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Winter Edition (November + December)

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"Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home." - Edith Sitwell



Hello Everyone! 

This issue is for both November and December. I've decided to take a break from writing my monthly newsletter for about 6 months while I focus on completing my book on essential oils since the deadline is end of May 2020. As such, my next monthly newsletters will only have basic clinical dates, workshops and like information. I may also include a link to articles written by peers or journalists which I think may be useful or fun. I will aim to pick up my article-writing again in June 2020. 

This issue won't contain a formal monthly topic either but instead I wanted to end the year touching on a personal issue that marked this year 2019. It was a particularly emotionally challenging year for me with two overriding themes which were Death and loss. I realise these can be heavy and complex topics especially at this festive time of the year, but if you bear with me I hope this little bit of sharing will not be that. Rather I hope that you will be able to see that it is about Life, living fully, and more particularly living in resonance with one's dreams and authentic self. I hope it can give you some food for thought in the new year and who knows, it may even nudge you into taking a first or further step in that direction... 

At the end of 2018, as I was finally coming to terms with the ending of a personal relationship and a broken heart, one of my beloved mentors suddenly passed away. These two events began the cycle for 2019 which continued with the death of a former colleague, my father's illness and his death, followed a month after his funeral with the loss of 2 beloved pets, and ending more recently with the death of a neighbour. Death and loss bring up so much in terms of feelings, existential questions, confrontation with self and life lessons, and this year I think I ran the gamut of them. Thankfully, I had enough resources to know that if one learns to be present with these, they can lead to an opportunity for growth, notwithstanding the pain. This is a bit of what I would like share with you as we head into a new year and decade.

In many older healing traditions, and even in some new ones such as in Systems/Family Constellations work, confronting Death and loss is the first step in healing and a necessary step in understanding the true gift of Life. Why? Simply because if we accepted that Death walks with us at every moment in life (which it actually does), instead of what most of us do which is to pretend it isn't there until it shocks us into realising it is, every moment could become precious and significant. Most importantly, our choices might also be very different - from who we choose to allow into our life, to what words and actions we use with others, to the work we choose to do, to everything in between. In addition to that, confronting Death in illness can often help us in understanding the true underlying dynamics and even gifts of an illness. As I tell many of my patients, the physical manifestation of an illness is often the last piece of the puzzle. Behind it can hide not only unprocessed traumatic personal experiences, but also very real psycho-emotional needs (for instance the need to be loved or cared for), frustrations, disappointments or other unresolved issues; entangled family, tribal and ancestral dynamics; unfulfilled dreams or unspoken truths; and even "soul contracts". 

In my first job as a lawyer, everything was materially-oriented and results-based, such as a focus on the number and prestige of degrees, going up the corporate ladder, making partner, professional distinctions, being "first at everything", materialism (a cool car, a big and bigger house, etc), economic growth, excellence, ambition, a "good job" with a high salary, competition etc. We never discussed purpose, meaning, dreams, happiness, compassion, health or balance, with the possible exception of with those friends who had pursued "useless" degrees like philosophy or the arts! There are statistics in certain European countries showing that governments in these countries spend more on long-term chronic illnesses, primarily burn-out and depression-based illnesses, than on unemployment-linked charges. In the past few years, these statistics have been growing in these countries. What this means is that you have more chances of getting burn-out from your job/life than being unemployed. This is quite an incredible and scary thought. And yet, all of the neuroscience and psychology of happiness research (yes there really is such a thing!) shows that putting anxiogenic values like money-making, performance, competitiveness, results-orientated goals, etc at the centre of your life without balancing them with meaning, joy, compassion, collaboration, and similar value-based aspects, leads to sadness, fatigue, stress and ultimately illness. On the flip side research on meaning, purpose, community-building, empathy etc, has shown that these values contribute significantly to happiness and a sense of fulfilment.

Experiencing happiness and fulfilment in everyday life no matter what challenges come at you, doesn't happen overnight but can be started at any moment. What I've noticed in my own life, including in my experience of moving from an extremely well-paid, socially valued job as a lawyer to a much much less paid vocation as a "barely-mainstream" natural healer, is that happiness is something that needs to be worked at. And working at it requires self-awareness and self-development, because these are needed to understand what your "soul" or authentic self actually longs for out of Life. The bad news is that happiness takes a lifetime, it isn't a material goal but rather a fluctuating state of being, and it isn't an easy path to take in the current model of the world we live in. The good news is that happiness actually happens exponentially through and throughout the journey in self-development. And the more you make choices in service of the authentic deep parts of your self, the more often you can experience happiness and peace no matter how many wrong turns, challenges, painful moments or mistakes. 

The journey starts (simply!) by learning to listen to that internal authentic voice - not the mental one rationalising and analysing, not the hungry hole of the ego wanting power, wealth or recognition, but the voice of the body. It is the voice of feelings and emotions.
This is the voice of the heart, not of the mind. It is a voice that is often hard to hear because it has been drowned out by all the other voices: the voices of other people's vision of you, your life, your choices and your dreams - from family dreams, to peer pressure to society's thoughts on what are acceptable values, professions, choices or lifestyle. It is so difficult to hear that voice that when we do hear it, we drown it out ourselves through our doubts, by convincing ourselves of the impossibility, or of the responsibilities we can't get out of, or of how we will be perceived and more scarily still of the loss and change we will need to confront. So instead we decide that it is easier to just go on as things are, and so we again drown out the voice, bury down the feelings, continue getting anxious with the stress of a job we don't even like, or continue the tediousness of a relationship that no longer nourishes us, until the day our body can't take holding all of that in any longer and we get sick. Or sometimes Death comes along. And in those instances, especially when Death comes knocking, if we haven't heard the voice before, or have drowned it out, there is an opportunity for us to be shocked into listening to it for good. 

There is a major difference in knowing we are all going to die one day, and in actually accepting and living your life like Death can happen at any moment for any one of us. What does your body feel when you allow it to feel the truth that at any moment you can actually die? How would you live differently if you actually knew you would die tomorrow? In a month or in a year? Can you really live your life in the same way if you asked yourself that question every day? I can assure you it is impossible to do so if you allow yourself to hear the answers.  

In my own life, what made me first agree to start listening to that inner voice was illness. It took me getting very ill due to a high stress situation - a huge banking deal that needed to be closed in a couple of months. It was the worst physical reaction I had ever had to stress and fatigue until then. As "fate" would have it, I came into contact with a nutritionist at that time who helped me understand the psycho-emotional reasons for my illness, and made me question my happiness and choices. I started with small changes at first, made many many mistakes, and even more compromises. But once I began it was impossible to go back. I asked myself questions, asked for help, formulated plans, found resources and solutions. One little step at a time. It was and still is painstaking, emotionally painful and sometimes very slow. It took me 12 years of hard work and time just to change my profession, and allow myself to let go of the societal "status" I had achieved. And still longer to be comfortable in my own skin (and am not even sure to be quite there yet). 

On the occasions when I opened up to people about my journey they would say to me, "I don't know how you did it" or "how can you live on the salary you now make?" or "I have children or responsibilities so I don't have the time". My response is usually something like: it isn't easy but can you imagine how much more difficult it would be for a wild bird to be locked in a cage? Can you imagine what it would be like dying without your deepest dreams fulfilled knowing you could have reached them had you tried? What are your choices saying to your children about what values are important? What is the price you are willing to pay (stress, health, unhappiness, lack of love, addiction etc) for living a life you allowed others to imagine for or impose on you? 

And I will honestly admit, even after all the changes in my life since then, I have no sense of having reached a goal. I'm sure you've all heard the cliche which says that it's the journey that counts not the destination. Well it is true. Every day, in every person or patient I meet, in the events going on in my community or in the wider world, in all the bad choices I still make or the challenges I'm confronted with, I realise how much more there is to the journey, to learning and growing. But, I would never go back to what I was. My path now feels so different from before I started to build it with awareness and in authenticity. I now feel like I have some really good foundations and resources. And most importantly, I feel like I have a real sense of awareness of my deep authentic self, and my life has a sense of purpose and meaning as a result. When I make important choices, I usually make them in the knowledge that they resonate with my true desires. I don't feel powerless or frustrated in the path my life is taking like I did before, and if I do have those feelings, they are usually in respect of occasional, temporary and specific things rather than my life path as a whole. Unlike before, I find happiness in the smallest of things - the perfect symmetry of a flower or the light through the trees at a certain time of the day in Autumn. I hold as precious the spontaneous kindness of a friend or the purring of a cat. These are the things that really matter and that nourish me. These are the things you think of when you are ill or on the edge of Death. 

Following the path of the heart takes courage, the willingness to take action pretty much every day when you first begin, the strength to set boundaries with yourself and others, and tons of perseverance too; because that voice will tell you things that are difficult to hear, and even harder to put into place, it may separate you from those you love when you do things they don't understand, or force you to make changes you can't even imagine. It may require you to sit with many hours of very difficult feelings, and learn to breathe through them until your body shakes them out.
As my beloved mentor used to say, feelings are the doorway to the soul (read authentic potential of self), and the body is the doorway to feelings. I've also realised that once you head on this path, you can't help but begin to impact those around you, on the community you live in, and in the wider world. However, the first step in impacting those things positively is to live your own life well. 

Et voila, a little piece of my experience for what it is worth! But you know what, please don't take my word for it, don't listen to me. Learn to listen to your own inner, knowing, authentic voice instead. My deepest wish for all of you in the New Year is that every one of you can begin to listen to the beautiful sound of your own inner authentic voice, and to have the courage to take the first step in singing its song. 

May your 2020 be wonderful!
 
Warmly,

Sabrina Biscardi, MNIMH 
Medical Herbalist, Endobiogenic Medicine Practitioner, Systemic Constellations Facilitator
  

Sabrina's Kitchen

My Healthy and Delicious Recipe(s) for the Year-End!

This is a recipe that is dear to my heart. I'm calling it Gnocchi Verdi per Papà (green gnocchi for Dad). It is adapted from a recipe taken from the book called Pasta by Hand by Jenn Louis. I chose this recipe because it is pretty much fool-proof! The story behind this choice is this: my father, who was Italian, loved to cook and made the best homemade pasta from scratch out of anyone I know personally. He preferred to make fettuccine and ravioli in particular though I suspect he made the ravioli mainly because those were our favourites. My last memory of cooking with him was when a couple of years ago I asked him to show me how to make gnocchi, which are my favourite pasta when made properly (i.e. not hard pellets that weigh heavily on the stomach but soft drops of deliciousness). It was a complete disaster because I had insisted on making them with sweet potato and spelt flour. Though he kept telling me it wouldn't work, I insisted and ended up having to add too much flour to compensate for the sogginess of the sweet potato (I now know you need to dehydrate the potato as much as you can before using it). We had to throw out the whole batch and ended up making ravioli instead! When he passed away earlier this year, I took back a book on gnocchi I had given him as a present and vowed to him that I would learn to make them. This recipe has dairy and gluten, though you can make it with gluten-free options if you prefer since it actually doesn't use a lot of flour. You can also make them with potatoes instead of ricotta which will make them a different type of gnocchi altogether - the more common basic gnocchi. However, it is the year-end and this recipe is for my father, so I've made them to be indulgent though they are easy! Per te Papà - c'e l'ho fatta!

To make the recipe, click here.

Enjoy!


 Photograph by Ed Anderson
 

Upcoming Events

Upcoming UK Clinic Consultations Dates:  
  • January 8-13, 2020
My February and March dates will be added shortly. 

Et en France...


Depuis le 2 septembre 2019, je vous accueille pour les consultations au "Jardins de la Bourgade", avenue Georges Pompidou à Uzès: un nouvel espace chaleureux et parfaitement adapté, au premier étage avec ascenseur! 

I'm happy to help!

For any questions, comments or suggestions, please contact me at sabrina@terrasacra.co.uk or on +44(0)7816650275

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