Best wishes for the new year and decade
7th January 2020
Newsletter December 2019 Breathing, the gut biome and new feathers
24th December 2019
Newsletter December 2019
Breathing, the gut biome and new feathers
“Perhaps these days of less sunlight are opportunities for more contemplative time, more looking deeply to see what perhaps can only be seen in the dark.” Sylvia Boorstein
I hope this lines find you all well and in not too hectic preparations for the festive season and the change into the New Year. I am spending the holidays first with family and old friends in my hometown Frankfurt and then with my partner for a week somewhere in Wales to snuggle with the dog in front of an iron woodstove.
So here are my last contemplations of the year, a year not without struggles but I remember most many positive moments both in my professional and private life. It feels that some seeds planted earlier are beginning to grow roots and fruits.
Breathing. The connection between soul and body. Tibetan Buddhism claims that the amounts of breaths we take in our lifetimes are counted. Most meditation and mindfulness techniques center on the breath and even though breathing is mostly automatic and unconscious, unlike other automatic physical functions we can consciously alter and influence our breathing patterns. But many of us often breathe improper, too shallow, too fast, which is affecting both our physical and mental wellbeing. I mentioned here earlier that I’ve been practicing for a year now as one of my daily routines an exercise known as “Wim Hof Method”, which is claiming, together with cold exposure and meditation, to influence both the autonomic nervous system and the body’s immune response. A similar succession of hyper- and hypo-ventilating is also endorsed by others here and here and has origins in ancient eastern Ayurveda and yogi traditions, and has been supported recently by scientific research.
And although I’ve only recently picked up on cold exposure (a daily 2-minute cold shower and the occasional dip in the river) it feels effective and empowering as both intermittend breathing and even intermittent fasting does – exercising body and mind through temporary stimulation and stress.
Done without any further preparation by lying down (I usually do this right after waking up) it is important to know that you might “pass out” at times, as it happens to me for some moments quite regularly – so don’t ever try this in water or when driving a car. Also, as a word of precaution, people with asthma, severe bronchitis, pneumonia, COPD or other respiratory problems would be well advised to check with their GP before starting these exercises.
One takes a certain amount of deep breaths (from 20 to 70, see audio links below) and then hold the breath after an out-breath (with empty lungs) for up to 3.5 minutes, in the beginning or on a bad day more like 2 minutes.
For me this works by trying to completely relax, in particular letting the brain rest – the more I mentally go through my shopping list or generally engage in thinking the shorter I can hold my breath. These days I usually listen to this shorter or this longer audio guide to skip the counting.
I’ve been recommending and sharing this exercises with friends and clients (we’ve had little breathing parties on the lawn last summer) and I would consider it an excellent “shortcut” into meditation because one can physically endorse to quiten the mind.
As Wim Hof states: you are getting high on your own supply – well, he’s Dutch, isn’t he. On a more serious note, my experiences are very encouraging. My challenge in life has always been raging emotions, the mental drama of my life, that regularly resulted for example in disrupted sleeping patterns. My way of dealing with these emotions has been and is for a few years now the practice of daily meditation, maybe a topic to explore further some other time here. The breathing exercises have had profound effects on my emotional state because they bring on a deep state of relaxation and calm and have a similarly powerful effect on me as the practice of meditation has. I haven’t experienced insomnia for some time now, and if I would have to point out one single most effective element of the various regimes and routines that are part of my daily life, I would probable put the breathing first. So: Breathe in, breathe out!
As mentioned in my last newsletter my interest in nutritional health has let me to meet an experienced and very knowledgable nutritional therapist, Sue Thomas. She has created a 21-day detoxification program that cleanses and rebalances your gut biome. This complex system of bacteria, fungi and microflora resides primarily in your gut and impacts literally every system in your body. If you are suffering from lack of focus or motivation, fatique, IBS, leaky gut, heartburn, bloating, weight problems, menopausal/hormonal imbalances or sleeping disorders this combination of strict dieting (no coffee, refined sugars, alcohol, processed food, “easy” carbs) and nutritional supplements will shift things in the right direction. I’ve gone through a “test run” in October before recommending it to you and my clients, and even though I don’t really suffer from any of the above conditions and my diet is pretty close to the recommended one anyway, I too experienced nothing short of a miracle: I’ve intuitively overcome my addiction to coffee, “the last vice” and those of you that know me, I was “Mr.Coffee” himself (writing this my mother I’m staying with for 5 days tells me that she had bought 200 capsules of coffee in anticipation of my visit, I had forgotten to tell her). Now in January Sue and I are offering this program, Pure21, as introductory offer for the price of the supplements only (£200) to the first five participants signing on, 2 spaces are still available.
This year has been, and still is, a year of learning new skills, adding some more feathers to my boa: Apart from the massage course on lower back and sciatica I mentioned earlier I’ve completed an online course on geriatric massage and a 30hour course qualifying for treating people with cancer. Statistically every other person in the western world will be diagnosed with cancer once in their life, for many a wake up call for a more intimate relationship to their bodies. Usually a contraindication for most complimentary therapists we’ve had to send these people away without a written consent from a GP at a time they needed us most, so this has been close to my heart.
As always one thing leads to another; Angela Green, a reflexologist and the teacher of that course, showed us a few tricks of her trade, which literally shook my world. Reflexology feels like the link between my spiritual practice (Reiki/Meditation) and my physical work and interest (physiology based massage therapy/nutrition), even though both is highly interconnected without clear boundaries. And as if made for me a course in Bath came up and I signed on to it. More than any other therapy I’ve been receiving in the past reflexology has provoked unusually strong physical and mental reactions in me. The good news for all of you is that I will need 100 hours of case studies done until May, so if you are interested in trying out one or several reflexology treatments for free (or the price of renting a room if needed) please be in touch.
I’ve finally incorporated an online booking system, which shows my availibilties. Bookings in The Bath Practice still have to be confirmed since I’m booking the room there on demand.
And finally, if you are still short of a sensible last minute Christmas present to yourself or someone you care about, you can order a massage voucher with me by mail and it should be with you in time to put under your Christmas tree.
Wishing you all a relaxing holiday time and much abundance, gratitude and humility in the New Year 2020.
“As you start to walk on the way, the way appears.” Rumi
Newsletter October 2019 – Fasting, Nourishment and the Gut-brain
11th October 2019
“How can a troubled mind
Understand the way?
If a man is disturbed
He will never be filled with knowledge.
An untroubled mind,
No longer seeking to consider
What is right and what is wrong,
A mind beyond judgments,
Watches and understands.
(From: Mind; Dhammapada, Sayings of the Buddha)
It’s been a while since my last blog. Those who know me might have a difficult time believing that I’m actually feeling quite shy, not qualified to write or being recorded on any medium.
But I’ve had some encouraging feedback from unexpected corners and I realize that the longer I avoid the next post the lengthier it gets.
So here is what this summer came up with for me, the stuff that life brought forward and the experiences I’d like to share with you.
For about 6 months now I’m keeping to an intermittent fasting routine, as mentioned in an earlier newsletter, I only eat within a period of 8 hours (usually from 1 to 9pm) and consume no nutrients for the remaining 16 hours of the day. I’m loving it, not only because I’ve got rid of this small but persistent little 50’s belly but much more for the fact that my love and awareness of eating and preparing food has increased, even in some unexpected ways: my felt attachment to food, the comfort in eating. After months of “practice” my body knows very well by now that there will be food coming, no need to panic when supplies are running low in the mornings. Finding myself in emotionally challenging situations I sometimes surprise myself thinking of eating, a bit like my dog that is running for cover to his food bowl when getting too much loving and cuddles. This is quite similar to my experience of smoking, after having kicked the addiction. The thought of a cigarette now leads me to reflect on what it is that I’m trying to avoid by triggering this old reflex.
There are many different kinds of fasting, some more extreme than others, not everybody has to go as far as my friend Alan who says that anything less than 72 hours is not really fasting. I’ve met quite a few people that spontaneously eat only 1 or 2 meals a day. About 12 hours after your last meal your body will be running on reserve, burning the stuff that otherwise would get wrapped up in fat cells for a rainy day that usually never comes. Some background information on this you can find here.
You are what you eat, more to the point though: you are how you eat. This sentiment is initially inspired by Charles Eisenstein’s book “The Yoga of Eating” and now came up again when reading this summer the truly fascinating “Nourishment” by Fred Provenza – both of which I can highly recommend to all interested or working in the field of nutrition. Like in any other domain surrounding us we are seeing a paradigm shift happening in how we are beginning to understand the relationship between our bodies and the natural world as well as the connections between the material and spiritual world. We live in a society obsessed with dieting; a multi billion-dollar industry is thriving on it. But despite of all research, recommendations and regulations it does not look like we are making much progress in terms of healthy and balanced eating habits. Partly this can certainly been attributed to our more and more sedentary lifestyles – what cigarettes were for my generation are chairs for our children – and a systemically corrupted agricultural and pharmaceutical industry responsible for the production and manipulation of most of our food supplies, but truly behind this lies the disempowerment of the individual with regards to both responsibility and judgment/expertise. We trust authorities more than our palates and we consume food with as little awareness as we consume most other things on this planet. A packet of crisps is never big enough when washed down with a couple of pints and an exciting football match on TV; we choose the newest scientifically developed diet before old wisdom innately inside of us. “Newtonian physics cannot offer the whole truth about the human body, let alone the universe. Medical science keeps advancing, but living organisms stubbornly refuse to be quantified.” (Bruce Lipton, The biology of belief) The sheer multitude of components in our food, our hereditary and environmental factors, age, seasons, down to the time of day, and order in which foods are consumed is far too vast an amount of data to grasp or measure for one individual only, let alone for larger groups or societies at large. “The body – not nutritional scientists and medical doctors – is the final authority in our food choices.” (F.Provenza) To support the individual, more often than not out of tune when it comes to food choices, we need to cultivate an inner wisdom, an awareness when eating, with an outer wisdom, personal knowledge of nutrition and physiological digestion processes. Going back to the crisps: Truly aware of texture, the flavour, undistracted by conversation or anything else, my bet is you wouldn’t want to get very far into the packet. Eating consciously we can (re) learn to understand the feedback messages our bodies are sending back to us with the knowledge we have acquired heretically, in the womb of our mothers and in childhood.
The Australian aborigines apparently know that humans have three brains. The biggest and most important one being the gut, second the heart and third the smallest one, highly overrated it seems, between our ears. They know it is vital to ensure balance between these different centers. To some degree this has been recognized by recent scientific research; for any signal from the brain to the gut there are about 9 signals from the gut to the brain.
The importance of nutrition and a thriving gut biome for maintaining physical and mental health and in treating diseases – in particular chronic inflammatory disorders – is getting on the forefront of public discourse and scientific research (some interesting articles here and here). What would have been ignored or ridiculed a mere decade ago will most likely be in the center of medical care in the coming years, rather than pharmaceutical intervention aimed at the symptoms, predominant in today’s allopathic medicine. Interestingly, I was invited to and participated in a clinical trial this summer, paid for by a big pharmaceutical company, testing the effects of high doses of natural probiotics on psoriasis patients, an indication that even Big Pharma is catching up on more natural ways of healing. Still, I don’t think that healing comes as a pill, as natural the content may be, but rather requires a more holistic change of lifestyle and living environment in general.
Paradoxically enough, right now I’m finding myself in the middle of a nutritional dietary course called Pure21, a three-week program that cleanses, detoxifies and re-balances the micro biome. I’ve teamed up with a nutritional therapist, Sue Thomas from Worcester, who developed this program around nutritional supplements by the American Company Synergy. It aims at supporting individuals with a wide range of conditions such as fatigue, IBS, leaky gut, heartburn, menopausal and hormonal imbalances, sleeping disorders, weight problems, bloating, irritability, lack of focus and motivation. From my discussions with her I consider Sue a very experienced therapist and she is reporting great results from this program on herself and her clients. After my own “trial” we will be offering a one-off course for the cost of the supplements only as a case study of mine. More about this with a summary of my personal experience you will find in my November newsletter. If you are interested in participating please be in touch.
Look forward hearing from you all.
Take care of your minds and your bodies.
With LOVE and GRATITUDE
Saturday 12 October Family Wellbeing Fair in Bradford-on-Avon
Introduction class to Essential Oils by Dr Thomasina Craster and Jan Erik Posth
5th June 2019
Coming Monday evening, 10.June, I will be running together with Dr Thomasina Craster an introduction to 10+ go-to Essential Oils that will empower you with natural solutions to everyday health challenges for you, your family and friends.
Location is our clinic in central Bath, The Bath Practice, 26 Monmouth Street, Bath BA1 2AP.
The class is free of charge, limited tickets are available here.
We look forward hearing from you!
Newsletter May 2019
24th May 2019
One step at a time, and none at times
“Meet your own self. Be with your own self, listen to it, obey it, cherish it, keep it in mind ceaselessly. You need no other guide. As long as your urge for truth affects your daily life, all is well with you.“
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
These are exciting times, fast paced and often riddled with a sense of urgency.
A few weeks ago I had the extraordinary privilege to participate at a much inspiring weekend seminar with Charles Eisenstein in Edinburgh, in my eyes one of the most visionary thinkers, speakers and authors of our turbulent time.
This gathering developed to be a beautiful “murmoration of activist and healers” in the midst of the dilemma of “not doing enough” and “what to do”. Charles, as in his newest book “Climate – a new story”, explains eloquently not only that our current “war on carbon” is misleading, but also that we need to find the time and space within ourselves to hear what the planet really wants from us, what she is singing to us. A “change of mind” rather than re-enacting the world of linearity and problem solving, which created the mess we find ourselves in in the first place, be it environmental, political, economical, physical or mental.
Having said that I don’t mean to appear criticising the ongoing protests, be it XR or our kids, inspired by Greta Thunberg, exercising civil obedience in form of school strikes (a historical first?!) to protest against (us adults running the show so badly).
I believe both, active nonviolent action as well an inner search, fearless and humble, is necessary and asked for. Both of these protests appear to address not just carbon emissions and global warming, the domineering convenient truth, but a much bigger picture.
Speaking of enlightening authors, another current source of great inspiration to me, Stephen Jenkinson, author of the books “Die Wise” and “Come of Age” and protagonist in the documentary “Griefwalker” is coming to the UK. This work, founded on his experience in what he calls “The Death Trade” as palliative carer, is a cultural, political and moral agitation on dying and elderhood. Don’t miss his “Nights of Grief and Mystery” near you!
To catch up where we left it last: In March I attended “Julian House’s” 10th “Big Bath Sleep-Out” in Alice Park in Bath to raise money and awareness for it’s homelessness services. More than 300 participants raised more than £48.000 pound (and counting). That’s what it looked like and here you can still support my fundraiser.
Technically it wasn’t much of a big deal for me, I’ve slept much rougher and wilder in my years as rock climber on a shoestring. In fact I enjoyed a good night sleep in the open under a clear night sky. And to some extend, given the amount of adolescent kids participating, along with many families, it felt a bit like a party on a festival. Very well organised and high spirited, thumbs up, Julian House and it’s volunteers!
Similar to the work with The Dying the topic of homelessness strikes a cord with me. Whilst I feel that many other charities should ideally be financed by state or business, both those affairs concern all of us not just to a certain degree but at any means. By default homelessness comes with homes and dying comes with life. And both of these culturally inherent issues seem utterly neglected and avoided in our dominant Western culture.
I somehow suspect the work that is needed most in our times of loss and being lost begins with our ability and readiness of grieving and allowing, as opposed to quick fixes and more and more control.
About a month ago I began time restricted fasting, a method known as 8/16, in addition to my ongoing gluten and dairy free diet. I’ve always been intrigued by fasting (rather than dieting), as with most things that seem to be going on in human history since forever. Not motivated to loose weight but as a way of detoxing by increasing rates of metabolism, promoting longevity, alertness and mental acuity. Whilst I’ve come across many a diet or detoxing method this one made not only sense but seemed easy enough to give it a go. Just don’t eat or drink (other than water or unsweetened tea or coffee) between dinner and lunch for roughly 16 hours. Originating in the world of workout, weight training and bodybuilding this concept of fasting has become quite popular, is even intuitive for some.
The first two weeks went by easy enough, the charm of novelty and holidays helped, paired with sometimes copious amounts of coffee and almost continuous eating and snacking for the entire 8 hours allowed. Still, my waist shrank and I obviously lost a bit of weight, I guess as much as I could.
The first and only, still pretty serious problem I encountered was when going for a long dog walk along the river without having access to any drinking water. I made it back home on willpower but felt very drained for a couple of hours even after hydrating and eating.
I make sure now to drink plenty and not consume any stimulants (tee or coffee) before food.
Even though the amounts of food, as well as time spend preparing and eating, still feels similar to before the fast (if not more sometimes) I’ve learned to more and more appreciate the daily routine, even the feel of hunger. I consciously and effortlessly drink plenty of water (3-5 liters/day) and I enjoy eating more than ever.
When I find myself in situations that I’m asked “is all this not very difficult to do?” I know that I would have considered the sum of these steps impossible myself not too long ago. I think it is very if not most important to do small steps and do what feels right at a time. And to also try to make the move, sometimes beyond what you think of as your comfort zone.
Keep the stepping up going!
Newsletter March 2019
Hillside Massage goes local: Charity and Currency!
10th February 2019
Again, it popped up on my newsfeed as for quite a few years now. The Big Bath Sleep-out.
For the 10th time the local charity Julian House invites to sleep outside in Victoria Park for one night on March 8 and raise money for the homeless.
I love sleeping outside. Usually on a holiday, on the beach or in the mountains – but the park will do.
And even though I have a rather complicated relationship to charities in general, there are actually 2 local charities that touch me in a way I can agree with. Both a house, Julian and Dorothy, the latter engaging in hospice work of all sorts of shape and form.
Not bound by work duties for the first time of my time in Bath I will commit to the Sleep-Out as “Team Hillside Massage” raising money for Julian House. Join the team for the night or/and contribute to my fundraising here, the highest contribution will qualify for a Massage Coupon (1 hour massage).
The really big news this week is just as local and even more political: Hillside Massage now is part of and accepts “Bristol Pound” as payment. According to the app I’m the first business in Bath that has joined Britains biggest local currency!
In order to engage in and contribute to our local community I now offer the first massage treatment for almost half price (£20/30mins, £30/hour) to local residents. Qualifying is everybody with a “Discovery Card” or a B£ account.
This feels like coming home since I passionately believe that the solutions to most of our so-called global problems are to be found locally, be it healthcare, environmental healing, food production, social engagement, energy or banking. Active in my community in Sweden before 2012, less so since living here, I think one of the most promising and engaging initiatives I’m aware of is “Transition Towns” , founded by Rob Hopkins, Peter Lipman and Ben Brangwyn 2006 in Totness, local currencies being one of many ideas for creating more resilient communities.
Until Wednesday 13/2 you can still admire the abstract artwork by my fellow students and myself in the Guildhall in Bath. “Unfurling” has been put together and made possible by our amazing teacher Lucy Baile at “Fern”.
Happy 2019, blocks and silver bullets
2nd February 2019
On Happy New Years, Blog Blocks and the Silver Bullet of Wellbeing
“Health, contentment and trust
Are your greatest possessions,
And freedom your greatest joy.”
How long can one wish a happy new year? I’ve learned, probably from one of my moderately superstitious italian friends, that it supposedly brings bad luck to wish a happy new year before the 31st of December. There seems to be no fixed rule though how long into January it is still appropriate. Certainly the beginning of February seems highly inappropriate! I like the swedish greeting after New Year, which combines both a late Christmas and New Year greeting, is used well into January and could be translated with “Happy Continuation”.
So, inappropriately late even by swedish terms, I would like to wish you all happy beginnings and continuations in 2019.
Blogging. It’s been on my mind forever and on my to-do list for quite some time. Apart from some feeble random outbursts in the past I’ve always found ways and reasons to avoid it. Typically, I believe, for many us that were informed and educated in pre-internet times, I’ve always felt not sufficiently entitled to write and publish words and other content (with the exception of photographs). I never considered myself a writer, jokingly I even used to say in the past that I had to become a photojournalist because I could not read or write.
Here’s my resolution – feed content! The expectations are high.
Last summer, for the first time since my early 20’s, my mild psoriasis – an inheritable skin condition that in some form or shape affects a quarter of the population – disappeared miraculously after I joined my partner on a gluten and dairy free diet for just 2 weeks. Astonished I began reading up on gluten, autoimmune conditions and other diet related topics.
Not only did I have a few relapses in my ongoing diet but I also realised that there were most certainly other lifestyle factors involved. My psoriasis eventually returned when the summer was over and contrary to my initial, wishful, impression I come to the belief that there is no silver bullet, no holy grail and no universal solution to any condition, be it physical, mental, or environmental. Only individual and holistic approaches will serve long term, true healing.
More on this and other health related issues coming up here or in my newsletter.
The body is extension and servant of the mind, but when the body becomes the mind with desires, with distractions or with pains – the servant becomes the master.
14th January 2019
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