I'm sorry it's been so long

It’s been awhile I know. Just to clear up a few questions I’ve been asked over the past few months.

No, I haven’t gone into retirement early.
No, I’m not in the depths of despair.
No, I haven’t turned my back on yoga.

I’m sorry it’s taken me longer than usual to reply to emails. The past six months have been a hive of activity. My quiet exterior has done well at hiding a hectic undercurrent.

We have constructed a new studio from the ground up. With the doors now open, I’ve realised the process of plastering, painting, tiling, laying floorboards and installing windows has highlighted a few things.

The exhausted joy that comes from physical labour.  The deep appreciation that comes when you don’t outsource.  Knowledge on every button and every sound. Crafting the aesthetics, function, intention and purpose behind everything.

Even more I’ve realised the similarity between building a studio and building wellness.

The joy and relief that comes from moving. The deep appreciation of doing the hard work to understand physical and mental layers, injuries and habits. Flagging when you need help (learnt the hard way via broken tiles, falling plasterboard and chipped marble).

Getting down and working in the trenches has been the only way to create an opportunity to step up and out of the dirt, muck and sweat.  Where I now step is a studio space that does justice to what yoga does for wellness.

I love change. My parents loved buying “renovators delights” (sh*t boxes) so I grew up in more houses than most. COVID for me bought an opportunity for change that I embraced but I’ve been reminded that not everyone shares my change fuelled exhilaration.

In conversations I’ve had over the past six months with change-strugglers, I’ve talked about the whole of 2020 being like a yoga class. It had a predictable start. Lay on back, knees bent, deep breathing. That’s how we start every class.

The middle went to sh*t. The middle of a yoga class takes you to a peak. A peak of work, discomfort and unfamiliar movements, sensations and demands.

The end of yoga is where it all comes together. A deeply satisfying rest. It’s only satisfying because of the work that preceded it. A body that feels different to how it arrived. A new perspective. Joy and gratitude for the change.

And so will be the same for 2020.

Anxiety. Let's get practical about this sh*t.

It’s highly likely that what you’ve previously never given any thought to, is now a source of anxiety. Grocery shopping, walking past someone, interaction with a neighbour. Finances. The health of parents. The health of kids. Herd immunity. The future.

If it’s any consolation at some point in the future, date currently unknown, we will return to a space when these interactions are no longer a source of anxiety. That doesn’t help us now though.

At the moment this wave of anxiety is what keeps us physically safe. We need a bit of anxiety to surface during each of these interactions so we don’t become complacent. The danger is anxiety remaining activated post interaction.

In an ideal setting it plays out like this:

  1. Anxiety starts to rise on route to shops.
  2. Get to shops. Anxiety surfaces as you grab trolley.
  3. Move through aisles fast and focussed.
  4. Return to car. Anxiety begins to decrease as groceries packed in boot.
  5. Anxiety decreases again as you enter house.
  6. Wash hands, groceries away, wash hands again. Anxiety disappears.

This cycle, while it might seem completely ridiculous when we’re not in a pandemic, showcases a highly desirable response. The nervous system is able to “fire up” our alert mechanisms quickly and efficiently when required and once the threat has passed, deactivate just as quickly.

The sweet spot is not getting to a place where we don’t have anxiety, fear or heightened alert responses but to get to where we can reset quickly and efficiently.

The problem is that we don’t know how or don’t have the time to reset. You might not even know it’s a thing.

  • Resetting is not sleeping. It’s not relaxing on the couch with a book. It’s not at the bottom of a wine glass. These things are relaxing. What we need is to reset.
  • Once you reset, you’ll feel the huge difference between relaxing and resetting.
  • The more often you reset, the more efficient you become at it.
  • The longer you put it off, the more sh*t will require resetting.
  • In an ideal world we reset immediately following each wave of upheaval.

There are so many instances when it’s not safe or possible to reset immediately. We go from spot fire to spot fire. Don’t stop doing this. Spot fires will become insurmountable if they get some wind behind them.

When it’s safe. When it’s possible. Reset. Don’t not do this. Upheaval will become insurmountable if it gets some time behind it.

Every night is ideal. Once a week, it’s going to take a bit longer. Once a month, f*ck. A good few hours.

It’s can be a completely different story for some. Front-line workers. Emergency services. Parents. People who struggled before a pandemic. There’s F.A time to reset. Honestly, it’s as much a logistical problem as a not knowing what to do problem.

13 hour shift.
Drive home.
Walk in door.
Wash hands.
Hug kids while peaking that your hug is the touch of corona death.
Dinner. Try not to talk about it but it creeps in.
Kids to bed. Pretend everything is ok.
Watch sh*tty Netflix.
Pass out from exhaustion on couch.
Wake up at midnight still on couch.
Check on kids. Kiss them. Look at them while worry peaks again.
Go to bed.
Look like you’re sleeping for four hours.
Not sleep.

This is challenging work but a life skill. The ability to reset with regularity is a life skill. Post pandemic.

In 2019 I taught a 6 week pilot program, Affected 24/7 which went through the process of resetting. The feedback was staggering. I have put together an abridged pandemic version of this course. Still 6 weeks. Free. Because it’s important work and it’s the right thing to do.

The course will be available from Sunday 19th April. You’ll be able to start then or when you like. If you’ve done this course before, do it again. Please.

If you’d like to pre-register, touch base and I’ll send you some pre-reading prior to the 19th.

A collection of contrasts

We heard from a friend that it happened.

On account of the trauma course I was about to start teaching the following week, I distinctly remember thinking, “there’s so much work to do in this area.”

One month later, while teaching week three of the course, it happened again.

What happened was suicide. Two guys we previously served with in the Navy. Both clearance divers. They were mirrors of each other. All divers are mirrors of each other.

These guys were not just good operators, they were exceptional operators. The very best company at sea. They were professional and trustworthy. They were successful.

I had the usual few days where this sort of news churns around in your head and puts a damper on everyday life but then things took a downhill dive. I found myself in a place I’d not yet been before.

I could no longer trust my definition of success. If this is what happens to people I defined as successful, then my definition had been thrown completely off tilt.

It felt like the day the definition of your parents as superhuman no longer fits. The day a few mistakes and crappy advice reveals their humanness.

The final piece of the puzzle showed up at a party I recently went to. I met this guy. He worked in law enforcement. The beer in his hand seemed to shorten the distance between him and I on account of the story that poured forth. The poor bugger was broken.  He listed his physical ailments, many from detaining criminals, chasing criminals, being hit by criminals. The list was long. He couldn’t trust anyone he worked with. His workplace was a cesspit of angry, deranged criminals. He couldn’t sleep. He also felt jaded and upset by the system he was supposed to rally for, that in reality it let down more people than it held up. The same people who although made his working days hell, needed mental health assistance not law enforcement. In so many ways this poor guy was broken.

Halfway through talking, his daughter walked up. She needed a quick word and a hug; reassurance about something. A few moments later, off she went, settled and content. In those few moments, he was the only person she wanted and he could only see her. That sort of relationship doesn’t happen overnight. He had clearly spent years showing up for her, soothing her, being the reassuring hug the world often didn’t give.

I realised something at that moment. The definition works both ways.

The divers, because they were so successful at work, never gave the world any reason to contemplate the possibility their success didn’t extend to every arena of their lives.

The law enforcement guy, the fact he was such a mess, physically, mentally and at work, made it illogical to think he could be successful in another aspect of his life.

The two-way definition is just as debilitating in both scenarios. It makes it really difficult for outwardly successful people to ask for and receive help. Help doesn’t intuitively find its way into their productive lives. This is evident in the number of suicides in the clearance diving branch alone, the most highly trained and specialised category in the Navy. The world sees them all as successful.

It also drives slightly broken, somewhat unsuccessful people down even further. They, along with the world stop looking for the pockets of success in their lives. They get written off as all broken.

We humans are so good at doing extremes. It’s all or nothing. Successful or sh*t. Nothing in between.

Week three of the trauma course I taught while all of this was unfolding ironically focussed on opposites. On recognising contrasting emotions and that our bodies are able to hold contrasting emotions simultaneously. We are not good or bad, right or wrong, happy or unhappy, angry or calm in absolutes but a constantly changing collection of these different emotions. This element of the course ended up being the most challenging but once familiar, the most soothing.

Challenging and soothing. Side by side.

Affected. 24/7

A few years ago I went along to a 5 day course, dutifully fulfilling my professional development requirements for the year. I expected to walk away with some new perspectives and techniques on assisting people with trauma.

It’s safe to say my expectations were not met. I, for the first time, was at a loss for words. I wasn’t able to describe what happened in a way that felt accurate but didn’t erode my own privacy.

What did happen was a game-changer. For me personally. So much so that it took me over a year to work out what happened and embed the practice into my own life in a way that feels just right.

So when I say I’ve attempted to write this piece a few times, that’s really what I’ve been doing. Working out what happened, the words to describe it and then how to extend the practice to others.

Fast forward to when an interesting chain of events unfolded delivering the clarity I’d been fumbling for.

The chain of events started during a clinical placement for uni when, and I’m fairly certain of this, the universe intervened by connecting me with this particular supervisor.

Every question I ask him is met with the same response. “What does the evidence say Paige”?

(On a side note, this evidence based context makes me fairly certain he would disagree with my comments about universal intervention given the lack of evidence for such a thing occurring.)

Answering my own questions has been frustrating but as it turns out exactly what I needed to gain clarity.

Depression. Anxiety. Trauma. PTSD. Stress. Chronic pain. Autoimmune conditions. The link between all of these is they are not curable. Treatment plans can never discuss eradicating but rather how to manage symptoms as they escalate and abate from day to day.

In the words of my evidence lovin’ supervisor, what does the evidence say?  With this intense focus on evidence I realised another word for it. History. So I substituted the word evidence for the word history. What does history tell us about these conditions?

  • They don’t cripple people from productive, constructive lives. They are not mutually exclusive. Amazing lives can easily hide depression, anxiety and trauma. Look at history. Avicci. Kate Spade. Robin Williams.
  • The problem is when you operate from that space too much of the time. Can you run a marathon for five years straight? There will always be a point of combustion.
  • A safe space is required to let depression/anxiety/trauma soften away. It will inevitably percolate and resurface so the safe space needs to be easily accessible.
  • What if the safe space was not attached to a physical location. What if the safe space was internal.

What I now have is a process for creating this internal space, in very certain, not weird, not religious, not airy-fairy stages. The process is Affected 24/7.


Are you ready for a completely different approach? 

This course challenges the idea that we are broken by anxiety, depression, trauma, overwhelm and stress. You’ll find a refreshing way of viewing these conditions along with practical tools and audio recordings to guide you.


I have to get my funeral dress out again

Here are my insights on suicide.


We’ll never know why. We’ll never know if they changed their mind at the last minute. We’ll never know what their breaking point was, when they made the decision, then started formulating the logistics. We’ll never know if we could have said something that might have made a difference.

We’ll never really know.

Humans hate this. We crave the backstory and suicide holds it at ransom. Because I’m a human and I need some sort of story to make peace with this, I’ve been thinking about the opposite. The opposite of suicide.


Would self-care hold it at bay? Would self-care flag an issue before the point of jumping? Can other people do our self-care for us? When we might be unwilling, unable or just not know it’s a thing. Should we formalise it…something like “Self-care Sunday”?

The other thing I keep thinking about is samvega, which translates from Sanskrit to English as emergence.

It’s a yoga thing, a phase someone can be in…a state of samvega. It looks a lot like depression but it’s mixed with a quiet, vehemence for renewal. In the western world we label depression as undesirable but in yoga, depression when mixed with a quiet, vehemence for renewal, is seen as empowering and full of possibilities. The old books describe it as a classic portal into the deeper practices of yoga.

Shit. That got deep. Fu*k it. Let’s keep going.

What is a quiet, vehemence for renewal? Quiet. Doesn’t live on social media. Vehemence. Marked by great energy, exertion and unusual force. Renewal. Breaking out into a better way of being.

In yoga, depression when coupled with this state, is necessary for growth and change. Change can’t happen any other way. Thought-provoking.

The third thing that’s been running through my mind is what I’d like to say to the guy who’s no longer here.

  1. I hope your earthy troubles have stayed here on earth and not followed you.
  2. The people you’ve left behind, you’ve connected together like glue. We’d forgotten how similar we are.
  3. Trauma gives birth to gratitude and perspective, it’s a punch in the guts reminder.

Lastly this…

“Death might appear to destroy the meaning in our lives, but in fact it is the very source of our creativity. As Kafka said, “The meaning of life is that it ends.” Death is the engine that keeps us running, giving us the motivation to achieve, learn, love, and create.” (C. Doughty)

You used to make us laugh. Now you’ve made us cry. You’ve made us think harder and love more. Your work here is done. R.I.P.

My third child

We're the same age. Why haven't you got this stuff figured out. Hell, why haven't you got at least some stuff figured out. It's not that you're completely hopeless, some days you are, but you're starting to need more than I can give.

I've got nothing left in the tank. Not for you. Not right now. But I know it's not a fair exchange. I expect so much from you. I expect you to be attentive, empathetic, to show up. I expect you to be present to me every damn day. I expect you to remember milestones and special days and make those the most important thing to you. Forgetting pisses me off.

Some days I ask you questions about finance knowing you're not an accountant but still hanging you out to dry when you give me the wrong advice. Other days I ask your opinion on why my boss is such a jerk. You're supposed to agree with my side of the story. Last week, last Thursday to be precise, you made me feel like sh*t all day. I know you had your own stuff going on and I know you didn't mean to ruin my day but I just couldn't snap out of it. I couldn't calm myself down without you. Sometimes I hate that you have so much influence over me.

God damn why do I need you so much.

I'm not sure why I resent taking care of you. Maybe because it's 2017 and we're supposed to be strong, put together, all by ourselves people. We're not supposed to be needy and incomplete.

If I'm totally honest, my approach to now hasn't been working so in the interest of dodging insanity while hoping for a better outcome, I'm bracing to try something different. I've decided to tend to you as my third child. I only ever wanted two, so I really have to park my resentment to the side for this to work.

Surprisingly, tending to you hasn't taken a monumental effort. It happened when I read a few lines from a book to you before we went to sleep. It was in the carefully thought out meals I prepared, stuff I know you like and stuff I know agrees with you. It was when I nudged you on the couch at 1055pm and prompted you to go to bed. When our alarm went off at 4am, I lay quietly beside you for 10 minutes before we attacked the day. Together.

Life's been better when I tend to you as my third child. For me. For you. For the other two as well.

I realised it was the simple stuff that made such a difference. We didn't have to book into a week long retreat and shut out the world completely. We just needed to connect for a few meaningful moments, every single day.

Mental. Health. My third child.