Transformation

My story of struggling to escape a perceptual prison by restoring true health

Early Lessons

My mother, Cinda, had cancer 4 times, and tumours several other times. Throughout my childhood I was made very aware of the definite and substantial connection between diet, mental focus and health. Cinda would go through a definite pattern: she’d find out she had cancer, or a tumour, and she’d be determined to heal it herself. She had a complete mistrust for conventional Western Medicine, and, as I recall, most doctors were quite wary of her too.

Upon receiving the unfavourable diagnosis she would become fiercely determined, cleaning up her diet completely, taking massive quantities of bizarre seeming nutritional products and supplements, she would also see endless alternative healthcare specialists, and do lots of healing self-hypnosis tapes.

She would get better. It really worked, again and again. I remember the elation we all experienced when we got the good news. She had defied the odds and the doctors doom and gloom predictions again. She did have surgical intervention a couple of times too, but I don’t remember her ever having chemotherapy, until the last time.

Then, when she was confident she was better, she would stop all of it, the healthy food, the healthy mental focus, the supplements, and go back to junk food and soap operas. Sure enough, eventually, she would get ill again. This pattern repeated itself at least half a dozen times throughout my childhood. My mother eventually died of cancer, aged 58, when I was 24 years old.

I never understood why she would go back to such an unhealthy lifestyle, knowing what it was likely to result in. It used to cause me a lot of pain and frustration, but also gave me a burning desire to understand the human condition, especially as regards to self destructive tendencies. It didn’t, however, stop me from repeating her mistakes, it just made me more cynical and pessimistic.

This seemingly paradoxical behaviour was a riddle which I didn’t solve until relatively recently, when I discovered the Taoist concept of ‘Shen’ energy, often translated as ‘spirit’. But this is not the type of spirit that you might contact with a Ouija Board, this is Spirit as in ‘she was in high spirits today’ or ‘that was a lively and spirited debate’.

To explain very simply and briefly, most ancient cultures believe that self destructive behaviour, which includes the destruction of a person’s environment (our ancestors weren’t as rigid as we are with upholding the divide between self and other), was a result of a sickness of the spirit. It took me many years to recognise this and many more to realise there was a cure for me, and for everyone else who wanted it. It seems to me that this ‘sickness of the spirit’ is one of the biggest health epidemics that exist in the Western world today.

I remember seeing her once during the last time she had cancer, eating something that was forbidden on her healing dietary regime. She asked me ‘What’s the point of being alive if I can’t eat nice food’, a sentiment which has been echoed by many people, throughout the ages I’m sure. It’s only recently I realised that taste and health need not be mutually exclusive, but I know it’s a big issue for a lot of people.

 

An Unhappy Childhood

I’ve always had an interest in Nutrition, partly brought about by being a vegetarian my whole life, and also because I ate a strict macrobiotic diet until I was five. This was basically a vegan diet with no fruit, consisting predominantly of brown rice, brown bread and peanut butter. Better than a lot of people’s diet I’m sure, but still a highly acid-forming diet, consisting mainly of grains, legumes and roots. Apparently I was always hungry, eating voraciously.

I remember discovering sweets when I was six, what a revelation! Soon I was like a junkie for them, I would beg, borrow or steal to get another fix. My whole life revolved around them. Again I don’t think this is unusual. All I ever really wanted to do was eat sweets and crash out in front of the TV. Everything else was just a tedious distraction to endure. I truly believe sugar to be one of the most addictive and damaging substances on this planet.

I think a lot of adults tend to over-romanticise childhood. They imagine the care-free lack of responsibility was near paradisical, and selectively recall memories which back up that world view. They forget the being small, weak, vulnerable and always being at someone else’s mercy. Of course I have met some people who do seem to have genuinely enjoyed their childhood, but they do, very sadly, seem to be in the minority.

The ‘sickness of spirit’ I spoke of earlier seems to be increasingly ubiquitous, and abuse of one kind or another is rife. Few people escape childhood without being traumatised to one degree or another. I later discovered that this whole issue is really crucial to address if we’re genuinely looking to create health at a core level.

Childhood and, for that matter, my adolescence and early 20’s were basically dominated by anger, apathy, frustration, shame and fear. I would think about suicide daily, not as a cry for help, I never told anyone, just because of a deep desire to escape this life. On deep reflection though, ultimately what drove me most was fear, and therefore I never made any serious attempts to end my life. I was too scared! Everything terrified me, I never felt safe. As I got older the shame and depression abated, but the fear and anger particularly remained.

I now understand this situation was perpetuated, if not initially caused, by imbalances and blockages in my energy, and the consequent poor health of my organs. As I healed my spleen, the apathy disappeared; as I cleansed my Liver, the excuses to get angry seemed to dwindle rapidly; as I tonified my heart, the frustration and shame became irrelevant ways of feeling; and as I tonified my Kidneys, fear and stress (different labels for a biochemically identical process) began to seem more and more ridiculous and unnecessary.

But, I know when you’re stuck in these feelings, they seem overwhelming and utterly real, any type of positivity seems delusory or at least not applicable to your own life. The feeling of apathy becomes the meta-context of pessimism, futility and despair (‘what’s the use?’), the lens or ‘frame’ through which we perceive and judge all our experiences. Fear becomes paranoia (‘I can’t trust anyone, nothing is safe’). If you had tried to tell me years ago that the way I felt was due to the health of my organs I would have laughed in your face, taken offense, or been convinced you were trying to con me, depending on my mood. Maybe you can relate?

Further Down the Spiral

During my childhood I did some healthy food occasionally, but mainly junk food: lots of bread, cereal, milk, cheese, fried food, pasta, pizza, roasted nuts, desserts and chocolate bars. In other words lots of sugary carbohydrates and cooked fats and not much real nutrition.

No one in my family could cook, my mother would always forget about the food and boil or incinerate it to death, then leave most of the unwanted leftovers to gather colonies of mould in the fridge. Her mind tended to be occupied by more important things. Exotic looking food would hang around in jars for literally years. I remember some food that was around when I was little that no one knew what to do with, still being there fifteen years later when I went to visit. My mother didn’t want me to throw it away still, that would have been a waste. I was encouraged to prepare my own food from a young age, which I enjoyed. I later became a chef for many years.

Energy was always a problem. I never seemed to have enough of it! Even the obese kids in my school would usually beat me at a sprint. My grandparents couldn’t believe how weak I was. I was exceptionally physically slow, weak and with terrible endurance. I had one of the worst attendance records in my school, I never really had that much wrong with me in terms for suffering from symptoms, I just didn’t have any energy and would find an excuse not to go.

I was also usually late to school. This was because I would stay up really late, buzzing from a sugar and carbohydrate binge, as I later discovered, then wake up really late. I probably would have been expelled if it weren’t for my aptitude for taking exams, the school didn’t want to lose an ‘A’ student no matter how poor my attitude or attendance.

Discovering stimulants was a revelation. I got hooked on coffee at 12, cigarettes at 14 and cannabis at 15. The feeling of actually having energy and feeling good about myself and the world, being at a level comparable with my friends was indescribably ecstatic. I think I somehow imagined that each cup of coffee or cigarette contained a certain quantity of energy, and when I consumed them that energy would go from them, and into my body, which made me feel more alive, fulfilled at last.

Little did I know I was just using up my already very depleted reserve energy. I knew these substances were also unhealthy in some way, but I just assumed this was an unfortunate but worthwhile side effect of their action. I thought they worked in spite of poisoning me. I later discovered they worked by poisoning me. Quite a crucial distinction.

I was soon smoking as much as I could get my hands on. Of course the highs got weaker, and the lows got stronger, but I was determined to stick with my addictions. After all, they were the first things that actually worked to make me feel better, while all the advice, crystal healing, homeopathy and other such tactics that my parents had tried had done nothing.

At the age of 18, I had moved into my own flat, and was working a tedious factory job, washing lettuce all day for an in-flight catering company. A store manager once told me they wasted £90000 worth of food a week. They were losing loads of money but wouldn’t close the failing unit as they considered it a ‘loss leader’. Life seemed to be becoming more and more flat, bleak and grey. I was starting to lose any spark I had, I rarely even felt angry any more. Apathy and despair had taken over as my new fundamental frames of reference.

Two days before my nineteenth birthday, I had what some might describe as a ‘Spiritual Awakening’ or at least a very radical and unexpected shift in perspective. I felt utterly elated and reconnected with the world and the people around me. At the time I remember experiencing a powerful desire for purity. I immediately quit all the drugs and went on a fast.

It was only a few days before all the old habits of consumption had re-asserted themselves, but nonetheless something had definitely changed deep within me. For whatever reason, the world seemed a lighter place, with more depth and colour. Things felt significant and meaningful for the first time I could remember. My spirit was suddenly significantly less sick, like it had been spontaneously healed to some degree. I still don’t know what to attribute this to, other than Grace, it’s not like I deserved this unexpected intervention, but I’m still so thankful that something came and nudged me in the right direction.

I quit my job and left my home and went to stay with my previously estranged father, who lived in a community of people in a woodland in Lancashire. It was a radical departure from the urban life of Brighton, there was no electricity, no toilets, no hot running water and no houses. We lived in durable tent-like homes called Yurts and other structures made of wood and canvas.

I was very poor and consequently ate a lot more fresh fruits and vegetables, as they were cheap, and even greens picked from the garden, which must have done me some good. The drug use continued unabated though.

Despite the fact that the initial impulse of this ‘Awakening’ was towards purity of body and free flow of emotions, I soon began interpreting the experience as a spiritual one, and got bogged down in investigating this area: spirituality, astrology, qabala, yoga, mysticism, tarot, mythology, psychology, the occult etc.

One author stood out to me especially: Carlos Castaneda. His works enthralled me but also challenged me. He proclaimed that a truly spiritual person is down to earth, filled with sobriety, integrity, discipline, calm, focus, impeccability and most importantly overflowing with an abundance of vital energy. I was anything but these, especially the latter, sitting around all day as I was smoking, drinking coffee, talking nonsense and constantly coughing and hacking up phlegm. I was later to find out that the basic philosophy advocated by Castaneda was identical to Taoism.

So I started doing the exercises that Castaneda promoted, called Tensegrity. I also took up weight training, as well as Yoga. I did mainly pranayama, meaning breath control, with the promise that it would help me control emotional imbalances, which it did, to a notable and significant degree. Still, all these improvements just felt like swimming against the tide, it was a struggle to keep momentum with them and if I stopped I would straight away lapse back into the sorry state I was in before.

The weight training felt good, and probably did me a lot of good. Unfortunately I also took on the habit of drinking protein drinks, usually several a day, first of all whey protein, then later the equally toxic soya protein isolate. I also found the weight training very taxing and if I did it too frequently I would get ill, a cold usually. It didn’t take a lot for me to get ill; a little missed sleep, a bit of extra exertion and I would come down with something. I could predict it like clockwork. People would just tell me I must have just caught some bug…again.

Next I rekindled my interest in Nutrition, and studied voraciously about the various vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants and phytochemicals. I restricted my nutritional interest to supplements however, and didn’t change my diet at all, which largely consisted of pizza, pasta, a croissant, lattes with lots of sugar and the odd dessert. This wasn’t difficult working for a fairly prestigious and very busy Italian food restaurant, where I ran myself ragged trying to keep up, running shifts and preparing food simultaneously in an establishment that was open from 8am to 11pm, seven days a week.

Often I didn’t eat at all in fact, I would just get by on strong lattes and cigarettes until I got home at night where I would gorge on whatever food was available, preferably salty and fatty, always eating excessively to make up for not eating all day.

Eventually the absurdity of the situation did start to get to me, I was working incredibly hard to be able to afford to spend hundreds of pounds a month to buy the drugs which would make life bearable, then spending hundreds of pounds more to buy the supplements to make the drug taking bearable! How ridiculous! But I really believed there were no alternatives; and I’m aware that there are millions, even billions of people out there who are caught in a similar trap, truly believing that there’s no way out.

I was starting to become more and more exhausted, on a very deep and profound level. I was also become more desperate, and lashing out in anger, often at confused motorists rather than anyone I would actually have to see again. After all, I was still more scared than anything. But I started to become more and more terrified that this lifestyle was fundamentally unsustainable. What would happen when I snapped? Would I go mad and get put away forever? Would I collapse, and not be able to get up again?

I had watched my father collapse with chronic fatigue, then ME years ago. He wasn’t capable of much for many years. He was an utter workaholic before that when he still had his teaching job, although he wasn’t very ambitious, and he eventually ran himself into the ground without having much to show for it. Most of the work he did someone else took the credit for. Was I to share his fate, exhausting myself for nothing? I felt like the whole weight of the world was on my shoulders yet, paradoxically, I wasn’t really getting anywhere.

I had always slept a lot, and had great trouble getting to sleep. I only ever seemed to have energy in the middle of the night, when there was nothing to do. My marathon sleeping stints were a thing of legend. Once, after a particularly taxing work week where my boss was attacked and injured his leg and it was all up to me to cover his shifts myself, I went up to my father’s place and slept for 26 hours sleep, only waking up occasionally for a few seconds at a time to drink water.

I’d always slept for very long periods when I could get away with it, frequently over 12 hours. I’m sure my health collapse would have been significantly worse (or come sooner) if I hadn’t at least allowed myself that time for rest and recuperation. It got to the point where all I ever did was work, unwind after work, and sleep. A familiar cycle for many maybe?

I felt like I was always playing catch up. The ‘Abundant Energy and Vitality’ that Castaneda had described seemed as much of an impossible dream as his other outlandish tales of visiting other worlds, stupendous physical feats, or dealings with inorganic beings.

My mother eventually succumbing to cancer when I was 24 was a big shock to me, but it still wasn’t enough of a wake up call. Like most people I felt strangely immune to the effects of my actions, figuring that others people’s actions may eventually catch up to them, but that I was somehow different, special.

I tended to work on the pasta section, traditionally called the sauce section, at the restaurant where I was working as a Sous Chef. I had recently been a runner up at their chef of the year competition, and had been selected for their highly prestigious and exclusive training school. I was going places in the company, their latest rising star. But inside I was seriously flagging.

One day, in January 2007, the food I was preparing, which was incredibly greasy, starchy fare, started to make me feel physically sick. It was especially the fat that made me want to vomit. I shared this with my colleagues, one of whom said he recognised this from a relative, it sounded like liver problems. This made perfect sense. My mother had always had a weak liver, almost dying of liver failure when she was very young. I had presumably inherited this weak liver.

I set about immediately researching low fat (ie high sugar and starch) foods. I bought some. This did not improve things at all. Two days later I quit. I didn’t dare to face the manager as I was sure he’d talk me out of it, he was a smooth talker and considered me a valuable asset. So I just didn’t come in and only texted to let him know. He was furious but supportive when I explained later. I felt bad for letting everyone down but I just knew I had to leave, my body had made the choice for me, the food was making me nauseous.

I dedicated myself there and then to get this health and energy problem truly handled, once and for all, no matter what. This is probably the best decision I’ve made in my life. These days people often comment on my self-discipline. They don’t realise that my actions now are based on a decision, rooted in desperation, and feeling out of options. If I’d known then just how much of a struggle it would be for me to turn things there’s no way I would have done it. That’s why part of my life mission now is to help people in the position I was in to transition effortlessly and painlessly. Because it can be relatively easy, when you know how, and if you apply that knowledge.

The first thing I did was go on a fast. I really had no idea what to do, despite skirting around the edges of the fitness and nutrition world for years. I think that’s another thing which prevents people from seeking optimal health, they have no idea what to do, or if such a goal is even possible!

It wasn’t a very good fast mind you. I was still drinking fruit juice (sugar to feed all those bacteria, parasites, yeasts, moulds and fungi) and whey protein drinks (nicely clogging up the digestive track to mitigate any potential benefits of fasting). I was also still smoking vast amounts throughout. I felt better, but only marginally.

I went to see a doctor. This was a stunning waste of time. He told me I was ‘stressed’ but other than that there was nothing wrong with me. Anyone had to just look at me to see this wasn’t the case. He offered to give me a sick note and that was it. He didn’t offer a single piece of advice or treatment. I’m grateful that at least he didn’t give me any highly addictive and toxic prescription medication! He actually asked me as I was leaving what I planned to do about my situation. I said I would continue with my Yoga and Chi Kung, which I had started a few months earlier. I would also get a less stressful job. He asked me if I thought that would actually make a real difference, and I said ‘I don’t know, but it’s all I’ve got.’ Never once did he recommend any of the hundreds of basic simple things that I would recommend a client in that situation to do, or anything else for that matter.

I soon found a job that was in alignment with my new goal, working as a chef/manager in a retirement home. The work was unchallenging, friendly, I was respected and appreciated by everyone, the hours were excellent, and I could study my new found passion at my leisure at work. It was better paid too. The only thing it lacked is status to the outside world. I mention this because I think accepting appalling conditions from a job in return for a little status is a common trap people fall into, it’s just really not worth it. Quit now, your body will thank you later.

The next big breakthrough I had came from the work of a nutritionist called Patrick Holford, author of the Optimum Nutrition Bible and numerous spin-offs. I devoured all his work quickly, and while I feel now that the diet he recommends is far from optimal, and the supplements he recommends are sometimes dubious (he recommended soya products for instance), the very concept of eating ‘optimally’ was revelatory, and he did introduce me to some key distinctions:

1 Many of the foods we crave and eat habitually are actually damaging to us, because our immune system treats them like they’re an attack to the body. This is also why we become addicted to them, we get an adrenal ‘buzz’ every time our body feels like we’re being attacked by ingesting these foods. This is called an intolerance, or an allergy if it’s very serious. The most common culprits were listed, in order, as gluten (the protein found in wheat particularly, also in rye, spelt and oats), dairy, sugar and yeast.

2 All stimulants are poison, and should not be consumed at all, ever. They don’t GIVE you any energy, they just drain your energy away. Although he didn’t explain this in the way that I now understand it from a Taoist point of view, the hard line he took was immensely useful to me.

  1. All refined sugar and starch products are bad for you. I’ve eventually refined this theory down to: all sugars and starches, with the exception of long-chain sugars (polysaccharides) are unhealthy for most people, most of the time.

4 Almost all food additives are highly toxic, and many of them are highly addictive too. Therefore all processed food is suspect and ideally avoided. I learned that the ubiquitous MSG, often referred to in ingredients lists as simply ‘flavouring’ or some other harmless moniker, actually works by massively over stimulating and deranging our brain cells, making tastes seem far more delicious than they really are, consequently also desensitising us to the taste of real food. Most processed foods would be inedible without MSG, it’s in all stock cubes, gravy and sauces, as well as most cereals, crisps, cakes and biscuits. It’s also incredibly addictive. ‘Once you pop, you can’t stop’. Those crisps would taste like cardboard without MSG.

So over the next eight months I set about cutting all these things out of my life. The refined sugar, coffee and wheat went first. That was hard, I used to love coffee, and I lived on wheat based products, but it was bearable. I learned that wheat contained many substances similar to opiates, which have a tranquilising effect, one of the other reasons we tend to get addicted to bread, pizza, cakes and pastries.

Next came all dairy produce, again difficult but I did feel better when I cut it out completely. I had suffered with a chronic blocked nose and sinus complaints and infections my whole life and, despite the fact I was still smoking, which I had always assumed was the cause, it quickly started to feel a lot better. I could breathe again. What a relief!

I came across the work of a man called Allen Carr. He’s helped millions of people to quit smoking. His basic technique is to show you how damaging cigarettes are, and what an insidious trap they are, pretending to be your friend, while all the time causing the very anxiety which they proclaim to relieve. His description made me think of the way pimps and pushers set about making someone feel dependent on them, so they could milk them dry, and I was horrified. I didn’t want to be anyone’s ‘ho’

He also warned against weaning yourself off slowly, which he said was a pernicious trap because it fostered the mindset or frame that smoking was in some way precious or a treat, ‘naughty but nice’, when cigarettes should be viewed as they are, disgusting with no pleasurable benefit from using them. This last point wasn’t hard to accept. I was starting to become pretty repulsed that frequently when I dared to Iook at my tongue in the mirror in the morning, it was covered with a kind of grey slime. Smoking was starting to become intolerable.

So I decided to stop smoking as a birthday present to myself, and bought as many cigarettes as I could. I kind of aversion therapy, my plan was to smoke so much by my birthday, two weeks later, that I would be sick of the sight of them and never want to touch another one again. It worked. I never smoked again, and have only been even slightly tempted once, but I didn’t take the feeling seriously. I was starting to discover who my true friends were, and cigarettes were definitely not on the guest list.

Stopping smoking bought a new problem to the surface though: hypoglycaemia. A lot of people are used to keeping their blood sugar even by consuming a stimulant every time they feel their blood sugar dropping too low, whether it be by using a coffee, refined sugar, a cigarette, a spliff, an alcoholic drink, a line of cocaine, or any other stimulant or combination of stimulants, from a blood sugar perspective it’s all the same, it poisons the body, making the body jump into a state of alarm, which releases adrenaline or other adrenal neurotransmitters, which raises blood sugar, which makes us feel human again. For a while, anyway. Low blood sugar, known as hypoglycaemia, can make you feel anxious, depressed, angry, faint, tired, confused, and generally out of sorts and all over the place.

Eating didn’t really help either, at least not the sort of cooked high-protein high-carbohydrate diet I was eating then. I had developed a situation where when I would eat my pancreas would release way too much insulin, to try to clear away the sudden high blood sugar levels (insulin causes glucose to be carried out of the blood stream into storage in the muscles and liver in the form of glycogen, where it can’t do much harm.) and I would be left with low blood sugar , feeling bad, tempted to have a stimulant but instead ending up eating more high carbohydrate food, which made the situation worse again. I would frequently pass out, or fall asleep in my chair after a meal, if circumstances permitted, which they usually did. I was trapped in a new vicious cycle, and one I had no idea how to escape.

Hypoglycaemia is kind of like the opposite to diabetes, which is where your pancreas gives up and stops producing insulin, and your blood sugar gets dangerously high. Hypogycaemia can easily lead to diabetes type two over time if left unchecked. You need to maintain a balance to stay functional and sane, and even just to stay conscious and alive.

The only advice I could find on the subject was to eat more protein with my carbohydrate, especially animal protein, and to have it with every meal. This is probably the most stupid and unhelpful piece of advice I’ve acted on since I made the decision to ‘Get Healthy or Die Trying’.

I started eating eggs, which I didn’t have much time for before, and I even ate fish regularly for a few months, the first time in my life eating flesh of any sort. I also had a protein shake with every meal. These tended to be every 2-3 hours, so I was consuming a lot of protein, which, as I later found out, is really damaging to the kidneys, probably the most vunerable and most important organs in the body.

This strategy brought some temporary relief but ultimately I knew it wasn’t working. It was just another stalling tactic and while it made the hypoglycaemia issue slightly more bearable, it was causing other, unforeseen, even more serious problems.

How I wish I could have come across the simple and obvious solution earlier of just eating naturally, avoiding all carbohydrates, especially cooked ones, and just eating high fibre greens and raw plant fats until the blood sugar has a chance to stabilise. Such a simple solution but I was so awash in dogmas I just couldn’t see it. Thank you to Gabriel Cousins, David Wolfe, Anthony Robbins and Robert Young for eventually making this clear to me when I discovered their work.

By this point I had been trying to be healthy for 10 months and for all intents and purposes, as far as anyone else could see, I was failing miserably. I had less energy than ever now that I wasn’t using stimulants to bolster my energy levels; I was frequently ill, which I put down to detoxification symptoms, I was pale, very thin, always tired, always cold, still quite stressed despite having little in the way of work demands, and very frustrated by my lack of progress. My well meaning new boss suggested that I would probably feel much better if I ate a whole cow. I didn’t disagree.

Everyone around me thought I was completely insane. Here I had given up all my pleasures in life, from their perspective, and got nothing in return. In fact I was worse off than ever. Always one to do what I thought was right, and to hell with anyone else’s opinion (in the most polite way possible of course), I resisted taking on any thoughts of turning back, but having not surrounded myself with any kind of support (‘I don’t need anyone’), it was hard going. I can understand why most people quit at this point, and why a lot of them are totally put off from putting serious focus, time or effort into getting healthy ever again.

It was also during this time that I formulated an intention to create a system that helped people come back from the brink of a health collapse painlessly and effortlessly, rather than setting them off on a new traumatic path full of hardships, as so many diet and cleansing programs do, usually I’m sure, out of ignorance, but perhaps, more sinisterly, to drain the person of resources for as long as possible. After all, a consumer who is fulfilled on every level, nutritionally, emotionally and spiritually, is rarely a willing victim for scams and propaganda.

This is one of the facets of the Taoist healing approach which I later found so commendable. In the west, we only pay a healthcare practitioner once we get sick. Once(if) we get well, we stop going to see them and stop paying them.

With a Traditional Taoist Practitioner, the exact opposite was true. You would pay them a regular fixed amount, say monthly, to keep you well. If you got sick, you would stop paying them, until you got better. The Taoist approach is famous for being very pragmatic, focusing on results rather than theory, dogma or tradition. They’re also well known for focusing on prevention, using Tonic Herbs; rather than the more widespread focus on curing, using Medicinal Herbs. No suprise at all, when you look at how they were paid.

It was in their interests to keep people well, not only to keep the money coming in, but to prevent loss of reputation, particularly important in Asian cultures, and important for everyone now in the age of the internet. A loss of reputation could mean a loss of livelihood at best and a loss of life at worst. So it is intrinsically in a Taoist practitioner’s interests to do their best for every client every time.

Where is the motivation for doctors to keep people well, to get people feeling optimally healthy? There is none. A doctor does get some acclaim for healing people once they’re sick, but in fact the validity of his existence depends on sick people. In the case of someone like a GP, who gets paid higher than any other category of doctor, he gets paid every time he sees someone, and often gets an incentive to give them the latest overpriced, unhelpful, ‘only works some of the time on the surface symptoms and doesn’t deal with the underlying cause’, drug.

Is it a suprise that we have a health epidemic in the western world? It seems fairly obvious to me that this health crisis, and the untold suffering it generates, won’t end until we have a more sane model for how we pay for health, and the Taoists lead the way in this regard.

I was getting more and more ill. I had two ear infections in the space of a month. The doctors just gave me antibiotics. I knew they would just make things worse overall but I took them anyway. What else could I do. I was in a lot of pain and discomfort, and didn’t know of any alternatives. It eventually got a bit better but winter was fast approaching, and every time a cold wind blew into my ears it was painful.

Out of sheer desperation and an explicable urge I decided to go and see a Chinese Doctor. I found one in my local town, the last one left. Two others had gone out of business that year. She seemed down to earth and friendly, she said she used to work as an A&E (or ER) doctor in China but, like me, had opted for the easy life. On the surface I thought I wanted her to give me some herbs, but my secret hope was that she might tell me what the hell was wrong with me.

That she did. She could easily see that I was in a sorry state. She said that she’d never seen someone my age with kidneys as weak and worn down as mine. Based on what I understand now, I’m sure she wasn’t exaggerating. I learnt the kidneys related to the ears, hence the infections, and that they were the storage place for the body’s reserves of adaptive energy, called Jing, which I was very low on. Hence I was always tired, playing catch up. My weak kidneys were also responsible for my intolerance to even minimal stress and frequent anxiety. They also explained my excessive sweating at night and constant urination (I would go at least ten times a day, wake up every hour or two to go at night and would sometimes need to go every ten minutes the first few hours after waking up.

I also found out my liver was highly toxic, and this explained my poor circulation, especially to my extremities (I always had cold feet), as well as my frequent outbreaks of rage. I had suffered from pain running all the way down my right side going from my shoulder via my hip to my knee, and had frequent pain in these joints. Apparently this area of discomfort ran exactly along my gallbladder meridian, the organ which is paired with the liver, so this indicated I also had serious problems with that organ.

I was fascinated with the concept that what most people would attribute to a mechanical problem was actually down to the weakness of an organ. It just rung true. I’ve ultimately come to the conclusion that all health problems are ultimately rooted in a weakness, energy blockage or imbalance of one or more of the organ systems; even if the initial cause lays elsewhere, for instance an accident, traumatic experience or environmental toxin.

Most interestingly I found out that the ultimate cause of my problems was overheating of my heart. This the doctor was adamant about, even when I protested that I was always cold. She told me to avoid all heating foods and herbs like chillis, ginger or ginseng. Apparently this hot heart explained my constant thirst ( I rarely drank less than 4 litres of water a day) and the sore spots on my tongue. It was also the root cause of my burning myself out. She told me my red tongue confirmed it. It didn’t seem amazingly red to me, but she kept squeezing particular acupuncture points, to press her point home more convincingly. ‘ See this hurts doesn’t it? That’s because of this’ ‘OK ow let go, I believe you’

All the exotic looking herbs in ornamental jars with the Chinese writing on was very appealing to me, I felt instinctively drawn to them, and I asked for some that would be appropriate for me, but was told that they were a lot more expensive than the tablets she was recommending, which contained the same herbs anyway, so I reluctantly agreed to take them. However they never agreed with me, they felt artificial in some way, and it would be almost two more years before I tried the real thing, which was a revelation in comparison.

The treatment worked, initially, and was the beginning of actually feeling better. I had acupuncture every week for a few months, but found that while it was effective at getting me out of the sorry state I was in, it wasn’t building a real level of health, just an absence of symptoms.

Overall I’d conclude that while the diagnosis was utterly spot on, the advice and treatment was lacklustre at best. Like all doctors it seems, she didn’t really know anything about nutrition, and she also didn’t know anything about western cleansing protocols. She knew about herbs, acupuncture and that was it as fear as a treatment strategy went. This is a problem I’ve found with a lot of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) practitioners, they are very effective in their area of expertise, but they’re ignorant of the big picture of attaining health, and they’re as loyal to their dogmas as any other medical establishment, although their understanding and methods are a lot more sophisticated and helpful than Western Medicine, which is included within their system.

Ultimately they’re reliant on their clients coming back, and on referrals. So the treatments make you feel a bit better, enough that you want to come back next week for more acupuncture (which she talked me into), or recommend it to someone else, but never enough that you don’t need to go back any more. I’m not saying this is consciously organised, or that every practitioner is like this, but having shared with a lot of people this is the consensus on how it tends to go. You’re rarely told: you’re better now, don’t come back. I was getting a little better, but not at the rate I was hoping for.

However, the turnaround had begun, this ancient wisdom had made a significant impact, but the fight back was proceeding, by my standards, very, very slowly. A few rays of sunshine had peeked their way through the clouds but that was it. On the one hand I had the people who knew me before, telling me I was crazy, on the other hand I had those in the health industry, telling me to be patient, that I was on the right track, just stick with it. I felt they were all wrong and kept looking for a better way.

I’m always particularly overjoyed when a client tells me they don’t need any more herbs, because they’re actually better, often having recovered from something they’ve been suffering with for years. That means we’ve really got a result. That’s what it’s all about. Unfortunately there’s never any shortage of people that need help with their health, who’ve tried everything else and made little progress.

Around the same time I also did a hair mineral analysis, which revealed that despite my best efforts in terms of diet I was chronically depleted in minerals, and this was compared to the average person, let alone compared to an ideal level. I was low in every mineral except copper, which was high, which I attributed to smoking, having read once that every cigarette contains high amounts of copper, but found later that high copper is related to a gallbladder blockage, which made me recall my Chinese doctor’s diagnosis.

My main problem though, according to the mineral analysis, was a lack of alkaline minerals, especially magnesium, and also zinc and iron. The diagnosis was actually shockingly accurate, I was truly amazed at what it’s possible to find out from a lock of hair, it felt like they might have given it to a witch doctor as they seemed to know, as if by magic, everything about me.

My overall profile indicated that I was adrenally exhausted, suffering from stress, my immune system was low, my zinc levels indicated that my stomach acid was insufficient so my digestion would be bad, this was all true, I constantly suffered from acid reflux and indigestion. My iron levels indicated I was mildly anaemic, and I was very pale and weak. I remember they even knew that I would wake up frequently throughout the night to urinate, which apparently was the magnesium deficiency, which was extreme in my case. They explained that the more stressed a person is, the more magnesium and sodium they excrete. They didn’t, however, suggest a solution to any of the imbalances that might have caused this situation, they just suggested supplements to manage the symptoms.

In fact it was the same familiar situation. Accurate diagnosis, lousy advice, no attempt to really tackle the root causes. The recommendations were to eat lots of meat, and a diet high in protein generally (the excuse for this was my low sulphur levels, presumably they hadn’t heard of MSM), alcohol was recommended as it helps to absorb iron (I kid you not). No advice was forthcoming on how to solve the underlying gallbladder issue.

Magnesium, zinc and Betaine HCL supplements were suggested which I took and did get some benefit from. The exhaustion subsided a little, I relaxed a bit, and I stopped waking up so often at night. Every symptom that they related to magnesium and zinc deficiency was identical with a kidney weakness, from a Chinese medicine point of view, and I do believe that rebuilding depleted mineral reserves is an essential part of restoring kidney function to optimum. However it should never be the only step, as all it’s then doing is compensating for, whereby potentially actually encouraging, a fundamental imbalance or weakness. Alkaline mineral supplementation is however excellent at providing some temporary relief, especially magnesium, the mineral more people are chronically deficient in than any other in these kidney-unfriendly, exhausting, stressful times we live in.

Around this time, a year into my journey, I came across the concept of eating raw, live superfoods, in a book by Gillian McKeith where she lists her top ten superfoods. It all made a lot of sense although the idea of only eating raw foods didn’t even occur to me, but the concept of eating foods high in life-force, or chi as the Taoists call it, I couldn’t argue with. I was already having a berry smoothie every day for breakfast, which was raw, and decided to make sure half of my plate with every meal I ate was sprouts, so I was getting plenty of live foods. I couldn’t bring myself to eat any of the beansprouts though, I found them disgusting, so I ended up eating a lot of alfalfa. I would pick up bags and bags of it from the local health food shop every Thursday when it arrived, and was soon given the moniker ‘Sproutman’ which I didn’t really enjoy.

Overall my emotional state was improving. I was calmer, feeling less desperate like I had no options, with less extreme fluctuations in mood, but I was still fairly miserable, pessimistic and angry. I knew that the way I was feeling and living my life wasn’t right, that there was a better way somewhere out there, I could feel it, I could almost taste it…but I couldn’t find it.

During the summer the next year I attended a 3 day workshop of Tensegrity practice, a type of physical movements similar to Tai Chi and dance, especially dedicated to increasing the vital energy available to the body. I found the exercises incredibly useful, but like everything else it seemed like fighting against the tide of energy depletion rather than a solution. Still it was an immensely enjoyable activity.

I became aware during this course what was happening to myself and the people around me. As we did the exercises this group of a few hundred dedicated people from around the world would build up more and more energy until at the end of the session we were bursting with energy, people were glowing, they’re eyes were bright and they’re posture was confident. We looked and felt in peak condition. Then we would break for lunch. Or dinner. I watched people eat a meal of, for example, lasagne and chips, with a cheesecake for dessert. I had some millet and carrot burgers I’d brought along, with some green salad.

By the time we got back to the hall we had all just slumped. Our eyes were duller, our mood was lower, our energy was back where it was before we’d started, even our posture had collapsed. It was never more clear to me that no matter what we do to better ourselves, no matter how many push ups we do, miles we jog, hours we meditate, no matter how many contorted shapes we bend ourselves into or how many mantras we chant, we undo most if not all that good work with the food we eat, bringing our physical vitality, our mental sharpness and the quality of our awareness crashing back down to desperately low levels with every meal we eat. But I was perplexed, and immensely frustrated. I was eating optimally right? I was eating plenty of protein, grains like quinoa and millet, fruit, vegetables, salad and all the right supplements. So why was I experiencing similar results to the people eating bacon and eggs?

The next health nightmare that demanded my attention was my food intolerances. I’d given up all the usual suspects some time ago, but as time went on the list of foods I couldn’t eat without feeling negative effects was just growing and growing, until it got to the point it seemed like there were far more foods that I couldn’t eat than foods that I could. Cutting out unhealthy foods was one thing, but now the situation was starting to get ridiculous, I couldn’t eat tomatoes, peppers, oranges, bananas, grapes, coconut, broccoli, strawberries, corn, potatos, all foods that were supposed to be healthy, and the list just kept growing.

Ever since I’d stopped smoking I’d been immersed in the works of a pioneering Taoist master called Mantak Chia. He was the first person to reveal the secrets of Taoist inner meditational work, where you learn to be aware of, direct and focus your Chi, the vital energy of your own body, for the purposes of healing or spiritual development. He also taught more physically and mentally demanding exercises like iron shirt Chi Kung, which is supposed to make you immune to any physical attacks, Sexual ‘Kung Fu’ where a man can learn to have multiple orgasms without ejaculating, and Fusion of the Five Elements, where you learn to recycle negative emotional energy into a useful fuel source, as well as hundreds of other supplemental practices culminating in advanced practices where you develop a ‘Spiritual Body’.

What I loved about Mantak Chia’s approach was it was so innately practical, he emphasised, like Castaneda, that a person must aim for Physical Vitality, then Emotional balance and mental Clarity before even considering any spiritual practices. The basic Taoist philosophy is that humanity’s role in this world is to be a bridge or conduit between Earth and Heaven, something I later discovered was primarily not meant as a metaphorical statement at all. He taught that in order to reach up to heaven, we must have our feet firmly planted on the ground.

I’m not a Mantak Chia follower, nor am I anyone else’s, but the practices and worldview he and his organisation, Universal Tao, presented has been immensely valuable and valid to me, and it’s as a result of mastering these practices by daily repetition, the only way to master anything, that I feel confidant to speak with authority as a Taoist practitioner. Taoism, being the most practical of all systems, is definitely something that you learn by doing, you learn about the different energies and organs and glands and systems first and foremost by becoming aware of them within your own body, then in other peoples and the world around you.

The most foundational practice is a wonderful little meditation called ‘The inner smile’, where you bring on a genuine smile, maybe by recalling a pleasant memory, and then you smile at each of your organs in turn, until they ‘smile back’ at you. I basically started doing these foundational Taoist practices every day as a way to keep myself sane, a role that I had previously delegated to cigarettes. The practices worked much better.

The benefits of learning to become aware of your organs and sending smiling, loving energy to them are myriad. For one thing, it’s a lot more difficult to pursue self destructive behaviour. If you listen to and love your lungs, it becomes hard to voluntarily fill them with noxious smoke. If you love your liver and heed it’s signals, it’s difficult to drink alcohol or consume other poisonous substances. If you listen to and respect your heart it’s a struggle to get involved in abusive relationships, and if you love your kidneys you’re not going to be tempted to drink dehydrating or damaging drinks like coffee or protein shakes.

In time, over months of daily practice, this new approach to health started to really work. I made more and more health breakthroughs by listening to my body’s signals and following intuitive leaps. The whole issue of whether to listen to the body is, admittedly, a tricky one. Once people are on the right track they tend to tell others to just ‘listen to the body’s natural wisdom’. However anyone who’s in a less than optimal state of health knows that their body’s signals are telling them to indulge in the same destructive behaviour which has caused or exacerbated their imbalances in the first place: ‘a cappuccino would be nice’ ‘mmm chocolate cake’ ‘just one more helping of roast dinner’ ‘I’ll just get a takeaway tonight’ and similar bodily impulses are familiar to most people, so how do we resolve the seeming contradiction between the ‘wisdom’ of the body, and it’s apparent predilection for junk food, stimulants and a sedentary lifestyle?

From a Taoist perspective the key is the health of the organs. For instance, an unhealthy spleen will crave sugary, starchy food and alcohol, while a healthy spleen wants healthy food. Even more perplexingly: unhealthy lungs will crave cigarettes and inhalers, while healthy lungs will crave fresh air. Similarly anger makes sense when our liver is unhealthy, feeling sorry for ourselves makes sense when the heart is imbalanced, and paranoia seems totally justified when the kidneys are weak. These emotional states just ‘feel right’ when the corresponding organs are imbalanced. The wisdom of the body can only be relied upon once the organs of the body are in a reasonably balanced and healthy state. So what do we rely on before then, to tell us what’s right for us?

To a certain degree we’re stumbling around in the dark. We can’t rely on our instincts as long as the organs they’re originating from continue to remain very unbalanced. We can’t rely on our feelings as they’re heavily influenced by past conditioning. Should we use our reasoning faculty? Seemingly a sensible approach, but the problem is that, as anyone skilled in debating knows, reason, like statistics, can be used to justify pretty much anything.

So what to do? We can imitate someone who already has the results we want, but the challenge we find with that, is that often the approach of someone who is already well is not appropriate for someone who is still trying to get well.

I concluded that the only thing we can really do is to listen to an authority who has already done what we want to do, who has been where we’ve been, who has already got to where we want to go, and who can tell us how to achieve the same results they have. Simultaneously I think it’s vitally important to restore our organs to more of a balanced state as a matter of total priority. This way we can start trusting our own instincts, so that we can be self reliant and no longer be at the mercy of the frequently contradictory advice of experts, because we can sense what’s truly right for us, and we can pick and choose from these authorities that which is accurate and relevant for us at the time, rather than following anyone’s advice unquestioningly.

I jump-started my own accurate and reliable ‘instinctual compass’ with the ‘Inner Smile’ exercise, but it was significantly improved by the addition of Taoist Tonic Herbs in to my life. For all those who feel disinclined to do any type of meditational work I highly recommend the tonic herbs to bolster the organs as a first step, well before you start any kind of cleansing regime, which often puts even more of a strain on an already struggling body, especially the eliminative organs. The ‘Inner Smile’ basically works by using the mind’s focus to tonify (strengthen) the organs, but tonic herbs will do the same job. If you want to save yourself years of struggle with often minimal progress, tonify before cleansing. It’s the only approach that makes sense!

As a result of this instinctive feeling of knowing what was right and appropriate for me becoming more accurate, breakthroughs started coming thicker and faster. My hypoglycaemia was getting worse, I had a blood sugar check with a nurse and only two hours after my last meal my blood glucose level was at 1.8, which was very low. She said she was surprised I was still able to stand up!

After this wake-up call an idea occurred to me. I had been having a sweet fruit smoothie, with lots of berries and protein powder, as my first meal of the day, as this was supposed to be the healthy choice. I decided instead to try a savoury meal for breakfast.

What a revelation! Suddenly I could go for several hours after breakfast without eating or having a blood sugar crash. Even when I had a fruit smoothie later it didn’t knock my blood sugar levels totally off balance. I realised that breakfast is the very worst time of day to have something sweet, as it just set up a cycle of my blood sugar peaking and then plummeting that would be impossible to defuse once I’d started the day that way.

A year and a half into my journey, as my reserve, adaptive energy in the Kidneys started to improve, and I started to be able to keep my energy relatively stable throughout the day, I had a new priority: my ever-increasing list of food intolerances, and an obviously highly toxic liver (it kept sending me signals of complaint) and a probably blocked gall bladder as well. Little did I realise they were all connected!

I had recently come across a book that recommended dealing with food intolerances by rotating your daily foods so you only ate foods from any particular food ‘family’ one day out of three, on a rotational basis. So for instance you would only consume foods like tomatos, peppers, potatos, aubergines, chillis and goji berries one day out of three, to stop your body getting over saturated with any particular food family, which is the common theory of how intolerances develop. I asked myself if I was willing to live my life like this: a slave to my body’s overzealous immune system. The answer was a resounding no: there had to be another way.

I got the idea to try UniversalTao.com and there were two leads: one involved drinking your own urine (no thanks) and the other recommended a liver cleanse, as per the protocol of a Dr Hulda Clarke. It sounded ideal, what I’d been looking for at last, and I immediately resolved to do it. The article suggested that food intolerances were a result of excess toxicity of the liver, which made sense given my situation. It recommended a herbal kidney cleanse first, so I ordered the requisite herbs and set to it.

Around the same time I also re-discovered raw chocolate (I’d tried it once before years earlier). What a revelation! I hadn’t felt so good in literally years, I was literally ecstatic. I had a huge surge of energy, clarity, and a good feeling about myself and the world. Never one to do anything in moderation, I ordered kilos of the stuff from detoxyourworld.com, along with many other wonderful superfoods like maca, bee pollen and crystal manna, and made countless different absolutely delicious chocolate delights. And then got ill, a nasty cold that took several weeks to shake. Obviously my instincts weren’t leading me impeccably yet.

I’m not going to slate raw chocolate, it’s a very nutritious and powerful superfood. However we must appreciate and understand that as a powerful vasodilator and a CNS stimulant it has the energetic quality of heating the heart and as a consequence, will use up a person’s kidney energy, their ‘Jing’, often referred to in the west as adrenal energy, to various degrees, depending on what type of person you are. So while it can have a useful balancing effect for someone with an energetically cool heart (check your tongue to see which you are, the more red, the more hot) it’s a nightmare to those whose heart is already hot. Obviously it’s still far preferable to a coffee, or a line of cocaine, which have a similar effect with no nutritional benefits like cacao does. However I have found this detrimental effect to be the case for cacao even in small, occasional quantities, for myself and my clients.

The irony is that while the majority of people are not ‘hot hearted’, and could therefore benefit from raw chocolate, the majority of people attracted to raw food are hot hearted, and that’s why they’re attracted to raw food, at least initially, because of it’s yin, cooling quality energetically.

While in the grips of this Cacao ‘buzz’ I read more about the concept of raw food, and it intrigued me. I looked at Shazzie’s site and various other blogs and what they were saying made a lot of sense, it felt right. I also looked for nearby sources and found that a dedicated raw food cafe had just opened in Brighton, somewhere I visited fairly frequently anyway, and made a mental note to check it out.

What an experience! The man behind the counter, while not excelling in customer service, was a veritable storehouse of knowledge on the subject of health. He said he had done the liver cleanse I was planning to do over twenty times, and highly recommended it, which emboldened me to go for it, and he sold me a book all about it, ‘The Miracle Liver and Gallbladder Flush’ by Andreas Moritz. It was the first thing I’d ever come across that mentioned healing the gall bladder specifically, and I was thrilled.

I pumped the man for information for another hour at least, and as well as extolling the virtues and wonder of raw food, there was one other thing of incalculable value he communicated to me: the quality of the water you drink is crucial. He likened eating a healthy diet and drinking tap water to being equivalent to, or even worse than, drinking pure spring water and eating McDonalds. This blew my mind. ‘Of course!’ I thought.

I’d put so much focus on what I ate, but I was still drinking tap water, no wonder my kidneys were so weak: the combination of tap water; stimulants (especially coffee and cannabis); a high protein, acidic diet; almost no direct contact with the earth and a lack of real rest and relaxation had almost brought my kidneys, and therefore me, to complete collapse.

I resolved never to drink unfiltered tap water again, and haven’t drunk anything but spring water for the last half a year. The vital importance of the quality of water I drank was so immediately obvious, and yet so completely alien to my worldview up until that point. I hadn’t seen it mentioned once in my extensive studies of mainstream nutritional publications.

The new Liver Cleanse book I’d bought insisted on it being vitally important to have colonic hydrotherapy alongside doing a liver cleanse and, despite my reluctance for obvious reasons, as well as cost, I did a course of three colonics. What a revelation! Without being too graphic, I was shocked and horrified at what a healthy eating life long vegetarian was able to expel. I lost almost a stone in weight, and felt much, much better.

I started fasting, properly this time, water only, and after a few days did the liver cleanse. The cleanse is based on the idea that the main thing blocking the liver from doing it’s job properly is that it’s bunged up with thousand of little balls of fat, which make the liver swell to up to twice the size it actually should be, and slow it down hugely from doing many of it’s essential tasks, which include detoxifying, processing fat and protein, and particularly releasing bile, which as well as digesting food also acts as a kind of cleanser, similarly to stomach acid, destroying pathogenic organisms. I learned that the liver should put out about a litre of bile a day and in a blocked liver this can be as little as a tablespoon. This problem then causes a chain reaction of other problems. I was fascinated and amazed at how many functions the liver has, as well as how adaptive and resilient it is. He also talked in detail about how damaging and unnatural a high protein, low fat diet was, the first time I’d heard such a view expressed.

The cleanse basically involves drinking Epsom salts to loosen the bile ducts and clear any debris blocking the small and large intestines, and then drinking an extremely large quantity of fresh Lemon Juice and Olive Oil, which makes your liver turn itself inside out in order to throw out enough bile to process the fat, and at the same time it throws out many ‘stones’, little pea sized balls of hardened cholestorel, bile, toxicity and other debris like parasites, all mixed together, which then travel through the intestines and get expelled. It’s as harsh on the body as it sounds and I wouldn’t recommend it to most clients for this reason, but it worked. Afterwards I felt amazing, like a new man.

The next day I went back to eating. As suggested I started with a piece of fruit. That was fine. Then I had a smoothie, no protein. No problem. Then, as suggested, I had a light meal, which consisted of cooked buckwheat with steamed vegetables and Sunflower sprouts. My liver acted like I’d just tried to poison it. It was screaming alarm signals at me. I couldn’t eat it. The sunflower sprouts were fine, despite the high protein and fat. It was the cooked food that my body, and especially my liver, were vehemently objecting to.

That was the last piece of cooked food I ever tried to eat. I decided then and there that I would only ever eat raw food again. My body’s organs had spoken, and the verdict was unanimous. I still feel that this was one of the smartest choices I’ve ever made, and consider it a landmark in my health, and in my life. I even remember the exact day: the 29th of September 2008

Of course I tried to find out more about my revelatory new choice. On recommendation I got a book by Gabriel Cousins, ‘Conscious Eating’ and later ‘The Sunfood Diet Success System’ by David Wolfe. I found Conscious Eating tedious and hard to read. All the ayurvedic stuff I found unhelpful, as I didn’t feel I fit into any one type more than any other, and I found the frequent references to God, what seemed like every other sentence, rather tiresome. The man obviously knew his subject though, and he talked extensively and persuasively about the fallacy of the high protein diet being helpful for hypoglycaemia, as well as the dangers of cooked food consumption and the wonders of the raw food diet.

David Wolfe’s work was a revelation to me, easy to read yet challenging, cutting edge information. I had an early edition where he talks about the wonders of a high fat diet and basically says that the less protein you consume, except from green leaves, the better. I’m glad I got this earlier edition as it inspired me to once and for all cut out all protein supplementation. I totally fell head over heels for his dietary model, the ‘sunfood triangle’ of green leaves, raw fats and sweet fruits. It just made so much sense. I stopped eating any grains or pulses, so my diet was down to just fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. I never felt better. I was experiencing real results at last.

For simplicities sake, as well as because I am at heart a creature of habit, I started to eat the same thing for every meal: a big bowl of salad, containing lots of leafy greens; followed by medjool dates and macadamia nut butter for dessert. I found all this a joy to eat. My blood sugar was better than ever, despite eating lots of high glycaemic index dates, which in theory should have had my blood sugar levels going up and down like a see-saw. I realised that raw dates, so long as they were buffered in a meal by plenty of fiberous leaves, were far better for me than the so-called low GI cooked grains and pulses, which were forming the bulk of my calories before. My liver was also totally happy with me taking in 3000-4000 calories of fat a day, so long as the fat was plant based and raw.

As winter begun I did regular intestinal cleanses, which included fasting and colonic hydrotherapy. The intestinal cleanses consisted of drinking a mixture of bentonite clean, which sucks up toxicity in the form of a ‘mucoid plaque’, a foul smelling black tar like substance; and psyllium husks, which act like a broom, keeping everything moving. Fasting would massively speed up the process by leaving the way clear and not giving the digestive system anything to slow it down, and finally a colonic would flush it all out. Again, without being overly coarse, I’ll just say that I was revolted and horrified with what I had been carrying around inside me, and incredibly glad and relieved to get it out. I’d heard people say that a colonic can be so satisfying it can feel like an almost spiritual experience and in my experience this is not an exaggeration.

When I decided to ‘go raw’ I also took the advice of Gabriel Cousins and David Wolfe and stopped using any of my supplements and to my suprise I did feel better, possibly because I’d stopped taking them, but at least I didn’t feel any worse without them. However, I also experimented with ‘raw food approved’ supplements like MSM, zeolites, enzymes and probiotics, and found some value in all of them. The former two are especially valuable for the Liver and the latter two are excellent for the Spleen. I still take all of them, although I’ve used them on and off, and recommend them all, so long as they’re from a high quality source.

Upon David Wolfe’s recommendation in his ‘Sunfood’ book I tried listening to Anthony Robbins, who is the top life coach and motivational speaker in the world. The change in my mood and my attitude had really changed dramatically. Someone I lived with pointed out that the usual things which would have set off my temper just weren’t bothering me anymore since the liver cleanse; and now here I was, listening to a man who was so relentlessly positive and enthusiastic that the old me would have just wanted to punch him in the face.

The new me, however, loved his work, and would listen to his many, many audio programs for hours a day, every day, for months. After this period of full immersal I was a changed man again, having internalised a lot of his mindset. ‘The past does not equal the future’ ‘Live with Passion’ ‘Spend 10% of the time focusing on the problem and 90% of the time focusing on the solution’ ‘Your life is a reflection of the expectations of your peer group’ and many more gems that can’t be fit into a slogan permeated my thoughts and my whole psyche.

For the first time, thanks to this new level of energy that raw foods and cleansing had given me, I actually had hopes, dreams and ambitions, beyond getting through the day, week or month. I had fought off a fog of nihilism, pessimism and apathy that I previously hadn’t even realised was there, probably because I’d been so used to being surrounded by people equally or even more negative than I was.

I eventually went to see Anthony Robbins live at his seminar Unleash the Power Within, in New Jersey, March 2009, a completely life changing experience where I unreservedly committed myself to ignoring fear and apathy, not giving it any credibility in my life any more, and thereby fulfilling my goal of making the world a better, healthier place.

As well as being an expert on everything else, Tony was also an expert on health. He had been a mainly raw vegan for most of his adult life, and his audio series ‘Living Health’ is still one of the most concise and articulate explanations I’ve heard on the subject of health to date. In it he introduces the concept of Alkalising, and the man who pioneered the concept, Dr Robert Young.

I was very taken by the alkalising concept, which is, put simply, that most of us are far too acidic and suffer greatly for it. All health problems like infections of all kinds, cancer, heart disease, basically almost every health problem, it was explained, are a result of the internal terrain, rather than any kind of outside agent, and those internal terrain problems were simply an excess of toxicity or acidity, usually both, and both were crucial to deal with to restore health.

Tony gives a great example in the program of the fallacy of the conventional medicinal approach to sickness: when there’s a garbage strike in New York and the rubbish starts piling up on the streets, eventually the rats come and start tearing things up, creating even more mess. If a tourist were to come along and say “look at all the garbage these rats have brought with them” they would be laughed at, and have it patiently explained to them by the locals: “no silly, the garbage attracted the rats”.

Yet this is exactly the model that Western medicine uses, that ‘the rats bring the garbage’, that bacteria and viruses cause disease, when in fact they are attracted by waste and necrotic cells that are already there, and they thrive in a decaying and acidic (imbalanced) environment. This all seemed to make sense, although at the time I never looked too deeply into why a person gets so acidic; nor did I ask why, if it’s because of lifestyle choices like diet as claimed, do some people become very acidic while other people, who do exactly the same things, don’t become overly acidic, or at least not to the same degree.

I was soon drinking alkalising drinks every day, consisting of green powders and alkaline salts, and they were making a huge difference. Once again I experienced a quantum jump in health, my energy went up, and many more symptoms diminished or disappeared. I was hooked, consuming alkalising drinks all day, every day, and loving it!

I went to have a live and a dry blood test which was fascinating. The live blood test revealed that while I must have made some progress by my attempts to alkalise, as my red blood cells weren’t clumped together as they would be if I were very acidic, they were still in sorry state. Many were misshapen or they had a dot in the centre, meaning they were ‘target cells’ ready to mutate any moment, not a desirable situation. Apparently this was mainly down to sugar consumption, probably all the dates I was eating, not something I was keen to hear.

The dry blood test was even more interesting, pointing out which organs were weaker, showing heavy metal toxicity and vitamin C deficiency. The practitioner laid out ten drops on a slide, and read them as if they were tea leaves, telling me the first one was indicative of my health years ago, while the last one reflected my current health state, the ones in between charting that journey. Amazingly the drops on the slide did show a gradual improvement, while in the case of someone else who came with me, who hadn’t done anything much towards being healthier over the last few years, each drop looked roughly the same. I recommend anyone who needs a little bit of a kick in the right direction to have a live and dried blood test done if at all possible,, there’s nothing like actually seeing what your lifestyle or diet is doing to you to motivate you to change if appropriate, especially if you’re a visual person.

I was briefly attracted to the approach of Dr Doug Graham, another raw food expert, who advised to eat no fat, and nothing unnatural at all, only fresh, organic unprocessed fruits and vegetables, no fats, no superfoods, no dried foods and no supplements. The purity of it appealed to me, and I found the arguments convincing, but ultimately I found the reality unworkable. It seemed to consist of eating fruit all day, every day, to get enough calories, which was also really expensive. It made me feel light headed and permanently un-satiated. I was belching constantly, in my opinion as a result of all that fruit fermenting in my digestive tract.

My conclusion on the whole approach is: I see the possibility of eating this way being optimal for some types of people, but only eventually. Experience has shown me when we first set off on eating raw we need raw plant fat to slow down the process of detoxification to a level we can handle otherwise we will either 1 Do our eliminative organs real damage by overwhelming them or 2 Give up and have a burger and chips. I can imagine there are exceptions to this, people who are already healthy, or at least people who have strong eliminative organs.

I’ve seen so many people who try to eat a totally or predominantly raw diet fail, and I believe this is largely because the detoxification process that’s brought on by such a massive improvement in diet starts to genuinely overwhelm already flagging eliminative organs. Of course that’s why the Taoist Herbal Tonic approach begins by tonifying these organs as an essential first step, but the other thing we need to do when we’re improving our diet is to use raw fats, as much as necessary, to slow the detoxification process down to a speed we can actually handle. In this case we can see that sometimes in this situation, eating a McDonalds could actually do you good, at least short term, as it will bring the overwhelming detoxification process to a grinding halt. The body’s instinct may be sound, just misguided.

Some people object that eating large quantities of fat, even if it’s raw and plant based is hardly optimal or desirable, but in practice, when you’re in the thick of it, trying to eat raw, detoxify, and ignore the temptation of junk food, it’s the only strategy that really works. When you’re embarking on this raw journey I’ve found that sometimes the only way you can avoid the temptation to eat some chips or cake later is to eat lots of avocados, olives, nuts and seeds now, as your first meal of the day, before you leave the house (which should be free of such temptations if you’re serious about change) until you’re thoroughly satisfied. That way, when you pass by the local fast food emporium later, you aren’t tempted because 1 You’re not detoxing so heavily you crave junk food to slow it down and 2 You’re still too full. I call this approach ‘Abundant Eating’ and it worked for me, and it works for everyone who tries it.

Whilst pondering where to focus my new-found drive to make a contribution to the world, I read an article in Get Fresh by Sarma Melngailis, whose restaurant in New York I would later visit and be delighted by. She wrote about how ubiquitous fast food restaurants were in the US, and how she dreamt of the day when raw food establishments were similarly prevalent. I was inspired by this and decided I would do my bit to make this happen.

A few months later I was invited to invest in and help run Manna, in Brighton, the raw food cafe I had gone to just prior to the beginning of my raw journey. I had only just managed to get out of debt but I reluctantly went ahead anyway, following my heart and pursuing my dreams, and soon came on board as head chef and managing director.

Despite all my progress there was one area of my diet that I hadn’t made much headway in. I knew from listening to Tony Robbins and Robert Young that eating sugar was exacerbating an acid condition but found myself unable to stop. I was eating vast quantities of dates a day, often half a kilo or more, as well as other fruits like papaya and berries and sweeteners like yacon syrup and honey. I never believed agave syrup was a health food and instituted a strict no agave policy at manna as soon as I took over the kitchen, we used honey in all our chocolates as my instincts told me it was a lot healthier, whatever the sales copy proclaimed about it being low GI. This is something that is now finally coming to be acknowledged by the raw food world.

More and more it felt wrong to eat so much sugar but I failed at every attempt to stop. This was really frustrating as it felt like the last hurdle, the final frontier. I’d managed to stop consuming everything else the first time I really tried, but this was my own, personal Waterloo. I was defeated.

I had become really attracted to becoming what Tony Robbins called a fat burner, rather than a sugar burner. I recognised myself as a sugar burner, someone who was easily stressed, whose energy was up and down all the time, and of course, someone who craved carbohydrates with every meal. I was particularly impressed by the story of Stu Mittleman, an endurance athlete who ran three marathons a day, 21 hours a day, over ten consecutive days, and who attributed this record-breaking feat of stamina to being alkalised, and to burning fat as a primary fuel source, rather than carbohydrate. I wanted to be a fat-burner too, I loved fatty food, it felt right, but I just couldn’t kick the sugar habit.

With every problem comes the seed of the solution, and this solution came, unsurprisingly perhaps by now, in the form of a Taoist framework. I was given the book ‘The Body Ecology Diet’ by Donna Gates and, while the nutritional recommendations were generally sub-par, she did communicate one incredibly helpful distinction: that savoury, salty foods were generally yang, while sweet foods and drugs were generally yin. I’ve since come to the conclusion that salty and pungent foods, related to the kidneys and lungs respectively, are Yang, while sweet, sour and bitter foods, relating to the spleen, liver and heart respectively, are yin. Given that this was the case, it was obvious that someone like myself who was already depleted in Yin energy would find it impossible to completely give up sugar, when the only other foods I was eating were salty or neutral, like salads or nuts and seeds.

The solution she presented: lots and lots of fermented foods. Fermented foods were also extremely yin, and were a perfect substitute for sweet foods. They served another function, flooding the body with probiotics, beneficial bacteria, which also helped to reduce cravings for sweet foods.

I discovered that when we crave (as opposed to just fancy) sweet foods, it’s because of what Taoists call a damp spleen condition, known in Western Nutrition as an infestation of pathogenic bacteria, viruses, yeasts, funguses, moulds and parasites, localised in the digestive system although they could be anywhere throughout the body, especially the bloodstream.

Ideally we would have a healthy majority of probiotic bacteria in our digestive tract, especially in the small intestine, that keep these potentially organisms under control. However, when we have some kind of disturbance in our lives, especially antibiotics used repeatedly, these probiotics will be wiped out, it being the job of antibiotics to kill bacteria indiscriminately. Then the bad bacteria or especially bad funguses, most famously candida, get a chance to proliferate unchallenged, and once they get a foothold they’re like a stubborn stain, really hard to get out.

Most disturbingly, funguses, bacteria and other parasites can tap into our central nervous system and, like a puppet, start pulling our strings. They can control a lot of our functions but luckily their ambitions are usually fairly unsophisticated and focused on one topic: “feed me” is their persistent cry. We, of course, innocent and unsuspecting, assume the impulse, coming as it is from within our own body, must be our own, so we comply. However we should notice that the craving are almost always for either carbohydrates or proteins. Fungal organisms tend to prefer sugars, while bacteria tend to prefer putrefied protein, although this is only a very general rule, and there are plenty of bacteria that crave carbohydrates too, the most common craving.

Notice no pathogenic organism will crave fat, and people rarely crave fatty foods devoid of any carbohydrates or protein. If they do it tends to be for emotional reasons, a high fat meal releases the ‘bonding’ hormone oxytocin into our bloodstream, making us feel loved. It makes sense that these organisms don’t crave fat, when have you ever seen oil rot or grow mould? It will of course grow rancid, but you wouldn’t have much luck using it as a culture for pathogenic organisms to grow on.

Top fermented foods that give you that much needed, because usually depleted yin energy and probiotic bacteria include: raw unpasteurised sauerkraut (warning, if it doesn’t say raw unpasteurised on the jar, it isn’t), kefir and kombucha. Luckily for me we had a steady supply of all of them at my raw cafe. I had been suspicious of fermented foods, as they were all acid forming and unhealthy according to Robert Young, whose advice I had so benefitted from, but Dr Young also talked about how extremely valuable it was to health and energy to stop eating sugars, so I overcame my reluctance, resolved to give up sugar, and started eating raw sauerkraut with every meal and drinking kombucha every day.

Like with quitting smoking, the first three days were hard. My energy was extremely low, concentrating was difficult, and the fungi and bacteria in me all resolved their differences to unite under a common goal: to persuade me that I must have sugar. I relented. I experienced detoxification symptoms as the yeast were having a mass ‘die-off’, and my immune and eliminative systems were struggling to mop up the carnage. Eventually I felt better. A lot better. It was my next huge breakthrough, after going raw and alkalising. I had far more energy. My mood improved considerably once again and my dependence on alkaline drinks receded a bit. I felt fantastic.

I immediately stopped being hungry all the time and felt no desire to pick at foods, despite the obvious temptations of my surroundings, creating raw foods all day. Most significantly from my perspective, I had gone from needing 6+ meals a day, and feeling enslaved to the constant need to eat, to only having usually 2 or a maximum of three meals a day. It was liberating to no longer be planning my whole day and my whole life on when I next needed to eat! I resolved never to eat sugars again, something that I’ve kept to 95% of the time.

Over the years I had accumulated a sizable amount of knowledge and experience in the world of health, energy and nutrition, including making almost every mistake possible, and following every unhelpful tangent to it’s logical conclusion. I spoke about my findings enthusiastically, and every person in my personal life had changed their habits to some degree to be more healthy, and all of them had gotten good results.

The next logical step, which my new colleagues really impressed on me, was to start taking on clients and making a difference in more people’s lives. I had my reservations though. It wasn’t really a lack of confidence, I knew I could communicate effectively, and communicate advice which would really help someone improve their lives. One friend even went 100% raw as a result of the transformation she could see in me, and she became a fantastic raw chef.

But I didn’t feel that what I was offering was any different from what many other people were saying, and I was determined to keep learning, until I found the solution to the ultimate challenge that faces anyone who dedicates their lives to helping others improve themselves in any way. You see, I was painfully aware that whatever I said, most people wouldn’t follow through on taking advice which is, even by their own admission, in their best interests. 97% of people who go on a diet, have gained any weight they’ve lost back again and often gained more, within a year. This one statistic alone should give pause for thought to anyone who believes that all we’re lacking is the right information, or a bit of support or encouragement.

Certainly, when the strategies we use are based on erronious conclusions based on inaccurate first principles, it’s should come as no suprise when we fail to reach our goals. As Tony Robbins says, no matter how dedicated and enthusiastic we are, we’ll never see a sunset if our strategy is to keep running east.

But there is a bigger, more important reason why most people never make the consistent improvements they want to in their lives, and it brings us full circle to where we started: the culprit is the fundamental sickness of spirit that was recognised by most cultures around the world, and in fact is still recognised by all of us right now, although we may not have words to describe it. This sickness of spirit is so prevalent around the world it is really the biggest health epidemic of all time and, from my perspective, the root cause of all other health crises.

Have you ever met a real junkie and looked deeply in their eyes? They look empty or hollow, with a definite predatory tone to them. Staring into their eyes can be very disconcerting, especially to anyone who has a keen intuitive sense, often born of living in dangerous environments. You sense that, if they could get away with it, this person would kill you right now just to get another hit of their drug of choice. Their Spirit is ‘sick’ or, from a Taoist perspective, they are completely absent in one of the three foundational types of energy, called Shen. I’m not picking on junkies here, you often find the same look in those who hold positions of great responsibility or power, although their particular drug of choice tends to be more power.

On the other hand, have you ever met someone who, when you look in their eyes, you just feel the love and deep compassion they have for you and all life? Someone who is generous, caring, grateful, kind, honest, strong, courageous and authentic, someone with impeccable integrity, who radiates a sense of goodness and a dedication to what they feel to be right? Maybe you really haven’t, these people are incredibly rare in our current society, but I’m sure you’ve met people with at least some of these characteristics, they are the natural leaders we follow, and the heros we try to emulate. Martin Luthor King, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Mother Theresa were unquestioningly these types of people. These are the people whose spirit is healthy and strong, who, from a Taoist point of view, have high levels of Shen energy.

Of course most of us fall somewhere between these two categories, neither saint nor sinner, sometimes doing what we know to be right, and sometimes taking the lazy, easy option and giving in to our baser instincts for instant gratification. Of course sometimes even giving in to our carnal instincts can be the appropriate thing to do so let me clarify even further: sometimes we listen to the silent promptings of our heart, the organ related to Shen energy, and sometimes we ignore it. Let me assure you, no junkie spends the majority of their time listening to their heart, they’re usually more interested in dulling the heart’s desperate cries of pain.

The Taoist perspective was to me the most helpful, as it completely lacked any element of judgement or condemnation. Note how I didn’t say the first group were ‘bad’ people and the second group were ‘good’ people. They are, to Taoists, simply people with different levels of energy. With enough extra Shen energy, a junkie can become a true hero, and with enough depletion of Shen, a hero or leader could end up as a junkie.

Everyone has a chance to be good, even great, within this framework. Similarly, no one can take their ‘goodness’ for granted, and stop caring, or they may find they fall from grace. The whole system democratises morality, showing you it’s about what you do, which directly correlates to our level of Shen energy, not who we innately are. We should perceive this as immensely liberating, no matter what you’ve done, and no matter what you’ve been told about how ‘no good’ you are, there’s always a way to turn it around.

I had been aware of all of this for years, way before I decided to become healthy. As I said at the start, understanding and healing the self destructive impulse has been the primary drive of my life, ever since I saw and recognised it destroying the people I loved. When I recognised it within myself and realised how helpless I was to it, it’s no wonder I spent most of my life cycling between anger, despair, frustration, fear and apathy. While these are all perfectly understandable responses, however, they only served to feed and strengthen the grip of the self destructive urge within me.

There are many ways to increase your Shen energy, and I hope to discuss many of them in another article. One that is very simple is to just be your word, especially to yourself. If you say you’re going to do something then do it. This doesn’t mean to be rigid and never adapt to circumstances but in your heart you know if the reason you’ve given for not doing something you’ve promised is genuine or just an excuse. People whose energy is lower in Shen frequently feel as if they’re getting away with something. Just remember, you never get away with anything, your Shen always suffers, even if no one else knows, notices or cares.

The challenge with increasing Shen, and the biggest hurdle I faced, was this: the less Shen someone has, the less inclined and more resistant they feel to do activities and take on habits that increases it!

It’s a classic catch 22 situation. You say to someone: ‘lets do x, as it will be enjoyable, it will make our lives better and it will help us to get the result we want’ they agree wholeheartedly and then don’t do it. Have you ever known someone who does that, know them intimately maybe? Of course this happens with exercise or diet, but the truth is that we all do it in every areas of our lives to various degrees.

Something analogous is the case in nutrition, where the more acidic a person is, the more they crave acid forming substances and are reticent to consume alkaline forming substances. How many people do you know who are close to a stroke or a heart attack who baulk at the thought of eating a salad or drinking a green juice, even though they would probably benefit from it far more than you?

Why do we have this deeply rooted drive to stay as we are, with the energy levels we currently have, even though we are usually less than happy with who we are and the life we have? I’ve heard many explanations over the years, a fear of change being one of the most common ones, but ultimately I feel it comes down to loyalty.

We are loyal to our own image of ourselves, to our deep seated, usually early childhood conditioned stories of who we are, usually to the bitter end, or at least until it really is too late to change (after all when our Jing, another one of our three fundamental energies, runs out, that’s it, but that’s another story). Most fundamentally, from a Taoist perspective, we are loyal to the particular energetic configuration that results in who we are, energy being primary, and physiology and psychology being secondary, a result of our energetic situation.

In this sense those with any ill health could, from a certain perspective, be considered the lucky ones, as they can be motivated to not just change and adapt, but truly transform, as their situation is truly intolerable to them.

If our levels of Jing, which I call adaptive energy, is high, we can always change quite easily, like the chameleon, to fit into the environment better, and make life more tolerable. The seemingly extreme desire to kill yourself however, is, as far as I’m concerned, the desire to not just adapt but truly transform. The totem of this urge is the phoenix, and relates to Shen energy. If we find our life intolerable and superficial change just isn’t enough, developing Shen is the only way out!

It was while trying to explain this conundrum of how to ‘kick start’ shen development, for me an essential prerequisite for most people to attain optimal health, to a colleague that I stumbled on a real solution. He recognised a lot of the terms I was using from a book: ‘The Chinese Tonic Herbs’ by Ron Teeguarden. I have never read and assimilated the contents of a book so quickly in my entire life, and I’ve always been a quick learner. I guess I was highly motivated to learn. The book itself was an amazing synthesis of a huge and thoroughly complex herbal system, stripped down to the bare bones of practicality. As Truth Caulkins, another excellent Taoist Tonic Herbalist says, it’s the only book you really need on the subject.

While he didn’t address the issues I’m talking about here he did something better, he offered a viable solution, both to the lack of Shen in the world as well as my own particular area of weakness: a deficiency in Jing energy, stored in the Kidneys. I discovered that not only was Taoism the only system in the world to recognise the importance of Shen, they’d also discovered, extensively tested and catalogued herbs which improve it, both Shen uplifters, which increase Spirit, and Shen stabilisers, which calm a restless spirit.

They also had Jing herbs, herbs that not only increased this adaptive energy, like a lot of adaptogens do, but, more importantly, astringent herbs which locked this energy in, stopping it from being wasted. From a Taoist perspective conserving energy had always been emphasised as being even more important than getting more energy, which would be a more western mindset. I like to use the metaphor of the bucket with the hole in the bottom, where no matter how much water you put in, if there’s a hole there, it will soon run dry again. If the bucket is like your internal ‘reserve energy’ batteries and the water is your ‘reserve energy’, then astringent herbs, my favourite being schizandra, seal the hole and help to keep you fully charged.

I had another important realisation around this time relating to the kidneys. I was having trouble reconciling the Taoist perspective on the kidneys being the most fundamental organ in the body, the root of everything, and the Western Medical perspective on these organs, that they were basically just there to filter blood, something that you could always get a dialysis machine to do, a piece of technology that my recently deceased grandfather helped to pioneer. I knew that when the Taoists talk about kidneys they meant a lot more than just the organs, they were also talking about the bladder, adrenals, reproductive glands, central nervous system, reptilian parts of the brain, bones and bone marrow, tendons and ligaments.

Still, the kidneys were highlighted as being the most vital piece of this whole system, and I didn’t understand why. I stumbled on the reason online and confirmed it by further research: the kidneys were in charge of regulating the acid/alkaline balance of the body. The weaker the kidneys were, the more this PH level of the body could go out of balance, initiating a vicious cycle where the more acid a person becomes the more they crave acidic substances and activities. The PH balance of the body is, of course, as extensively documented by Dr Young and many others, crucial for all aspects of health.

It had bothered me that I seemed to be thoroughly dependent on these alkalising drinks, although they provided real relief, there didn’t seem to be an end in sight. They seemed to be compensating for an imbalance, rather than reversing the imbalance. True, I had only been on them for half a year, but I was getting to know some people who had been on the scene for many years, and who were still hooked on having green drinks ever day, or they would go out of balance again.

I finally had my answer as to why some people became overly acidic very easily while some could put their bodies through a lot of acidic activity and substance intake and barely be effected: it was all down to the strength of the kidneys. More importantly, I’d found a way to resolve the situation, permanently: tonify the kidneys, with the appropriate herbs and suddenly your resilience goes right up. I don’t use any specifically alkalising drinks anymore, I do often have a green juice, but this is more for its nutritive and hydrating qualities than anything, and , if I can’ have one for a few days, I don’t suffer from any acid symptoms like I used to. I still have Kidney tonic herbs consistently, and I believe that Kidney tonic herbs are good to have all the time, especially if longevity is one of your goals, but I’m fine if I go without them, which I might do if I want to focus on some different tonic herbs for a while.

From the Taoist perspective the basic function, or purpose, of a human beings existence is to be a bridge between heaven, manifested in the sun, the stars and the blackness of space, and the earth, manifested in the planet we live on. By cutting ourselves off from either of these sources of life, we are not fulfilling our role of human beings.

It was with great interest therefore, that I approached grounding technology when I heard about it, as the concept was already familiar to me. The creators of grounding technology, however, had gone a step further and seemed to have proven that, from a scientific research point of view, regular physical contact with the Earth, either by touching earth, sand, rocks, living plants like grass or trees, or water like rivers or the sea was essential to good health, improving sleep, reducing inflammation, discharging free radicals and harmful radiation, keeping the body highly mineralised and aiding in healing and relaxation.

These are, probably not coincidentally, all related to the Yin functions of the kidneys, Yin Jing, which I had learned years earlier from Mantak Chia, you increase by being in contact with the Earth, especially with your hands and feet and with your focused mind drawing this energy up into the kidneys with the in breath, and expelling any inharmonious energy out in to the Earth with the out breath. Now I discovered that this was an energetic exchange that was constantly going on between ourselves and the Earth, every time we were in physical contact with it.

The real revelation though, vital for those whose life circumstances don’t allow them to be in contact with the Earth most of the day, especially when they’re asleep which would be most optimal (ie everyone), is that there’s now a viable alternative. You can, for less than $100, buy a grounding sheet, which you just use as a normal sheet on your bed, that you plug into the wall or directly into the ground, and you get the benefits of touching the Earth without the inconvenience.

What a technological breakthrough! I got one and I love it to bits. Again I can live without it but I honestly feel more rested sleeping for four hours on a grounding sheet than eight hours without one. After all the key factor in how recuperative a nights sleep will be is the quality, not quantity. I feel that the grounding sheet has been a key part of the complete recovery of my kidneys, second only to Taoist Tonic Herbs.

Now I felt I really had something original and effective to offer people I started taking on clients. They weren’t hard to find, I never advertised myself, I just got into conversations with people and, if it became clear to me they were keen, ready and willing to improve their health, I would offer my services. My very first client had some fantastic results and referred five or six other peole, and we’re now going into business together.

I’ve also had the privilege of working with Shazzie, Sarma Melngailis and Kate Magic as clients, all of whom had inspired me a great deal along my journey to health, so it was a great honour to be giving something back. It was also a great lesson to me that the true expert never rests on their laurels and says, ‘right that’s it, I know it all now’ but instead is always hungry to grow and learn more, as well as contribute that knowledge and understanding to the world.

I had the immense good fortune to meet a man called Joe Best, an Internet Marketing expert as well as a veteran of the raw food world, having been involved in it for years and spent time with most of the raw experts, celebrities and personalities. It was really his belief in me which pushed me to put myself out there, he said he recognised in me a caring and authentic nature, as well as a level of understanding and knowledge which could really help people. He thought he’d heard it all before, but was surprised that I had something new to say when we did a consultation.

He also highlighted to me the crucial role the internet would have to play, if I wanted to really reach people and help people. Two years before I didn’t even have an internet connection, and up until he insisted on it I didn’t have a Facebook account or anything else like it. I had previously been too paranoid but now I couldn’t think of a reason why not, and dove into it wholeheartedly. I now feel like I belong to a whole international community of likeminded people, which is a real pleasure.

I also set up a site making Taoist Tonic Mixtures available to everyone in Europe, simply because I hadn’t found anyone outside the US who stocked them, and I hadn’t found anywhere in the world that stocked the whole teas, rather than extracted capsules, mixed into blends based on different goals, one for each of the five organs. To me there’s nothing like drinking the real Taoist Tonic herbal tea, exactly as Taoist have been doing for literally thousands of years. Every part of the process I find an absolute pleasure, from brewing to drinking to sharing to hearing from people the amazing experiences they’ve had as a result of regular consumption, or sometimes just from a single cup. I’m especially proud of my Kidney Tonic blend, Rejuvenate, which is not only deeply satisfyingly replenishing, but also delicious.

I’ve endeavoured to make as much free information available as possible, mainly in the easily digestible form of downloadable MP3s and videos, not just on Tonic Herbs but on all aspects of achieving optimal health and energy, and I’ll continue to put out as much high quality, relevant information as I can. I’m also in the process of creating concise and easy to use products focusing on overcoming specific root health problems, the first of which, ‘The Easy Exhaustion Cure for Workaholics and Overachievers’ was born simply of realising that no one else was offering any helpful or realistic solutions to such a prevalent problem.

I mention my current projects not to attempt to impress you, but to impress upon you, just how radically and completely I’ve changed. Up until I started using the Taoist Tonic Herbs my life was in a constant state of chaos. Nothing was organised. I would get overwhelmed so easily. I would be extremely reluctant to start anything new and, if I did, I’d rarely see it through to the end. Somewhere along the way I would give up, or change my mind. Now I feel truly down to Earth, all it seems so simple: formulate a plan, see it through step by step until you’ve got to your end result, and adapt to any changes that become necessary along the way. But this just used to feel impossible when I was living ‘in my head’.

What is this story really all about? Well, I invite you to draw your own meaning, of course, but to me the transformation of my physical health is a fairly secondary part of the story. After all, it’s not like I had some kind of severe, dramatic life threatening disease that I had to overcome. I was just averagely unhealthy, flagging behind my peer group, but that was it.

This story of my life is, to me, ultimately a story of the triumph of the human spirit from the depths of emptiness, apathy and despair; through the healing of the body. If there is only one lesson that you could take from this, I would be pleased if it was the realisation that you feelings, your thoughts and psychology are ultimately rooted in the health, or otherwise, of the body. That no matter how depressed you are, you’re not going to think or talk yourself out of it permanently, any more than you’re going to talk yourself out of a flu, a hernia or arthritis. You might get better eventually anyway, but it won’t be the talking that did it. Usually things will just get worse, unless you deal with the real source of the problem.

I’ve been truly astounded at how effortlessly I’ve been able to keep my emotional state up no matter how many excellent excuses I’ve had to give up and feel sorry for myself. In the last half a year I’ve had my business go bankrupt, I’ve personally almost gone bankrupt, I’ve had a relationship breakup, an excruciatingly painful hospital visit where I had an infection spreading up my leg and no one knowing what to do (a great story for another time), and a death in the family. I don’t think anyone would have blamed me if I’d descended into just a little self pity, worry or frustration, but I just didn’t see the point, it doesn’t help so why bother?

I know people have endless justifications for indulging in negative emotional states, and I’ve described in great detail that I understand that once you’re immersed in them, they’re really hard to see through and extricate yourself from. I have compassion for people who feel trapped in these states, I really do, and when I employ my empathy and look in their eyes I very much literally feel what they feel, but to me it’s crucial to remember that all these negative emotional states are rooted in and maintained by imbalanced or blocked organs, not outside events. I realise this is a very controversial statement and all I can really say is: don’t believe me, try it for yourself! Prove me wrong! Do everything you can to bring your internal organs to a peak state and then tell me how you feel. I doubt you’ll still want to argue the point.

Throughout my recent challenges nothing has got me down, not because I’m oblivious or in denial about the reality of all the pain in life, but because I see it in perspective, and keep focused on my life’s purpose, which I’ve now joyfully discovered, although I have no doubt it will keep evolving and being refined as I continue along my path.

I think the mystics were right when they said the key to happiness or fulfilment (or whatever you want to call it) lies within us, not outside of us. But maybe where we went wrong in interpreting this was in assuming they were talking metaphorically, when in fact they were talking literally about our body! Maybe the body is more than just the temple of the soul, maybe it is the soul, manifested in flesh and bones, and we just don’t have the eyes to see it.

Whether this is true or not, I’m sure of one thing: it would be wise to act ‘as if’ it were accurate and to treat our bodies as if they are truly sacred.