The atmosphere in the event space quickly settled into a beautiful connection between audience and the presenters Gabrielle Caplice and Annette Baker, well known Relationship Counsellors. The space inside the hall had an exceptional feeling about it as we were taken on a journey of expression and connection by this power couple.
It’s extraordinary how you can love a group of people (many of which you don’t know) before an event you’re attending together has even started. The light filled Woollahra Library was so alive with enthusiasm (and dare I say it, love) for this Life is Medicine that there was a genuine heart-warming as you entered the room – an encouraging start for an awesome few hours ahead. It was as if everyone knew what was coming . . . the breath of fresh air, the opportunity to ‘go there’, the potential of a new way of living . . . perhaps a little true connection with oneself if we’re up for it. What unravelled as the day went on was this beautiful, playful synergy between the room of 65+ seeming strangers as we went within to explore exactly why we needed to connect and what it was that got in the way of our connection with ourselves. There was laughter, there was revelation, there was honesty. There was a coming together to share with each other in a way - that although sometimes uncomfortable - was ultimately freeing and evolutionary.
Connection to Self was the first of the three-part 2017 Life is Medicine series. In essence, it explored the discontent and lack of connection with self on the basis that this is the igniting foundation from which we first tap into the greater purpose and meaning of life.
There are so many angles to approach this topic – perhaps it’s the most expansive subject humans have explored since the start of our time on earth. If we feel a disturbance or tension in us in any way we have two choices – 1. to ignore it or 2. to question it – why is it so?
To help us do this the ‘very wise and witty woman’ (as our host Annette described her. . . and just for fun let’s add spunky, tender and oh so loveable) Jean Gamble delivered to us on a silver platter the answers to questions we’ve long been asking. Don’t get me wrong, we had to work for our supper (a la delve into our inner knowing) however Jean – in her all-embracing way, without an ounce of judgement – took us through the steps to re-connecting with self. With her guidance and holding love it was easy to feel free to explore the shadows and get real with ourselves.
Where we are at – humanity’s current norm
To start with Jean presented what happens when we choose not to connect, as if to give us a ‘this is where we are really at, reality check’ – after all, it’s easy to look around at the world and convince ourselves we’re doing ok. But society’s norm is not ok when we are truly in connection with ourselves.
Generally speaking, humanity is not doing well. You just need to look at the statistics and the amount we are spending on research and pharmaceuticals. As Jean pointed out there are also more specialist medical professionals and more complimentary health practitioners than ever before in history. Yet, despite this we are getting sicker. Jean presented that diabetes in Australia alone costs $15 billion / year. By 2025 this figure will double to 30 billion. Yet as Jean put forth – if Diabetes is a lifestyle condition (just as mental health is) – the fundamental thing to clock here is that lifestyle is a choice in how we live life, therefore the question to ask to solve this expensive issue is simple: “How can we live in a way that will support us to feel healthy and vital?”
Simple though it may be, there is much that gets in the way to murk the waters and make it challenging for us to see how easy it really can be. We look around us to see everyone else living a life of disregard – to their bodies, to their environments, to others – and we say, ‘hey, if they can get away with it, why can’t I?” Even though, deep down we know this isn’t the truth, we choose to ignore what is felt. Specifically, we ignore what our most trustworthy resource – our body – is telling us. For the body, as Jean put it, “dictates energetic responsibility.”
Energetic responsibility is about allowing ourselves to feel what is going on, reading it for the truth that it is and following up with what is needed in a way that considers the all – that is everyone and every living thing. Energetic responsibility is at the core of connecting to not simply ourselves, but one another and . . . the universe at large. Big statement, but let’s go there.
From our atoms to the universe – the science behind connection to self
These could be the only two words of this article, in truth, for when we are connected it’s all there – within us – the answers to all our woes and illnesses, as well as our joy and vitality.
“When we connect deeply with ourselves there is a wisdom we have deep within our bodies.” Jean Gamble.
All this talk about connecting to our bodies, and the knowing within can just seem like words when we’ve been living a life disconnected from ourselves – which we have all done at some point or another. Jean gave us the animal kingdom as a point of understanding to highlight how the skills and know-how to care for ourselves is innately within us. Therefore it is possible to feel connected to ourselves and others all, if not most, of the time. For if nature can do it, why can’t we?
Jean gave the example of the weaver bird who knows exactly how to tie a complex, precise knot for their nest – no class needed. She also referenced the male pufferfish that creates a geometrically perfect mandala on the ocean floor to attract female fish to mate. These examples from the animal kingdom show us that wisdom is deep-rooted in the physical form. It’s there – any moment we choose – to be tapped into, connected to and used.
But how does this relate to the universe and why does it matter?
“Our bodies are made of particles. Think about the universe. What is it made of? Atoms, carbon molecules, and energy. If the universe is made of atoms what are we made of?” Jean Gamble.
The question Jean was leading us to ask was: How often do we look up at the stars and admire their beauty, or walk through the bush or a forest and are in awe of nature – all of which are made up of the same stuff as we are – atoms and particles.
“If you admire the rainbow but are doing ‘I’m not worthy’, remember you are made of the very same stuff of the universe. You are not the hair on the pimple on the bum of the giraffe”. Jean Gamble.
Why does this matter? When Jean asked the audience who wants to live a more vital, more purposeful, more joyful life with better relationships, every single person in the room put their hand up. So, if we all want this why are we not doing something about it?
“We don’t talk about ‘these secrets’” Jean pointed out. What better time than now. (More on why we talk about the secrets later).
The 4 pillars to support living a connected life – our true normal
From here Jean took us through the ‘four pillars’ that support living a more purposeful and connected life:
“What is the most useful thing to do when we start to connect? Self-care.” Jean Gamble
“Start with looking at your patterns of lifestyle. How do we know [what to look at]? The knowing happens in the body. The animal kingdom doesn’t do things that disturb their homeostasis - they tap into their knowing.” Jean Gamble.
Jean then introduced Stephen Gammack, who took us through some simple movements that warmed everyone up but also gave us an opportunity to put ‘connection with self’ into practice. Stephen teaches how to not lose yourself in the exercise whilst being super tender and present with your body – a unique quality in the personal training profession. What was amazing to feel in the room was that although the movements weren’t vigorous or adrenalin arousing the energy went up 10-fold. It very much gave us a taster for how easy it could be to connect with our bodies on an ongoing basis.
Why do we not feel this connection with us all the time?
Are you ready for Jean’s beautiful oak tree analogy?
It went like this…
The seed of the oak tree is the acorn. The acorn inevitably drops off the tree and is blessed with sunshine and rain. The acorn starts to germinate and turns itself into another grand old oak tree because inside that seed is everything it needs to be itself. And guess what? Everything is inside us that we need. We don’t need another oak tree telling us that our leaves aren’t shiny enough or our trunks aren’t the right size. Just as when we are children we really don’t need much to grow into an amazing young adult. All we need is confirmation of who we are because we have everything inside of us. Unfortunately, as adults we try to tell kids how to be which separates them from who they truly are and therefore their connection with self.
We get it from all angles right from the get go – a ‘five-pronged attack’ as Jean put it. This is where we get secretive about what we are feeling. At first we get it from our family who are well-meaning, but our parents were never told the all-knowing oak tree story either. Then we get it from the education system which tries to make us all fit the same mould. We get it from society in general via cultural norms and peer influences telling us to be something we are not, and we get it from the church which tells us we are ‘born sinful and need to purge ourselves’. There’s also the media which feeds us opinions and influences our buying choices based on filling a void to ‘create a better me’.
“All of these start to constitute our normal and we lose ourselves. We end up adapting in order to fit in with this production, the 5 prong attack. Our ‘adapted self’ is already separated from itself.” Jean Gamble.
Yet, we all know there is a better way of living.
When you know you are living your adapted self (i.e. not your true self) there is a tension. We then feel we need to do something with this tension because, let’s face it, it’s hard to admit we’re not living life from who we truly are.
What default do we go to in order to deal with the tension?
“We medicate so we don’t have to feel the tension that is there.” Jean Gamble.
When Jean asked us to give examples of how we medicate the answers were endless:
The decision to medicate comes way before the conscious choice as Jean pointed out.
“We align with an energy way before we drive into Woolworths to buy the black forest cake. That desire doesn’t come from us. The ‘Darth Vader’ energy wants us to stay in our crap.” Jean Gamble.
The oxymoron - An antidote to medicating the tension
For some, Jean’s answer may have come as a surprise: “It’s not discipline.”
“It’s an awareness of making loving choices that pay off.” Jean put it to us to ask: “What energy do I want to align with to make the choices I actually want to make?”
“We get seduced by the outside world to make us feel better. There’s ‘hungry hawks’ that try to sell us what they think we need. When you connect you realise you already have what you need. It’s about making the time for connection. In order to connect we need to have a moment of stillness. We need to build stillness in our bodies.” Jean Gamble.
What better way to do this than with Esoteric Yoga – The Yoga of Connection.
Esoteric Yoga – The Yoga of Connection
We were fortunate to have Alexis Stewart take us through a session of this very stilling yoga practice. Alexis explained to us how Esoteric Yoga could support us to bring greater stillness into our bodies, despite the tensions we feel. From this deeper level of stillness, the understanding is that we make better decisions and choices. Alexis explored how we might support ourselves with this practice. The session she provided was a taste of how it feels to move in a way that honours the body and calls forth the soul to be felt more readily in our everyday. During the yoga session the enthusiastic charm of the workshopping settled and there was a much more surrendered and tender group by the end of it, ready and waiting for Jean’s next instalment.
What is it that stops us from connecting to this stillness?
Jean surmised that there are three main things that stop us from connecting to that divine stillness we all hold within – our true self.
This gave us a broad understanding of what’s holding us back from connecting. We then got to pull up our sleeves and get nitty gritty with it in an exercise to nominate our own main hurts that influence our decisions – the ones that “drive the car of our life,” as Jean said.
This is what we came up with . . .
What happens when we address the hurts and surrender to more stillness in our body?
Let’s let Jean do all the talking for this one…
“The fear of the hurts keeps us from the stillness. We don’t want to feel what’s gone on in the past. However, when we go there we can clear these hurts and feel the stillness.” Jean Gamble.
“When we begin to care for ourselves – guess what happens – we love ourselves?” Jean Gamble.
“When you are loving with your body – the nuclei (on a cellular level) go yay I’m feeling loved – they don’t care it’s only you loving you! They are joyous just because they are being loved. This gives meaning and purpose to your life . . . just by starting with loving and caring for you.” Jean Gamble.
“Self-care starts with connection. Self-care leads to self-confidence and self-esteem.” Jean Gamble.
“Expression is everything – it’s how I talk, it’s how I walk, it’s how I move. Ask yourself: how tender can I be?” Jean Gamble.
“This is a process – your body will start to show you what you need.” Jean Gamble.
“You are the particles of the universe in your body – you can’t fail. It’s all in our DNA already there.” Jean Gamble.
There’s only one Jean Gamble, that’s for sure, and the standing ovation for her presentation said it all. What a gift she and her fellow presenters Stephen and Alexis gave us that day with all they presented. But the biggest gift of all was the reminder that we are equally all just as grand, just as awesome, just as capable of living a life of love and connection. Life is Medicine is pretty profound like that. May it never cease to go to the next level. Bring on round 2 - Connection in Relationships - as we expand on the theme of connection and continue our path of return to Soul.
By Nicki Ferguson
Have you ever avoided a situation or opportunity because you were too scared of failing or being rejected? Taken on too much work so that you can avoid feeling settled? How’s about picking a fight with your partner because you didn’t want to take responsibility for something you’ve done? What if we were choosing things on a daily basis that were getting in the way of us truly leading the lives which we not only always wanted to lead, but were born to live? Such was the topic of the first Living in Connection, Life is Medicine workshop at the Woollahra Library at Double Bay presented by psychotherapist, Jean Gamble.
With just over sixty people in attendance, the newly built and beautifully designed space was filled to capacity with little room to move; a great turn out for what is only the beginning of what is sure to be a compelling series. Jean talked the audience through the story of an everyday acorn, one which falls from a tree, that has everything neatly contained inside of it to grow and flourish into its full being. Add a little soil, rain, sun and a few other weather conditions and the rest is guaranteed. But Jean asked the poignant question - what if we’re the same as human beings? What if we’re born having everything inside of us that is needed for us to grow into amazing and natural human’s beings but that life just somehow seems to interfere with this? And if this is so, what are these interferences and how can we work with or around with them to truly grow?
With this kick starting the workshop, Jean and the crowd unpacked and discussed the various ‘weather conditions’ that life throws us that are anything but perfect, often resulting in us growing in some strange ways with some strange behaviours, leaving us not only feeling less than our full selves, but also feeling that there has to be more. The conditions unpacked by the crowd included things like family and cultural expectations, dogmas from differing institutions as well as pressures from the education system, all asking us to perform and act in ways that may or may not be natural to who are. Presenting in a way that was equally open, playful and hilarious, Jean displayed her wit, sharing stories from her own life (including her marriage –with her husband in the audience) that made the room laugh heartily as they came to see themselves in the behaviour, making the day not only educational and inspirational, but also enjoyable.
Handing it over to the group, Jean asked the crowd to form small clusters of four and discuss the topic - how do we medicate the tensions of life? And together we developed quite a list - food, drama, busyness, entertainment, over exercising, sex and alcohol, the list went on with these just the beginning of an alarming but not surprising list of behaviours and substances that we turn to help us mitigate the tensions we feel from not living ourselves in full. And in a room of over sixty participants, predominately all strangers, it was beautiful to see the commitment and honesty in the sharing’s, with each group member supporting one another as we came to understand that this was not just something we individually were living with, but was a human condition we were all dealing with.
As the day unfolded Jean called on different presenters along the way to help offer a different perspective on the topic. Stephen Gammack presented a simple exercise routine that was designed to support us to develop connection to the body, but in a way that did not overexert it or unnecessarily tire it. Heart rates were raised but they were done in a way that was gentle, respectful and nurturing of the body. Yoga practitioner Alexis Stewert also lead the group through an Esoteric Yoga session, the yoga of stillness, supporting the audience to deepen their connection to themselves and feel the innate space that is inside of them; the very thing we try to interrupt with our behaviours and choices, Alexis pointed out.
For the final part of the day, Jean presented the possibility – what if we have hurts that we carry and protect, that ultimately shape and control decisions that we make or opportunities that we take? And if this were so, what were they? And as a group we came up with a long list of possible things that get in the way; feelings of being rejected, shut down, misunderstood, lied about, shamed, humiliated and embarrassed being amongst the many. The exercise was easy, almost enjoyable, until we were asked to identify the flavour of our own hurts, which made it more real, hitting home. Despite this being at first confronting, participants engaged willingly, sharing honestly and openly, highlighting which one stood out the most for them, giving them an opportunity to bring more awareness to what might be controlling and or influencing their lives.
Finishing on a reassuring note, Jean reminded us of the power of living in connection with ourselves and the importance of incorporating self-love into our everyday routine, supporting ourselves as we begin to face the things that might frighten or challenge us, proving to ourselves that we are much bigger than these. And with a standing ovation at the end, it was clear that participants had been touched by the presentation and felt the power that living in connection can bring.
The event felt like the ultimate therapy session, except that it was accessible, real and down to earth, where you walked away not only feeling connected to the therapist, but a whole room full of people, validated that you’re not alone and that we’re all in this together. And as an added bonus, it cost less than a tenth of a therapy session, let alone a three hours on, so it’s safe to say, the day was incredible value, in more ways the one. Observing the many who lingered around at the end to discuss and talk about the day, it was clear everyone enjoyed themselves and were eager for the next one.
Thankfully there are two more sessions to look forward to, Living in Connection to Others on Sunday 9th July and Connection with Life on Sunday 8th October, so if you missed out, there are plenty more opportunities.
This is a grand beginning to what is sure to be an incredible series. To find out more, head to our events page for all the details.
By Martin Gladman