| February |

Sea waves and Currents, Wilhemina Barns-Graham

Who am I and what do I want?
What lights me up and what would I fight for?
What makes me different from those around me 
and how do I revel in this individuality?
Is there a space where I can become anonymous?
How does that anonymity sit with me?

We don’t ask ourselves the difficult questions.
We resist surrender into total self-expression.
We have begun to think as a group
Politically, socially, morally.
Individual stances are seen as extreme
and dangerous.
So we reject them.
Or simply retreat from them.

Consciously or unconsciously
most of us are allowing ourselves to live
in a space of complete dependency.
We value objects, other people, and motivations
above ourselves.
We have depleted our self worth.
We have forgotten how to be strong.
Not fierce. Not righteous. 
But strong within ourselves.
Strong in faith. In love. In life. 


I have harboured a dislike of talk about “self-love”. Mainly because I felt it was a term denoting a slightly wishy-washy and self-indulgent means of finding a spiritual practice, or lifestyle practices, that required the least effort or uprooting of daily life. Having said that, it is undeniable that there is a modern day epidemic of people feeling lesser, not good enough, or, for lack of a better phrase, not dwelling in a space of ‘self-love’. We have become a society of exhibitionists - feeling the need to publicise every small act of our daily lives from what we ate for breakfast to the funny looking dog we walked passed on the way to work - in a bid to find some sort of approval or validation that we no longer seem capable of providing for ourselves.


I prefer the term “self-sufficiency”. Whilst I want to be careful not to fall into another semantic deliniation, I feel there is a lot more substance to “self-sufficiency”. Perhaps this term will automatically have ties to ideas of food and fuel production, homesteading, and other environmental schemes. Whilst “self-sufficiency” does encompass all these practices, for me it has a much broader, and often much more subtle scope. To be self sufficient. To be sufficient within oneself. Not to be lacking or found wanting of any external matter.

To be sufficient within myself means that I am not reliant upon any external source to validate who I am or what I do. I do not need objects/things/people to make me whole. Self-sufficiency is the underlying knowledge that everything you need is already inside of you - perhaps hidden beneath layers of illusions or distractions, but there nevertheless, waiting for the layers to be stripped away to reveal your Self in its true authenticity. Self sufficiency denotes a self-confidence and sense of security that many of us lack in certain areas of our lives. It is our ability to stand tall even when elements of our material lives may crumble around us. It is the determination and self-belief that gets us through the ups and the downs - the breakups, the redundancies, the losses and the gains. 

The knowledge that we are complete within ourselves also makes for much healthier relationships. As soon as we rid ourselves of the notion that our relationships define or fulfill us in some way, we open ourselves up to deepening the bonds we have. Expectation breeds disappointment and dissatisfaction, and this can be very clear within relationships were we rely upon or expect certain things from our friend/partner. Once we are comfortable in the knowledge that we do not NEED anyone else to complete us, our close relationships, whether they be with a friend or a lover, become a bonus - an added layer to encourage more joy and commitment within our lives, that comes from a healthy and grounded place. When we are no longer placing pressure upon our relationships to bring us security or validation, we can become more at ease and make way for something deeper. This lack of total reliance upon the other person does not make the love any less profound. On the contrary, the love becomes even more meaningful, because rather than being a symbol of necessity, or a sign that we need someone else to love us as we cannot love ourselves, the love stands of its own accord. Co-dependency is toxic as it leaves us feeling constantly ill-at-ease. It is a paralysing system demonstating the giving in to fear and debilitating lack of self-worth.

“He who has no attachments can really love others,
for his love is pure and divine.”
- Bhagavad Gita

Emotional Landscape: Fear

What stops us from being self-sufficient? What is the energy that keeps us dependent and attached? Most likely it is fear. Nearly all of us is haunted by some sort of fear. Each person’s fear will take on a different persona, but fear inhibits us nonetheless. However, fear is not always deserving of the bad reputation it has. It is the most primal of all of the emotions because it is intimately linked to our survival. It is an instinctual response to a need for self-preservation. Whilst it may feel unpleasant, it is an essential part of the emotional matrix, both for human- and animal-kind. Fear is one of the main things that has kept our species alive and thriving - by giving us the determination and steadfastness to take appropriate action to avoid danger. 

Fear only becomes a problem in our lives when it becomes lodged inside the body. This undischarged energy attempts to organise itself and often this manifests into symptoms such as anxiety, phobia, rage, hatred, and shame. When we aren’t able to let go of our fears that do not serve us for means of survival, they become negative emotions. The negative emotions associate so closely with our life energy that sometimes it is difficult for us to differentiate between the two. What we really need to do is to release the negative emotions, however this process of release can be so terrifying in itself, that many of us choose instead to supress the negative emotions, or to release them incompletely.

The Taoist sage Chuajng Tzu saw the emotions as powerful winds that blow like the breath of the universe, whilst the human beings are like the trees blowing in said wind. As the trees blow their branches creek and hollows produce music. But once the wind has passed through, stillness and peace are restored. The effects of the wind are short-lived and do not remain. However, when the wind of fear blows through us and we do not settle after it has passed, the fear sinks like cold water and pools up in the kidneys. This diminishes our life-force, or Qi (TCM) /Prāna (Āyurveda), and causes feelings of fatigue and depletion as well as reducing our grasp of the powerful qualities of Water such as resolve, determination, and resiliance. Once we find ourselves in this position, fear becomes the lens through which we interpret our experiences and we allow fear to become the guiding principle in our life.

When we are residing in a space of fear, it is likely that we have lost our sense of Basic Trust and lost our connection to the ground that supports us, leaving us feeling unstable. Practicing grounding techniques, such as those I suggested in the January Journal (HERE), can help us to restore a fundamental level of Basic Trust and feel confident that we are held and supported by the ground beneath us. We can begin to shift out of survival behaviour and reconnect with our inner resiliancy and self-sufficiency. The process of stepping out of fear is a long one and there will be inevitable set-backs, but it is an essential part of the road to holistic wellness. There are many practices we can utilise to work towards self-sufficiency, and I will endeavor to outline these below.

Our goal is to find balance and restore internal equilibrium - to create a stable internal environment. February is the light at the end of the tunnel of a long dark winter. It is the month of love and the time for us to begin setting our sights on emerging Spring. A prime time, therefore, to shed ourselves of any inhibiting beliefs or practices, to enter into a space of self-sufficiency in readiness to flourish and pursue our goals in the spring. But before we can liberate ourselves from our self imposed shackles of fear and dependency, we first must learn to recognise the factors contributing to these thought patterns. This requires a special type of sight. 

St. Valentine’s Day: The Gift of Sight

A common tale of St. Valentine within the Catholic Church takes place when he was under house arrest in the home of Judge Asterius. During a religious debate with the judge, Valentine pleaded the validity of Jesus Christ. The judge immediately put his faith to the test and swore that if Valentine could restore sight to his blind daughter he would surrender himself unto Valentine and follow all his religious instruction. Valentine placed his hands over the child’s eyes and at once her vision was restored. Judge Asterius, humbled and amazed, gladly obeyed Valentine’s instruction that he and his entire family give up the false idols they were worshipping and take up the tenents of Christianity from that day forward.

The importance of this story lies in St Valentine’s gift of sight. Not solely the physical sight he restored to the child but the spiritual sight he provided for the Judge. He gave him the vision to see beyond the material and accept the spiritual. He opened the Judge’s eyes to the illusiory lustre of his material attachments and enlightened him to a higher cause.

Our modern life is overrun by ‘false idols’. We have become reliant upon material objects to fulfill us or to give our lives meaning. We have blinded ourselves to the things that are truly important. St Valentine’s day is a day revering love. We have taken this to mean the transitory, and often lust dominated, love we feel towards one another. But the lessons of St Valentine suggest that really the love we ought to be celebrating is the love of the Divine. The unconditional love that the God has for His children, even though we may be forgetful of Him. The love that resides within each of us, consciously or unconsciously, that defines us as individuals and makes us who we are. The love that gives us the ability to care for one another and to care for ourselves. The love that makes us sufficient within ourselves. 

Meditation: Anahata Chakra ~ Heart Expansion

Many of us carry weight on our chests. Many of you may think this is a metaphor, but once you begin to draw your attention to the heart centre and take deep breaths, you may find that there is a physical weight sitting there. This is usually a result of stress, greif, or simly the weight of responsibility. Part of the ‘lack of self-worth epidemic’ is that we aren’t living to our fullest. In most aspects of our lives. Not just in terms of fulfilling our greatest potential in a career or family situation. But even within the body. Most of us don’t even breath to a quarter of our full capacity. We regularly use only a tiny percentage of our brains. And we have many very under-developed (or even unrecognised) muscle groups because our movement is very restricted. The same applies to the expansion of the heart. We naturally all have a propensity to protect our hearts from being hurt, both emotionally and physically, from a primal survivalist mentality. We become stiff through the shoulders and have a tendancy to hunch - not only due to lifestyle practices giving us bad posture, but also because many of us literally lack the self-confidence to stand tall with our chests forward. Whilst for women this often happens around puberty as we become self-conscious of our developing body, the same applies for men and women who suffer low self-worth. By breathing into the heart space and using meditative visualisation techniques to understand how to open and close our heart chakra, we take power back into our own bodies and re-program the mind to be more confident and lead from our hearts. 

Practice... || Take a comfortable seat, preferably with your hips raised slightly above the knees - this may mean sitting on the edge of a cushion if you are cross-legged on the floor. Make sure that you are sitting on something warm, perhaps placing a blanket beneath you. Taking several deep breaths eventually come to close down the eyes and feel the weight of the body into the earth or seat. As you breath in and out through the nose, take a slow scan of the body from head to toe, lingering in any areas where you run into tension, whether this be physical tension or emotional blockage. Take time to breath into these areas, using the inhale to expand, and the exhale to move into the new space. You may like to use the body scan technique I mentioned in last months journal - imagine water slowly pouring from above your head, running over each of your limbs and removing tension and stagnation as it flows.
|| Once you have completed this excercise, focus on where the body connects to the ground through the sit bones. Feel the weight of the body as it sinks down and is held by the earth beneath you. Take a few minutes to feel into this support. Once you are established in this connection, use a deep inhale to draw the healing energy of the earth upwards through the spine and into the heart space. Retain the breath at the top of the inhale for as long as is comfortable and feel the expansion of the heart space. You may feel called to place one or both hands over the heart space during this practice, or keep the palms of the hands on the thighs. When you are ready, allow a long exhale out through the mouth to melt any weight that you have been carrying in this space. Feel the weight dissipate as the exhale rolls back down the ground at the base of the spine. Continue with this breathing until you have completed 8 rounds.
|| Visualise a flame in the heart space. Depending on your energy or mood this flame may be weak or may be strong. You may notice it change from day to day. As you inhale, witness the flame growing brighter and feel a warmth residing in the space. As you exhale through the nose (engaging ujjayi breath if you are so called) visualise the light and feel the warmth spread wider across the rib cage. The inhale sees the flame in the heartspace intensify further, and with the exhale the light and warmth is spread even further. Continue with this practice gaining in light, warmth and breadth until whole body is bathed in a warm glow, emanating from the heart space. This may take anywhere from 15 - 30 rounds of breath. Deepen the breath even more as you begin to extend the rays of light and heat beyond the boundaries of the body to eventually fill the room, the whole building, and the land beyond. Feel the power radiating from this one humble point in the heart space. Revel in this light. The slowly, using the breath, begin to draw the light back in. Draw the warmth back in. Bit by bit, until all the energy is contained in the single flame situated in the heart space. Bring your hands to rest in this space if they are not already. Honour the flame that sits here and be grateful in the knowledge that no one has the ability to extinguish this flame. No one can touch it. You are self-sustaining and self-dependant. Once you have acknowledged your self-worth, allow a deep inhale to fill you up, and a sigh through the mouth to release the practice. 

Prānāyāma: Bhramari (bumblebee breath)

This very soothing breath is calming for the nervous system and helps the practitioner to connect more deeply with themselves. It involves a passive activation of the throat, that not only bolsters the health of the throat, but it strengthens and improves the voice. Whether or not you consider yourself a shy person, or however difficult you find speaking publically, by strengthing our voice we are actively encouraging the development of our sense of self-worth. The vibrations created in the back of the throat help to release tension and anxiety that might be trapped within the body and mind, dissipating feelings of anger, and lowering blood pressure.

Practice... Find a comfortable seat either cross legged on the floor or sitting upright on a chair with feet flat on the floor. Grow long through the spine, rooting the sitting bones and rolling the shoulders back. Slightly tuck the chin, as though you were holding onto a tennis ball, and find jalandhara bhanda (throat lock) if you are familiar with it. Come to close down the eyes and softly bring the lips to touching with the teeth apart. Bring the tip of the tongue to space behind the upper front teeth. Maintain this posture throughout the practice, checking back in regularly to ensure you aren’t holding any tension in the jaw.

Raising the arms, bring the thumbs to rest at the centre of the ear. The index fingers come to rest just above the centre of the brows. The rest of the fingers can rest lightly over the eyes and against the bridge of the nose. The fingers should only be touching the eyelids very softly. To begin, take a deep breath in through the nose, filling up through the belly, diaphram, and chest. Dropping the chin, begin a slow exhale through the nose, making a low pitched humming sound in the back if the throat (like a bumblebee!). The positioning of the tongue allows for the vibration of the breath to resonate through the head, stimulating the tissues of the brain. By keeping the body still and drawing your full awareness to the third eye point (ajna chakra) you can allow the sound and vibration to permeate throughout the body and bring calmness and clarity to the mind. This practice can be continued on for as long as feels comfortable. To begin with, take a pause every 10 breathes or so to establish where the body is situated. If there is any dizziness or light-headedness then finish up the practice by taking several deeps breaths before returning to normal unforced breathing. Otherwise you may continue with the practice for 10-15mins.

Advanced pracitioners of prānāyāma may like to play with variations such as khumbaka (breath retention), bhandas (muscular locks), or humming on the inhalation as well as exhalation, as in ujjayi.

Practice: Journalling

This practice is really about finding your form of intimate self-expression. So whether your journal looks like a book of doodles or elaborate penmanship is beside the point. Making time on a daily basis to set into words or images your thoughts and feeling can lead to much deeper understanding of the inner workings of the subconscious. In order to digest experience, heal old wounds, and step fully into a space of intuative self worth, it is integral that we come to a place of understanding with the mind and body. On a basic level, writing a journal offers us an ideal opportunity to track shifts in our day to day life, from the physical to the subtle. 

We often find that when we are consumed by fears, or have very low self-worth, we limit our ability to dream. To dream about the future, to be inspired and passionate. Whilst it is important that we remain grounded and don’t lose ourselves in plans and future speculation, it is important that we don’t cut ourselves off from ambition and an understanding of what our real desires are in life. Not the transitory desires that come and go, but the areas deep inside ourselves that need expressing. Journalling is a means of conversing with yourself. At times you will be playful, and other times grave. Such is the cycle of the pysche. And we must allow these moods to come and go. To play themselves out and then move on.  Sadly it had become the norm that upon reaching adulthood, the majority of us don’t know what our mission is. What we are here to do. What our unique offering to the world is. And whilst it is okay to be in a space of unknowing - honestly, it is fine! - one of the reasons we feel so lost is because we haven’t taken the time to get to know ourselves intimately. We are so inundated by images of other peoples lives and opinions, and socially constructed ideas of ‘success’ that we often neglect to explore our life desires, passions and goals. 

Your journal is also a private place. Confidential and safe. It is here where you can explore the complex emotions that run through the body and mind on a moment to moment basis. You may find that when you begin your journalling journey you struggle to come up with content. You feel you have nothing of worth to write or you come up with 100 other chores that you feel need completing before you can give yourself this time. But making the time for yourself is one of the main points of the exercise. Sometimes having questions to answer can give your journalling some direction. Perhaps this month you can work with the questions at the very beginning of this journal. These questions may take serveral days to answer. Or your answers may change and develop as the weeks move on. You may come up with new questions, or areas of inspiration, internal dialogue, or emotional mapping that you’d like to explore. And on days when you really can’t think of the words to say, simply describe the weather, the carpet on the floor, the socks you are wearing. Whatever it is, be descriptive and detailed. Think about how you respond emotionally and physically to each object or situation you are describing. But do so without attempting to analyse yourself. Just simply learn to recognise the things that light you up and the things that don’t. Our minds and body’s give us so many clues as to what our Truth is, if only we allow them the avenues to communicate with us. 

Commitment: Media Detox

Social media is an edpidemic. Almost everyone has some sort of digital attachment - whether it be a facebook account, instagram, twitter, or just good old fashioned texting. I know personally the bone-chilling panic that ensues when you momentarily misplace your phone. And whilst media platforms undeniably host an amazing space to connect with people from all over the world, and give us the opportunity to expand business opportunities and get inspirtation from others, it is also a means by which we compare our lives to the heavily edited version of other peoples’ lives. This comparison leads to a despondancy, feelings of inadequacy, which can become a source of depression.

Not only can the content of digital media be disturbing, but the physical act of staring at a screen is leading to many health disorders from minor to major. When we choose to stare at our screens for hours on end, not only does the blue light effect our nervous system and reduce our ability to sleep deeply, but we also are robbing ourselves of time we could have spent living. Reading. Educating ourselves. Learning more about who we are and what our purpose is and what we enjoy and how we can best serve. 

Of course, we all need down time. Time spent not thinking about work or self-healing etc. But rather than picking up our phones, why don’t we pick up a book? We can work our imagination muscle, engage the brain, become inspired, all without straining our eyes or threatening our self esteem. For this month, why don’t you see how you could limit your screen-time. Perhaps setting a curfew for scrolling through instagram, or choosing not to use social media on weekends. Personally I try not to be on my phone between 8pm and 8am, and always have my phone on airplane mode in my bedroom. See what works for you in terms of limiting media interference and note the difference it makes to your daily life - to your mood, productivity, and sense of self-worth.

Book: A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth

I read this book every year without fail. I would be my desert island book 100%. Please don’t be put off by it’s size - you will fly through it and weep when it’s all finished I promise. No matter how many times I reread Seth’s masterpiece I am still in awe of his mastery of the written word and skill in story telling. 
This is the story of love. Of family and maternal appraisal. It is the story of a newly independent India, teetering through political and social crisis. Daniel Johnson, of The Times, wrote very aptly that: “A Suitable Boy may prove to be the most fecund as well as the most prodigious work of the latter-half of the 20th century - perhaps even the book to restore the serious reading public’s faith in the contemporary novel... You should make time for it. It will keep you company for the rest of your life.” I couldn’t agree more. And I think February is perfect for making the time to read. We are not yet out of the grasp of winter. It is not yet the time to put our careful spring planning into action, but to soak up the final winter rays and start to bank up our energy.

Plant: Dandelion

Here’s the Dandelion’s rhyme:
See my leaves with tooth-like edges;
Blow my clocks to tell the time;
See me flaunting by the hedges,
In the meadow, in the lane,
Gay and naughty in the garden;
Pull me up—I grow again,
Asking neither leave nor pardon.
Sillies, what are you about
With your spades and hoes of iron?
You can never drive me out—
Me, the dauntless Dandelion!

                - Cicely Mary Baker 

Last month we had the nettle, and this month the dandelion. Another understated weed, usually pulled up and discarded as a persistent nuisance in the garden. Dandelion’s have various different types and strains, but some variety of dandelion can be easily found growing wild in most temperate countries - England is rife with them.

Dandelion is rich in carbohydrates and an excellent source of fibre. It is full of vitamins A, B6, C, and K as well as containing essential minerals such as sodium, calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron. Much like nettle, the list of health benefits could go on for pages. It is easy to research them all online, but here I will list a few of the main medicinal properties. Dandelion is a common character in any supplement or tea that claims to be detoxifying. This is due to the antioxidents in dandelion (such as vitamin c and luteolin) which optimise liver functioning and support the cleansing and purification of liver tissues. Dandelion is also very supportive to the digestive system due to it’s vast quantity of inulin, which helps to improve the bacterial flora in the intestinal tract and maintain a healthy gut. The sap from the dandelion (also known as dandelion milk) is very useful in treating skin diseases as it is highly alkaline, fungicidal, germicidal, and insecticidal. This is helpful in treating a range of skin issues, from eczema to acne. The high iron content in dandelion is also beneficial for those who have a tendency towards anemia or blood deficiencies. The luteolin is also very effective at reducing the presence of free-radicals within the body, and therefore is considered a cancer preventative.

There are several ways you can incorporate dandelion into your diet. Personally I like it best just as a tea. Dandelion tea is usually prepared from the root of the dandelion. This is easy to find in health shops or you can try drying out your own. If you know you drink too much coffee and would like to cut back - dandelion coffee is as excellent caffeine free alternative that has a remarkably similar flavour to the coffee bean. Dandelion greens can also be added to salads and the flowers can be fried up into fritters. However, if you are foraging for your own dandelions, please be very conscious of where you pick, as with the nettles, many dandelions are sprayed with weed killer and therefore are not safe to be consumed. 

Areas of caution: dandelions are an excellent natural way to lower blood sugar levels, however if you are already taking blood sugar modulators, this can result in hypoglycemia. There is a rare type of fibre, called inulin, which some people may have a predisposed sensitivity to. And as always, women who are breast-feeding or pregnant should consult their doctor before using dandelion.

“Knowing others is intelligence.
Knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength;
Mastering yourself is true power.” 
- Lao Tzu

This month, commit to getting to know yourself. Without judgement. Without attachment to any preconcieved ideas about what it means to be ‘intelligent’, ‘beautiful’, ‘strong’, or ‘successful’. Make a real effort to explore the areas of your life where fear is limiting you and become conscious of ways you can shed these limiting feelings. How can you become sufficient within yourself? How can you recognise your talents and build your sense of self-worth? How can you explore your childlike desires without becoming attached to an outcome?

By working through these questions and sinking deeply in with ourselves this month we will be ready to grow and expand with the arrival of Spring.