Today I have been asked to speak at a women's event entitled "Capturing your Essence". You cannot all be there, so I wanted to share some of my speech. It sounds so uplifting and positive, but capturing your essence is a bit like an iceberg, that glorious happy majesty on top (what you see now), hides a lifetime of hard work. I don't want to give too much away to people who may be attending, but I thought it was a great opportunity to share my thoughts with those who cannot be there. The following story is a collection of many of my previous blog themes. I guess on reflection, I have always been capturing my essence, but I have really put my head down and got to some serious work since the birth of my daughter 6 years ago. The birth of my first child seemed to propel me in a way nothing else ever had. I would literally change the world for my children.
I have suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress, both as a result of my military service and from childhood trauma. My family has a long history of military service, my grandfather served in the Middle East during WW2 and my father is a Vietnam Veteran. My father was also a detective in the Police Force, so much of my early life was based around the idea that there is no higher calling than protecting others and self-sacrifice. I come from honest, but poor working class people, my grandparents (dad) came out on a boat from Belfast, Northern Ireland with a tiny son and the clothes they were carrying. They had no home, and slept in the wool shed docks next to the boat that had brought them to a new country. My mother’s parents lived in a tiny housing commission home in Adelaide, South Australia where they scraped through the great depression with 5 children. This story is not uncommon to many, but it highlights the fact that my glasses were firmly placed to only see struggle.
I have posted about my glasses before, I call them our ‘Special Specs’, they are how we define our reality. Basically the idea is, "Imagine you’re wearing a pair of glasses that block out all colours except pink, then you’re only going to see pink everywhere. After a while, you may begin to think that the entire world is pink. If you put the glasses on as a child, you probably don't even know other colours exist. Your entire world is Pink. So how you see the world are your glasses, your belief system, and what you will attract (vibrate). You will generally see the entire world through the filters you’ve adopted and have been taught. " So in my case, I saw the world as a bit of a depressing struggle. PTSD was so common in my family it was a learned and accepted behaviour. Excessive alcohol, anger, passive aggressiveness, jealousy, sadness, anxiety and depression were all common themes growing up. Not to say we did not have good times, because we certainly did, but the glasses were firmly set to struggle street.
It is little surprise then, that at 16 I joined the Royal Australian Navy as an officer. I attended the Australian Defence Force Academy and with the enthusiasm of youth, would sacrifice myself for a greater good. I was very successful throughout my career, I traveled the world and had my eyes open to some amazing and horrific sights, but eventually my 'Special Specs' began to take their toll. So how did I even realise I had glasses on? The answer is I didn't for a very long time. I created a rain cloud and I was happy to live in it. I drank too much (covered my social anxiety), put myself in dangerous situations, deployed to war zones, invited anything into my life that would cause further struggle. Sat in judgement of others, while secretly wishing I had their life. My body started to deteriorate and eventually I was medically discharged from the Navy as a Lieutenant Commander. Outwardly I was very successful, I had an undergraduate degree from the University of New South Wales, a Post Graduate Degree from Plymouth University and was an internationally recognised H1 Hydrographic Surveyor. I had navigated Warships around the world, but I felt like a complete failure. I could not let go of a traumatic childhood event and now I could not stop reliving a single night in the Persian Gulf.
Suddenly I was pregnant with my daughter, and just as suddenly I was holding her. Instantly, like a light bulb in my head, I saw my life previously as a doorway. In that single moment, I decided to leave the depression, anxiety and struggle in the room behind and go through into the unknown. I think everyone gets these moments, it’s just if we are courageous enough to accept the challenge of change. So I started to read. Dr Seuss is a master in my eyes and he once said, ”the more things you read, the more things you’ll know, and the more things you know, the further you’ll go”. Brilliant. So I read and read and read. Instead of being angry because I was insomniac, I read. Depressed, I read. Anxious, I read. I read shamanic books on soul retrieval, I learned traditional Chinese and Indian Medicine, I researched medical reviews on near death experiences and past lives, reviews on DNA conditioning and transfer of trauma and publications on the links between healthy food and mental health. I turned off the news, and began to accept who I was then, is not who I am now becoming. The decisions I made as a child/young adult are probably not the decisions I would make with greater wisdom. I released myself from guilt/blame and shifted my focus to right now, not ahead, not behind. I stopped judging myself then, based on what I know now. I started to shift my thinking from why does this happen, to why would I get these gifts.
I stopped comparing my trauma to others. "how come other people cope"? I quieted that prince of lies who continually whispered..."you are a wimp". In a nutshell I stopped caring what others thought and started healing myself, making my healing for those I loved a priority.
I learned to connect with my body and with nature. Like most who suffer PTSD, my body had been slowly fatiguing for years, fibromyalgia, adrenal fatigue, depression, alcohol abuse and anxiety. Yoga was my lifeline, it slowed me down and cleared my mind. So I became a yoga instructor. I cannot recommend finding a good teacher enough. When I connected my yoga/meditation I slept through the night for the first time in 25 years. Life Changing. I stopped abusing my body. My choice was always alcohol and cigarettes, I stopped self-medicating. I slipped up, forgave myself and tried again...and again...and again! I found the best way to stay healthy, was learning about the nature of each season and then living in harmony with its spirit. When we are living in harmony with the world around us, we see when nature is slowing down and contracting, preparing to rest (winter) so it is good for us to do the same. Or when everything buds in Spring is an excellent time to get creative and excited. Summer is the time for laughter and long lazy nights, siestas and growth. Autumn a time to release fears and negativity, to prepare us for a winter hibernation. Nature is an excellent guide if we can slow down enough to pay attention.
I told the prince of lies to get lost! You often hear me refer to my head voice as the prince of Lies. That is because when practicing mindfulness, the prince of Lies will have some fabulous stories to tell. I think it is why most of us never successfully learn mindfulness. i.e. " I tried meditation it just doesn't work, I couldn't shut down my mind". I like to give the example of sitting meditating on love. The prince of Lies will start gently. You may be repeating the mantra, I Love. Suddenly from nowhere you will think something distracting such as I love chocolate, (then it’s off and rolling), I should go buy chocolate, but I am so fat, I'm too fat for chocolate, mums fat, it's her fault I am fat, my life sucks! Then just as suddenly you remember, bugger, I am supposed to be meditating on love, que ‘meditation doesn’t work’!
This is where most of us give up, frustrated and dejected. I did a few times, but I realised that I have lived with this monkey mind for so long that he’s just trying to fight back. So I learned to stay positive, stay relaxed and every time that distracting thought popped into my head, I gently took my mind back. I was disciplined. I learned to have a laugh at the prince of lies and some of the fabulous stories he can spin!
I learned to set some boundaries. As a young girl and adult I was a miserable failure at setting boundaries. I had to learn that you really do teach people how to treat you. You teach them every time you don't stop a behaviour, or you turn a blind eye to a behaviour, or even worse, reinforce a behaviour that is not in alignment with your core truths. I was an epic reinforcer, who would then silently seethe in anger, constantly reliving the event while maintaining a happy face (passive aggressive, not me, ha!) I would often laugh off a sexist joke to be one of the boys, I didn’t want to be 'that girl'. I would overlook sexual harassment as just something I had to deal with in the military. Sayings like 'of course there’s no issue, you were drunk' then silently hate the situation from afar. I had to learn a very hard lesson, the more chances you give a person to treat you badly, the less respect they will have for you. I learned this the hard way, you should never let a person get comfortable disrespecting you! I began to slowly understand that healthy boundaries are an expression of what you’re OK with, your safe place. It shows people what you will and won’t tolerate in relationships. You don’t owe anyone an explanation about your boundaries. It is not mean or uncaring to set boundaries, but instead shows that we are whole, rather than dependently tied to others in our relationships. I found the key to setting boundaries was to first learn what I truly stood for. You don’t have to fight every battle, learn what your hard limits are. Then the tougher act is learning to release the guilt when you say no, or correct a behaviour you don't like. Give yourself a mantra, I used to repeat ' I am worth my weight in gold'. I just knew if I wanted to heal I had to learn to respect and care for me.
I stopped judging others behaviour and placing my suffering above theirs. We've all heard the snickered conversation about the poor guy that was bullied in an office and now has PTSD, as though his trauma is less real or valuable than mine. I stopped being a judgemental arse! I stopped justifying my behaviour to others, 'take me or leave me' became my mantra. My story is no one’s business but mine and I owe you no explanations about my suffering.
The final lesson I taught myself was how to lift my vibration. I often here people talk about vibration but I never understood it, as a scientist this frustrated me. So I taught myself a better understanding. I have blogged this recently, but to recap, one of the first 3 rules we learn about as children are Newton's laws of attraction. Let’s take Newton's third law which states, that for every action (force) there is an equal and opposite reaction (force). So forces are found in pairs, let’s use the analogy of a chair. Your body exerts a force downward and that chair needs to exert an equal force upward or the chair will collapse. It's an issue of symmetry. Forces encounter other forces in the opposite direction. I knew this law, but I didn't understand it from its true pure source, the law of Karma.
Karma is often used as a tool for negative energy, "let karma deal with it," when in fact, Karma is actually the Sanskrit word for action. It is the forerunner to Newton's third law, an ancient understanding of a modern concept. Karma states, when we think, speak or act we initiate a force that will react accordingly, 'every action must have a reaction'. This returning force may be modified or suspended, but we will not be able to eradicate it. The universal law of energy, is that no energy is ever eradicated, it is just changed. The law of Karma applies to everything, including your own self thoughts. If I constantly think negative thoughts, the law of attraction states that the equal reaction will be negative events. So the simple answer for me was to stop thinking negative thoughts, and instead to learn to think myself happy. To lift my slow vibration (ice cube) to a faster vibration (water), so I would attract more of the things I wanted. It is literally simple physics, not 3D trigonometry.
The final thing I want to say about capturing your essence is that it is OK to be sad. I still occasionally suffer, unexpected anxiety, strange nightmares or aversion to crowded places, but now I have a bag full of tools at my disposal. I recognise when I am down and accept myself anyway. So I keep my focus forward during rough times. I hold gratitude for the gifts of wisdom and empathy that my suffering has taught me. It has lead me on an extraordinary journey of self-discovery that is painful but who I am. I am now my own best friend, I welcomed that amazing, beautiful and kind little girl home and together we are never looking back. I created a safe place for her, with firm boundaries, good vibrations and a loving heart. She is nurtured and protected, praised and adored because, she is me, she is my essence. She is beautiful, funny, kind, a bit rough and incredibly smart and inquisitive. She loves to see people happy and I am not sure how I ever forgot about her. We don't capture our essences, we bring them home…......xx sarah