May 012016
 

Since becoming a doula and Spiritual Companion I’ve talked about self care with someone almost every day.
I find myself saying the same thing in myriad ways, but it boils down to:

You can’t fill someone’s cup from an empty jug.

A good cup of coffee with some unexpected beauty.

A good cup of coffee with some unexpected beauty.

Lets start with this one because it’s the quickest, and many more people have explained it better than me all over the Internets.  It’s the aeroplane thing – put your own oxygen mask on your face first before trying to help someone else.  It’s the same with oxytocin and endorphins – you’ve got to sort your own out before you can share, otherwise it looks like you’re giving the good stuff on the surface, but actually, it’s not an embodied sensation for you and the receiver will feel the lack – even if they aren’t able to put words to what they’re feeling.  Doulas tend to be pretty good at switching on Oxytocin and Endorphins for their clients – but lets face it; we love them in the moment – that’s our calling – and because we love them, in that moment our endocrine system responds accordingly.

But what happens when we’re home? Alone, exhausted and worn thin with the cares of our lives, our client’s lives?  That’s when you need mad skills to help you shift your soup from cortisol and adrenaline, back to the good stuff so that you can have a good soak.

You are just as important (if not more – but I’ll get into that) as anyone else in your life and on your schedule.

Turn your bathroom into a sanctuary.

This one feeds into the first one.  If you don’t see yourself as important, then no one else will.  Doulas are givers.  We give and give and give – to our clients, our friends, our colleagues, our families, and somewhere, in the shadowy bottoms of that list is ourselves.  This is what I have to say to that, in the gentlest, most loving way: Fuck that noise.  Seriously folks, we are our work.  We are our best asset, and if we don’t care for it properly, eventually the wheels will fall off.  We need to put something back in, we need a service, an MOT, a full on valet.  And just like if you were taking in your car to the mechanics, you need to schedule that stuff and stick to it.

No excuses.  No backsies.  No.  YOU are important.  On your self care days YOU are the priority.  Unless aliens are invading, or the house is literally falling down you are out of service to everyone but yourself that day, that hour, that 15 minutes, that moment.  Self care doesn’t have to take up tons of time, but it does have to be yours, for you.

I don’t know how you will achieve that, or what it looks like for you.  Maybe its a bath with the door locked, maybe its a walk around the block with no one in tow, maybe its a glass of wine and your favourite playlist. Whatever it is – own it.  It’s yours and it matters.

The Guilts are sneaky little bastards.

Lavender smudge - smoke those varmints out if necessary.

Lavender smudge – smoke those varmints out if necessary.

They are.  They sneak up and whisper nasty shit in your ear when you least expect it.  The hardest thing about implementing something like this is The Guilts. The bastard little voices that tell you “You’re too busy for this”, “You don’t deserve it”, “Get off your lazy arse and do something productive”. You have to love yourself enough to say “Fuck you”, consistently. It’s hard. If you can’t keep them in line on your own (which is totally ok, they are a powerful bunch for some of us – me included) appoint a bouncer. A good friend who’ll kick ’em all out if they get rowdy.  Someone to come and roundhouse them right out the door.  A person who will remind you that you are worth it, you need it and it’s necessary.  Exorcise them, however you can – they are not on your side.

There is a special Boss Level Guilt that catches us Doulas out all the time – the Client Guilts.  This is a whole other level of stuff that I’m not going to go into in this post.  We need to put a damn electric fence around our time when it comes to these.  Good boundaries are essential and you need to sink your fence poles early.

I can’t tell you what to do for your self care – it only works if it means something to you.

This is the tricky one – it’s the one where I punt the question right back over the net.  Every day I see posts a bit like this on the forums, groups and face-to-face meetings I’m at:

Self care: What do you do?
I have neglected myself the past few months.
I’m feeling so burnt out.
I have just finished up for a break from births for a few months whilst I do some postnatal and workshops. Last time I opted for a reflexology session but feel I need to do more to rest and re-cooperate than treat myself.
I’m thinking of stopping Doulaing for a while to recharge.

I start by suggesting the usual stuff:

Have a think about committing to something that’s just about you for a week. It could be a mindful walk in the morning, 20 minutes of guided relaxation where you’re a no go zone, it depends on what you like. Then treat yourself at the end of that week. You will be more relaxed and able to sink into whatever it is. Hot stones are quite good for sinking and soaking because they are heavy and help you to release your tension. I’m full of ideas, but it’s hard to suggest when I don’t know what you do already and what you like.

One of my deep soak places is sound healing.

One of my deep soak places is sound healing.

Here’s the tricky bit.  Getting ideas from other people is a great start, but when you’re finally committing to a deep self care practice, that shiz is for life.  It’s not a one time deal.  It’s not a burn – bust – recharge deal either.  That’s not a sustainable option.  Self care has to be conscious, mindful, deliberate, purposeful, intentional and it has to be a PERSONAL, meaningful practice.  A daily commitment to honour the place in you from which your love and energy flows.  A daily desire to shift from an Adrenaline/Cortisol state into Oxytocin/Endorphin one.  You have to do it regularly so your body gets to know what it feels like to be in that groove of care that is focused inward and solely on you.

As a Doula, you will have doubtless heard the phrase “mothering the mother”.  I get that.  Now, here’s one for you: Be a good parent to yourself.  Show your body, mind and spirit what it feels like to have that unconditional love, non-judgemental support, and unwavering focused holding given to it.  Can you do that?  Do you know what it looks like? Do you know what it feels like?

As an SC I’m super proud to be part of the Spiritual Companions Trust and I’d like to share their new project Everyone Cares with you.  There are some simple, free videos on there with techniques you can use to care for yourself.  If you’d like to work on them some more, or reach out for support, that’s what Spiritual Companions do.  They can help you to personalise the practices and encourage you to do them daily in a way that works for you. Give me a shout  if that sounds like something you’d like to explore a bit more with me as I run a one day workshop and 1:1 sessions that can help you get curious and catch hold of what self care and daily connection look like for you.

Apr 192016
 
TheLover

Sketch inspired by illustrations in Caitlin Matthews Celtic Wisdom Tarot

I’m a Healer.  That’s what it says on my business cards.  That’s what everyone calls me.  It’s a catch all for the different modalities I’ve been drawn to over the last 20-some years. But…

I wrestle with that moniker every single day.  See, the thing is, I’m not a Healer.  I don’t heal you, you do.

Your choice to come and see me is where it starts. YOU make the decision to take responsibility for your own wellbeing.  That changes your vibration. That is the beginning of your healing.

Then, together, we decide which healing technique you’d like to engage with – Sound, Reiki, Reiki Drum, Shamanic, Intuitive – and my signature Holistic Alchemy session, where we come up with a special blend of all of them just for you.  The big thing that no-one tells you is that it’s YOU doing the healing, not me. I foster the conditions, the environment, the supportive vibration, the energy – whatever you want to call it, but you do the healing. You do the work, you transmute, you change – I just create the space for you to do it in.

I’ve had some really great results lately – people forgetting to take their regular pain killers because they just don’t hurt all that much any more. People who have chronic pain saying they’ve been able to cope better. Ancestral baggage evaporating in the drying silent tears of sweet agony and loss – transformed by love and a willingness to do the work it takes to heal the big stuff.

This is my work. I want to get down on my hands and knees and be with you whilst you heal the stuff that is weighing you down.  I’m not afraid of the dark.  I’m not precious about getting my hands dirty.  I make space for the light, the love and the truly benevolent energy of the cosmos to fill you up and start to nourish the places in you that are starved for love, blood, endorphins and oxytocin.

And when you leave the sanctuary of the healing space, you leave a little different. Still healing, still doing the work.  YOU. In all of your awesome potential, and in that moment I love you – your courage, your determination.  It’s beautiful and a privilege.

So, I am no healer.  I put my feet on the ground, touch the earth, create sacred space, offer you sanctuary.  And then, in the stillness of my own sanctuary, I go back to trying to find a different word to communicate what it is that I’m doing whilst you’re healing yourself.

Jun 092015
 

kotodamaI had the most beautiful day on Sunday.  In a village hall in Hertfordshire, beautiful energy workers met and spent the day toning and chanting the Reiki Kotodama and other sacred chants.  The space for this gorgeous day was created by Sarah Gregg of Reiki Drum.  I recently took the next step on my Reiki journey with Sarah, becoming a Reiki Master Teacher/Shinpiden. The Kotodama were part of that course and it was an instant kind of love.  I have already incorporated toning into my daily practice, and the kotodama are a powerful addition to that, but they also have begun to play a part in my self healing and are slowly being integrated into my healing work with clients.

Kotodama (spirit of the words) are the sacred sounds used with the traditional Usui Reiki energies.  They are a full body energy experience, you not only bring in the energy as a channel as you would normally during a Reiki session, but you feel the vibration of the word spirit in your body, in your chest, in your throat and head.  When you are fully embodied in your practice, you somehow become more than just a channel for the energy, you become the amplifier, the speaker – an integrated transmission system – and it’s truly awesome.

We spent the day working and playing with the energies, getting to know them, using the sounds in different ways to facilitate huge shifts in ourselves and in each other.  The more I use them, the more I know that I am on the right path with the vocal and sonic element of the healing work that I’m doing.

I have so much love and gratitude in my heart for the teachers who have helped me to put my feet back on this road.  I lost my way there for a while, silenced my voice, and made myself small.  No sound, no waves, no impact.  I get that now.  Thank you, to the wonderful women who are supporting me – my Vixen sisters, My heart-sister and Holistic Goddess, Sarah and Kay, and my doula family.  Thank you to my family, those of blood and of my heart, who continue to love and hold me as this evolution and re-wilding unfolds.

 

Jun 012015
 

11224275_10153446020824047_7090609392954848709_n 
 I just had the pleasure and privilege of spending a long weekend with some amazing women in one of the most beautiful places I have ever known.  Just coming down the steep sloping path, through the arch guarded by a Green Man – my soul exhales a breath I didn’t know it was holding.  The mundane slips away and I am, once again, in the arms of the Mother.  The powerful and benevolent Spirit of Cae Mabon.

I love my yearly retreat.  I cherish the time I spend with my tribe – women who don’t bat an eye when my heart cracks open and  17 years of pain and shame dissolves in the lake of love that these women pour forth.  They just make the space that allows me to soften and lean into the hurt places so that I can cradle and integrate them into my story.  I healed a deep wound this weekend.  I repaired a relationship with myself that I hadn’t realised was damaged.

11350558_10153339008377726_3278157674753491836_n
I had the chance to be creative, to let my spirit dance a little, sing a little, laugh and cry and be nourished.  I have such gratitude to the guardian of that sacred place – She holds so much so gracefully, allowing us to soften and become, to sink into the embrace of the valley and be in a time out of time.

I come home to that place, and now, in my home, on my sofa, I give thanks that I am here.  I have coffee and my cat, a body adorned with henna and my heart so full of love and joy that I almost don’t feel the aches and niggles born of a 6 hour drive.

Today is a day of rest and reflection.  I am beyond grateful.

Apr 202015
 

wpid-img_20150407_103943.jpgSometimes it’s necessary to take a good hard look in the mirror and ask yourself “Am I authentic? Do I Walk my Talk? Am I truly working for the highest good? Am I able to see when I am no longer humble and honest? What are my values – am I embodying them?”

If you can’t get past the first couple it’s seriously time to re-evaluate.

As well as being a compassionate witness to yourself when asking pointy questions about authenticity it is essential to remain kind. Ask these too: “What am I doing to nourish myself? Am I allowing enough space in my life to be in silence? Am I able to feel still? How often am I connecting with the wonder of all that is? Does it feel like I’m doing this enough?” The biggest of these though is: “Do I nurture myself enough to enable me to be authentically present for the people I care about?”

If the answer is no it’s time to re-evaluate.

The photo at the top of the post is from last week when I sat down to my own reflective practice. To ask myself those same hard questions. To offer up my shame, my failures, my truly epic fuck ups and to hold them, cradle and integrate them. I did the work, supported by my drum, by Reiki, by flower essences, by the women of my tribe who hold my dreams and my mojo safe for me while I’m floundering and I came out the other side. Next week I’ll likely do it all again.

Being authentic is about showing up and doing your best. In the words of the brilliant Brené Brown:

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”

Credits:
Bach Flower Box – Healing Herbs
Mini Altar – Tiny Relics on Etsy
Woman Runes – Brigid’s Grove on Etsy
Kuan Yin Oracle – Alana Fairchild
Happiness Spell Candle – DeeLights.co.uk
Tiny Purple Goddess – Goddess Temple Gifts (Gifted by my heart sister Heather of Holistic Goddess)
Reminding me of the brilliant Brené Brown quote – Heather of Holistic Goddess