What Katy Louise Did...

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Katy Louise writes about health, wealth, happiness and relationships, and the spiritual insights she gains along her path. She is currently editor of Top Sante magazine (www.topsante.co.uk). Prior to that she was editor of Bodyfit magazine (now Your Fitness www.yourfitnesstoday.com) and the launch editor of Soul&Spirit magazine (www.soulandspiritmagazine.com). Katy is also a certified Fitsteps and STOTT Pilates instructor. She is the go-to girl for all matters relating to health, wellbeing and spirituality.

Saturday 28 November 2015

Believing in synchronicity and the butterfly signs

It's been months, perhaps even a year, since I did a card reading for myself. When I edited Soul&Spirit magazine I'd be sent numerous card decks, mainly from the lovely peeps at Hay House or Blue Angel and so inevitably I'd end up doing readings, usually to find out what was going to be happening in my love life, as that tends to be the main concern during our 20s.
I still have a fair few of those beautiful decks, one of which is the Wisdom of the Golden Path, by Toni Carmine Salerno, with beautiful illustrations by Yuehui Tang.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to do a quick three-card reading, just before my birthday. I shuffled and selected the top three cards, one of which was Listen to Your Heart (see below).

In the accompanying booklet, it read: 'Butterflies and ladybirds bring good fortune. They signify the deep transformation taking place in your life as your true nature emerges... You will realise you have much to offer the world just by being you... Take notice every time a butterfly flutters into your field of vision for it is a positive reinforcement you are on the right track.'

Inside the Wisdom of the Golden Path booklet (Blue Angel), telling me to watch out for butterflies
What a lovely message! Then, my rational, left brain immediately jumped in with the thought 'fat chance of that in November! All the butterflies are long gone'.

But, as I'm increasingly experiencing, synchronicity does play a part in my life - in everyone's lives - no matter how much I want to ignore it. For here's what I saw that week: my grandparents and my parents sent me birthday cards with butterflies on; my best friend bought me a scarf with a butterfly design; I spotted a book at work with butterflies on it; the art director of my mag (Top Sante) chose an image with a butterfly in it to illustrate one of the features; I opened a parcel and the invoice had a butterfly on the top; one of my colleagues came in wearing a new butterfly dress (what's more, as I looked up Blue Angel, I saw on their home page they have two card decks with butterflies on); oh, and just as I was thinking 'yeah, but I'm never going to see a lady bird', I flicked through CICO's - the publishers - catalogue at work and saw a new book about making fancy dress for your children. Guess what was on the cover? A little girl wearing, you guessed it... a lady bird outfit.

 Now, you could argue that all those 'signs' were going to be there anyway - the colleague was going to wear her new dress, the designer was going to choose that image, my family were likely to end up picking cards with butterflies on as, well, they're a popular motif. And perhaps the only reason I spotted them all was because I'd primed my brain for noticing them with the oracle card, in a similar way to when you're looking to move house, you notice 'for sale' signs everywhere that previously didn't register on your radar. Again, this is my rational side talking. But I can't help but feel these supposedly everyday, normal objects become 'signs' because of the serendipitous coming together of multiple variables, creating meaning for me and me alone (and in the same way, completely different sets of events/objects/songs/people etc, coincide to create meaning for other people in a way that would be meaningless for me).

Anyway, surely life is more enjoyable if we allow ourselves to believe in a little magic? That's why being a kid is so much fun, after all (well, usually, it depends on your personality) because you get to play and make up stories and pretend anything can happen. And maybe it can, if we just tune in to our inner guidance and watch out for the signs to lead the way.

I'll finish up by quoting, as I often do, my all-time favourite artist, Madonna (I'm seeing her in concert this Tuesday at the O2 - so excited!): "Traveling down this road, watching the signs as I go..." (1.14 in the video below)

Sunday 22 November 2015

* HEAD ORGASMS: what they are and how to get them!

At various moments throughout my life I've experiencing a pleasurable, fuzzy, tingling sensation spreading across the back of my head. While it's actually not a sexual thing, I guess the reason some people are calling it a head or brain orgasm is because you do experience a kind of whole-body relaxation response during and afterwards. And, frankly, there hasn't been any suitable way to describe it, until now.
Although I've had these sensations on and off – and they are pretty rare, I have to add – I only discovered the whole online debate about them a few months ago, when we were putting together a feature for the December issue of Top Sante (below) about the power of touch. I asked Larissa, the deputy feature's editor, to include a section "about that strange tingly sensation you get when you go to the hairdressers or listen to a moving piece of music". I thought everyone got it, but turns out I'm in a minority. And now there's an entire online community of people dedicated to explaining it and trying to replicate the auditory stimuli you often need for a 'head orgasm' to happen.

The December issue of Top Sante magazine, containing the article about the healing benefits of touch
So what is it? The best way I can think to describe it is a gentle tingling or buzzing sensation that usually starts at the back of my head and sometimes spreads down my neck and shoulders, occasionally into my arms and legs. It feels amazing and totally relaxes me. Wikipedia describes it as "a perceptual phenomenon characterized as a distinct, pleasurable tingling sensation in the head, scalp, back, or peripheral regions of the body in response to visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, or cognitive stimuli."
My eyes also often go into soft focus, perhaps because I'm slipping from a beta brainwave state into alpha or even deeper. I'm not sure.

ASMR - the official name for 'head orgasms'
Scientists don't really know very much about this sensation or why only certain people experience it. One attempted to research it more and gave it the name ASMR, meaning autonomous sensory meridian response, so she had more chance of receiving funding (imagine going to sponsors saying 'yeah I'm going to be researching head orgasms'). In researching this post I also found this site, ASMRlab, which lists some of the different triggers for ASMR.
Russell Brand made a video on YouTube questioning whether ASMR videos were the new porn for women, but I can report that the sensation is nothing like sexual pleasure, at least it isn't for me (perhaps there is a subset of ASMR people who do get sexual feelings as well, but I have no idea about that).

The sensation makes me feel the total opposite of sexy, in fact. There's no heightened state or arousal or energy directed 'down there'. It's just incredibly soothing – and really hard to explain in words! ASMR videos are purely made for the sounds they produce – the content is pretty pointless, fluffy and meaningless – well, except for one lady I've discovered, but I'll get to her in a minute... And if some people, men I imagine, watch them to 'get off' on the fact that an attractive young woman – they're predominantly made by young females – is starring into their eyes, whispering and 'caressing' things, then that's a whole other matter, but it's not the reason d'etre of the videos.

Tingles as child
I have experienced this tingling since I was a child. It must have started from the gentle caresses and strokes my gran and mum would give me as a toddler. I clearly liked the feeling so much that by the age of four or five I would beg for Gran to 'make me soppy', as we called it. We'd sit on her sofa and I would offer up my bare arm for her to gently stroke with her fingers and fingernails. It was always the fingernails that felt best, and not in a hard, scratchy way. It always felt nicest, too, on the underside of my arms, near the wrist where the skin is thinner. Sometimes I'd even stick my lower leg on her lap! Legs and arms were the best 'conductor's for the tingles, I found.

Guess that comb!
Another trigger for the tingles was the 'guess the comb' game my mum and I played. I was probably about 10, and had a set of eight red combs, varying in size from chunky ones for combing wet hair, to very fine-toothed ones with pointy tales. Mum and I would take it in turns to sit in front of each other on the floor and slowly comb each others hair. The 'game' part of it was having to guess which comb was being used and which end. It wasn't exactly difficult and was usually took me a few seconds to work it out, but I would always drag out answering because it felt so nice, especially when the combs went near my ears or near the nape of my neck – total tingle trigger! I reckon Mum experienced the same feelings too as she, like me, would sit and make lots of 'mmmmm' noises, both of us like a pair of purring cats.
This set from Directhairdressingscissors.co.uk is very similar to the one my mum and I used to use to get head tingles
Speaking of hair, another major trigger, unsurprisingly, is having my head massaged at the hairdressers. It does depend on how well they do it though as to whether it triggers ASMR. They have to get the pressure just right, make the movements slow, and not tug at any of the hairs as that just hurts and ruins the sensation.

ASMR can come from a variety of stimuli 
But as the Wiki description implies, ASMR doesn't only come from touch. I have gotten it from other stimuli, too. I still recall the time I went to visit an elderly neighbour after I'd returned from studying in America, age 20, to show her my three huge albums of photos. We sat side by side at the kitchen table, but not touching. As she slowly turned the creaky pages, which were those hard cardboard sheets covered with clear sticky plastic, something about the crinkly sound they made, coupled with the low, hushed tones in which she spoke, set the tingles off big time.
Another example was from aged 30 or so, in a previous editing role, where a lady called up to talk about a new therapy. Something about the tone of her voice, so soft and gentle, made my head and neck buzz and put me into a deeply relaxed state. Normally I try to end phone calls as quickly as possible as I'm so busy but this time I kept the woman on the phone for ages, asking more and more questions because I didn't want the feeling to end! She must have thought I was really interested in the therapy, but it was more about how she spoke rather than what she talked about.
I've even had the tingles, but in a less noticeable away, from listening to certain moving pieces of music. Perhaps I like this feeling so much because I'm a naturally stressy person, and this switches on my parasympathetic nervous system to calm me down.

The YouTube ASMR community
There are now thousands of people making ASMR videos - they call themselves ASMRtists. While I've not yet found one that creates the same intensity of tingling as being in an actual real-life situation, some of them nevertheless put me into a very relaxed state. My favourite by far is Maria whose Youtube channel 'GentleWhispering' has more than half a million subscribers!

I'll confess I once spent a whole Saturday morning listening to back-to-back clips, trying to find the ones that worked best – generally the ones where she gently taps and scrapes things such as bumpy phone cases, various packaging, especially anything crinkly, and also flipping through pages (see above). But sometimes it's just the way she pronounces words with the letters T, S and K, which create a sort of clicking noise. Another reason I like Maria is that as her videos have progressed, they've not only gotten better - she clearly uses her advertising money to invest in new microphones and props - but she actually sometimes opens up about her life and her fears, and always makes the viewers feel appreciated and wanted, which perhaps goes a long way to explaining her huge following who, by the way, send her fan mail and gifts.

Nothing more than freaky side shows?
Now, for people who don't 'get' ASMR, either literally or figuratively, everything I've said so far probably sounds totally weird, and you might frankly be disturbed by the fact so many people are watching these videos and feeling relaxed by them. My husband for one can't stand them. He finds them totally creepy, freaky, and says they remind him of horror movies. So, clearly they are an acquired taste. He gave me a 'don't you dare' stare the other day when I casually mentioned I was thinking about making my own ASMR videos and began going round the house tapping my fingernails on things to find suitable props.

Anyway, if this is the first you've heard about ASMR, then do check out a few of Maria's videos. You'll either think I and thousands of others are total nutters, or you'll have discovered a fantastic new way to relax and even get to sleep. This Sleep track is purely whispering, no objects, designed to listen to right before bed. And, if that doesn't work, you could try this (below) known by some as an 'orgasmatron'. It's a head massager. It's nicer if someone else uses it on you, but you can of course use it yourself. In fact, I've bought one for myself as an early Christmas present. So, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to, erm, pleasure myself...
A head massager, or 'orgasmatron' as some call it, perfect for creating ASMR aka head tingles

Sunday 8 November 2015

A birthday blog

So, 37 years ago today I was born. First of all I was late by a few days, then even later as when mum went into labour, the hospital gave her an injection to numb the pain, which made everything stop. When I did finally arrive, at 3:07AM on a Wednesday November morning, I had to be dragged out with forceps, or so I am told.
Years later when I started delving into how events can affect us even early on in the womb, and about the spiritual practice of re-birthing (during my days editing the magazines Soul&Spirit) I began to wonder whether this early experience had had an impact on me throughout life. I've often been quite indecisive by nature and many times have worked up towards doing something exciting or big, only to get scared and back out at the last minute. It was usually only if someone else was involved in the process and was there to literally drag me through it, that I would proceed. This applied to job offers, houses/flats, and traveling. Was it too much of a stretch of the imagination to link my birth experience – not that I can actually remember any of it myself of course – to my later struggles? Or perhaps I was just trying to create an excuse for why I had so often failed to act when opportunities arose.

Being re-born
Back in July I went to see the wonderful craniosacral therapist Sheila Camino on Harley Street. It was for other health-related reasons but, quite unsurprisingly, during the treatment she said she could feel immense pressure on my head and asked me about my birth. When I said I'd had a forceps delivery she said she could energetically feel them squashing my skull. So, she talked me through a re-birthing process whereby the grown-up me reassured the tiny baby me that there was nothing to be afraid of and that the hold up was merely so the people on the outside could sort out a few things, and it was nothing to worry about. Then she got me to visualise myself coming down through the birth canal and easily out into the open into my mother's arms without any assistance. The amazing thing was that as she held my head in her hands I literally felt an energetic shift take place as if some sections of my skull where actually moving, a bit like tectonic plates that slide against each other. Afterwards I felt so incredible: light, free happy, and truly like I had been reborn. Also, a lump on the lower left side of the back of my skull, which has been there for as long as I can remember, had miraculously decreases in size, too. Sadly the positive effects started to wear off slightly after a month - perhaps due to stress - and some of the tension in my head and neck  returned. However as I begin today and new year of my life, this experience came back to mine, and how we tell ourselves stories - often not very helpful ones. This story that how I was born may have affected my decision making is not helpful and is just limiting. The self-help giant Tony Robbins, author of numerous motivation and productivity books, says to get anything done in life, a big part of it comes down to the stories you tell, both to yourself and others. And if I'm totally honest, a lot of the tales I tell myself with regards to my past, present and future are not all that positive. For example, I quite often tell myself it's too late for me to do something I really want to do, and that I have missed the boat in some way. In my mind I replay events of the past and wonder why on earth I didn't do them differently - listening to the inner critic having a field day. But realistically, I couldn't have done many things different because I didn't have the right mindset back then either! I was often filled with self-doubt or fear, and you can't achieve great things from those emotional states.

My new year resolution
So, this year is the year I will tell myself that I can do things I still want to do. That I can join another dance group and that I am good enough (and that so what I didn't make it into a career). And, that I can write a book because what I have to say has value and worth. What's more, I am allowed to take time purely for me to pursue my creativity rather than feeling guilty for not always doing something productive at every moment. I will also endeavour to tell more positive stories about my past, focusing on the amazing things I have done and achieved rather than what I didn't do. 
This morning I read a really great quote from the Abraham newsletter I receive daily. It was exactly what I needed to hear. It said that we humans often waste time thinking our ship has sailed so it's too late. But they say, 'There are lots more ships! Stop worrying about the one you missed and focus on the other ones coming towards you and choose to board one of those instead!' It sounds so simple yet is often hard to do. Nevertheless, it's better for us emotionally to believe there is still a chance and it is still worth pursuing our dreams, no matter how old we are. I certainly want to go on dancing into my 90s and who knows, maybe you'll see me competing on Britain's Got Talent (if it's still going in about 50 years, or some other version) and being like Paddy - if you haven't seen her inspiring dance, please check it out here. That's my idea of being an old lady!