THE YEAR I UN-BRAINWASHED MYSELF

After a lifetime of swallowing the societal pills of so-called security, 2017 was the year Sushma Sagar officially “un-brainwashed” herself and began living straight from her radical core …

Sushma starts to see the light

It was pretty much drilled into my generation that the path to success and happiness was getting a secure job, getting married, and having kids. For a long time, it didn’t even occur to me that there was an alternative way to live. But when I found myself coming out of the spiritual closet in my corporate career, it started a chain reaction that led to me starting a full-time healing business last year.

And beyond my working life, reassessing my professional priorities also found me re-thinking my personal goals. Did I need to be married with a family to be happy? Did the people “in charge” know what was best for me? Do I want to be motivated by fear, as at seems some of our leaders would prefer? What do I actually think, need, dream of, once familial, societal and social conditioning is removed?

Seeking to learn the answers made 2017 the year I officially un-brainwashed myself … 

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I began to think about the karmic consequences of our decisions … 

I attended a private girl’s school in the 80s, whose mission was to prepare their students to be strong independent females who would make it in a man’s world. We were educated to be career motivated, and highly successful, be it in law, finance, medicine etc. As I was a daughter in a high achieving Indian family, it was an ethos that was also echoed at home.

It was a challenge for somebody creative like me, as I didn’t see where I “fit” into this model. And anyone who didn’t fit was very much on their own. 

I found a way to smooth the edges of my artistic leanings, studying textiles instead of dance and fine art, for example. Then working in marketing instead of designing. My need for approval and acceptance was so strong, that I gradually convinced myself to become someone else entirely. Eventually, I forgot who I was underneath.

For years, I remained blissfully ignorant. But in 2016, with the country divide on Brexit, I was galvanised to think about politics and how it affected our everyday lives. I began to think about the karmic consequences of our decisions. I began questioning what I was being told in the media. I became aware of a world order at play, and found myself dismayed by the lies and corruption being unveiled.

This “awakening” spilled into my own life, as I began questioning if I was living my truth. Was I living with integrity for myself? 

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I felt the very fabric of my existence unravelling … 

Our education system drills us to follow those in charge, and not question authority. But when it becomes clear that those who lead us often don’t have the answers themselves, it’s like realizing that your parents are only humans after all. A sign of maturity, that brings with it the freedom and the duty of taking responsibility for your own choices.

At times this transition felt good, my creative juices started flowing after so many years of being frozen. But at other times it was disorientating and extremely uncomfortable. The eggs had been broken, but the omelette wasn’t quite coming together yet—as I felt the very fabric of my existence unravelling.  

The biggest belief to crumble, was do with identity and purpose, and my definition of “success.”

If I’m not a superwoman in a highflying career, married with four adorable children, then who am I? What am I? Why am I here? What will my legacy be? My self-worth was tied up with a traditional viewpoint, but I felt alienated from the values I’d grown up with. It was on me to rewrite a definition of success that felt congruent with my inner knowing. 

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There were two milestones along the way … 

In 2012 I fell head over heels for someone who was everything I ever dreamed of. Handsome, intelligent, devastatingly charming. Finally marriage, children, and the life I hoped for seemed to be rolling out just like in the story books. Then after a close death in the family, the relationship deteriorated, and I fell into a grief spiral. The dream plan went awry. 

A few years later, I found myself working as a resident healer at the Obonjan festival, doing intensive healing sessions in a pine forest. During one session, I had an incredible spiritual experience where, among other things, the trees began communicating with me. It broke me down and I found myself weeping tears of joy. Life suddenly felt very different, and I was aware of my soul evolving. I had tasted something profound that my current existence had not been giving me. I suddenly understood that success to me involved service and connection.

I have continued with this very deep, personal healing work. Shamanism, sound healing, meditations, acupuncture, family constellations, womb work, goddess work, inner child … you name it, I’ve done it! The need to connect with Spirit became all consuming, leading me to live a higher vibrational lifestyle. 

I became very sensitive to the things that affected my connection, such as meat and alcohol, and naturally reduced them. Of course, my own reiki practice has supported me from the beginning, and I’ve used this to navigate life and heal.

I’m lucky in that my family and friends have always been supportive of my healing work, in spite of them never fully understanding what I do. However, the more work I do on myself, the more I am able to understand what makes us all tick, and the more my relationships with others have improved.

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How to undertake your own “un-brainwashing” … 

In order to unlearn deeply ingrained patters, I believe you have to:

1// Examine your beliefs. 
Identify and becomes aware of your beliefs about key areas of life. For example: self, love, sex, family, religion, faith, society, culture, right and wrong, how life and the universe actually work etc.

Then go back and consider how you learned that belief, where it originated from. Was it from a teacher at school, or a family member for example?

Now ask yourself: if that origin were removed, and there was no judgement from anywhere, would you still feel the same way? Consider whether the belief makes you feel happy or obligated. 

Physical sensations will often occur when an idea resonates with you: goosebumps, chills or even a prickly feeling. Your body knows what is true for you and what is not, so look for the signs. How do different concepts, and beliefs about how to live your life, make you feel?

For example, after the breakdown of my relationship, I realized that part of my grief was to do with the loss of a life path I thought I wanted. I had blindly trusted that I needed to be married with children to be happy. However, under deep scrutiny, I realized this idea originated from my culture and society in general, and I hadn’t really thought about my needs as an individual and a healer.

I concluded that being a parent might bring satisfaction, but may not actually make me “happier.” Besides, wallowing in mother-fomo was bringing me down. So I determined that it wasn’t going to be a deal-breaker and have felt a lot better since.

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2// Find new teachers.  
Trying to unlearn everything, pick it all apart and work out who I was under all the conditioning, has been incredibly challenging. Listening to teachers, in particular Shaman Durek, has helped and continues to help me navigate this process.

However, my biggest teachers have actually been my personal spirit guides, accessed through deep Shamanic work. I learn and continue to learn more from them more than anyone else, and they have helped me to discern what “I” think and want.

Finding your teachers is about using your intuition. Ask around for recommendations, Google subjects of interest, and see what authors you’re attracted to. Be guided by synchronicity. Whose face, voice and attitude resonates with you, or charges you up? Find people who challenge your status quo and make you think twice. 

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3// Honor your natural talents.
You were given your talents for a reason, and it’s your duty to nurture them—and, when you have mastered them, to share them with others. In the sentiment of Oprah Winfrey, speaking and living your truth is the most important thing you can do!

I launched my own healing brand, The Calmery, so that I could create something in my own vision, and not be answerable to anyone, but I’m still sometimes plagued with a “be nice, be liked, head down” corporate hangover.

There is certainly more work for me to do, to be living in my full wattage power. But my un-brainwashing is well underway, and I’ll get there soon enough.

 

Sushma Sagar is a former global fashion brand director turned Reiki Master Teacher, and is the founder of London based healing practice The Calmery. She offers private reiki sessions, tuition, and workshops by appointment. Join her for Reiki Level One Training on Sunday, February 18th in London. 

WHY YOU NEED TO DISCOVER YOUR “IKIGAI”

Want to discover exactly why you are here and what you’re here to do? The Japanese art of “Ikigai” can lead you closer to your soul purpose, says Sushma SagarMain Image: Samantha Wills Foundation 

Why are you here? What is your reason for being? This is THE critical question of human existence and many of us spend our whole lives seeking to address …  

The simple Japanese concept of soul purpose, or “Ikigai,” is designed to help you begin to uncover the answers by exploring the intersection between what you can be paid to do, what you love to do, what the world needs, and what you are truly good at.

All it takes is a pen, some paper, and a sprinkle of curiosity … 

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:: THE FOUR CIRCLES :: 

Draw a venn diagram with four empty circles that intersect in the middle, one for each of the elements below, and write your thoughts in the corresponding section.

CIRCLE 1 – PROFESSION 
Inside this circle ask yourself: What are you doing that pays the bills and are there any parts of your job that you particularly enjoy?

Your profession is what you are paid to do. It could be something you always wanted to do, or something that you were encouraged to do. It may have evolved from a subject you studied. Or perhaps you just fell into it.

You may be one of the lucky ones who loves their job, but if you still feel like something is lacking, you’re not alone! I began my studies in textile design but ended up in fashion brand marketing because textile design opportunities were scarce. While marketing kept me in the industry I loved, it always felt like a compromise …

Photo: Garrhet Sampson

CIRCLE 2 – PASSION 
Inside this circle ask yourself: When do you feel you are totally in the “zone” and time stands still? Are there any activities that you become so engrossed in that mean you don’t reach for your phone? 

Your passion is the thing you love, regardless of whether or not it has a commercial end. Passions excite us. They make us feel whole and consume our attention. Perhaps it’s something you used to do as a child but let fall by the wayside. As a child, I was obsessed with art and legos, and had a very specific vision for “weird” color combinations. Sadly, as my corporate life continued, these creative outlets eroded. Returning to our former hobbies can often shed light on our true passions.

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CIRCLE 3  – MISSION 
Inside this circle, ask yourself: How do you want to be remembered? What do you feel is your duty to the earth or mankind? What do you want to contribute to the world?

Your mission may feel more serious and involves the legacy you want to leave that inspires you to act. A mission doesn’t have to mean becoming a peace envoy or starting a charity! It could be that your mission is as simple as caring for your own family and friends. As a sensitive and quiet child growing up in a loud Indian household, I often took on the role of the diplomat. As an adult, I continue to strive to keep things peaceful and this mission has become the backbone of the healing work I have gone on to do since leaving my corporate career behind.

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CIRCLE 4 – VOCATION 
Inside this circle ask yourself : What aspect of your life, or things that you do, will be there no matter what? What thoughts or actions will you never tire of? What activity would you get metaphorically tattooed on your skin? 

Your vocation is a calling—something that you feel deeply compelled to do AND are suited for, and it’s often connected to your mission. Maybe you can get paid to do it, but money is not your motivation. Your vocation is not a fad. It is not something you try and then leave. It is something that is deeply embedded in your sense of self. It’s a bit like that favorite jacket you’ve had for years and you will always wear because it really suits you.

When I discovered that energy healing was my vocation, it felt like a soul calling—a commitment I had unconsciously made. The innate empathy and sensitivity that were less useful to me as a child, and in my former profession, finally had a raison d’etre. My desire to keep the calm now had a methology.

Photo: Sasha Freemind

 :: THE CENTER OF THE CIRCLE—YOUR IKIGAI ::  

As you look at the contents of the 4 circles you’ve sketched, ask yourself … Are there any threads that link all four parts of your life? What common themes or activities come up? Could there be something that connects them together? Something that simultaneously gives you joy, satisfaction, life purpose, and reward? This could be your Ikigai. 

Don’t worry if nothing comes up, or if you find that you’ve found some intersection but it’s not perfect. My Ikigai is only just starting to emerge after A LOT of soul searching and some recent alignments in the stars. Over many years, my quietly growing healing practice has gone from a vocation to a passion to a mission … that has now also become a profession. Aha, Ikigai!

The journey to Ikigai is the ultimate in self-realization; it involves experience, analysis, and a life lived. And always remember, the journey itself is also part of your Ikigai … 

Sushma Sagar is a reiki master and teacher, and founder of The Calmery—an energy healing practice based in London. Follow her on Instagram for more magic! 

TIME FOR CHANGE: 10 SIGNS I WAS LIVING A LIE

As Mercury goes retrograde, the coming three weeks are the perfect time for some life laundry. For Victoria Cox, this meant asking: “am I living a lie?” Artwork: Aneta Ivanova via Behance.net

It’s an unsettling feeling to look back on the last decade of your life, only to discover that you’ve been living a lie. No, I haven’t recently been arrested for identity theft nor do I want to be the next Caitlyn Jenner. What I mean by living a lie is this: upon looking back at the arc of my burgeoning adulthood, I was astounded to discover that the career choices I had made, had never, in fact, been the choices I wanted to make.

There was no gun being held to my head. I made these decisions entirely voluntarily. Succumbing to my own burning desire to please others, I began to emulate a path that would impress my father. Abandoning my creative desires, I launched headfirst into a career in law.

Essentially, I took on what had been one of his ambitions and pursued his goal for myself. All, I can see now, in the hope that he would love me just a little bit more. Of course I didn’t realize what I was up to until much later in life, that’s the power of the subconscious mind. But there were signs along the way, tiny whispers asking if this was truly what I wanted.

Ultimately, it was finally paying attention to these signs that opened my eyes to the fact I’d been faking it all along.

SADNESS: The first sign was the persistent, heavy sadness that was my constant companion. I spent so long convincing myself that I was doing the right thing that I simply chose to ignore it. I knew it wasn’t normal to feel this way, but it took me years to confront my sadness and ask myself that terrible question. The one you don’t want to ask because you already know you don’t want to hear the answer. “Why are you really doing this?”

FEAR: Then there was the fear – fear of making any changes to my life. So, cushioned by my regular paycheck, I chose to play it safe. I convinced myself that it was the fear of losing my job that kept me awake at night, when actually I was afraid of something completely different. I was afraid I was missing out on living MY life.

RESISTANCE: I had always wanted to be a writer, yet I never wrote. Instead of putting pen to paper and creating a story, I created a litany of excuses. I was too busy, too stressed and this was killing off any creative inspiration. What I was really doing was a classic case of self-sabotage; I was refusing to get out of my own way.

DISTRACTION: I would do anything to avoid facing up to the truth of my situation. Cue night after night when, instead of turning on my laptop to write, I poured myself a glass of wine and checked in to see what The Real Housewives were up to. Anything to divert myself from… myself.

EMOTIONAL GUIDANCE: Sensing my malaise, a friend suggested I try a meditation class. Once my monkey mind finally settled I discovered a sense of peace I hadn’t felt in years. Meditation began to show me the true purpose of emotions and how they can actually provide valuable guidance. Quieting my mind had highlighted the fact that anxiety and fear were my sole companions while I was at work. In stark contrast, I discovered that the only time I felt any semblance of joy was in a creative environment.

BOREDOM: Another sign that showed me I was living an inauthentic life was a constant sense of boredom. I was bored by my work and bored with life. I would plan vacation after vacation in the hopes of brushing up against some kind of enjoyment, but nothing excited me anymore. The world seemed to have become one, long, monotonous…nothing.

ILLNESS: Being stressed and unhappy takes its toll on the mind, and on the body. My body decided to give me a sign of its own making, a physical wake-up call. My skin reverted to its teenage years and broke out constantly. I had severe insomnia and my adrenals were burnt out. My body was essentially screaming at me to get my attention the only way it knew how, through sickness.

IDENTITY LOSS: Despite the fact that I was desperate to change my career I hid behind my profession. I used my identity as a lawyer to impress people, because I was too afraid to show them who I really was. Ironically I spent so long holding up this mask as a “successful lawyer” that it was no longer a mask. I had morphed into somebody that I didn’t want to be.

SELF-LOATHING: I was disgusted by the realization that I had let fear hold me back from pursuing my creative dreams. In an attempt to remove these loathsome thoughts circling around my mind, I began journaling every evening. A torrent of hateful words poured forth providing another sign I desperately needed before I could move forward. I now needed to forgive myself.

PERSPECTIVE: The act of writing out my deepest fears in my journal showed me that I was stuck in a victim mentality. Instead of throwing a 24-hour pity party, what I needed was a change in perspective. Why was I choosing to hide this experience in the Life Mistakes folder, when I could file it under Life Lessons instead? Looking at my situation from a fresh perspective showed me that my experience had actually created a swath of writing material. What if I chose to write about my story so that it could help others who were in the same boat?

I’m still a long way off from the writing career of my dreams but that’s the not the point. The point is that each step of my journey has shown me I was living life out of duty rather than desire; acting always to please others rather than pleasing myself.

I hid behind my fears because I didn’t want to face up to the fact that in order to follow my writing dreams, I had to let go of those parts of my life that no longer served me. Yet the very act of finally facing these fears gave me the permission I had been desperately seeking; the permission to pull off the mask of inauthenticity and show my real self to the world.

LIGHT WORKER: THE HEALING JOURNEY OF JODY SHIELD

London-based Jody Shield has gained a reputation as the healers’ healer, and signed as a Lululemon meditation ambassador. She shares her journey with Ruby Warrington

“Quit your job.” It was back in 2013 that Jody Shield heard the voice, subtle and yet insistent. “The sensation that came with it was one of, ‘it’s fine, you’ll be supported, don’t worry, trust’,” she remembers. “But still I was like, ‘no, no…what’s going on?’ And it just kept repeating, ‘quit your job, quit your job, quit your job’…”

Until this moment it had been a regular day in the office at the London ad agency where Jody had worked since 2005, rising through the ranks to become Business Director. Sure, she’d suffered a degree of burn-out in the role, had taken a sabbatical to Peru to “find myself.”

Since her return, she’d been dabbling in alternative therapies, and quietly working to develop what she felt were her natural healing abilities. But she’d found a happy medium, or so she thought. Her newfound skills were simply tools to help her navigate the demands of her own life in the “real world.” But now it seemed as though Spirit had other plans.

“I realized I couldn’t ignore what I was hearing, and almost as if some external force was pushing me to my feet I found myself walking into my boss’s office to tell him I needed to talk. I resigned on the spot,” she remembers.

Within three months, “I had a business as a healer. People had actually already been contacting me about sessions, and I’d been seeing family and friends at weekends. Once I made the decision to focus on it fully, people just kept coming back, and I was like, ‘okay!’”

In the two years since, Jody has become one of the most sought after alternative therapists in London, also gaining a reputation as “the healers’ healer.” This fall, she was signed by Lululemon as their first ever European meditation ambassador, and with a busy public speaking schedule to boot she’s become a leading voice in the Now Age movement. For anybody seeking a similar transition to a career in healing, her journey is a lesson in surrendering to your calling.

Born in the North of England, “growing up, I always had a sense that there was something bigger out there and that I was going to be a part of it. I used to look at celebrities and think, ‘they’re no different to anybody else, they’ve just got big energy’. And I felt that way about myself, too,” she says.

As far as connecting to Spirit, “I had a sense of the different energies in our house, and would get goose bumps when I walked into certain rooms. I’d drag the dog in with me for ‘protection’,” she laughs. But like so many psychically-developed young women, “I shut it all down when I hit my teens and began to discover boys…”

The first indication that she would one day be asked to use her gifts blew into her life on the winds of tragedy – after an ex-boyfriend was brutally murdered. “I woke up in bed one night not long after it happened, and there was an outline of him next to me on the matress. I realized his soul wasn’t able to pass to the other side, and I so I just told him, ‘it’s okay, be at peace now. You don’t need to worry about anything.’ And he just left.”

Back in real life Jody was focused on climbing the corporate ladder – even if the incident with her ex had left its mark. “I was emotionally burned out, and self-medicating with drugs and alcohol to the point I had to take time off work due to ‘stress’,” she says. Eventually, she set off for South America for what she thought was some much needed R & R. Instead, she found herself on an intensive plant medicine retreat.

“Nobody was talking about Ayahuasca back then, so when I heard about it in Peru I really had no idea to expect. Even on the boat to the retreat center, I remember wondering what on Earth I was doing there, and thinking I would probably just be an observer,” she says. In the event, her 12-day shamanic immersion would prove absolutely pivotal in her journey to becoming a full-time healer herself.

Not least because she was immediately confronted with a truth she’d been hiding for years, even from herself – that she was living in the grips of bulimia. “When we arrived we were asked to drink something to make us vomit and purge the toxins from our system. The potion didn’t work on me, and the facilitator told me to stick my fingers down my throat. My immediate reaction was, ‘but you can’t do that in public!’ I’d kept my eating disorder a secret for a decade.”

In ceremony, having drunk the Ayahuasca itself, “it felt like being cradled in the arms of the Mother, looking down on me and loving me, but going; ‘you’ve got something to confess, and you have to bring it up so I can help you with it.’ When I shared about this afterwards, it was the first time I’d spoken about my eating disorder to anyone.”

Jody took part in seven ceremonies over 12 days, sharing her little jungle hut with giant cockroaches and spiders, and emerging with an unshakable sense that her bulimia was behind her. “It was as if my brain had been re-wired and I couldn’t even remember the physical process of the illness. I had also made a contract with the plant to never eat meat or take drugs again.”

Further, “I had been recognized by the indigenous tribe as one of them. After one ceremony, they all made a bee-line for me, calling me “doctor, doctor, doctor.”

It’s testament to the grounded nature that makes Jody so approachable as a healer that she was able to pack this experience away with her guide books and resume her “normal” life back in London. Albeit with a desire to discover more about the healing arts, and her own abilities in this area.

It began with the study of EFT, or tapping, but it was discovering the work of Damien Wynne that tapped Jody fully into her gifts. Having developed a system for karmic, emotional and energetic “clearing” called Light Grids Therapy, “for me Damien was the whole package – a very expansive spiritual channel, yet very, very grounded in his human experience,” says Jody. She decided to travel to Germany to train with him; “My mum insisted on coming with me though, to check I wasn’t being indoctrinated into some cult,” she laughs.

“I connected to the work instantly, which centers on the mantra ‘I am that I am,’ and is essentially about allowing you to fully claim your ancestral seat in this lifetime. After five days of working intensively on healing and opening up my own emotional body, noticed quantum shifts in my perspective on my own life and purpose,” she claims.

“But I was afraid. I was like, ‘if this IS my path, how do I bring this to London, and how on Earth do I explain this to people?!” she says, echoing what must have been the thought process of so many great healers before her. But it was shortly after this that she heard The Voice, while experiencing the sensation of being fully supported by the Universe on her journey.

The rest, as they say, is history. And with with London’s creative and business leaders lining up to work with Jody, there’s a sense of her childhood awareness that “something bigger” was out there waiting for her having been fulfilled.

To find out more about Jody Shield and her work and to book a session visit Jodyshield.co.uk