On New Year's Eve, my two girlfriends and I gathered around a candlelit table and toasted the occasion with glasses of ginger kombucha, sharing our desires for a more courageous pursuit of health and wholeness.
We each wrote down what we wanted to bring into the coming year and lit a candle for it; what we wanted to leave out, we burned. As we shared in this ritual, a common thread of wholeness resonated throughout and I thought wow, what a far cry from how I would have spent New Year's Eve in the past. The air was charged with hope and a gentle breeze blew in, carrying the possibilities of the following day.
Yet as January progressed, it's cold wind brought harsh reality. It nipped away at soft dreams and we all began to feel the gaping chasm between the hopes we had and how to practically bring them into being. Old habits clung stubbornly on and I felt disappointed that I wasn’t honouring what I’d promised myself.
And yet, somewhere within this sense of loss I was forced to dig deeper into myself and a new strength emerged, accompanied by a resolution to give my body, mind and spirit what it deserved. I realised that we can’t possibly approach health with a sense of rigid duty and pressure, but only from a place of genuine care for all parts of ourselves.
For much of my teenage years and early 20s, I neglected the wellbeing of my body, filling it with alcohol, depriving it of food and sleep and treating it as dispensable rather than the precious vessel it is. This was the inevitable effect of my own pain - an awareness of an aching hole - rather than wholeness within.
I’m now 26, and during the healing journey I've been on, it’s become clear that my physical health is deeply intertwined with a growing love for myself and my surrounding world, as well as the nurturing of my spiritual life.
I fell in love again with ocean water on my skin, sunlight on my face and the sweet aromas of hand creams and body oils. All these sensory pleasures replaced my hedonistic ones of old and spoke instead to a deep nourishment.
I’ve learnt health should never feel boring or restrictive, but adventurous and expansive because it is so entwined with our sense of beauty and strength; our hopes and dreams.
I still often find it difficult to dig out that gentleness for self and put it into action, but here are some ideas I’ve unearthed along the way that have helped me on this journey and I hope may ignite something in you too:
I look through childhood photos to connect with my original self, including the countryside she enjoyed playing in and the clothes she wore. I gather images and words and turn them into a mood board to stay inspired.
Instead of dutiful exercise that I end up dreading, I choose movement that feels natural and am re-engaging with the dance I did growing up. It can be tough as you realise how much your body’s capabilities have changed, but I’m learning to have patience and embed those roots of self-nurture deeper.
I have come to associate certain tastes and flavours with health, like turmeric porridge and ginger tea. Ayurveda holds fascinating teachings on nutrition that engage all your sense, and I’m learning to listen to my body more closely - currently, it needs warming, spiced Ayurvedic foods.
Whenever possible I try to share food with others and maintain dialogue with friends about how we each are doing on our health journeys. Whilst wellbeing is very personal, it comes alive in community.
I like to put effort into making things feel special, like drinking kombucha in a pretty glass with a sprig of herb, buying a fresh flower to eat dinner with, burning essential oils before bed; so many of these little touches can be made on a very small budget!
- I sometimes buy myself a card to write my health hopes in, like a secret promise to myself. It helps keep my eyes on my goals, while reminding me to be gentle with where I’m at and enjoy as much as possible.
A key to a sense of wholeness is to feel one with ourselves, our environment, and those around us, and to weave a tapestry of life that feels genuine, including what we eat, drink and do.
So when you next sit down to enjoy a special meal, or take time out to nurture your body (perhaps even with a bottle of HOLOS kombucha in hand!), I hope that you'll be ready to take another step forward on your own path of wholeness. Because really, I've realised, we already are whole ... we just need to step into, remember and become who we already fully are.
‘I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.’ (John O’Donohue)
Written by HOLOS guest blogger, Lola.