‘less is more’ principle. Less grunting, more speaking with the eyes; less thrusting, more expanding; less speed, more desire. It’s a simple concept, but I suppose will only appeal to those who employ a similar philosophy to life. If you prefer ‘bigger and better’ then you probably seek the same in the bedroom. Get the porn on, pull off a few tricks and off to sleep you go. But what about finding a stillness that actually allows you to understand your body and enable it to explode into a technicolour sexual epic?

For me, I’m at the point when the tornado no longer fires me up, but far from wanting to take cover in a storm cellar, I’m ready to let my skirt fly over my head while I fly to a new world that’s most certainly over the rainbow.

And so it seems I have tantra on my mind. And with that thought, I gaily head out into the world seeking a male companion to share this new experience with. Whether the interaction becomes a lasting relationship is of little relevance at this stage. For now, it’s about tapping into my inner femininity in order to explore and expand a sensual consciousness that has lately become a driving force behind my every thought.

Until I find such a mate, however, here’s to deep-reaching sex that blows your mind and fulfils your body, heart and soul.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Time for some therapy

It’s a warm March day and I’m sitting in a doctor’s surgery, waiting to see a psychotherapist. I’ve never done this before. Asked for help, that is.

As a healer, I feel a little anxious being on the other side of the "table". How will the conversation open? “Hi, I’m Hannah, I’m f*cked in the head, I can't even hold down a relationship with a man, can you help?” Wow, I’m in a whole world of new here. I’m asking for help and I don’t even know what to say. A first on two accounts. Right, well, let’s start then…

For years I’ve felt that the way my family and I operate and communicate is highly dysfunctional. We don’t have conversations: we bicker and pick on each other. When it comes to expressing emotions, it’s okay to be angry, aggressive, resentful or mean, but not okay to feel vulnerable, hurt or to cry. To say we swim in an emotional void would be an understatement.

This is all just in my opinion of course.

Thankfully, life has presented me with opportunities to free myself from what I see as genetic bondage. For one, I live 20,000 miles on the other side of the world from the rest of my family. Secondly, I am blessed with an innately positive nature. That’s not to say I haven’t spent my fair share of time languishing in venomous pools of anger, or that I even understand the concept of admitting when I feel hurt. But beneath any natural or learned behaviours, I almost always see rainbows where my family see rain, and the clouds that seem to weigh them down so heavily, are lifted in my eyes by the silver lining that I keep in my pocket.

I am fortunate to nurture a belief that pain and misery are merely vehicles that coach us toward personal evolution, deep understanding, and if we’re lucky, compassion for others; rather than something to talk about to the neighbour when we buy the daily newspaper (which, incidentally, I never read).

But, putting any sanctimonious self-promotion aside, I’m here today, asking a total stranger for help. And although I have no idea where this is leading, it feels right. Mine is a long and winding story, with many potholes, that’s for sure. But my actual being here has come to be thanks to my sister. Who, it turns out, has been hoarding for over a decade.

Discovering that my sister is ‘a hoarder’ has opened a huge door for me. I finally have permission to claim that I see my family life as dysfunctional. It’s a belief that I’ve held for years, yet never allowed myself to freely admit, because despite being ‘perfect’ I do have a tendency to rant and create drama. So until my sister’s problem was defined and became tangible, my belief was something that potentially had no credibility.

But now I have a platform on which to stand: my sister’s issue has a label, which means I can finally get one too. Unlike my sister, however, I’m not a hoarder; in fact I’m more of a thrower-awayer. As a child, I would clear out my room once or twice a year and throw away anything and everything that I considered to be unnecessary; such as an earring holder in the shape of an elephant. What was baffling to me was that soon after discarding my rubbish, some of it would reappear in other parts of the house. I discarded the above-mentioned elephant on at least two occasions: one time it ended up back in the house, in a display cabinet in the lounge room. A work of art it was not. For whatever reason, my parents felt it reasonable and necessary to sift through my bin and reclaim lost 'treasures' that I was reckless enough to throw away.

To this day, I maintain a fairly simple existence, and despite an ex-boyfriend claiming I had too much clutter (a Buddha statue and a couple of cushions), I don’t share my sister’s hoarding gene. But I do share her pain.

And that’s what this story is really about. I spent some time considering what would cause someone to hoard a house full of useless items. I concluded that the only reasonable answer was to fill a hole.  And the more I thought about it, the more I realised I also have a hole that I’ve never been able to fill. It’s a deep hole that sits within the pit of my heart. A hole that no amount of food can fill, (despite my best efforts); a hole that I speculate my sister has unconsciously been trying to fill by surrounding herself with rubbish. A hole that I realised can only be filled with love.

It seems right to clarify, that all of this is simply my story: an account of my life that by nature will include people who I shared an experience with. I have no right to speak on my sister’s behalf, or anyone else’s for that matter. And I have no desire to either. Anything I write is simply my version of events and my intention is to express who I am, in order to free myself from the emotional and social shackles that I have been wearing for as long as I can remember. 

I am not writing this to expose the shortcomings of anyone else, this is simply and honestly just the way I see, hear and feel the world. My family are kind and loving people. They are generous to a fault and have always clothed and fed me when I needed it. But despite all this, I feel empty inside. 

And that’s why I’m in therapy, waiting to reveal some of the inner shame, grief and sadness that sits in a hole where I’m pretty sure love could go. But before I can fill it with love, I need to have a clear out – a bit like my sister has I guess.  Only my clear out will be done through writing.

I have no idea what happens at the end of all this, but I do know I have a whole bunch of tales that I'd like to tell; some of which would make your hair curl, and many that qualify as could-do-with-being-told-to-a-therapist. So despite a decent amount of fear, it feels good to finally be here, telling my story. 

My greatest desire is that by finally revealing my true feelings, I’ll all be able to identify where my holes are, and in turn come to feel more complete. Having read almost every self-help book under the sun and attended countless workshops from Cairo to Rishikesh, one thing I’ve never done is actually fully expose myself (without maintaining some level of control toward the outcome).

So it is with anticipation, trepidation and excitement that I begin to mindfully tread this new path, with no conscious expectation of the outcome and no real goal in mind – other than filling myself (and the world) with love. 

Wish me luck…!