Why Guilty Pleasure is Good for You

My neighbour and I had been trying for weeks to get together. With opposite work schedules and kids’ stuff, it was getting ridiculous. Last week, she noticed that the movie we’d been attempting to see in the theatre was available on demand, so she suggested a daytime date.

Perfect. We found an afternoon that suited us both. “Any guilty pleasures foodwise?” she texted. “We should treat ourselves to a fun lunch while we watch!” Which translates as junk food: anything greasy, salty or sweet.

I loved the idea – a yummy lunch AND a movie while our kids are at school! So as not to fall completely into eating junk, I picked up some local cheddar and fresh sourdough, made upscale grilled cheeses with a fennel salad, sweet potato fries and a delectable ginger cake. It was a fantastic meal that fit the junk food bill without going so far overboard that I’d regret it later.

We indeed had a fun lunch.

The movie wasn’t as fabulous as we’d hoped, given the weeks of anticipation, but it fuelled our conversation through tea and dessert before the kids got home. Though we were in the kitchen by that point, her son walked in, took one look at the placemats we’d left of the coffee table and asked accusingly, “Did you eat in front of the TV?!?”

Up until then, the day had been pleasurable. I was gob-smacked to notice that those words from a 9-year-old brought on the guilt. For the briefest of moments, I was frozen with my hand in the cookie jar.


Guilt comes from doing something we feel we shouldn’t do. It’s about stuff we’re afraid to admit we do, like, want.

For me, guilt doesn’t show up with eating chocolate cake or ice cream or a bag of chips – I have no qualms in satisfying those yens from time to time. That said, I’ve recently woken up to the fact that eating what I ought not eat, especially too frequently or in too large quantities, is actually a punishment – the part that flies right past the guilt and hits hard. (You can read that particular story here.)

The guilt that day came from the feeling that I’d been breaking the rules.

As a mother I work damn hard to uphold the rules. In terms of eating, that might mean ensuring that meals happen at the table and with a good dose of vegetables. I’m also known to harp on to anyone who’s not present to their food, by reading or checking email during breakfast.

There’s an assumption – a self-induced theory to the structure of my days – that while others are busy at the office or school, I too am working. Whether it’s paid work or volunteer or getting Christmas planned doesn’t matter, so long as it’s work. Something useful and productive. As a result, I seem to have created compartments in my mind for when one is expected to be serious and when one is allowed to have fun.

Choosing to watch a movie over lunch in the middle of a random Wednesday afternoon broke that rule…even if the naughtiness of it was a part of the pleasure.

The guilt – the shame – came in the being found out, like a teenager who sees the only thing wrong with her behaviour is getting caught.

Was it in the 90s when people started spouting that “guilt is a useless emotion”? I remember my mother-ex-in-law explaining it to me; how, like worry, it doesn’t have any function other than to tie you in internal knots. Perhaps, like worry, guilt’s function is to point us in the direction of that which needs to change, where we need to set something in motion outside of ourselves.

This particular afternoon of hookie brought my awareness to how much I strive to, if not always follow the rules, at least give the impression that I am. This is my inner teenager, who learned how to rebel without getting caught…and perhaps, without willing to go too far out of her comfort zone.

My predilection for rules got me labeled as the goody-goody more often than I care to admit. This week’s taste of guilty pleasure reminded me that I can follow the rules and be productive and useful, but I don’t need to take it all so seriously. I’m not going to be struck from above for having a bit of fun.

Yes, it’s important that I stick to a certain structure for the sake of my business and my family. It’s important that I take proper care of myself, to feed myself nourishing food and avoid the things that cause me harm, but it doesn’t need to be serious. Those 2 attitudes don’t need to walk constantly hand-in-hand. In this case, it means that a “fun” meal can also have elements of healthy – that a healthy lunch can be fun.

The pleasure of food comes from the delicious combination of colours, textures, flavours,… without going overboard into the realm of punishment. Within that pleasure, letting loose into “cheating” or being “naughty” means making choices that veer from my daily regime, and for the most part, they happen consciously. While this may sound like the goody-goody version of letting loose, I’ve been having a lot of fun with how I nourish myself lately.

Playful smoothie combinations or topping my bowl with (sweetened, but beautifully jewel-coloured) dry cranberries

Opting for frozen sweet potato fries and melted cheese

Eating lunch in front of the TV…by myself!

Cooking a meal just for me, that I will adore.

The nourishment of pleasure goes beyond food choices:

  •       Waking a half-hour early to have the whole house to myself while I journal and pull a card or two
  •       Working in the hot sun at the dining table (the deck in summer) rather than my desk
  •       “Abandoning” my family to walk home from the hockey arena on a warm day.


By taking delight in these small moments through my day, I’m rejuvenating body and soul at a whole other level. I’m raising oxytocin levels, boosting motivation and charging creative energy in one fell swoop.

By putting the focus on enjoyment, it lightens the guilt, takes the shame out of the closet for air. (As I’ve said before, air and light are kryptonite to shame.)

Have I been so steeped in the model that that “useful” is the only acceptable daytime activity, that I’ve come to fear judgment from on high if I choose otherwise?

In taking my need for pleasure out to play, letting a crack open in the veneer of perfection I think I need to maintain, I’m opening myself to the momentary freedom of not having to care what others think.

Where the guilt I noticed the other day felt like hiding, instead I’ve created the space for my needs to step forward, step out, be seen – regardless of whether others find them acceptable. In opening up those needs, I take away the struggle and give them permission to be met.

If that’s not healthy, I don’t know what is.


So, tell me, which guilty pleasure is calling to you today? Tell us here – when you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others – then go and fulfull it! …Then come back to let us know it felt!

If you’d rather rather whisper this stuff quietly, join the WH community and share your secrets with us in the comfort of the closed Whole Health Dinner Party group. I’ll be in there later in the week to mull over more thoughts about guilt, pleasure and creating better habits.

Curbing your Attitude of Apology

A few weeks back I received an email from my yoga teacher offering a 5-minute practice while she was away. It revolved around the mantra “I’m allowed to take up space.”

This affirmation immediately brought to mind how I often act with an attitude of apology, that is, not actually saying I’m sorry, but feeling like I’m imposing on others by requesting to have my needs met.


How many times have I clammed up because I might upset someone or be an inconvenience to them?

It’s not just me. I don’t even think it’s just us overly-polite Canadians. How many women do you know who apologize at every turn?

  • I bump into a lady at the grocery story, and she says sorry.
  • Delayed email replies come in with the story that defends or hopes to excuse its tardiness.
  • A colleague who just finished the flu apologizes for needing to cough.
  • I decline the salad filled with nuts at a neighbour’s house and she apologizes profusely for not knowing about my allergy – how could she have known when I didn’t tell her? (There was no way I was going to starve without it, either.)
  • Women all over the internet are offering and taking courses about how to request the fees that reflect their goods’ & services’ value, or how to be visible for the sake of their business.

Some days it feels like the women around me are apologizing for their very existence. Double ouch.

At the same time, there’s a huge paradigm shift happening, with women standing up and speaking the truth despite the risk of backlash and shame.

The very energies make that kind of shift at this time every year, as the sap begins to flow and buds prepare to appear. Nature is burgeoning out of its winter shell. Seeds are decaying in the warming ground so that new life can feed on the remains.

To paraphrase Leonard Cohen, cracks are appearing in everything so that the light can get in.

In fact, I’ve come to learn that shame doesn’t happen when the truth is let out into the light. Shame is the stagnant stew that keeps the thing festering in the dark. Shame is what makes us want to apologize for just being here.

Which gets me back to the idea of taking up space.

In the dance of emotion, anger’s purpose is to take up space. It’s the sweeping arms and roar of a mama bear protecting her den. It’s the kicking and punching that fend off an attacker. It’s the premenstrual fury that makes everyone else take a step back from you, giving you the space you need at that vulnerable time.

Anger is the energy that pushes you out of the stagnating funk or disappointment or fear and makes you take that first step forward.


In a couple of weeks, we’ll be making the transition into spring – the season of wood, according to Chinese energetics – a time of blossoming green and all of life pushing out into new growth.

Spring is the time of the liver, what many people now know as the seat of anger. It is, however, also the seat of creativity. Just think how frustration leads to new ideas when you back off with a little patience. That creativity is what gets expressed when you step out of your shell and into the light of day.

The wood element also looks after your tendons. The sinew that, like the reawakening limbs of trees, are ready to be lubricated for movement, as you uncurl from the cold.

Spring is the time to throw off the detritus of winter, when your energy returns with the growing light, when you want to be outside more and be more active and start new projects.

The big trend at this time of year is to detox: clean that liver of all the junk and too much “comfort food” through the winter. This is a great practice, though for anyone who’s not used to it, I caution you to go gently; start simply in your first go-round. Overdoing it can deplete rather than recharge you, if you’re doing too much too soon (i.e. before winter is fully over) and it can also be like poking that mama bear when she’s been brewing over old slights for years.

Think of your liver like a pressure cooker: you want to let the steam off gently and gradually so it won’t explode in your face.


Other than cutting out the sugar etc., and eating more greens (if it grows naturally at this time of year, eat it!), there are other practices that can support your liver and your rejuvenation as you sprout into the next iteration of the wholly healthy vision of who you’re becoming.


  • Hydrate well: get all the juices flowing to keep you limber and flexible (physically and otherwise).
  • Get outside and move (walk, run, skate if it’s still cold enough, bike if it’s dry enough, play street hockey with your kids).
  • Look up to the clear blue sky; let it recharge your energy (your pineal gland loves that particular colour!).
  • Until the trees pop in the coming weeks, notice the patterns and shapes in their lacework of possibility.
  • Put on your favourite music and sing your heart out. Dance too!
  • Write out what pisses you off, cry about it – let those tears wash you clean – then take the steps to change what you can and release what you can’t.
  • When you hit frustration or irritation or any other brick wall that makes you want to rage or give up in despair, take a step back into the buffer zone of patience.

These gestures don’t need to be large or earth-shattering (that’s part of the patience piece again).

The day I got that email, I consciously made a couple of clear requests of those around me. No one was offended by my call for help – I was home with a very sick boy and needed a few groceries – or by my asking to reorganize schedules to better suit my priorities. The next day, I got up the gumption to quit something that wasn’t working for me, rather than stick with it out of obligation.

In staying present to what I needed that day, I opened my capacity to be present for myself and others…I gave myself the room to grow into that new space.

In opening the door to who you are, even just a tiny crack, allows the tiniest tendril of your being to peak out; to gather some sunlight, to feel the kiss of a few raindrops and grow that much more.

Which door are you ready to crack open; where does your being need a little more light? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

Are You Your Body’s Worst Enemy?

Ever get hit with a smack-in-your-face reality check and wonder why it took you so long to figure this out? The kind that makes you wonder how you could be so stupid…how could you have let it happen when you clearly know better?

A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling terrific. I was emerging more & more from the shell of safety I’d built around myself during the big move. My thoughts were much more clear than they had been since the car accident, and though my belly was giving me occasional grief, my body was reacquainting me with the strength and resilience I thought I’d lost to the downhill slide of middle age.

I took a little trip home to Montreal to visit friends and such. At an acupressure session, I was reawakened to the deep healing you get from going for tune-up support rather than damage control. I walked out feeling like a million bucks!

That night, I went out for the first in a series of overly permissive meals, all in the name of my birthday. I proceeded to indulge, at one point or other over the next 2 days, in ALL the things I usually avoid out of concern for my health… at times, all at once.

I mean, come on, this was a time to be celebrating, a time to let myself go and enjoy.

While I’d just had all this lovely energetic work done on my digestive system, and was fully aware that taking it easy was important – in the same way a big workout after a massage or chiropractic adjustment is to be avoided – I still let my elbow be twisted about sharing a bottle of wine, I ordered the veggies smothered in sour cream. I didn’t refuse the invitation to share a slice of chocolate cheesecake.*

Little wonder that I felt like crap warmed over on the train home, sipping lemon water and swearing to eat nothing but vegetables and broth for the next week.

My logical brain wanted to pin the hangover on some particular culprit: too many late nights, one glass of wine too many, the chocolate, the pasta, the ice cream.*

The fact is, this had nothing to do with the dairy or the gluten or the chocolate or the sugar or the alcohol – they were incidental to this story.

The worst offender in all of it was myself.


Yes, there are certain foods and habits that you are best to avoid. If you’re trying to fit back into your favourite dress, if your arthritis prevents you from opening the pickle jar, if your gassy gut makes it too embarrassing to go out, there are definitely foods you know to stay away from, there are habits that help you feel better, that prevent things from getting worse.

It’s so easy on those days that you feel bad to stick to the tried & true routine. Once you start to feel good again, your resolve slips. The better you feel, the more exceptions you allow.

If you’re listening closely to your body, you will be aware of the subtle whispers when she hints that it’s time to ease up and be “good” again.


Then there are the times when you feel great, when you’re so high on yourself, you feel invincible, and you somehow believe that nothing could harm you. These are the days you understand what you want your new normal to be. This is how you dream of feeling every day.

Integrate that sensation when it comes; sit with it, get to know the edges of this newly expanded container around you, seek its wisdom. Settle into it.

If you don’t you’re liable to crash as I did.

The Hendricks’ call this the Upper Limits Problem – when you get to a state of more positive energy than you’re used to, and you (subconsciously) find a way to knock yourself back down a few pegs.


Is there a fine line, though, where the knocking down isn’t quite so subconscious, when celebrating becomes damage?


This may be harsh to say, but that’s what I call abusive.

What I did to myself the other day – ignoring the pleas from my inner knowing and ingesting things I ought not, and in large quantities; hurting my system more because it was extra sensitive, then back-tracking with promises to do better next time. Sounds like abuse to me.

bound in self abuseThe Bach Flower Essence for abuse/self-abuse is Vine. Think of the plant itself: perfect tool for self-flagellation. Even after you do the thing that hurts you, that was so stupid, you continue to beat yourself up about it for days and weeks to come. A vine is the perfect plant for tying yourself up in a knot.

Then it hardens, so that you end up being fully bound in old growth.

Thinking about vines reminds me of the princess in the tower, locked there by a nasty old witch, the character we’ve come to associate with evil personified. Could it be that witch is the part of you that keeps you locked inside the perceived limitations of your issues?

The witch is selfish in the way that she prevents the princess from sharing her beauty with the rest of the kingdom. In squandering your good feelings, in hoarding this better version of you by keeping her hidden or small, you deprive others of the opportunity to love you. You deprive yourself of an opportunity to love you.

The witch cares for the princess so much that she hides her away out of fear for her innocence, not wanting her to get hurt. Are you caring for yourself when you don’t give yourself the chance to heal, or is that a form of cruelty? It’s true: the more open you are, the more you stand up for what you value, the more vulnerable you are to ridicule and attack from the world around you. Yet, the more open you are, the more space you have to grow and blossom into that million dollar version you usually only glimpse.

All that to say that, as much as some of your back-sliding may be subconscious, there are times when perhaps you’re more aware than you’re willing to admit. There are times when you ignore your better judgment, your inner voice and the advice of your health-care practitioner in favour of the momentary freedom of not having to care.

There are times when your fears of stepping out of the familiar shell that is your life and state of health keep you bound in inertia.


The good news is that making mistakes is all a part of learning.

Deliberate or not, every time I overstretch the current limits of my body, I’m brought back to a place where I can regroup with compassion, and find a new route by which I can find my way out of the familiar in comfort.


I will say this again because I want to be sure you heard it:

When you get to that place of feeling better that you have in ages, of having shifted into a gorgeous expansion (albeit unfamiliar):

Integrate that sensation when it comes; sit with it, get to know the edges of this newly expanded container around you, seek its wisdom. Settle into it.


Do you abuse your body with misplaced care? When you share your thoughts and experiences in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

* Note: none of the food items I mention in this anecdote are bad for you in and of themselves. They represent the worst culprits in this particular phase of my healing journey. We’ll talk more about permission and concepts such as 80/20 in an upcoming post.


Why Am I Dealing with This AGAIN?!?

As I settle into the rhythms of the New Year, I’ve been revisiting the basics of my business and coming face-to-face with where I get stuck over and over again. Notions of branding and editorial calendars and the like.

WAIT! Before you think you’re in the wrong place or that I’ve changed tacks altogether, bear with me…I’ll get to the point that you need to hear.

When I started out as a practitioner, that’s what I wanted to do: practice modalities to help clients find ease with their health. It never occurred to me, until I was thrown into the wilds after graduation, that I’d also have to think about message and networking. Marketing has become the bellyache that has me lying awake at night considering the possibility of giving it all up in frustration for a simple life of suburban housewifery.

That’s not why I got into this profession! I went back to school so I could guide women to a deeper understanding of their bodies, to teach them about the choices they have to address their health, not to learn about metrics.

It’s my mission to have you to hear the call of you soul as it whispers urges to change a few habits, so your entire being can shine. I can’t do that unless I shine: I have to get out there and do the stuff I’d rather not do.

It’s a form of self-care. You have habits in place which mean you will be feeling your best, that you have the stamina to get through your day, so you can be the effective professional and the present mom you strive to be despite the chaos that has been your life.

So, I do what I gotta do – perhaps grumbling a bit at first – inevitably I learn something about myself, my abilities, my strengths & weaknesses, and a much deeper understanding of how I might help. I learn something new about business in general and maybe navigate the world of marketing with a bit more confidence and skill than before.

One of the coaches I follow describes it as a spiral staircase: you keep going around the same circle, getting to the same place over and over, but each time you do, it’s from a higher vantage point. You’re older, wiser, more experienced and can see the benefits (or downfalls) of what you did before, giving you the foothold to get up to the next level.

It works the same way with your health.

When you’re dealing with a chronic condition, like IBS or anxiety, or when you get one cold after another through the winter: there are times when you feel like you’ve licked it. Whatever remedies or diets or bodywork you’ve tried has you feeling better than you have in ages and you’re convinced it’s gone for good. And maybe it does go for a few weeks, months, years even, but then it shows up again.

Symptoms that are all too familiar – that particular stabbing under your ribs, the spinning thoughts that won’t let you focus or the bone-deep tiredness that signals you’re about to get sick. Again.

So you go on the hunt once more. You head to the doctor, the mindfulness coach, the nutritionist who will have the right answer this time, all the while kicking yourself for the ways you believe you went wrong.

After that anger and self-flagellation and the defeatist rant – that’s it, this is going to stick around for the rest of my life! – after these feelings pass, take a moment to observe what’s actually going on.

Is it exactly the same as it was before or have things shifted, even by the tiniest amount?

Though familiar, is the pain perhaps a little less intense than usual?

Are you having fewer panic attacks?

Does this virus feel like it’s moving through rather than taking up residence in your chest?

Is it possible that you are, in fact, experiencing these symptoms from higher up on the path to full health?

Could it be that what you were doing has helped and this set-back is here for you to learn & integrate the next piece?


In playing with my Tarot cards at the new year, I pulled the Wheel of Fortune in response to what I might experience through the few first months.

At face value, I took it to mean that things are going to be up & down – there will be good days and bad – what else is new?!? Looking more closely, I was drawn to the way that the king and queen hold hands as if they’re trying to keep each other from falling off.

Well, things got rough already last week (set-backs in both business and health), I was immediately reminded to look for that hand to hold. To get out of the worries in my head and talk to my friends and healers and coaches and support groups until I could find a solution, or at least feel stable enough to handle it on my own.

When my gallbladder acted up, I was in the country without my usual arsenal of remedies and without service to reach any wise-women. It forced me to get back to the basics of nourishing food and journaling about what’s happened lately that might have triggered the flare-up. By the time I got home and was able to take some homeopathics, things cleared pretty quickly.

Easy for you, you might think; yes, I have the knowledge and the products at hand. This time, I did. To be honest, that’s not always the case. Sometimes, fear and frustration block my ability to think for myself and I need to call out for help, which might be in the form of new guidance or might simply remind me of what I already know and have.

With business, I got stuck with which direction to take with my ideas, so I jumped in with a coach, started writing out scenarios based on her prompts, only to realise I’d written it all before. Like with my belly, I have what I need already.

AHA! That card is telling me to “Stop reinventing the wheel!” With my business, with my belly – heck, with parenting, marriage and daily routines – I have the tools for success, and I know who I can call to help when I don’t.

It all comes down to stepping back onto that wheel – taking the action that will move you out of what’s going on, that will create the momentum to move you forward and up to the next level. The ride might be a challenge, and you might need to hold on for dear life for a time so you don’t fall off, yet you will get out of the pitfalls faster than if you let yourself fall off the edge entirely.

If things are bad for you right now, if you’re frustrated to be suffering the same pain, your pants still tight and your energy still flat, let me be the hand you need.

Reach out and I’ll take hold: Let’s talk. I have availability to chat with 12 women this month…a half hour to get you moving in the right direction, let’s set up a time!


Where Are You on your Healing Journey?

In an email she wrote me last week, a client referred to her health as “an ongoing project”.

I could easily have read a defeatist attitude in that descriptive, and certainly, there have been times with that client when the relentless energy it sometimes takes to manage her health has gotten the best of her. However, considering the beauty she shared in the rest of this particular email, I read those words as coming from someone who understands and accepts that what she’s going through is as much a part of her life as the family and friends who surround her, as the work she does, as the food she cooks & eats.

Which isn’t to say that she’s given up on getting better. I have also seen that same person, experiencing the same symptoms, embody the hope of growth and self-discovery as she strives to overcomes the very issues and realities of a chronic condition that threatens to drag her down.

As much as you want to find that miracle solution to cure all that ails you… ever… for the rest of your life, there’s no getting around the ups & downs of healing.

Healing is a journey. There’s no doubt about that. The concept of a healing journey isn’t some new-agey, airy-fairy or lofty notion. It’s a fact.

Like any journey, there are easy steps and rough patches, there are days when you want to call it quits and others when you feel ready to take on the world.

Where you find yourself on that journey speaks about where you’ve been, but more importantly, it offers the map of how to uncover your next steps.


Health & the Healing Journey Demystified

In the linear, Newtonian thinking of our conventional world – the mindset and belief-systems we’ve been steeped in for generations – our ideas of health get caught in the realm of those straight lines, of cause and effect. When you have condition B, take steps 1, 2 and 3 to get you back to healthy state A, by the removal of B altogether.

Some things work like that, with the ease of a light-switch.

Break your leg, set the bone, and it knits back together.

Get a cold, rest and drink clear fluids, and the cold goes. (I want to argue here that a generally healthy body will get through the cold regardless of what you do or don’t do.)

Get a headache, take a Tylenol, and it’s gone. Gain 10 pounds, eat fewer calories, and you’re back to normal.

Which gets into the question of what constitutes the illness. Is the pain in your head a condition? Is your coughing and sneezing the cold? Is your bulging belly the problem?


Those are the signs & symptoms of your condition, illness or problem. They are the outward proof and inner experience that let you know something is wrong. Their progress and decline might even inform you about how much better or worse you’re getting. They are not the disease.

Health itself is a balance. The word stems from the same root as the word whole. It insinuates a completeness – which might be where we get the idea that there’s a final Point A to which we can return.

The fact is it’s a continuum.

Maybe continuum is not the best choice of word to use in relation to healing. It again insinuates a linear journey, a sliding back & forth along one track.

What most people forget is that health runs along several tracks at once. You’ve got the 4 major lines of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health, with a few intersections for ease of movement, and occasional expansion outward – kind of like the map of the Montreal Metro system.

The healing journey map however, is more like the map of London’s Underground. Besides the routes that allow you to go east/west and north/south across the expanse of the sprawling city and its suburbs, there are also circular lines that bring you around to the same spot an hour later. There are those that cut diagonally, getting you where you need to go more efficiently. Some have several tangents so that, depending which train you’re on, you’ll end up at a different destination altogether. The number of intersections create countless possibilities – some more direct, some busier at rush hour, some not running on weekends – for getting you where you want to go.

Far from a straight line, the state of your health swings you around the loops of the lemniscate – sideways 8 –  the infinity symbol that reminds you that it’s endless.

Your health is a dance that sways to the tune of your life.

Your health can sit steadily like when you and your best friend found the sweet spot between your weights on the see-saw, or it can tip over and crash-land you on your butt.

I can keep going with these metaphors, but I think you get the picture.


To add to that more expansive picture of health, understand that the narrow range of movement which you call “healthy” can shift. The point you aim to regain won’t necessarily be the same place you started.

Your definition of health will change – it should change. If it’s not, you might want to start with examining and exploring your personal definition of health. As you age, as chronic conditions crop up, as the bumps and scrapes of life leave their scars on your body, point A looses its clarity, is no longer one fixed point.

From this perspective, Quantum thinking, the concept of whether energy is a particle or a wave (spoiler: it’s both) takes concrete form in your body. Your ideal health wriggles and dances its way through your life.

Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t to say that your vision of ideal health can only decline over time. On the contrary! It’s quite possible to seek a state of health that’s an improvement on where you started, or where you’ve always considered “normal” to lie.


All that to say that your healing can be about being on the one little trip that will get you from being congested or overweight or in pain, back to the point of departure. Yet it’s so much more.

Your healing journey is an adventure that takes you around the world and back, only to have you decide to pack up and try again.

Your healing journey offers routes to ease the pains that crop up over and over again, until you find one you walk comfortably,…then until you discover yet another option.

Your healing journey derails your plans, leading you down dark alleyways of terror, or turning you around a corner into the most beautiful meadow you’ve ever seen.

Your healing journey takes you to the mountaintop you always dreamt of reaching, and from that vantage point, you see the possibility of how many more places you could go.

Your healing journey happens on the outside with lifestyle choices and professional help and new modalities and a changing body.

Your healing journey happens of the inside with deeper self-knowledge and growing courage and emotional roller coasters and shifting energy.

Your life is a healing journey. What an absolutely exhilarating thought to ponder!

The 3 Stages of the Healing Journey

How exciting, and yet how daunting to imagine so many possibilities for yourself and your health!

Even trying to decide how to eat these days gets overly complicated and overwhelming, with endless experts trying to convert you to their magic formula. Search for one thing, like how to cook Brussels sprouts, and you get thousands of recipes. (1,420,000 actually, I just checked.)

Now that we’ve created a complex image in your mind that resembles a spider’s web, all sticky with places to get snagged, it might be helpful to think about which stage of the journey you’re on.

Are you dealing with an acute condition that needs immediate and focused attention? Have you come out of those woods and are working to stay well away from them? Or have you turned your gaze to new horizons?

While the map for each of those areas of healing might look just as complex as the other, remind yourself that a map is something you observe from above. Imagine instead that the complexity comes from the fact that you’ve got 3 different levels of journeys laid on top of each other. Have you ever seen the transparent layers that make up the details of an animated movie still or a cartoon strip? The big picture emerges when different elements come into play.

Same with your health. Let’s rotate that map of your healing journey so you’re looking from the side, at 3 layers, like a cake. Much easier to swallow!


The first layer, or the first stage of your healing journey, gets back to the basics of that conventional approach to medicine. It’s damage control, the place where you’re trying to overcome or survive an acute issue.

Symptoms → find the cause → take the remedy/undergo the procedure → return to normal

My own healing of different conditions and states have gone through these stages. I can turn any one of my experiences on their side to see how they’ve played out.  To make these concepts easier for you to understand, we’ll look at the cross-section of how I’ve been dealing with gallbladder attacks in recent years.

My digestion has often been a weak point in my physical health. About 4 years ago, things were getting worse. One night, what felt like indigestion progressed through the night until I was awake with cramping pain so bad, I half hoped there would be a baby at the end of it. The second time it happened, I realised it must be a gallbladder attack. The 3rd time, in as many months, I cut out certain foods, and started to see a practitioner for acupressure and Chinese herbs. When it happened again, after a perfectly “healthy” vegan meal, the pain settled in for the long haul – dull, thank goodness, but very present – and I knew I had to get more help in case of any complications.

After 24 hours of being poked and scanned and observed and soaked in fear-mongering in the ER, I was sent home with prescriptions for 2 heavy-duty antibiotics and a referral for a surgeon to remove the offending gallbladder as soon as the inflammation subsided. I understood the potential gravity of the state I was in, however, I also knew that removing my gallbladder would open me to a whole gamut of other long-term issues down the road.

Which is when I made the leap to the next level.


The second stage of the healing journey focuses on prevention, in which the impetus for your care becomes about thriving and getting past the issue.

Through psychology, we’ve come to learn that people are motivated by the need to move away from, or towards, something they don’t want, or desire. Preventative medicine and preventative self-care stem from avoiding certain risks. This approach can be as superficial as not eating fried foods to not get a zit, or as extreme as having a full mastectomy to avoid breast cancer.

Up until the time I found myself in the hospital, I was simply using bandaids: staying away from food that clearly triggered the issue, while taking Chinese herbs and going for acupressure when things got out of hand.

The fear-driven intensity of the ER doctor and his conviction that surgery was the only option, as well as antibiotics that did not agree with me at all, galvanized my resolve to never get back to that place again.

While in the first stage of dealing with this, I was merely trying to get past the pain when it hit; now I had become prepared to do whatever it took to avoid having to go to the ER and to keep my gallbladder without putting myself at risk of dangerous complications.

Under the guidance of my acupressurist, I systematically removed any foods that might put my liver into undue stress – for me, that meant all dairy, gluten, sugar, alcohol, red meat, fatty foods, and chocolate. Without the context, it would have been pretty dire and depressing to drop all those at once. Newly motivated by the deep need to avoid a repeat performance made the decision easier. It was a simple question of, did I prefer to have the piece of cake and glass of wine, or to put myself in danger again?

My self-care routine expanded to include regular appointments for acupressure and emotional/spiritual sessions, to maintain the better flow of energy through my digestive tract and in my life.

These steps worked wonders. Not only did my symptoms subside, I started feeling more energized than I had in a while. I was sleeping better. My usual nasal congestion had all but disappeared. My digestion flowed, so I was able to enjoy food more freely again, even while sticking to some restrictions. I had everything under control.

When things slackened so much that the subtle symptoms cropped up again, I recognised that it was time to refocus that resolve.

Recently, my habits slipped further still and I felt things block up like they hadn’t done in a couple of years. Problem was, I couldn’t muster what it took to get fully back on the wagon of those good habits anymore.

This approach worked until it stopped working.

Slowly, gradually, I found my way into the 3rd stage of this process.

The last level of the healing journey looks at the same problem from the other side of the motivational coin. The difference can be subtle, but extremely powerful.


The 3rd stage of the journey – the icing on the cake – is when you start creating the health that you want, and blossom into your full healing potential, by moving in the direction of what you desire.

Looking after yourself from this angle means that you’re making decisions from the point of view of the person you want to become, how you want to eventually feel.

How would “Ideal Me” eat? What would She do for exercise? How does Ideal Me want me to deal with that relationship issue? How does She pray?

Where the act of preventing illness has a huge element of control, creating what you want requires a large dose of surrender, as you open yourself up to the possibilities that come your way. It requires you to trust the answers that arise to the questions you pose, because there’s no concrete proof that your intuition – yes, this is your intuition working in its full glory – is steering you right.

I wish I could say there was some defining moment that sparked the shift in mindset for me. With so many huge transitions in my life over the last 2 years, it’s difficult to pinpoint, but the fact is that this has been a gradual shift – more a whimper than a bang.

Sometimes the knowing is crystal clear and I make choices with absolute ease. Other times, there’s a struggle as fear and doubt creep in again.

Ironically, many of the decisions I make now, especially when it comes to food, are exactly what I had done under the guise of prevention. The difference is that where I had been making those choices to avoid a gallbladder attack, now I am trying solutions that might possibly dissolve the stones altogether.

As the paradigm flipped from one side to the other, the conscious feeling and movement of my emotions started to become a regular habit – or maybe it was that emotional play and release which allowed the tide to turn.

The more deeply I settled into the vision of where/how/who I wanted to end up, the more I noticed the breadcrumbs of synchronicity showing up to lead my way. Unless, it was the light I shone on those breadcrumbs that guided me to this new awareness.

In this part of the world, it doesn’t matter which is the cause and which the effect. The upshot is that I am letting the possibility of yes take me where it might, when before I was guided by the limitations of a no.

The most remarkable thing about being in this place is the strong sense that I am healing, regardless of whether those gallstones go away or not. Perhaps one day I will need surgery to remove the physical residue and eliminate dangerous risks, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t healed in the meantime.

I am constantly healing. This is a journey, after all – one that constitutes many trips and adventures. Some longer than others, some that end and some that never will.


Healing is as unpredictable as life itself. How you approach it depends on who you are in a given moment as much as the severity of what you need.

The healing journey, that convoluted map, has as many intersections connecting the layers, as it does along each plane. You will find yourself travelling it up & down as well as back & forth and all around.

Though I’ve laid this out in a linear story for ease of telling, the journey itself isn’t linear. In this particular experience, I move up & down through the stages as time goes on. Though I spend a lot less time in damage control than before, it doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally find myself back on that station platform.

Like life, healing is not a 1-2-3 experience. You might start with prevention and move into creation with a certain issue without ever having to do any damage control. Chronic issues might have you swimming from one to the other and back again in a seemingly endless cycle of flare-ups and remission.

And remember, you can go through these phases with your mental, your emotional, your spiritual health as much as your physical.

How daunting, how terrifying and how exciting. Yes, it’s a process. Are you up for the ride?

The client I mentioned earlier is someone who has poured a good dose of creativity on this project that is her healing journey. She has grown to explore it in a way that allows her to shine fully as one of the most warm, generous and beautiful souls I know.

She has proven what I believe at my core: Your healing journey is self-love in action, and the straightest path to a better life.

The divine Amanda Marshall sums it all up so beautifully in her song “The Gypsy”:

“The finest tapestry takes patience and the ability to wait
For each thread to support the bigger picture and the larger purpose
And in the fearless, reckless pursuit of intimate love
It is not the destination it’s the journey.”

Where are you on your healing journey? Where do you get snagged in that complicated web? When you share your thoughts and questions in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.