As I begin to write my fifth book, I am realising more and more how the books I have read have inspired the kind of books I write and the kind of person I have become. I will be offline until I have finished my first draft, so I'd thought I'd share some of the books that have changed my life in gentlest of ways.
Spiritual health is broad and rich and deep and almost impossible to define. Ask ten people what spirituality is and you’ll get ten different responses. To some, spirituality implies a connection to a higher power, a universal consciousness. To others it’s intertwined with religion. And to many people, a spiritual life is nothing otherworldly but simply living with a sense of purpose, belonging, and wholeness. In practice, spirituality has very little to do with who or what you believe in and is instead about how conscious you are and whether you are living in line with your values.
Our understanding of spirituality is personal to each of us and this understanding unfolds very slowly. This is partly because spirituality has been largely ignored in Western culture. But also because we fear the transformation spirituality will bring to our lives. The way it opens our eyes to another way of seeing – a simpler, more peaceful way of being alive that is no longer driven by our ego and its constant pursuit of more.
The word itself, ‘spirit’, comes from the Latin, ‘spiritus’, meaning ‘breath’. In this way, the spirit is the breath of life – our lifeforce, our inner power, our creative passion, a miraculous loving force that exists beyond the boundaries of our ego. So, when we cleave off this part of ourselves, when we neglect our spiritual health for fear of being seen as ‘hippie’ or ‘woo-woo’, we are left with a void , an emptiness, a longing for wholeness.
Many of us live in spiritual poverty. Saint Mother Teresa famously said that poverty in the West was not one of physical hunger, but a hunger for love, a hunger for God – not a religious, supernatural God necessarily, but an inner God, an inner peace, an inner freedom, an unconditional love that lives inside every single one of us – our spirit.
One of the reasons many of us overlook our spiritual health is because we don’t really know what it is or how to nourish it. But, as the link between spirituality and physical and mental wellbeing has become impossible to ignore, science has begun to explore it. And while, at its essence, spirituality is an inner experience – an embodied knowledge – and therefore cannot be put into words, this more conceptual, psychological understanding allows each of us to care for our spiritual health in a way that doesn’t feel so bewildering or overwhelming.
Modern spirituality is composed of three components: self-evolution, self-actualisation and transcendence. Self-evolution is a way of being where we are continually growing, deepening and becoming more conscious. Self-actualisation is a state in which we are aware and awake, we know our values and our purpose, and we respond to people, situations and life as a whole from that place of deep meaning. Transcendence is the experience of wholeness, an acceptance and integration of all parts of ourselves – even the parts that are difficult to love. It is a way of being in which, underneath the everyday traumas and pains of life, we live with a deep, inner joy because we feel connected to and trust in something greater than ourselves. It is a way of living in which we treat ourselves, and each other, as sacred.
There are several practices we can do to nourish our spiritual health, each focussing on the spiritual determinants of health – the underlying aspects that cultivate the connection and wholeness we all long for. These include introspection, creativity, honesty, empathy, courage, philanthropy, humour, appreciating beauty, questioning injustice, purpose, compassion, selfless action, and having faith in a power greater than ourselves.
What humbles me again and again on my own spiritual journey is how very human it all is. Once upon a time I thought spirituality was something ethereal and otherworldly, but what I’m discovering is how spirituality is deeply rooted in this body, on this earth, in day to day moments that look a lot like ordinary life. Ultimately, spiritual health is nurtured by connection and intimacy with all of life – our body, our purpose, our pain, our hopes, our fears, each other and the natural world. And therefore, anything that spreads love, connection, healing, forgiveness and acceptance is both the spiritual work we must do and, at the same time, our source of deep, meaningful spiritual joy.
As a Student Spiritual Counsellor, I have a limited number of spaces to see clients for free at LOVING GROUND, my practice in Hove. If you are interested and can commit to 12 fortnightly sessions, then please get in touch.
We’ve been conditioned to believe it’s self-indulgent to rest and relax and take time out from the machine pace of society. But if we are to bring love, kindness and compassion to the world, we must begin with ourselves. And so we must learn to step back from the busyness of our lives and create a daily practice, a sacred ritual where we can release, restore, and renew, so we can show up for our partners, our parents, our children, our friends, and our work with a loving presence and open heart.
If we don’t give ourselves time for self-awareness and self-respect to blossom, we tend to repeat the habitual patterns and pain of our past. But, when we begin a daily practice, when we return to our journal or yoga mat or meditation cushion again and again, we can release the self-destructive parts of ourselves and make conscious choices about our lives.
Even if we can’t change our outside circumstances, we can change our relationship with them – from one of hate and fear, to one of acceptance, wisdom and compassion. This change in our way of seeing the world is enough to transform our entire lives ॐ.
Sometimes I weep for the girl I once was. The girl who didn’t ask for help because she thought she did not deserve it. Who thought being strong meant doing it all on her own. And it took me years to realise life was never meant to be travelled alone.
But we have a society of people who still feel like that scared and lonely girl now. Who feel too afraid to admit when they are struggling. Who feel like they have to hold themselves together 24/7 for their partners, their parents, their kids, their work, their friends. Who bottle up their pain and shame and grief, only for it explode as depression or burnout or addiction.
Everyone is going through something. Relationship issues. Financial struggles. Work Stress. Illness. Divorce. IVF. Loss of a parent. A child. A friend. An ever-present emptiness. A free-floating anxiety. The sense that something is missing.
Our task, when we are feeling strong, is to open our hearts and hold space for those who are hurting. And, when we are feeling crushed by the weight of the world, to be brave enough to ask for help and to let ourselves be held. To fall apart into the arms of someone who loves us. To release and reconnect and remember that healing was never meant to be done alone ॐ
I consciously look for the beauty in my life now, because there was a time ugly was all I could see. I take responsibility for my own happiness now, because there was a time when I blamed the world for my pain. I trust life now, because there was a time when fighting it was all I knew. I follow the quiet call of my heart now, because there was a time when I was enslaved to my ego. I love people unconditionally now, because there was a time when I was shown the power of that kind of love too. I appreciate these precious breaths we call life now, because there was a time when I took them for granted. I do my best to hold space for people who are hurting now, because there was a time when I needed that space too. I share my story now, because if I can heal, it means that millions like me can heal too. I hope my healing smooths the path for you ॐ.
When I began meditating, I was shocked at how much judgement and hatred I discovered in myself.
Everyone had told me that meditation would be calming and peaceful but my mind seemed to have a problem with everything — too hard, too loud, too big, too fat, too much, not enough, not strong enough, not perfect enough, not good enough.
I discovered layers and layers of anger and expectation and judgement that kept me at war with my body, myself and the world. And then, underneath those layers, were thousands more layers of hurt, regret, shame, loneliness, fear and grief — for the death of my Dad, for lost relationships and lost dreams, for the ways I had abused my body, for the times I had betrayed myself, for the thousands of moments of feeling unseen, unheard, unheld.
But slowly, gently, as I began peeling back the layers, feeling each pain as if for the first time and letting it unmask me, I discovered an inner peace. A freedom. A wholeness. A deeper, richer, more beautiful way of being alive.
So, if you are just starting out on your meditation journey and wondering if you’re doing something wrong because you are feeling the full force of your grief, your sorrow, your rage, remember that this is part of the journey too. Touching the deepest wells of grief, anger, and shame within us so we can release our pain. Facing the forces that keep us from living in a loving and conscious way. Taking our anger, our anxiety, our loneliness and using them as doorways to inner freedom, deep joy and true love ॐ
We have stoneage nervous systems. We are born expecting a rich and sensuous relationship with nature.
And when we don’t have it, when we spend all day in offices, looking at screens, disconnected from the Earth, we feel a sense of loss, a vague ache that something is missing — often, something that we cannot name.
For years, I forgot my connection to the Earth and with this came a feeling that I did not belong — an ever-present anxiety about my place in the world.
But these past few years have been a time of reconnecting, of remembering, of wild swimming and wandering through forests and getting my hands in the dirt to grow our own vegetables — giant butternut squashes, mountains of peas, hundreds of courgettes and broad beans and candy cane beetroots and kilos and kilos of tomatoes.
And yes, this stuff takes time (I reckon we spend 5-10 hours a week nurturing the vegetables!) but it reminds you, in a way deeper than words, that you belong.
‘Shin to bul ee’ is a Korean proverb meaning ‘body and soil are one’. Because we are not separate from the Earth, we are part of it. We come from it. We belong to it.
What comes up again and again in my work with clients and on my own spiritual journey is the need for less answers and more questions, less information and more inspiration, less talking and more listening.
Our journey towards healing and wholeness often begins with an inner pull, a call to awaken, a sacred question that provides an island of relief where self-reflection and self-respect can blossom.
Who am I? What is my purpose? How can I serve?
As we ask these spiritual questions, as we wonder, as we listen inwardly for what our hearts have to say, we find truth. And, with that truth, comes healing.
Maybe we find answers. Maybe we don’t. Maybe we don’t seek answers at all. Maybe we simply keep asking the questions and one day we might, as Rilke says, "live along some distant day into the answer".
Every week in my practice, I share sacred questions for self-reflection with the community of brave and courageous souls I am blessed to work with in my coaching and counselling clinic. Here are some we’ve been working on recently. I hope they help you on your journey too.
If my body could speak, what would it say?
Where am I still at war with myself?
What's more important to me — outer perfection or inner peace?
Closing our hearts is deeply embedded in our conditioning.
I remember when my Dad died, I felt this silent, societal pressure to stop grieving, to pull myself together, to get back to work, to get over it.
But we cannot close our hearts to grief, without also closing our hearts to love.
Healing and awakening happen when we open our hearts and allow ourselves to feel. When we let the joys and sorrows of the world touch us deeply. When we stop trying to be superhuman and embrace what it means to be fully human — a fully feeling, grieving, loving, aching, shimmering human.
And opening our hearts is a practice. It is something we choose.
What needs grieving? What needs healing? Why am I holding back my love? Where can I soften? Where can I open? Where can I let go?
These are our questions. This is our work.
Love is everywhere. But if our heart is closed, we won’t be able to feel it.
The things is, as children, most of us are taught to keep our hearts closed — to protect ourselves from pain and grief and discomfort. And so we tend to live a little bit numb — to distract ourselves from caring so much, from feeling so deeply.
We turn to social media, TV, food and alcohol every time we get bored. We chase money and achievement and external success in the hope it will make us feel enough. We judge everything and everyone, including ourselves. And because we are disconnected from our heart, we lose faith and begin doubting every step we take.
But, as adults, we get to choose.
In every moment, we make a decision — consciously or unconsciously:
Will I close my heart, hold back my love and shut out the world?
Or will I open my heart to love? To grief? To beauty and terror? To joy and pain? To the entire sacred messiness of life?
The choice is ours and ours alone.
Finally I decided
that I didn't want
to be at war
And I took my
In a society that profits from your self-hate, it takes courage to stop the war inside. To make peace with your body instead of fighting it. To welcome the parts of yourself that have not known love — the soft curves and sharp edges wrapped in shame and unworthiness.
I wasted most of my teenage years at war with my body and I learnt that whilst we can neglect it and starve it and hate it, whilst we can fight it and abuse it and spend our lives trying to control the shape of it, we cannot escape it.
It is in this body — this body that loves and weeps and sighs, this body that laughs and dances and falls to its knees in grief, that we heal and awaken.
It is in this body that we will find what we cannot find elsewhere — peace, freedom, wholeness.
And our task is to love it and to love it hard ॐ
Sometimes the bravest thing you can do is listen — to the sun, to the stars, to the soft, silky voice of the soul reminding you what is sacred.
And it’s so easy for that that tiny, tender voice to become drowned out by the noise of the world — by our constant busyness and society’s expectations and other people’s opinions.
So make time for silence and stillness — slow down + drop below the surface of your life so you can hear the softness of each breath and the pause in between each heartbeat and the quiet call of your soul reminding you that your story matters, that your work is needed, that you belong.
Sometimes self-destruction is like a grenade that blows up your whole life — self-harm, alcohol abuse, eating disorders, drug addiction. And sometimes self-destruction is more like a toxic gas, slow + subtle + suffocating + so embedded in society, you hardly notice the harm it’s doing — overworking, overthinking, over dieting, over exercising, perfectionism, people pleasing, constantly beating yourself up, constantly striving for more, constantly fighting your body + fighting your heart + fighting life itself.
But peace can never be found in war. The only way to find peace is to surrender — to surrender to your body + your feelings + your life exactly as it is.
And surrender isn’t some airy fairy dreamy concept —it’s a personal practice, an act of resistance against society’s constant need for productivity, a reclaiming of what it means to be a fully feeling, fully awake, fully alive human.
Surrender might look like deleting the calorie counting app from your phone or turning off your work emails once you leave the office. It might look like clearing out the alcohol cupboard or turning your spare room into a space for yoga and meditation. It might look like taking yourself out for coffee + cake at the weekend or walking down to the seafront to watch the sunset on a random Thursday night.
Ultimately, surrender is an act of love — and it is out of love, that we release our pain, remember our worth + reshape our world.
Meditation has opened my heart to more love, beauty and aliveness than I ever thought possible so Don't Scratch The Itch is my gift to you in the hope you can experience this love too.
I created it for anyone who is new to meditation or who struggles to meditate and, over six months, it will guide you through a daily practice — starting very gently with just one minute a day.
It takes you through the latest research into the benefits of meditation as well as practical stuff like how to sit and different styles of meditation.
It’s totally free — you can find it under Gifts or via my newsletter.
I hope meditation gives you what it has given me — a little island of relief, a pause on the rush to nowhere, a place to find what you cannot find elsewhere — peace, beauty, wholeness.
Last week I went back to school and began my training in Spiritual Counselling so that I can deepen my work and my words and create a soft space, a healing ground, for others on their journey towards wholeness.
Spirituality is nothing otherworldly — it’s looking deeply at ourselves and the world around us to discover what is causing our suffering and how we can free ourselves and others from it.
It’s reconnecting with our true purpose, reclaiming our inner power and releasing our grief and shame and pain.
It’s remembering who we were before the world told us who we should be, welcoming the parts of ourselves that have not known love and trusting in the sacred messiness of life — ultimately, if it spreads love, connection, forgiveness, acceptance and healing, it is spiritual work.
Depression, anxiety + anorexia plagued me as a teenager and it took me a long time to realise that at the core of my struggles was a spiritual emptiness — a deep sense of incompleteness, a loss of connection with meaning, beauty, nature and everything that mattered deeply to my soul.
This was over a decade ago and at the time there was no place for spiritual work in healing — professionals told me that my brain was broken, that I would never recover, that I would be in and out of psychiatric hospitals forever. I felt misunderstood and so so alone.
It was only when I reconnected with a more spiritual way of being, when I stopped seeing myself as broken, when I got out in nature and practised yoga and started mediating, when I made time for dancing and writing and playing, when I began trusting life instead of fighting it, that I found freedom.
And i’ve realised that if you are free, your real work is to help others find freedom too.
I can’t wait to share what I learn with you so that together, we can discover a softer, deeper, more beautiful way of grieving, healing and being alive.
Being human is hard + at times it feels as though we are breaking under the weight of the world.
Let your sadness strip you of your masks. Let your grief carve riverbeds in your soul. Let your pain break you open to the depths of yourself — to the place inside that is unbreakable.
Because in that place, the pain becomes love, the fragile becomes strong + you discover you were whole all along.
At some point in this wild + messy world, every one of us has found ourselves feeling worthless + broken + not good enough.
But you’re not worthless. You’re simply wounded — from society’s constant need for busyness, from the pressure to live in a way that is so far away from what you were put on this Earth to do, from the losses you’ve never let yourself grieve + the love you’ve never let yourself give + from the tiny traumas of every day life.
And that’s a good thing — because you can heal.
With gentleness + love + trust, you will heal. By letting go of pain + shame that were never yours to carry, you will heal. By listening to the quiet call of your soul, you will heal. By letting your heart be broken open by grief, you will heal. By creating a soft space for silence + solitude, by getting out in nature, by letting yourself be seen, by letting yourself be held, by deep breaths + Earth-grown food + standing outside under a star-littered sky at midnight reconnecting with the fresh air of aliveness, you will heal.
It may be a gentle + beautiful surrendering or it may be sharp + arrow-fast, like kissing lightning. It may feel like hell or it may feel like love. But one brave + open-hearted breath at a time, you will heal.
What if we’re looking for beauty in one package and it comes in another?
Because beauty hides in a million different places — in the grey hairs, in the stretch marks, in the strong thighs you have hated since you were little. It hides in the softness of your belly + the curve of your hips + the creases that have blossomed around your eyes over the years. It hides in the parts of you that have not known love — the parts wrapped in shame because you were taught to believe they were imperfect, ugly, unworthy.
Beauty has been there all along — we were just expecting it to look different to this. Different to this flesh, this face, this body.
This body that wobbles + wrinkles + scars. This body that stretches + sags + ages + changes in ways we may not want it to. This body that we never have to squeeze into a shape that is not our own.
We can love this wild + precious body. And we can love it hard.
We need to wander into the forest within over and over again, to bring what we discover into the outer world, to hold on to it, to not turn away, to speak out for what we stand for.
And we need to enter the forest at the darkest place, at the place where there is no path.
Because, if there is a path, it’s not your path — it’s someone else’s.
It’s so easy to spend our lives following someone else’s path in the hope it will bring us healing or happiness or success.
But no one has ever lived your life before — there is no map to follow, no guidebook, no directions, no guaranteed destination.
There is only walking the path that calls you, one open-hearted step at a time.
And this path may not be the most practical or the most rational — and it probably won’t be the one society tells you to take.
But you will know it’s your path, because it will be the one that makes you feel the most alive.
A couple of years ago, I decided to change the way I live my life.
I began choosing play over productivity,
love over logic
meaning over money
and fun over fame.
And now i’ve experienced life like this, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I'm running some handstand workshops over the next couple of months if you'd like to come and play!!