Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

Do What’s in Front of You

December 31, 2015

What have you been learning this year? I’ve been learning to accept what is with gratitude and to listen and act.

On an early January morning this year I went for a walk by the river. I wandered along the river’s edge as the water lapped at my feet, contemplating and praying for guidance about my situation which felt precarious. Then I heard a quiet voice in my mind say, IMG_1596‘Do what’s in front of you’. I recognised this voice as it’s given me wise counsel before, and I knew there’d be more advice if I listened.

My employer had closed for a six week summer break and instead of having a relaxing holiday, I felt anxious about my lack of income, concerned as I’d been told my hours were going to be reduced and frustrated as I wanted to do more meaningful work, yet my energy levels were unreliable. I felt like I was on the wrong road and I didn’t know where the right road was.

 

It reminds me of an Irish joke I once heard.

Paddy walks into a bar and asks the bartender for directions. The bartender Mick says, ‘Oh no, you can’t get there from here!’

IMG_7622_2My logical mind had been trying unsuccessfully to work out how to change my situation, however the logical mind doesn’t understand the mysteries of the soul, which favours unfoldment over a clear linear path.

Without a pen and paper, which I normally use to capture these words of wisdom, I took out my iphone, clicked the voice record button, listened and spoke what I heard.

 

“Do what’s in front of you…When anxiety comes from searching, seeking, wanting things to be different to how they are right now, come back to this moment and do what’s in front of you.

 Take a breath and come back to this moment. What is it that has already arisen that you have not yet acted on? What thoughts or ideas have you discounted or pushed away? What further steps can you take that have already shown themselves to you? Come back into this moment and do those things.

IMG_5424You’re striving for more; more clarity, more insight, more answers and they will come when you do what’s in front of you right now. Let go of searching and take the steps that have already revealed themselves.

It’s like building blocks. To build something new firstly you prepare the ground so that it’s strong and stable. Then you build the foundations and imagine what the building will look like, what it will feel like to be in it. You are preparing the ground.”

 A list of things came into my mind, things that I’d previously, over days, months, even years thought, ‘do that’. Practical things from getting a better handle on my expenses, reading a specific book, recover my lounge chairs, contact specific people and find a new doctor to increase nurturing activities like dance, relax deeply, meditate daily and ask for guidance before bed.

IMG_8442_2

‘Do these things, clear the way, prepare the ground, build the foundations and as the year unfolds new opportunities will emerge, more actions will be revealed. This is a time for connecting with your heart, with nature, with all that is. Embrace and value each moment, each day, enjoy. All is well. All is very, very well.’

 

This year I’ve been clearing the way and preparing the ground by acting on old and new ideas.

 

I began to notice that serendipitous things occurred. When I asked myself, “What energises me? What do I love doing?”, one answer was the leadership coaching work that I’m trained for and rarely do as I doIMG_7468n’t find self promotion easy.

Within a week I received a call from a friend asking if I could give her a coaching session and could we do it as a swap or barter please. Our exchange? She’s a skilled seamstress and in return she helped me recover the chairs I use for my coaching work. I ticked recovering chairs off my list after a year of ‘I need to do that’.

I dusted off and repaired a portable whiteboard I hadn’t used for years and for some time I’d thought ‘either repair it or throw it out’. A week later I was asked to give a presentation on leadership at my Toastmasters club and the revitalised whiteboard was in use again. This presentation led to invitations to present at four more clubs, an area training day and then an invitation to help facilitate an eight week public speaking course at our local Council. Further opportunities for mentoring and facilitation came up in my club.

I’m passionate about leadership and supporting others to find their voice and pursIMG_7676ue their goals and in opening up my mind to ways to do ‘more meaningful work’, life presented these volunteer opportunities.

Sometimes life opens up different doors to the ones we expect.

As the year progressed my work hours didn’t drop off as I’d been told they would and unexpectedly increased for several months instead. Even though my paid work is not ‘perfect’ (whatever that is!), it’s flexible, I can work around my energy levels and I’m grateful to have it whilst I’m laying the groundwork for more reliable health and energy.

IMG_3221

By acting on all the quiet whispers of ‘do this’, I’m seeing that the path gradually unfolds before me, although not in the direction necessarily that I think it ‘should’.

I listen and follow my guidance some days better than others.

A sign that I’m not is when I feel anxious. Then I know that my grasping mind has stepped in and I need to quieten my mind and come back into the present moment.

 

 

As Lao Tzu said ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’

IMG_0884Acting on the things I’d already thought to do created movement and forward progress.

 

Our inner wise guide sees much more than our logical conscious mind and sometimes it doesn’t take us on a direct route. Sometimes we have to drop things off and gather things along the way.

 

If you, like Paddy and I, want to get somewhere other than where you are, revisit the things you’ve already thought to do and haven’t yet acted on, no matter how small.IMG_1468 These ideas are often delivered in a quiet whisper, when you are in the midst of another activity, not when you are focussed on finding answers. You may have ignored or discounted them and yet they keep arising, quietly but persistently. Start there.

I’ve discovered that as I put my foot down, the path is revealed, one step at a time.

 

What have you been learning this year?

Advertisements

This Canary Sings a Tale of Toxins

December 17, 2014

Chronic illness is on the increase. Why is it so? I first learned that multiple chronic illnesses have at least two common contributing factors over eleven years ago when I came across an arIMG_4246ticle in the Weekend Australian newspaper about Australian doctors getting significant improvements with autistic kids by using the same strategies my research had shown were successful in treating Chronic fatigue Syndrome (CFS); improving gut health and detoxifying environmental toxins like heavy metals and chemicals. Further research revealed that many other chronic illnesses have links to these same two factors. There are often also genetic and additional factors at play.

 

When the article was published on 22nd February 2003 it stated autism affected 1 in 500 to 1 in 1000 Australian children. Accelerating rapidly since then, a 2012 article puts the figure at 1 in 110. A startling increase. I’ll focus on environmental toxins in this blog post.

We’re all exposed to an increasing array of toxins and this can go part way to explaining the increase in chronic illness. IMG_3685Since the Industrial revolution billions of tonnes of toxic metals have been mined from the earth and used by humans to make things. They’ve been released into the air, water and soil and hence the food chain and there is a bio-accumulation effect in plants, animals and humans that has reached every corner of the earth. Seals, whales, polar bears and walruses, staples of the Arctic Inuit people’s diet have become deposits for the world’s 12 most toxic chemicals and they are passed on in breast milk. Toxic metals do not degrade into less harmful substances over time.

In the north of Greenland, where twice as many girl babies are being born to Inuit families than boys, scientists have discovered that toxic chemicals in their food are affecting their hormones and affecting the gender of the children being born.

 

We begin accumulating toxins in the womb. The Environmental Working Group in America (www.ewg.org) tested the umbilical cord blood of 10 newborn babies and found nearly 300 chemicals, including BPA, fire retardants, lead, PCBs and pesticides that were banned more than 30 years ago.IMG_4078

What do these heavy metals and chemicals do to our body? The short answer is damage it. They affect various enzyme systems, our excretory organs, liver and kidneys, our nervous, endocrine, immune and digestive systems and may contribute to allergies, chronic viral infections, Alzheimers disease and other neurological conditions like Parkinsons and Multiple Sclerosis. Genetic factors mean people with the same chemical exposure will manifest different symptoms .

Why are some people more affected ? It seems that some of us have a genetic predisposition to not excrete heavy metals and chemicals as well as others.

 

An article in the August Prevention magazine says “’We all have a IMG_3941different genetic ability to detoxify…it is not uncommon to be missing one or two detoxification genes or have a polymorphism (genetic variation) which may affect your ability to detoxify’…says Jan Purser, naturopathic nutritionist and clinical detoxification expert. ‘If someone says to me things like, ‘I can’t have more than a few drinks without getting a bad hangover’, or ‘I feel really unwell if I don’t eat vegetables every day’, I think to myself, ‘I bet they’ve got a polymorphism in their detoxification genes.’ “ .

A hair mineral analysis is one way to get information about the toxic heavy metals you have stored in your body. My hair analysis reveals that I still have high levels of mercIMG_3860ury, lead, arsenic, silver and uranium, despite years of detoxifying. I also used to have high levels of copper and aluminium. They all damage the human body.

The circumstantial evidence is strong that I, like many others, have genetic factors at play in dealing with the increasing amount of toxins we’re exposed to in our everyday lives.

When I was 18 I began going out to clubs with my friends, dancing, drinking, meeting boys and experimenting with this new freedom of being a ‘legal’ adult. One memorable ‘morning after’ saw me being  violently ill up until the next night. My friends who drank a similar amount to me had no significant side effecIMG_4218ts from our night out. Understandably I’ve been a cautious drinker ever since! Even one drink of alcohol can make me feel ill.

The other pointer to me possibly having a genetic pre-disposition to not excrete toxins so well is the fact that my sister Carole, the eldest of my 4 siblings, has also experienced Chronic Fatigue in her life and her daughter Fibromyalgia. When I told Carole earlier this year that I’d worked out the fumigation chemicals on the imported jewellery at work had been affecting my health, she recounted a story that I’d not heard before, which put another piece of the jigsaw in place for me.

She told me that when she worked as the Manager of a shoe store many years ago IMG_3808she became very sick and worked out that it was due to the chemicals used on the leather products. Leather tanning is one of the most toxic industries in the world because of the chemicals involved. She felt sick when she opened the shop door in the morning, as the off-gassed toxins had built up in the air in the shop overnight. It was the onset of many years of debilitating chronic fatigue. I asked her ‘when did you recover?’ and she said, ‘ I don’t think I ever have fully’.

Genetic predispositions to detoxifying may explain why Carole and I have both been affected by toxins in our work environments, whilst others working in the same or similar environments are not. Perhaps genetic pre-dispositions to detoxification may partly explain why some people develop chronic illnesses, from autism to MS and Parkinsons and some do not.

I was fortunate to find a doctor many years ago who diagnosed my illness correctly after one doctor told me my ill health was psychological, a common and distressing occurrence for people with these type of conditionsIMG_4247 and two other doctors shrugged their shoulders, having no idea how to help me.

That doctor explained to me the exponential affect of having multiple heavy metals in the body. Apparently adding one more heavy metal or chemical has the effect of times 10 or times 100 rather than plus 10 or plus 100.  One recent GP who had no understanding of environmental toxins on health said to me ‘Megan we are not taught about this in medical school’.

 

The Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine provides training and education in this field. Anyone looking for a doctor with awareness about these issues can look at a practitioner list on the ACNEM website.

Those of us with genetic issues impacting detoxifying can be considered to be the ‘canary in the coal mine’. Canaries were once regularly used in coal mining as an early warning system. Toxic gases in the mine would kill the bird before affecting the miners. Signs of distress from the bird indicated to the miners that conditions were unsafe. The use of miners’ canaries in British mines was only phased out in 1987.IMG_4158

There are things we can all do to support our body to detoxify, like eating foods that support our liver and support detoxification, including fresh green foods. We can have saunas and take herbs and nutritional supplements. I recovered my health this year, as I did previously, by following a comprehensive and extended detoxification program with a skilled and experienced practitioner and  I recommend getting professional support from a detoxification expert, especially if you have a chronic condition.

There are also ways to limit our exposure to toxins in the first place, like eating organic foods and using chemical free personal and cleaning products. The first step is becoming aware of what chemicals and toxins are in our environment, in products we use or eat and in environments we spend time in. There will be more than you think. You may already know about mercury in dental amalgams and aluminium in dIMG_4079eoderants for example but did you know there is often lead in lipsticks and mercury in eye drops?  Do you cook food in non stick or aluminium pans? We are surrounded by them in our homes and work places.

 

There are many resources available on this topic, one resource on my bookshelf is called Invisible Killers. It is an invisible but very real factor that contributes to a lot of ill health. I’ve learnt to trust my instincts and act on this when the tangible evidence is hard to find and when there is little awareness of these issues amongst medical professionals. When the word ‘neurotoxin’ popped into my mind during a massage earlier this year as my health was declining I listened and acted.

We can all make a positive impact on our own health as well as the health of the world by the consumer choices we make. It’s become much easier to source organic and chemical free products due to higher demand from a more aware populace.  As an Inuit leader said ‘We are the land and the land is us. When our land and animals are poisoned, so are we.’  Awareness is the first step.

There’s Something in the Air

August 29, 2014

There’s something in the air, a turning, a glimmer of newness, I can smell it. I’m feeling the imminent change of seasons, the excitement of Spring is a sniff away.

IMG_1311

It’s the last week of winter and the days and nights are still cool, although not as cool as they’ve been. It’s not just the temperature that’s marking the change. The days are getting longer, my afternoon walks more leisurely. I’m noticing that I don’t having to rush back before darkness descends. In the mornings I’m waking up earlier with the coming of the light. The birds seem more active, more vocal, the rainbow lorikeets screeching and chatting to each other as they feed on the grevilleas, drinking in the nectar. The bees are buzzing around the flowers that are opening more each day. It feels like everything’s beginning to wake up.

 

Winter for me has been an inner time, a time to stop and rest, to reflect, heal and regroup, perfect winter activities. In the last two weeks I’ve been handing over my Office Manager job to someone new,IMG_1504 after over 3 months of working part-time from home. My paid work is now a day by day proposition as I finalise the handover.

In my waking hours I believe that new paid work will come soon and that there is nothing to do but keep focussing on the type of work I want and keep listening and wait for the beat to signal what further action I must take toward it.

 

 

My sleeping hours are sometimes different. I recently had a dream that a typhoon was heading toward me at a fast rate and my anxiety was rising. I was about to be tossed about by a tempest and woke up in a sweat. I told my friend Val about my typhoon dream and she replied in an excited voice, “storms can be exciting!”. That’s true. After a storm has wiped away the old, new life always springs forth. Always. Just because you can’t see what it is yet, doesn’t mean that it won’t come. Val is an optimist and as a trained pessimist who has retrained herself to be an optimist ( in my waking hours!) I know it’s important to focus on what I’d like rather than what I fear.

 

My birthday is this week during the last week of winter. Birthdays and New Year are natural full IMG_1194stops and I find them a perfect time to review what I’ve achieved in the year that has just gone and think about what I want to create in the year ahead. On reflection I realise I’ve achieved a great deal in the year I was 50, including caring for myself well by taking a sabbatical and turning my health around, reconnecting with myself in a deeper way, with the natural world and my passions and finally getting this blog started.

 

So what do I want to create in the year ahead? Twelve years ago I was trained by Kate Ramsay of AnD Leadership Consulting to be a leadership coach and a life vision coach and I learned from that work the power of having a vision. Part of the coaching process is to clarify and describe how your ideal life would look and feel if ‘I have a magic wand’ and there were no obstacles in the way. Bringing to the spoken our deepest wishes, how we’d like our lives to be, helps us navigate our way there. It is a simple and powerful process. I’ve learned that the path to achieving our desired state may take longer than we think and may involve many more steps than we thought, sometimes leading us up unexpected roads. It demands we surrender all that is unlike it.IMG_1459

 

The visioning I did with Kate when I was in my corporate career in 1994 crystallised what was important to me and led me to change everything about my life, from where I worked to where and how I live.

 

What do I want in the year ahead? In the coming year I’d like to invite in resilient and ease-full health. I’d like to become involved in a project that’s IMG_1458making a positive difference in the world and which inspires me. I’d like to be contributing both my skills and ideas and the great people I work with pay me well. In my vision I absolutely love and enjoy what I’m doing and I have a manageable workload that means I’ve time in my life to write and develop my blog, to walk and spend time in nature, spend time with my friends and family and if a lovely man is part of that then that will be a bonus. I dance, sing, play, create, laugh and relax deeply. I love and care and am connected to and support my community. I make choices for the benefit of all and combine with others to remind our politicians about what is important and vital for our grandchildren’s grandchildren and the most vulnerable in society.

 

What about you? What have you achieved in the last 12 months? If you write all of your achievements down, you may be surprised at how many things you can think of. What would you like to bring into your life in the year ahead? Spring is almost sprung. Creating a vision of your ideal life is like sewing seeds. Water it and nurture it and then let go and surrender to the wisdom of life. Listen carefully and you’ll be guided toward it, one step at a time. Maybe that is what I can smell. The scent of new life.

 

In the Forest

August 6, 2014

I went for a walk in the forest. A meandering walk. Not my usual purposeful morning exercise walk. I needed to be with things I heard at the Byron Bay Writers Festival last weekend. I felt stirred up.

A session provocatively titled “The Ocean is Broken” with Tim Flannery and Lisa-ann Gershwin was sobering. I know that we need to hear these tIMG_1001hings and it is not easy to take in all in one go. Our life support system, our ecosystem has been and is being altered by us humans.

Overfishing, chemicals and water temperature increases have changed things and the aquatic ecosystem is becoming more toxic and responding with things like a worldwide overgrowth of jellyfish. Lisa described one species which does not die, it just regenerates and multiplies.

Lisa reported that even if we stopped our human impact immediately it would take 10,000 to 100,000 years to begin to repair and millions more to do so and then it would be to a new ‘normal’, not what once was. We can’t go back to what was.

 

It is not in our hands, it is in the hands of this dynamic living system we live within and are one small IMG_0953part of. An anthropocentric world view, the belief that human beings are the central or most significant species on the planet, has driven unrestrained human development and is based on the illusion that we are somehow in control of nature.  The people who introduced a handful of toxic cane toads to Northern Queensland probably thought they were in control, yet 200 million cane toads prove otherwise.

 

I love saying the word, ‘anthropocentric’ out loud, I like the way it rolls around in the mouth. My other favourite word to say out loud for a similar reason is ‘recalcitrant’ and I think it applies to us humans in this time. The stubborn refusal to obey rules, in this case nature’s laws.

 

When I feel the pain, anger, sadness and helplessness that comes inevitably from facing these issues, I know the best solace is to go and connect with the earth IMG_0951herself and to listen.  I once attended a workshop run by Joanna Macy, whose work centres around needing to feel our feelings about the damage to the earth, to fuel and inspire action, rather than being overwhelmed and immobilised.

 

Joanna described to us the work she did with the people of Novozybkov, a town in Russia, 294 kilometres from the Chernobyl nuclear reactor and only one kilometre from the exclusion zone created after the 1986 disaster. It is a town that had all its wooden homes bulldozed to make way for concrete high rise homes, to get the people off the contaminated ground. They will never be allowed to enter their radioactive forest. They had always been people of the forest and they were grieving.

I felt the grief rise up in me aIMG_0998nd I went outside and lay on the earth under a huge fig tree, under the gaze of Mt Warning and cried for them, for the poisoned earth, for us all.  After a while I began to feel soothed. I am not a religious person and as I lay there some words from a long ago psalm came into my mind. ” He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, he restoreth my soul. ” As I lay there I felt a deep sense of being connected to something much greater than myself.

John Seed has said, “I finally surrendered to the earth. Now I find myself asking for guidance and direction and energy and wisdom from the earth, knowing that I am part of the earth.”

 

As I entered the forest this week it had rained overnight so the ground was damp, the colours deeper. I took my camera along to take a photo for the Breakfast Club Diaries, a Facebook group started locally and now 1000 strong and global. The invitation is to take a snap on your morning walk and post it with the time and location.

In the forest, the damp forest, I smelt the leaf litter, the musty smell of damp decaying leaves returning to thIMG_0935e soil. I saw new shoots beginning their journey upward to the light. The whole cycle of life and death right there. I listened, bells birds calling and responding, taking me back to my childhood and a drive in the family car through another forest. I looked up into the canopy of gumtrees, a grey sky filtering through. I love the grandeur of gumtrees, their majesty.

 

In the forest, the breeze whispered through the foliage. I listened. I began to feel acceptance. Acceptance that what has happened has already happened. We can’t go back. We can only go forward with what is and we all have a part to play in what the future looks like by the choices we make today. What choices will I make ?

In the forest peace finds me.