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Report a typo! If you see a typo or grammatical error on this blog report it to me! (You could try the grammar police but I heard they’re too busy with Facebook right now, so contacting me directly would be the best bet!)

Attention to detail is not my forte so I’d really appreciate your contribution! C something dat buuugs u? Wanna tell me to go bak to skool? Perfect! I’d love the prompt.

Contact me here.

Thank you 🙂


Mental health mechanics: a new era of trade-based therapy

There’s an elitist regulation body that governs the mental health field in Australia and abroad. Pathways to becoming a registered therapist or clinical psychologist are long, onerous and excessive to say the least, not to mention incredibly expensive.

The ivory tower regulation system requires aspiring therapists to complete a degree, honours, masters and then several years of supervision before they’re considered knowledgable enough to help anyone. Typically that’s 5-6 years of study, plus 2 years of clinical supervision, which is often paid for out of the graduate’s own pocket at a hefty hourly rate. The requirements are different from country to country but they all have a lot in common: an oppressive industry vacuum cleaner attached to the student’s bank account.

ivory tower

Many believe that regulation is important in ensuring professional standards; that it would be disastrous to allow unqualified individuals the right to offer psychological therapy. However this stance makes an assumption that skills and knowledge are only valid if acquired through university education. But what about trades and apprenticeships? What if there were ‘mental health mechanics’ so to speak? Does a good therapeutic relationship really require 6 years of university study to be helpful? Should therapists be rocket scientists complete with PhD?

I’m all for formal education if someone wants to pursue that path. I’ve done more than 5 years of tertiary study myself. The first few years were worthwhile when I was straight out of school and didn’t know who I was yet. A degree can be character building! But who’s to say an apprenticeship in the same area (if such a thing existed) wouldn’t be just as enriching? … and why shouldn’t trades involve intellectual content?

Recently I was reading about ancient Celtic bards and their rigorous apprenticeship system for certifying poets. This amused me as I considered our stringent requirements for becoming qualified in our various professions today.


Of course our civilisation is a lot different now than in the days of ancient bards but reading about this reminded me of the fundamental ‘apprenticeship’ spirit that underpins our intellectual evolution.

Somehow learning became fragmented in more recent history. Apprenticeships became limited to more bricks and mortar type careers and university education took over everything else.

Many universities attempt to incorporate an apprenticeship spirit into their courses with placements and internships. Some institutions are more vocationally oriented that others.. this can be helpful and worthwhile for students but it’s not quite the same as developing a longer term relationship with a mentor or boss. And let’s not forget, placements are usually unpaid! In the university system you pay to learn… in the apprentice model you get paid!! You’re still valuable… you’ve still got something worthwhile to contribute. You’re not just a faceless number in a classroom.

Unlike the ancient bards I don’t think apprenticeships should be 9 years! Hell no! But I shared that little excerpt because it reminded me of a certain idea that’s timeless: knowledge is the transfer of information from one person to another. We should remember that knowledge is still knowledge no matter what your credentials are.

This society has lost its capacity to validate the real world knowledge people can acquire in a variety of non-academic ways. Unless you’ve got the right credentials you can’t practice therapy because it’s potentially dangerous! That’s the idea that floats around. But let’s not forget that therapy isn’t actually brain surgery. Therapists don’t actually operate on an ill brain and surgically remove a ‘mental disease’ … for that, yes I agree surgeons should have appropriate credentials. But for talk therapy I really don’t believe it’s as complicated or hazardous as people make out.

Of course there are horror stories, like with every occupation. Negligent therapists who psychologically damage their clients do exist. This is awful and I wouldn’t wish for a system that enabled such occurrences to flourish.

However, I don’t think the current education system we have for therapeutic training is actually as ‘safe’ as people make out.  Pretty much anyone can get a degree these days (if you can pay $) and it really doesn’t mean what it used to.

When I’m looking for a good counsellor/ support person/ therapist or coach I really couldn’t care less what or where they have studied. I also couldn’t give two stuffs about what professional organisation or peak body they belong to. I’m more interested in who they are as a unique person, whether they seem to have genuine wisdom and relevant life experience, whether they come recommended by friends and how they come across in their promotional videos or in our first few sessions.

Whats important to me is knowledge and wisdom, not the elitist structure that validates that knowledge.

I’d love to see a return of the old apprenticeship spirit. Person to person, expert to novice! I want to see therapeutic businesses opening their doors to new seekers and paying them accordingly.. step by step.

I want to see a new era of mental health mechanics who are not afraid to get their hands dirty on the frontlines by using basic tools that actually work.

I want to see an end to the mystification of psychology up on its complicated scaffold and bring it back down to earth, where real hearts live.



What is radical psychology?

dehumanizing workpace

Do we need therapists or social change reform?

RADICAL …. PSYCHOLOGY … these two words popped into my head, seemingly at random recently, as I contemplated the direction of this blog for 2019. My subconscious gave rise to these words, like an involuntary brainstorm that reflected my interest in alternative and emerging psychology; the rebellious fringes of mental health recovery.

Unconventional ideas have always intrigued me but it wasn’t until I consulted my trusted expert and confidant Mr Google that I discovered “radical psychology” was actually “a thing.” …. an established movement complete with website, peer reviewed journal and academic authorship.

As I clicked the search results to find several official pages, I was curious to know what radical psychologists were all about! Did they promote bizarre unconventional therapies? Were they critics of mainstream treatments like CBT?…. or were they part of the psychoanalysis revival?

It turns out my very questions reveal a limited point of view that radical psychologists are trying to change: that we are so focused on the individual, or “person-blame” ideology, that we don’t adequately address the social structures that oppress (or enable) emotional wellbeing. Radical psychologists believe the field of psychology should be more involved in social reform to address dehumanising structures and institutions that cause widespread emotional disturbance.

Although I’m still wrapping my head around what this movement encompasses, it sounds like Macro psychology with a capital M: psychology at a societal scale or a hybrid of sociology, psychology and activism. According to the radical psychology network website, the movement aims to “change the status quo of psychology” and to “challenge psychology’s traditional focus on minor reform”, because, they say, improving human welfare requires fundamental social change. They also suggest psychology itself has too often oppressed people rather than liberated them.

The latter is a radical claim indeed but reminds me of an old Krishnamurti quote “it’s no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”  By focusing on individual adjustment, coping and “management” of symptoms are we in a round about way supporting a dehumanising societal trend? A trend which says we should find a way to endure 80 hour workweeks or thrive despite terrible conditions and continuous exploitation. Are we helping people cope, with an unacceptable status quo that really shouldn’t be tolerated in the first place?

By labelling people with various mental disorders like depression and anxiety, are we blaming individual pathology for problems that are actually symptoms of an oppressive dysfunctional system?

I’m a real believer in the power of psychological counselling but I can also see the need for broader social change. If psychologists can get behind social reform and make a difference to people on mass then why not? I’m all for it.

I think there’s certainly more scope for governments and companies to consult psychologists in the design of structures and systems that support, rather than hinder wellbeing. For example, customer service call centre systems. This is one of the most dehumanising trends I’ve witnessed in my lifetime, both for the workers and customers.

Just yesterday I called my phone provider to troubleshoot a mobile data issue. I got the typical “press 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5”; a tree of annoying options and sub options, that didn’t quite capture the reason for my call. Then I waited on hold for 10 minutes whilst condescending pre-recorded info bites played between fuzzy hold music. The recordings had the tone of a kindergarten teacher addressing a 3 year old.

tamh call centre

When I finally reached a real person the line was choppy with delays as the call centre was based overseas, (where people are exploited as cheap labour). The whole experience was frustrating and dehumanising and as such I experienced 15 minutes of unwanted tension. A better call centre design could make the whole experience much more pleasant for all involved.

Whilst 15 minutes of feeling annoyed might not seem like a big deal, we’re all facing a myriad of dehumanising systems throughout our day. For example, at the self serve supermarket checkout or when interacting with a sales assistant whose sales pitch is so heavily micromanaged it sounds robotic …. “two for the price of one…have a nice day…. would you like fries with that?” Surely all of this homogenised fakery has a negative impact on our psyche. Who knows what the accumulated toll is on our wellbeing. It’s no wonder people wind up exhausted and depressed.

I’m not entirely sure if radical psychologists are concerned about dehumanising company systems as described above or if their critiques focus more on political and economic structures. Perhaps they’re referring to the structural design bolstering the field of psychology itself. Either way I plan to dig deeper into their the literature to find out. I’ve only just touched on it today but I hope to interview a radical psychologist if I can find one willing.

So watch this space for a totally RAD article on RADical psychology! LOL.


How Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is repackaged stoicism


If you were to book a session with a conventional psychologist today you may not realise that what you’re actually signing up for is applied ancient Greek and Roman philosophy …. just a modern revived version called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). 

As many of you know CBT is a therapeutic tool used widely by counsellors and psychologists across the globe. Developed in the 1950s & 60s it’s now one of the most researched methods for treating anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges. 

What’s not as well known though is CBTs roots in ancient stoic philosophy. Albert Ellis, who created Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy (the precursor to CBT) based his method on the ideas of ancient stoic philosophers such as Seneca, Epictetus and Aurelius. 

After working as a psychotherapist for several years he felt he had exhausted the standard psychology tools of the day, and so delved into ancient philosophy to see if he could find some age-old wisdom that might help his clients feel a deeper more profound sense of happiness. 


The modern idea we have of someone who is “stoic” is different to the teachings of ancient stoicism. Whilst the contemporary meaning of the word implies someone who is strong and emotionless in the face of adversity, ancient stoics taught people to feel and examine their emotions, to delve into them in order to find the thoughts and beliefs that gave rise to them. 

Ancient stoics were pantheists who believed in following the laws of nature. They believed there was a divine spark and divine order in everyone and everything and that we should align ourselves to this naturalness rather than going against it. 

They promoted the idea of dividing life into what we can control and what we can’t, and believed the happiest people were those who put their energy and focus towards the former whilst accepting the latter. It was a waste of mental energy, they said to dwell on things that can’t be changed. 

They believed fundamental lasting happiness was a result of living a virtuous life and operating with the highest integrity no matter what your circumstances. Applying virtues and doing the right thing gives rise to the greatest fulfilment they said, rather than your societal status, material wealth or access to human pleasures. Stoics would happily enjoy material wealth or pleasures if they happened to be available but they would not be so attached to them that they would suffer terribly in their absence. 

They didn’t see material abundance as “wrong” but they didn’t believe it was the key determining factor of happiness. A person in poverty could still be happy if they lived the virtues and adopted stoic practices. 

So what were these stoic practices, and how are they echoed in CBT today? Here are a few I stumbled across that caught my curiosity: 

Negative visualisation: the contemplation of loosing something important to you.

Ancient stoics would contemplate or visualise loosing something important to them, such as their hand, loved one, property or house in order to feel a sense of gratitude for what might otherwise be taken for granted.

Contemplating your death and the impermanence of everything.

Stoics would contemplate death and the impermanence of life once again as a reminder to feel grateful for each new day. Everything will change and one day we won’t be here at all, best to enjoy it while it lasts they suggested.

Develop accurate perception to prevent painful emotions 

Stoics believed emotions were a natural part of life but that we cause ourselves a great deal of unnecessary emotional turmoil due to seeing things through the lens of distorted thinking. They encouraged people to see life as accurately as possible, to look at “the facts”, be real and logical. “Clear thinking” they said is also a product of living a virtuous life. Simply doing the right thing, and doing your best in any given situation prevents emotions like guilt, remorse and regret. They also said that regularly practicing contemplations on what can and can’t be controlled creates a mental habit towards what’s useful and purposeful rather than pointless and depressing.

There are other practices and the philosophy is much more involved than what I’ve touched on above but hopefully you’re getting a sense for what they were teaching. 

CBT promotes many of the same ideas. Of course contemplating your death might be considered taboo or dangerous for someone who’s depressed but the rest of the ideas are integral to CBT; cultivating gratitude, examining emotions to find irrational beliefs, learning to see things as they are, operating with integrity and in alignment with our true selves, these are all themes and ideas you would probably discuss with a contemporary therapist. 

Ironically many people criticise CBT for being too “stoic” in its approach and see it as overly rational at the expense of exploring human emotions. To be honest I felt this way about it too until I delved a bit deeper into the history of it to reclaim some necessary context. This was the stuff of sages! Not those who wanted to repress their emotions and promote a “stuff it down soldier on” type attitude but rather the legacy of incredibly deep thinkers who possessed a pragmatic yet reverent attitude towards life.

As I type this blog and insert the quotes below to leave you with I marvel over the fact they’re still being shared all over the net thousands of years later. Perhaps simple truths last the test of time.


Free live master class with Dr Kelly Brogan, Holistic Psychiatrist

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I just booked my seat for this free live masterclass with Dr Kelly Brogan, Holistic Psychiatrist. It’s happening in a few hours!! Wooooooo!! I’m excited I remembered to book in last minute! Dr Brogan will be exploring “psychiatric pretenders,” physical causes of mental health symptoms.

I really enjoyed her book A Mind of Your Own, which explores lifestyle medicine and the link between food and mood. What I learned was that mental illness isn’t necessarily a brain issue and the low serotonin theory isn’t science based. Her work is a real eye opener and will change the way you look at health. You can sign up here Reserve my seat.

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The rebellious origins of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

good bad shakespeare.jpg

“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so,” Shakespeare

If you could capture the essence of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) in one quote, this might be it!  Although CBT was conceived centuries after the era of Shakespeare its creators shared a similar perspective on the human mind; it’s not what what happens to us that determines our emotional wellbeing but rather how we think about what happens. So what is CBT?

The Beck Institute defines CBT as “a time-sensitive, structured, present-oriented psychotherapy directed toward solving current problems and teaching clients skills to modify dysfunctional thinking and behaviour.” Unlike psychoanalysis, which focuses on the past, the unconscious mind and family history, CBT focuses more on the present; patterns of thinking, emotion and behaviour as they are unfolding in the client’s life.

CBT emerged in the 1950s and has since grown to become one of the most popular first line treatments for depression and anxiety today. It has an extensive body of evidence-based research behind it and you’d be hard pressed to find any therapist who isn’t familiar with it. In a nutshell it’s mainstream psychology 101. But does it work?

This question was the topic of much heated debate during CBT’s early years. The approach was slow to gain traction and was often met with hostility and skepticism by conventional psychologists and therapists of the day. It was an unwelcome rebellion against the trusted Freudian and Jungian approaches revered at the time.

One of the key catalysts in the development of CBT, was Dr Aaron Beck, a passionate psychiatrist who was initially quite loyal to psychoanalytic theory in his early career. After conducting research into psychoanalysis, expecting to find strong evidence to support it, he was shocked to discover quite the opposite; his approach wasn’t actually helping his patients feel better!  As such he was driven to innovate and create new processes that would make a greater impact.

Aaron Beck Quote

Another key player in the emergence of CBT was Albert Ellis who developed Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), a precursor to CBT which shared many common elements. A fundamental premise of REBT is that humans do not get emotionally disturbed by circumstances, but by how they construct their views of these circumstances through their language, beliefs, meanings and philosophies about the world, themselves and others. Sound familiar? Hint… Shakespeare… scroll up 🙂

Ellis challenged his patients to evaluate their thoughts and cultivate more rational ways of thinking about themselves and the world at large. He was by no means the first person to use “rational thinking” as a therapeutic tool. Stoics, for example, were doing this back in ancient Greece but Ellis developed a modern user-friendly framework that he was able explore and test through empirical studies.

When Ellis declared “Freud was full of horse shit,” at a psychology conference in 1960s a war between therapeutic approaches was born. One camp loyal to diving deep into the patient’s childhood and the other looking for a quicker solution grounded in the present. Tensions between these ideas continued over the decades, but CBT gradually gained favour appealing to a culture enthused by the idea of a quicker fix.

Albert Ellis2

It’s quite amusing to consider how mainstream CBT is today when it began with just a few rogue thinkers challenging the status quo. Regardless of whether or not they were right, Beck and Ellis shared a truth-seeking spirit and a willingness to admit their own shortcomings as therapists. They created something new because the old way didn’t seem to be working for them.

Now another wave of rebellion is emerging; this time against CBT and back to psychoanalysis! In this fascinating article Oliver Burkeman explores the new research that might see Freud and Jung making a comeback!

In one recent study researches from Norway concluded that CBT’s effect size (a technical measure of its usefulness) has fallen by half since 1977.  If that trend were to continue, CBT could be entirely useless in a few decades! How can this be?

Coinciding with that researches from London’s Tavistock clinic published results on the first rigorous NHS study of long-term psychoanalysis as a treatment for chronic depression. They concluded that 18 months of analysis worked far better, and with much longer-lasting effects, than CBT style “treatment as usual.”

These studies are not isolated, there are others beyond the scope of this blog but what I’ve touched on here raises a number of interesting questions about the nature of “evidence-based” medicine and the need for more long-term studies.

I wouldn’t want to dismiss decades of research into CBT, surely there’s some element of truth in it, at the very least as a helpful tool for short-term relief. But my guess is that its strong evidence base is partly due to how quickly results can be seen when applying this method, and this fits in better with society’s 10-minute-medicine model.  Everyone loves a quick fix!

However, as many of us are learning some of the best medicine is slow and perhaps the truth takes longer to uncover. Did Beck lack patience in his earlier psychoanalysis approach? Should he have waited longer before giving up on Freud, or was it about time someone created a faster process, a handy modern tool to add to the therapy tool box? Certainly, looking back at the history of any therapeutic style does provide insight! (Yes irony noted!)

So answering my earlier question, does CBT work? Well my “rational emotive” brain is telling me yes but my unconscious mind is encouraging me to explore a deeper question… could both approaches have a valuable role to play in healing? Only if thinking makes it so!






What if it’s not “all in your head”?

What if your “mental” symptoms were actually physical? What if there was something you could you do to reverse the physical drivers of psychiatric symptoms?

Dr Kelly Brogan, has created this symptom checker tool, to help you explore the possible physical causes of mental health symptoms. As many of you know I’m a huge fan of Dr Brogan and the important work she’s doing in the area of holistic mental health. I highly recommend checking out the tool and any of her informative blogs. 

Today I received this interesting piece via her email list… well worth a read if you’re suffering symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, headaches, poor concentration and forgetfulness.

Reblogged from Dr Kelly Brogan MD

It's not all in your head

Do You Have One of These Psychiatric Pretenders?

As a “science nerd” and holistic psychiatrist, I’ve studied the many physiological systems of the body and their effects on the brain for the better half of the past decade.

And time and time again, the same physical drivers of psychiatric symptoms keep coming back to the surface.

People with all sorts of diagnoses and complaints arrive at my office, everything from bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression … to insomnia, trouble concentrating, mood swings, and fatigue.

And I’m consistently surprised by how many physicians have completely missed the underlying causes of those symptoms before those patients wind up on my doorstep.

Medicine has unfortunately become very disconnected…

That’s why I decided to create this brand-new Symptom Checker to see if we might be able to help you pull back the curtain on your symptoms directly, and reveal if you could have one or more of what I call the “Psychiatric Pretenders.”

These are the Top 5, real, physical imbalances that can often present as mental or emotional in nature, when in fact are actually physical. And the great news is… THEY’RE COMPLETELY REVERSIBLE! Sometimes only in a matter of days…

I encourage you to take just a minute to answer these questions, and then watch the videos on the results page for anything you might be at risk for. I’ll walk you through what to do next.

It turns out, your symptoms may not be, “All In Your Head” after all…

See you on the other side!
Kelly Brogan, MD

Check your symptoms here:


Could spirits be spiritual? Alcohol as a shamanic medicine


Dionysus, ancient Greek god of wine.

What if alcohol was reimagined as a mystical, magical and shamanic ceremonial medicine, like it once was considered in many traditional cultures around the globe… would we abuse it less? If we treated alcohol with reverence and respect rather than shame and contempt would we naturally develop a healthier relationship with it?

These days alcohol has a fairly bad reputation in spiritual circles. Ayahuasca and Kambo have become the popular shamanic medicines of choice for contemporary spiritual seekers but alcohol has been banished to the badlands. It’s seen as toxic, low vibrational, addictive, messy, violent and just plain idiotic! But if we’re going to take a leaf so to speak from traditional cultures why not reclaim a juicy grape from western history?

Consider Dionysus, the ancient Greek & Roman God of wine! There was an entire religion built around this deity and the spiritual practice of drinking wine. Followers used wine in sacred ceremonies to invoke spirits and commune with their more primordial nature. It was consumed as a way to be liberated from civilisation’s rules and constraints, to escape the socialised personality and to access an ecstatic, deified primal state.

Drinking wine was believed to have a divine purpose; that of reconnecting with sprit and the “beast-God” within, or what we might call the unconscious mind in modern psychology.

As Bertrand Russell so eloquently puts it in his book A History of Western Philosophy, 

“In intoxication, physical or spiritual, the [Dionysian] initiate recovers an intensity of feeling which prudence had destroyed; he finds the world full of delight and beauty, and his imagination is suddenly liberated from the prison of everyday preoccupations. The ritual produced what was called ‘enthusiasm’, which means etymologically having the god enter the worshipper, who believed that he became one with the god”.

You can find the same kind of reverent attitudes towards alcohol in Vodoo rum ceremonies, Shinto sake rituals, Mongolian shamanic vodka rituals, and even contemporary Catholic mass where wine is considered the blood of Christ.

Vodoo Rum Ritual

Vodoo ritual, invoking the rum spirits

But modern spiritual and health conscious people tend to dismiss alcohol and put it in the unspiritual trashbin alongside confectionary, preserved meat and carbs. But I’m wondering if it isn’t alcohol that’s bad but simply our unenlightened approach to it. It’s like we’re in some kind of alcohol dark age where we’ve forgotten the purpose and opportunity this beverage has offered us for thousands of years.

Humans are always looking for something new. We are thrill seekers and drawn to novel experiences. Alcohol is old hat! It’s legal, accessible, cheap, and common and thus there’s a tendency to see it as un-sacred. Of course there’s nothing sacred about alcohol abuse, mindless binge drinking or serious alcohol addiction. But I’m wondering if these very things come about because of our irreverent and flippant attitude towards it in the first place.

What if this common beverage could be seen in a new and novel light? What if we revived old Dionysian-style mysteries and attitudes! What if we made alcohol spiritually cool again?

We’re taught to “moderate” and that it’s okay to drink small amounts of alcohol as long as you keep “the beast” of over indulgence at bay. But there’s still this ugly attitudinal undercurrent within the moderation creed; the idea that we we should always control our base nature… that’s there nothing valuable to be gained in letting loose with a few too many wines once in a while… and that the effect of doing so is somehow fake, unreal or not actually “us.”

I saw an article recently titled  The spiritual consequences of alcohol which included an image of a dark ghoul-like entity spiritually syphoning the life force from a powerless alcohol drinking victim. This attitude is a akin to making something like food “evil” just because certain people have food addictions. Food is never the problem. It’s the relationship people have with it.

Obviously there’s a dark side to alcohol consumption, yes there are casualties and some people may feel better off never touching the stuff. That’s perfectly fine. Each to their own, but lets not demonise it any more than any other drug. Lets refrain from having a debate over whose drug of choice is more spiritual. Weed vs. alcohol. This is an old and boring debate. Lets just see them for what they are; different drugs with different effects, and different benefits.

I have to admit I’ve always loved alcohol and this blog post might seem like a sad attempt to justify or even glorify my use of it. But it’s simply my intention to find a healthy attitude towards it in my life. There have been periods over the years where I was a complete teetotaller; just to challenge myself, lose some pounds and save some pennies. But I felt like I was up on some sort of purity pedestal. It felt like a betrayal of my shadow and the part of me that’s unimpressed with black and white thinking.

I believe an attitude of reverence and respect for this powerful beverage is what actually works for me…  after all I can’t be bothered with a daily elaborate Vodoo ritual lol. There is no risk of getting addicted!  Making it sacred means special occasions only ;).

mongolian vodka ceremony

Mongolian vodka ceremony

When the road to wellness is literally a road: interview with Zarah Darling; nomad, vanlifer and magic catalyst!

ZarahDarlingFlowers_2What if you could change your life in 8 days? What if you could go from being almost bedridden with a chronic illness to a life of freedom, vitality and adventure quicker than you ever imagined was possible?

That’s exactly what Zarah Darling did last year when on a whim she decided to become a vanlife nomad! In just 8 days she packed up her 4 bedroom house, bought a van and set off to explore the magic of nature.

After over a decade of struggling with chronic fatigue from toxic mould exposure Zarah discovered her own unique road to wellness: literally living on the road! She says this radically different lifestyle was exactly what her body needed to feel vibrant and truly alive!  Now with a growing reputation as a Magic & Awareness Catalyst Zarah travels across the county whilst mentoring people on how they too can choose and create anything they dream up, and more! I caught up with Zarah yesterday to chat about her “journey” (yes pun intended) and how she’s helping people to unleash their inner magic.


Wow! You live out of a van! What lead you to choose a nomadic lifestyle ? Was there a particular turning point or catalyst? 

When I was growing up, my dad had a few books about hippies living in converted school buses and I loved leafing through them just to relax and daydream. The buses had quirky features like wooden shingles added to the outside of them to make them look like houses. In hindsight, it makes a lot of sense why I find this lifestyle so appealing now! Those books planted seeds of possibility in my mind but I didn’t choose the lifestyle until a year and a half ago after being sick for over a decade. Choosing to feel better, and being willing to do whatever it takes, was the turning point. 

ZDVanlife6_quoteI had been changing houses frequently for over 2 years after I discovered I was suffering from effects of toxic mould exposure – extreme fatigue, reduced brain processing function, physical injuries that wouldn’t heal, 24/7 aches and pains lasting for years.  I even moved to the desert where it should be really dry, but mould in houses was a problem there too.

After taking an impromptu road trip for a week to an organic farm (and seeing Cyndi Lauper in concert!), I confirmed there was mould in my latest home and knew I had to get out. I had already planned to drive 11 hours to a workshop. And if I didn’t have to turnaround afterwards to come home I’d be halfway to my best friend’s from 6th grade house. Within 8 days I packed up by 4 bedroom house, got out of my lease, bought a SUV, and and headed for that workshop in Houston. If you ever wonder if you can change your life or choose something different, it can happen very quickly if it’s really time for that choice.

Do you ever feel scared as a single women travelling alone? How do you feel safe and protected? 

I use my intuitive awareness to check in and see if it’s safe when choosing which areas to sleep at, or even which direction to go… I ask a lot of questions to tap into that awareness. For example, I might ask, “Is it safe here for me?” I’ll notice if there are bars on the windows in a neighbourhood, how many cars are parked in certain areas, and pay attention to the number of people walking around. So there are logical things to pay attention to, but I’m most comforted by checking the energy of, “Am I safe here?” If it’s light and expansive, I’m comfortable staying. If it’s heavy and contractive I choose another spot.


Then it takes even more spidey senses to have awareness when you’re out in the middle of nowhere and there aren’t any houses to get a sense of what happens there. When it’s just open fields, hills, mountains and cliffs that’s really fun to ask the universe, “Will I be safe here?”

I think it’s important to distinguish between fear and awareness and know what’s a legitimate threat verses what’s just noisy chatter in the head that will pull you off course and trip you up. So playing with that and reflecting in hindsight can be really helpful to learn your own energy vocabulary.

I review situations and ask myself, “Was that just fear I experienced or was it a true awareness where I knew something was off before it happened?” This can really help you develop the vocabulary of your intuition. I think those tools apply to all genders.

There are also some practical things I do to stay safe. When I park to sleep I climb through the middle of my seats to the bed in the back rather than getting out of the car to go through the backdoor. I do as little as possible to draw attention to my situation so that passersby won’t realize I’m in there.

I have an air horn and car keys clipped to me at night, so I can make a noise to startle any intruder or slide through to the front to drive away quickly if I have to. If I had to go out of the backdoor to get to the drivers seat that would make me feel more nervous. Also, I have a SUV so it doesn’t look as obvious as a camper van that someone would be sleeping in there and that helps me feel safe.

Can you tell us about your work as a “Magic & Awareness Catalyst”? Do you think the tools you use could be helpful for people suffering mental health challenges? 

Working as a Magic & Awareness Catalyst means I help facilitate people to live a more magical existence and to have the courage to be who they truly are. The tools I use really do help anyone experiencing what this reality calls “mental health” issues. First off if you’re not depressed about the current state of our world and planet, either you’ve found the magic answer or you’re not paying attention. Right? If you’re anxious it probably means you’re aware of a better reality and are wishing people would hurry up and realize they can help create it!


If you’re experiencing what this reality calls “mental health” issues, I invite you to ask yourself if you’re actually super aware of what’s happening across the planet and what other people are experiencing. What if you could learn to distinguish between what’s yours and what’s someone else’s? If you are drowning yourself along with someone else, that won’t help either of you to survive!

But what if you can untangle yourself? Isn’t that the greatest gift to those around you; being a source of inspiration and showing others how it can be done? Even though I’m still really attuned to other people’s suffering I’ve recognised that it’s their choice as well. What if everything was a choice?

That’s different than the tone deaf suggestion of, “Hey just be happy, just pull yourself up by the bootstraps.” I’m not suggesting that. It’s not always simple and polyanna-like but if everything is a choice, that can mean choosing to find help, choosing to explore another alternative, choosing to have willingness for something different to show up and not even needing to know what that will look like exactly; just choosing a different possibility.

Do you have any tips on healing chronic health issues and what helped you recover? Was it mainly hitting the road that helped or were there other factors?

The key for me to get over chronic illness was to choose to do and be something different than what I had been previously.  I chose something different than being sick from the mould and it wasn’t just choosing to be happy or no longer sick, it was the willingness to do whatever it takes to experience something different.


For me doing whatever it takes meant no longer living in a house and choosing to be out in nature with all the ions that help our bodies to heal and to experience all of the magic that nature provides. I was willing to receive that.. and here’s a funny thing; here’s how this mindset shift can just blow you away, since then my story has completely changed.

I used think OMG I’m so sick I can’t even live in a house. Now I can see how my subconscious mind created the illness to avoid judgement against what I knew I would like to choose. I figured, if I was sick, people wouldn’t judge me for living in a van, driving across country and and sleeping at camp sites.

What if I had just said gosh I would really love to live in a van a travel across the county. I’m just going to choose that and I don’t need to make myself sick to convince other people that there’s any logic to what I’m choosing.

I’ve also noticed that other people who have mould sensitivity share a common outlook on life. They share similar stories about how they were brought up and how they don’t trust anyone else in a very deep sense. It might look like it on the surface but deep underneath we don’t trust anyone else and feel like we have to do everything ourselves, on our own.


We’ve got that whole martyr outlook that we have to suffer, work really hard, nothing can come easily and we’re really concerned with what other people think about us (even though we’d never admit it). So all those points of view really set me up to be the perfect victim to fall prey to mould and that’s part of my old story.

Now because my outlook changed I can create my life with far more ease. Before it was like I had to almost literally kill myself in order to create things in this world. Now I live in my own reality where I don’t make any appointments before 2pm, I work outside in parks and beaches and run 98% of my business from my iPhone.

What if you could create things without sacrificing your health, your piece of mind, or the enjoyment of living? To get out of a chronic illness situation, the first thing I invite people to do is practice choosing something different. Like if you have a usual route that you drive or walk to some location, choose a different direction or a different route. Or if you go to a restaurant and always order the same thing, chose something else next time.

And here’s the important part, choose it just because. Don’t try to come up with any logical reasoning about why you are choosing it.

What if you even opened up a menu and the first thing your finger landed on you ordered? How exciting would that be and what if the experience of that could be part of your daily life and how you do all things. If you’re thinking “OMG this feels out of control” what if you recognize how strong you are as you withstand a chronic illness? If you can withstand that you can definitely cope with making some changes and doing things differently .

Some of our readers are struggling with major depression. As a Magic & Awareness Catalyst what do you think might help them feel more joy? Any tips on how they can let their true magic shine? 

The antidote to depression is to believe in possibilities and the first step to that is to release the point of view that there’s something wrong with you. What if you first let yourself off the hook for everything? What if there was no wrongness of you and you started entertaining the idea that you’re not responsible for anyone else’s choices, and no longer have to align and agree with your own choices from the past? And note, this outlook of possibilities can partner with current support and treatment – just letting go of any stigma or wrongness may allow other therapies to make more of an intended impact. What if right now you can just choose from the magic that you are; that quiet voice that’s been struggling for you to hear it.

For whatever reason maybe you haven’t been paying attention to the quiet voice and maybe it had to get louder and louder and the only way it knew how to get loud was to become sharp pains or chronic illness or some other health issue.

Zarah Darling Vanlife Selfie

You are here with a special gift that this planet needs and even if you’ve been labeled different and wrong so much that you’ve started to believe it, what if that’s only because you are here to actually change the world? After all, if you fit in perfectly there would be nothing to change.

Instead of feeling that sensation of depression what if instead you label it as awareness and then eliminate the part where there’s any wrongness.

If you’re in allowance of who you are, then how much joy could you have then? And how much of you could you share with the world? Maybe that means finding the right people that are able to see who you are, but what if you get to show them how to see who you are by seeing yourself and allowing yourself to be all of yourself? That unique thing that you have to offer this world isn’t going to show up in anyone else and it’s not going to be set free into the world unless you choose to do that…. and we’re waiting… we want to see it!

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Anger is resistance to loss

Anger-comes-from-loss (1)

I think Stuart Wilde nailed it when he said “anger comes from loss.” Anger and even frustration, in my opinion, are secondary emotions; the fiery layers above what’s invariably underneath: a sense of loss. You’re angry because you’re losing something or you’re afraid you will.

People choose anger over simply feeling the loss in the deepest sense because it’s a more active emotion. Its ferocity keeps us feeling a sense of movement through the situation rather than feeling powerless over it. But anger can also trip you up and get you in trouble if you don’t take the time to acknowledge, process and take action in response to what’s really there.

Sitting down with your anger and agreeing to lose that thing your afraid of losing is a simple but liberating trick! So often we’re holding on very tight in resistance to losing that thing, but resistance can keep us feeling very stuck! So what if you lost it? So maybe you don’t prefer to lose it but what if you were simply willing to lose it?

For example say you’ve been dating a person who’s super charming and charismatic but they’ve been giving you mixed signals and just cancelled the last date. Maybe you’re angry with them for leading you on or being unclear. Maybe at this point you don’t know for sure what they really want; perhaps they really are busy with work, or maybe they’re a royal jerk dicking you around. Either way agree to lose it. It’s not a pessimistic expectation that you are definitely going to lose it, it’s just the willingness to.

Agree to the possibility that anything can happen from here. It’s so simple but effective. It’s just a choice. You might think “Oh so I don’t actually NEED this person to be interested! Losing this romantic interest may not be what I prefer in this instance but I’m willing to let it go and leave it in time’s trusted hands!”

Have you ever agreed to lose something in this way? I’d love to hear about what worked for you in the comments.