Category Archives: Body

My Black Eye

This post originally published by Mamamia

http://www.mamamia.com.au/health-wellbeing/what-happens-when-you-try-to-stop-violence-against-women/

Screen Shot 2013 06 24 at 11.07.02 AM Her boyfriend didnt do this to her. But he didnt stop it happening either...

Mary Lou Stephens after the ordeal

Her boyfriend didn’t do this to her. But he didn’t stop it happening either….

I was a lot younger than I am now when it happened. And I was a lot more idealistic. I was sitting in a pub with my boyfriend and his mates.

A man and a woman I didn’t know began to fight nearby. The fight turned violent. He hit her. More than once. More than twice. I waited for my boyfriend and his mates to do something. To tell the man to stop. To protect the woman. They did nothing. They steadfastly ignored what was happening only metres away.

“Aren’t you going to do anything?” I asked them.

They didn’t answer. They wouldn’t even look at me.

“I’m going to stop this,” I said and stood up.

My boyfriend put his hand on my arm. “It’s none of our business.”

I shrugged his hand off and moved away. The couple were screaming at each other. He grabbed her hair and pulled her head back. She was crying, her face red from where he’d hit her.

“Hey,” I said. “Stop it.”

The man span around to look at me. “What?”

“Stop it. Leave her alone.”

And he did. He left her alone and strode over to me. “This is none of your business,” he said, echoing my boyfriend words. He was angry, drunk and wild-eyed.

“Well, if it’s none of my business don’t do it near me. You do it in front of me, you make it my business.”

What did I expect? Did I think he’d see reason? Did I imagine he’d stop, think about it and say, “You know what, you’re right. Sorry.”

BM1NZG4CEAAAmh9 380x488 Her boyfriend didnt do this to her. But he didnt stop it happening either...
Should someone have stopped Charles Saatchi instead of taking a photograph?

Wrong. This was a man who hit women. This was a man who hit women in public and didn’t care who saw him do it.

This was a man who didn’t think twice in picking up a beer bottle and taking a swing at me. I got my arm up to block the blow. I thought he would stop after that.

I thought my boyfriend would intercede, after all surely it was his business now. Wrong again. The man took another swing at me. I wasn’t expecting it.

Luckily the beer bottle was full. Luckily the bottle didn’t smash. I was almost knocked unconscious but I was not cut.

The man dropped the bottle and ran. The woman ran after him. My boyfriend offered to take me to hospital.

“Why didn’t you do something?” I asked him.

“If he’d hit you one more time I was going to,” he answered.

“Twice was not enough?”

He didn’t answer.

My eye was swelling up. I could hardly see out of it. I slumped in my seat, dizzy and nauseous.

My boyfriend’s mates helped him get me to the car. “We’ll get that fuck wit,” they said. “We’ll get him and bash him up.”

“No. Don’t,” I said. “Violence isn’t going to fix anything.” Besides I was worried that if they did, it would start a chain reaction. I was a woman who lived alone. I didn’t fancy being hit again, or worse, by that man. “Just take me home.”

“You don’t want to go to the hospital?”

“I just want to go home.”

My boyfriend and I split up not long afterwards. He was prepared to do nothing while a woman he didn’t know was beaten up in front of him. He was prepared to do nothing when I woman he did know and supposedly loved was bashed in front of him. He was not the man for me. He was a coward.

Don’t walk past. But do take care.

Some people told me I should have known better. That I shouldn’t have got involved. That, really, it was none of my business. “I guess you’ve learnt your lesson,” they said. “I’ll bet you’ll never do that again.”

My answer always surprised them. The answer from a woman with a black eye, a swollen face, a woman who has a small dent on her cheekbone to this day as a result.

“I would do it again and I will do it again if it happens in front of me. It is unacceptable. What does that say about me if I accept it?”

I didn’t have the Chief of Army’s fine words to say to them back them but now I do. “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.” I wear that dent on my cheek with pride and awareness. If a man is violent to a woman there is every chance he will be violent to me when I intervene.

Don’t walk past but do take care.

 If you need help or just somebody to talk to, you can contact 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or go to their website. They are the national sexual assault and domestic family violence counselling service.

Mary Lou Stephens has worked in music and radio but has now discovered a passion for writing. Her first book is entitled “Sex, Drugs and Meditation.” Follow her on Twitter here and visit her website here.

You are loved. You are beautiful.

Yes, Highly Creative People Hear Voices—& It’s Normal. ~ Mary-Lou Stephens

elephant journal

Via on Jun 26, 2013

Source: via Gina on Pinterest

When I was a kid I heard voices.

The low murmuring ones frightened me. They were dark and powerful. I could never understand what they were saying but they scared me.

The other voices were light, like a breeze rippling through my mind. I liked them. Sometimes the light and dark voices had conversations but it was in a language I didn’t understand. I remember sitting on the toilet listening to them—they liked small spaces. That’s when they talked the most. I liked small spaces too.

Especially ones where you could lock the door.

I don’t remember when they left. Perhaps I was possessed by spirits and they were blasted out by the power of the Holy Spirit at the charismatic Christian rallies I went to with my parents when I was a teenager. Slain in the spirit, talking in tongues, the voices in my head couldn’t compete. They packed up shop and went off to find some other vulnerable, lonely kid.

The voices were long gone by the time I got to therapy, so I never mentioned them. But when I was living in Sydney and heavily involved with 12 Step programs for my various addictions, I became a Lifeline telephone counsellor. At one of the training sessions the subject of hearing voices came up. Afterwards, I had a private word to the lecturer about the voices I’d heard when I was a child.

“Are you a creative person?” he asked.

“Yes. I write songs and play in bands.”

“Well, that explains it.”

“How?”

“Clearly you’re not schizophrenic or delusional,” he said.

“One theory that I particularly like, and I think pertains to you, is that highly creative people, as well as those we’d think of as geniuses, hear voices. These voices can be the source of creativity or a precursor of creativity. I’d see them as a gift.”

He was a gift. The perfect person to ask the question I’d never been game to ask before. I was afraid that I would be thought mad. Instead, he considered me to be a creative genius.

I do still hear voices from time to time but now when they speak I understand them perfectly. A few years ago, I had a voice that would ask me a question. It was always the same question and always asked in a loving way.

“Are you happy?” the voice would ask.

My answer was always “Yes.”

After the latest 10 day silent meditation retreat I went to earlier this year, I brought a new voice home with me. When I’m on the edge of sleep and when I first wake up, the voice says,

“You are loved.”

This voice has stayed with me in the months since the retreat and I hope it stays forever. Sometimes, even during the day, I will hear it say, “I love you.” At the end of my daily meditation it is often there, “You are loved.”

Another voice spoke to me just last weekend. It said something shocking, something so radical, I was rocked to my core. I was walking, on my way to visit a friend, the warm sun on my back, a gentle breeze blowing through my hair. Out of nowhere this new voice said,

“You are beautiful.”

I was stunned. Those are three words I would never say to myself.  The three words I most often say are, “You are fat” or “You are stupid.” Never, “You are beautiful.” But I heard those words, “You are beautiful” and I thought, “Yes. Yes I am.”

Where are these loving voices coming from? A gift of my meditation practice? Is it that the persona I have built in an effort to protect myself is no longer needed?

Am I finally allowing the truth in? I am loved. I am beautiful.

I arrived at my friend’s house and she opened the door. “You are beautiful,” she said.

Without a moment’s hesitation I replied, “Yes. Yes I am.”

 

Personal or personally? Your choice.

It’s the little things. The little things that make a day gloomy. The little things that brighten it again. The rainbow in the grey and drizzly clouds. Clean sheets to slide into after a tiring day. The dog leaning in for a pat, eyes full of love, even though you know she’s just dug up the silver beet. Again.

Many little annoying things throughout the day can make it seem as though the world is Smiley coffeeagainst us. One annoying incident can be ignored. Two and we might become irritable. Three and that’s it, we know that everyone and everything is out to get us. The best advice I’ve been given in these situations is not to take it personally. Because it’s not personal. It just is. Once we take something personally though, everything becomes loaded with meaning, with emotion, and with blame and resentment. Don’t you feel tired just thinking about it? Nurture your mind, reclaim your energy and your smile by not taking stuff personally. No one’s out to get you, and even if they are, it has nothing to do with you and everything to do them. So no matter what’s happened, it’s not personal.

Instead of fretting about those little things that don’t mean anything anyway, why not spend some time getting personal? If you stop taking things personally you’ll have more time to spend with yourself and with other people. Take some time out to breathe, to stretch, to skip, to smile. One of the quickest ways to get personal with yourself is with meditation. If you want to find out what you’re really thinking, try to stop thinking! But all the experts agree as little as ten minutes of meditation a day can make a huge difference to all kinds of health and emotional issues. Nurture your soul with a little meditation.

There are some who think that the answer to all of life’s problems is a nice cup of tea. Whether it’s the extended process of brewing up a spicy chai on a cool winter’s night, or simply boiling the kettle for a quick and simple green tea, the whole process is imbued with anticipation and delight. And the end result is a sip, a sigh, a smack of the lips. The little things that add up to an experience. A small experience that’s true, just a little thing, and the easiest way to nurture body, mind and soul.

 

Why you must rest…

Woodford-14

Blaise Pascal was a clever man. He was a mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and philosopher. He also worked out the solution to all our problems. Incredible when you discover he lived almost four hundred years ago. This Renaissance man from the seventeenth century had the answer to every single thing that plagues us today. And what is that answer?

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

Some call it meditation, others call it contemplation, but the ability to spend time with ourselves in silence is something that is very rare these days. There are so many distractions.

My favourite Australian philosopher Michael Leunig reached much the same conclusion. In the Curly Pyjama Letters Mr Curly says to his friend Vasco:

“It is worth doing nothing and it is worth having a rest. In spite of all the difficulty it may cause, you MUST rest Vasco – otherwise you will become RESTLESS!”

mr Curly

And there you have it. Two great minds, centuries apart, coming to the same conclusion in their own way. Peace, quiet and rest are necessary. Otherwise we become anxious, restless, dissatisfied and stressed. We become exhausted, drained, depleted and sick.

For myself, meditation is the solution I choose. Sitting quietly in a room alone has unexpectedly been the source of my greatest creativity and my greatest healing. The mind is an amazing thing when left to its own devices, without the constant overstimulation that bombards us every day. When my mind stills from the relentless inane everyday chatter, when it stops milling over the nuance of every interaction and action of my past, when it ceases worrying about possible future events that may never happen, then the glory of its creativity can blossom. It arises from a space that is usually crowded out by the noise and busyness of the world outside my quiet room. When I give my mind the space and time to just be, it rewards me with treasures from the deep.

Sitting quietly in a room alone has also given me a range of healing. The physical benefits of meditation are well documented; lower blood pressure, less pain and it is the only thing that has been proved to help with auto-immune diseases. Also the emotional healing I’ve gained from meditation has changed my life, my work and my relationships.

We simply must rest, sit quietly in a room alone, to be, to create and to heal.

This post originally appeared in the May 2013 edition of Holistic Bliss Magazine

 

Three Simple Stretches

It started with three simple stretches. Actually, let me back up a little. It started at A Chorus Line. As I watched the dancers on stage I was struck by the thought, “I’d like to have what they have. I’d like to be that lithe, that flexible.” Flexibility has never been my strong point, either physically or emotionally. A sports doctor once told me that my flexibility was the little hands and little feetworst he’d ever encountered in a woman. He said it was bad even for a bloke! I’ve tried to do something about it in the past and ended up in tears, feeling like a two year old in a world she doesn’t understand.

Some days after A Chorus Line, when walking the dog, I saw a sign outside a house. A sign I had never seen before. It was for something called physio yoga. I wrote down the number and made an appointment. This is where the three simple stretches come in. At the appointment I told Sarah, the physiotherapist, that I would like my body to be more flexible, that I would love to become more aware of my body and I really wasn’t sure how. I also warned her that when I’d seen physios in the past, after I’d injured my knee and when I had a frozen shoulder, they just loaded me up with exercises that I’d resent having to do and would stop doing at the earliest opportunity. She suggested three simple stretches I could do everyday and that I come along to one of her physio yoga classes and see if it suited me. Easy. I could do that. And I did.

Three simple stretches everyday. And everyday my awareness of my body increased. I went to one of her classes and instead of feeling like a clumsy fat dolt as I had in past yoga classes, I felt looked after. She was a physio, I was her client, I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone. I could relax. She has a Pilates reformer bed and I asked if I could have some sessions. She guided me through and I started being able to use it on my own. My body loves it; stretching, sliding, pressing and all with an incredible sense of support.

I have struggled with my weight from the age of eight. Sometimes fat, sometimes slim but always battling my own body. Through these three simple stretches and the things they have led to, I’ve realised that I’m like a child when it comes to my body. I need to be helped, guided, given gentle encouragement. Instead I have been a tyrant, abusive and cruel. Never aware. Just bossy and thoughtless. It was a revelation to me that I could have a greater connection with my body, not through food and diets, this fad or another, but through movement. Through gentle, supported, nourishing movement. Through three simple stretches.

Morphine or Meditation?

If you’re in pain what are you going to do, pop a pill or do some mindfulness meditation? sun & cloudsThere’s a lot of research that shows you’re better off doing the latter. Apparently meditation is better for pain relief than pain relievers. These studies have been going on for over thirty years and are so well-respected that in some parts of Canada meditation training is covered by their provincial health plan for those referred by a physician. That in itself is an interesting concept, doctors suggesting their patients learn how to meditate. Is this an admission that the drugs don’t work?

In the UK doctors are being told to heavily reduce prescriptions of painkillers and sleeping pills because of concerns that patients are becoming addicted. Instead they’re being asked to consider alternative treatments. That’s where meditation comes in. All this research involving heat testing and brain scans is showing that just one hour of meditation training can result in about a 40% reduction in pain intensity. Morphine and other pain-relieving drugs typically reduce pain ratings by about 25%. Meditation appears to work by calming down the pain experiencing areas of the brain while at the same time boosting coping areas. Ah, the power of the mind.

Mindfulness meditation is all about being in the present moment; observing the breath, observing sensations in the body. It reduces worry about the past and future. Meditation is low-tech and low-cost and even the side-effects are beneficial. In one study statistically significant reductions were observed in  negative body image, mood disturbance, anxiety and depression. Pain-related drug use decreased and activity levels and feelings of self-esteem increased.

In another study participants described achieving well-being during and after a meditation session that had immediate effects on mood elevation but also long-term effects on improved quality of life. Several themes were identified related to pain reduction, improved attention, improved sleep, and achieving well-being resulting from mindfulness meditation that suggest it has promising potential as a non-pharmacologic treatment of chronic pain.

And the latest study suggests meditation’s calming effect could help those with stress-related chronic inflammatory conditions such as bowel disease and asthma. I remember my own GP telling me years ago that the only thing that had been shown to be effective in the treatment of auto-immune diseases was meditation.

There is a saying: “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”. Most suffering, it seems to me, is the stuff we do in our heads; worrying about the future, churning over the past, never giving the present moment a chance. In mindfulness meditation the present moment is all important. Observing the breath, observing the sensations – including the pain – and knowing that this also will change. Sort out the pain from the suffering and almost miraculously most of the pain will disappear – well, according to studies, 40% of it at least.

The Unexpected Joys of Detoxing

“Why do I always do this to myself ?” I found myself thinking three days into a detox retreat. When other people take time off work, most of them have a holiday. Instead I spend seven days without food, taking lots of herbs to clean out my entire system, which before it gets clean feels like…well you get the idea. Other so-called holidays I’ve had involved meditating in silence for ten days and only having lemon water for dinner.  I seem to think that holidays are meant to fortify the body and soul rather than relax them. Perhaps I feel a certain amount of guilt living in a permanent holiday destination, where driving to work means a beautiful meander along the Maroochy River and I get to go to the beach everyday.

Friends and family laughed when I told them I was going on a detox retreat. “You’re the cleanest living person we know,” they said. “What have you got to detox from?” And that was a very good question, a question I didn’t find the complete answer to until almost the end of the retreat.

The answer I found was that I was detoxing from the media, from the news, from the gossip, from the latest round of tragedy and betrayal. I was detoxing from the internet, and boy did I go through withdrawals. Not being able to google myself up an answer or some information at the touch of a keyboard was almost as tough as going without three meals a day plus snacks.

I was detoxing from a certain mindset that pushes us all to achieve in the external world, to acquire and grasp and cut ourselves off from each other with our possessions and positions in life.

I was detoxing from fear, from the need to constantly prove myself in the eyes of others.

And strangely enough of all, I was detoxing from music. I fill my ears constantly with sounds from all over the world, the latest hit single from the multinational multi-labels to obscure bouzouki playing duos recorded on the last two-track reel-to-reel in existence. Sometimes your ears need a good cleaning out as well as the rest of your system so that you can appreciate a simple melody or a beautiful lyric.

The joy of detoxing is that you get to begin again all squeaky clean and when you do you can really enjoy that brand new song, the latest factoid on the internet and the taste of, well let’s face it, just about anything tastes good after a week of not eating!

**This post also appeared as a column in Holistic Bliss Magazine November 2012

A Sick Joke

I’m going to tell you a joke. I’ve only got a couple of them that I reluctantly trot out in public.

The Hubby encourages me to. Not because I’m a particularly good teller of jokes, I think he just likes to see me being silly. Usually I’m such a serious young hedgehog, bustling around being rather prickly. So telling jokes is a good way to be a galah, chattering away and having a play. There is a reason for telling you this joke, which will become apparent very soon.

So, there’s this lion walking through the jungle, actually strutting more like. He sees a monkey and he roars, “I’m the King of the Jungle! I’m big and strong and brave. You’re just a silly, banana-eating primate.”

The monkey, scared out of his wits, or what little wits he has, nods his head and scuttles off.

The lion struts along some more and he sees a warthog. “I’m the King of the Jungle! I’m big and strong and brave. You’re just a pig with big teeth.”

The warthog isn’t all that happy with this turn of events but knows better than to take on a lion, so he snorts and trots off.

The lion, feeling very pleased with himself, continues to strut through the jungle and spies a mouse. “Ha!” he roars. “I’m the King of the Jungle! I’m big and strong and brave. You’re just a puny, scrawny, pathetic little rodent.”

The mouse looks up at the lion through squinty little eyes, wrinkles his little pink nose and

“I’ve been sick.”

says in a very squeaky little voice. “I know, but I’ve been sick.”

And the reason for telling you that joke. “I’ve been sick!” Still am. I’m feeling very small, squinty and mouse-like. And when you’re sick the world feels like a roaring lion, big, strutting and noisy. It’s all a bit too much. Best to concede to the puny, pathetic mouse-like state and find a dark corner to hide in. Tomorrow I might be a lion but today I’m a scrawny squeaker. And as long as the dog doesn’t consider me a snack, I should survive.

Oh the pain, the pain!

One minute I was fighting fit. I stood in front of the bathroom mirror tying my hair back in readiness for a walk with the dog. It was a beautiful morning and I was looking forward to striding out through leafy streets, past creeks and canals and then back home again for breakfast. I had planned a day of cooking, gardening and writing. The Hubby was away and I was free to do as I pleased.

I finished putting my hair in a pony-tail and as I did my entire right shoulder went into some kind of spasm. That’s the only way I can explain it. One minute I was pain-free, the next I was in incredible agony. All my plans for the day dissolved as I came to grips with this sudden reality. The pain was dramatic. I couldn’t turn my neck and, when only a few moments ago I felt invincible, I now felt small and vulnerable, close to tears.

I managed to walk down to the park at the end of the street with the dog sniffing and pulling at the lead. I even managed to throw the ball for her with my left arm and the help of one of those ubiquitous plastic ball throwing devices that almost all dog owners own these days.

At home, on the couch, I reviewed my situation. I could still write and that was a blessing. I usually avoid pain killers but in this instance I succumbed and with the help of heat packs I got through the day.

The next morning I went to see the chiro. Sean, the massage therapist warmed me up before the chiro came to do the cracking.

“Do much computer work?” Sean asked.

“Oh yes.”

“That’ll be your problem then.”

It was puzzling though that tying my hair back had brought this on. I had had a lot of trouble with my right shoulder but the pain was usually lower down.

“Something, somewhere, at sometime will complain,” explained Sean. “It’s cumulative and that’s the action that triggered it.”

“Okay,” I said. “I make a pledge here and now to make a change. I’ve tried before and given up because it’s so darn hard, but from today I will use the mouse with my left hand.”

And here’s my challenge to you. Try using the computer mouse with your non-dominant hand and see how long you last. Especially at work, under time pressures. There have been times when the stress, tension and frustration of doing so seemed counter-productive but I have persisted. I am determined to become adept at using the mouse with my left hand. My body has demanded change and I am delivering it. I’m not alone with suffering shoulder pain from mouse usage, here are some tips that might be useful if you’re in the same boat.

I also bought and downloaded some Feldenkrais mp3s specifically for shoulder pain. I first encountered the Feldenkrais Method when I was at acting school and it has come back into my consciousness recently. The method is all about awareness through movement. The founder Moshe Feldenkrais said, “With awareness everything is possible.” That appeals to me enormously. It also got me thinking about the pain and my body. What was right about this pain that I wasn’t getting? What was it about this situation that I was pretending not to know? And the answers that came to me were all about awareness. I am guilty of treating my body like a machine. There are certain tasks, often very repetitive ones, that I demand my body do without me ever being aware of how they’re affecting it. I used to have one of those timers on my computer at work that buzzed every 20 minutes to tell me to stretch or to get up and take a little walk. It got so annoying I turned it off and kept ploughing on through, as usual. I was denying my body. So this shoulder pain is my body saying to me, “You can’t ignore me anymore, something has to change.”

And let me tell you this, if you do try using the mouse with your non-dominant hand it will be a revelation. I can no longer take my body for granted. I am no longer a machine. I am acutely conscious of every time I use the mouse, I know exactly what my body is doing and what is involved with getting that cursor where I want it. Awareness through movement? You betcha!