Last week you will have read the background to Paleo In The UK – and will have seen that whilst food can become really inflammatory, and cutting out foods can be a therapeutic tool, I do not believe (and have never believed) that healing from any hyper-reactive physiological situation is *just* about constructing the perfect diet which neatly avoids any of your perceived triggers.
Instead, healing requires more than simply avoiding everything your body has learned to react to. It requires actually understanding the ‘why’ behind your over-reactivity. What caused the physiological dysregulations in the first place that subsequently made you so reactive to nutrition? And how do you work on changing that hyper-sensitive patterning?
DISCLAIMER AND VERY IMPORTANT PREFACE TO THIS POST:
I will reiterate here that a Paleo or AIP nutritional approach does a great job of focusing on foods that are healthiest for humans to consume – foods that are nutrient dense and biochemically appropriate. If you want to eat the healthiest, most nutritionally complete diet that you can, then some variation of Paleo-esque approach is the direction that you should look towards… but this does not mean that you should be in a situation where you cannot eat anything that isn’t on a Paleo or AIP template.
Additionally, I want to state right at the start that, as a therapeutic tool, I have found no better or more appropriate solution for reducing inflammation than the combined dietary and lifestyle strategies that are encompassed in either Paleo or AIP (the severity of the dietary eliminations will depend upon the severity of the condition). I still strongly believe that as part of any “healing journey” the reduction of the maelstrom of inflammation is the first, necessary, step.
However, I will also, always, be resolutely intrigued as to the ‘why’ behind the need for these dietary interventions in the first place. What has pushed each individual’s body so far as to develop such rampant inflammation. Yes, there are genetic elements and there are the lifestyle elements such as toxins and chemical exposures, there’s also the burden of just living in the modern world for a long time…
But I am yet to see a case where there weren’t more – deeper – issues affecting the manifestation of health crises and/or the physiological dysregulations as described on last week’s blog.
For me, dietary intervention is the first step to clear the noise. From this point of clarity we can identify the lifestyle elements which tax us and attempt to regulate the stressors in our lives. However, I am also interested in other ‘stress’ triggers which place a strain on our biology – not just from diet and lifestyle, but from historic trauma, through our personal perception and self-belief or self-worth, from the emotional conflicts which we carry around and the mindset or perspectives with which we view life, or from other spiritual dilemmas we are not addressing. All of these areas affect biology – and it is my feeling that all need to be addressed to really heal, without getting stuck on a very restrictive nutritional regimen, controlling every input or stress for the rest of our lives.
In order to illustrate the point that I am trying to make here, I felt that for once it might be appropriate to share with you some specifics of my own journey. I will tell you how I moved from hyper-reactivity (with a veritable handful of diagnoses and health conditions) to my current state of health. My story is very complicated, because it meanders in and out of talking about digestion and food, whilst never quite being about food but always coming back to food. It encompasses experiences of physiological trauma and the emotional consequences of that – but it also includes emotional traumas that were just my ‘stuff’ – some of it to do with the wonky neurology that comes with having a connective tissue disorder, some of it just to do with ‘life’ and some of it to do with shame over some physical things that are consequences of my connective tissue stuff.
Everything in this little paragraph above is important in the genesis, the progression and the resolution of my health issues. I have had to face all of these elements in order to build a biological system (and a life) that is no longer hyper-reactive to every stressor, requiring that I control every element of diet, lifestyle and life in order to stay ‘safe’.
My Health History
Talking about having a connective tissue disorder on my website is, in part, my way of demonstrating that I have been through illness and that I deal with the physical crises that many of my clients are dealing with – or at least, something similar.
However, it’s actually important because my connective tissue disorder is an enormous part of what makes me me – it defines not only the activities and structural complications that I face and have faced, but it also completely affects my neurology and my sense of where I am in space. The constant awareness of laxity and the slightly ‘off’ perception field that I have mean that one of the most profound impacts of having Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), both for me and for many of my clients, is a permanent sense of feeling unstable and unsafe within my own skin.
For me, the connective tissue disorder was only identified after it had caused a host of complications. After at least 8 years of misdiagnoses it was issues with my digestive, immune and neurological systems which led the way to identifying EDS. My GI conditions have always been the canary in the coal mine and it was via neuro-gastroenterology that I ended up seeing a neurologist for Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) and an immunologist who diagnosed Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS). From various people – conventional and functional – have also given me the labels of Central Sensitivity Syndrome and suspected Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome, both diagnosed through assessing symptoms and history. I also had vagus nerve impingement (hence complex dental work which has changed my physiology unrecognisably) and I have also been tested for (and diagnosed with) kryptopyrrole syndrome and non-coeliac-gluten-sensitivty (genetic testing). And I have the GI diagnosis of gastroparesis, GERD, recurrent SIBO and dysmotility.
I do not identify with many of these labels. Whilst for years I yearned for a ‘diagnosis’ and a ‘reason’ for all my issues, I realised as soon as I had this laundry list of ‘stuff’ that I was supposedly facing, all that I was actually looking at was mass dysregulation throughout my entire body. (For all the ways a body manifests dysregulation, see last week’s article.) From an initial few weeks immersing myself in patient forums and online chats about all of my conditions, I relatively quickly bounced out of that environment and have never classed myself as one of the Spoonies‘ or ‘Potsies‘ or whatever, because I don’t believe it’s either useful or accurate.
Other than the EDS, and potentially the genetic sensitivity to gluten, every single other diagnosis I had was a reflection of the way my body adapted to the stress that it was under as I lived my life not knowing I had a connective tissue disorder or the neurological sensitivity that comes along with that.
It’s not quite this simplistic, and I have had my genes sequenced and know that genetically I’m particularly sensitive to (and cannot easily process) a hell of a lot of environmental toxicity, oestrogens and chemicals, which probably doesn’t help matters… but these genetics are just indicators of how your body will break if you push it hard enough so it does break.
The POTS, MCAS, gastroparesis, GERD, dysmotility, SIBO, CIRS, CSS – these are all issues that develop when a body is struggling with life. It became clear to me that I needed to work out why I was struggling with life… not get stuck acquiring labels and diagnoses.
So the first step… although this really didn’t come until after they fitted a PEG and tried to tube feed me with gluten- and dairy-laden enteral nutrition… was that I had to clear inflammation through limiting my intake of inflammatory foods. Initially I was very much in the mindset, however, that I was eliminating all the foods that made me ill… the only problem was that, for me, that was everything.
And by everything, I don’t just mean everything not AIP – I mean eating at all would make me sick.
And this is the part where I need to explain my history.
My Health History – In Detail – What Really Happened
My health history is phenomenally complex. I am not even certain that I will ever be able to unpin all of the things that contributed to what ‘broke’ my body. There was, as there sometimes is, a single moment which changed everything – but there was also a lengthy build up to that point which will have played a role. Everything will have come from the foundation of having a connective tissue disorder, of which I had no idea – but there’s also just normal life issues and emotional conflicts in here too, though they too are undeniably pinned to the way my body has felt and behaved.
For me, being in a body with EDS isn’t all about the dislocations, the sprains, the strains, the joint pain or the POTS/MCAS/GI stuff that comes along with it – although that’s all there.
Instead, my deepest complication with EDS is actually what makes it very similar to other people’s journeys. A lot of suffering is founded on a sense of profound and inescapable insecurity within our lives – based on the unpredictability of our own bodies. It is, I believe, this inner insecurity which leads to a host of coping mechanisms. For me, one of these physiological coping mechanisms is that my nervous system is incredibly sensitive – this is a safety precaution: if you are vulnerable and unstable having heightened sensing mechanisms is a way to stay safe.
But this instability, coupled with the heightened sensitivity, has yet another consequence: I feel as if I am under threat all the time. So I fight all the time. I had, for decades, hardwired my default response to be defensive, attacking and permanently on fight-flight-or-freeze.
And whilst for me this emanates from the core of my genetic weaknesses and my nervous system receptivity – this isn’t actually an uncommon story for anyone in the modern, Western world. We tend to construct our lives based on this highly adrenalised, sympathetic nervous system (the fight-or-flight part) alertness. We live on this energy of attack.
A sense of being under threat is at the heart of all over-reactive, hyper-responsive, fight-or-flight reactions that are prevalent in modern society. Whether the stress comes from constant, low-level pressure from a job you hate or relationship un-fulfilment – or whether the underlying stress is that you are hyper sensitised to the environment and you therefore feel you are fending off stimuli all the time, the net result is the same.
A body stuck in alarm, permanently stressed is fighting demons that may or may not exist. Our bodies react identically whether threats are real, anticipated or imagined. And this is a recipe for all sorts of over-reactive syndromes such as MCAS, Central Sensitivity Syndrome and even the neurological screw-up that is POTS, which is the result of a misfiring nervous system. Once a nervous system is dysrupted the GI tract follows – and from there nutrient absorption is affected and everything else can go wrong.
My knowledge of human biology came because this dysfunctional cascade happened to me. My situation was complicated, however, by an experience during which I was violently sick. This wasn’t anything particularly grand, I just drank too much alcohol, ate too much rich food, potentially had a bit of a gut parasite and was in a hot climate which I didn’t cope with one night. That fateful night I ruptured my oesophagus. Now, this would not have happened had I not had a connective tissue disorder but from a body that was already on high alert, this was a ‘final straw’ of sorts.
My immune system did what it needed to and flooded my body with antibodies to fight off the stuff that was free to enter my body from my oesophagus (you are NOT supposed to let that happen). I could not eat anything for a couple of weeks without being sick – violently. Looking back I would say that I actually couldn’t eat properly for over a decade.
And yet, the problem with this is that a) I didn’t know anything about EDS and b) I didn’t know that you even could rupture an oesophagus and so c) I had no idea what was happening and wanted to just get on with life. All I knew was that I was bringing food back up. The only thing I thought of was bulimia (I was a teenage girl) and so for a long time I figured I must be messed up in some way, psychologically, as I had no answers to what on earth was happening. It’s actually a lot more damning than this – there were officials and psychologists and doctors who wouldn’t believe that there was anything wrong with me for years, except profound eating disorders. The emotional journey of the trauma caused by such treatment on behalf of the medical profession still defies words – I have processed much of this experience, or at least as much as I am able to at this time. I have no doubt, however, that the shadows of being so utterly distrusted and accused of all sorts of deceit will stay with me for the rest of my life.
The journey from believing I must be crazy to really tuning into what my body felt and why I couldn’t eat properly was a long one. Through a chequered and complicated process (several hospitalisations and coming close to dying on several occasions) I did learn complex biochemistry in an attempt to find a diagnosis that might fit how I felt. I lost two thirds of my body weight, at least twice over – so all of this was interwoven with nutritional deficiencies and real struggles to isolate symptoms and sensations. Somehow I ended up thinking carefully through what I felt about my GI tract and ended up at the door of neuro-gastroenterology. It is the GI specialist whom I paid (privately) to see that pointed me towards EDS, POTS and MCAS (along with gastroparesis, GERD, dysmotility and central sensitivity syndrome). And it is what I learned and studied during those years that led me to do what I do today.
Beyond the actual sickness and the GI conditions which led to drastic weight loss, the biggest impact of the oesophageal issue was that it reinforced and underlined my existing sense of insecurity in my own body – and increased my immunological activity tenfold.
Initially just feeling vulnerable – now I had confirmation that I was under threat. For me specifically, because this was a GI trauma, I learned that food – that eating at all – was unsafe. But I also learned that I was unsafe and that life was unsafe.
Trust evaporated: trust of others, trust of myself, in my body. Beyond any existing coping strategies that I had already developed throughout my early life, my nervous system became entirely attuned to fighting – all the time. It is odd – because my coping strategy for stress as a teenager had been to eat. I dealt with my insecurities through the chemistry of food. Now, my security blanket had been removed and the threat had ratcheted up immeasurably. This was the ultimate symphony of chaos. And I had absolutely no idea what was going on. All I knew was that I couldn’t eat.
The Protection of Reactions
My over-sensitivity and over-reactivity – to foods in particular – is particularly murky because the trauma which tipped the balance of my sensitivities was within the GI tract and through food. My default panic-fight-flight-stress response was up-regulated at the same time as completely altering the way I took food into my body and disturbing the sensitive GI and immune environment. This is an area already filled with mast cells and immune activity – to protect you from anything nasty in the food that you eat. Whereas for many in the autoimmune camp the food restrictions are there to reduce systemic inflammation, for me the mast cell overactivity and the immune response was entirely centred around my GI tract.
And yet, it’s still not as simple – for me or anyone with autoimmune conditions – as all being about the food.
My battle to eat was relatively little to do with food itself and everything to do with the fact that I was extremely sensitised to external threats – and a direct threat to my life came through my GI tract. I never stopped trying to eat but because my entire response to eating was built upon distress, I would become reactive to all foods as the protective dysregulations of my body took over.
Having a fundamental issue with eating is both physically and emotionally disturbing. It completely changes the way you can interact with life and the world around you. It also changes how you see yourself, because we all know about so-called ‘eating disorders’. Relationships with food are tricky, emotional, layered with history, memory, self-worth, baggage and are even reflections of ideological beliefs. And that’s without every mouthful and every meal turning into a major ordeal. (And for context, this is why food relationships and digestion are my particular area of expertise – because, given my journey, you could not get more attuned to the complexities of human beings’ relationships with food than I am.)
Because of my history and my enormously heightened mast cell reactivity, I would initially seek security and protection in the worlds of dietary eliminations and restrictions. Elimination legitimises all the ‘reasons’ not to eat certain foods – which neatly avoids having to incur reactivity. There is a lot of mechanistic data available about the inflammatory potential of everything: from gluten to sugar, dairy to eggs, nightshades to legumes, nuts, seeds, spices, oxalates, salicylates, histamine, FODMAPs – you name it, someone somewhere has pointed out that each of these compounds can be inflammatory to the human body. That means that anyone who feels ‘reactive’ sanctions their avoidance of every food that is potentially ‘triggering’.
Elimination diets do a funny thing to the psyche as well. If you are running the neurological program that life is completely scary and unsafe, elimination and restriction is enormously attractive because it provides a buffer and a safety blanket by giving you a sense of control. In this placebo-like effect, it actually can also make your reactivity lessen – because you are protected externally by the fact that those foods aren’t coming in, there is no need for immune hyper-reactivity internally.
In a state of reactivity, having control of any kind is reassuring – preferably control that removes you from stressful environments. These controls can be anything – physiological ‘failings’ may mean that you don’t have to face stressful social situations, or developing mental or practical obsessions may keep you ‘safe’ by pushing people or experiences away. Alternatively you can develop coping mechanisms such as stimulating or suppression activities (or substances) which will obliterate insecurities and feelings (that was what my prior food habit did). No matter what we choose behaviourally, or what dysregulations our bodies find physiologically, all of the aforementioned situations create artificial (external) security which will, temporarily at least, keep us ‘safe’.
The issue is, however, that this is a strategy that only lasts provided you control all of the variables. In life, this is impossible. Something environmental may tip the balance and suddenly the ‘safe’ foods create reactivity… the boundaries of restriction become narrower and narrower and the result is deficiencies, stress because you cannot reduce any more – and this stress obviates the point of restriction in the first place.
Immune hyper-reactivity or autoimmunity is not an illness at heart – it is our bodies way of keeping us safe. The key to changing the status of hyper-alertness is really digging down into why we feel so unsafe in the first place.
Unwinding the mess that I experienced was understandably complex. My muscle memory around nutrition reinforced the panic-threat-danger-fight-flight-stress default response every time I ate. The reactions, the flushing, the sickness – it was all real, visceral and painful. Because my big ‘threat’ moment was actually really life-threatening and entirely revolved around a mast-cell heavy area filled with immune and neurological wiring (the GI tract) AND I would go onto be so sick for such a long time afterwards, AND this happened inside a body already highly sensitive and on alert… it’s been a very difficult journey.
My immune responses are real. My food reactions can be crazy – and even now I can experience terrible vomiting if I (and my gastrointestinal system) panic and reject everything I’ve tried to eat. But these responses mirror, reflect and magnify a deep and ingrained level of threat that I ‘learned’ and patterned within me. Whilst my patterning may have involved digestive trauma… resolving it STILL wasn’t about food. It was about the pattern of panic-fight-flight-stress response that I had hardwired into me – from long before the time of my GI rupture.
Processing the need and reasons for my own panic-fight-flight-stress-response mechanism would prove far more important to my digestive system than any amount of dietary specificity or avoidance. I couldn’t cheat the system and avoid things that caused symptoms… because I would have had to starve myself. Instead, I had to change the way I – and my body – reacted to everything in life – not just food. I had to reprogram my stress response, from the neurology up.
I actually had to reprogram my sense of threat, my reaction to my own sensitivity and to understand the receptivity that I walk into any situation with. Instead of fighting against this sensitivity and vulnerability, I have learned to work with it. This is another reason why (and how) I do what I do today.
Re-Patterning Trauma and Stress Responses
My story can sound dramatic, but many of my clients don’t have singular moments to which they can point as a trigger. This is why I’m at pains to point out that my ‘trigger’ was the final straw, it was not the whole story. Any amount of chronic stress, and quantity of challenging or threatening experiences – all of the things that we face in life can ‘train’ our nervous systems that life is scary and the best response is a fighting one, and all the biological dysregulation that comes along with that. You don’t need a connective tissue disorder to feel overwhelmed by and sensitive to life at large… you just need to be alive in the 21st century.
And whilst many people try to point towards vaccines, toxins, pollutants, nutritional poverty, chem-trails (OK that one’s nonsense but people still like to blame it) for the uptick in chronic illnesses, I come at this from a slightly different, two-pronged angle. I do think that genetically, emotional sensitivity is being selected for – because as we move towards a more machine-based future it is the emotional skills that set us apart from machines… but additionally I think that modern life is just filled with overwhelm. Stress and defence is the natural response to overwhelm – and this will give rise to the host of dysregulations spoken about above and last week.
In my work I help people to identify and process their own traumas and the experiences which contributed to or triggered their panic response and their alarm bells to be ‘on’ permanently. For many there are physical traumas, but if these are present (and they aren’t always) then they tend to also be layered with emotional, personal, experiential traumas or programming too. And yet no matter what contributes to it, when our bodies feel under threat, through illness or any life experiences, we entrain a constant default of tension and alarm, causing a dysregulated, disproportional response to absolutely everything.
Unwinding our dysregulation coping mechanisms starts with coming to understand (and appreciate) the reason for their existence. Appreciating that the genesis of our health conditions was as a natural and understandable response to the stress levels in which we find ourselves we can then change the way we feel about the world around us and how we choose to interact with it.
It is this final piece – the ‘how we choose to interact with it’ that is both unique to each individual and also an area where I am passionate that lifelong avoidance is not a cure – it is a lifelong avoidance. And we only get one life. So avoiding the vast majority of inputs out of a misplaced belief that you cannot cope is a crying shame.
Dietary elimination is a tool that we can use as a foundational strategy to calming the stress response. NOT because food and food reactivity is the root issue and therefore food elimination the cure – but simply because we have to calm the noise coming from the immune system. Removing the things that are triggering it – for a short time – is precisely the best way to create a space from which the retraining of our biology and nervous system can take place. Stopping intaking the things our immune system thinks are threats is a really great first step – but the AIP regimen is excessive. It culls EVERYTHING because we cannot know for sure what precisely impacts you… it’s an extreme solution and should be viewed as such.
(And a quick word here on coeliacs, please read last week’s post, you are one of two exceptions where your autoimmunity is related to gluten – so it is actually about a specific food. But this is JUST ONE FOOD – perhaps extending to grains and cross-reactives when you are in a flare. This is not all foods. Additionally, your autoimmune tendencies were triggered off at some point – usually by a stressor – and your reactions are proportional to the amount of threat-level response you feel under. So whilst gluten free diets are a foundational part of steering your immune system away from excessive threat-attack, there will be other, non-food-related steps that you could take to help lower the innate fight and reactivity that you experience.)
Focusing on neural networks of panic, rather than on the food itself, is what has allowed me to either completely avoid stress-based physiological reactions (to food and life stressors) and/or calm the stress responses if they start to occur. The fact that I have developed this regulatory ability over how and whether my body freaks out is what shows me that food sensitivities are not just about compounds in foods ‘causing’ immune responses. There is much more at play in food sensitivities than the chemistry or the mechanism.
For me, I can eat things on certain occasions and I am fine with them. On other occasions these same foods will make me overheated, my heart will race and the following day I will be swollen and inflamed (I can always tell the state of my inflammation by the swelling on the fingers of my right hand and my lower abdomen – strange but true). These two different responses can occur after eating the same food.
What governs the collateral damage of these food-based immune responses is how comfortable I am in my body, how safe I feel in my life and in the trajectory my journey is taking me and how surrendered I feel about life at that moment in time.
How you calm your threat-level response and re-pattern your nervous system is, for some, about neural re-programming using complicated electronic machines or brainwave retraining. For others it’s hypnotherapy and/or EMDR neural re-patterning techniques. Others use Havening.
For me, I trained in NLP and CBT and have used many methods. However, the fundamental pieces have been as follows:
- Really understanding the mechanisms and the biological cascades of human physiology which allow (and perpetuate) these stress responses. By grasping the science of human physiology and how it interacts and influences psychology (and vice versa) I have developed an enormous amount of compassion for my own physiology. To say this literally – working out the sensitivities and stressors highlighted above already changes your relationship to your own body and the world around you.
- Which brings me onto the second step: absolutely valuing everything that makes up my biology – from my connective tissue stuff, to the GI situation, the mast cell and POTS protection mechanisms and the way my body reacted against the world when it felt unsafe to be in it. Appreciating the miraculous nature of my body’s crazy reactivity as a safety mechanism really helps me feel the compassion for my own situation
- Then, I have had to recognise the amount that I have come through. I could have exited life at several stages on this journey and I didn’t. Credit for that goes to my entire physiology/biology/psychology – and those fight responses. They were damaging me, yes, but there is every chance that an up-regulated immune system kept me alive at points too. So… when I’m feeling under threat within life I remind myself how much I’ve faced and been challenged by – and I have survived. It puts ‘threat’ in perspective when you’ve been in situations which are actually mortally threatening.
This last point isn’t – at all – about constructing a life that is entirely safe (impossible). Nor is it about finding a trust that life is safe – because for me, it will never feel safe because of the neurology and connective tissue I was born with. So this isn’t about clinging onto mantras that I am safe – because my brain and biochemistry will know that that’s nonsense.
Instead, it’s about recognising that life probably isn’t safe and there are threats out there… but I can survive them. I don’t need to grip onto tension, reactivity and fear in order to survive – I am made of strong stuff, and there is a strength within my flexibility and sensitivity. If you have read about anti fragility – the art of not being unbreakable but being the kind of fallible which becomes stronger with each defeat – well this is how I see myself, my life experience and every potential future experience. Even if it goes wrong, it will teach me more – about myself, about life, about how to be stronger next time.
By going through life and witnessing yourself cope with things you imagined would be challenging, you continue to reinforce calmer neurological patterns of acceptance and trust. Over time it is possible for the physiological default of enormous fight and stress to change. It’s about building an experiential library which contains data and memories of times of calm and non-threat – times when you coped, times when you were fine. Quite literally this reprograms the default way in which our bodies experience the world.
The precise nature of everyone’s journey is different and finding your personal reason to trust in your body and life again isn’t something that happens overnight. It does involve self-work and it does involve really finding the centres of strength that you can find within you to build from.
But the beauty of life and neurological re-patterning is that our bodies have learned the default of stress response. And if we can learn that life is one way (stressful, threatening, frightening) we can equally re-learn that it is a different way. For my situation and those with EDS we will always have a tendency to tension to protect us from our laxity… however, it is always a choice to change that tension for real, vulnerable strength (both physically and emotionally).
If you continue to realise that nothing terrible happens, and when life does go a bit awry you still survive – and even grow, learn and evolve through the experience – you eventually change your default mode of being. In so doing, you can re-regulate internal systems and calm reactivity.
By addressing the inner default-to-stress response and the reasons it was set up in the first place, eventually you will get to a place where there is no need to construct a life based on avoiding everything stressful in order to stay ‘safe’… because you are no longer perceiving that you are in constant danger.
So What About My Next Steps?
I want to reiterate that this process isn’t linear, and the world that has opened up to me this year as I have doubled down on trusting myself and life has presented both liberation and challenges. I can still be ill, I still have a tendency to avoid food altogether if I feel unsafe or stressed about a certain situation. This has the consequence of making me need way to much food when I next eat and that just makes me reactive and sick.
But my hope this year would be – for at least some moments in time – to be able to forget about my body for a while. Thus far my process has been very conscious and such a deeply introspective, constant self-evaluation journey which has required commitment and attentiveness to stay the course and accept what makes me me, what makes me sensitive and how I can walk through life with this. But I hope in 2018 that I finally get to have experiences that are less effortful… that my default continues to stay one of surrender, acceptance and even a spirit of adventure, rather than fear. And I hope that I also get to spend less time re-patterning how to be alive… and instead spend a damn sight more time actually living…