I consider myself an explorer—someone with endless curiosity. I am motivated to learn that which I do not know, to never stop developing deeper understanding and gaining further insights into the human experience. This underlies my lifelong passion for experiential learning and studying. Another passion and my most reliable source of wellbeing is experiencing the natural world—whether hiking, gardening or wandering in a park wherever I may be in the world—this is of great value to me and necessary for my health.
My early readings shaped my path
Something that revealed itself to me very early in life and what has shaped my personal and professional life ever since is an awareness that there exists both seen and unseen worlds; each equally impactful on our health and wellbeing. Born into a spiritualist home, whilst still in single digits, my inherent curiosity had me delving into texts discussing such topics as eastern philosophy, rebirth, Jungian archetypes and the collective unconscious, the varying expressions of subtle anatomy, global mythology, and the many differing experiences of human reality. Exploring these concepts led to developing a meditation practice in my teens, an introduction to Buddhist psychology at 17, and insight meditation in my early 20s, all of which offered a level of self-enquiry, reflection and wisdom I still draw upon regularly, even decades later.
In my 20s my clinical work and formal studies began
In 1993, I entered a clinical environment as a veterinary nurse, and for several years spent every workday morning in surgery and the afternoon counselling those whose family pets were unwell. A smiling face on a workshop flyer in my local health food store caught my eye in 1997, which led me to the study and practice of the healing art of Reiki—which I initially used with my inpatients, helping them settle during their recovery. (It was this same year that I found myself in a yoga class for the first time, and so began a very erratic yoga practice but one I continued to return to despite the lack of continuity because there was something about yoga that sang to my spirit.)
After some time off to travel and live in New Zealand’s south island alpine region, I returned to London in 2000 where I moved on to massage diploma and certificate studies, followed by my immigration to Australia in 2001 where I began broadening my health industry career scope, whilst simultaneously continuing to invest in my personal development, increase my professional practice experience and finding more time to study. It was in Sydney that I qualified in meditation teaching/facilitation, aromatherapy, and finally achieved my Reiki Master Teacher certification.
Throughout this time, I continued to reflect on my deepening awareness of the flow of Qi/Prana in and around me, and my observation and insights regarding the interconnection between mind-body-spirit and environment—it became clearer that an imbalance in any of these aspects impacts them all. I have also come to understand that it is necessary to attend to all facets of ourselves (the self) equally to not only improve wellbeing in the short-term but to achieve a lasting sense of vitality.
Acknowledging there was more to be learnt, I relocated to Melbourne and returned to full-time study at Australia’s oldest naturopathic school—the Southern School of Natural Therapies (SSNT)—and after five challenging but rewarding years, completed a Bachelor of Health Science (BHSc) specialising in Naturopathy with majors in western herbal (botanical) medicine and clinical nutrition. I graduated as DUX of the overall 2011 year with high distinction (a 1st equivalent) and the ‘Most Outstanding Graduating Student’ achievement award and prize. In addition, I was fortunate to also be presented with the ‘Excellence in Naturopathy Award’ and prize for which I remain most grateful.
I doubt I’ll ever stop my enquiry
For me the learning never stops—as I continue to evolve myself, dip further into traditional medicine realms, new scientific studies are released or disproved, and contemporary understanding of what constitutes health develops. I follow where my interests lead at any given moment with the proviso that all learning should add a layer to what I know about human existence. This could include mind-body medicine and energy psychology, physical-biochemical research, spiritual and transpersonal wellbeing, subtle anatomy and energetic medicine, or the impact of environmental factors on health.
The breadth of my learnings as they pertain to health and wellbeing are listed here; but in short, my interests following my undergraduate degree have spanned traditional Chinese medicine theory, nutrition psychology, wellness and spiritual life coaching, energetic kinesiology, yogic nutrition, mindfulness practice and transpersonal art therapy exploring symbols, dreamwork, myth, ritual and shamanic practice. The latter few led me to complete a Graduate Diploma in Arts Psychotherapy which I volunteered with for a year in a community setting in Brisbane. I still utilise elements from these studies with clients now—because the creative arts offer a unique expressive platform when words are not enough. It is a powerful method of deep enquiry, helping a person connect to their inner wisdom and psyche.
I am equally passionate about formal education as I am wisdom sharing via less conventional paths; not only in relation to increasing my knowledge but also as it enables me to share more accurate, adaptable, in-depth information with others. As such (and as an ongoing professional requirement), I also attend regular seminars and conferences each year and seek to learn from others as required, to expand my personal understanding of areas of particular interest.
Learning is also to be had through doing
Whilst it would be correct to say I enjoy boutique therapeutic environments working one-on-one with others, I also like to take breaks from full-time practise from time to time, to explore other health and wellbeing projects and experiential opportunities. One of these included a 6-week volunteer program supporting the day-to-day activities of a leading organic health and lifestyle retreat in Australia; another was my involvement in a practitioner clinical and technical support team, assisting other health professionals with their client casework.
This latter position led to a supervisory editorial role mentoring a team of naturopaths and nutritionists and facilitating the creation of a range of functional medicine inspired educational resources, professional technical documents and patient materials. As someone who began writing creatively as a teen and who continues to blog as time permits, this was a wonderful platform to improve my health-related research, writing and editing skills and take them into a more clinical realm.
Whilst I enjoyed the challenge of the corporate realm, the lure of full-time clinical practice called once more and I followed an opportunity to Hong Kong to collaborate with a wonderful array of allied health professionals and doctors. Here, I was fortunate to work with my most diverse range of clients to date, stepping up my awareness of what each person brings to their wellbeing path and how adaptable I need to be to offer appropriate support and guidance.
After two life-changing years in SE Asia, a change in circumstance had me moving once more, this time back to New Zealand’s north island to follow post-graduate studies in public health promotion—having been inspired to understand the ‘bigger picture’ so I might seek how traditional medicine systems and naturopathic health promotion can play a larger role in this sector.
What informs me is the sum of my experiences
Throughout my long journey to date, my areas of specific interest are change-facilitation, personal empowerment through education, mind-body medicine, and energy psychology—which involves awareness of the subtle anatomy as well as the multiple aspects of bioenergetics. As such, mental and emotional wellbeing, as well as how people create, hold and use their energy—in every way—forms the heart of my personal and professional practices, as without energy there can be no forward movement. As someone who gives due respect for traditional medicine systems, yet is equally informed by the more contemporary approaches of lifestyle and functional medicine and behavioural change theory—I consider all this when working with clients as well as in my written work.
Weaving together my skills and learnings
My unique blend of qualifications and choice to integrate these gives me the lens through which to view the many facets of health and wellbeing. Over the years I have identified there are two key areas that most commonly compromise physical and emotional health—the gut and the nervous system—so during my clinical naturopathic years, I took particular interest in these systems to check all was well (or not) and address any imbalances there first. Now that my practice style and methodology has evolved, I continue to be mindful of how the experience of ongoing stress and/or anxiety can become an obstacle to change, and apply my herbal knowledge to help relieve the tension this can create.
In my journey, I have learnt that many people looking for change seek someone to ‘tell them what to do’ or ‘what to take to make it better’—but in reality, this only works some of the time. Instead, I have found that for sustainable change to occur a person needs to be ready to dig deep and discover what’s holding them back—and this takes courage and a true willingness to change (even when it’s uncomfortable and the change is required forever). They also need someone to offer wellbeing-oriented accountability coaching and mentoring whilst they implement the changes that need to occur to get them where they want to be.
As such, I now practice naturopathic health coaching rather than taking a more typical prescriptive position, even though I might (on occasion) use some herbs, as mentioned, to relieve the tension that is itself an obstacle to change. For those ready and wanting to work on their subtle anatomy and qi flow, I turn to Reiki or advanced energy healing techniques. Reiki is very helpful at inducing the relaxation response and perfect for those for whom ‘switching off’ has become difficult, or perhaps they feel disconnected to how they are really feeling on all levels, and need to relearn how their body-mind speaks to them—they just have to listen. Also, as a kinesiologist who has developed a unique transpersonal method, I use these techniques to help uncover obstacles to change as well as identifying where qi flow is impeded so it can be corrected.
Despite the ability to prescribe a herb or nutritional supplement if required, I have a mantra that “you cannot supplement your way out of a poor lifestyle”, so an essential part of my thought process is assessing if there is a need to teach an experiential technique that can allow a person to better self-regulate. This may include breathing exercises, or other mind-body skills training—something that can be learnt and practised for life. Or maybe a gentle nudge regarding some unhelpful lifestyle choices that are in the way of their progress, so we can discuss their readiness to change (or not, but then why that may be). In my experience, this is a more sustainable and empowering long-term solution for wellbeing—as is encouraging people to understand that their food is their medicine (or their poison if they are not mindful of their choices).
Ultimately, I embrace a paradigm whereby I acknowledge myself and others as an integrated whole of body-mind-spirit-environment and approach my work and life accordingly so all is relevant when receiving a case.
Wellbeing begins with what we eat (and how we perceive our world)
With a strong background in nutrition psychology and transformational health coaching, I am very supportive of those wanting to improve their wellbeing via their diet. I have personally navigated a keto-style diet, a Paleo approach, intermittent fasting (which I still do frequently), having to restrict certain items due to food intolerances (fortunately only temporarily) and, in my 40s, making the switch to a 100% plant-based (vegan) diet—all this has made me very aware of the effort it takes to make and sustain dietary changes. It has also informed me how best to support and coach those wanting to make changes themselves, for example, to switch to a wholefoods plant-based diet for long-term health or sustainability reasons. Much of what is required is the right mindset (as well as information and a plan).
As a naturopath, I advocate phytonutrient-rich wholefoods, limited unnecessary fats and minimal sugars in all approaches, and consider the health of the gut microbiome, as well as the tastebuds! I have learnt that it’s rarely easy for anyone to make a dietary change—but the results are worth the focus and commitment. It is endlessly rewarding to support those clients truly committed to their journey and observe how much they learn about what works for them—and what doesn’t. Lessons that empower them for life, which has become particularly necessary in a world governed by limiting and/or dogmatic dietary advice, confusing and often misleading food ‘science’, and persuasive marketing techniques.
The path ahead…
My future personal aims are many and include deepening my ongoing regular yoga practice with formal teacher training, expanding my written projects, exploring the shamanic realms, and creating enough time between all of the above to write the book (maybe two books!) stored in my head—there is so much I have learnt along my personal path of wellbeing that could be shared. In addition, with my gaze now turned to further studies in health promotion and community development I hope to contribute to the broader public health narrative and support a wider range of people to become more health literate, so they can better help themselves to be well and have informed choices.
Remember, the experience of conscious wellbeing is a continuum—a process to work on and invest in each day. It is one that requires you to engage with living each day well—to make the best choices you can at every given moment, to be congruent, and to nourish every aspect of yourself whether seen or unseen.
I wish you well on your path to ever-increasing vitality.