Compassion and courage   is the suspension of  negative hurtful judgments. Seeing others in the light of love and beauty  within   instills compassion and connection.

Often, we can unconsciously  effect  others with  the nature of and level of our energy. When we express negative, judgemental  energy, other people may automatically withdraw, and be  wary of us.

When we radiate a feeling of love and beauty, however, people are attracted to us. Others sense that our compassion toward them expands, and they are drawn to our inner light. Imagining this light that connects us all allows us to create a kinship of beauty and spirit.







Any repeated behaviour, substance-related or not, in which a person feels compelled to persist, regardless of its negative impact on his life and the lives of others. Addiction involves:
1. compulsive engagement with the behaviour, a preoccupation with it
2. impaired control over the behaviour
3. persistence or relapse, despite evidence of harm
4. dissatisfaction, irritability or intense craving when the object—be it a drug or other goal—is not immediately available.

“Human connections create neuronal connections.”
(Dr. Daniel Siegel, a founding member of UCLA’s Centre for Culture, Brain and Development states:
“For the infant and young child, attachment relationships are the major environmental factors that shape the development of the brain during its period of maximal growth . . . Attachment establishes an interpersonal relationship that helps the immature brain use the mature functions of the parent’s brain to organise its own processes.”


Trauma can be grouped into four key components based upon the individual’s response to the traumatic event. The four components include: • Hyper-arousal. Individuals experience increased heartbeat and breathing, agitation, interruptions in sleeping or eating patterns, tension, etc. • Constriction. Often when we experience and react to a life-threatening situation, hyper-arousal is likely to occur which is usually accompanied by constriction in our body and distorting our perceptions. • Dissociation. Dissociation is one of the most common and subtle symptoms of trauma as it allows the sufferer to separate themselves mentally from the painful and traumatic experience. • Freezing.

When fight and flight responses are thwarted, we instinctively move towards a fixed or immobility response as a last ditch effort to avoid further pain or distress. Following a traumatic experience, we all respond and react in different ways, at different times.

After experiencing trauma, people may go through a wide range of normal responses. Reactions to trauma can extend beyond the person directly experiencing the event to those who have witnessed or heard about the trauma, or been involved with those immediately affected.

Many reactions to trauma can be triggered by memories of the event, persons, places, or things associated with the trauma. However, some reactions to trauma may appear completely unrelated to the traumatic event or experience. Trauma Triggers: • Body aches and pains • Extreme feelings of panic or anxiety • Interruptions in sleeping and eating patterns • Increased drug or alcohol consumption • Heart palpitations • Shortness of breath • Feelings of nausea • Chronic fear • Bursts of anger or rage • Hype-rvigilance • Flashes and or recurrent visual images of the event that feel real • Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness • Irritability • Loss of interest in activities and life itself • Grief • Nightmares • Self-isolation • Minimisation or denial of feelings or significance of event • Avoidance of people or places that may trigger a memory of the traumatic event • Detachment • Emotional numbing • Shame • Suicidal thoughts or ideations • Cognition issues

Unfortunately, some people will experience a trauma event at some point in their lives, and as a result, some will experience debilitating symptoms that interfere with daily functioning.


Fear. Fight. Flight: Recover from stress with Sensate wearable device


In September 2017, researchers orally presented a new paper, “Non-invasive Vagus Nerve Stimulation (nVNS) for the Acute Treatment of Migraine: A Randomized Controlled Trial,” at the 18th Congress of the International Headache Society in Vancouver. This clinical study on the benefits non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation was a multicenter, double-blind, randomized, sham-controlled trial that evaluated the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of nVNS using the gammaCore device in 243 patients with episodic migraines.

The researchers concluded that non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation was a rapidly effective, well tolerated, and practical treatment for episodic migraine headaches. However, gammaCore has not yet been approved by the FDA for treatment of migraines. (I reported on these findings in a Psychology Today blog post “Non-Invasive Vagus Nerve Stimulation May Relieve Migraines.”)

Courtesy of BioSelf Technology
“Sensate” is a patent-pending, non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation device that is expected to be available to consumers sometime in 2018.Source: Courtesy of BioSelf Technology
As part of this timeline: In June 2017, a UK-based company, BioSelf Technology, unveiled another non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation gadget called “Sensate.” This palm-sized gizmo is worn or placed close to the sternum and uses sub-audible sound waves to stimulate the vagus nerve. The makers claim that Sensate triggers the “relaxation response” and lowers fight-or-flight stress responses in the autonomic nervous system.

Sensate users can also wear headphones and listen to auditory tracks that augment the sub-audible sound waves and guide brain activity towards specific frequencies. Binaural sounds heard through headphones can activate a parasympathetic vagus nerve response.

Sensate interfaces with a smartphone app that uses an algorithm to continuously monitor stress biomarkers and fine-tunes the device for optimal therapeutic response. This non-invasive VNS device is still patent pending and won’t be available for sale in the UK until sometime in 2018.

Stefan Chmelik is the founder and CEO of BioSelf Technology. He also directs the UK’s leading integrated healthcare center. In a statement, Chmelik said, “Stress has a huge and growing impact on the daily lives of people all over the world, and we have developed Sensate to directly combat the negative effect that it is having on society.”

Although more clinical studies are needed, the makers of the Sensate device say that more than 100 volunteers have used their pioneering gadget for 10-minutes per day over a six week period. Based on changes in their heart rate variability (HRV), the researchers speculate that up to 86 percent of participants showed increased stress resiliency and parasympathetic vagus nerve activity. Of course, these findings should be viewed with pragmatic skepticism based on the limited sample size and lack of controls. More research is necessary before drawing any firm conclusions about the clinical efficacy of Sensate usage.

Anecdotally, a freelance writer for the Daily Mail, Victoria Woodhall, recently tried a prototype of the Sensate device. She gave it glowing reviews. In a November 26 article about her experience using the non-invasive VNS gizmo, Woodhall said:

“After ten minutes, I feel as rejuvenated as after a long hot bath. What I’ve just experienced is ‘vagal toning,’ a term that you’ll be hearing more and more. Looking back, 2017 was the year of gut health; 2018, however, is set to be the year that we’re all talking about the vagus nerve—the latest scientific weapon in the battle against stress.”

Earlier this year, the American Psychological Association published a “Stress in America: Coping With Change” annual report which identified the first significant uptick in anxiety levels since the survey began 10 years ago. In June 2017, the New York Times corroborated these finding in an article, “Prozac Nation Is Now the United States of Xanax,” which chronicles the epidemic of anxiety sweeping our nation.

Along this same line, in November 2017, the most recent “Stress in America: The State of Our Nation” report indicated that chronic stress is increasingly gnawing away at people’s sense of coherence. The latest APA survey found that 75 percent of Americans had experienced at least one symptom of acute stress in the month prior to the survey.

“Regular meditation is well-established as one of the most effective ways to self-manage stress, however, few people have the time to learn or practice this important skill,” Jacob Skinner, CTO of BioSelf Technology said in a statement. “Sensate provides a solution to the growing stress epidemic in a time-poor generation.”

For the record: I have no conflict of interest or affiliation with any of the aforementioned vagus nerve stimulation manufacturers. As always, I encourage people to seek gadget-free ways to improve vagal tone and vagus nerve function on a daily basis whenever possible. Nevertheless, the latest technological advances regarding implanted VNS devices and non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation gadgetry appear to have tremendous potential.

As mentioned earlier, more rigorous clinical research is needed to empirically support the stress-busting claims being made by Chmelik and Skinner. That said, based on what we know about the vagus nerve, there appears to be a very good chance that non-invasive VNS devices could be a game changer when it comes to tackling the global stress epidemic on a psychophysiological level.


Tracey, Kevin J. “The Inflammatory Reflex.” Nature (2002) DOI: 10.1038/nature01321

Koopman, Frieda A., Sangeeta S. Chavan, Sanda Miljko, Simeon Grazio, Sekib Sokolovic, P. Richard Schuurman, Ashesh D. Mehta, Yaakov A. Levineh, Michael Faltysh, Ralph Zitnikh, Kevin J. Tracey, and Paul P. Tak. “Vagus nerve stimulation inhibits cytokine production and attenuates disease severity in rheumatoid arthritis.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2016) DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1605635113



Fight Or Flight

A fear of flying creates something of a problem when your job requires frequent international travel. Here, Vogue jewellery editor Carol Woolton attempts to overcome her misgivings once and for all.

By Carol Woolton
Friday 30 March 2018
Photo by Helmut Newton

Is it my paranoia or have there been more plane crashes than usual recently? For someone terrified of turbulence this was playing on my mind as I planned my flight to the Basel watch and jewellery fair this week. You see, I’ve had some scary flights to Basel over the years.

Once a pilot threatened that we were flying straight into the “eye of a storm”, another time a stewardess shouted over the tannoy system: “Sit down, this is a very dangerous flight” and with a thumping heart I imagined the entire British jewellery industry plummeting into the snow-capped Alps where we’d freeze to death before anyone could find us.

Mindful that I could be in for another nerve-racking flight I investigated a new stress-busting tool, which works in tandem with your smartphone. The smooth pebble shaped device called Sensate vibrates on the vagus nerve lying underneath your breast bone, which holds the key to keeping calm as it wends its way from the brain to the gut, controlling the rapid breath, increased heart rate and blood pressure of flight or flight responses.

The weather report at 5am was promising gale force winds over Western waters – I’ve no idea where those are exactly but I wasn’t taking any chances and grabbed the Sensate before heading to Heathrow.

to order go to Sensate: http://www.Getsensate.com

We all know fear of flying is unscientific and illogical, but the conscious mind doesn’t communicate this to the body to prevent it releasing stress hormones. On a flight to New York recently I eavesdropped as the pilot, who’d emerged from the cockpit, was reassuring the terrified woman seated behind me taking her first flight over 30 years. It was going to be choppy for the next couple of hours.

“Don’t be frightened it’s just the weather,” his calm voice said, “think of it as a boat bobbing up and down on the water in the wind”. I stopped listening; he’d pinpointed the reason for my nervousness. There are thousands of boats littering the seabed due to adverse weather conditions.

On board the Basel flight I take my aisle seat, having paid extra to move in case I needed a quick getaway, and they start the safety video, which the comedian Ricky Gervais described as “a bit of a downer” during his recent Humanity tour. “If you do go into the side of a mountain at 500 miles an hour,” he quipped, “the brace position does f*** all.”

I plug the Sensate into my phone, and the low-frequency sound waves begin to pulse gently through my chest, with the Forest music that I’d chosen from the app to channel through my earphones, and soon the combination distracts my mind. When the vagus nerve is activated apparently it puts the brakes on the stress response and I do begin to notice that I am feeling calmer than usual.

When the seat belts sign pings on, the plane shakes and rattles, and my exit is blocked by the drinks trolley (always a panicky moment), so I turn up the volume of the music and the vibration intensity on my phone. This small decision makes me imagine that I have some control over my anxiety and immediately I start to relax again.

“Our cross cultural instinct level is so intense,” explains integrated healthcare physician Stefan Chmelik, whose company Bioself Technology have developed Sensate, “But it’s primitive, like that of a 500 million-year-old lizard which goes into flight, fright or freeze mode.

The problem is that the brain stem is powerful, but not smart, and can’t differentiate between real and imagined threats.” Which means the same life or death response is applied for anything – even too many e-mails in your inbox is classed as a physical danger.

I arrive in Basel with a clearer mind and feeling more at ease than I have before, grateful that I didn’t succumb to gin and tonics like the nervous couple sitting in front of me as I glance in my diary at the daunting schedule of back-to-back meetings. My vagal toning may not be over quite yet.



“If you trust in Nature, in the small Things that hardly anyone sees and that can so suddenly become huge, immeasurable; if you have this love for what is humble and try very simply, as someone who serves, to win the confidence of what seems poor: then everything will become easier for you, more coherent and somehow more reconciling, not in your conscious mind perhaps, which stays behind, astonished, but in your innermost awareness, awakeness, and knowledge.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet




“Normal consciousness is like hypnotic sleep. Once you get a glimpse of reality behind the scenes, you wake up, never again settling for the death of ordinary life” Darwin Shaw


Direct experiences is the best way to define being in  longterm recovery from active addiction. When I speak of a life before recovery: each day waking up with dread of what “fresh hell”  awaited me…cravings, compulsion and chaos.

A family intervention, rehab, relapsing for a few lost months…before a moment of clarity in which I surrendered…and sought to be community with the help of other recovering addicts, an addiction specialist and a raft of holistic therapist, meditation and yoga teachers.

My tribe: people who inspire me to thrive are like minded  souls whose primary purpose is to end the silence and stigma of addiction and mental health issues. We are not silent. We are not alone. We are courageous, compassionate human beings.

Self -discovery sounds so much inviting than self-seeking, being of service is about connection, communication and collaboration: being available, present, and purposefully in the moment.

My lived experience with addiction awareness brings me freedom from sabotage, obsessive thinking and compulsive behaviours.

No longer dependent upon people, places or things to fix me, I love life…the grass is no longer greener on the the other side, it is inside…


Each day is new beginning.  I  continuously create  momentary gaps in the incessant thinking and chatter taking place in my  mind, and the vibrancy  of  consciousness, love and happiness  grows stronger.

I am rewatching this film – and I hope you will love as much as I do the ancient texts, wisdom and beauty captured in   “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” Leonard Cohen’s narrative is  sublime.