Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Stopping to start again

My body tells me it is unhappy.  Physically, 2016 does not feel to have got off to the best start for me...  

I have been plagued by several bugs which feel to have got me in their grips one after the other.  Or perhaps I have failed to shake off the original which has lurked within my system.

We are beyond honey and lemon.  I have exhausted my supplies of Echinacea drops and Manuka honey.  

Paracetamol, ibuprofen and decongestant have all been surrendered to.  And now antibiotics have been introduced to the mix.  I must confess to feeling somewhat self piteous.  In all likelihood I have a chest infection.  I only hope it will respond to the prescribed penicillin.

As my GP efficiently signed the script that had only just emerged from the printer, we discussed how long I was to consider myself 'signed off' for.  

As a self employed practitioner I have nobody to give my sick note to, but my doctor knows that its best practice to issue me with one in any event.  The parting sentiment as I left the room was loud and clear:  Healer, heal thyself.

In the circumstances, I cannot fail to acknowledge there really is only so much I can do.  There is something I must do.  And that is rest...  

My experience, strength and hope / Top tips for beating a cold:

Have a bath  the steam is good for irritated nasal passages
Boost your fluid intake  to prevent dehydration and soothe a sore throat, extra fluids will help to thin mucus and reduce the risk of further infection
Use a nasal spray  give your nose some much needed TLC by easing stuffiness, clearing the passages and allowing the mucus to move along (have tissues at the ready!)  Neutral saline sprays are gentler than the medicated variety which can lead to rebound congestion later on
Gargling with salted water  can help to relieve a sore throat and will prevent further infection
Get extra sleep  allowing your body to access its natural immune reserves helps you to heal
Feed your cold  frequent nourishing meals and snacks will help your body to recover
Supplements  Vit. C, Echinacea, Zinc, Garlic can help but are best taken at the very beginning of a cold
Rest up  exercise is probably not a good idea when you're not at your best - it may slow down your recovery, you are at a greater risk of injury and you may pass on the bug to others!

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Disturbingly relevant: The Danish Girl (2015)

The trailer promised great things.  Eddie Redmayne for one.  His performance as Lili Elbe (born Einar Wegener) was masterful.  Set in 1920s Copenhagen, I wonder how much things have really changed?  I felt the film portrayed very accurately the awful cost born by so many of the trans* community as they navigate worlds in which they feel bound to conceal their true selves beneath constructed identities.  

As a therapist who specialises in working with gender issues I have the privilege of supporting gender variant, queer and querying clients who do not fit neatly into the boxes so many quarters of society still seek to prescribe.  

To speak of the challenges this presents hardly does justice to the daily battles being fought that the cisgender majority are unlikely to ever face.  Unless of course, that cis individual is in a relationship with a trans* person...  

This was, for me, what the film spoke to most directly observing with devastating intensity the journey taken by the protagonist's partner Gerda (brilliantly played by Alicia Vikander).  The hostility the couple faced was, at points, almost unbearable to behold.  It is truly appalling to think how accurately the film portrays the experience of so many who turn towards professionals seeking help in 21st century Britain.  

Prejudice still prevails.  Ignorance still abounds.  The deficiency of most medical and therapeutic trainings when it comes to gender and sexuality remains woeful.  The consequences are a tragedy of our time.  

I have personally heard tell some tales which would, were I to have cause to share them, reduce most sentient beings to tears.  I feel like crying when I consider their source - individuals who have fallen prey to so-called professionals who have failed to extend to them even a basic modicum of respect, let alone warmth or empathy. 

The unashamed lack of sensitivity within my own and several other related professions is rife and something I feel duty bound to address.  I have heard all too often how many doors individuals have been obliged to knock on before they feel safe enough to cross the threshold.  Given the very real psychological, emotional and spiritual perils of dysphoria, any delay in accessing help is dangerous.  The staggeringly high suicide attempt rate among the trans* population confirms this.  Perhaps films like The Danish Girl should be recommended viewing for trainees and practitioners alike?

The 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS) found that in the U.S., 41 percent of transgender and gender non-conforming people had attempted suicide, compared to a national average of just 4.6 percent.

Monday, 4 January 2016


I have had a cold since Boxing Day. Having been celebrating my apparently indestructible immune system in the lead up to Christmas, I fell at the first hurdle and have been limping ever since.  My friend and colleague Sarah tripped on New Year's Eve and fractured her fifth metatarsal.  Our workshop could not be better timed...

'Shattered but still whole' has been something of a mantra for me at different times:  the challenges life throws at us can often feel to shatter the bodymind, mindfulness has helped me to remain connected to a sense of wholeness, come what may.

The opportunity to practice alongside others is always a privilege.  Yesterday's workshop which we had given the title 'Let it Begin with Me' at the dawn of the new year was a particular pleasure, and I enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on what we do when we set our intentions - both for our practice and beyond.

Intentions, like seeds, are what we plant, in the service of an eventual yield.  In this way they are concerned with the actualisation of a goal and it is possible therefore to distinguish between a goal and an intention:  Goals, I think, are preceded by intentions.  Intentions can prepare the ground for our goals.

Our intentions stem from our cognitive will, or volition.  A goal may result from this, as a product, but it is the process, I think, that deserves our attention:  this is a crucial cognitive process by which we decide upon and commit to a particular course of action.

The better we can come to know this process, the more likely we are to arrive at a decisions that feel considered which in turn drive actions which might truly feel truly intended.

As animals with this capacity for purposive striving, I feel passionate about expanding my understanding of the process by which we strive, and how we might maximise the purposefulness of that momentum in order to set ourselves moving in directions that are most likely to be beneficial and fulfilling.

I shared with the participants my sense of this 'intention-ing' to act as the mind's 'Chief of Staff', responsible for gathering and coordinating all other mental factors, to achieve a purpose.  Mindfulness, in this way, might be seen as an opportunity for the Chief of Staff to call a meeting during which the mind's agenda might be reviewed and, if necessary, reset.

As we become more mindful, we may in this way become more aligned to our intentions.  In this way, we become better able to gather and direct other mental factors, to optimise and streamline performance.

Thus the energy of intention, much like that of a seed, has the power to manifest results both in the present, and in the future.  As we know, a small seed may in time bring about a huge tree, which may bear a great many fruit.

So, here's to planting our intentions with wisdom and with care...

Think like a tree
Soak up the sun
Affirm life’s magic
Be graceful in the wind
Stand tall after a storm
Feel refreshed when it rains
Grow strong without notice
Be prepared for each season
Provide shelter to strangers
Hang tough through a cold spell
Emerge renewed at the first signs of spring
Stay deeply rooted while reaching for the sky
Be still long enough
To hear your own leaves rustle

- Karen Shragg