Where does one begin with answering this question? After all, there are so many aspects, concepts, interpretations, and studies to consider.
Heather – who was introduced by Gabrielle Caplice as ‘an amazing woman . . . someone who can feel things in the macrocosm’ – knew exactly where to start. She’s the queen of simple and straight to the point, and she did not disappoint. In fact, she brought home the truth loud and lovingly clear on where we are at as a society, but also as individuals with how we approach and relate to health – from the inside and out.
- Personal spending on health is approximately $28.6 billion a year in Australia
- IBISWorld expect spending on health and weight loss to continue increasing to reach more than $7 billion per year by 2018
- Australians spend $22 billion a year on appearance including personal grooming (not including cosmetic surgery or gyms)
- Each year, Australians spend approximately $1 billion on cosmetic treatments – at a per capita rate, that is 40% more than Americans
We also looked at what the dictionary had to say about health. According to the Oxford Dictionary the definition of health is: ‘The state of being free from illness or injury’ or ‘a person's mental or physical condition.’ Oxford Dictionary 2017
As Heather pointed out this definition doesn’t say a lot about how we feel about work, our family, going shopping etc. It’s “very perfunctory” . . . and rather limited.
So what does the global leading voice on health – the World Health Organisation (WHO) – say about health?
‘Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’ WHO 2017
These are some of the textbook and industry descriptors of health, but what of society’s approach?
“We have a lot of views on what health is and we’ve been provided with them as we’ve grown up . . . How many different machines have there been on ‘buy this machine and you’ll have perfect abs’?” Heather Pope.
As the morning went on we looked from varying angles about how health has been misconstrued and branded with particular ideals over time. The question is are these ideals working for us and if not why not and how can we change them?
The big picture view on true health
In true wise woman style Heather presented many a philosophical question throughout the day, encouraging us to delve deeper into our own ideas and pictures of what health means to us personally.
“If you look healthy – are you healthy?” Heather Pope. This question, as simple as it is, cracked a whole bunch of misconceptions and ideals presented in the media; advertising in particular.
Heather then posed: “Is looking healthy as important as being healthy?” A question that if we ignore may have ramifications that lead us to places far beyond the mirror – perhaps as far as the surgeons table or worse. But how many of us deeply consider this, especially when we are young? Heather gave us so much to ponder and it was nothing short of brilliant because the clarity of the questions allowed for the space to keep it simple – as if there really is something we can do to change how we approach our own health and thereby inspire others to do the same.
“There is a lot being told in our society about ‘look healthy’. We are going and getting our hair done, getting botox, we’re getting breast augmentation and bum lifts - all sorts of things to ‘look healthy’.” But is that what health truly is? . . . We put so much emphasis on looking healthy but does that actually mean we are healthy?” Heather Pope
Why are we masquerading as healthy on the outside when there’s a whole other storyline going on, on the inside?
“We want to have an outward appearance of someone who is doing really well and who is enjoying life”. Heather Pope
“We have all these rules and regulations about what a good life is and we stick to those and don’t seem to go outside the boundaries of those. That’s one of the places we get lost.” Heather Pope
“How do we know if someone is healthy”. Is it by how they look?”. On what basis do we consider this.” Heather Pope
Heather gave a great example of how we have been disillusioned by how the meaning of health has been presented to us - the Dove advert with the every day, every shape woman campaign where a dozen or so women are lined up in the same white plain underwear. Our initial intake of this ad is usually ‘great, a portrayal of real women’s bodies in the media’. But that’s exactly the point. It’s still focusing on a woman’s body and not the whole being.
“We are so conditioned by how appallingly badly women are treated in magazines. We are so conditioned to the way we are presented as ‘you only look good if you fit into these certain dimensions’, if your nose in relation to your chin in relation to your eyes is a certain placement, if your breasts are a certain size compared to your waist. We are so conditioned to that, that when we look at [the Dove picture] we feel good. But this isn’t it either. This is another level of ‘it’s all about how you look’.” Heather Pope
What we were being presented with here was that we still do a lot of self-deceiving around our health: ‘at least I don’t have cancer’, ‘my immune disorder is only mild’, ‘I’m only bloated sometimes’. But as Heather pointed out we are simply trying to convince ourselves that we are living a ‘normal life’ and the comparisons to ‘worse off’ health scenarios is doing us an injustice. In other words, it’s all worth looking at, even if we’re feeling the least bit off kilter.
“It’s really ok to admit that this is a big deal.” Heather Pope
“Ask: ‘What’s going on that I have a thyroid issue’. . . because for me the standard I have for health doesn’t include having an underactive thyroid.” Heather Pope
Essentially Heather helped us clock that what our body is telling us should not be ignored – it is in fact indicating that we need to take a deeper look at what it is communicating to us – not from a place of what we’ve been told adequate health is, but from what we feel we actually need. To do this we needed to ponder a few more questions. Workshop time!
- What actions do I take to be healthy?
- What does healthy look like to me?
- How do I know if I am on track with my health?
Heather then invited us to look at our Personal Health Map in more detail, highlighting that: “there isn’t one way for anyone. If you’re vegetarian, honour that, that choice is fine. Me, lamb, gotta have lamb.”
Some of the audience offerings were:
“How you feel about yourself and whether you listen to yourself are entwined with everything else – having your kale, doing your yoga – but it’s about listening to you.” Kim
“You can be doing all these things – eating right, exercising, going to the snow – all the things to look the part but if you’re not ok on the inside then all those things are tainted by that . . . so it really comes from within first so you can then enjoy those things.” Nikita
Next up was workshopping the flipside of when we don’t feel so healthy.
What does not feeling healthy look like?
As you can imagine there was a concoction of creative answers for this one! Here are just a few that get in the way to us feeling amazing every day:
- Not going to bed early or eating supportive foods
- Physical symptoms like bloated stomach and generally feeling terrible
- Negative self-talk which slides into decision making going off track
- Feeling exhausted
- Struggling to make decisions
- Spreading ourselves thinly and not being able to say no to people
- Being overly emotional
- Going to bed holding on to undealt with feelings from the day
- Tension in relationships
- Internal judgement monitor saying ‘I’m good or not good’
- An ‘all or nothing’ approach to health
- Not expressing honestly or feeling connected with others
- Letting the stories and paranoia take over
How do we see health is currently viewed in the world?
“To be healthy within you’ve got to be able to go ‘is that true or is it just being fed to me from the big picture of what goes on in the world and everything we buy into.” Heather Pope
- No cellulite
- No pain
- Never tired
- Face vibrant
- Look slim
- Absence of illness
- Going to gym
- Nails Painted
- Hair done
- Wearing nice clothes
- Check-up at GP
- Eating well all the time
“If you think about it from an energetic perspective: is there a reason that my body is depositing fat in that way that it didn’t when I was younger . . . there’s poison areas in the arms and the same with areas of the legs. Instead of going ‘I’ve got to do exercise, I’ve got to do that’, we can go ‘well, how am I living that’s bringing poison into my body. It’s a different question. I know that the cellulite is telling me there is something going on in the body. I don’t have to make it bad or good. I can look at it and go ‘why is it there?’ Sometimes you are going to a new phase of life or a new understanding of who you are as a person and there needs to be a depositing of what’s in the body to come out. So, it’s actually very confirming in that you are in a change for a different way of living . . . so if there are things in my body that are holding judgements, they need to come out. It’s a whole different way of looking at cellulite.” Heather Pope
Inner health and outer beauty – how do they relate?
“It’s not about poo-pooing looking good. As women, we do naturally want to look good . . . the by-product is that you look good. It’s not necessarily about how you look it’s the energy that comes from you . . . the energy that emanates off your body. The point is to feel that settlement and that ease and not so easily flicking into being frustrated or angry about things in life or reacting to life, and having a much deeper understanding of ourselves on every level.” Annette Baker
“As I began loving myself more I didn’t try and look good, I wanted to look good because the love was inside of me showing from the inside out . . . as the love built it became about expressing the love that is within me, for me” Jean Gamble.
“It’s really important that we acknowledge that health is about our personal body, our personal expression . . . it’s totally up to each person, there is no right way. There is only a connection from within that then says: ‘I would like to look this way or I would like to express how I feel about myself in this way . . . for some women that might be casual, that might be dressed up, that might be hair done or hair not done - it doesn’t matter.” Heather Pope
“We all look different. We are never going to look the same . . . we are uniquely us, and our bodies are a reflection of that as well.” Beverly Carter
It was becoming evident that health is something totally different to what we have been shown. The possibility that true health and vitality – and indeed beauty – comes from within was uplifting to say the least. But if this is the case what does health from within really mean?
It all starts with body connection.
True movement and the simple yet profound impact of body connection
To take us through the very practical application of working with our body, Beverly Carter talked to us about movement and how we express with the body.
“Connection starts with you. In a moment you can bring yourself back to this innate, exquisite essence of who you truly are”. Beverly Carter
Connection isn’t just sitting still. It’s about moving in life. How many times do you sit down and come up off a chair. That could be your moment every day just to go “hey, where am I in my body? Connection is movement and movement is huge.”
“It’s extraordinary – as we feel better and better it’s very easy to forget the simple things. We spend a lot of time doing a lot of activity in the world that distracts us away from the body.” Beverly Carter
“We’re pretty good at not being connected with the body . . . through the path of reconnecting to the body there’s an honesty and truth to that, and that sustaining starts to come.” Beverly Carter
Bev’s practical illustration via nourishing and energising movements bring these teaching to life in our very own body. We moved tenderly, we breathed gently, we moved energised and joyfully; this all allowed for a settlement in our being. Woollahra Library received a true blessing that day with a room full of women in a rare moment of truly enjoying being themselves. And Bev reminded us that through this purposeful intention to connect lovingly to our body ‘it doesn’t need to be serious’ or complicated. Indeed, it is very simple and enriching for the whole being – body, mind and soul.
What if we redefined what health meant to each of us?
What would our life be like if we lived in a way that was truly nurturing and supportive of ourselves?
“It is fascinating to look at the world at large and ask: ‘where are we at as a race with self-worth . . . If you think about health from within self-worth is a big deal, it’s a really big deal.” Heather Pope
“Self-worth gets tested A LOT. One of the challenges with self-worth is when you do something that you know is not you. You didn’t want to harm, you didn’t want to yell, you didn’t want to react . . . or run with that story in your head. You are no longer coming from that connection that Beverly shared with us once that happens, so you are no longer you. You would never get frustrated from that place of connection.” Heather Pope
“The harm that I may have inflicted to the person in front of me is nowhere near the harm I’m about to do inside . . . a lot of us have that self-critique that is very loud, very determined . . . particularly when we have caused harm or potential harm to another, it comes out megaphone-ish. It’s in those times that you really have to bring out the self-worth.”
“This is really about taking responsibility for where we are at and the movements needed to re-align us with a connection within. “It takes real internal commitment to say: ‘I’m coming back to me’ when you have just been abusive to someone. It takes big time commitment.” Heather Pope
The discussion also touched on our ideas about what abuse looks like. Expressing frustration and anger is an obvious go to for calling out our less than loving behaviours. It’s not about providing an excuse for these behaviours in any way, shape or form but as Heather pointed out we have a lot of judgement around these emotions. But what about ‘being nice’ all the time? Is that ok? Are we disconnecting from our self-worth and love for others if we are putting on a mask of happiness or politeness rather than giving them the whole, raw, imperfect us?
“What we truly want is the authentic us.” Heather Pope.
“That gorgeousness attracts more gorgeousness.” Heather Pope
In talking about her life working in corporate senior management positions for 20 years Heather revealed how she worked through challenges of working in a tough, profit first people second environment:
“What I learnt was how to be tender and how to be completely expressive.” Heather Pope
“You can be strong, you can be powerful and you can be fragile while you are doing that.” Heather Pope
“This connection within is needed everywhere” Heather Pope
“There are no limits on what role we can do or who we can be, the only limit is if we put it on ourselves to be a certain way, put a picture on it.” Heather Pope
“What if each thought about ourselves like a seed. And each time we have one we are planting a garden. . . what if the quality of our thoughts is something that is planted within and that supports us to be connected or not.” Heather Pope
“Our thoughts are going all the time right? What if every single one of them is important? What if they provide clues like the bread crumbs in Hansel and Gretel. The breadcrumbs take us to a place where we know we are not going to have self-worth, where we know we might be self-abusive with food, where we know we might be abusive with others. What if those thoughts are the breadcrumbs that give us the way?” Heather Pope
“What if your thoughts come from one of two places? Disconnected or connected. What if it was that simple? If they are thoughts that are not loving to you then you know, without fail that they are coming [from a disconnected place]” Heather Pope
“What if it’s about the really determined connection within to go ‘this isn’t me now, I’m going back over there now.” Heather Pope
Is it possible that within we are like a garden? It can be planted with seeds of love, joy and wisdom. Or it can be left to the weeds?
Heather’s next workshop question to us was a goodie:
What seeds are you planting in each moment . . . and where is that taking you?
Going deeper with our health – the catalyst to stay on track
“We focus on the outside as our measure – did we go to the gym or not, did we have a coffee or not etc. So what I would offer is the way we move generates what we want to do. So if we’re moving in a tough, edgy way you don’t feel that good anymore.” Heather Pope
Heather presented more questions here to ponder:
- How do I move?
- How tenderly do I treat myself?
- Do I see myself as a gift from heaven?
“The way I move generates whether I’m going to be connected or disconnected.” Heather Pope
“If I’ve had a day where I’m being tender, being nurturing, being very expressive and not holding back at all I’m much more likely to look after myself at night. So it comes from a loving discipline but not a perfectionist discipline. I’m turning it all around. If you move in a loving way now you will naturally want to do what is true for your body, which might be the gym or it might not be the gym depending on what’s going on in your body.” Heather Pope
“We are gifts from heaven, every single person on the planet is, even the ones who are behaving abominably, they’re just not standing in this corner [in connection with themselves].” Heather Pope
Then came some more questions to get us thinking:
- How do I speak to myself?
- What are my predominant thoughts?
- How do I see the world coming at me?
“Each and every movement builds on the past. Time is your friend. Even if you have one thought a day of the beauty you are – just one, and it’s at 6am in the morning and it’s the best you can do, every day that one builds on the last. Before you know it you are naturally not wanting to eat ice cream or chocolate anymore.” Heather Pope
Replacing the mis-perceptions of health with the sacred truth of health
Referring back to our seed metaphor we can work on a more detailed level again with which path we are going to take – be that connection with self or disconnection. Below are two lists of qualities of being that Heather presented.
For the first list – obviously the one we want to feel the most often – Heather advised to let time be your friend: “things will change without you even noticing.” These seeds will develop as you nurture them.
For the second list, time isn’t so friendly and if we invest in watering them we’ll “end up with low self-worth, criticising ourselves and maybe cranky,” as Heather put it.
This is something we all know the feeling of.
Understand this and you will know what your next moment can be.”
A beautiful way to end Well-being for Women 2017. How this series has touched the lives of hundreds of women this year has been profound. Women travel from all over the state for these workshop presentations and it’s very easy to see why. Quoting one woman who attended Health from Within: “It’s like every word spoken was relevant to every aspect of my life at this time”. It’s a universal series (that is for sure) and the sharing’s are ones we can take easily into our everyday life for the benefit of not just ourselves but all others.
Stay tuned for another, ever-evolving series in 2018. In the meantime why not savour Heather’s closing comment:
“When you become aware of [life being a series of moments] you know how important each moment is because that will determine your future moments.
The power is with you; you have it. Enjoy ladies.” Heather Pope