May 31st is World MS Day. We wanted to introduce you to the inspirational Alison Potts, who has had MS all her adult life and was diagnosed at a time when there were no medical treatments. The journey to discovering optimum self-care and thriving has been the best she could have taken. Born in England, she followed the sun for the power of Vitamin D and moved to Australia where she is now a Meditation and Vitality Coach. Like her page on Facebook for more info.
When I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) at the age of 26, there were no medicines and no treatments. The internet was in its early years and I had not yet become acquainted with Dr Google (if you can imagine that.)
At that time, we who were given this life-long unpredictable illness were left to look after ourselves. Something I celebrate, by the way, because it set me on a journey whose course was navigated by the innate desire we all have as humans – the desire to thrive.
I was not prepared to give up my thriving.
I became very interested in nourishment.
If you’re reading this blog, it’s more than likely you are someone who is interested in nutrition and nourishment and who cares a great deal about what you put in your body. Not just that, but where what you put in your body comes from and how your body responds to it. What will give you the highest vitality and what will result in you feeling drained of all energy and heavy.
You may also someone be someone who worries about their appetite being too big. (Did you grow up, as I did, with that expression: “your eyes are too big for your tummy?”) You may be concerned about making sure you don’t have too much of anything. You may be someone who pushes plates away at parties or turns their gaze from the patisserie counter.
My focus on nourishment began like that too. I wanted to feed my body only what was good for it and be careful to eliminate from my diet anything that might harm it. Some of the greatest, most helpful research into illnesses precedes that of the medical industry and thus I rapidly – and I mean rapidly – improved on a diet low in saturated fats and high in the good fats, plants, nuts and seeds.
I eradicated junk and processed food and I filled my pantry with vitamin and mineral supplements.
I had a mantra when I was first diagnosed – literally, sitting in the neurologist’s office looking at my MRI results and the lesions which dotted my spine – words rose up from the depths of me like a blazing fire and settled into my being where they have never stopped pulsing.
“I want to keep my vibrancy high.”
I believed nourishment was the way.
And I was right. But in tandem with that voice of wisdom that sung to the rooftops of my inner being “I want to keep my vibrancy high!” must have been another voice, I am sure of it, saying, “Oh, Grasshopper, what a lot you have to learn.”
Here’s the thing, what we put into our bodies matter.
I hear your yawn. I hear your tell-me-something-I-don’t-know.
Then maybe you know this too.
What we put into our beings matters
What we fill our hearts with matters
What we feed our minds with matters
How we nourish our curiosity matters
How we spend our time matters and where we spend it and with whom.
What we fill ourselves with matters.
And the first principle of filling yourself is know what it feels like to be full.
Pause for a moment and take your hands to your ribs. Inhale a long, slow, full, nourishing breath and as you do so, feel your hands become full. Feel that ribcage fill your hands. Take a moment right at the top of the breath, before the natural exhale comes, to feel that stretch.
That’s what is inside of all of us and that is the place we want to be, the top of the mountain, at our highest, in our sweet spot.
Now think of the times in your life you have felt fullness. What does fullness feel like inside you?
What brings you joy that makes you want to leap, love which seems to stretch your heart to bursting point, what thoughts and activities makes your cells sparkle and sing?
What does boundlessness feel like to you and freedom and release?
How much of your aliveness can you feel, have you ever felt? And how does that fullness of being alive feel inside you as it plumps up every cell in your body with the blood of life?
That right there is vibrancy. That is vitality.
I used to have a mixed-up relationship with nourishing myself.
On the one hand, I would offer myself the very best, carefully-sourced organic fruit and vegetables. I would think nothing of paying twice as much for these. On the other, I would give myself “should and should- nots” that instantly evaporated my energies of freedom and fullness.
I might fill myself with the perfect plate of food but, at the same time, fill my time with activities that did not bring me joy. Sometimes we delay joy and satisfaction and pleasure. I used to. If you are someone who does this – please know that pleasure and joy are essential to health and vitality and we limit them in a direct ratio to our experience of wellbeing.
On one hand, I might pop back a colourful array of vitamins designed to enhance brain health yet on the other half, the thoughts I offered myself produced feelings of struggle and unworthiness.
I had a strong commitment to sourcing what are known as “freedom foods” for the ethical way in which they are produced and yet I lost my ethics when it came to giving myself the basic freedoms we all deserve. The freedom to say “No”. “No, I can’t make it then.” “No, I won’t be able to do that for you.” “No, not today, not right now.” “No, I am not going to continue with this activity now. I need to rest.”
We all have personal Yes to life. It’s a shout inside of us. Every no we say releases our Yes into freedom and gives us back space and time, energy and…ultimately…ourselves.
I ate Fair Trade but I traded my energy unfairly and had none left for myself.
Here’s the thing that happens to you if you have a chronic illness. You find yourself getting a lot of external opinions about what is good for you. You might find yourself in un-requested- information- overload with the number of links, photocopies and “my friend tried this and it worked…” sent your way.
There’s some whacky shit out there (and I say this as one who tends towards the side of new age chick) and there’s a goblin’s market of producers of potions and essences and objects designed to heal you so you yourself don’t even need to lift a little finger to tap into finding that within yourself.
But the thing is – you need to tap into that. It’s there and it knows more about you than any wise sage or purveyor of potions. It is a part of you, it knows you, it has travelled with you and all your experiences.
You can be eating the best of the best, abandoning anything indigestible, sipping the purest waters of the remotest mountains…you can be taking freaking magic potions… but if you don’t love and cherish yourself and your health and happiness and commit to actually seeking and receiving those things – feeding yourself from those sources until you are fit to burst – you may as well be eating junk food breakfast-lunch-and-dinner.
It took me a crisis to learn this. Nourishment starts from within. From knowing what serves you, lights you, rests and renews you. What fills you with vitality and a love of being alive.
And most importantly, what doesn’t.
One thing you learn when you have a physical illness is you are not just a body. Offering yourself the best nourishment starts with wanting every part of you to thrive. Not just your body, but the whole of you.
You have a heart- you have passion and love, courage and longing. How are you going to feed this heart to its fullness?
You have a mind – a glorious, miraculous temple of ideas and fascinations, of inventions and creative expressions of exactly you. How are you going to feed that mind of yours?
You have a soul and intuition – pulsing with wisdom and knowing and a connection to the deeper, magical movements of life that fill you with the sense of awe and wonder at the miracle of being alive. How deeply can you dive and fill from that source?
This is the thing I discovered – emptiness does not equal health. And we humans are really good at ignoring our appetites and finding ways to stay lean of life.
But your appetite for life can never be too big. We can be fat with life. Replete with life. If we know our particular sources of nourishment and can do the work to banish the obstacles that get between us and those – then we can feed ourselves till we are full.
And then, my friends, we can thrive.