Thoughts on the world, homeopathy, mindfulness and food...
A collection of blog posts - feel free to respond with your thoughts and comments - I love to have feedback - thank you!
On the conventional 'preventative angel' of 'flu, vitamin D and do you want to join me in a health revolution?
Within 5 minutes this morning I've seen 2 adverts - one from the book of face, and one on the Independent's website from AstraZeneca talking about the flu shot. One aimed at adults and one aimed at children. And it got me thinking. The flu programme intrigues me. I understand it's not pleasant to experience. I've had it once in 42 years. I also understand it's not massively common, many people I've spoken to have had it with similar frequency. And I understand if it's at end of life times, or in vulnerable people it can be worse than not pleasant. That said, I also understand that the special cure promised every year, that preventative angel, can be (this understanding from the government's own website1), remarkably ineffective. I also understand from work in clinic that there can be horrendous side effects - several times described to me as the 'worst flu ever in my life' - once by an 80+ year old northern woman who was not a stranger to pain, and no weakling either.
So I get there's 2 sides to this equation, as ever. What I see also though is the fact viruses have lived amongst us forever, they're part of human life, not necessarily to be eradicated. Wiping out Syria doesn't make any sense to me, neither does not accepting refugees from a country you've just bombed, or funded the bombing of. Wiping out viruses seems just as impossible, just as crazy an aim on many levels. Surely they'll keep coming back. There has been mainstream discussion of anti-viral medications not working if we continue this quest, just as we've helped encourage the growth of anti-biotic resistant bacteria, currently a huge medical challenge 2.
So what if we looked at the other side for a moment, about being good hosts, about not succumbing to viral take over (I do hate being told what to do, even by a virus!), but about not bombing a neighbourhood and then not expecting some comeback. What if we looked after ourselves better? It's interesting that some countries of fast food and those with strong similarity to the Standard American Diet (SAD) have been pretty badly hit by the current circulating virus. It's also interesting to see the cases where there have been nutritional deficiencies have struggled more with CV-19.
This got me thinking about how, whilst a possibly 15% effective preventative angel (see study linked above) is being broadcast, is the also pretty damn effective Vitamin D being shouted about3? It's a rhetorical question to be honest, and I see it mentioned in the mainstream media on occasion but sponsored ads on the book of face? No way. Is anything being advertised, except for the shot? I've not seen it.
Talking about Vitamin D, Dr Michael Holick, a vitamin D expert from the US, recently published a study which found good vitamin D levels can reduce the risk of catching Covid-19 by 54% 4. And on the good old fashioned flu, Time reports: 'People with higher vitamin D levels also saw a small reduction in risk: about 10%, which is about equal to the protective effect of the injectable flu vaccine, the researchers say. No significant benefits were associated with high doses of vitamin D spaced out over larger periods of time.' 5
Is it also OK to think of baddies and goodies here? So many places I'm learning there is no good and bad, perhaps it's similar here too? What if there was a wake up call now to look after ourselves better, to eat more fruit and veg, to get outside, to exercise more? To live more in tune with ourselves, with nature.
One of the gifts lockdown brought for me was our daily walks. Whilst I was still working throughout, we seemed to find time for some seriously decent walks and didn't drive at all to our favourite walking spots. Now, back in the rush of things, it's a different story. How many people it's the same for I wonder? We are carving out some good outdoor time though and that's here to stay, throughout winter. We are eating a platter of lovely organic veg - big thanks to Steep & Filter in Skipton and Riverford. We are getting some brilliantly humorous vegetables from Michael and Dally at Steep and Filter - laughter I'm sure is a great health boost too.
Another lockdown gift for me was Zach Bush, MD. American medic and passionate health warrior, Zach has some brilliant insights into our health and also into the health of our planet. This sentence from Zach stood out for me: 'The microbiome, and the remarkable communication pathway of the virome, must be understood as our salvation rather than our enemy. If we shift direction quickly, we can become co-creative partners with this nature to prevent our own extinction and to bring forth the richest biodiversity and vitality that this planet has ever seen.' If you're intrigued too, have a watch of his lecture on the virome.
So maybe there's options, maybe there's other things we should be talking about. Just maybe we should be talking about good health instead of fighting sickness. I understand that's not what our current healthcare model is based on, and whilst I also understand there's a time and a place for that, long term, chronic good health is something we should all be aiming for.
I'm excited that it is an emerging conversation, and one that is becoming far more mainstream. One that medics are shouting about - the aforementioned Dr Zach Bush, Dr Rangan Chatterjee6 being far more well known now in the UK, Dr Rupy Aujla7 being brilliant and out there here too. So it's not just hippies in sandals eating lentils, but it is still not being actively promoted by those who could do. And this, in itself makes me ponder.
I'd still love to see a great health revolution, a rebellion against the norm, the SAD way the British diet is going in. We have an increase of juice bars, of whole food places, of great role models but has that hit the advertising world yet? Should great health promotions be on the news, instead of misery and doom and gloom. I think perhaps yes. We can do something and we can do it well. Let's get on it.
Reflecting back, 8 years on from my year of adventure, I'm surprised to think how much of that year remains with me in one way or another and how much that year of time for me, fun with others really changed how I live.
To find I ended a relationship on 11/11/11 felt significant, and it's only really later that looking at the numerology - with a 1, the single digit, solo adventures made absolute sense. Or at least a whole adventure, just for me - albeit with different people joining me along the way.
By then I was the single mama of a brilliant 4 year old, and a recently re-homed bearded dragon. I'd been working at setting up my business pretty much all her life so far (she was 6 months when I qualified as a professional homeopath). Determined not to rely on much childcare, and to be able to be there during her early years, as my mum was for me meant I'd worked jobs that fitted around being a mum - where I could either take her with me, work evenings when she was in bed, or work whilst she was at grandparents or with her dad. I was working damned hard and for not very much (it was all worth it!). From somewhere the realisation hit that I wanted something for me, something fun for no reason and I wanted to try lots of things. It had to be things I could do near home - I was already going away to study at times so couldn't use up time away - I've never been great at over-relying on help, albeit been lucky enough to have it there.
So it was, my year of adventure was born. In my usual way of wanting more, I did a 13 month year, starting with December 2011 when I learnt to knit. The 'adventures', as you might have sensed, being I started with knitting weren't crazy, for some they'd have been not even on the adventure scale. But for me, they were things I could do from home at times, around being a mum of a 4 year old, around work. They were achievable stretches outside of my life as it was before. Some more outdoorsy than others, but all things that I'd either never done or I hadn't done for years or done well. I guess they could have been huge, cross the channel on a tea tray kind of adventures, but at the time that was still so far removed from what felt possible, these were good for me. And calling them adventures felt more fun, it made me smile. Anything that makes you smile (within reason of course) I think is to be enjoyed, especially if it helps a change in perspective.
A friend had a knitting shop and kindly taught me the basics - though, to my mum's chagrin, when I credited Jane having taught me to knit - she had in fact taught me twice in the past. Third time lucky!! And I guess it goes to show to not stop if you can't do it the first time. Looking back, it led onto me doing some work for Jane whose shop it was, which supplemented my income, and we had a lovely friendship that evolved over my knitting times. I knitted scarves for presents, hats, a couple of dresses - not all in my month, though knitting, as with several of the other things that followed, stuck with me, and remains part of my life. Funnily I'm writing this wearing the first jumper I knitted which I still love today.
Month 2 and I'd seen references to mindfulness though where I'd seen the actual course I did, I don't recall. I think just a google search and there it was. I worked with the Be Mindful Online people and did their month long course, finding it beneficial, enjoyable - and - you never guess what? Leading on to me doing some training to incorporate mindfulness in my work with homeopathy. The two go well together and I remain grateful and appreciative of the steps I made back then, nearly 9 years ago.
I don't want you to think every month was life changing, and I also started this adventure with a 'it doesn't matter what the outcome is' attitude which I think is important to state. We do so many things with intent, purpose and they have to be worthwhile, earn money or lead somewhere, and my whole intent back then was to enjoy, to have fun, to explore, and, importantly, be a beginner at things. To do things with no outcome attached brings a liberation and I also believe, an ability to be creative. We spend time as experts in our field now, and to fail, to fall, I think are important skills to remember - albeit perhaps more importantly to get back up, by ourselves or with help.
So onto month 3 which was pole dancing. That's always the one that makes people smile when I talk about my year of adventure, and it is one that lasted the month and that was it. I went along with a friend, we laughed a lot, I discovered I'm really bad at doing the sexy hair flicks (I had already discovered that to be fair on a burlesque lesson at a hen do, but it was reinforced again here). I loved trying to fling myself around a pole... not so much upside down, and not so much with an instructor who appeared to be in love with texting her whoever and scrolling on Facebook whilst she was teaching. But the experience, the fun, the getting out of the house and away from work. All really positive.
Next I learnt to crochet and I am currently back, reunited with my hooks and teaching my daughter now - albeit recognising where she does things better than me, unpicking and learning again from her. I love that when you think you're going to teach, you learn so much from students and learning in the process to teach. Certainly not a linear relationship. I've just finished a gorgeous top and a huge granny square blanket for our bed. Super warm and cosy for winter window open sleeping!
And so the year went on - I dove into Open Water Swimming (probably more a nervous, tentative and freaked out step into a murky lake than a dive, but way, way outside of my comfort zone. More about the comfort zone and my love of stretching it in a moment. I was exhausted after my first OWS session and amazed how cold it was, wearing my new wetsuit too. It was 16 degree C. Seriously. I've swum with no wetsuit in less. Happily. It's amazing how you adapt and change.
My friend and pole dancing companion had asked the year before if I'd do the Great North Swim with her and, on asking for the answer in my dream, I dreamt of myself on the shore watching her swim in as I held her girls' hands. My dream answers aren't always that immediate, or that clear but that was a good one! But now it was time to embrace the fear and crack on. I truly love confronting it, my inability or perceived inability as usually I can wing it when I get on with it. Usually when I crack on and make a start, something changes - and usually I'm so glad I did whatever it was. Then if or when I'm not I can usually find a way to laugh about it... In OWS I found an incredible community of people, a wonderful refreshing way to spend an evening and swam in some of the most beautiful places. It's an amazing way to recharge, to reconnect with nature, to be mindful and sit with what is important in life. Which, when it comes down to it, isn't all the stuff. Not for me at least.
I rediscovered cycling - and ended up doing my, so far first and only triathlon the following year. I still love to get on my bike when I can, and subsequently bought a road bike, then from a neighbour at a tantalisingly great price, got £1.6k worth of mountain bike for £150. Still happy about that one. So far the longest ride is a 36 mile or so trip around Lake Windermere (with a swim mid route), and I'd love to extend that next summer. My dad still beats me up every hill going despite being a wee bit older than me and is a great cycling companion.
From the swimming, because I'd joined a local triathlon group to enable me to swim in a local lake - and a love to read, I got into reading about swimming, then triathlons which led me onto running, which led me onto barefoot running. Do you see how this discovery thing went for me? I had no idea at the start of it how it would pan out, all the things I'd do but one thing led to another as they so often do... Barefoot running was an absolute joy. I feel like I'm some kind of gazelle versus an elephant if I run in normal shoes. I love the feel of running through the air, being outside, rain or sun or clouds.
I also explored photography in more depth, attempted to do yoga (I feel like I'm always attempting to do yoga!), then found I was doing so many things, decided I'd try going veggie for a month. Whilst reading about that, I thought I'd explore veganism, so did a month of that... Subsequently went raw vegan for 6 months the following year which was another expanse of discovery. I resurrected my sewing machine that I'd got for my 18th birthday. I suppose getting that and treating myself to a Reiki course at 18 was bound to lead to lentils and sandals somewhere along the way. I made bunting, hearts to hang up, a skirt my mum had started decades ago (cute and short and very 70s!) and am back in love with sewing.
Memorably though, what I learnt about mostly was not a whole load of activities, though I did learn about a load of stuff... but about what it is to do something with nothing to lose, the liberation of not having an end goal, just about having an experience. I was talking to a client recently and suggested she did something just to play, just to have fun. Her reaction, 'was it possible to do something without a end goal?' made me think a lot about how target focussed we've become. I think that being without needing something at the end has got lost sometimes in our culture, and perhaps, possibly, we'd smile more if we took time to rediscover that.
I received kindness from strangers, made connections with wonderful people I'd never met before and am so grateful are in my life. I was kind to people I'd never met before. They were kind to me. I laughed whilst swimming, sang whilst cycling, was joyful, was inspired by so many people - and have been told since that I've inspired change in others that I never set out to do. Just being, just loving life, just exploring, just stretching the comfort zone led to amazing experiences, wonderful times - and lasting changes.
I still knit, sew, crochet, barefoot run, open water swim, cycle, eat a plant based diet - and now am exploring SUP - which is again outside of my comfort zone - and am loving that. And if anyone fancies teaching me pole dancing, without checking their Facebook account or suggesting that I do sexy hair flicks I'm up for that too...
Lastly to say I guess my final words on an adventure would be to be kind - especially to yourself and not to have expectations, just to explore, see what happens and be curious about life - you never know where it might lead. It might go nowhere, or it could be lasting, and entirely life changing. It's great fun along the way.
I'm a Homeopath working in the Skipton (North Yorkshire) area. I am also able to offer food intolerance testing using Kinesiology and advice around diet and lifestyle.
Em Colley MARH, Practitioner of Classical Homeopathy
BSc(Hons) Psychology and Neuroscience
Laughter Yoga Leader
Focussed Mindfulness Practitioner
Dip (SNHS) Kinesiology
Dip (SNHS) Holistic Nutrition
Certificate in Whole Food, Plant Based Nutrition