Tag Archives: Spirituality

ancestral journey to croatia

My grandparents were both born on Brač; my grandfather in Novo Selo and my grandmother in Sumartin.  My grandfather left the island with his two brothers when he was a teenager.  He travelled first to South America and then on to New Zealand in the early 1900s.  His cousins had also come to New Zealand around the same time.  Did they travel together?  Who was first to arrive?  Did he come because they were here?  I don’t know.

In New Zealand he met my grandmother who had come here with her mother.  They met and married on the other side of the world from the small island on which they were both born, a couple of miles apart.

I travelled to Croatia for the first time in 2012 with my partner and our son.  The morning of our flight from London to Dubrovnik I wake up in the most hideous mood.  Venom spewing from me.  I feel deranged and possessed.  The boys keep their distance.

We get to the airport and I have an altercation with a stranger while we queue to go through the scanners.  In my fury I round on this man and I see him shrink away from my derangement.  When it is my turn to go through the scanner, the alarm goes and I am pulled aside for a full body pat down.  I have no metal on me to trigger the alarm, but my madness has been observed.  We are allowed through and, still possessed, I leave the boys and take my hideous self to the bathroom.  There is a large mirror the length of the wall and I glance at the poor tortured face in it as I walk past.  I’m already in the cubicle before I realise that it was my own face I was seeing.

I meet the boys in the bookshop and after looking at books for a while I’m suddenly aware I’m back.  I’m me again.  The madness gone.

How do I explain it? I don’t know, but it felt as if a long line of ancestors knew I was coming, and had a lot to say.  A long line holding a lot of pain.  When I was back in NZ, a friend told me that her Croatian husband has a similar extreme reaction when they visit Croatia and is unbearable to be around for the first few days they are there.

Dubrovnik was beautiful; the weather perfect, the hotel luxurious, the coast picturesque, and the ‘old town’ wonderful.  Yet still, intermittently, I was overcome with this horrible state.  I was so revolting that the boys kept away from me and we went separate ways in our sightseeing.  I loved being there even though I felt so disturbed.  The people seemed familiar but separate, making me feel at once an outsider as well as stirring a deep sense of connection.

On the third day we travelled by taxi along the coast to Makarska.  I was not prepared for how beautiful and unspoiled the coast is.  Makarska is a beach town located at the base of the most dramatic mountains, and again the weather was perfect and our hotel was lovely.  Yet still I felt agitated and awful.  Or rather, I felt as if I were being agitated, as if it had nothing to do with me.

The manager of the hotel rang the phone number I had for the relations on Brač, and they invited us to visit them the next day.  We caught the ferry over to the island not knowing if they would speak English, not really sure how distantly we were related, not knowing what to expect at all.  But family is family and we were welcomed with an openness and warmth that made my heart sob.

This was my grandfather’s brother’s grandchildren; ‘cousins’ to me.  My cousin kept holding me and smiling and saying, I’ve met you before?  You have been here before?  She felt as familiar as one of my sisters.  I held and squeezed her back.

It hurts to say goodbye and leave the island.   It hurts again the next morning to say goodbye to the hotel manager.  Hugging her (this woman I’ve only known for 3 days) like I would break and her saying ‘don’t cry’ before I did and me wailing ‘I just don’t want to go’.

I felt so at home there and, as in Rome also, so right in myself somehow.  Even though it’s all so different and we were so different from it and from the people, yet it was on some level so deeply familiar.  Weird really.  No, ‘familiar’ isn’t the right word, and I don’t know what is.  Just a blind sense of connection at a cellular or molecular level perhaps.

p1000813 2012-10-23 15.10.20


feeling at home in rome

In Rome, I am not too loud, too excitable, too emotional, too volatile, too much.  For the first time in my life, I feel completely at ease.  As if I fit.  As if who I am is all right.

We arrive at 7 am and already the air is crisp, clear and hot.  We’ve travelled 12 hours from New Zealand to Hong Kong where we spent the day wandering around, sweating in the heat and humidity.  Back on the next flight at midnight for another 12 hours to Rome.  We arrive filthy and smelly; grubby tourists.  Our room is not ready for us until the afternoon so, filthy and smelly, we hit the streets.  Here we are, so grotty, and here is Rome, so beautiful.  Nothing ugly allowed.  No billboards, no excessive signage, no ugly high rise buildings, no McDonalds.  Welcome relief to the senses.

I love Rome from the second we step off the plane.  It felt like a great pulsating heart; warm, inviting and full of light.  I don’t mean the people; they ignored us turista.  I mean the energy of the city.

Visiting the Sistine Chapel was the highpoint.  Walking through the Vatican Museums, overwhelmed by the art.  At first able to walk in any direction, then slowly becoming aware that we were being funnelled one way in a thick crowd.  And it was so hot.  The passageways get narrower and there’s no turning back, we can only move forward, herded with the crowd.  We didn’t have a map so we didn’t know where we were heading, but eventually pushed through a single door and realized we were in the Sistine Chapel.  Looking up, the ceiling so far away and the paintings so much smaller than imagined.  Squeezed in with hundreds of people, so hot.  No windows, guards everywhere.  The way out at the far end – another single door, but you have to go through a wire gate to get to it, in single file.  All those people talking and the guards ‘shushing’.  Awful and squashed.  Trapped in this cavernous room.  I hate it and feel so disappointed.

Then a voice in my head reminds me that it’s a ‘chapel’, and next I see at one end a cross and candles for an altar.    Focusing on this I’m drawn inside myself and find calm beneath the intensity and noise of the crowd.  Then I start to feel energy, huge energy, as if I have tapped into some sort of energy centre.  As if this room with its famous ceiling is not about the art at all.  As if the chapel was built at this place because of the energy that emanates from here.  As if the painting on the ceiling was created from this energy.

I stand, beneath this famous ceiling with my eyes shut, and I am filled with energy.  Filled to the top, filled to bursting.  I can’t speak and I hold onto J’s arm as he leads me with the crowd out the doors.  I am in a state of absolute bliss, like I have never experienced before.

It lasts for hours.

View through the ceiling of the Pantheon

View through the ceiling of the Pantheon


the voice in my head

I’ve started a new job
I can’t talk about it much
It’s a rather public sort of place
How I got there is the interesting bit

When I went on sick leave last year
I sat on my couch, day after day
Knowing I could never go back into that job
Or any like it
How could I ever work in the world again?

The voice in my head knew:
There’s one place in this city you like
One place that feels as good as home
As safe, as calm, as loving, as right

Ah, yes, that’s right, there is

We replayed this conversation
For three months
Me and the voice in my head
Until finally I mustered the courage,
Can I come and talk to you?
Of course

I explained:
I’m finished with my old job, my old life
Too tired
Worn out
But I have all these skills
And I don’t know why I’m telling you
Only the voice in my head said I should

Are you saying you’d like to work here?
Just this morning we had a new position approved
A new salaried position
That needs your skills
Just this morning

I sat there and cried
Then I went home and applied for this position
Now I am here
Where I should be
Thanks to the voice in my head.

fighting adrenal fatigue from all sides – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual

I’ve spent the last four months off work with what my doctor diagnosed as ‘adrenal fatigue’.  My symptoms being: exhaustion, low blood pressure, fainting, anxiety, insomnia, night sweats, brain fog, reduced resilience, poor memory, extreme coldness and extremely low B12 levels.

These last four months have been a gift.  My understanding now is that adrenal fatigue is an exercise in unconditional love; firstly for the self, then outwards to the world.  Where chronic pain can be seen as a physical representation of [repressed] rage (I discuss this here), I think adrenal fatigue is the physical manifestation of self-neglect.

It was easy to push my body into this state. I worked in an environment that made me anxious and stressed, without any let-up; I rushed everywhere, oh so busy; I used foods that gave me a ‘hit’ to keep pushing on (chocolate and sugar being my biggest offenders, but coffee and alcohol are equally effective); I ignored how tired I was and stayed up late at night, too busy to go to bed; I never let my mind stop churning, even in my sleep; and I forced myself to go to a personal trainer, where I felt sick after every session.

What I see now is that none of this was an expression of love for my body or myself.

So I made a lot of changes.  I stopped all sugar (including for a while, fruit) and became dairy and gluten-free.  No coffee, no chocolate, no alcohol.  I still eat meat and eggs, as my body asks for them.  I started taking supplements: magnesium, vitamin C, Vitamin B complex, Vitamin B12, iodine, fish oil, evening primrose oil, probiotics and herbs.  I did a parasite cleanse, a liver cleanse and a heavy metals cleanse.  I bought a filter jug for our tap water and I grow my own organic veges.  I start the day with lemon, salt and ginger in hot water, followed by a green smoothie.  I have a carrot, ginger, celery and beetroot juice every afternoon.  This is about feeding my body only foods that nourish it (not foods that my mind craves at my body’s expense).  Listening to what it needs, and adjusting accordingly.

But it’s more than diet and supplements.  I stopped work, I stopped a lot of other things, and I certainly stopped the personal trainer.  I rested, I listened to what my body needed and I didn’t tire myself with social activities or obligations.  I took a ’time-out’ from the world (I had to, I was burnt out) and I listened and meditated.

I monitored my thoughts, noticing how often I spoke unkindly to myself.  I outlawed these hurtful thoughts and I stopped my mind from fixating on illness.  I knew I had to or else it would scare me by telling me how sick I was, and then how could I get better?

I did yin yoga off YouTube – gentle and grounding and you don’t need to leave the house.  I read inspiring books.  I pottered in my garden, barefoot on the grass.  I lay on the grass watching the clouds.  I watched the birds and the insects and I breathed.  I slowed down and gave thanks.  I listened and listened.  I waited.

The first answer I received was to start a blog.  I wrote about that here and how important it’s been to me here.  Self-expression – the opposite of self-neglect.  The next big response I heard is coming up on my next blog post.

I learnt to ask for guidance in all things, not just the big ones.  I found that by handing over decisions in this way, the brain fog cleared.  I don’t have to know all the answers, I just have to ask and listen.

Over months, my old world faded away.  The worries, anxieties, pressures and pace, the ambitions and insecurities, the striving and racing and speed, and the fears, especially the fears, all lost their hold over me.

My body sighed with relief and began to heal.

sally caldwell

The other major part of my recovery from chronic pain was the work I did with a therapist.  I started seeing Sally at around the same time as I was learning about TMS and the two approaches complemented each other well.

I had heard about Sally from an old school friend who lives in a different city.  Then one morning when I got to work (16th floor, corporate jungle) a colleague said, “You have to come and have a coffee with me so I can tell you about this amazing woman I went to last night”.  As she described her session with Sally, I told her that it sounded like the woman my old school friend sees.  “What’s your friend’s name?” she asked me.  I got a kind of sick shock when she said, “Hey, your friend is my cousin!”  A sick shock as my separate worlds collided, and I knew then that Sally would get me from every direction until I booked myself in.

Sally taught me how to meditate, to listen and to connect.

Her first homework instruction was for me to lie on the floor (because I wasn’t able to sit in a chair then) for 40 minutes every day and repeat as a mantra in meditation:
I choose to change.

This is an incredibly powerful thing to do and the more you say it with conviction, the more you become aware of the areas within your life that you are holding onto that may not actually be serving you well.  The more you listen you can uncover why you are holding on to these beliefs or habits, so that ultimately you can release them.

In my first session with Sally we discussed what patterns I was holding onto that needed to change.  We looked at my childhood (without judgement) to identify where these patterns had come from.  What I liked most was that we didn’t dwell on the past, only identified where it had started in order to understand how I had gotten to where I was today.  Understanding puts you back in the control seat, and able to drive change.

The next step in my homework was to repeat in meditation:
I choose to let go of my anxiety, help me.

Again this was very powerful for me.  She was showing me that a lot of my problems were stemming from anxiety.  I had a choice whether to let this anxiety rule me.

Anxiety is the opposite of ‘trust’.  Trust in what?  I don’t think it really matters.  All I know is that anxiety and trust can’t coexist and I would rather have trust than anxiety.

And my final piece of homework from that first session was to repeat in meditation:
I choose to be supported by the universe, show me.

Here you could substitute your personal preference for “the universe”.  The point is we need to feel supported.  So much misery occurs because of a feeling of lack of support and lack of connection.  And I loved it that through meditation I could ask for ‘signs’ of support.  Why not?

With Sally I also learnt that I am the type of person who processes information through my body.  If I am not ‘connected’ then I can’t hear what needs to be heard and so messages come through my body by way of pain or illness.

So armed with Sally and the Dr Sarno theories, I rid myself of pain within a few months.

The next post is the final one in my back pain saga, and it epitomizes what I learnt to do with Sally.  After that I plan to start posting about my current problem: escaping from a job I don’t want to do anymore.


The Players have fixed on a word:  Trust

They swear they haven’t been swapping notes with each other.  Trust, they say.  Without trust there is anxiety.

I choose to let go of anxiety.

At this point I am about ready to trust in cortisone.  The Specialist says cortisone might sort it out.   All those in favour?

Aye,  says Osteopath/Acupuncturist,  You should go for it with your tricky back.
Aye,  says Third Acupuncturist,  Cortisone is a last resort option and you’re at that point.
Aye,  says Second Alexander Technique Practitioner,  If treatments were going to sort it out, they would have by now.

But some perversely purist part of me feels like it would be cheating the process.

And I just don’t want to have my body injected with steroids if I can avoid it.