Hello! the madness of the summer is over (which I thoroughly enjoyed!) and at last I manage to blog about this amazing experience.
So in July, I attended the first UK retreat run by the Overcoming MS UK (OMS) organisation, (now a registered UK charity), who allowed me to go so that I can hopefully help them to run workshops etc in the UK, to help people with MS understand the effects of diet and lifestyle modification on MS.
From left to right, this is Linda Bloom, patron & founder of OMS UK, who has MS herself and is very well, Sandra Neate, Prof Jelinek’s wife, an emergency medicine consultant in Australia, Professor Jelinek, professor of emergency medicine and author & founder of Overcoming MS ( & very fit & well with MS), Gary McMahon , head of OMS UK, all round top bloke, with a business management background, but utterly committed to health, having helped his wife recover form serious illness using dietary & lifestyle measures, Dr Craig Hassed, an Australian GP and medical university lecturer, author & international speaker on mindfulness, and me.
What did I expect?
Well, I expected that I’d already know it all ( how arrogant!) …. I expected that I’d enjoy meeting the Professor and crew, but might shy away from too much socialising, not wanting to feel different as an MS nurse…. I expected I’d be bored in the evenings and took lots of work to do…. and that I might get a bit hungry on the fully vegan diet provided, and took a big loaf of bread for my bedroom… and I expected that 90% of the focus would be on diet & supplements, with a sliver of meditation thrown in for good measure….
What actually happened?
a) I didn’t know it all… & I’ll share my new understandings here, b) I enjoyed meeting every person on the retreat, was inspired by the company of so many intelligent, stimulating individuals and couples who dare to think differently and think for themselves, had a lot of fun, was never once bored, never did any work (!), and am actively staying in touch with the group via an email group because I want to! c) Was absolutely stuffed, because the food was tasty, vibrant, delicious and really ‘stuck to your ribs’. d) I got my focus back through meditation, and realised how powerful the effects of even a boring daily grind of meditation that you don’t even want to do can be !!
for this, it helped having a little cell, with no TV or internet connection….
So, first impressions happened the evening before the retreat, when I went out for a meal with the OMS staff/trainers. Firstly, the Professor is seriously fit and healthy looking, and runs or swims daily more than I do in a week ( if not 2), and comes across as genuinely lovely, thoughtful, intelligent, educated, and kind person. He is obviously ably supported by his wife Sandra, who shares his qualities, diet & lifestyle, and took on the sessions about the structure & role of different fats.
During the meal, in conversation, the Professor talked about how he would like to slow down his international work running the retreats ( he does already have his full time academic medical work), and I felt honoured to hear him relate this personal anecdote, with some emotion:
He said that he had recently experienced a relaxation of the drive to always be working to get his message out there, and that it had caused him to wonder and reflect. For some reason his age suddenly became very meaningful to him, but he couldn’t work out why — until he suddenly realised that he had now passed the age that his mother had been when she died, severely affected by MS (she took her own life). And so somehow, he had ‘made it’ , and proved to himself the value of the work he’s been doing all these years.
I’m not going to re-iterate all the points of the OMS approach here, as I’ve talked about it many times, and its all available for free on http://www.overcomingMS.org , there’s the books, and also a forum on the website where people can discuss points; I’m just going to go into some of the things I hadn’t quite nailed.
We sat in a circle around the outside of a large room, or on beanbags in the middle, and there were about 40 people. Most people had come with their partner, and some on their own. Teaching was very good quality, and we had lots of time to ask questions and discuss fine points.
Here’s the Prof teaching, and Linda in mid leap… she & Gary had organised and were running the show, she had her new baby in attendance, and during the week was constantly jumping up and physically running, fetching, carrying, leaping over boxes & beanbags, & looking radiant throughout.
Flax seed oil – in the most recent research carried out by OMS ,taking this trumped fish oil for having reduced disease activity. The best amount and way to take it is 2 dessert spoons drizzled over food ( or used to dip bread or in salad dressing) daily, and apparently, the best tasting is from http://www.flaxfarm.co.uk I just got some, and can confirm, it looks like sunshine and tastes… nutty but fine. Going to see if I can get a discount for Bedford MS Therapy Centre….
I’m no stranger to meditiation, having taken it up in my 20s, however, life had started getting on top of me, and when I attended the retreat, I was pretty stressed.
I was taken aback by the serious focus on meditation – every day, we started and finished the session with a half hour mindfulness meditation, led by Craig Hassed. I also did some of my meditation again in my room on a morning. It was hard! It is hard! But it is real – it has real, measurable mental and physical health benefits, and it’s worth doing every single day. By the end of the week I felt that I had met my real self again, and I was OK. Meditation deserves a post of its own, which I’ll do some time, but for now, here’s some links to give a taste of the sort of thing we were doing. Scroll down to guided meditations, mindfulness meditation (1,2 or 3) with Craig Hassed.
It’s school run time! but to stop this being delayed any further – TO BE CONTINUED!