On January 2 my friend and mentor Steve Li, passed away. Steve was a very gifted Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, Shaolin and Qi Gong Master and an energetic healer. He cared deeply about people. Steve has been an integral part of my healing journey, in part by teaching me methods of releasing negative energy from my body. I share all that I learn with my own clients.
Steve died suddenly of a brain stem stroke age 46. Naturally his friends and family and his wider community’s are in shock and saddened by this loss.
I learned of his passing last Monday, the evening of Monday 7th. The next day I was doing my usual weekly radio show and had lined up an interview with a woman from the UK named Hermione Elliot. She is one of the founders of a not- for-profit company called ‘Living Well, Dying Well’. She was holding a workshop that weekend on Death and Dying. Aimed at anyone really, but especially for those approaching death, those dealing with the approaching death of a loved one, or for anyone who wants to be more prepared for their own death. She is also training people to become Doula’s. (We have doula’s to help us come into this life so why not to help us leave it?) The interview was interesting and profound. The whole show seemed to be fairly sombre, including the music. I dedicated my show that day to Steve. I received texts from many different people throughout the show expressing their sorrow. Some who knew him, others who just felt my loss. I felt a connection to so many people, thru Steve. I sobbed as I left the studio.
Afterwards I saw ‘The Life of Pi’ (more about death) and then ran into a woman I used to get my vintage frocks from in Sydney. Her Mum had recently passed away from cancer and my friend expressed how she was having a hard time dealing with her Mothers death 12 months earlier, and had had a breakdown. She was very thin and not really anchored in her physical body. Understandable.
So Tuesday, January 8 was for me a day about death and dying. Naturally I had to explore this and why it was so. I began to look for the ‘thread’ and the message.
When I first met Steve at my initial acupuncture appointment with him – about 15 years ago now – he said that he had been expecting me. I don’t just mean for the appointment but that he had been told I was going to enter his life, and what I would bring to it. We have been friends ever since. He always maintained that my weight and digestive issues (same diff’) were emotionally based – full stop. He thought it was ‘funny’ that I exercised so much, had a great diet, an active and fulfilling life, had my spiritual practice, yet still had so much trouble maintaining my weight. My abdomen just pops out sometimes, a lot. I know this has shaped my life and still does to an extent.
Steve liked to use analogies. One day he told me about having a new kitchen. He said once you have cooked in it (comparing this to your interaction with others) it would never be as clean again, (meaning one’s energy). Then after each cook up it’ll get dirtier. (You’ll just keep absorbing). Then we start to use harsh cleaning products to remove the built up grime (medication) and the new kitchen is never the same. You can guess what he meant here.
‘Too many emotions’ he used to say to me All. The. Time – whilst sticking needles into my abdomen and placing boxes of smoking herbs (moxabustion) on there. He gave me Qi Gong exercises to aid my digestion and others to help remove others’ energy from me.
He knew how I was before I even arrived at my appointments. I remember an appointment a few days after my 40thbirthday. I looked terrible I thought. I was thin, for me- I had gone thru a dark period of about 5 months of deep sadness, loneliness and introspection. A necessary time but it had taken its toll on my body. I didn’t really eat in that time (thus the weight loss); my skin was awful, as the state of your spirit/shen/heart shows up in your complexion; I was sad, so my skin was red and yucky. I walked into his rooms and he said ‘You’re very happy’!
He was right! I had just passed thru a pretty intense time (I call it being in the ‘dark wood’), but was on the other side of it, on my way out, if not out altogether – but I didn’t know it yet. A few days later my whole world turned around. I was offered a great TV gig, found my home in the Byron Hinterlands (that was proving impossible earlier) and moved a month later.
I was born with this body type, and disposition… and a tummy. There are pictures of me as a baby and then as a toddler with the same body shape as I have now. My (thin) sister has an 18month old daughter (Kiki -my god daughter) who has almost the exact same body shape as me. She even looks like me. (Spooky how this happens when your siblings have children.) Marisa’s other child has more of his Ma’s body shape – tall and thin.
So when I get emails and see postings from viewers telling me how fat I am and how they can’t stand to look at my fat, ugly self (etc), I am saddened by the lack of understanding (and kindness) we have around our own bodies – size, shape, colour and weight. Some suggesting I don’t eat the way I cook as I’m just tooooo fat and that I must be a closet ‘fat eater’. It’s madness. I eat very little and mostly plant food. I don’t eat dinner and exercise. I chew! The only way for me to be skinny is to starve myself, which I have had periods of doing in the past, sadely. The key to my own happiness and contentment is to accept my body, and that is by accepting ‘me’. All of me. To love and accept myself, warts (tummy) and all.
Yesterday I went into ‘unworthiness’ because my abdomen was bloated. This had happened because one of my deepest fears was accidentally let out of the closet last week and ‘the fight or flight’ response had kicked in and was now in overdrive. So my digestive system shut down. (This is a usual story for many of us.) I had pain in my stomach, intense pain, then a bloated belly. I felt fat, and…unlovable. Crazy stuff isn’t it? For you it may not be your weight, but your perceived lack of intelligence, bald spot, eczema, lack of financial or academic success, flat chest, not having the ‘perfect’ face, body, parents, partner or childen and on the list goes. Whatever your issue is, it’s doing the same thing – preventing you from achieving your heart’s desire and living the life you dream of and deserve.
I caught the negative talk in my head yesterday and before I started to believe it – stopped it! It took quiet time, a cool bath, a SOS phone call to my sister, essential oils and reading passages and quotes from my favourite spiritual leaders about facing one’s demons.
I hope that by exposing myself and my shadow side (that is – I don’t deserve love if I’m fat) others will see what a waste of time this is also. I was born with this body and frankly it’s in pretty good shape considering its tendency and the heightened emotions I give it to deal with and then process.
Steve was right; my emotional body is the ruler of my weight. (Science is proving this now.) When I’m happy, content, feeling safe and understood (as I’ve blogged about before) I can eat normally and still maintain my happy weight of 65kg, and loose even more. If I’m stressed and challenged, I can go on a water fast for a week and still gain weight – really.
I would like to suggest we try to stop judging each other. How about looking a bit deeper and really ‘seeing’ someone? As when Steve saw that I was happy even though I thought I was at rock bottom. He saw what I had been through and the courage it took to look at my life and get thru the other side of the ‘dark wood’ having learnt the lesson and being stronger for it. The people who I deeply respect and call my friends/teachers are the ones who don’t even notice if I’m up or down a few kg. They notice if I look happy, confused, content, sad or calm, not if I’m wearing my skinny jeans…or not.
We are all different, than goodness. So let’s embrace this. Pigeonholes and labels just don’t work anymore. We are in a new world, one where we embrace individuality. Aren’t we? I don’t want to be labelled vegan, vego’, dairy free or gluten free, as nothing comes from being put in a box. Be it rich, poor, white, black, brown or yellow, gay, straight, both or in an undecided box, fat or thin or put in any other box. It’s time for personal freedom and acceptance of each other.
I’m sorry that I’m not a perfect size 10. (I once received an email from a woman telling me she couldn’t watch GCBC because I was so fat. She signed it ‘from the perfect size 10 ’). I’m sorry I’m not painfully thin or look like everyone else in the media. I’m sorry I feel the need to express myself and help humanity where I can. That I remain loyal to my beliefs, that I care very deeply about other people, animals, plants and the environment and that sometimes I get so pissed off with how things are that I get nauseous and then bloated…weight gain resulting. This is me. I continuously work on myself so that one day I may become the best Janella I can be, but in the meantime – I’m still worthy of love. As we all are. This is my way of preparing for death, in my own way.
For me 2013 is about learning to truly love myself. If we all loved ourselves a little more, we can love each other a little more also.
Throughout this year I’m going to be writing more and more about good food, sustainability, reducing waste, what and how to eat and how to reduce the toxins in our lives. All of this helps us to love ourselves, and each other more. And the planet will only benefit.
Forgive me if I get stressed sometimes and get a bit lighter or a bit heavier. It happens. It’s not about what I put in my mouth or the level of physical activity; it’s about my level of self worth.
Steve Li – my friend and mentor – you are missed.