The 20 Minute Biohacking Ritual that Got Me Through Lockdown

What’s 20 minutes within a 24 hour day? Nothing and everything.

Starting before lockdown but sticking to it religiously during, I created a wellness ritual that combined two wonderful inventions: Joovv red light therapy and the Shakti mat. I lay on the mat with bare skin, getting the best of its benefits such as increased circulation, detoxification and lymphatic drainage while bathed in red light coming from my Joovv tablet that boosts collagen production in the skin, heals and reverses aches by reducing inflammation, pains and injuries , rebalances the Circadian rhythm (promoting better sleep and a general sense of calm) and listened to inspiring, heart healing, anxiety relieving, focus boosting, mood improving meditations and music or just enjoyed the silence.

Joov is the Word!

If it can help grow plants in outer space, which is what NASA used it for in the 1990s, you can bet red light (and infrared light) therapy has effects on other live species too – especially locked down vegetables. I researched red light therapy for a long time before settling on a Joovv device, which has incredible reviews from reliable sources, such as professional athletes, health fanatic celebs like Dave Asprey and ordinary folks who like me, want to be reassured their inverstment is worth their while. Joovv is the leader in red light therapy!

Fortunately I don’t suffer from any particular health condition, except a stiff neck and shoulders many a massage therapist has shrilly remarked on. Yet as Joovv became an everyday part of my life it also became my home doctor providing me with help in dealing with everything from mild to acute anxiety, and the insomnia it brought on during lockdown, occasional joint pains that often magically disappeared even within one 20-minute session, and an overall sense of serenity. Usually I used it in my bedroom and positioned it in different areas for 10-20 minutes each, including my face and chest, back and neck and sometimes even my feet or the top of my head (it’s also reputed to help boost hair growth and quality).

JOOVV Red Light is delivered at 660nm, is readily absorbed by surface tissues and cells, leading to enhanced skin health and healing.

Near-Infrared Light (NIR) is delivered at 850nm, is invisible to the human eye and penetrates into deeper tissues, leading to enhanced recovery and inflammation support.

Other members of the household: Interestingly, red light therapy is popular with my cat too, who rushges to lie next to me when I turn it on! It is indeed used by veterinarians in animal clinics to help heal injuries and strains that the dog or cat is undergoing after surgery. My son finds the light too strong and doesn’t like it, yet I have used it on his back when he’s been unwell to help soothe and calm him and it has always sent him to sleep!

Check out this video by Thomas DeLauer to find out more!

My beloved home healer, Dr Joovv

Shakti maT ACTION

Upon receiving my light strength and regular strength Shakti Mats, I immediately disrobed, unrolled this modern-day rendition of the ‘bed of nails’ and lay flat on the floor on my back. Ouch! It is not easy to lie on a Shakti mat without experiencing the seriously surprising ache that comes from its 6000 plastic spikes! I shopped mine from Shakti Mat EU, and was inspired not only by the many health benefits these wellness accessories promised to offer but also that they are ethically produced (fair trade) using organic materials, made by hand in India, not by slave labourers or a factory. Shakti says it supports all its Shakti employees in India with a living wage, an emergency medical fund, and investment in the education of their children. Also, each purchase automatically offers a donation to charities for the Shakti Community projects .

The mats are made by hand with fair trade ethical standards and organic materials.

Back to the health benefits – Shakti mats essentially offer a static form of acupressure that occurs as one lies on the spikes. The longer you lie there (the ideal time period is 20 minutes), the more your circulation increases. Indeed, as I grew more and more accustomed to using it, my enjoyment of the warm, relaxed buzz the mat offered me grew deeper. The mat can be used beneath the back to help alleviate aches and pains, under the legs to help boost circulation, under the feet (standing on it) as reflexology and even rolled up and used as a pillow and neck or head therapy. I used it anywhere I felt I needed it, but usually more as a relaxant under my back.

Often, in combination with the Joov red light therapy, the Shakti mat helped me drift into sweet, deep sleep. The Joov tile turns off on its own (it has a timer that can be set from 1 to 20 minutes) anbd the Skakti mat causes no harm if it’s used for longer than 20 minutes.

Shkti mats have 6000 plastic spikes!

Shakti mats have bvecome incredibly popular and have received thousands of raving reviews, clearly because they actually work and are sold at an affirdable price. To make the most of your Shakti mat you can follow the Shakti Mat Tutorial, a three part series.

Relaxation Treat: Cocoon Urban Spa

Whether you’re in Athens for a day or forever, it’s great to know there’s a place such as Cocoon Urban Spa where you can receive top-quality therapies for face and body, either as a one-off treat or as a course of treatments that bring results. 

As someone who has been passionately interested in holistic wellness for decades, I was among the very first to visit Cocoon Urban Spa when it opened 20 years ago. In my post-lockdown slump, I headed over there to try some renewing and reviving therapies that could facilitate the process of returning to the land of the living. 

My Own Experience: Tried & Tested!

I tried the CBD Oil Massage and the vitamin C Facial, in that order. I arrived stressed out from work, life, and a year+ of lockdown inertia and was ready to surrender to the hands of the spa’s skilled therapists. I was not disappointed. The CBD Oil Massage is a head-to-toe therapy using an ingredient that has become widely lauded for its effects in reducing anxiety and muscular pain. The therapist used strong yet caring strokes to ease away my blocks and gracefully accepted my invitation to converse about the therapy itself and various other personal questions regarding my body’s health. I was impressed not only by the fantastically relaxing experience but also by her depth of knowledge and charm. 

Next, was the Vitamin C Facial, which involves a face cleansing (with Murad products, not hands or a machine) and a reviving massage that help a strong dose of Vitamin C. Vitamin C is considered to leave the skin glowing because it stimulates the production of collagen and elastin, accelerating healing and removing fine lines to reveal skin freshness, brightness, plumpness, and shine. Again, the aesthetician kindly explained the entire process to me and offered me extra tips for my skin type and beauty routine. 

I certainly left Cocoon Urban Spa feeling as dreamy and relaxed as I’d hoped, with skin that glowed for days and has improved in texture ever since. 

NOTE: Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my swimsuit along, so I missed out on the chance to enjoy the sauna, steam room, and jacuzzi, but there’s always the next time!


While at the Spa, I stopped for a chat with Maria Poulada, the co-owner of Cocoon who together with her sister has led it to develop and evolve into a truly fantastic place of holistic wellness for Athenians and visitors alike.

Getting to Know Cocoon Urban Spa: Q & A with Maria Poulada

How has the wellness scene in Greece changed since you first opened 20 years ago?
It has broadened and multiplied, which is great. However, more and more schools and Yoga Teacher Training programs are churning out “therapists” and unfortunately, during my recruiting efforts, I’ve seen that the quality has dropped significantly, and inexperienced teachers and masseuses are being absorbed by the market and lowering the standard. 

Where do your therapists train?
Most of our therapists are very skilled and have studied Natural Health Science. It’s one of the oldest and most respected schools in Attica. I usually ask the teachers from that school to recommend grads for me and it’s worked out great.

Who are your customers?
Cocoon Urban Spa has a wide range of customers, from people who come for a profound life-change (to decrease chronic stress or pain, improve sleep, etc.) and visit us on a regular basis and then there are people who come once a year to treat themselves on their birthdays or to give a gift. I think we are the only place in the city that offers a truly holistic wellness approach, passive and dynamic therapy, encompassing treatments, yoga, acupuncture, and homeopathy.

What would you recommend as The Ultimate treatment for post-lockdown stress?
It’s a bit subjective. Some would say it’s the Shirodhara or any classic massage. For me, personally, it’s Yoga. The Hatsumomo is a terrific overall detox treatment and if you couple it with a deep cleansing facial or a Renewing Facial, you’ll look and feel brand new! The CBD oil massage is deeply relaxing and works well for anxiety-related stress.

What kind of products do you use for treatments?
We’ve remained very old-school, sticking to our philosophy of hands-on therapy and natural products. It’s vital to use the highest-quality products for massages and facials. We’ve been using Decleor and Jurlique for ages because they’re natural, organic, and biodynamic. Also, the quality is terrific. You relax just by smelling them and the results are fantastic.

As published in In+sights Greece (www.insightsgreece.com)

Home - Cocoon Urban Day Spa
Cocoon Urban Spa is on Souliou 9 & Erifilis Str, Halandri, Athens. Email : info@cocoonurbanspa.gr &
phone : 210 6561975

amazing ways to start the day

In Greece people use the saying “how your day will turn out is shown from the morning”; personally I’m not a fan of this saying because it suggests superstitious thinking and if believed, can essentially determine one’s mood for the entire day if the morning proves particularly unpleasant. I prefer to think that any moment of the day, regardless of what has passed before, is a moment when we can hopefully start afresh and change its course for the better. However, the positive habits and rituals that we dedicate ourselves to in the morning can indeed help boost our state of mind, mood, physical resilience and flexibility and overall outlook so that the day ahead flows in a more upbeat, dynamic and enjoyable way. The tips I will write here come from years of research – books, websites, interviews and of course tried and tested techniques to which I’ve added my own touches and wanted to share with you. As the mom of a preschooler I’m well aware that there is often little time to spend doing some of these morning rituals, but if you can slip in even a few minutes of some of them or one on different days, or do some after you’ve dropped your kid/s off to school, a little later in the morning, that will still make a positive difference.

So as Maria said in The Sound of Music, “Let’s start from the very beginning!” at the exact point that you wake up (either because your child has decided to tap you on the shoulder and offer you a handful of slime that he has “cooked” for your breakfast or because your alarm clock just rang so you can get your ass to work or because, oh you lucky blessed one, you have had a full night’s sleep and have woken up naturally).

Give Thanks

Whether you can lie in bed for half an hour meditating on gratitude or just speedily run through a quick list in your mind of the top things you are grateful for – even that your little one thoughtfully “cooked you some slime for breakfast”, that you are still here, that it’s a new start to your life, that you have a bed to sleep in and clothes to wear, hot water to shower in or food to eat, gratitude is the highest vibration to connect with at any time, and especially at the start of your day. “Acknowledging the good you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance,” according to Eckhart Tolle. Even if you wake up feeling particularly miserable and disgruntled with life, go deep to findat least one thing that you are thankful for – maybe simply that you are breathing!

Stretch

Whether you do a full yoga session or just a few Winnie The Pooh stretches up and down, or stretch your body out in bed into a star shape and upon sitting up at the edge of your bed let yourself do some backward twists to flex your spine, a little stretching goes a long way to reawakening your body and gently releasing any stiffness from your sleep. After saying good morning to our dog, who in turn taps her tail enthusiastically onto the wooden floor in response, my son and I greet her in a quick downward dog and she gets up to do her own natural stretch to mirror us. This makes stretching fun and easy.

 

Body Brushing


Body brushing, also known as dry brushing, is a fantastic way to exfoliate your skin and open your pores (that’s why it’s best pre-shower) while also activating your lymphatic drainage system and kickstarting your circulation. For vanity’s sake, it has been shown to firm skin and reduces cellulite, while on a more medicinal level it helps release small aches and pains by causing your energy to flow more freely. Starting at the soles of your feet, brush in firm strokes upward along the inside and then all other sides of your legs, then your bottom, then in a circular direction on your belly area, up your back, up your arms and up from above the breasts in the chest area. 

Tongue scraping
While you sleep, a layer of toxins rises and forms on the surface of your tongue. That can indeed make one cringe at the thought of a morning snog (though it may be well worth it and offer other benefits!). Instead of swallowing them all back into your organism again, the ideal thing to do is to use a tongue scraper or even the back, non-cutting side of a knife or a spoon to gently but firmly scrape the sludge off and rinse it away, several times, before even brushing your teeth (because brushing your teeth before doing this will again involve spreading all the stuff from your tongue all over your mouth). I know it’s icky, and several people I’ve recommended this Ayurvedic practise to have told me they tried it once and felt so disgusted they couldn’t do it again. But. Isn’t it better to remove it? I find it far ickier to swallow it all back down! And I can guarantee that it helps – on mornings after a night out when I’ve had a few glasses of wine, for example, as soon as I do the tongue scraping I feel my mind clear (not completely of course, if I’m particularly foggy-headed, but significantly!).

Enjoy your shower

For me, a complete hydrophile, hydroholic and water baby, showering is a wonderful ritual both morning and night. It cleanses us of stale energy, refreshes our mind and, whether you are using soap or not, offers the chance to massage our body. It’s also a great time to repeat your favourite affirmation for the day, or just sing! Make sure to splash a lot of cold water on your face as well, as this activates the vegus nerve, which lifts your mood, clears your mind and strengthens your immune system.

Colon-cleansing drinks
For 10 days at a time every two or three months, I follow one of these rituals, which help cleanse the intestine, which is the basis of our overall health, by reducing the bad bacteria and detoxifying.

  1. Psyllium husk water: In a tall glass of water add a heaped teaspoon of psyllium husk and stir very very well. Drink it all down at once, and then follow that by drinking yet another glass of plain water. The psyllium swells (like linseed or chia) and becomes gelatinous inside the intestines, absorbing toxins, fats, mucus and harmful bacteria which are then released in your stools. This is a good ritual to do for restoring gut health, especially if you are trying to lose weight, as it also creates a sense of fullness. Only do this in the morning, on an empty stomach, and wait around 15 minutes to half an hour before eating.
  2. Apple cider vinegar water: Add 1 tbsp of organic, unpasteurised (fermented) apple cider vinegar to a glass of tepid water and sip slowly. I just take it around with me and take sips as I’m getting ready. This too detoxifies the intestine, balances your pH, decreases blood sugar levels, lowers cholesterol and boosts gut health.

Another common morning drink is warm water with a big squeeze of lemon, and some like to add a teaspoon of organic honey, both of which are packed of nutrients (like vitamin C and antioxidants) and help balance and kickstart the gut.

Power smoothie
There are endless recipes to find online for great breakfast smoothies – from green juices to elaborate fruit and vegetable concoctions, but I’m writing my favourite tried and tested rituals here so these two are the best I’ve tried:

1. For a foggy head and tiredness: a shot of juiced ginger with a big squeeze of lemon and a pinch of cayenne. Fortunately, I don’t need this very often, but it’s definitely a zingy way to start the day.

2. Super-tonic milkshake:
I like my chocolate drinks (chocolate-everything!), but this is the adult, supersonic tonic version, with a few alternate renditions. In a blender add almond, hazelnut or other milk of choice, a heaped tablespoon of raw cacao (high in antioxidants), a heaped tablespoon of adaptogenic powder such as ashwagandha (this is an especially great for women, widely used in Ayurveda as the top health tonic, as it helps reduce stress, balance hormones, offer energy and strengthen immunity – at night it’s great in a warm milk with turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom and honey) or maca powder (energy booster and even a sexual tonic) or astragalus powder (widely used in China as an immune-system booster), a teaspoon of cinammon (blood cleansing, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, boosts digestive health), a pinch of cayenne pepper (if you like heat) for heart health, a tablespoon of crushed linseeds (packed with Omega 3s) and a shot of espresso (wakey wakey!). Blend all the ingredients with a couple of ice cubes and hey presto! Another version is to exclude the cinnamon and cayenne and instead add a few tablespoons of nut butter – peanut, tahini, hazelnut, whatever you like, for extra protein and other nutty benefits. Yet another option is to add half an avocado and a banana as well, both packed with heart-healthy fats, collagen, B6 and other mood-enhancing vitamins and minerals like potassium and magnesium). Mixed frozen red berries are also high in antioxidants and vitamin C and mix well with chocolate.

Prepare your medicinal tea

While pottering around the kitchen preparing breakfast and tidying up, I always make time to boil a full kettle and prepare a large jug of herbal tea that I will refrigerate and sip in an ice-packed glass throughout the day (if you’re living in a cold country you can simply skip the ice and sip at room temperature, or add a bit of boiling water to your cp to heat it up before drinking if you want it hot). The key ingredient is the amazing herb that Greeks have used since ancient times because of its high iron content and mightly antioxidant content, Mountain Tea, called Tsai tou Vounou, which recent global studies have proven is also an amazing preventative herbal medicine for Alzheimer’s and dementia. I usually add fresh or dried mint and lemon verbena in summer or chamomile, linden and a stick of cinnamon in winter.

Another jug you can prepare to refrigerate is with vitamin water – just water (ideally filtered) that has chunks of any well-cleaned, ideally bio fruit and herbs chopped into it. The vitamins and minerals from the fruit and herbs will infuse into the water so when you drink a glass of it you’ll get a healthy, refreshing boost.

Walk your walk

I live in a hilly urban landscape and walk my son to school and honestly, that half hour daily up and down walk makes the world of difference to my day. If I were to start the day by just sitting at my computer I know I would feel completely different (as I mentioned in my introduction, everything I write here is tried and tested!). If you are a parent and your kids take the bus to school, try and find a way to add a half hour walk to your morning – if you are commuting to work get off a few stops earlier, if you work from home push yourself to go around the block a few times or let yourself explore different parts of your neighbourhood. If you have plenty of free time, hop on a bus or metro and get out in a place you’ve never visited and just walk around to discover something new.

Meditate or daydream while you do morning chores

I have around 20 plants on my balcony and as I water them with the hose I stop at each one, really trying to observe its individual beauty with my eyes, and speak my favourite affirmation, which I repeat to each plant as I water it (hopefully the plants don’t get together at night and bitch about me! ;)). This way I’m sharing my wishes and affirming to myself at the same time, by offering the plants their sustenance. I also like to talk with myself (it’s apparently more of a sign of genius than madness, haha) or visualize about my dreams, goals and projects while I’m doing mundane things like washing the dishes, chopping vegetables or sweeping. This is all meditational practice – who said you have to sit in the lotus position and chant Om to meditate? Meditating doesn’t need to have a direct spiritual purpose either – you could be letting yourself zen out while feeling the sudsy lather on your hands under the warm running water while you wash the dishes, and in that moment of sensual awareness your state of tranquility may be the perfect time for a great creative or even hardcore practical solution to pop up.

Try Donna Eden’s Daily Energy Routine
This is an excellent energy medicine sequence that kickstars your organism and clears your mind, while balancing the left and right parts of the brain. Even if you feel too rushed to do it all at once (although it only takes around 6-7 minutes), do parts of it at different parts of the morning. I sometimes do some of the thumps while walking along the street (Ok, first I look around to see there’s no one walking right behind me!). When I was presenting live on the radio I used to do the chest thump and the cross march a few minutes before going on the air. The studio technician started off by pretending not to notice, then asked me one day what the heck I was doing. When I told him he started doing it too!:
Watch Here!

 

 

 

a song from the uterus

Singer and holistic therapist Clara Davaar

Davaar teaching one of her women’s seminars, which she organizes around the world

Clara Davaar appeared into my life one day out of the blue on Facebook messenger – she had found my website and got in touch to tell me she was planning to come to Athens to teach a workshop called The Voice of the Uterus that she’s been running around the world. A few weeks before I’d had a session with Soul-Sounding healer David Kennet during which he worked miracles on releasing and clearing a great deal of stagnant, negative and blocked energy from my first and second chakras, areas that if in balance permit a sense of survival, belonging, security, sexual power, creativity and intuition. Areas that I knew deep down were blocked but had not had the courage to face or enough knowledge to deal with (we are always better at healing others than our selves) – perhaps because I didn’t know where to start, or because there is such a critical, conservative sense of shame and guilt associated with them, owing to staid and religiously conservative cultural beliefs related to the reproductive area when it comes to women. So when Davaar sent me a message asking whether I knew of any spaces to suggest for her seminar, I saw it as a clear sign that this was Step II on my path to reconnecting with, and reawakening my sense of self as a healthy, balanced, powerful, sexual and creative woman who honours her femininity in all its strength and vulnerability. I immediately thought of Meredith Pavlides, a holistic therapist, teacher and superwoman-organizer of the holistic healing community in Athens, who runs a new space called ATMAsphere in Syntagma, and the rest is history.

As the weeks passed and the date of the workshop neared, I wondered more and more, “what IS the voice of my uterus?!” and realized that not only was I completely incapable of grasping the mere concept of my uterus as having any voice at all, except when it has sometimes ‘cursed’ at me in those pre-menstrual moments that have had me reaching for painkillers. I also realized that although I have a very strong sense of my heart, my brain, my intestines and sometimes my kidneys and their voices, when I tried to conjure even an image or feeling of my uterus beyond the textbook picture all I could hear was silence and all I could see was pitch darkness. Why should this be? After all, it was that very uterus that had so capably and gracefully been the first home of a spark that developed through nine months into a fully developed baby boy. During my pregnancy, I viewed my uterus as a super-flexible miracle machine made of Technicolor fibres with uber hi-tech wiring that included things like an automatic dimmer-switch for the perfect lighting, food delivery service, plush cushioning, fun and floaty water and temperature control that offered my growing boy all that he needed. I would light candles, take baths and, hands on uterus, sing to him with all my being. Then I would gently rub vitamin E oil over my belly, feeling the spa-style attention soak through my uterus and into my baby’s heart.

And now it was a silent, pitch-dark space?


On the day of the seminar, as it often happens, I didn’t feel like going. I felt too vulnerable and a bit embarrassed by the idea of sitting in a room with a bunch of other women talking about our uterus and sexual organs. I dreaded the idea of partner-work or being asked to dance or writhe around the room as so many teachers of such workshops demand, which brings out all my teenage self-consciousness and makes me want to run as if from a raging fire. I took out my deck of Angel Cards and asked “should I go to the workshop today?” and the card I picked was Body Care. Ok, that was a clear enough answer! As I entered the light and air-filled space I was surprised to see a circle of completely diverse women. There was one rock-style woman with tattoos and jet black hair, a shy-looking woman with aquiline eyes, a hippie skirt and short white hair, a heavy-set woman with dark hair and a more conservative look, another woman with a sweet face who looked 16; there was no “type” and that in itself made me immediately feel like I fitted in. Clara, with her dark, wavy hair, huge smile and bright eyes exuded a confidence in her Argentinian temperament as she addressed us with humour and gentleness. She asked us in a very matter-of-fact way to go round the circle and talk about our self with regards to our sexuality, our connection to the history of our uterus and of our relation to vocal expression or singing. As if hypnotised, because after all none of us really knew each other at all, and this was seriously personal stuff we were about to share, we each spoke our truth. We heard each other’s stories feeling the speaker’s pain, remorse, rage, melancholy, fear, but also pride, bliss, hope and power. Just in doing that, we immediately realised that first impressions can be so delusive – there is so much more depth, complexity, magnificence, aching vulnerability and immense strength in the people you stand next to every day. Most important of all was the sinking realisation that despite how different our lives and perceptions and habits are, we are all reflections of each other.

Full Stop!

Then we put our chairs aside and sprang into action. We started moving, shaking, massaging, swirling and swaying all parts of our bodies sectio by section, at first gently and meditatively, breathing in and out silently, and soon enough with a build-up of more and more motion and vocal expression upon exhaling. The sense of apprehension I’d had before going had disappeared – I felt completely safe and at ease, empowered and happy to be part of the game. “Movement creates excitement, and excitement creates lubrication, and lubrication creates life!” Clara kept calling out in between her hilarious “aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhs” and “wooo-hooooooos!” My body felt activated and alive, and when we reached the point of placing my hands on my uterus I could feel its ‘pulse’ – yes! We’ve made contact! And then I tapped it gently as Clara suggested as if saying “hello” and feeling it right there and flooding it in my mind with light, breaking away that lonely, sad darkness I had left it in for so long.


This reconnecting experience in itself was enough of a reward for having attended, but there was another incredible gift to follow. Standing in a circle and holding hands, our eyes closed and our bodies swaying gently from side to side, we were asked to sing whatever came to us, simply to share the feelings that were coming from our reawakened bodies. The older woman next to me began to sing in the most heavenly, rich voice, and I was joyfully startled. Another woman sang, without words, a sad and deeply moving tune that emerged from her. Then another sang what she wanted to say – how happy she felt to be there and how grateful she felt, off-key yet so full of love. The woman I’d considered as conservative-looking surprised us all the most with her amazing, deep blues-jazz voice that would have made Aretha Franklin blush. I had a moment when I thought of singing Piensa En Mi, Luz Cazal’s incredible song, to express that at least in spirit I was there for them, but as it was a thought I went with my spontaneous feeling instead and sang a happy and playful jazz song I’d written years ago based on W.H. Auden’s ‘As I Walked Out One Evening’, because after all, that’s what my uterus – rather than my brain – wanted to sing.

Teacher, therapist and participant Meredith Pavlides relates her own experience of the workshop:
“I truly enjoyed the event of ‘The Voice of the Uterus’ with Clara Davaar. The group of women were so strong and beautiful and we shared a lovely dynamic. Clara is a fantastic guide and can truly hold the sacred space needed to dive deep within – the environment was held so gracefully. She’s very experienced and the class was amazing. Everyone’s face was glowing afterwards. This work is so important for women and I’m so glad I had this wonderful experience, and to share the sacred connection with all the women there. Clara will be back for more courses in Athens and I strongly recommend it for other women! I will definitely be there in love and gratitude!”

 

“The first thing the male establishment wants to control is uterus and birth. You might call it womb envy. But even worse is the fact that we are still using the male model of sexual response for women.”
— Betty Dodson

allowing yourself to be a victim

As an empath with a very high level of self-consciousness and a near hyper-awareness of the world around me – with all its energies – I spent a great deal of my childhood feeling sad for myself. There were always reasons, many of which I fervently reported on in pages upon pages of my giant, collage-covered, hard-back diaries that I stated at an early age. Although my home life was postcard-perfect, and I was blessed with loving parents who offered me the best of everything, especially nourishing love, it was as if I was carrying another world inside me. I would journal that so-and-so doesn’t want to be my friend, the boy I am in love with doesn’t like me, I wasn’t given the role I wished for in the school play because the girl who got it is prettier than me, I’m terrible at maths and my teacher thinks I’m an idiot… and so the list of my demises went on, replete with melancholy to depressive analysis regarding my terrible luck, and how lacking I was in so many areas. Mind you, at the same time my sadness was an energizing force for my creativity – I retreated into a world like all the depressive, alcoholic writers I’d read about – Ernest Hemingway, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Sylvia Plath, Dorothy Parker – and spent my days writing poetry, plays, stories and later even jazz songs.

At university, I began to blossom – meeting more like-minded friends, despite our pretty enormous in some cases differences in culture and upbringing, I felt more empowered and upbeat. I experienced my first love, fortunately, a man with a gentle soul who showered me with kindness and affection, and through our sexual relations, I grew more into my womanly self. But the sense of victimhood continued to lurk in my depths.

When I started working as a journalist in the city during my early ’20s my self-confidence went up one more notch; I was quickly and quite easily given good positions with a rewarding pay and felt esteemed by both my employers and my colleagues. I had money and no real responsibilities and enjoyed carefree years during which beyond my work which I loved my main concern was hitting the town and discovering myself anew. Perhaps because I felt so carefree, yet still aware that despite a happy-go-lucky lifestyle there was a lot of unresolved stuff inside me, it was around then that I started to be drawn in earnest to searching deeper within myself. I started reading books on psychology, self-help, spirituality, esotericism and the healing arts and started practising yoga. And then I fell in love again, entering an intense relationship that I knew from day one would be nothing like the rosy-tinted-focus first love I’d experienced a few years before. For several years my sense of victimhood started rearing its ugly head – although often not without reason  – yet, I did not actually believe that my ongoing insecurities and feelings of self-pity or that things were not going as I wanted was my way of playing the victim. That was something others did, like a friend of mine who was always, but always complaining about something going wrong – there was literally drama after drama occurring in his life and he was never happy, and I became so fed up with his repertoire that I started to avoid him, as I realised he was perversely enjoying the dramas and I, as his friend had to pay for it by hearing every tragic (and depressing) detail every time we met.

As I started delving deeper into the healing arts, what I kept getting from teachers, healers, therapists and writers in various renditions was the message put so perfectly by Eleanor Roosevelt when she said, “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” That you are only a victim if you see yourself that way. It made perfect sense, and as it gradually crystallized in my mind I felt freer and stronger. Shakti Gawain was writing about Creative Visualization – how we can visualize what we want, and then “The Secret” came out bringing to the west the mystical truths (and a barrage of other books, healing systems, films and businesses) about the Law of Attraction. That too made perfect sense – I realised that I had been a natural manifester as a child and teenager – making a lot of my technicolour daydreams come true without trying at all, and now I comprehended that this was actually a formula. I saw that had been attracting situations and feelings because that was what I had been dwelling on, visualising, literally creating and drawing the energy of into my life. Just as the shamans ascertain that we dream our world into being, I was both dreaming (there were a lot of great things going on too!) and nightmaring my world into being.

My perspective on myself and life overall started to shift dramatically. I started to see how almost everything – from the thorny interaction I had with the rude taxi driver or the bright mood I woke up with or the job I got offered or the accident I had were all my creation, and thus my responsibility. That everything I was experiencing came from within, from my subconscious programming, from the fears, traumas, dreams and desires that resided deep inside, and basically from how pure the intent was when I was subconsciously setting it and catalyzing it into actuality. So I began to actively work on resolving the conflicts within – the ones between carefree spontaneity and dull calculation, fear and love, pleasure and pain, self-confidence and shame. It was – and still is – an endless process, but every little step is movement in the right direction.

But. I took the concept of rejecting victimhood a little too far. When I heard of other’s misfortunes, of course I felt empathy for them, and hope for them to reclaim their health and happiness again, but a stern little voice inside me, in the disguise of wise, said exactly what I was constantly saying to myself. It interpreted the incident that had put them in a state of victimhood as something that they had not yet worked out, and thus it was manifesting in that painful, or unpleasant or somehow debilitating form. Broke a leg? Maybe you actually needed a break from your workaholic life or overdemanding family, or maybe you’re feeling you can’t move forward in life. Cancer? There must be so much unresolved sadness or anger that has been eating away from you and that you have not been letting yourself heal, release and clear. Earache? There must be something you’ve heard or don’t want to hear that has caused you pain. There was always that thought in me – just like I was over-interpreting everything since childhood in my over-conscious and analytical state I was now doing that with regards to health and life when it came to anything I did or that happened to me that was surprising or noteworthy in either a positive or negative way. This was the message I – and dare I say we – are now being bombarded with by the New Age movement and our commercial society at large, from self-help gurus to advertisers, in a world that is increasingly pushing us to live as isolated individuals. “You can do it for yourself. It’s all up to you. If you buy our product you will look/ smell/feel powerful while doing it yourself, you strong, self-sufficient MF!”

The essential message out there is that suffering does not make you a victim, nor does it make you a perpetrator toward yourself, but it does all come down to your personal responsibility and power. Being a victim is equated with being weak and completely unable to help yourself. It also means that you have to ask others for help, which you need to survive, which is a weakness.

There is some valuable truth in these concepts, but fanaticism will fail anyone. Yet it wasn’t until recently when I experienced not one but a handful of life’s greatest stresses that I developed a fresh outlook. A wonderful spiritual teacher to whom I was relating my overwhelming problems at the time said I had been very “stoical”, and that this was a strength but that it wasn’t necessarily good for me. The word stoical brought to my mind my father and other strong men I have known, and I felt the word was transfused with a male energy, serving as a paradigm for survival that had infiltrated my being: stoicism = strength. This was the first step toward me having a huge realization regarding victimhood.

The second and final one came when I was having a Coactive© Coaching session during which the coach asked me how things were going in my life. In an as non-complaining or pathetic voice as I could muster, I listed all the challenges that I was facing at the time. There was a silence as she regarded me with surprise and compassion. I felt uncomfortable because after naming all the things I’d been facing I had started to feel quite deeply sorry for myself. “I don’t want to sound like a victim,” I finally said in the spirit of honesty, “but it’s been bloody hard!” She looked at me and gently smiled. “Well, what’s wrong with being a victim?” she asked. “And what does it mean to you to be a victim?” Momentarily I was stunned. I thought hard but could only come up with my well-structured schpiel, the carefully constructed belief system I had been so staunchly living by for so many years. “Well, being a victim means that I’m not taking responsibility for yourself!” I said, “it means I am not in control of myself or my life! That I’m a bit pathetic. Or that I’m blaming other people or circumstances for my own incapability to cope…” There, that was a thorough enough definition, I thought, of the atrocity known as ‘being a victim’. “And what does ‘not coping’ mean?” she asked. What an obvious question, yet so very difficult to answer for some funny reason. “Well,” I began, “as I said, spiralling out of control of my own life, feeling a mess, and basically feeling sorry for myself!” And then she said something that was one of the biggest lessons I have ever learned so far, the lesson to which I have dedicated this article: “But those are things that you are actually experiencing right now. Painful, difficult things. Life-changing things. And you are suffering a lot…Anyone would, it’s normal! There is nothing wrong with being a victim, or letting yourself feel sorry for yourself.”

As she said that, something inside my heart opened, like the door in a dark house swinging open and letting in the sea breeze and blazing sunshine. As Rumi wrote, “wound is the place through which the light enters”. By acknowledging my wounds and letting myself feel heartfelt self-compassion, I could finally allow it to heal. Yes, I suddenly thought, I can permit myself to feel my bottomless sadness; to feel sorry for myself. I have been through, and I am going through a lot of turbulence and pain. It hurts. It simply is. I am a victim of my circumstances, why they were created is a different story that can be explored through time.

We always talk about our inner child, and how important it is to care for it. Would I say to my son that he was acting like a victim because he simply grazed his knee and ended up having a big cry over it? Of course not, he needs to cry – it’s one of his ways of expressing and releasing emotions. It’s all about balance – neither is it helpful to overindulge in the concept that by taking responsibility for our self we cannot define our self as a victim, nor in the idea that victimhood is an OK state to be in on a general level. But to allow myself to say, ‘Poor me, I’m feeling so much confusion, instability, uncertainty – fuck! This is so hard and I don’t deserve this!’ is OK. And that’s when after years of not crying, I began to cry me a river. Tears would come over me unexpectedly; I wept while washing the dishes, walking on the street, talking on the phone, sitting at my computer. I kept remembering my first shamanic teacher who told me that crying is cathartic, natural and healthy, but as soon as one starts to think of things while crying, one must stop right there, because then it becomes a dramatic intellectual play in the mind, not the release of real emotion from the soul. All the sadness pouring out was making me a wreck. It had been so much easier when I wasn’t a victim!

But time heals the heart, as do long chats with the loving friends and family who like angels have been beside me every day just an email or phone call away, often reaching out to me, checking up on me. When you accept that you are a victim, you can reach out for help. I realized that it’s OK to accept help from others. Gradually the tears started to get less, and my sleep started to be deeper, and one day I found myself actually able to smile – not grimace – at myself in the mirror. Of course I – like you – am never going to stop being vulnerable in some way or other. Self-compassion, true self-compassion without the need to interpret, analyse, justify or explain the pain we are going through is so crucial. That’s the only way you can give yourself a real hug and say ‘I love you so much, you can be exactly as you are with me, and when you are ready, I will do my all to help you heal. And you will! When you are ready. First, let yourself be broken, and cry.’

greece’s modern father of homeopathy

Last stop on the ferry line heading into the sunset from Volos off towards the Northern Sporades islands lays Alonissos, an unspoilt, pine-cloaked island. This unique destination chiefly draws visitors who come to swim in its clean emerald waters, dine on langoustines, walk on its many forest paths and visit the rare Mediterranean Monk seal, at the National Marine Park as it’s one of the few remaining habitats of this endangered species.  

Alonissos is home to the beautiful National Marine Park where the Monachus Monachus monk seals live

Alonissos attracts a regular gathering of multicultural visitors for a completely different reason too: as we drove around the Milia area five kilometres from the port town of Patitiri, we were intrigued by the stream of atypical tourists walking along the sides of the road with great purpose in the midday sun. There were women clad in a saris, east Asian ladies holding paper sun umbrellas, northern Europeans dressed quite formally rather that the usual T-shirt and shorts. Soon the mystery was solved when we discovered that these small groups were in fact all doctors who come the island to attend courses at the International Academy of Classical Homeopathy. Yes, it turned out that apart from seals, delectable dinners and lush nature, Alonissos is also home to the only institution in the world that’s dedicated exclusively to the teaching of Homeopathic Medicine.

Doctors from around the world attending Dr Vithoulkas’ Homeopathy Academy course      

The Academy is directed by the multi-awarded and highly recognised Professor George Vithoulkas, and opened its doors in the early 1990s. We had heard about the internationally acclaimed Greek homeopath and the Alternative Nobel Prize (Right Livelihood Award) he was honoured with in 1996 ‘for upgrading Classical Homeopathy to the standard of a science’, and being fans of complementary medicines we rushed to visit the Academy and ask for an appointment with the professor himself.

Professor George Vithoulkas at his desk in the Academy of Homeopathy on Alonissos

Mind you, it wasn’t easy, as the professor is extremely busy year round. Apart from his courses and seminars, which take place at the Academy as well as online, he also writes books and records lectures that go to universities far and wide in the world. In the past the professor would travel to the universities where he taught, but he now prefers to remain more settled on his beloved island of Alonissos, where lives year-round, apart from attending important international conferences where he is regularly invited to talk.

The illustrious homeopath is a real legend on the island, where everyone speaks of him with awe and respect, and his reputation transmits to medical communities and not only, worldwide. He was a major protagonist in the resurgence of classical homeopathy after WWII, and continues to strive for the better understanding, use and acceptance of homeopathy in our modern age.

After applying for an interview with the professor by fax, we decided to visit the large stone Academy building and peruse its lovely tranquil grounds and the reference library, where one can buy some of Vithoulka’s most famous books such as ‘The Science of Homeopathy’, ‘Materia Medica Viva’, ‘Classic Homeopathy for Anxiety and Jealousy’, ‘A new Model For Health and Disease’ and ‘Homeopathy – Medicine for the New Millenium’ in Greek and in English. It was there that we had the great luck to bump into the Professor himself and introduce ourselves in person. He was friendly and accommodating, and agreed to an interview, which is something he rarely does because of his lack of free time. He offered us plenty of additional background material for our research, showing his no-nonsense efficiency and professionalism, and kindly invited us to visit him at his organic farm villa a couple of days later.

When we arrived at the picturesque location, set away from the road on a hillside covered by pine forests, we were most fascinated to see a red electric car parked in the driveway, and Professor Vithoulkas told us how he had been offered this vehicle as a gift by a German doctor at an international conference. This is only one example of the devotion shown to him by his students and colleagues; the entire, very elegant lecture theatre at the Academy was a gift from a Greek heart surgeon. The car, just like his very home, which is surrounded by olive, plum and apricot trees loaded with plump fruits, sheep grazing the nearby fields, turkeys making a commotion and the deep blue sea sparkling in the background, truly represents his life philosophy of living with awareness and esteem towards the environment, the society, as well as oneself. Nibbling on a plate of freshly-picked apricots, we comfortably began our conversation.

IMVTY: What brought you Alonissos?

GV: I came here in the late sixties to seek out a man whom I had been told was very wise. I found him and we talked; he asked me what I did, and I thought to myself oh here I go again, I will have to explain what homeopathy is to a shepherd, but as soon as I told him he looked at me and gave me an excellent definition, in fact I think it was the precise definition that is in the Encyclopedia Britannica. It turned out that this shepard was extremely knowledgeable, he probably had a photographic memory, but he was not particularly wise.  On the bright side I really liked Alonissos, so I eventually bought this land and have gradually made it my home.

Do you live here all year round?

GV: Yes for a long time now, I used to travel a great deal all round the world you know, teaching and lecturing and currently I am a professor at the Kiev Medical Academy, Medical Faculty of the Basque University in Spain, and the University of Medicine in Moscow, but I do not travel much any more so I do my courses by video mostly. But this has been my base for years, and we therefore built the International Academy of Classical Homeopathy here on Alonissos.

You teach only qualified medical doctors and dentists at your school. Why is that?

GV: Yes.  My aim is to provide these official health specialists and practitioners with a very powerful tool with which to combat or prevent disease and to help their patients get well……. and homeopathy is very difficult to learn, even more so than medicine.  With the growth of homeopathy as a successful method, people are no longer suspicious about it; however there are many charlatan practitioners and teachers who are appearing to fill a need since there are too few properly qualified homeopaths… It is my strong belief that homeopathy’s eventual downfall could occur mainly due to a number of “creative distortions” that are injected into the main body of knowledge by the “imagination” and “projections” of some “modern teachers’ of homeopathy.

Since many of our students are receptive to such myths and stories concocted by flights of wild imagination, many so-called teachers have risen to fill this gap. Believe it or not, there is a Berlin Wall remedy! And some teach that if you look like an animal you need an animal-based remedy; others go so far as to think that if you write the potency and name of the remedy on the bottle, it instills the given attributes (he chuckles in disbelief). After many years of work we have finally managed to create a Postgraduate Degree for medical students to learn homeopathy in the University of the Aegean, based in Syros.

But do you believe that only qualified doctors should be able to learn and practice homeopathy?

GV: No not at all, although this is my policy. I believe that after proper 4-5 year training in a good homeopathy school, any qualified individual may practice.

 

Although millions of people swear by it, there is no scientific evidence proving that homeopathy works.

In your opinion, what lies behind the British Medical Association’s claim in England in 2010 that homeopathy should be cut from the National Health Service, since it is an unproven science?
GV: As I mentioned earlier there are unfortunately some practitioners who are not properly qualified and also some who make claims that are just not based on reality, for instance – that homeopathy can be used as a form of vaccine for epidemic – which is simply not true as every individual needs a different homeopathic remedy specific to their case. So these claims bring the entire practice into dispute.

That’s one of the reasons; the other is that homeopathy is becoming the medicine of the new millennium, so doctors and especially pharmaceutical companies (with multimillion dollar profits) are feeling very threatened (homeopathy is non-chemical and inexpensive), so this is why they attack homeopathy. It is not coincidental to note, however, that countless medical doctors who were asked to examine the principles and effectiveness of homeopathy, on seeing the results and learning more, have become staunch supporters of this method.

What is your main advice for healthy living?

GV: Basically it revolves around one word – cleanliness. Your conscience is the most important thing to keep clean, but so are the body and mind. Health in the physical body is freedom from pain.  But if you don’t have pain is that health? No, you need something else in order to say somebody is healthy – and that is having well being as a general state. But many mentally ill individuals can have strong bodies – a lot of energy, so therefore the definition has to also address the psyche (the emotional part).

Thus, “healthy people” are those who are not overtaken by any passion – the concept of pathos is based on that idea which overtakes and makes a slave the soul (our emotional part). If you are living in the serene state, with freedom from passion, in a state of calm, that is a dynamic state. I feel that I enjoy that state but I do not become a slave to anything.

And this leads to the soul – the soul has to be free from selfishness, from ego.  Once you achieve this there is an inner click and you enter the world of ideas. The ideas of a selfless man help humanity, while the ideas of a selfish man destroy others. Even in disease there can be harmony. I believe this is the ideal to work towards.

A healthy individual is one who is creative, with a double purpose, firstly to help himself, but at the same time being creative and giving to the society, and this the society is equally benefited by what has been created.

Meeting Professor Vithoulkas was indeed a pleasure, for we felt that we discovered the man behind the big name – an individual who has dedicated a 45 year career in which he has personally treated over 170 thousand patients, many of them prominent personalities from the fields of culture and politics throughout the world, such as Indian philosopher Krishnamurti, whose side he stood by for many years as his personal homeopath, and former Greek premier Andreas Papandreou).

Above all, as he confirmed to us himself in our discussion, his life has been about a challenging and important mission, to reverse thinking processes that prefer the use of pharmaceuticals over treating the individual holistically, to educate not only the elite but also the masses about the power of nature – and of man himself – to heal, as a process that involves the mind, body and spirit, and to offer, as he put it, “powerful tools” to those who have the position, expertise, clarity of intention and intelligence to use them effectively. Such is a mission that requires serious responsibility and commitment, but also reveals a larger, more valiant hope for humankind.

Interview by Adrian Vrettos and Alexia Amvrazi
As first published in www.greektravel.com

the sound of the soul

Although based in the US, Kennet offers sessions and workshops around the world.

I went to my Soul Sounding appointment with David Kennet not quite knowing what to expect, except that I would be receiving some form of sound healing, which I love. The power of sound resonates deeply in all of us, for some more consciously than others, and having tried various forms of sound therapy in the past I was excited to experience Soul Sounding.

The first part of my session with Kennet, a clean-cut, elegant man with a calm voice and polite, gentle manner, was centred on discussing my beliefs about myself and life. “What do you want from this session?” he asked me, adding, “It’s very important to set your intention before the session, as  with everything.”

I too am a believer in the power of intention – we set our intent carelessly most of the time, achieving what our subconscious directs us toward without even realizing it. There are so many books and other media out there about the power of our intent in manifesting our reality – call it the Law of Attraction, Abraham Hicks, The Secret or whatever you like, essentially it is something we already do by focusing or thoughts in a certain direction, our heart ruling the way with its emotions with a force that transmutes the cellular structure of everything within and around us. “My life is so crap!” people complain, often not realizing that they are dedicating almost all their energy to making it that way by visualizing the worst, using technicolour, dynamic and completely realistic imagery that makes them feel what they fear most is actually happening, and which then registers on a physical and conscious level as an actual experience! And even when they stop to imagine what they want, in a hopeful moment, they often crush it with an infernal crashing thunderbolt with the little words “as if!!”

The art and discipline is to connect with our heart and mind and see what emotions and thoughts are there, understand what is true to our being and honour it through love, before altering it to its best potential and directing it with a loving, powerful force toward what it is we truly do want to create. “Holistic healing is very much about us each remembering that we are our own best healers, that the body is designed to heal itself, and again, we just need some tools,” Kennet says.

David Kennet holding a crystal singing bowl that he uses in his soul sounding sessions.
David Kennet holding a crystal singing bowl that he uses in his soul sounding sessions.

Based upon the things I revealed about what I do and do not feel, want and believe, Kennet created some affirmations for me to repeat and then using applied kinesiology and muscle-testing, showed me what my subconscious really does believe and what it doesn’t. It was a fascinating process, as I saw how, for example when I affirmed “I am happy to have money” my subconscious gave the green light, but when I affirmed “I am happy to be wealthy” there was a resistance.

It was an a-ha! moment, because despite years of affirmations in that direction, my deep-seated subconscious belief that money is good because it helps you survive, but wealth is a corrupting force, because after all, look at the line-up of the 1%, has very likely stopped me earning to my fullest potential.

“We can actually unconsciously have an intolerance, a resistance, almost like an allergy, to things we want,” Kennet tells me, “even though we are consciously telling ourselves “I love myself, I love myself, I love myself,” if the unconscious is running a programme that says ‘you are unworthy or don’t deserve love’ it’s very hard to experience the actuality of “I love myself”. So what do we do about it? I ask. Kennet shows me some tools for working on myself using Brain Gym techniques, but the main work will be done on the Soul Sounding table.

Kennet grew up surrounded by music, as his father, Michael Small, was an acclaimed composer for Hollywood film scores.

On the healing table, Kennet uses a variety of instruments including crystal singing bowls, Native American flutes, tuning forks and a giant drum, which he says, laughingly “penetrates and goes , deep – even if there’s a resistance to healing, there’s no hiding!” His main instrument, he tells me, is his voice, which he uses intuitively, however he feels guided to. Kennet grew up with music, as his father Michael Small was a celebrated film score composer for Hollywood (“hearing him compose for movies,  from early at sunrise, or blasting classical music in the house, was definitely influential”, Kennet says), and in fact it cured him of the chronic, life-threatening asthma he was diagnosed with since early childhood.

“My mom had to rush me to hospital when I had asthma attacks so they could save my life, giving me an adrenaline shot which would open up my bronchial tunes and make my heart pound very intensely. So Western medicine saved my life. Ultimately what happened was that I met an amazingly evolved man called Dr. Kenneth Mills, who was a metaphysician, musician and composer, and who revealed the gift of song to me, which was already mine but I didn’t know it was there. The more and more I sang, the greater and more ease I had in breathing.

“The reason for that I think was threefold: the physical component that came through singing was that I was taking deeper breaths; on a very fundamental level when we sing, we open our diaphragm, so I was exercising the muscles in my lungs. On an emotional level, I believe that singing allows us to expand. It opens up or emotions, takes away shyness and allows us to express ourselves. And on the spiritual level through singing we are also connecting to the source, because sound is what we are, so when we make a sound we are aligning ourself to creation. Mills had a singing group called The Star-scape Singers that I was very honoured to have been included in his ensemble.”

Metaphysician, concert pianist and composer Dr. Kenneth Mills

When the singing ensemble disbanded in 2004, Kennet  set off to learn under other great teachers such as the sound healers Tom Kenyon and Johnathan Goldman, learning about how sound is effective in self-empowerment and healing. He also studied at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition, and the Integrative Natural Technologies School in Canada to study allergies (over the years he has helped a multitude of people of all ages recover from allergies), and trained as a licensed massage therapist. “Above all I’m excited about bridging the world of mysticism with science. Bottom line is that I get a very high percentage of results, and this to me is the validation of the power of sound,” he says.

As I lie listening to the sound of the crystal bowls he is playing, I feel the sound waves vibrate through my chest and back, and my thoughts fall away. I start feeling peaceful. “Sound is a carrier wave that is capable of penetrating our skin and our cells, our bones, it can go right into our bone marrow. So sound is a very effective way of penetrating our ‘walls’,” Kennet says.

When he starts to sing, I am momentarily stunned by the impact, bold colour, sophisticated texture and infiltrating power of his voice, and find it almost impossible to connect this voice, which literally feels like a biblical force, like a flood of light emerging through the clouds, with the low-key individual I was just chatting with over a cup of tea. His singing transports me to a place where I look around and see angels and, as I scan the circle of those around me, I see my grandparents, looking at me with loving smiles. I remember now that whatever is happening in this life, wherever we are, at the same time we are somewhere else, surrounded by the light that we are, that all that we love never leaves us, because it is part of us, and I start to cry with joy and relief. In our session I feel my energy shift and clear on the physical, mental and emotional levels, I see more images, cry a few more tears, breathe deeply, even sleep for a few minutes. I feel like I have been in a whirlwind of sound and light, reconnected with heavenly love and the earth’s dark, rich, grounding energy at once. Thank you David, for reminding me I am home.

David Kennet offered a sound-gift to the readers of I’m Very Well Thank You, performing an intuitive song:

For more healing sound by David Kennet visit Soundcloud

needling age out with acupuncture

“Cosmetic acupuncture actually renews the skin’s cellular structure from the inside, as well as reactivating and toning facial muscles. Meanwhile, it’s benefitting the whole body.”

Is it really better than Botox? 

It’s true what they say, that you wake up one fine morning and, standing before the bathroom mirror brushing your teeth and thinking about the day ahead, you freeze at the dreadful sight of a new wrinkle on your face. Where the heck did it come from? Why did it have to set up its permanent residence on your goddamned face? Clearly it loves company, because over the last year or so the wrinkle society have been showing a great love for your facial landscape.

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“The way you sleep definitely affects how your face looks,” acupuncturist and Shiatsu therapist Ilaira Bouratinos, who owns and teaches at the Oriental Medicine Centre in Athens tells me. If you sleep on your side, your face will actually become lop-sided. If you squash your face onto the pillow, there’s more chance of developing wrinkles. The ideal is to sleep on your back.” But, she adds, there’s so much more to it than that. “You seem to frown a lot while you talk – there! You’re doing it again!” That’s true, I even frown if I’m talking about ice cream, great sex or summer holidays. I smooth out the frown with my fingers and send relaxation vibes to my forehead, where the unfathomably deep Gorge of Obscure Perplexity has developed between above my left eye over the years. “That’s better,” she smiles – momentarily. “Hey! You’re frowning again! Stop it!”

On a far deeper level, Bouratinos informs me, according to Eastern medicine, which addresses the body from a holistic approach and sustains that the body is made up of meridians, or energy lines, the diet you eat, the lifestyle you live, the way you process your thoughts and feelings, how much sleep and rest you get, your habits, the amount of activity you engage in every day, the amount of sun and water and fresh air you get, all add up how your face will turn out. “The face has numerous acupoints, just as the body does, which via the meridians connect to all of the body’s organs and internal functions,” she tells me, “and similarly, according to an Eastern medical theory, the appearance of your face reveals a lot about your inner health. A Chinese medical practitioner will understand that dark circles under the eyes, pale or sagging skin, wrinkles in particular places, dull eyes, redness and other features relate to specific health conditions.”

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Bouratinos is telling me all these interesting things whilst inserting extremely fine, small needles into my face, as part of our Cosmetic Acupuncture session. I am lying in her tranquil treatment room, which today is infused with the aroma of lavender and rose oils, as she inserts needle after needle into my forehead, cheeks, chin, temples… Some of them hurt, (she tells me pain is a good sign of reactivating energy in an area that had gathered hard layers of dead skin, such as scar tissue, which can cause blocks in the flow of energy). Mostly it’s like a tiny prick. Sometimes I don’t feel it at all. “Ouch!” I exclaim, reminding myself that it’s all in the name of beauty and that I have put myself through much worse over the years. Dancing in spiky high heels? Check. Waxing? Check. Wearing a corset that should never have left the 17th Century? Check. Let’s just stop right there before it gets too embarrassing.

I wouldn’t consider myself vain (ok, maybe a little), but I have passed the four-O (aka furrow) line and I do still have decent enough eyesight to see the ongoing, obvious changes in my appearance (oh how we take ourself for granted!). Several of my also seeing girlfriends have felt so unhappy with the lines and turkey neck et al they have ventured towards the needle (Botox not heroine) and become devout to fillers and freezers and whatever else they are called. I have thought about it a lot, and felt very tempted. But I have refrained because aren’t we all bombarded by images of very wealthy, successful women who have turned to plastic surgery and, despite how good a doctor they can afford, end up looking like alien plastic ducks?

two_3272Above all, my entire life philosophy veers me towards holistic choices, as I tell Bouratinos. “Apart from the fact that it’s a natural treatment that doesn’t involve injecting chemicals and toxins into your organism, and that it doesn’t cause long-term damage like repeated use of Botox does, aesthetic acupuncture stimulates collagen production and actually renews the skin’s cellular structure from the inside, as well as reactivating and toning facial muscles. Meanwhile, it’s benefitting the whole body,” she says. Unlike the mask-like effects of cosmetic surgery, aesthetic acupuncture brightens the eyes, clears the mind, improves sleep quality, lifts your body’s energy levels and helps rebalance your metabolism!

After Bouratinos had placed all the needles (around 40 of them!) into my skin, I rested for around half an hour. She removed them quickly and painlessly and then massaged my skin with tiny soft suction cups and manual massage with lavender and chamomile essences. The immediate result was that I looked like I’d had a deep sleep (something I don’t get much of as the mother of a toddler) from which I’ woken up a few years younger – my skin was glowy, rosy and relaxed. I had to wait a few days before being able to see the deeper results – nothing that my mean-spirited eye could see much of but that friends, colleagues and even my partner pointed out to me without knowing I had done anything. “What have you done?” one colleague asked, “did you change your hair?”

I just enjoyed smiling to myself (I might as well hold on to a fun secret on the rare occasion that I have one).

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I had two more sessions with Bouratinos, spaced over the next two months, mainly due to my own time constraints. Apparently the ideal is to go for a weekly session at least for three to five weeks to see bigger, faster and more long-lasting results. But seeing my skin tone improve dramatically (I happily re-encountered my skin from a decade before), my eyes brighten, my cheeks lift significantly, and my jawline tighten was an amazing experience, and a very interesting one too.

Apart from the thrill of seeing my more youthful self emerge (I, young you, was always here, grasshopper, just hidden away under layers of your outward ageing!), I did actually feel more energised, had better sleep and felt more balanced overall.

The effects are expected to last for around six months to a year, especially if you have a session every month or every few months and look after yourself better in terms of how you eat, exercise and sleep, and care for the skin  – all things I was definitely inspired to do more of from now on.

Bouratinos also runs workshops every few months in which she teaches, within the space of an afternoon, how you can massage and exercise your own face for 5 minutes a day to drastically improve, reduce or prevent facial sagging and wrinkles.
Check out www.omcentre.gr and www.ilaira.com to book your cosmetic acuptuncture session and find out about facial toning workshops.

ilaira
Bouratinos is an awarded Shiatsu and Acupuncture practitioner and teacher.