Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Drugs or Medicines?

Hello lovely people out there in cyberland. This evening's post focusses upon a theme I've found myself pondering many times throughout my life, and for many reasons. Tonight I want to explore the subject of drugs versus medicines. Going beyond semantics, how do we decide what is 'good' and what is 'bad' in this respect, and how does this duality thinking serve us? Who gets to say when a drug is truly a medicine and when a medicine becomes a drug? To look at this we must also explore the things that create addiction, explore value judgements around this, and be bold enough to recognise that when something is used in principle for 'spiritual' reasons, it may not be any more worthy than something used when out of consciousness if the root of the 'addiction' remains in place and a person remains unable to integrate the teachings or lessons learned upon their journey, to create for themselves a better life, a life lived with improved and sustainable wellbeing.

I disagree with some of the statement above - often we bypass the pleasure phase and head straight for avoidance of the pain, only not in relation to the substance, more in relation to the issue at hand that we may not be wanting to feel in the first place. However many substances or actions can indeed be pleasurable in their repetition, at least until (or if) they begin to create chaos, hurt or pain for us, and others around us. That doesn't have to be just drugs, it can be work, sex, alcohol, or specific behaviours we can't break free from that create legacies of pain and suffering in our lives.

CONFESSION TIME! As a former heroin addict I spent many years locked in extremely destructive and painful cycles of addiction, withdrawal, and re-addiction. I spent money, time, and heartfelt reservoirs of faith and hope trying one way or another to cure myself of my opiate dependency, always unsuccessfully, until one day I hit rock bottom and found the dregs of some tattered life belt beckoning me to an untrusted shore, that of sobriety. I didn't at this point want to be clean on some levels though, because in the stark reality of 'clean and serene' lived the demons I had been avoiding, and they were clearly not going to want to be scrutinised too hard, otherwise I would have done so long before hitting desperation. And so for a while, the following was true….

I saw friends die from overdoses on shit drugs or because they had tried to get clean, failed and then given themselves too much of what they could cope with when in the full flow of their dependency. It was tragic; good souls striving to get well, more often striving to get drugs, dying in trying. I lost money, family, friends, homes, belongings and self respect. I gained remarkable resilience, resourcefulness and wisdom, but only once clean was I able to access most of those gifts. Anyhow, this is just the story, it was a long time ago now and it does not define me, but it certainly makes me think! And why does it make me think? Well, because eighteen months ago I began another quest of exploration using psychotropic plants to enter the deeper levels of my psyche that still remained locked in old pains and patterns. Although no longer being anaesthetised by opiates, these patterns still somehow limited me, and I was ready to break free. Enter the frame Ayahuasca, San Pedro and Iboga. (*inclusion of these sites is not necessarily an endorsement of their content - please trust your own information finding resources)

These teacher plants as I refer to them, hold truly remarkable abilities to transform consciousness and open gateways to new ways of seeing what are in principle old ways of being. Working with them intensively over the last phase of my life has unlocked so many gifts, blessings and teachings. I can never express how much gratitude I have for the fact they called loud enough and long enough for me to pay attention.

By some freakishly synchronistic series of events, starting with a random book written by the wonderful Rebekah Shaman, which was left on a table beside me at a festival (nobody knew how it got there), a flier for an 'Eagle Condor' ceremony left in my healing centre (nobody knew how it got there), and a chance meeting, I found myself suddenly tuned into a very different matrix. They say when she calls, she calls, and when the time is right, you just know. Fearful (actually make that a little bit terrified!) and curious at the same time, I certainly knew on some deep embodied level that I was about to embark on some serious soul searching, and that Mama Ayahuasca was the doorway through which I would access these lessons. I'm not going to lie, I was afraid that my demons would consume me, that they were far bigger than I and that they would simply annihilate me and undo all of the good work I'd put into place in getting well and staying well, but I also knew on a deeper level that this couldn't be true for those demons could only ever be a part of me and never the totality of me.

I can honestly say that this journey has been the most liberating of my life in terms of my soul evolution, life lessons and life-purpose focus. That said, I see as many opportunities for 'addiction' within the sacred and spiritual plant based explorations as I do with those used less mindfully; it's not something to take lightly or be cavalier about. Ayahuasca, a South American vine, has taken me to some truly painful, dark places. It's torn down my ego and left me in tatters, and it's slapped me hard around the head when I've been a little less respectful of her potency. Through all of this she has also brought me deep healing. San Pedro, a South American cactus, has been a cruel teacher; hard and unforgiving at times, he has also shone light on that which is lurking in the dark, and for me, going to meet what is often referred to as the 'Grandfather' is never something I will take lightly or make assumptions about beforehand. Iboga, an African root, has changed me deeply. That's all I can say about that for now.

But what of these distinctions? What of those who maintain those addictions we would normally refer to as 'drug addictions' without them causing too much chaos over the years? I know people who do so to some level, although I admit they are rare, at least in my experience that is. And what of those who are addicted to these beautiful plant teacher spirits and who approach them in the same manner of questing for an altered state that just further avoids their own ability to just be with themselves? Does this medicine then become a drug? And what of those people using some drugs as medicines and creating stability and real health for themselves with them. Is that even possible? Personally I'm not a fan of synthesised 'drugs' and medications, whether prescribed by the doctor or sold by the dealer, I just don't trust them!

These days I'm as clean as I've ever been and I'm not talking about clean from medicines, drugs or anything else here, I'm talking about food, nutrition, attitude, lifestyle, mindfulness, love, self love and more. At the risk of sounding self righteous, I haven't drunk alcohol for almost a year, not because I'm trying to, but because I don't want to and because my body can't process it any more! I gave up sugar and wheat at the same time, and I'm currently on Raw till 4 (a raw vegan foodie concept of eating only fresh, uncooked and unprocessed foods until 4pm every day to give the body and digestive system a rest).  To some this will sound like I'm whipping myself with the denial of pleasure but to me, the pleasure is now well and truly rooted in the sense of health, energy and vitality I feel increasing in me with every single day.

I very recently discovered on my shamanic training, that it is equally possible to enter cathartic and transformative states without the use of any psychotropics at all! This powerful understanding further deepens my commitment to the power of intention and the conscious development of the human spirit and soul. And what is this all for? Not to create further separation but to remember the oneness of life, the absolute truth that everything is connected and everything grows through love and self actualisation and never through fear, ignorance and denial. To discover where true freedom lies and to take root there, to stake my flag on the summit of joy that I know is there, ever accessible, ever present. All I have to do is open my eyes and remember.

Aho Mitakuye Oyasin! (For All Our Relations)

Monday, 26 January 2015

Eating As A Spiritual Act

Today's blog post deviates from the more recent sexuality and intimacy type postings, moving instead towards another of my main areas of work in this world, juicing and physical wellbeing. I've been an avid juicer for over 20 years now, and during that time I have really felt my love, passion and interest in it evolve and grow into whole new ways of thinking about how, and with what we nourish ourselves.

To me, nourishment is a profound concept that reaches way beyond food, however I also believe that we need an essentially 'clean' diet in order to be able to truly receive nourishment on every level.

When we eat refined, processed and energetically heavy foods laden with (refined) sugars, antibiotics, growth hormones, and other additives that contribute to the creation of dis-ease, and when we eat foods raised and created from a lack of awareness of what health really means and how to attain it, then we are literally digesting the sickness that is inherent in that way of producing and consuming our food. 

In life, we are ever faced with choices; crossroads appear at every junction! We choose which path, often with hesitation, sometimes with clarity and focus, but choose we must. Sometimes in choosing the 'wrong' path and deviating from our true natures, we actually come to learn the most, for how can one know light when one has never experienced darkness? Yet we also need to remember how to return to light and truly clean up our acts. For me, eating is a spiritual declaration! 

This weekend whilst away, someone commented on the food some of us were eating; food free from wheat, sugar, refined process, several mentioned that it looked 'boring' to them, and I know this is true for many, just as it was once true for me. These days, my taste buds have changed and this kind of living food really supports and nourishes me so deeply that it excites me, it thrills me, it expands my potential and it is the other kind of food that to me makes me go "yuk no thanks!"or "that looks boring" - if it doesn't make my cells dance, I'm not partnering up with it! 

It interests me that so often people choosing additive free, compassionate and healthy diets still find themselves forced to justify their/our choices. I guess it comes from the same place and is not so different to when people opt out of mainstream education, finances, housing and health etc…the world wants to know 'why'? And so nowadays I will happily engage in conversations about this. In fact, I love being an ambassador for health by being a model of it rather than a preacher for it! 

On my shamanic training this weekend just gone, we also came to discuss eating meat and the difference between the old ways of hunting and eating, giving thanks and offerings to the spirit of the animal who had given their life for the food of the tribe, using every part of the animal for clothing, food, construction, even weapons for more hunting, against the over packaged mindless consumption of factory farmed meat that is so prevalent in so many of our cultures now. Personally I have chosen to stop eating meat, but I've also chosen to stop eating any food that is processed and refined, chemically treated and created from a place of lack, over spirit and soul. I also accept that everyone is on their own path and has to make up their own mind about what feels good and what doesn't, but how do we distinguish addiction and habit from genuine body need and healthful choice? 

Starting with the above statement, we can begin to truly empower ourselves to wellness. If food is healthcare then we must choose healthy food right, otherwise food simply becomes another layer of sickness? I juice daily now and without it I miss it massively and notice the difference regular juicing makes to my energy levels and all round health. That said, I also drink lots of water, exercise regularly and eat clean too, knowing that any one of these things does not really bring health on its own,  and we all need a helping hand, yes? Don't be put off though! Exercise doesn't mean 5 times a week in the gym, it can be as simple as a 20 minute walk in nature twice a week. Move your body and watch your energy respond. I can be the laziest person ever in some ways, so again I know it can seem an intimidating thought making all of these changes, and yet I've done it in the most accessible and smooth manner I could have imagined and it no longer feels like effort, it feels fun, it feels easy and most importantly, it feels nourishing!

Read Charles Eisenstein on food, watch David Wolfe on super foods and health, look up Jay Kordich on juicing and perhaps get some Eckhart Tolle on mindfulness and you'll be off to a great start.

Live the life you were meant to live with unlimited potential and health! Eat well! Nourish your soul!

Monday, 5 January 2015

Save Us From Saviours!

Today, Miss Claudia's attention has been caught by this short film made by the Indian organisation VAMP. This opening statement caught my eye and captivated my mind:

"Over the years, we have become “commercial sex workers” from “common prostitutes”, debates are held about us and we are discussed in documents, covenants and declarations. The problem is that when we try to inform the arguments, our stories are disbelieved and we are treated as if we cannot comprehend our own lives. Thus we are either romanticised or victimised – or worse, our reality gets buried and distorted."

There are many organisations world over doing a lot of great work to empower sex workers, whether those involved in the industry be men, women, transgender (or other self-determined) people, and I am so grateful for their voices. Their voices halt the violence and begin the work in undoing negative harmful perceptions which in turn lead to negative harmful working conditions. Their voices help to stop the real 'wrong's in sex work by focussing on the 'rights' of those consenting adults involved in the work.

Today, my blog post is simply an invitation to watch this short video and consider social change led by inclusion in debate and policy, and community based group empowerment as the creators of real health and wellbeing. I was writing about this in 1999! How we can change the attitudes that create, or increase the risk of violence towards sex workers? Almost 20 years later and we are still working to change these old moral value based judgements. We can LISTEN! to those in the business before creating laws, policies and judgements. We can LEARN from the very real effects of reducing the harm to those coerced, underage or migrant workers not in a place of choice, and we can RESPECT the work done towards creating equal rights for every human being. Please.

What are your thoughts?

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Breaking Free!

This evening's post comes to you by the magic of a full moon in the watery sign of cancer, realm of the emotions. When we start to live by moon cycles and cycles of the year, strange things begin to happen. We may find that we are more in tune with our instincts, our intuition grows sharper, and we understand our own personal rhythms more, knowing when to expend energy and when to conserve it. Life is based upon patterns and cycles and these are reflected in all of nature and all of creation. We are driven by the repeating cycles of the sun and the moon, the tides and the seasons; everything in motion in the magnificent orchestration of LIFE!

Nature has a habit of breaking free from constraints, just watch any of those programmes about a brand new seed forcing it's way through the hard earth, a tree root cracking a building or a plant breaking through concrete; if left to its own devices, nature will not be tethered for long.

On new year's day this year I read a blog post by a woman I greatly admire called Maggie McNeil. Maggie's Honest Courtesan blog has run for years and her commitment and intellect are pretty damn impressive. She writes daily, did you get that? DAILY! Using her voice to shine light on primarily sex work activism and key issues in this area, Maggie's posts are also beautiful reflections on life.

When I read her New Year post about transitionary periods in life, I was genuinely touched by what Maggie had written about how painful her 'coming out' process was. As a former sex worker with a strong academic background, she acknowledged that the lack of a voice being given as an outlet for the expression of her truth, was restricting her beyond the point of comfort. Maggie was in the metamorphic stage of break-out, facing the unknown but feeling the inevitable.

I was lucky enough to meet Maggie last year in Las Vegas for a conference at which we both spoke; Desiree Alliance's - 'The Audacity of Health: Sex Work Health and Politics'. I will never forget hanging out in the pool with her at the welcome party just chatting about life, our experiences, our boobs (!!) and putting the world to rights on a balmy evening surrounded, as is usual at these events, by many of the most colourful, wonderful people I've been graced to meet in my life, hookers!

Maggie's post addressed her coming out process. In moving from hiding large aspects of herself and her life, towards radical openness, she acknowledges the occasional wish to return to the safety of the comfort zone created by her former secrecy, but far more recognises the freedom in her revelations. It got me to thinking about how and why we hide so much of ourselves in life, often creating a world full of people anaesthetising themselves one way or another, usually with addictions or medications, because they feel unable to simply be themselves and be okay with that. How sad that is.

We all have a past, we all have stories to tell, experience to share, and we all have to find comfortable ways to inhabit these human frames in which we live. This moon is all about releasing old emotional patterns and ties; what would it take to liberate any remaining hidden aspects of yourself and to truly let yourself just be, exactly as you are and exactly as you wish to be? Why do you make decisions to censor yourself? I know for me, many decisions I make are prudent ones based upon the feelings and considerations of people I love, mainly my children. Adults can meet me in my radical honesty and make their own minds up, but kids can be cruel to one another and without the life skills to manage that cruelty, that's tough. 

I am aware of the difference between a fear based 'secret' and a discernment based choice, but it's not always easy to make the call to freedom and truth. Why not sit tonight with the moon in her radiance, and dream a little upon what parts of you, you are hiding and see if there's any small risk you can take somehow to be just that little bit more authentically you. What old patterns are ready to be released so that your true essence can break free, and do you even know what that would look like or feel like?

There is no shame in truth when we speak with an honest and compassionate heart. Me, I've walked a crooked path in my time and there has been much healing to do, but I was born in purity and I will die in purity too. What I do with the bit in between is entirely my choice, and my greatest hope is that whatever those choices are, they will somehow, in some way, make this world a little better for my children, their children, and their children's children. 

From what will you break free today? Let yourself be light of your burdens, for every bit lighter you are, you offer that knowledge and understanding to another, and therein lies the essence of true healing. 

Friday, 2 January 2015

New Year; New Ways

"Keep on doing what you've always done and you'll always get what you've always got."

It's 2015. What, if anything, does this mean to you? Do you step into the New Year full of resolve, full of  'resolutions' to change things, full of longing to be different somehow than you were yesterday, or last week, or last month?

Being a pagan witchy kind of a woman, I must admit that for me, new year always feels as if it falls both on November after the deep riches of Samhain releasing, or on Winter Solstice with the return of the light. "Happy new Gregorian calendar" is more like it on January 1st. That said, there is definitely something in the collective consciousness that takes us a little deeper into setting our intentions for our year to come.

So why do we make resolutions that suggest the rest of the year we are falling out of awareness of our deepest desires, soul longings and spirit callings? Being human is complicated! There is a mass seduction going on out there via television, the media and other influential corporations and institutions that can make it easy for us to fall into a kind of deep, somnambulant, and hypnotic paralysis. We forget! We lose the clarity of these visions, we lose sight of our dreams and our intentions as we became caught in old habits and patterns, busy-ness and the fast pace at which so many of us live these days. 

The old ways taught us how to come regularly back into connection with our remembering - by working closely with the cycles of nature, change and transformation we're ever present in our lives. Nature echoes life, life echoes nature. We are not born into technology, we are born into presence, pure and simple presence. 

So what does it mean that once a year, we all get into a resolute place of "I WILL CHANGE THESE THINGS"? Working with the cycles of nature, the moon and my own inner landscape means I am increasingly aware when I'm out of alignment, and when this is so, I tend to find that I am easily tripped up, engage more readily in tensions and conflict, disagreement or upset and forget the simple basic truth that we are all connected. Everything changes if we use our conscious mind to 'change thought change direction' or 'change energy, change pattern' as we sometimes say in tantra. 

2014 was a year of transformation for me, largely revolving around intimacy, relationship and love and all that this means. Whether that be with family, partners, friends or my relationship with my self, transformation was definitely key. 

Now the thing with transformation is that it is endless in its possibility; like the oroborus eating its own tail and eternally self replicating, we move through time in an infinite loop of possibilities all of which lead us with certainty back to the same place - US! 

Yes! There's no getting away from it, all roads lead back to the self, so we may as well find ways to love ourselves, to love our lives and create the things we dream of right? The top five regrets of the dying are listed as:

1) I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2) I wish I hadn't worked so hard.

3) I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

4) I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5) I wish that I had let myself be happier.

My mother's death in May of this year brought many of these into sharp focus. My throat chakra opened as I found the balls to speak out more in the areas I found challenging (intimate relationships). My habit of over working began to slow down….that's a work in progress but it is shifting. I've never really lived doing what others expect of me so my work therefore lies in dealing with the consequences of other people's projections around where they perceive my failings to be if I don't live the life they expect, and around other people's values being in conflict with my own in this case. Then, the lesson lies in finding peaceful resolution. I'm definitely carving out more committed time for friends and activities that nourish me this year, and without doubt, playfulness, lightness and humour and summoned to the party! 

So, if you're the kind of person who comes to January loaded with resolutions, or if you're more like me and your intentions move with you around the cycle of the year, in either case, let it be more than lip service we pay to our deepest soul longings. Let our spirits manifest their deepest, truest expression of self in this coming year. What are YOU going to do about that? 

In the words of Star Trek's Picard, let's not faff about…just make it so!