My health journey began about 16 years ago. My 3 children were still very young, my oldest daughter had just started school, and my son was only a few months old when I contracted glandular fever for the second time in my life. I was very ill and extremely fatigued, but still had to look after the children and run the household, so I was determined to find a way to get well – quickly. Several months earlier I had met a medical herbalist at the playcentre, the grandmother of one of the children there. Even though at this stage I was very conventional with my healthcare, I thought I’d see if she could help me. My health improved markedly within a few weeks after taking some liquid herbs and herbal teas, and I was back on my feet and able to carry on my normal duties. But the fatigue lingered (I didn’t keep going on the herbs as I probably should have). I started reading books on natural health – The Liver Cleansing Diet and The X-Factor diet were two that I still remember – and started making some changes to my diet such as adding LSA to my breakfast, and juicing carrots, celery, apples and beetroot. I made some improvement.
The following year, I enrolled in a Diploma of Herbal Medicine to study nutrition and herbs, and see if I could help my family and myself with our health care. My daughter had developed asthma, and suffered from eczema quite badly on occasion. During that first year, I learnt some interesting nutritional concepts that were different to what was being promoted conventionally. It piqued my curiosity.
Our herbal instruction was a combination of ‘wise woman’ herbalism (ref. Susun Weed), and science based herbalism (ref. Kerry Bone). We were encouraged to try the herbs for ourselves and notice the effects. My herbs of choice in that year were Echinacea, which I bought by the litre, and nettle tea – bought in 500 g bags (that’s a lot of nettle!). Over the course of the year my health and energy improved markedly. I no longer needed afternoon sleeps; I could get through my day without running out of puff, and was able to study. One other effect I noticed was that I stopped eating biscuits and sweet things – not because I consciously chose to, but because I no longer felt any need to. In fact, I don’t even remember when it happened exactly.
My belief that herbs were useful for improving one’s health was growing as I noticed these subtle yet profound changes to my wellbeing.
In the third year of my Diploma course, we had to research and write a selected study on some aspect of health related to the study of herbalism. As I had been working part time in a Herbal Dispensary, my observation of the clientele indicated that vegetarians were in general less healthy that those who ate meat and animal products (I’m not saying this to offend anyone, it was simply my observation), and I wanted to know why. In my search for answers, I came across Sally Fallon’s book ‘Nourishing Traditions’, and this was a magical turning point for me. Her wisdom resonated with me, and when I put her nutritional advice into action I felt healthier and more alive than ever before. The traditional approach to nutrition made good sense on a biochemical, cellular and hormonal level – it was very scientifically aligned, and it worked for me.
In 2004, I joined a gym to get back into shape. I felt frumpy and unfit since having children and spending the last few years either studying or working. There I met Jo, a personal trainer (and now a good friend), who pushed me to do exercises I found challenging. I loved doing weight training, and still do, but she encouraged me to do more cardio, which I didn’t enjoy. A few months later I had registered for my first triathlon – just a short one – 300 m swim, 10 km cycle and 3 km run. Over the next few years I did several more – it felt amazing to be fit again, and I liked how my body looked.
During my fitness revolution, my marriage came to an end. I felt that because I was fit, strong and healthy, I coped better emotionally than I would have otherwise, but I was still a mess. In my quest for healing I came across a book called ‘The Journey’ by Brandon Bays, and it had such a profound effect on me that I went along to a weekend workshop she was facilitating in Auckland, and continued on to complete the practitioner programme and work with the process over the next few years. I made some major breakthroughs, and was able to forgive many of the hurts that had occurred in my life and move on.
Post marriage, I felt quite unsettled, but needed to create a stable environment for my children. I had my house and worked from home, but still felt restless. After much contemplation, I realised that in order to feel more settled and at home, I needed to build a garden and have a flock of chooks. I had never been much of a gardener so I had a lot to learn. The next few years involved building fences, a chicken coop, and garden beds. I started out with two vegetable gardens, then built another two, then two more. Over the course of about 3 years, I helped build 10 garden beds, which keep us well supplied with vegetables all year round. In the process of learning about gardening, Jo (my personal trainer) and I teamed up and ran a series of workshops entitled ‘Living the Good Life’, which was wonderful in that we met a whole group of fellow ‘greenies’ who shared the same love of organic, sustainable living, and healthy, delicious food that we did. Home grown food tastes so much better than commercially grown food, and I believe it’s also more nutrient dense and therefore healthier. I’ve been growing my own fruit and vegetables for about 7 years now, and I just love it.
The next step on my journey has been quite recent. In May 2014 I attended a meditation course with Kavita at the Narrows Retreat, and started practicing meditation casually over the next few months. I wasn’t particularly devoted to the practice so didn’t do it regularly. But when I hit a crisis in my personal life, and was struggling emotionally, Kavita helped me to find a way through it. I began to practice meditation much more regularly, and what I’ve noticed is that in general I’m much calmer and able to focus for longer periods of time. I also notice that when I do hit an emotional ‘bump’, it doesn’t last very long – I’m able to work through it and get over it quickly.
My health journey has taught me a lot, and through studying, researching, and putting concepts into practice I’ve learnt the principles of what works and why. Since 2003 I’ve been working with clients (as a medical herbalist and natural health consultant) and helping them to make positive changes in their health and wellbeing using the principles I’ve learnt along the way, and the results they get are amazing. The Enlighten Me challenge is an holistic programme that’s been written and refined over the last 8 years to enlighten people about how they can improve their health and wellbeing – whether it’s to lose weight, heal from an illness, or just improve their general wellbeing – without spending a fortune on exotic foods and expensive supplements. I firmly believe that health doesn’t come in a pill or a bottle; it comes from eating the right balance of foods and nutrients, and putting good habits into practice every day.