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Our guest today is Christine Cooper, for another recovery story. Christine shares with us how she went from bed bound to hiking a mountain. After going through her own journey, recovering from severe ME/CFS, POTS dysautonomia, CCI(craniocervical instability) and symptoms of MCAS, Christine has learned how to truly follow her own inner guidance, and as we will learn in today's episode her guidance is leading her into a coaching practice of her own, as a joy and healing coach.
In today's episode she shares with us so many wonderful insights:
Connect with Christine on IG @already_healed or visit her page where she has her crowd funding campaign as well as free resources she has created to support other people on their journey.
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00:00:00 Chazmith: Good day, friends, and welcome to Our Power Is Within Podcast. I am your host, Chazmith, and my mission for this podcast is to inspire you to take your power back and realize that you are the healer that you have been looking for all along. We are capable of healing in mind and body and soul.
00:00:28 Chazmith: Today's episode is brought to you by Primal Trust Academy and Community, created by Dr. Kathleen King, who is one of my dear friends. If you aren't familiar with Dr. Kat, you can actually listen to three different super awesome episodes that she is a guest on podcast. Every chat with her is so insightful, I just have to keep inviting her back. So check the links in the show notes and tune into those episodes to learn more. Primal Trust is a membership site that helps you to find freedom from chronic illness and trauma. The membership includes access to Regulate, which is a Level One comprehensive program to self-regulate the brain and nervous system, focusing on both a top down and a bottom up approach. It is a prerequisite to the Level Two mentorship, where we go deeper into the inner work of attachment and trauma healing. And Level Three is where we focus on value space, living in community. And let's face it, self healing is not alone healing. We thrive in community. So if you have ever felt alone on this path, this might be the community for you. To learn more, click the link in the show notes today.
00:01:38 Chazmith: So today we have another epic testimonial story, two in a row, right ? We have a guest, Christine Cooper, here to share with us the massive strides that she has made on her journey, what she has learned along the way, and more. Christine's story is incredibly inspiring. It is a true testament of what is possible. I had the pleasure of having Christine pop into my Movement class this often, and I watched her make leaps and bounds in her recovery. And then one day, she shared some of her story with me and a few other movement class members, and I was so blown away, I just knew it was a story we're sharing. So please enjoy.
00:02:18 Chazmith: All right, I have the pleasure of welcoming Christine Cooper to the podcast today to share her absolutely inspiring and beautiful healing story with us all. Welcome, Christine.
00:02:32 Christine: Thank you. It's so great to be here.
00:02:35 Chazmith: Yeah, it's good to have you. Fun little tidbit for a little background. I met Christine through my Movement classes that I was doing back in 2021 and 2022 and had the pleasure one day of hearing a little bit more in depth about some of the experiences Christine had along her healing journey that really inspired me, and it got me really excited. And I remember thinking, "Wow, this needs to be shared." And I told Christine, like, "This needs to be shared." And I let her know that when she was ready, that she had a place here on the podcast to share that story, and it's finally happening. So that's really exciting, Christine, right?
00:03:22 Christine: Yeah. So this is my first time sharing my story today in a public way. So, yeah, I'm very excited.
00:03:31 Chazmith: Woohoo! Well, I think what we're going to do to set the stage is I would love to just start by having you give us a little brief background and insight into your life prior to your perfect storm, your quote unquote, "perfect storm," as we call it. What was life like for Christine before you reached that point of no return?
00:03:51 Christine: Sure. So before all of that, I was a musician and storyteller, and I was studying in the Nordic countries. I was living in the Nordic countries. And on the surface, it might have looked like I was following my passion, living my dream. But actually, underneath all of that, there was a kind of emptiness. There was a constant striving to find something to sort of fill in a gap or a hole in my life, I guess. And I don't know if it's okay to say this, but I just want to. Before I go into the actual 'perfect storm' story thing, I wanted to give a brief snapshot of what things were like for me at my darkest time and what things are like now, just so that people have a kind of overview of the context for this story. Would that be okay?
00:04:48 Chazmith: Yeah, absolutely.
00:04:49 Christine: So when I was at my darkest time, I was completely bed bound. I was resting most of the time in the dark and silence with an 'I must go on.' I was very sensitive to noise, to people in the room. I could only have people in the room for a few minutes. I could barely speak. I couldn't sit up for more than a few minutes. I had to eat my meals lying down or just very slightly propped up. It was very difficult for me to get to the toilet. I was having suicidal thoughts. I also thought that I might die. I had an insane array of symptoms. And just in September, this last September, I actually climbed a mountain. So that's the kind of transformation that I'm going to be sharing with you today. And when I look back at it, I actually almost can't believe it myself.
00:05:48 Chazmith: That's so awesome. I can't wait to hear more about all the details along the way. And I really do like that you set that up to help people understand what kind of story this would be, because just hearing that alone instills hope for other people and reminding them, like, "Hey, sometimes it's hard to even believe that we've come so far on our own journey," but we have, and you can, too.
00:06:12 Christine: Yeah, absolutely.
00:06:13 Chazmith: Out of curiosity, what kind of musician were you?
00:06:16 Christine: A folk musician. And I have returned to playing music now, so I am still a musician. I didn't play for a long time, but I'm back playing again now.
00:06:25 Chazmith: And what instruments?
00:06:27 Christine: Violin is my main instrument. I also play the banjo, a bit of ukulele, and I sing as well.
00:06:33 Chazmith: That's awesome. All right. You're going to do a concert for us today? Just kidding.
00:06:40 Christine: Maybe next time.
00:06:40 Chazmith: Yeah, fair enough. Okay. So I really love how you kind of gave us a little synopsis of the things you were doing pre perfect storm, but how you also know, looking back, that there was a bit of an emptiness and something deeper going on that was below the surface. So set us up then, and what was going on in your life? And in hindsight, looking back, what do you think really created that perfect storm and what happened from there?
00:07:08 Christine: Yeah, when I spoke about emptiness, looking back now, it was really a disconnection from myself, from everything good. I felt very lonely and isolated and just disconnected, really. So I was doing all these things that were trying to sort of fill in this gap, including going abroad to study a degree in folk music. And at the time when I got ill, I was in Sweden, and I was just doing a crazy, crazy amount of stuff. It's really, really not surprising when you look at it, that I got sick. So I was spending long hours researching for an academic paper that I was going to present at a conference. I was preparing for end of term exams. I was preparing a new musical project. My parents were visiting Stockholm. I was showing them round. I was attending a course about climate change and artist residency and just loads and loads of things all at the same time. And I knew some part of me knew, this is too much, this is crazy. No one can do this much stuff at once. But I had this pattern of just really wanting to do everything all the time, and I think it wa to kind of try and fix this feeling of disconnection and emptiness somehow. So I was really wanting to do all the things, and they were all good things. I was excited about all of them.
00:08:37 Christine: But about halfway through this period, I got the flu. And when I got the flu, I thought, "Oh, well, this was bound to happen." I was not surprised. I knew that I was going to get the flu. So I spent a week in bed, and I was actually at this course about climate change. When I was spending a week in bed, I missed all of the talks and everything, but they wrote a letter. One of the exercises was to write a letter to yourself. And I did this exercise in my bed and I wrote a letter to myself all about the lessons of the sick bed and surrender and things like that, and I just kept phoning. I knew it's crazy. I'd been sick for a week, and I was writing this letter with all these insights. Yeah. Little did I know that this was going to continue for years.
00:09:32 Christine: So following that, the flu kind of went away-ish and I went back to the UK. And I went to this artist residency, but I couldn't really... my energy never really came back. I couldn't walk that far. I could only walk for ten minutes, and then I would have to lie down to recover enough to walk back. I had to spend a lot of time resting in bed. So the other artists were having meetings, and I couldn't really join them that much, but I just thought this is the tail end of the flu. This will go away with time. And I went back to my parents house after that, and I decided that, okay, this is taking a little longer than I thought to go away, so I clearly need some more rest. So I canceled all of my summer plans, and I just stayed at my parents place, and I just rested.
00:10:24 Christine: And every day, I took a short walk outside in nature, because nature is very important to me, and I felt that it was healing. But I could not walk more than ten minutes. And no matter how much I rested, this didn't change. After ten minutes of walking, my legs would feel like they were turning to lead. I would feel like I was being sucked down into the ground. I would feel dizzy. I would get heart palpitations, and I just had to lie down. So I would lie down for half an hour or an hour, and then I would be able to walk home again.
00:11:00 Christine: And at the end of the summer, I didn't really go to any doctors because I'd actually had a similar experience in the past 15 years previously. I'd had a virus, and it had taken a while to clear up, and it had taken three months. And after three months, it went away. So I just thought, "I know what this is. It will go away in three months. I just have to rest." So I just rested for three months. And then at the end of three months, it wasn't really any better, and it was time to go back to Finland to continue my studies. And I wasn't really sick enough to not go back at this point, so I just decided to go back and just kind of carry on with my life as best I could. And I just kind of thought it would go away with time. I thought it was some kind of burnout.
00:11:47 Christine: So I went back to Finland, and suddenly I was living independently again. And it was much harder than I expected. So I was having to do all of my own cooking and laundry and grocery shopping and everything, and I found that I could only do one thing per day. So if I went to the grocery shop and did my shopping and then went home, that would be it. I would be wiped out for the rest of the day. I would not be able to do anything else that day, not even cook the food that I bought. I would just be lying in bed recovering. And then the next day I would cook the food. So I would make a big batch of food so that I didn't have to cook every day. And doing that, that would be my one thing for that day. So if I cooked, that was it. Nothing else that day. I would spend the rest of the day lying in bed. I couldn't read. I couldn't really watch TV or anything. It was just really just doing one thing per day just to survive.
00:12:24 Christine: And then there were some classes at college that I was supposed to attend, and I could really only manage to attend one class per week on a day when I had like that was my one thing for the day. So I would go there, I would attend one class, and then I would have to lie on the sofa for like an hour after the class to get enough energy to get back home again. And this went on for a while, and I thought, "It's not getting better. What's going on here?" So I went to see a doctor and the doctor said to me something like, "We all get tired. I remember when I was studying, sometimes I didn't want to do it, but I just had to get on with
it." And I just felt this huge chasm opened up in that moment between me and the doctor, between me and the entire medical profession. Because up until that moment, I guess I kind of thought, if you get sick, you go to a doctor and they help you, or at least they're sympathetic, but yeah. So anyway, shall I carry on?
00:13:53 Chazmith: Yeah. So it sounds like you kind of were on this downward spiral where the fatigue just wasn't budging. If anything, it was just kind of getting worse.
00:14:03 Christine: Yeah, it was kind of a steady rhythm. As long as I didn't do more than one thing per day, I was in this kind of… I was surviving. And I just kept thinking, I'm not sick enough to completely give everything up, and I'm still doing a few things, so I'm just going to keep going like this, and I think it will go away by itself.
00:14:25 Chazmith: But it didn't.
00:14:27 Christine: No. Well, what happened then was a course came up at my college that I really wanted to do, that I had been waiting to do for the last several years that I was so excited about doing. And it came up and I had to ask myself, I'm not really well enough to do this course, but I really, really want to have been looking forward to it for years. And I'm sure whatever's going on with my body will just go away. So I chose to enroll in the course. I asked some friends if they'd be willing to support me by helping me with some grocery shopping, some cooking and things like that. And a few friends stepped forward and did that for me so that I would have a bit more energy to put towards the course. But the course was quite an intensive schedule. It was three or four full days per week for six weeks. So it was a lot more than I have been doing up until that point. But I went for it and the first two weeks actually went fine.
00:15:29 Christine: And then something happened. My body just said no and I stopped sleeping. And all of the symptoms just ramped up a huge amount to the point where I was lying in bed. I couldn't get out of bed. I was really struggling just to get to the kitchen to get water and food. I was not attending college anymore. I didn't really know what to do. I couldn't really go anywhere, I was so weak. I called a friend of mine and she came around and she had offered to take me to have some blood tests at the doctors which had been ordered, but I couldn't get there. I walked from my flat. I tried to walk out to her car and I was holding onto the walls and sort of inching my way forwards because my whole body just felt like it was made of lead and like I was walking through treacle and I was super dizzy. And I just knew that I couldn't tolerate being in a car moving. I was nauseous and dizzy and she just helped me get back to bed in the end.
00:16:38 Christine: And then she spent the next quite a bit of time on the phone trying to get some help for me. She rang all these different lines and I just wanted something to help me sleep because I hadn't slept for a few nights and I just felt like if I can get some sleep, maybe I'll just get back to where I was. But there was no way, without me physically going somewhere, there was no way that I could get anything. So in the end, my friend was told to call an ambulance. And I felt like I didn't really want that to happen. I didn't really feel like it was a good idea, but at the same time, there was no other choice. So that's what happened.
00:17:20 Christine: So, I then spent a week in a hospital in Finland, which was a very traumatic experience, to be honest, because they were very dismissive of me when stuff didn't show up in the regular tests. And after a week, my parents came to Finland and collected me from the hospital. We spent a week in a flat belonging to a friend. It was a week of lying in the dark, just trying to recover enough to make the journey back to the UK. And then we got on a flight home. And the flight was… I was really scared about the flight. My parents had brought a wheelchair with them, so I was using a wheelchair. We used airport assistance, so we were waved through, passed all of the queues past the gates, and they used a special lift to lift me up on the wheelchair onto the plane so I didn't have to use the stairs. I was given a row of seats that were empty so that I could lie down on the plane. I was wearing my eye mask and my earphones, and that's how I got through the flight and then eventually got back to my parents place. And that was kind of goodbye to my previous life. I didn't go back to my studies until this point. I'm not saying I won't, but until now, I haven't been back. I haven't been back to Finland.
00:18:41 Chazmith: Okay, so time goes by at your parents' house, and then let's talk about now what really was the catalyst into your healing. What was the first thing that you learned about that you were like, "This is it, this is going to be a catalyst. This is going to support me, this is going to work." Where's the point where you actually start turning things around?
00:19:04 Christine: Right. So there was a whole period of trying different things. I joined a lot of online support groups, so I realized that I had ME/CFS and I joined support groups for that particular illness. And then later on, I realized I had some other stuff as well. But one thing that I came across was the story of Jennifer Brea, who made the film Unrest, and she ended up getting a particular surgery or a few surgeries, actually, to address some structural issues. And she made a lot of progress in her recovery because of that. So I was very interested in this, and I joined all of these groups to learn about that. And so, this was like the first thing, I think, that made me feel maybe this is the next. I mean, I'd been through all this thing of trying supplements and everything, and none of that helped.
00:19:57 Christine: So I was looking at this structural thing and people were sharing their scans in these groups, MRI scans of their spine and their brain and stuff. And I'm really this type of person that really does go into research overdrive. So I researched all of this stuff in the few hours a day when I had enough focus to actually read stuff and look at screens, I would be researching and learning all about this stuff. And I learnt to interpret these scans in a basic way. And all these people were sharing their scans in there.
00:20:30 Christine: And one day there was a man who was sick and he shared a scan, which was his wife's scan, actually. Not his scan and his wife was healthy. He was the sick one. And his wife had had a scan just because she was experiencing some tingling in her hands. And when this scan was shared, I was gobsmacked because what was on her scan, it looked so severe, it really looked like she was about to be internally decapitated. The bones of her skull were really cutting into her spinal cord. And when you compared that scan to all of the other scans of the people in the group who were sick, it didn't make any sense because most of the people who were sick, their scans had maybe some tiny little thing that was out of place or slightly imperfect, but really nothing dramatic. And here was this woman with a scan that looked really dramatically bad and she basically had no symptoms. She was fine apart from a little bit of tingling.
00:21:34 Christine: So I was like, "What is going on here?" And so I started to look into this a little bit and I found all these studies about spinal stuff, about disc protrusions and disc bulges. I found a study of 3000 people, between 30 and 80% of the people, these were 3000 healthy people and 30% to 80% of them, depending on age group, had disc bulges or disc protrusions and no symptoms. So I was like, "Okay, so why is it that some people can have crazy stuff going on in their body and they don't have any symptoms and then other people have something really tidy that's slightly imperfect and their body completely freaks out and they have all these massive symptoms? There's something going on here. What's the difference between these two groups of people?" And is it possible to become like the first group of people who have these kinds of resilient bodies that don't react so dramatically to things that might be going on?
00:22:41 Christine: And then the next thing that happened was it was in one of these structural groups. Somebody shared their healing story through mind-body work. So this was a woman who had very severe symptoms and actually, very severe structural issues as well. She shared her MRI and it was very, very clear on there, her issues were more severe than most people's from a visual point of view of what was going on in her physical body. And yet she had healed, like really dramatically healed through mind-body work. And I was really impressed by this. I was like, "Wow."
00:23:21 Christine: And at the same time I was looking into all of these other structural things. So I was looking into chiropractic like a cervical chiropractic. I did a little bit of that. I went to see a specialist dentist. And then lockdown happened. So I couldn't go to any in-person appointments anymore. And to be honest, in-person appointments were really difficult for me anyway because leaving the house was just like a massive ordeal. So everything was off the table because it was lockdown. And all of this stuff had come up that made me really curious about my body stuff.
00:23:21 Christine: And I'd heard about brain retraining a long time ago, but I was very skeptical of it because I'd heard all this negative stuff. I've heard, "Oh, lots of people try it. It doesn't make any difference." And I'd heard that it's like gaslighting yourself and denying your reality. And I'd heard that some people get worse because it teaches them not to listen to their body. So I was very skeptical, but I started to be open to it. So I started to do my usual thing, which was to research everything. I started to research brain retraining as thoroughly as I could without actually doing it.
00:24:37 Christine: And that was quite difficult actually, because it's quite difficult to find what the content of the programs are without actually doing them. But the more I looked, what I found was just more and more and more incredible recovery stories. And I'd heard a few recovery stories here and there from various different modalities, but nothing that I'd come across up till that point had created so many recovery stories that was so impressive, and I could not ignore that. And at that point , I was like, "Okay, look, I've got to try this. I've got to put my skepticism and my doubts and my preconceptions aside because this is working for a lot of people. And if there is a way that I can heal without going for crazy, risky, expensive surgeries and so on, then I really have to try that."
00:25:33 Christine: So I started out by buying Phil Parker's book about the lightning process. Now, I was not intending to do the lightning process because I'd heard so much negative stuff about it, to be honest. But I started with that book because it's easily available, and actually I kind of liked it. I was kind of surprised. I was expecting to not like it, and I actually quite liked it. But I felt like I needed a coach. I felt like I needed this one-on-one support. So I chose a program that involved one-on-one coaching. And at first I made a tiny bit of progress. I started to be able to tolerate a little bit more screens, a little bit more company, longer bits of TV and stuff like that. But then life threw me a curveball, I suppose.
00:26:23 Christine: What happened was a virus came into our house, and I freaked out. So I was terrified about catching COVID and I got into such a fear loop, and I did catch a virus, and I just thought, "Oh, my God, this is COVID. I'm going to get worse. Everything's going to... this is the end." And I was using the process that I'd learned from my coach when I would have these thoughts and this fear was building up in my body, this terror, like deep terror, and I would use the process, and I would kind of squash it. And I would feel calmer for half an hour, and then it would come back even stronger. The fear would come back even stronger, and I would do the process again, and I would squash it down, and I would feel calmer for a short time, and then it would come back even stronger.
00:27:20 Christine: And I got into this real spiral loop of fear, suppression of the fear. And then all of this suppression was actually ramping up my symptoms. So I had this fear of my symptoms getting worse, and the fear itself was making the symptoms worse. And I knew this was happening, but I felt powerless to stop it. The one tool that I'd been taught was not working. It was actually just making things worse. And I wrote to my coach, I said, "Help me. This is happening. What do I do?" And my coach was actually not able to help me. And at that point, I gave up. I quit. I had to stop working with that coach because their advice, they were not able to help me. And essentially, by following their advice, I had got worse.
00:28:08 Christine: And I think this is really important because I think this actually happens to quite a lot of people out there. Now, when I think back to those stories I'd heard about people who got worse following brain retraining or who tried it, that didn't work for them, I feel like I have an understanding of why that is now. But my darkest time happened then. It happened after I started brain retraining. So I started brain retraining, I got worse, and that led to my darkest time when I really couldn't tolerate almost anything. I could barely get to the bathroom. I was thinking about death a lot. I was so terrified. So that was the beginning of my brain retraining journey.
00:28:53 Chazmith: Then you also got a very severe sickness again, that really sent you into another fear loop.
00:28:59 Christine: So basically, I had to take a break because I was getting worse. And I could see that. But by this point, I had enough faith in the concept. I understood the concept, and I heard so many amazing recovery stories that I did think that it could still work for me even though this was going on for me.
00:29:19 Chazmith: Just not then, just not at that time.
00:29:22 Christine: Well, what I realized was that there's just something missing. There's something that I don't know, there's a piece missing because I know that this can work. But the precise way that I've been shown to do it is not working right now. There's some detail that is missing or some subtle thing that I don't understand that this particular coach doesn't understand or isn't able to communicate with me or whatever.
00:29:50 Chazmith: Yeah, that makes sense.
00:29:52 Christine: So what I did then was I took a break from brain retraining because I had to, because. I was so depleted, and I gradually started to get a little bit of resilience back. And then I emailed a few other coaches. So I just thought, "Okay, I just have to find a different coach. I have to find the right coach for me, this coach was just not the right coach for me." And that coach has helped a lot of other people, but they just weren't the right coach for me.
00:30:18 Chazmith: Yeah, different personalities work with different people, in different situations.
00:30:23 Christine: And different approaches as well.
00:30:25 Chazmith: Yeah. Yeah.
00:30:26 Christine: So I emailed a couple of coaches and I said this has happened to me. What do you suggest? And some of them gave me responses that were very similar to my first coach. So I thought, okay, they aren't the right coach for me either. And one coach got back to me with a response that just really resonated with me. And what she said was, "You don't want to squash your emotions. You want to allow them, feel them, process them, allow them to be there, just be with them. And often they will metabolize on their own when you do that." And that resonated with me so much because I had been using the process to squash my emotions. I had been doing the exact opposite of allowing my emotions. My emotions were evil to me. The fear was evil, and I was going to conquer it and get rid of it. But it turns out that that was not what I needed.
00:31:23 Christine: And later through my journey, that my journey... I would say my journey of healing, of transformation, really began with my second coach. And from that time on, I made steady progress. From the time when I started working with her, and she guided me to really connect with my body, I have been very disconnected with my body my entire life. And my emotions, I suppressed my emotions my entire life. I did not cry for about 20 years at all. I had to kind of teach myself to cry again. But over this journey, I came up with a kind of four layer model of healing that is what makes sense to me.
00:32:04 Christine: So I started to think about these four layers, and layer one is the mind, and that layer is working with thoughts, beliefs, and that is what my first coach was very focused on and what a lot of brain retraining programs are very focused on. And that is a really important layer. But for me, and for many others also, it's not enough on its own. So layer two for me is the body. And that's just about dropping into the body, learning to reconnect with your body. And actually, I would love to read a short extract of a poem right now, if that's okay.
00:32:40 Chazmith: Of course.
00:32:40 Christine: So this is just an extract from a poem called 'Please Come Home' by Jane Cooper. "Please come home, please come home into your own body, your own vessel, your own Earth, please come home into each and every cell and fully into the space that surrounds you." I'm not going to read more of the poem because there could be copyright issues, but hopefully that conveys something of what I'm talking about when I talk about the layer of the body.
00:33:11 Christine: So layer three for me is the emotions, and it's really just allowing the emotions to be there. And often people get confused about this, and they think that means allowing the thoughts of the emotions. But really, we want to stay out of the story of the thoughts and just connect to the feeling of what is really present right now. The feeling of your angry, the feeling of the fire in your chest, or the feeling of the tension in your fists, or however it feels really getting present with that feeling in your body and not worrying about the thoughts or the story or this shouldn't have happened, or that shouldn't happen. We are redirecting our attention away from thoughts and into the physical sensations of the emotion and allowing that emotion to flow through us as energy and be released. And that was very powerful for me.
00:34:04 Christine: And Jeff Foster. I follow Jeff Foster. He has a lot of wisdom about this kind of thing. And one thing he says that really resonated with me is your emotions, your shame, your fear, your anger, your doubt, they don't come to you to be healed. They come to be held. So held, not healed. So that was yeah, I love that quote. And that's something that I still try and practice.
00:34:33 Christine: And then the fourth layer that I like to think of is spirit and spirituality. And I just want to say that spirituality is about connection. And a lot of people might hear this and they might think I'm not a spiritual person, I'm an atheist, whatever. For me, spirituality is about connection, either to something greater or to something within yourself. So something greater could be like a divine power, or it could be the universe, it could be nature, it could be the Earth, it could be humanity, it could be love, life, something within yourself. You could think of it as like the version of you that is love, compassion, peace, trust. I believe that version of us is within all of us and just waiting for us to connect with it.
00:35:28 Christine: And spirituality, for me, is about intentionally practicing , connecting. Connecting with that part of you or with that greater thing, however you like to phrase it. Whatever works for you. Cultivating trust in that, and it's something that you practice over time. Spirituality is made up of beliefs and practices, and a lot of people focus on the beliefs part, but actually, I think the practices in some way is more important. And having a spiritual practice, almost anything can be a spiritual practice, right? So it could be like meditation, but it could also be dancing, sewing, writing, singing, spending time in nature, it could even be washing the dishes. Anything where you are fully present and where you are connecting to that inner self that is love and peace and allowing that to flow through you, or connecting to the idea of something greater if that works for you. Anything where you do that, that is a spiritual practice.
00:36:33 Christine: And this sense of connection, I think that when you look at people who have recovered, not all of them are going to talk about their journey in a spiritual… using that word spiritual, but I'm pretty sure that all of them would talk about connection in some sense. So that's just what that means to me. And I do have a little extract of a poem as well for this, if that would be okay.
00:36:57 Chazmith: Of course, yeah.
00:36:58 Christine: So I just want to mention this poem by Martha Pasolethwaite called Clearing. It's a really beautiful poem, it's short, but again, I won't read the whole thing. I'll just give a brief part of it. She talks about making a clearing in the dense forest of your life and waiting there patiently until the song that is your life falls into your own cupped hands. So for me, that's what spirituality is about. It's about making a clearing in your life and waiting until you meet yourself, your life there.
00:37:39 Chazmith: I love that.
00:37:41 Christine: Yeah. So around the same time that I had started working with my coach, I had come across the teachings of a man called Bruno Gröning who had lived in Germany in the '50s. And the way that I'd come across this was that a friend my mum had sent her a leaflet in the post. And my mom had given me this leaflet and I looked at the leaflet and it said help and healing on the spiritual path. And it said all this stuff about spiritual healings and like miracle healings. And I looked at it and I was like, "No, that's too wacky for me. That is not for me." So I put it aside and I kind of forgot about it. And that was actually a long time earlier.
00:38:22 Christine: But then when I reached this real point of desperation, when I had tried brain retraining with my first coach and gotten worse, I was so desperate that I was like, "Okay, bring me the leaflet with the crazy spiritual stuff. I don't care anymore, I will do anything. Bring me the crazy stuff." So I learned about the teachings of this guy, Bruno Gröning, and I learned that they were actually very similar to brain retraining. And when I learned this, I became much more open to it and much more interested because it made sense to me.
00:38:58 Christine: So he basically taught that there are kinds of loving, healing energy that we can all tap into at any time that is basically life itself. It's flowing through all of nature and it's flowing through us. But he also said that there's an opposite force that is a negative force that is destructive, and this other force is the root of all negativity, evil, illness. And that we have a choice about which of these forces we want to cultivate in our lives, in our bodies, through the thoughts that we choose. So he put a lot of emphasis on thought and the importance of thought, the importance of welcoming positive and loving and good thoughts and rejecting unhelpful thoughts. And he also taught this practice to actively take in the loving, healing energy, which is actually very similar to for anyone who does DNRs, the final step in the rounds, where you invite in this loving energy and you imagine it pouring down through you. It's very similar to that. You connect with this loving energy and you just sit in it.
00:40:07 Christine: So I was working with my coach and she was guiding me, and I was basically trying to follow these teachings as best I could, and through brain retraining and through everything that I was doing. And then after about eleven months of coaching, I had made some significant progress, but I was still very limited. I still couldn't go out without a wheelchair. I could walk around the house now, I could sit up more, but I still had to rest a lot. I still couldn't really go out anywhere, I still had a lot of limits. And then I heard about this conference that was happening. It was a conference all about Bruno Gröning and his teachings. And conferences had not been happening for a while because of the lockdowns, but this one was happening. And I just felt in my body this strong, yes, I am meant to go to this conference. This is what I'm meant to do.
00:40:59 Christine: And on the face of it, I could have like how could I get there? Traveling was very, very difficult for me. The conference was basically sitting in a hall for 8 hours a day, listening to someone speak. Well, I couldn't even sit in the same room as someone for more than 2 hours. I couldn't really sit up for more than half an hour. I could sit up more than when I first started my journey. I couldn't sit up at all. And now I could sit up for like half an hour. But how could I attend a conference that was doing all this? I was also eating a low histamine diet at that time, and there wouldn't be any special food available at this conference. But I just had this really strong feeling in my body, yes, I am supposed to do this. And I just trusted that.
00:41:43 Christine: So I went with my parents to the conference. I went lying down in the back of the car. When we got there, I rested. They pushed me in my wheelchair into the conference. I had a reclining wheelchair, so I could lean it back if I needed to. And that first evening, I experienced very intense sensations in my body. Very strong pain, heart palpitations, breathlessness, sweating, shaking, dizziness, all of that. But I somehow knew that it was part of my healing.
00:42:16 Christine: One of the things he taught was that sometimes when you experience the healing, you can experience heightened symptoms. As part of that, he called it regulation. So I was like, "This is just regulation. This is part of my healing." And part of me wanted to go and lie in bed for sure. But there was another voice inside me that was saying, "Stay, stay with it, stay with it." And I just stayed with it. I stayed with it. And 2 hours passed. And at the end of the 2 hours, the meeting finished. And I suddenly had more energy than I'd had in years. I suddenly had energy to join in the choir practice that was happening. And throughout the weekend conference, things just like radical things were shifting in my body.
00:43:00 Christine: The second day of the conference, I sat through 8 hours of the conference, which absolutely would have been unheard of for me before that. I stopped using the wheelchair. I just said to myself, "I'm just going to try walking." I got this thought like, "I'm supposed to walk now. I'm not supposed to use the wheelchair anymore." So I walked from my room to the conference hall. That was the first time I'd walked. It was 100 meters. That was the first time I'd walked more than about 15 meters in four years. And then there was this beautiful conference, was in a house with beautiful grounds. I just got the thought I'm supposed to go outside. So I got up, I left the conference hall, I walked to the door and I walked outside. And it was further than I expected. So there was a little bit of anxiety like, "Oh, can I do this?" I was on my own. This was the first time I walked anywhere on my own without someone with me, without a wheelchair. I just went outside by myself. And it was a beautiful day. There was beautiful nature. There were these majestic, ancient trees. There was birdsong, it was spring, there was a blue sky and sunshine. And I felt so joyful. I just was ecstatic that this was happening.
00:44:13 Christine: And the next morning, I went on my first walk outside by myself, and there were these trees there. I was going up to the trees and touching the trees, and I was laughing and grinning. I just couldn't believe how wonderful it all was, how wonderful the world was, how incredible it was to be back outside, to be able to go and touch a tree. I hadn't done that in four years.
00:44:38 Christine: And at the end of the conference, we got in the car, my parents and I, and we put the wheelchair in the car. And I just knew, I don't need that anymore. That's not my wheelchair anymore. I'm not using that anymore. We drove home. We stopped at a service station to get some food and coffee and stuff. My parents parked a little bit far away from the service station, and I said, "You're really testing me by parking over here." And my mom said, "Do you want the wheelchair?" And I said, "No, I don't want the wheelchair."
00:45:11 Christine: And, you know, this was not coming from any kind of denial or pushing myself. This was coming from a deep inner knowing that I did not need that anymore. And if there's really one thing I want to stress in my journey, it's really about this connection that I had cultivated with my own inner guidance. And all of these things that were happening were all coming from that. The idea that I should go out for the walk, the idea that I should leave behind the wheelchair, the idea that I should even go to the conference, all of them were inspiration that came from my body, not from my mind, from this deep place of inner knowing that was in my body.
00:45:56 Christine: And when we got home from the conference the next morning, I got up, and I felt kind of where I woke up, I felt a bit disorientated. I was like, "What just happened?" And I didn't really know what to do with myself. So I said to myself, "What would a healthy person do?" Because I'm a healthy person now. And I thought a healthy person would go to the kitchen and get breakfast. So I got up, I went to the kitchen, and I got my own breakfast for the first time in four years. And then after that, I thought, "What would a healthy person do now?" I thought a healthy person would have a shower. So I went and I got in the shower, and I had a shower by myself for the first time in four years. I did not use my shower stool. I washed my own hair. These were all firsts for me. The shower was enjoyable. It was not a torture.
00:46:44 Christine: And then I thought, "What would a healthy person do now?" A healthy person would get dressed. So I opened my wardrobe, and I looked at the clothes in there, and there were all these clothes that I had not worn in years because I'd only worn pajamas and loungewear. And so I picked out a pretty dress that made me feel happy. And I was like, "Yes, a healthy person would wear this dress." So I put that dress on, and then I said a healthy person would go out for a walk. So I got out my hiking boots that were thick with dust. I put them on, and I went out into the field behind my parents house. And I was just so filled with joy. I can't describe the feeling of wonder and presence at the glory of nature.
00:47:34 Christine: And in the coming weeks, I started to explore more and more the area around, because my parents and I had moved to this area while I'd been ill. So I was in this area that I didn't actually know at all. And so now, years later, I was getting to actually explore it and just meeting all of these beings, all of the trees, all of the plants, all of the birds. The river, there's a river near their house. And it was every day brought new bursts, new moments of wonder and glory. It was just such a special time. And that feeling of wonder is something that I really strive to hold onto and I want to share with others as well. And from that time on, I've been really doing my best to follow my inner guidance. And I really feel that it's like a breadcrumb trail. You don't need to know where you're heading, you only need to take the next breadcrumb, the next step.
00:48:40 Christine: And so soon after that, I heard about this retreat called Listening to the Earth. It was all about connecting with the divine, if you like connecting with something greater through nature. I attended this retreat. It was the first time I'd gone away by myself in years, anywhere. And it was so profound and magical. And I felt like this is something... I meant to do something like this with my life. I meant to do something about this. I meant to do something that helps people reconnect back to this, back to nature, back to their true selves.
00:49:15 Christine: I came back from the retreat and there was a discussion group that I was part of through the DNRs. WhatsApp groups, like a rewiring discussion group. And they have a different theme every week. And it just happened that that week when I came back from that retreat, the discussion was about forest bathing. And I didn't know what forest bathing was. It turns out that forest bathing is exactly what I had been doing. So it's about being mindful in nature, taking in the glory and the wonder of nature. And so after that discussion group, I was like, "Wow, forest bathing. This is a thing that I'm supposed to train in. I'm sure that this is part of my purpose."
00:49:54 Christine: And then as life went forward, I felt more and more breadcrumbs laid out for me. I was doing all this journaling about my life purpose, and I came up with this idea that I'm supposed to guide people to reconnect, and there are different ways that I can do that, and I hope to do that. And forest bathing is one and music as one, and coaching is one as well. So I started to think, "I'm supposed to be a coach, I'm supposed to help guide people with this stuff." And so I started looking for a coach training. And first I was looking very much from a head perspective, I was looking how much does this program cost? What do they teach you? Does it include this? Does it include that? But nothing really felt right.
00:50:39 Christine: And then one day, I was scrolling on Instagram, and I saw an ad for a five-week challenge called BS to Bliss was run by a woman called Dr. Sarah Madigan. And I can't really explain why, but something about this ad just grabbed me, and I felt this intuitive nudge in my body saying I'm supposed to do this. I'm supposed to sign up for this challenge. So I signed up for it without really knowing what it was. It was five days of online teaching on Zoom, and it really blew me away. It was absolutely incredible. Even though I'd done a lot of personal development work by that time. It was phenomenal.
00:51:18 Christine: And then at a certain point, the woman, Sarah Madigan, mentioned that she runs a coach training program. And when I heard that, I felt another yes in my body like this is the coach training that I meant to do. This is what I'm supposed to do. So I looked into it, and it was actually really expensive. So I hadn't been able to work for years, so I couldn't afford that, and I couldn't get a loan. So I was thinking, "Okay, so what do I do?" And I had this idea come to me about crowdfunding, and I was like, "Really? Crowdfunding? Oh, no." That's like asking people for money. That's really awkward and uncomfortable. I thought I'll just ask my parents. Ask my parents if they will lend me the money.
00:52:05 Christine: So I asked my parents, and they said no. They said we don't want to support this because we don't feel it's a good choice for you. We don't think this is a wise career choice. And at that moment, I had a choice of whether to take on board someone else's perception, someone else's opinion, someone else's disapproval, or do I really honor my inner guidance? My inner guidance that has got me this far. Following my guidance, it's had some really good results up until this point. Let's put it like that. It's completely transformed my life. So am I going to stop listening to that now just because of money and someone else's disapproval?
00:52:54 Christine: And so I made this decision to launch a crowdfunding campaign to fund the training program that I believe that I am meant to do, even though it is quite expensive. It's more expensive than other training programs because I cannot ignore that guidance anymore. I cannot ignore that part of me. I am done ignoring that part of me. Yeah. And that's where I'm up to today.
00:53:23 Chazmith: I love that so much, because that's part of the journey, right, is learning how to tap into that inner guidance. Because when you look back and you talk about your story before the perfect storm, I mean, so many of us, in hindsight, can look back and see that we were disconnected, that we weren't following that inner feeling, that inner voice, that inner guide. And so I love how you're being so bold and so committed to staying true to what feels authentic and real for you. I think that's truly going to be the golden ticket for you to continue to just continue to heal deeper and deeper layers and to thrive.
00:54:04 Christine: Yeah, absolutely. And that's what I've come to believe as well. And I did not believe that at the start of my journey. So it really has been a journey to get here. It's not like I had this in a guidance right from the beginning. I had to do all this work in order to kind of unlock it.
00:54:21 Chazmith: Right, exactly. It sounds like wow, it seems like you were on this kind of slow progression of healing. Like you said, you started brain retraining, you had some really good results, but then you got sick, cut that coach out of the picture and eventually sought out a new coach and then had progress. But it really sounds like things really transpired after that conference with Bruno.
00:54:49 Christine: Yeah, absolutely. And I want to stress that the Bruno Gröning thing, that specific thing is not going to be for everyone.
00:54:59 Chazmith: Right.
00:54:59 Christine: But it's really this thing about following your inner guidance. And I was guided to attend that conference and that experience, that was really the first time that I had the experience of feeling this strong yes in my body to something.
00:55:14 Chazmith: I'm a really firm believer that, and again, I love how you said you didn't always have access, in a sense to this inner guidance, how it kind of unlocked as you were on this journey. I am a huge believer when we do have that inner guidance to say yes to ourselves. I think that when we do that... I don't know how else to say this, but I guess we're rewarded. I truly believe I tell my friend this all the time like, "Listen, if you say yes to that inner voice, that inner guide, I honestly trust that the universe will provide for us." And I love how you said, you don't need to know how it's all going to turn out. Just follow that next breadcrumb. Because I think that when we're really, finally tapped into that voice and we're actually honoring that truth, I just very much trust that if I can constantly honor that truth, even if it doesn't make sense, and even if I don't know all the how the universe is going to provide me for staying in that truth.
00:56:16 Christine: Absolutely. Yeah. This is something that we are going to be challenged on as well all the time. Right now, I'm running this crowdfunding campaign and honestly, I feel like I'm being challenged in this every single day. But, yeah, it's finding that trust. I do feel that I'm meant to do this. I do feel that I'm being guided to do this and just taking the next step, taking the next action and surrendering.
00:56:49 Chazmith: Yeah, absolutely. And I do think you're right. We do get tested. I don't know if you've had this experience, but I learned this from a mentor a long time ago, and it makes so much sense to me now. But I feel like sometimes when we get so clear about what we are intended to do and we know with every cell in our body and we finally say make that definitive decision to commit, I feel like we always get this test like the universe throws this curveball where are you sure? Are you sure you're committed? Because look at this little path over here to be the easy way out. Does this look so easy? And it's when you're like, "No, I know where that path leads me. It's not in my truth." And when you stay true in those moments, I feel like you're passing that test. That's kind of how I've experienced this interaction.
00:57:40 Christine: Absolutely. And I actually feel like this is, in some way, the meaning of life. I feel like our task in life is to follow our path and to be tested and to come through those tests or not. If one time you don't come through a test and you make a wrong decision, it's not the end of the world. There's always more chances to come back to your true path. So it's not like, "Oh, that was the only chance, and now it's gone," I don't, right ? Yeah.
00:58:12 Chazmith: We don't want to get into that mindset, because then we start beating ourselves up thinking we ruined everything. You get into that fear of making a decision because it could be the quote unquote wrong one.
00:58:23 Christine: I did that so much.
00:58:25 Chazmith: I think a lot of people do when they find themselves in the chronic illness or pain community, for sure. Just out of curiosity for a timeline, when did you go to that conference? Because I remember you sharing it, but I can't quite pinpoint when you actually went.
00:58:42 Christine: That was in April 2022, so yeah, April.
00:58:47 Chazmith: Not even a year. Not even a year, yeah. And you've just been on an upward spiral since then of what you are capable of doing.
00:58:54 Christine: And then September, I went on this hiking week that was actually organized by the same Bruno Gröning group, and it was in Ireland. And I just felt like this, going on a hiking week is the next appropriate challenge for me. It's the next thing that I meant to do to challenge my body. So I've been doing a lot of work on rehabbing my body. I had a lot of work to do on building up my muscles. And your class is great, by the way, Chaz. And I was doing a lot of physical therapy exercises and muscle stuff and doing some dancing and doing your classes and going for walks. And then I was like, "Okay, I think I'm ready for this hiking week."
00:59:39 Christine: And I went there and it wasn't all super easy. There were some challenges, but I had forced to use and I was able to overcome all the challenges. There was one day when I was on a hike, and I just started to feel this heaviness and feel like, "Oh, I don't think I can do this." And it was pouring with rain, and I just felt miserable, and I'm not sure if I can do this. And then the group, I told the group I'm having some challenges, and we stopped and we all did a little meditation together, and then we all said some affirmations together, "I am strong. I am powerful. I can do this." And we set off again, and I was fine after that. I did the whole hike.
01:00:24 Christine: And not only that, but the next day was when I climbed this actual mountain. And I was like, "I don't want to leave this hiking wheat without climbing at least one proper mountain." So I did that, and I had no problems at all with climbing the mountain. It was easy. It was joyful. And when I was doing all of my visualizations, standing on a mountain was a big one. I would do a lot. And it came true on that day, and I was just like, "Yes!"
01:00:53 Chazmith: I bet it was the best feeling in the world. It sounds to you like after the Bruno conference experience, I love how you brought up the word wonder . I really connect with that state. I never want to lose my sense of wonder. I never want to be less than wowed by everything around me, especially in nature and mesmerized. But what really sounds like I feel that because you are having all these first and these new experiences, once you were able to get out of bed again and get outside, it sounds like you were in this. So elevated state. Just this constant elevated state where all these experiences were adding joy and more mood elevation to the point that you didn't need to lay in bed anymore and do the visualizations in the same way, because you were actually living them.
01:01:47 Christine: Absolutely. So right after conference, I stopped doing visualizations, and I didn't do them for like, six months after that at all.
01:01:55 Chazmith: Yeah, because you were just having the experiences. And I think that's a huge thing, too, because that's why everyone says, part of healing is to create joy and say yes to things in life. And obviously, based on whatever conditions we're dealing with, we can be limited, but anytime we can start adding those opportunities back into our life in any capacity, that's where we actually really get to create those state changes. And we know that that in and of itself does have healing capacity.
01:02:24 Christine: Yeah. And also, I would say that the state I was in was very, very present. That's what it is, really. I was going out into nature and looking at a tree. I was 100% present with that tree, with the wonder of that tree, the miracle of that tree. And that's really what enabled me to access this wonder and yeah, peace and joy and everything because I was so present. And it is hard on to that when we go back into a more normal life. Like now, when I go out into nature, it's not the first time anymore, you know, and it's easy to lose that.
01:03:09 Christine: And only yesterday, I was out for a walk and I noticed myself not being very present, being distracted, being lost in thought and I brought myself back and I said, "Hey, remember that time when you hadn't seen a tree for four years and how amazing all of this was to you?" Just bring back that feeling. Just imagine that this is the first time again, imagine that this is... again, your first time of seeing trees and how incredible they are. And I started to really look again and bring myself back to the present.
01:03:42 Chazmith: Yeah, that's so important and that's what I was totally going to say. It's like when we're so used to being out and about in life, we can so quickly lose that wonder because it just becomes all so normal and it's almost in the background. But to go from having something like that taken away from you and then to have it back, it just creates this incredible appreciation and an entirely new capacity.
01:04:08 Christine: Yeah. And it really is work to hang on to it, but it's very worthwhile work.
01:04:14 Chazmith: Yeah, exactly. It's an awareness that we have to practice and flex that muscle over and over again for sure.
01:04:22 Christine: Yeah.
01:04:22 Chazmith: So what a beautiful story. Yeah, the story about the conference and the transformational healing that you had after that conference, that was the story that you shared with me and a couple of other beautiful souls that were in the movement classes. And it just... wow, that left the chills, the goose thumbs all over my body. And that was so exciting to hear and witness for you and to also have been a witness and see where you started when you first joined the classes, to then hike a mountain, that's just amazing.
01:04:53 Chazmith: I'm so happy for you and I'm really proud of you for standing in your truth even when it feels hard because it will absolutely lead you into flourishing and beautiful opportunities ahead. So thank you for doing that and thank you for taking this hard journey that you've been on and turning it into something beautiful and into an opportunity to then support and help other people along their way.
01:05:21 Christine: Oh, thank you so much.
01:05:24 Chazmith: I will be leaving some links in the show notes for people to contact you or reach out to you or connect with you or support you and yeah, I'll definitely get some links from you too regarding the few names you've mentioned and the poets and that good stuff as well. I want to ask you one last question that I ask everybody. I'm sure you already know what's coming. If you were told today that you could only share one message with the world for the rest of your life, what would that one message be?
01:05:55 Christine: There is inside you a version of you that is connected, that is free, that is wild, that is love and peace and trust and compassion. And this is your true self. And they are asking for your trust. And they are laying the breadcrumbs in front of you. They are speaking to you in a still, small voice and asking you just to take that next step. And it's not about thinking. It's about dropping beneath thinking to access this part of you that is guiding you.
01:06:35 Christine: And if you can't believe that this is within you, if you can't experience that will connect with that, that was me, too. If you feel so disconnected and confused, that's okay, too. Just do one practice that makes you feel good. Take one next step. Pick one practitioner to work with that feels good to you. Because if you can practice tuning into this, even just through the one next practice that you do, this breadcrumb trail at the end of it is not only healing, but fulfillment and the life that you are meant to live.
01:07:16 Chazmith: Wonderful. Thank you. Thank you so much for choosing to share your story in a public way for your first time on the podcast.
01:07:25 Christine: Thank you so much.
01:07:27 Chazmith: Of course. And I can't wait to see how it all continues to unfold, Christine.
01:07:30 Christine: Yeah. Me, too.
01:07:35 Chazmith: All right, friends, thank you so much for tuning in today. If nothing else, I hope today's episode has increased your faith in your capacity to heal, too. If you find value in this podcast, please consider supporting future episodes for as little as $1 a month. There's a link in the show notes and huge shout out to my continued supporters. Also, if you haven't left a five star review, do that this week and then be on the lookout for your review to be read on next week's episode, as I will choose one to share out loud. And don't forget to tune in for week three of the Mini Challenge series on Friday. And until next time, make this week great.
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