Monday, August 24, 2009

Charting your course; finding your way...

I've been simultaneously reading more of Master Samael's gnostic works and the classic "The Power of Positive Thinking" by Norman Vincent Peale this past week. Although they come in slightly different packages, the messages contain remarkably similar advice. Would you believe that while concentrating on putting Positive Thinking into action, I was handed a slip of paper that contained one of the bible verses featured in the book while walking down the street just a few days ago? It was from two women standing outside a Christian Science bookstore, but I've walked past that bookstore for four years and have never seen anyone handing out slips of paper there before. I received it thankfully and take it as evidence that when we put our attention on something, we tend to receive more of that same thing. It reminds me of the phrase I learned when taking driving lessons "Look ahead, think ahead, drive ahead;" or the more new age "Where your attention goes, your energy flows." I've also been joking recently about "locating myself in space and time," as a friend and I have experienced a series of synchronistic signs to do with astronomy (and chess, but that one is still unravelling). I love exploring the strange mysteries of life but I also want to do something with the energies and information, not just get lost in the cosmic clues. I think a large part of my problem in not truly living my authentic path is a lack of focus. If I don't even know where I want to go, how can I get there? Another book I am trying to live by this year is "Your Life as Art"by Robert Fritz. It outlines a formula by which you identify where you are now, where you want to go, and then a process for charting your course to get there. Makes sense, doesn't it? I think too often we are afraid to chart that course; concerned that our destination will interfere with where other people think we should go; worried that it is too far or will take too long; that the journey will be too difficult; and so we drive vaguely, maybe getting lost or just badly off-track in the process. We can keep going endlessly in that manner - or maybe it is time to stop for awhile, find the North Star, and ask where am I trying to go? Although in reality I do not really like driving, I think this is an analogy I will try to work with for awhile - because when you get in a vehicle and start to drive you at least usually have a destination in mind and a plan for getting there. I will try to live more "on purpose" and see about creating some new patterns - and a little positive thinking probably won't hurt either ;)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Road to Healing, Egos and Life Lessons

The extent to which we repeat the patterns in our lives is extraordinary to me. In recent years this process seems to have become even more prominent, and rapid. Even as I have made major life decisions designed to take me in a more authentic, soul-filled direction, I keep making remarkably similar "mistakes" and suffering the consequences. It is only when I naively begin to feel bewildered as things go wrong that I am reminded of that old, familiar saying about the road to hell... indeed, good intentions are rarely enough to get us where we want to go. So what else is required? Action; firm commitment; perseverance; luck? A wide variety of sources seem to also recommend some form of spiritual faith. From the popular programs such as AA for overcoming addiction, to gnostic master Samael Aun Weor's teachings specifically on overcoming our egos, when it comes to tackling the really big obstacles in life we are advised to rely on a strength greater than our own. Why is this always so hard to remember?

In order to make any profound and lasting changes it would seem we do indeed require some kind of help from beyond. Yet we muddle on... Lately it seems that even as I identify issues and patterns they simply multiply and continue repeating, so evidently simply bringing them to consciousness is not enough to create change. And as tensions mount I am overwhelmed by anxiety, depression, fatigue and pains, sometimes to the point of being completely unable to function. Apparently my own strength is not enough. And all this from a woman who identifies herself with all the high-minded principles of uniting mind, body and soul to find wholeness, purpose and meaning in life? The books on my shelves are not enough; a lifetime of trying to be kind is not enough; attempting to do everything I can for the small circle of special people in my life is not enough; and as I confront my own failures in so many areas of life I have to seriously question: what am I doing? Riddled with debt; not receiving in return for all I have given; not living up to my potential; enduring chronic health issues; even the happiness of love is clouded by almost insurmountable obstacles. It is not always clear where the dividing line lies between ego and reality. Emotionally it all feels all too real. I feel constantly driven to the edge of endurance and reason lately, slowly broken to the point where I require another fresh start; another absolute beginning... "starting from zero, got nothing to lose" (a line from a Tracy Chapman song that has become shockingly real).

The truth is - a lot of it IS ego... (At least in my case - if you are reading this but you are truly in danger or distress because of someone else's actions please do not blame yourself, and do get the help you need to change your situation!) If we have come to identify ourselves with feeling wronged, mistreated, underappreciated, victimized - Samael emphasizes that changing our outer circumstances is not enough to stop these cycles. He advises asking for divine assistance in completely disintegrating these egos. While thinking about this concept I considered also the process of metamorphosis through which a caterpillar coccoons itself and then undergoes a complete transformation - first dissolving its original form and then slowly changing into the beautiful butterfly. What a phenomenon! And what a reassurance that profound change is possible when we feel at the end of our rope! So, while I truly believe in using a variety of resources to help us deal with illness and emotional issues - including psychological therapies; herbal supplements; prescription medications; adequate exercise, rest and nutrition; or whatever else seems to work best for you - an element of personal experience with the spiritual or divine is also highly recommended. Rising above hurt feelings, pride, disappointment, conflict, temptation, etc. is something that requires something beyond our human abilities. Don't be afraid to find some quiet time and ask for the help you need - pray, meditate, journal - in whatever way possible. Remember, even as we are all human, we are also connected to the divine.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Gnostic

The first Gnostic class I attended was during my first trip to Colombia. The presentation was given in Spanish, with the friend I went with translating for me - and we were virtually the only people there that day. However, I knew immediately that gnosticism was going to be a good fit for me, as that instructor wrote (roughly translated): Gnosis - knowledge of science, art, mystic, philosophy. It was a little like leaping into another dimension and having someone dictate my own theory of art-science-spirit to me, several years after I had developed it myself. More recently I was excited to discover a gnostic group operating locally and signed up for a 9-week yoga and meditation class, though not at all sure my work schedule would permit me to attend all sessions. So far I have made it to one out of two classes, but have followed along as the instructors email out the week's goals, practices and readings. My Colombian gnostic friend hurt my feelings by laughing at my excuses for not being able to go as we corresponded via msn this evening, but he's probably right. You see, Gnosticism is based on each person's spiritual experience, and therefore the development of knowledge - "knowing" - Gnosis. While my excuses for not going seem real enough to me (having just spent two consecutive days in bed with headache and body pain; a conflicting work schedule) - if my truest desire is to overcome the obstacles in my life you would think I could put a little more effort into it. True also that I do not really like attending group activities and would rather stay home and read - perhaps the very nature of the challenge is to do something uncomfortable and accelerate learning by being more active. This week's readings were about learning to observe ourselves as a first step towards eliminating those inner egos or selves that are prohibiting our true spiritual growth. Believe me, this is a tricky business indeed. Even though I have been slowly working towards formatting this kind of a life-framework in recent years, I still spend at least 99% of my time completely unconscious of the deeper meaning of life, tossed about by dramas each step of the way. In spite of my artsciencespirit philosophy I have sadly neglected my spiritual side - no surprise then that I feel quite hopelessly lost in terms of a life path and purpose at this point. The excuses come so easily!! But the more we identify with all those little inner selves, the more impossible it is to create lasting change and discover our greater truth - our Essence. I will see what I can do about attending tomorrow evening's class, or at the very least try to fit in the daily prayer and meditation exercises. I know that what I get out of the experience depends on what I put into it. For more information on the Gnostic path try visiting - it is quite possible that you will find a free class in your area.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Dealing with Anxiety and Depression - Herbal Treatment

As noted elsewhere, my interest in alternative treatments for anxiety and depression is the result of my own life-long battle with these tricky troublemakers. As is quite often the case anxiety and depression are a tag-team in my experience, so I will not try separating my accounts of them - but it is important to note that there are many different kinds of depression, anxiety, and stress. As usual, I am writing from my own experience and this will likely be quite different from any other person's.

One area I have explored is herbal treatment for both anxiety and depression, including:

Holy Basil - at some point while using Holy Basil in combination with other supplements including 5-HTP and adrenal support I did feel I had achieved a good emotional balance. Life stresses got in the way, and I am currently "out of stock" but this may be a product I would like to continue with.

St John's Wort - although certainly well known as a natural remedy for depression, this is one I discontinued early due to abnormally intense menstrual cramping while taking it. I've no idea if this is a common side effect, but I decided not to take any further chances. It's important to remember that any herbal product can have unexpected side effects and that these will differ between people.

Omega 3 - this is becoming more mainstream as a mood-stabilizing supplement as well as for various other health benefits. It was strongly recommended by staff at a natural pharmacy when I inquired about herbal remedies for depression. I have taken Omega 3's intermittently for a few years and think there is probably enough evidence to include it as part of a balanced health regimen.

5-HTP - I have been taking 5-HTP this year because of its potential to reduce migraine headaches in addition to its role in anxiety and depression treatment. I am quite satisfied with it, and plan to continue its use.

Niacinamide - this is what was recommended to me for depression by the naturopathic doctor. I have not used it much yet, but my additional research shows that it is a water soluble member of the B vitamins, also known for its potential to work as an anti anxiety medication and anti-inflammatory properties which may also help alleviate skin conditions such as acne.

Herbal adrenal formulas (including ingredients such as Rhodiola, Suma, Siberian Ginseng, Schisandra, Ashwagandha) - I consider this an integral part of my strategy for coping with anxiety. Our adrenal functions suffer from prolonged periods of stress and may be an underlying cause of anxiety feelings as we are no longer able to effectively regulate cortisol and adrenaline in our systems. I was fascinated to discover this, and have been encouraged by numerous alternative health practitioners to include this type of natural anti anxiety formula in my treatment program.

Stress Formula vitamins (B vitamins with added herbal ingredients including Pomegranate, Ashwagandha and Lemon Balm) - similar to the above Vitamin B and adrenal formulas - I took this at other times when not on the other remedies (as with any medication it is necessary to be cautious with depression and anxiety herbs to avoid exceeding recommended doses or toxic combinations - remember to do your research and consult with the professionals).

Calcium and Magnesium - it has become typical in our modern lifestyles to be deficient in these essential minerals, necessary for stress management as well as most of our body's vital functions. Particularly where there are dietary challenges such as lactose intolerance, it is important to plan your natural anxiety and depression treatment with a focus on the whole system and your health in general. Wherever there are deficiencies, consequences can be serious. I am not as diligent in this area as I should be, but I will try harder. To find out how much is right for you speak to your doctor, alternative health practitioner or pharmacist.

Bach's Rescue Remedy - I consider these essences almost esoteric, but am delighted by them just the same. Their properties read almost like magic potions and specific formulas exist for most emotional ailments. I utilize them from time to time, and have bought them as gifts for friends. I don't know if they work but if you take them with the right intention and focus I don't see how they could hurt :)

As mentioned, herbal treatment is just one facet of learning to deal with anxiety and depression. Part of artsciencespirit is recognizing the need for balance between mind body and soul, and this is as true in anxiety and depression treatment as in any other area of health and wellness. Talk therapy, relaxation techniques, adequate nutrition, rest and exercise must all be incorporated
for a truly effective "cure." More to come on these in future posts - thanks for stopping by.

An HSP blog - highly sensitive personality and digestive system?

I'm a self-identified "Highly Sensitive Person." Yes, I was delighted to discover Elaine Aron's book - so much so that when researching the whole "highly sensitive" concept further I came across her website and ordered every single back issue of the Comfort Zone newsletter. I can't say it has solved my problems or even made life that much easier in any significant way - but it is a nicer label to identify with than so many of the other terms used - shy, introverted, anti-social, etc. Like all personality traits, sensitivity manifests in different ways, so I am only speaking from my own experience. However it tends to be one that affects all areas of life. For me it is one puzzle piece in the attempt to figure out my chronic health issues (maybe I
should say chronic life issues!). I am sensitive to noise and commotion. I am sensitive to numerous common food ingredients. I am sensitive to temperatures (I freeze all day in an air-conditioned office but get heat-sick easily on a hot sunny day) and weather changes (almost without fail a change in seasons brings migraines). I suffer from chronic anxiety, depression and fibromyalgia-type muscle pain. On a more esoteric level, I wonder if all this actually means I am sensitive to energies? Whatever the deepest or highest truth of the situation may be - all I know is I feel bombarded most of the time. Just working at a full-time job (any kind of full-time job) is already more than I can comfortably manage. But I do it anyways - what choice is there?! I guess in some ways I'm still waiting for the silver lining to emerge.

Perhaps I could be useful to society as the "canary" that picks up on stressors or dangers before other people are aware? For instance - my recent naturopathic experience which helped identify my numerous food sensitivities brought some interesting points to light. It turns out I react to soy, corn, white flour (but not gluten), sugar (including cane sugar, brown sugar, fructose, corn syrup), and several artificial food colours. I cannot claim to understand how food allergies and intolerances develop - but it is interesting to note that the foods on my list are ones that we are all consuming much more than we probably realize. Packaged and instant foods are almost entirely eliminated when avoiding both corn and soy. Corn is used for everything from dusting the inside of food packages, to fruit juice, chips, crackers, condiments, medicines, common baking ingredients, and prepared meats. Soy is another hidden ingredient in flavoured teas, soups, spice blends, baked goods, margarine, salad dressings and much more. If we are all being bombarded by these ingredients all the time it makes you wonder a little, doesn't it?

All I can really do at this point is remain vigilant with my own diet (I'm inadvertantly dropping pounds as a result as well, although that was not the intent) and encourage any of you who are experiencing digestive disturbance to see a professional such as a naturopath to help you figure it out. I'm lucky in that my food intolerances are not the life-threatening kind, but left unchecked
over the long term any of these issues can lead to bigger problems. For more information about alternative health strategies please visit my website:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Canada Day Story

Happy Canada Day 2009... I have to admit, I care about my country, and I decided to join in the festivities today, wear red & white and do a little flag waving on this beautiful July 1. However as I prepared to go out it was not without moments of bitterness. I love my country, I am grateful for my freedoms, but I would be a little more proud to be Canadian if some of my country's policies were a little easier to understand and embrace, particularly around issues of immigration. Specifically, I would like to someday be allowed to invite my friends from Colombia to join me in Canada for a celebration - any celebration - and the day they are permitted to travel will be a day of celebration indeed. Does it honestly seem acceptable in any way that the Canadian government can work so hard to develop trade relations with a country, but deny the citizens of that country virtually any chance of entering Canada even to visit family? There must be a better way...

As you will have noticed, I have developed a deep fondness for the country and people of
Colombia. It may seem an unlikely love story - A Canadian woman, and a country
that has been scarred by years of internal conflict and a generally negative
impression in the eyes of the world.. How did it happen? It was not a politically motivated attraction, although I have a background in social sciences and a deep appreciation for cultural differences (and similarities) and an interest in travel. It was more the result one of life's funny/strange twists and turns. Like any story, it involves people, and the human element is what I think should be brought much further to the forefront of all the debates and "issues" involved in policy-making, even in this fair country. I saw a quote by Nelson Mandela just yesterday about the concept of "Ubuntu," and came across this explanation by Desmond Tutu when researching it further:

"One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu - the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can't be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality - Ubuntu - you are known for your generosity.

We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity." (Desmond Tutu, 2008).

This shared experience of being human and sharing this planet is one of the things I have learned in my travels and friendships. What would make this a happier Canada Day for me, and for many who are separated from loved ones, is if we could extend our generosity a little further and look beyond stereotypes and discrimination based on national interests and histories, to the actual humans involved.

Happy Canada Day

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Everything is Connected - Putting the Pieces Together

To be true to my name, and to do a better job of seeking the balance of body, mind and soul - I have decided it is time to make a commitment to my higher, spiritual development (along with mental and physical relaxation) as part of my overall quest for better health. As you can see from previous posts, I spend all too much time in a reactive mode, struggling to deal with physical symptoms, or taking various supplements to repair my physical state and hopefully prevent future mishaps. Isn't life like that? Leaping from one situation or problem to the next, putting out one fire just to find yourself faced with another, feeling busy busy busy... So, I did a little research and decided to take action. Today I went to one of the beautiful local esoteric bookstores and invested in my well-being with two dvd's: Ananda Yoga (Yoga to Awaken the Chakras) and Qigong (Traditional Chinese Exercises for Healing Body, Mind, and Spirit). I also purchased a meditation cd: Pure Meditation by Pema Chodron. I've chosen this approach for very specific reasons. I have known, without a doubt, for many years now that yoga and meditation are practices I that I needed to get involved in... However I did not get beyond reading a few books and agreeing wholeheartedly with the philosophies... putting things into practice is where I lose points. I realize that taking classes locally would be a great way to get active, however, knowing myself and my changing schedule and my failing energy levels - for me a practice I can maintain at home is far more likely to succeed. (I also have a huge discomfort level with being observed, especially when learning something new... issues to work on some other time!) Likewise for the physical exercise component - I need a workout I can do in a small space and at a convenient time. I am also interested in both increasing my energy levels, decreasing my chronic pain, and improving my ability to relax. Thus is the reasoning behind my self-selected wellness program. We'll see how it goes - I intend to benefit hugely from this long delayed plan :)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Food Sensitivity Testing - Exploring the Unknown

Sometimes if we are not feeling well it is more important to narrow down and address or eliminate the potential causes than to keep trying new ways of managing our discomfort. For psychological issues this is why it is typically recommended that some form of counselling accompany drug therapy (in order to tackle underlying issues, not just mask the symptoms). For physical ailments it is also often necessary to evaluate what we need to change in our lifestyle in order to bring ourselves to better health. Having experienced digestive ailments for many years, I recently went for a detailed naturopathic assessment including food sensitivity testing. I knew I was lactose intolerant, and I suspected I was having problems with wheat but lately I had been having digestive problems with almost every meal and was at a loss at how to figure out what was going on. The tests did confirm that I have a sensitivity to every kind of dairy product - and white flour - but also sugar, soy, corn, chocolate, curry and several artificial colours! I was definitely not aware of those... that would certainly explain a thing or two about why I seemed to be having so many issues with food. After following a strict diet for 4 weeks, I can confirm that my symptoms absolutely abate when I avoid all the listed foods. This is a good example of when it is helpful to seek professional advice - I don't think I would ever have identified this list on my own. Although it is obviously up to me now to adhere to this diet or make changes as I see fit, I am grateful to have this starting point figured out! I have been following it quite strictly for about a month and have not found it as difficult as I would have expected - although I did visit a local natural foods market this weekend and splurged a little on their rice bakery products! (The urge for treats does not disappear, let's face it). Overall it has been an interesting experience so far, and I'm hopeful about seeing longer-term benefits as my system starts to recover. I'm curious about how sensitivities develop in the first place - a topic for further research and discussion.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Anxiety, Adrenal Support, and Alternative Therapies

I created my website ( and launched my personal exploration of alternative healing about two years ago. A few products I tried early on included: a natural treatment for anxiety called Serenity+ by Genuine Health. Containing extracts of Ashwagandha root, Passionflower, Oat straw and Rhodioloa rosea root, this product is intended for stress management, to promote "a sense of calm" while reducing "nervousness and agitation."

I also began trying a few different products for adrenal fatigue beginning with a special homeopathic blend by a local natural pharmacy called "Finlandia Adrenal." I had gone in intending to buy licorice root for the purpose of balancing swings in blood sugars, but a helpful discussion with a staff member there (who has tried this product herself) changed my mind. I have read about adrenal fatigue before and find it easy to see how this might be a contributing factor to my ongoing fatigue and emotional imbalance. Responsible for helping us maintain and balance our hormone levels, blood sugars, immune system function and more, the adrenal glands (manufacturers of adrenaline) can become stressed, leading to a host of problems.

A few other strategies I've incorporated since then have included:

Acidophilus - Life Brand (digestive ailments can prevent the absorption of essential nutrients; this is a common side effect of antibiotic use)
AdrenaSense by Lorna Vanderhaeghe (continuing with the adrenal support in the form of nourishing and stress-combating herbs)
Flamma-Force by Prairie Naturals (designed to reduce the inflammation associated with painful conditions such as fibromyalgia)
Multi+ daily glow (most of my doctors, and most recently an in-depth naturopathic assessment, have agreed that a good multi-vitamin is necessary for maintaining good health)
Recovery Formula by Purica (another fibromyalgia-focused herbal blend)
Holy Basil (for combatting anxiety and stress)
Allergy and Borage - herbal blends by Finlandia Natural Pharmacy (for ongoing sinus issues)
5-HTP - Natural Factors (a natural alternative to antidepressants/anxiety medications, and some studies have found this useful in treating migraine headaches)

Always interested in the mind-body connection, I have learned to observe myself more carefully to determine what's really going on when I get feelings such as anxiety. Am I really anxious, or am I just interpreting my body's signals as anxiety, when in fact I may be having blood sugar issues or a response to caffeine? Is my feeling of extreme fatigue related to the dietary changes I've been making, an indication of depression, or a sign that I'm catching a viral illness? Trying to root out the cause of chronic health issues is an ongoing challenge and one that can increase feelings of hopelessness if you let it. However, we are fortunate to have access to a wealth of information, as well as alternative therapies, when illness is detracting from our quality of life.

I heartily encourage all of you to become your own experts when it comes to creating better health. Don't try to go without professional medical advice, but take an active role in designing the right treatment for you. It may help to map out your past medical issues - do you see any patterns? What is your body trying to tell you? Help may come through more natural channels than you expect. One essential strategy for relieving numerous ailments is to drink more water! Another big one is re-learning to breathe properly (a factor I had not noticed until a massage therapist coached me on it) - it is common when we are chronically stressed to let our breathing become too shallow, which impacts numerous systems in the body. Becoming more mindful of these important basics is a good beginning - then take it one step at a time from there.


What's the story behind artsciencespirit?
Artsciencespirit is a quest. It is the journey each one of us takes in: the pursuit of meaning and knowledge in our lives, the attempt to become all we can be, getting to know the Self, and relating to others and the world. It is seeking the balance between body, mind and soul, in order to become whole.
The beginning of the way, the birth of a dream and making changes...

Artsciencespirit was born a few years ago, out of the need to personalize and integrate the theories and philosophies I was reading about, and the ever-present knowing that life needed to change and grow. Influenced by writings such as Science of Mind by Ernest Holmes, theosophy, Kandinsky and others on spirituality and art, I was becoming increasingly clear on the need for a balance in life of the various vital forces. Art, Science, Spirit, or Body, Mind and Soul.. if we become out of balance, life can't stay on course.

Following some major life changes, I am still trying to redesign life as I want to live it, connect with passion and purpose, and do some good in the world.
Change can be scary. Life can seem hard. But it is bigger than our individual fears, our self-imposed limitations, our sometimes self-centered views... The direction I am taking in my personal life is mirrored and expanded in, with steps towards healthier, more conscious living and a concern for others, including the precious natural world that is suffering so much from our negligence. For myself this means making a switch or two: towards buying organic products; cutting back on sugar, caffeine and meat; going cruelty-free; caring more about the bigger picture and the consequences of our actions. I am exploring natural solutions for anxiety, depression, and chronic pain and fatigue; I intend to develop some form of meditation practice (this time I mean it!). I am interested in methods for opening the chakras and working with energies. I am determined to overcome my habitual negative thought patterns and the resulting life patterns I create again and again.
Let's create something better! For now, thanks for visiting and I hope you find some beauty in your day :)