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Finding the River
The Energy Self-Help Manual for Surviving Life’s Challenges
Part I: Body, Mind, and Spirit
Chapter 1: Tuning In and Feeling the Connection
Chapter 2: Mind - Body Connections
Chapter 3: Body Basics
Chapter 4: Moods, Feelings and Emotions
Chapter 5: Relaxation and Pacing
Chapter 6: Meditation
Part II: Everything Is Energy
Chapter 10: Space Clearing and Creating a Sacred Space
Chapter 11: Energy Medicine
Chapter 12: Energy Transformations
Chapter 13: Energy Psychology and Emotional Freedom
Part III: Seasonal Energies
Chapter 14: Planting New Seeds
Chapter 15: Fire and Abundance
Chapter 16: Harvest and Light
Chapter 17: The Return of the Sun
Are you peaceful and fulfilled right here, right now? Without consulting your mind for an answer, take a couple of long, slow, deep breaths and notice how your body is responding to the question. Focus only on the question. Let your body and its sensations provide the answer.
What are you experiencing—a sense of well-being and expansion or tension, contraction, heaviness or tightness? Regardless of what your mind might say and as extraordinary as this might sound, our bodies are able to communicate the truth in the moment more accurately than the mind. There are some exceptions, but in my ten years of working with, what I refer to as body wisdom, I have found this to be true. Indeed I will go one step further and say this: When it comes to deep emotional healing and personal growth, my experience has been that positive lasting shifts in mind and consciousness are often easier to bring about by working with our body than with the mind. Our bodies speak the truth and our bodies can be a portal into truth.
Regardless of what truth your body spoke in relation to the question above, you can experience peace and fulfilment right now. Are you sceptical? Do you believe me? Let’s put it to the test. Ask the question again, notice what you are feeling. Now embrace and welcome those bodily sensations with the same energy and warmth that you would cuddle a newly born baby. If the baby image doesn’t evoke warmth within you, choose something that does! Now breathe into the centre of the strongest body sensation and as you do so silently say to that sensation, “I am really pleased you are here.” Keep breathing into the sensation and as you do so notice the spaciousness that is starting to open up in its centre. You can’t make it happen—it’s a case of allowing it to happen and it will, as long as you are able to stay present, hold focus and breathe. If you get distracted, frustrated or caught up in a story of “its not working”, just smile to yourself and return your attention to your breath and to the centre of the strongest bodily sensation. Once you become aware of a spaciousness emerging, allow yourself to be pulled as though by a tractor beam towards and into this space. Keep going until you feel both peaceful and expansive. You might even feel blissful. The whole process takes as long it needs to take (usually between 5 and 30 minutes). If you do this, and I really encourage you to do it, you will discover something quite profound. In any given moment your relationship to “what is”, in this case your body’s sensations, is the determinant of whether you will experience a sense of peace and fulfilment or not. By resisting or fighting “what is”, you suffer; by embracing and welcoming “what is”, you experience peace. This is not just some fanciful esoteric promise, but a reality that you can discover for yourself with this experiment.
Why is this so? Why does surrendering to “space” shift the quality of our inner experience? It’s because our true nature is the spacious awareness within which the content of our life experience is arising. You are the peace and joy that you seek. These qualities of experience rest not in the future or in fantasy or in our thoughts, but in the here and now.
The author of this book, Sally Topham, understands this. She has done a wonderful job of sharing the tools and approaches that have helped her along her own path of health, healing and awakening into present moment awareness. If you choose to follow her advice—and I recommend you do—you won’t just learn how to improve your health or heal emotionally, you will discover your own unique path into the flow of life. I wish you the best. Enjoy the journey.
Dr Mark Atkinson MBBS BSc (HONS) FRSPH FBSIM
Dr Atkinson is a holistic medical doctor, well-being expert, author of The Mind–Body Bible and developer of human potential coaching. His website is www.DrMarkAtkinson.com.
Acknowledgements and Permissions
I’ve encountered many teachers throughout my journey—some of whom I’ve met and worked with, some whose teachings I’ve read and absorbed, and some wise ones who are animals or who’ve appeared to me in meditation. In addition, I’m fortunate in having had some wonderful friends who’ve given me the benefit of their advice, guidance, support and encouragement through the years. The friends, authors, teachers and guides whose names you see below have been especially helpful and inspirational on many levels. Without them I never would have travelled very far along my path. Much gratitude and appreciation to them all.
Josef Alberts, Meher Baba, Shyamji Bhatnager, William Bloom, Judy Byrne,
Special thanks and gratitude also to the following people who have given me permission to use some of their material in this book:
William Bloom, Donna Eden and David Feinstein,
The Story Behind the Title
It all began on Christmas Eve, 1971, when I saw the evening newspaper headlines about an air disaster in Peru. A passenger plane on an internal flight between Lima and Pucallpa had unaccountably exploded in mid air and fallen to earth in the dense Amazonian jungle. All 94 people on board were feared dead.
I was saddened to hear about this tragedy and found myself pondering that there was so often a disaster somewhere in the world at Christmas time. Were these catastrophes really visited upon us by Cosmic/Universal/Heavenly forces as some people might think? I found it hard to believe that a vengeful God was punishing hapless scapegoats for the misdeeds of humanity. It seemed more likely that they were some kind of a wake-up call for us. Surely they could be more realistically interpreted as an opportunity to re-evaluate our lives so that we might perhaps learn to live more in the moment, to enjoy life, to have more awareness and gratitude? I dwelt upon these thoughts, but, unsurprisingly, came to no conclusions. As I wrapped up the last of the Christmas presents, I was simply left with a slightly uncomfortable feeling that there might be something here for me to learn, although I had absolutely no idea what it could be.
Media focus on the disaster melted away over the ensuing days. However, just after New Year, the tragedy was suddenly brought back to world attention. Reports started appearing in the news that, against all the odds, a seventeen-year-old German girl, Juliane Koepke, who had been a passenger on that plane, had survived. The world was agog with details of her miraculous escape and survival.
Juliane had been travelling with her mother (a famous ornithologist) from the Peruvian capital of Lima to spend Christmas with her father (a biologist) in Pucallpa, a city in the eastern part of the country. The plane was struck by lightening, burst into flames and Juliane was ejected, still in her seat, into a tree miles below that cushioned her fall. Miraculously, she suffered only a broken collarbone, a gash to her right arm and the loss of vision in one eye. She also found she only had one shoe.
Knowing she would surely die unless she found a way out of the disaster area, Juliane resolved to use botanical knowledge and survival skills she had learned from her father to find her way through the jungle and back to civilisation and help. Armed only with a stout stick and a bag of toffees found in the wreckage, she set forth. Remembering that her first requirement was to find land that sloped downhill, because this would lead to a stream, she looked for plants that grew beside water. In this way Nature guided her to a nearby stream that provided her with a source of clean drinking water. She knew if she followed the course of the stream it would eventually lead her to a river, and once she had found the river she would find areas of civilisation and be able to seek help.
Juliane's incredible and courageous trek for survival through the inhospitable Amazonian jungle took her ten days. During this time she was bitten and stung mercilessly by insects and bruised and battered by having to force her way through dense undergrowth. The stream she had been following ultimately led her to the River Amazon where she eventually came to a hut used by lumbermen who worked on the great waterway. When the lumbermen found her, she was lying in a canoe moored nearby where, exhausted and sick, she had finally collapsed. After a seven-hour canoe trip to the nearest village, help was summoned and Juliane was flown to Pucallpa Hospital where she made a complete recovery and was reunited with her distraught father.
I became totally obsessed with this story and probably read every paper that ran accounts of the epic tale, marvelling all the time at the courage of this young girl. Her heroism spoke to a place deep within me that was desperately seeking help and finding none. At that time in my life, I was feeling rather lost and vulnerable and was finding no support in the areas where I sought itâ€”boyfriends who were unable to be present emotionally and a family that was unforthcoming in its encouragement of my dreams and ambitions. Furthermore, my career in the theatre caused me a lot of stress and I had become far too reliant on cigarettes and alcohol as a means of coping.
In 1971, it was a time when many of the hippie values and philosophies of the 1960s were starting to become absorbed into general living. I was one of the generation who had been caught up in the social, cultural and artistic revolution that had begun. As an Aquarian, I had happily bought into ideas about expanding consciousness, spirituality, healing, meditation and new ways of being. I was excited by the general sense of opening, expansion, liberation and flow. The only trouble was that I couldn't find a way of getting into any of it. I merely stuck my toes in the water from time to time and engaged at rather superficial levels. The truth was that, deep down inside, even though I was feeling very stuck and blocked and was desperately seeking change, a large part of me was terrified of stepping out into the unknown.
I think Juliane's traumatic experience and miraculous escape had an almost mythic quality to it that I found inspirational. It was a metaphor for moving out of the darkness and into the light. In the months that followed, I resolved that I too wanted to develop a tenacity that would see me through challenges and difficulties. Above all, I knew beyond a shadow of doubt that I wanted to get out of this feeling of being stuck and dive into this wonderful flow of New Age consciousness.
As I started focussing on what I really wanted and believing it was possible to find it, so those things were drawn towards me. Before long, I had met a friend of a friend who spoke with great enthusiasm about a personal development group he had discovered. He persuaded me to go to some meetings and, to my delight, it appeared to be exactly what I'd been looking for. The teachings were a blend of the esoteric woven in with meditations and healing techniques and a strong emphasis towards connecting with nature. I couldn't wait to begin! Once I'd committed to the group, I was totally involved in the work. I later realised this was an incredibly important stepping stone into the rest of my life.
In time I left this particular group and moved on to other areas of interest. As the years rolled by and I journeyed further along my path of self discovery, the memory of that young German girl often came to mind. The many streams I've followed have led me through my own personal jungles and I'm still travelling! I've sat at the feet of Indian gurus and other charismatic teachers, read countless books by renowned writers on personal and spiritual development, and attended numerous courses, workshops and lectures by respected teachers on the subject of healing and energy. Along the way, I also placed myself in the hands of several therapists of various persuasions in an effort to find ways through my extremely tangled emotional undergrowth!
Eventually I became a teacher and a therapist myself. As I worked with my clients and students the germ of an idea began to seed within me. I started to ponder on the possibility of making a compilation of the techniques, healings and exercises that had helped me emerge from a feeling of loss and isolation into one of connection and flow. This was when the title, Finding the River, first floated into my mind. I knew the name was 100% right but I couldn't decide how to format the idea. It wasn't until the spring of 2008 that I realised this project, that had been composting for so long, could be made into a self-help book with that title. A couple of months later, the chance to write this book for DragonRising Publications arose.
So here it is. My book doesn't focus on just one method of self-help, for experience has shown me that we need to explore many different ways of helping ourselves. As we seek out the possibilities, so we begin to discover which particular techniques and concepts blend together in a synthesis that works best for us as individuals. In this way, we gradually move towards a sense of flow within ourselves. The journey towards the river is about learning to care for, nurture and heal yourself. About finding your centre, opening your heart, learning to feel joy and abundance and finding the peace and tranquillity within. It's about planting new seeds in your life, watching them flower and reaping the harvest of your efforts. Above all, it's about understanding your connection with Nature and learning to flow with its boundless energy and wisdom.
I wish you much joy in finding your river.