Musings, Reflections, Spirituality, Reflections, Spirituality

On Transitions & Accountability – An Equinox Recipe

It’s impossibly early. Its dark, and cold. There’s a storm blowing outside and I’ve been woken by the sound of sheet rain pummeling relentless onto the tin roof, while overhanging branches slap against the shed in rhythm with the wild dance. After an apparently unseasonable run of hot, humid weather, these are the winds of change that herald the final birth pangs of summer giving way to autumn. It is a welcome relief.

The equinox looms. If you are in the northern hemisphere, the first appearance of snowdrops signals the beginning of new life, new hope with Spring and there may be a welling up in you, an urge to clear away the cobwebs of winter and do a Spring clean. Sure you could hire someone to do it for you, but there is no personal catharsis in this, and with the coming lighter energies of Spring this is something that we all seem to need to do. Here in the southern hemisphere just now, the Hawthorn berries are in full swing, pomegranates are ripe with their precious ruby jewels, and  the leaves of deciduous trees are beginning to turn on their show of gold and crimson hue. And as many plants do, Autumn also invites us to begin gathering our resources for the cooler months, to turn inward on preparing ourselves and our homes. Both experiences of the Equinox draw us to focus on the hearth – both of our homes and our souls. The Equinox elicits a stir to change, to reflect, to set new goals, to learn and to grow.

In less than five weeks, the Passover season will be upon us. I’ll be de-leavening my home and clearing out the physical remnants of bread that I don’t actually eat, and generally decluttering the accumulated flotsam of the previous year. As I do this, I also reflect on the lessons that I have learnt over the past year. What have I learnt? Have I grown, in my character and my spirit? Is there anything that I should have done differently? Is there anything lurking in the shadows that I still need to overcome? How is my relationship with my Creator? This is a time of deep soul-searching and accountability.

An important component of the Passover meal is the bitter herbs. The inclusion of the bitter herbs represents the bitterness of being in the bondage of slavery while we were in Egypt. After the sacrifice of the Messiah (the Passover Lamb), this bondage of slavery in Egypt came to be synonymous with being in bondage to the slavery of this world, to the system that is run by greed and narcissistic lawlessness. The bitter herbs however, are not the focus of the meal, if they were we’d be stuck in victim mentality, and we wouldn’t be able to move forward. This would then become a root of bitterness in our being that keeps us stuck in slavery, often not to the system but to our own negativity.

You see this is the funny thing about bitters, the bitter principle whether it be in a plant, or in life, invites us to change. It stirs us up and ignites a fire deep in our belly, our own personal hearth. Physically, this helps us to digest our food properly, so that we can absorb it and utilise it’s nutrients for our growth and repair. Spiritually, if we allow it, it spurs us to draw closer to the Creator, whose Light helps us to reflect on what we’ve been through, learn it’s lessons and then grow or begin to heal from it.
Many of the bitter herbs are also blood-cleaners and anti-inflammatories.

My last post eluded to the ability of Rosemary (Rosmarinus off.) to stir up change. I wanted to make use of the beautiful stately bush growing where I currently live, while it was at it’s peak, so I developed the following bitters recipe based around that. It can be used before meals or whenever you’re feeling a bit stagnant. Take between 1/2 tsp to 1 Tbs depending on taste, and the heaviness of the meal.

IMG_5883

Last of the Summer Bitters

Raw, unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar with the mother.

2 parts fresh rosemary, flowering tops
2 parts dandelion root (raw – dried or fresh)
2 parts burdock root (raw, dried or fresh)
1 part fennel seeds
1 part dried orange peel.

(optional: add a 1-2 Tbs raw honey or sustainably-sourced vegetable glycerin to add a touch of sweetness.)

Mason jar large enough to hold all of your herbs. (I used a 475ml jar).

Fill the mason jar with the herbs and pour over the ACV. You will need to stir as you pour to loosen the herb so it becomes completely saturated. When you think you’ve filled the jar with ACV, let it sit for an hour and you’ll see that much of the herb has absorbed the ACV and there’s exposed herb left on top. Pour on more ACV, stirring as you go, until you absolutely can’t get any more in the jar. Cap tightly, and let sit for up to 6 weeks. Give it a shake every so often. After 6 weeks or so, strain the mixture through a nut milk bag, and rebottle. I like to use 50ml bottles so I can take some with me wherever I go. It also makes a great gift.

Bitter is a taste that is often missing from the Standard Western Diet, much to our detriment. I encourage you to explore the world of bitters and Be the Change.

Many Blessings,
Michelle x

 

 

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Musings, Spirituality

Transitions, epochs, and this thing called Life.

I’m currently sitting in a dark hotel room in Wagga Wagga. My husband and our children are slumbering peacefully in the beds around me, blissful in that sweetly deep sleep that comes after a long, tiring journey. Having just driven from the northern ‘burbs of Sydney, we are breaking this somewhat brief sojourn before continuing on to a new life, a future not yet entirely clear, in Melbourne.

Yet It has been an extraordinarily long journey over many, many years. The last week of which culminated in a momentous epoch for our family at large. Our bodies were broken, our spirits weak, and many tear has been shed.

So indeed, the sleep is sweet.

It is a ‘dead to the world’ sort of sleep.

The sort of sleep that one awakens from feeling like it’s a whole new world.

Birth, death, rebirth..the cycle continues.

And isn’t that life though? A continual transition? A spiralling dance around the sun? A continual push, onward and upward, around and around and around…..?

I am wont to ponder.

Transition is a funny thing. It invites growth. Encourages it. No, demands it.

And makes you do it all over again, if you don’t get it’s message.

And then it becomes effortless. Fluid.

Well, almost.

As far as averages go, I’ve moved between dwellings, once per year since my birth.

I’m thirty seven.

Each brief stay has accounted for a lifetime in itself, gathering as much experience. I’m just a little exhausted.

The youthful tone of my thoughts has long gone. My memory of what it felt like to be a child fading. My body is weary. With each move, with each transition like this, I feel old, seasoned……..ancient.  Not wiser. Just ancient. Continually moving throughout this equally ancient land. (oh but how beautiful it is!)

I didn’t consciously choose this lifestyle. I certainly didn’t consciously choose this way of living for my children either. But here we find ourselves.

And we’ve learned, that specific to our situation, our home is simply us. Our family. We are it. But not just the five of us. The loved ones, old and new, that also buoy us along the way. And the God who holds us in His hands. This is our home. And this is our contentment.

I’ve learned to find joy in the little things. Like the joy of delicately rain kissed petals shining brightly in the midst of an otherwise bleak and dreary day. And so perhaps, there is a tiny spark of child-like wonder left in me after all. (Oh, that I give thanks for the opportunities had, the wonders of creation seen, the stories heard!)

But this isn’t just our story. It seems to be a time of transitions for many in our circle, and indeed for the world. I know of many tools that can help us during times of transition – the flower essences, herbs, prayer, a good shoulder to cry on, a good scream or two……

But let’s look deeper than that.

What wonders do you see on your grand journey?

Musings, Reflections, Spirituality

Slaying the Succubus – A Case Study in Faith, healing, & the link between gut integrity and Sleep Paralysis.

In 1781, the swiss artist Henry Fuseli created an oil painting entitled The Nightmare (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Nightmare) which, depicting a demonic creature sitting on a sleeping woman’s chest, illustrated a phenomenon that both he and many people before and after him know only too well. The demonic creature here is known as the incubus (male), other paintings of a similar theme depict the succubus – or the female version of the demonic influence. The subject of the paintings are depicted in sleep, utterly powerless, often in a state of paralysis. And this parasomnia, this terrifying yet fascinating branch of insomnia is now known as Sleep Paralysis.

330px-John_Henry_Fuseli_-_The_Nightmare

image credit: Wikipedia ‘The Nightmare‘ by Henry Fuseli 1781

A quick Google search reveals that it is estimated that less than 8 per cent of the general population suffers from Sleep Paralysis on a regular basis, or has experienced episodes at some point in their life (although this seems to fluctuate and can be as high as 34% particularly among people with a history of psychiatric disorders). Hence, it’s not something you’re going to hear a lot about in everyday conversation with your average person. I will note, however, that artists seem to experience it more, or at least may be able to articulate their experience more eloquently than others. The 2014 Doctor Who Christmas Special entitled ‘Last Christmas’ is a perfect example of the feeling one has deep inside an episode of Sleep Paralysis – particularly the ‘dream within a dream’ form that it often takes. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_Christmas_(Doctor_Who))  For this reason, as much of a Whovian that I am, this episode hit a little too close to home, but acts as perfect teaching aid when it comes to explaining this experience. Do watch it if you would like to learn how this feels.

So what is Sleep Paralysis exactly? The excellent website The Sleep Paralysis Project gives the following list of what an episode of sleep paralysis looks like; (http://www.thesleepparalysisproject.org/about-sleep-paralysis/symptoms/)

The term ‘Sleep Paralysis’ can describe a range of experiences. These can be varied, though the core symptoms are consistent across cultures. In her excellent book Sleep Paralysis: Night-Mares, Nocebos, and the Mind-Body Connection, Shelley Adler provides comprehensive coverage of the associated symptoms. These are summerised below. For an episode to be considered sleep paralysis only symptoms 1-3 may be present. Symptoms 4-9 may or may not be present, in varying degrees of severity.

1. Being ‘Awake’

Those affected report feeling consciously awake during sleep paralysis experiences. It is experienced as part of waking consciousness, not as a dream.

2. Realistic Perception of Environment

The immediate environment surrounding the bed is clearly perceived.  Distinctive elements in the room are observed (e.g. a sleeping partner or a clock).

3. Inability to move

The sense of paralysis is one of the first elements of the experience noticed by the individual. Sometimes this paralysis is attributed to an outside force.

4. Overwhelming fear and dread

A sense of overwhelming fear can accompany the experience. This can be felt so strongly that those who experience it may later struggle to articulate its intensity. Sometimes feelings progress from a sense of foreboding to complete terror and may include feelings linked to death or dying.

5. Sensed presence

Individuals may sense an ‘evil’ or malevolent ‘presence’ in the room with them. This presence may be seen or merely ‘felt’.

6. Chest pressure

The sense of a physical weight being pressed down onto the chest. This can be purely sensual or can seem to be the result of an external presence or force literally pushing down on the chest.

7. Difficulty breathing

This can occur alongside pressure to the chest.

8. Supine position

Most sleep paralysis attacks occur whilst the individual is lying on their back, although studies have shown that generally people tend not to fall asleep in this position.

9. Additional Unusual Sensations

As well as visual hallucinations, sleep paralysis episodes may be accompanied by hallucinations of an auditory, olfactory and/or physical nature. Commonly reported hallucinations include doors opening, animals growling, approaching footsteps, scratching, internal buzzing/beeping, malevolent whispering as well as smells of rotting flesh, ‘death’, decay, damp, mould and feelings of being moved, drifting, rolling, floating, cold or heat. Out-of-body experiences are also sometimes reported.”

Sounds pretty terrifying right? There is a known neurobiological reason for this phenomenon, where the conscious brain wakes up before the hormones that are responsible for allowing your body to sleep (so you don’t literally act out your dreams) dissipate. Please explore the sleep paralysis project site for more information. In the meantime, let me describe my experience. Warning – it’s going to get heavy.

I’ve lived with Sleep Paralysis for 20 years. It roughly occurred around twice/week, sometimes more, sometimes less, often randomly. It began when I was 17, during my HSC (Higher School Certificate exams) at the end of year 12. In full disclosure and some background context, I did have a history of anxiety, panic attacks, and depression that developed in my teenage years. At the time I lived with someone who was into the occult, who appealed to the all and sundry energies of the universe, and who maintained that we had a ‘strong spiritual bond’ and this is why I experienced what I did. Until a year or two before this I had walked in the way of the Word of God (YHWH) since my infancy, but had left this, as teenagers are want to do, when my family home broke down.

My first episode was as annoying as it was terrifying. I lay in bed, having just fallen to sleep, when I was awoken by a sense that there was someone else in my bedroom. I opened my eyes (or so I thought) and my room was filled with people, random odd-looking ghostly people. I screamed at them, but at the moment I screamed I realised that i was paralysed. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even open my mouth, or turn my head. I mumbled the scream through a tightly clenched jaw. I was terrified, my chest hurt, it felt like I was being crushed. I was breathing hard, my mind racing, ‘what the hell was happening to me?!’. I screamed again – a few profanities. Suddenly I woke. I really woke up. I sat up in bed, breathing hard, my head hurt and felt like it was on fire. My eyes were still adjusting to the darkness, I could still see things – on the edge of the darkness.

Confused, annoyed, scared, i got up and put the light on, and left it on for the rest of the night, as I lay there daring not to go back to sleep, trying to figure out what had just happened.

This then became a regular occurrence. Only the ‘dream’, the demonic hallucination, and the experience would subtly change, from being a whole body experience to eventually jut being localised to my head. Over time, I began to recognise when I would slip from a normal mundane everyday dream into the hallucination that the creature was creating. I became an insomniac out of fear of not wanting to experience the panic of not being able to move, the fear of dying while trapped in one’s own body, in one’s own mind. It reminded me of the voodoo use of Datura, the plant that induces ‘zombie-ism’, the plant once used as an experimental  precursor to general anaesthetic, where people were literally paralysed, trapped in their own body whilst someone operated on them, and they could still feel the response of every exquisitely sensitive nerve-ending. I soon learned that I could wake myself up by crying out to Jesus/Yeshua, and then later banishing the creature, the hallucination, in His name. Around this time, I realised that I needed to remember the Walk of my youth.  And so I turned my heart back to YHWH and Yeshua, and was baptised, but still the episodes continued….only now they became wilder, more intense.

I marvelled that while my husband slept next to me, I was battling against a monster intent on ripping my face off to get inside my skull, or hurling me across the room, such was the intensity of the paralysis. I feared that I would act out my hallucination, and hurt my husband, or worse, when I was pregnant, kill my unborn child. Yet he slept peacefully beside me, waking only when I would emerge from the episode, like someone who had just been saved from drowning and was gasping to catch their precious breath. My children all survived the experience, seemingly blissfully unaware, while I grew more exhausted and battle-weary from endless nights of clenched jaw and hot head and the uncertainty of not knowing when another episode would occur, as random as they were.

I sought a trigger, and discovered that I had multiple sensitivities, not only food-related, but also including EMF’s and electrical smog. As I reduced my exposure, the episodes became less frequent, but still they came. I went to the elders of my church and was anointed for healing. I fasted and I prayed, but still I was plagued with this ‘thorn in the flesh’. I wanted to give up and die, but then I decided to change my perspective. I saw it as an opportunity to stand as the warrior, to fight against the fiery darts of The Adversary. I imagined that God was training me, testing my mettle as each time I would stand by the authority of the Messiah and banish this evil. On a number of occasions I was also able to cast out other people’s demons.

Then one day, our everyday life changed. We were forced to embark on a sojourn, wandering in the wilderness, and the stress of it all became too much. After about 4 years of this, there came a turning point in my personal battle with the demon of Sleep Paralysis. I faced it head on. I looked at it and saw what it really was, and I laughed at it, such as the world will look on, unbelievingly at the  insignificance of the defeated adversary in the time to come. I laughed and told it that it was nothing, that it had no power over me. I awoke from that episode feeling confidant, and thankful.

The next time it happened, I was staying at a friends’ place, sleeping in their family room surrounded by wi-fi and their home theatre system. I fell asleep and slipped straight into an episode, but I was too tired to battle this one. I had been living in a tent and my heart was mourning with the uncertainty of our situation. I cried out to the Abba Father and the hallucination changed, I stood in a barren wasteland, just me facing the creature. I opened my mouth and the voice of God Himself spoke through me. He rebuked the demon, and that was the last I ever saw of it. Needless to say, I spent the rest of the night praying in the Spirit in praise and gratitude.

Interestingly, the episodes continued. The creature was gone, but that old familiar feeling of sinking into the paralysis, the dream within a dream, continued, very occasionally. I didn’t have to fight now, but it still happened.

It was the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a time when we put all leavened goods out of our lives, as a symbol of our part in the covenant we make with the Messiah as we endeavour to remove pride and sin from our hearts. The stress of the last few years had taken it’s toll and my body was not happy. Peri-menopause became obvious, my food allergies were going berserk, my gums were receding at a rate of knots, and I’ve written of the adrenal fatigue before. I just didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. I went to the elders and asked for anointing. I had been praying and i knew that God was healing me. He had removed the demon once and for all. He had healed my teeth (when they should have been decayed from the years of grinding and clenching), and he was healing my stress response. One night while I was pondering why the sleep paralysis continued, a still, small thought came to me; ‘candida’.  It sounds a bit naff, I know. Once upon a time in the kingdom of Naturopathica everything that ailed us was a result of Candida, but we are smarter than that now…or are we?

I decided to listen to the still, small voice. When I looked at the evidence, it was obvious. I was born by c-section, had numerous courses of antibiotics over my life, had been on the Pill (at one very naiive point), had been vaccinated to the hilt, and was stressed out to the max. My gut integrity was shot to pieces, my gut flora was in chaos. All of my accompanying symptoms were congruent with systemic candida. I praised YAH, & immediately put myself on a protocol of herbs and nutrients, and eliminated all refined sugar along with my allergens, which I knew, with God’s blessing, would work and which i’ve used successfully in my previous clinical experience.

The approach is both systematic – working on not only reducing the candida load, but restoring the microbiome, and healing the gut wall, as well as working on the adrenal response; and timely, given the synchronicity of my previous posts on gut health. I love that.

So as YHWH lives I will praise Him and give Him the glory for His compassion and healing. He heals in ways that aren’t always spontaneous. I am no longer having any episodes of sleep paralysis, my overall health has improved, I no longer feel anxious, and if I’m depressed it is mild and something I overcome very quickly, my hormones are balancing, I’m no longer exhausted, I have energy again. I sleep!!  He has slain the succubus.

And so the scientist in me is curious. We know that dysbiosis influences brain function and mental health. We know that dysbiosis leads to multiple allergies and sensitivities, and over the long term it can lead to auto-immune conditions. We know that an alteration of the mind occurs in dysbiosis, particularly with a sensitivity to opiate-like (narcotic) foreign proteins (such as gluten and casein). Can this then act as a portal?

Is there a a direct correlation between the parasomnias such as Sleep Paralysis and gut dysbiosis? Is sugar a trigger in and of itself? Do those who experience Sleep Paralysis more commonly have a background experience in religion or spirituality? I know not everyone faces spiritual attack or experiences the hallucination of one during episodes, but I’m curious nonetheless. It does seem to be quite a common occurrence.

But I’m very interested in doing research around the connection between gut integrity and sleep paralysis, and to see what patterns emerge.

In the meantime, I would love to hear other’s experiences. Demons or not.

Many Blessings,

Michelle x