how to follow your heart : the first article I ever wrote

kindred spirit magazineI wrote this article in 2007, and it changed my life. Before writing it, I’d never written anything other than songs, poems andsome sporadic journal ramblings. Yet it got published in Kindred Spirit. People then started writing to me saying how much the article had affected them, how they’d been inspired to take the training as a result of reading my article and how they’d experienced a similar yearning to the one I address in the article – it’s all very well being told to ‘just follow your heart’, but how exactly does one learn to do that?  Happily, the Energy Awareness Training was the answer to my prayers. And, six years on, still is.

So I thought it needed to be here – the article that inspired me to become a professional writer, written on the day I realised I was an everyday alchemist – and the story behind the life I lead now!

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A year and a half ago, in a field in East Sussex, I saw a man standing in meadow, dressed in white, up to his knees in wildflowers and in the middle of what looked like a dynamic energy practice. I’ve practiced yoga, t’ai chi and chi gong, but this was unlike anything I’d seen before. I watched him for a while, rhythmically moving his arms, coordinating movement with his breath, and I knew I had to find out what he was doing.

    I approached him after he’d finished. We started talking and he began to tell me about the exercise he’d been doing. It was called ‘Falling Lightning’, and was just one of a number of practices he’d learnt on a course called the Energy Awareness Training. He went on to explain that when practised facing a particular direction, Falling Lightning would bring more energy into an area of his life. I was already a bit lost at this point, so happily he agreed to tell me more. So we sat in the meadow, with the sun shining high, and carried on our conversation.

    He pulled out a pen and paper from his bag and drew an 8 pointed star. On each point he wrote a compass direction, and then for each direction wrote a corresponding energy. East was health, West was creativity, North was work & career and so on. He continued to explain that we all receive these eight energies, or ‘Life Ki’s’ from the specific directions, and how much of the energy we receive depends on the energies within us. By practising falling Lightning facing South West, he was beckoning more partnership ki, or energy, into his life.

    This was a complete revelation to me. I had no idea these life energies existed as something flowing from somewhere, and not only did they exist, but they could be harnessed and used! I’d heard before that feng shui used the directions in the home to improve certain areas of the homeowners life, but never before heard someone explain how that could be possible.

Inside I was jumping up and down with excitement, and I knew that a new way of experiencing the world was about to dawn. I’d been shown a door, and I couldn’t wait to open it.

    I asked him if he’d teach me the practice. He was reluctant, as it was only a small part of the weekend training he’d taken, and if I wanted to see the bigger picture I’d have to take the training myself. He explained that if I wanted more money, for example, and started practicing Falling Lightning facing southeast to beckon more wealth, then I would be acting on my desires, which may or may not be what I really need. If I took the training I’d learn how to sense which direction my energy, or spirit, needed me to face. In essence, I’d be handing over the steering wheel from my mind to my heart. Perhaps I would test positive on facing northwest, to bring more helpful people into my life, which could in turn, bring an opportunity to make more money (thus resolving a lack of wealth ki). I started to understand that it may not simply be a matter of getting more of what I want, but learning to identify what it is I really need.

    Despite what he’d told me, I still didn’t want him to go without teaching me the exercise! He eventually gave in, on the condition that I’d call Stephen and Lynda in the Pyrenees who ran the Energy Awareness Training within the next few weeks. I agreed. Ten minutes later, I had a new practice, a scribbled on piece of paper… and his phone number! I thanked him for taking the time to sit with me a while and share his experiences, and we went our separate ways. I was later to find out that at the time I first saw him he had been doing Falling Lightning facing South West, beckoning more partnership ki into his life. It had worked, as we later became lovers!

    Weeks passed, and each morning that summer I practiced Falling Lightning. I forgot my agreement to call about the training. That September, I went on a workshop in London, which promised a new way of healing long standing health issues. On the first morning, at registration, a beautiful elderly lady with long flowing grey hair made a bee line for me. I’d noticed her the moment she entered the room. We introduced ourselves, me, a 28 year old wanting to heal a hernia, and her, a 78 year old, wanting to heal a cancer. To say we hit it off is an understatement. It was like two best friends meeting again after years apart. Rather conveniently we were asked to pair up for the days programme, so we spent the rest of the day together.

    Over lunch together, I noticed her doing something strange. When I asked if she needed me to get her bag from the cloakroom, she looked over at the queue, did something with her hand, paused briefly, and then said “No thanks!” I asked her what an earth she had done! She explained that she’d used an energetic test, to see if she needed anything from the cloakroom. And she didn’t! Once again, my curiosity exploded and I asked her to tell me more. All she was doing, she went on to say, was tuning into her energy to see if it went up or down when making a decision. She continued to explain that every choice we make, be it what to eat, who to see, where to go  has an effect on our energy. It will either make our energy go up (ascend) or make it go down (descend). She went on to demonstrate with the miniature feast we had spread before us on the table. Forming a hand position (which from my yoga training I recognised as a mudra) while looking at the different foods, she turned to me and said “yes to bread, olives and houmous, no to the sprouts”. I felt the same excitement in me that I’d felt in the meadow some months before.

    Here was someone showing me that there was a way to actually experience how my energy responds to something I’m about to do. I expressed my enthusiasm over her developed sense of awareness. I thought she must be ‘one of those people’ who are naturally able to sense and perceive energies. At that time, I was always wanting to make the ‘right’ decision but forever getting lost in my head in the process (some might say I was indecisive!). So naturally I was delighted to watch her make a choice based on her energy, and not on what she was thinking! That was a gift I wished I had. I told her how much I’d love to be able to do what she just did. “Well you can learn it darling!” she replied. “It’s this wonderful man in the Pyrenees, he comes over to the UK and gives the most amazing trainings. I’m in my seventies, and have been into these things for over 40 years, been on more workshops than I can remember, and he’s the best I’ve seen.”

    Suddenly it dawned on me that I was hearing about the very same man I’d heard about in the meadow! I couldn’t believe I was hearing about him again! I told her about my experience early that summer, and asked her if he gave trainings in Brighton, which included a practice called Falling Lightning. With a huge smile on her face she said “Yes! There you go. You’ve heard it twice — now take the training!” Needless to say, the very next week, I called Stephen, and booked myself onto the next Living with Energy Awareness Training (LWEAT).

   As I sit here at my desk, eighteen months on from my first LWEAT, I feel different. It’s been a subtle transformation, nothingradical has happened, yet I feel radically different. For over a year I’ve been making decisions based on my energetic needs instead of my wants. This hasn’t been easy to do. And I’ve battled time and time again over whether testing what to drink actually makes any difference. But it does, and the more I live being guided by my spirit instead of my head, the more I see the effect of my choices on my energy. For years whenever people told me to follow my heart it only served to fuel my internal longing to know exactly how one does that! I guess it was that longing that finally lead me to the LWEAT.

    Learning to ‘test’ my energetic response to a decision is one of the things I learnt on the training. The more ascending choices I make, the more energy I have, and the brighter my life becomes. So even the smallest of decisions (like testing what colour top to wear this morning) can increase my awareness energy. A wonderful thing about making decisions based on my energetic needs is that it’s full of surprises. Once I was testing whether to go to see a movie with some friends. I’d been wanting to go for ages, and when I got a ‘no’ to going, I was annoyed. I decided to trust my test and stay at home. Low and behold, an hour later, I got a call from an old friend who was in the area, and who desperately needed help and somewhere to stay the night. I was delighted to hear from her, as I was living in deepest darkest Wales at the time. Had I gone to the cinema, I would have been unable to help her.

    Three years ago I went to see a clairvoyant. He said he could see that in two years time I’d be training in something, but it didn’t involve certificates or qualifications. He said the best way to describe it was that I’d be developing my intuition to the degree that I’d be able to sense the small stuff, like whether or not it was the right time to hang out the nappies on the line. It seemed like an obscure thing to hear at the time, but exactly two years later, having forgotten all about the reading, I found myself on a weekend course learning to do just that! There I learnt how to make decisions based on my energy, and this gave me one of the most empowering gifts I’d ever been given – the power to make conscious choices.

Suddenly it was up to me.

    There’s a lot more to energy awareness than testing my actions. Each day (almost!) I go for a Power Walk. This technique, also taught on the LWEAT, is a great way of releasing certain restrictive energies from my past. I can Power Walk to leave past sorrow behind, or anger, or past loves… to mention just some. And the lighter the load of the past becomes, the more energy I have to be in the present. Just this afternoon, as I stopped at the end of my drive to feel which way my energy was flowing (another learnt technique!), I noticed it was going in the opposite direction to where I wanted to go. I wanted to head to the river, but my energy was heading towards the shops. Reluctantly I followed it. I’ve not yet mastered the ability to always accept the spirit in my life with a smile! A few houses down the road my energy swung to the left, and there, on a fence post, was my favourite hat that I’d lost some days previously! I’d been searching high and low for it, and had I followed my head instead of my energy, I’d still be wondering where it was!

    Now movies, nappies and hats may all seem like pretty minor events, but I’ve also had to make some big decisions using my energy awareness.

    As I mentioned, I was living in Wales in 2005, and had broken up with my son’s father. To keep the peace and to keep things simple I decided to stay in Wales rather than return home to the south coast of England. Life was challenging for me, everything seemed like a struggle. As time went on and my awareness grew, I realised that once again I was following my head, and not my heart. A technique from the LWEAT enables me to experience how much energy I am receiving from the sky. Depending on what my needs are, certain ‘skies’ give me more energy than others. Put simply, some places are better for me than others. And, as I suspected, I was not receiving the energy I needed from the sky in Mid Wales. I tested, and found a ‘positive sky’ in Southampton. So I had a tough choice, stay in Wales and keep the family ‘together’, or move 5 hours away to suit my energetic needs. It wasn’t easy but pretty soon I felt like I had no choice. I was starting to see that if I really wanted to change, to be free of the fears that hold me back, then I’d have to follow my spirit. And as it turned out, moving to Southampton was the best move I made that year.

    So what’s the point of all this? Why bother to test whether to have a coffee or a herbal tea? Why spend time testing what colour clothes to wear? Or what movie to see? Why does it matter? Personally, I recognised a long time ago that there were many aspects of myself that didn’t seem like me. I always felt there was a more real version, hiding under layers of other people’s beliefs. So I started my journey of discovery at 17. Many workshops, courses, and guru’s later, I still felt like I was facing the same issues again & again & again. I’d go on a course, it would gloss over the issue in question – fear, lack of self love e.t.c. – and I’d leave feeling fantastic. But the issues were still there. I didn’t feel like they were actually being transformed. The past 18 months have shown me, albeit with a lot of effort, that real change is possible. In order to go beyond my karmas, and enter into the realm of who I really am, I need all the awareness energy I can muster.

    This is why the small stuff counts as much as the big stuff. Each ascending choice that we make has a positive impact on our future. And these choices generate an accumulation of energy that gives us the strength to face and transform our karmas into higher awareness.

    It’s not a matter of worrying whether or not I’ve made the right decision, its about learning to recognise what it is that I need to do now. I feel like I’m only just beginning to truly see the alchemy in each moment. Doing only what I need to do from moment to moment turns my karmas into higher awareness, my lead into gold.

The Living With Energy Awareness Training is run twice a year in the UK by Stephen and Lynda Kane. Next dates 7/8 April 2012. For more information visit eat.energyawareness.org

My first book, The Everyday Alchemist’s Happiness Handbook, takes up the story of the following five years … using the techniques and skills learnt through living with energy awareness as a pathway to everyday happiness. Order your copy now on Amazon.

bedroom bliss – how to feel great when you wake

Your bedroom is perhaps the most important room in your house when it comes to feng shui. When you sleep, not only is your physical body sweeping itself clean with helpful hormones like melatonin, but your energy body gets to work too. Your chakras (often referred to as your ‘energetic organs’) open up, enabling you to receive the energy you need to process the day’s experiences; the good, the bad and the seemingly mundane.

But what happens if you’re sleeping in a room full of environmental stress? Well, in the same way that street lamps or wifi signals interfere with your melatonin production as you sleep, so your energy body struggles to charge you back up when you’re sleeping in a stressful environment. Instead of receiving the energy you need to wake up feeling refreshed – you wake up tired as a result of picking up more stress through the night. Which is why the energy of your bedroom matters so much to your well-being!

A ‘stressed’ environment can mean things like big wooden beams above your bed, pointed furniture shooting ‘arrows’ at your bed, geopathic or electromagnetic stress, or as was the case for me recently, an inappropriate painting next to your bed.

To cut a long (but very magical!) story short, inspired by an unusual meditation with my medicine cards, I acquired a fabulous painting of a huge bear. I knew I needed to hang him on a west wall, and was pretty sure he was destined for my bedroom. He was perfect – shaggy and friendly but strong, amongst a field of yellow flowers, with a mountain behind him. (Yellow and mountains are good activators for the west of your home – your creativity sector!) And he looked great in my bedroom. So that was that.

That night however, I found it hard to get off to sleep. Although it may be glaringly obvious to you now why that was, to me at the time, it wasn’t. I awoke the next morning with a headache. And the next day. And the next. Until after three days with a banging headache, the penny dropped; I was a bear with a sore head.

I tested the placement of Mr. Bear, and sure enough, he was in the wrong place. He actually wanted to sit next to my desk downstairs, to help me with my work. Helping me sleep wasn’t really his thing. (The picture was of course not of him hibernating.)

The next day, the headache had pretty much gone. The day after, gone altogether. Mr. Bear is happy in his new home, and I am happier without the headache. The whole experience inspired me to share a few of my top tips for creating a stress-free, super-sleep, energy-loving bedroom with you. And here they are:

sleep with your head to the North if you live in the Northern hemisphere, to the South if you live in the Southern hemisphere.
If you’d like to know they why’s and the wherefore’s as to why this makes such a difference, look into taking the energy awareness training. There you’ll see beyond a shadow of a doubt why it works. And if you don’t want to take a training, just try it for yourself. See how your kids sleep better, how you wake feeling brighter and how your partner stops snoring.

keep the space behind your head clear.
As I already mentioned, your chakras open up like flowers as you sleep, making you incredibly receptive to images, people and your environment. Your crown chakra, at the top of your head, is akin to a comand centre – bringing in the energy you need and directing it to where it needs to go – and it can do that job best with no images/icons/shelves full of clutter above it. Even if it’s a beautiful image that you love, too much of a good thing is still too much. Try moving it to the side of your bed, or out of the bedroom altogether if you feel to.

avoid patterned & synthetic duvet covers.
When it comes to sleeping, a good rule to remember is ‘keep it simple’. Pale, pattern-free, cotton duvet covers will go a long way towards giving you, an energising and healthy night’s sleep. If you’ve got crazy stripes and spangly spikes all over your body as you sleep, it’s very likely you’ll have craziness and spangles interfering with your chakras. Not very conducive to a good night’s kip.

don’t have mirrors at the foot of your bed.
In fact, ideally don’t have them reflecting towards your bed at all. If you must have them for sexy business then for sleepy business make sure they’re covered up. Mirrors reflect energy – and you don’t need your freshly cleared out stresses being bounced back at you to absorb all over again.

be conscious of who you share a bed with.
Now this is a tricky one. But I’m going to mention it anyway, as we don’t just pick up stress from bears and beams. We also pick up other people’s stress when we sleep next to them. But generally, we sleep with someone because we love them, so we’re not likely to throw them out with the painting. But partners, kids and pets can all affect our energy whilst we sleep. If you think you’re being adversely affected by someone you’re sleeping with, you could try using an Energy Egg or Guardian Angel. (If you want to know why I rate them so highly – write to me at natalie(at)everydayalchemist.com or ask me about it on facebook.)

connect with your sacred space.
Finally, take a moment to go and be in your bedroom. Really be in it. Meditate for a while, connecting if you can with your breath.. and with the observing presence that can simply watch your breath. With your eyes open, see if you can expand this awareness to fill your room. Notice your room, your sacred space, from this perspective. Is there anything in the room that seems to ‘repel’ your expanding awareness? Something that doesn’t feel right? If there is, consider removing it from your room if you can. If it’s a feature, see if something comes to mind that needs to go there, for example a silk throw over an exposed beam.

Getting to know your space in this way, attending to it with a view to making it truly support your energy, makes a huge difference to your daily life. When you sleep in a harmonious environment, you feel more energised, healthier and happier; you become a more harmonious person! And, of course, you get to have great sleeps, again and again and again.

Have a think now about your own bedroom. Is it time to look at it with fresh eyes and spend some time creating an environment that works for you rather than against you? Let me and Mr. Bear know how you get on in the comments box. We love hearing your stories.

(10% of any commission I make through my affiliate links goes to a local charity supporting people who don’t have a bed to sleep in.)

helpful meditations from chalice well

I woke up with a swollen throat, again. It’s winter, and I’d been appreciating my health over the past few weeks. But now I was ill. So I got out of bed with a ‘poor me’ head on, feeling sorry for myself that I had to take my son to school in the rain, again. Huff huff, grump grump. After dropping him off I went to an appointment, at which I had to wait half an hour to be seen. When I got to the waiting room, I sat down facing my heart direction*, began practicing the attention breath*, and started to read a magazine that I had an article published in. By the time I was called in to my appointment, the invisible clouds above my head were starting to clear. When the person I was meeting began apologising profusely for her lateness, I stopped her mid-track and thanked her for giving me the time I needed. By the slightly confused look on her face it was one of the first times someone had thanked her for being late!

After my appointment I was ready to go home and cancel my other commitments for the day. I was ill after all! But just as I was leaving I had a text from a dear friend who was leaving town, asking me if I had time for a coffee. My head said no, my heart said yes. So off I went to meet him.

As well as being a close friend, he’s also a follower of my writing, and a very wise soul. We got chatting, and as we talked he gently reminded me that I was in a state of non-acceptance of the stress I was experiencing. He called me back to what I write about, to practice what I preach – to use my stresses as a vehicle to develop my awareness. And here I was, forgetting all that, and wishing the stress would go away. I realised I’d gotten so caught up in ‘my stuff’ I’d stopped being present, accepting the moment as it was. He was another gift for me. And the clouds were getting thinner.

Thin enough to realise that I didn’t feel that ill after all, my throat hurt, but so what? So I kept to my next appointment, which turned out to be another gift from the Spirit. I was starting to feel like it was my birthday!

Still a few whisps of cloud around, but on my way home, my attention led me up the path into Chalice Well. I never cease to be grateful for having a remarkable power place a few yards away from my house. Given that I have to walk past its entrance up to four times a day, rarely a week goes by in which my feet aren’t pulled up that path at least twice!

The Well Head, Chalice Well

As I sat meditating by the well, my attention was drawn to two areas in my house where I’m losing energy, and what I needed to do to remedy it. One, a particular kitchen cupboard, and two, my friend’s room. On returning home I headed straight for the post-it notes. I wrote in colourful ink, ‘Do I need to look in here?’ and stuck it on the cupboard. The cupboard I’m talking about is the naughty cupboard. The one with treats, chocolate, biscuits, bread, crackers.. wine. That kind of stuff. Not that we have a lot of it here, and not that any of it is actually ‘naughty’, but my relationship to it is. I find myself opening it again and again throughout the day, staring into it vacantly, then filling that vacantness with another chunk of chocolate. By having the post-it note at eye level, it is literally making me stop, and use my awareness to see if I really do need to look in here. The other note, ‘Do I need to go in here?’ is now stuck on my friend’s door. I’m a social creature. However there is a time and a place for chit-chat, and I’m noticing with increasing frequency the times when I’m doing it out of habit instead of need – losing energy instead of gaining it. I thanked the spirits at the well today for so clearly pointing out, complete with post-it notes, these two areas of my life that needed a little tweaking.

In my experience, things like post-it notes around the home have a shelf life. After a few weeks they become invisible. But their value in the short-term is absolutely noticeable, and I highly recommend it. Now, two days on, even just the presence of the post-it note has meant that I haven’t even gone near the cupboard (or my friend’s room) unless I needed to. It’s as if my awareness is more tuned, it knows that I’m not going to open the door unless I need to – so why even go near it? Maybe a few weeks of concentrated reminding is enough to form a new habit around these two things – a good, energy-ascending habit – one born of higher awareness and conscious choice. At this point I may as well mention that by the time I’d stuck the post-it notes up, the clouds had lifted – I felt happy, calm and inspired – even though externally nothing had changed at all.

A few more post-it notes have appeared since then, not too many, but just enough to be aiding the focus of my attention from one moment to the next. My ability to follow the ascending moment* – something in the  present moment that causes my energy to rise – reminds me of a plant I have growing a few feet away from my desk. After many months of wondering if it was going to make it, it now grows a little more. It’s by no mean strong, it still needs a lot of attention, props and drops, but it’s roots are slowly growing deeper and its leaves reaching higher. Which to me feels rather like my own journey. Only instead of being a photosynthesist, I’m an everyday alchemist; turning my stresses into higher awareness, my lead into gold!

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* these words, or practices, are wonderful descriptions or techniques learnt on the Energy Awareness Training.

when good feng shui comes dressed in rubber

Oh boy. Or should I say, oh boys. What an afternoon. I was traveling by car across deepest Dartmoor in the pouring rain, when my co-pilot, Charlie, for the third time opened the dodgy window of my ford mondeo despite having been told twice to leave it shut. Seeing as he’d only opened it a crack this time, I thought I’d try to relax and stop worrying.

Then came the almighty crash. We screamed thinking a Dartmoor boulder had flung itself into the car, and taken out the window on its way. But no boulder was to be seen. My nagging about the dodgy window had been justified, as it had now disappeared.
As always, these things happen in a blinding flash, and before I knew it I’d pulled into a little car park to work out what had just happened. We’d heard no shattering glass, so assumed it must’ve just dropped into the door. On closer inspection we saw we were right. Deep in the inner workings of my passenger door was my passenger window, which was obviously now not going to keep my passenger dry all the way back to Totnes, nor protect me from the storms on my way back up the motorway to Glastonbury. Great. A really long day was about to get even longer. After scrabbling around in the boot for a screwdriver, I thought my only option was to drive us back to Totnes to get it fixed. It sounded wet, and expensive. The spiritual warrior in me had gone into hiding.

Then they appeared. Like two black swans out of the river, except clad in rubber and carrying canoes. Wow. Thank-you Spirit! Walking towards me (ok, they were walking towards their car but I was in front of their car so it looked like they were walking towards me) were two fabulously gorgeous young men. Me, happy to play the damsel in distress, went skipping towards them. “Hello! You don’t happen to have a screwdriver do you?”… you bet they did. And not only did they have a screwdriver (which one produced by unzipping his wetsuit and reaching inside), but they spent the next 20 minutes in the pouring rain fixing my car window. It was really quite something to behold. Charlie’s Angels. Only in the reverse. Three lovely guys (yes, I’ve included Charlie, who, although being the reason we were stuck in the first place, is also lovely) valiantly taking apart, and then re-assembling, my car door.

am I seeing double?

Did I mention the black rubber thing already? I did? Oh yes. OK I’ll stop drooling and get to the point. What was really going on here, although done in spectacular style, was simply my life reflecting back at me the presence of a certain energy within me.

My helpful people ki.  In terms of feng shui, helpful people ki, or chi, is one of the eight life energies that flow to us from specific directions (see my article – Living With Energy Awareness) . Helpful people ki finds its way to us from the North-West. How much of it we have dictates how ‘fortunate’ we are in meeting the right people, getting the support we need, or, in my case, being rescued in spectacular style from the middle of Dartmoor in the pouring rain!

Each day I do certain practices that cultivate the flow of these life energies, and, importantly, develop my capacity to receive them. And today, it’s evidently paying off. Feel free to get in touch for more info on how to cultivate your helpful people ki! But sorry, men in rubber not guaranteed.