Friday 28 December 2012


Xmas is a strange tradition in the southern hemisphere, especially in Australia: an ancient land, travelled  by ancient peoples and only newly discovered by Northerners bringing their Yuletide Winter traditions: the Solstice celebrating the shortest day of the year, (in the blazing Australian heat), Christ-mas trees in a land where there is no December snow, hot meals and heavy wines in sweltering temperatures and other traditions that have nothing to do with this ancient land.

No wonder it is a strange time for many. Europeans transported to the Great South Land, clinging to what they know. And their children's children, desperately trying to replicate traditions that belong to the Northern Hemisphere.

And yet we gather, in Christ's name, at the Malls and at the butchers, in the hope of finding it, the allusive Xmas spirit.

What then of the loneliness, the feelings of separation, the drastic contrivances to come together to celebrate? in the face of a land that once held people throughout the millennia, without a mention of a boy born in Bethlehem.

And yet we gather, at the family tables, in our clans, to taste the joy that still belongs to us.  Miracle that it is. Xmas brings us together, in the way that tribes, long before the Christ, once did.  ALLELUIA!! 

Saturday 22 December 2012


As the song says: it's the end of the world as we know it. But is it? How many wake up calls do we humans need to change our ways? How many wars must be fought? How many women and children killed in the name of what, exactly? How many discussions about the right to bear arms?

Maybe that's why so many people believed, or wanted to believe the world would end the other day, because they feel so disempowered by the decisions that are being made by governments and corporations, despite the protests on the ground.

And then there are those who live in childish hope that things are going to change, without their participation. Suddenly the Mayans have the answer, not too many of them around to argue with.

Manipulated by the media and various other authorities, people now imagine that PEACE is just going to appear, without their efforts. Magically, because someone says so.

But the truth is until we find PEACE in our hearts, with our brothers and sisters and our neighbours, conflict will continue. And the way the world is armed, the only thing that may remain is PEACE, with no-one left  to enjoy it!

Sunday 16 December 2012

Where do the children play?

A child plays freely in the sand, (her parents  out of frame)...

On the other side of the world, schools are locked down, guns are freely accessed and mass shootings of innocent children take place where children should play.

How many more children have to die at the hands of gun toting, out of control, disturbed Americans before the country begins to ask the serious questions:

Why do Americans feel the need to be armed in so called peace time?

Why are young people trained to shoot? ( apparently this current assassin belonged to a rifle club)

Has America's  continuous involvement in war since and including Vietnam, brought war-like attitudes into its own back yard?

And should the country re-define the word "terrorism," to include the horror which occurs in American schools at the hands of its own?

Monday 26 November 2012

Love is everywhere

In my book, Finding Artemisia, Artemisia struggles with alienation and isolation in her daily struggle with eating and body image. She writes about it in her Oracle
Here's what she says is the way out: LOVE
Love on Earth can often hide, And we can be fooled by its disguise. 
No definitions of it we can command;
It is not supplied on-demand.
It gives freely without conditions;
It sings sweetly of soft renditions.
It blossoms in flowers and exudes rich perfume.
It sings from a bird’s throat in the morning
And at noon.
It shines in the night sky of unfathomable depth.
And it lives in the eyes of all who have wept.
To taste it, you just need to be awake;
It’s in the smile of your mate.
It’s in a lover’s perfume,
And it’s in the solitude of your room.
Do not despair when you think you can’t find it,

--From The Oracle

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Purchase Finding Artemisia here.

Friday 16 November 2012

An Ode to Marilyn

In my book Finding Artemisia, Artemisia is a 14 year old girl with anorexia. She calls her collection of thoughts, drawings and poetry The Oracle. One of the most touching poems in The Oracle is her ODE TO MARILYN

If I were Marilyn Monroe, the famous beauty queen,
And you, the wise professor, with thoughts and words to preen,
I’d prance about and whimper and wait impatiently
For your wise and golden knowledge to graciously encompass me.
And when you finally would appear, with thoughts and words in hand,
I’d toss my hair and bare my breasts and bleat of the love you’d fanned.
You’d smile perhaps a little, but seriousness soon would grow,
As you carefully consider how I fit with what you know.
“The pleasures of the flesh I have chosen to ignore,
I seek the greater things in life, the sea, not just the shore.”
And I would smile as teardrops fell on beauty spots that cried,
“I’ll know that all too soon, my friend, for I’m about to die.
You’ve failed to see my beauty; you’ve been blinded by your eye.
Your mind is crammed with things you know,
And your heart’s afraid to fly.”
So now the world does mourn me, and all the ghosts do sigh.
But you once had your chance, and you sooner had me die.

Finding Artemisia: a journey into ancient women's business. p36

Friday 9 November 2012

After the election.. the anxiety continues

The American elections took up a lot of air space in Australia as well other countries concerned about  the effects on Wall St and the international monetary systems. Anxiety about money seems to be the order of the day. And anxiety belongs to situations that are out of one's control. (I know, I see a lot of anxious people. Im a psychologist.) Sometimes such anxious people are known as the worried well, because they're not really unwell, they just don't feel safe about the future or even the present.  Even after the election they still have the jitters as does Wall St. And why wouldn't they? Their money, their future is the hands of people who are proving themselves to be incompetent, amoral and driven by self interest. So what about taking our power back. One country has shed its national debt. Iceland. But maybe America/ Europe/Australia are more complicated. So what can we do as individuals?
1 stop repeating the same mistakes
2 stop investing in systems that rob the poor to pay the rich
3 stop expecting governments to bail out failing systems
4 start acting locally in our community
5 rely less on money, begin to trade, exchange and recycle
6 build community networks that are supportive and sustainable
7 get creative about ways to obtain income


Sunday 4 November 2012

After the storm

Storms are a natural part of the growling, tempestuous earth on which we live. Perhaps global warming has contributed to their intensity, but many ancient peoples have recorded big winds and high waters. The Australian Aboriginal people lived through over 40,000 years of climactic changes and in their wisdom often moved out of harm's way, at the first signs of trouble to come. Their adjustment to Mother Nature's moods was not hampered by the sort of infra structures that industrial nations have since built. Aboriginal people had no sky scrapers, undergrounds or cities balancing on reclaimed lands.  They lived with the Earth, feeling her movement, reading her signs. When the big flood hit Brisbane not long ago, the waters reached right through the centre  of Australia as they had done before, many times. And so as we watch tsunamis sweep into Japan destabilising nuclear reactors, and cities like New York being washed by the sea, we realise how much faith man has in his own creations and yet how little connection to the seasons of the earth.  The earth is ancient and modern man, but a pup. Perhaps the engineers need to have a longer conversation with the people who have walked upon the Earth for eons.  Perhaps we need to remind them.

Wednesday 24 October 2012

The power of Aunties

I have three sisters and only one of them has no children. And yet her role with all the children in our family is vital to their sense of belonging. She is Aunty to 7 children who love and adore her. Being an Aunty is a powerful thing. There is connection but space, (unless the Aunty is the full time carer). Nieces and nephews look to Aunties for company, fun and guidance, and sometimes a safe place away from a troubled home.
In ancient women's business Aunties rule. They are the women who lead, nurture and protect children and the earth. They are respected by their communities and valued for their great contributions.
Did you have an Aunty when you were a child? Can you remember her smell, what she looked like, what she taught you? Did you want to grow up to be like her. In my book Finding Artemisia both Artemisia and Diana, her psychologist,  had strong connections to their Aunts. Would you like to share your story?

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Mothers and daughters

Our mothers are our first mirrors, they have the eyes we seek, the love we need, the touch we crave. But what if they are aloof, distracted, angry, grieving, anxious, unsupported AND in pain? It's hard not to take it personally. But that's what we do in the modern world.  Take it all on. As daughters, we are very susceptible to our mothers,  AND there's a big chance we'll end up mothering, just like them. Or even avoid motherhood altogether.
The modern mother-daughter relationship is intense, often too intense for both parties: boundaries are blurred, co-dependence abounds, and roles reverse chaotically. Pity the daughter who has to search herself to find the way to mother her own daughter.
So what would make a mother a positive mirror? What would she need to be able to connect, love, enjoy, play, as well as nurture her darling daughter?
The answer is  easily found in ancient women's business, where the child is loved and nurtured by all those around her. In effect, she has a wide selection of mirrors, rather than the singular. Imagine the freedom in that for both mother and daughter. Mother would not be isolated, anxious, or over burdened, but rather she would have the support of a strong base and a sense of belonging to the community of women, who understand what women need. And the daughter therefore would be less dependent on her, moving freely from one set of arms to another.
Too idealistic you say. I think not. We have ancient women's business in our genes: we love to get together, laugh and share. We just need to make an effort to create community wherever we are so that our daughters will feel safe and protected from the intensity of the modern mother/daughter realtionship and then their daughters and their daughters......
Want to give it ago. Tell us what you would do first.

Thursday 11 October 2012

This is the path Diana took around Uluru, the world's largest monolith and where she contemplates the issues plaguing women today: women's self esteem, body image and worth. Here she experiences the importance of the role of the mother in a girl's development. Although a mother herself, psychologist Dr Diana Verdi rarely has the time to support the mothers of the girls she treats for anorexia. But after her time with Aboriginal women, she realises  she had been treating the girls in the "vacuum" of her therapy room, without the support of the mothers, aunties and the community.
She has in fact replaced Artemisia's mother on one level, and so when the girl disappears she is devastated. It is only when she is immersed in the ancient women's business of the Australian Aboriginal women,  that she realises that psychology and therapy alone are not enough to heal the girl.

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Lady Gaga’s Image Free Zone

Lady Gaga has a broad fan base and is encouraging them to bare their bodies as a way of uniting them against the constant onslaught of the media and the image makers. Supported by her mother, she invites her fans to bare all.

She announced her new campaign with this thought-provoking announcement on her website:

What a good idea! It’s only when women and girls get to see each other’s bodies do they realize the variety of body types that exist. And why wouldn’t there be? Why do we think we have to aspire to one particular body type, one definition of beauty per se. Because the image makers have very little imagination. The same old stereotypes glare at us from magazines and television shows. And then we, alone, and often in isolation, compare ourselves to these images and of course we are nothing like them. We are round, short, small, tall, big, freckled, hairy, bumpy, smooth, black, white, etc etc AND we don’t get to see each other’s bits.

When I was visiting the Aboriginal women in the centre of Australia, I was amazed to see soooooo many different breast shapes for a start compared to the standard tennis ball look being sold by plastic surgeons. Of course the Aboriginal women didn’t have mirrors, magazines or TV so they have never been told that they are not good looking enough, or that their looks could be improved. Imagine that. Just taste the freedom in that!   That’s what I want women to imagine…how free they could be, if they could just get out of the body image/ beauty trap.

In the words of Naomi Wolf: “'Beauty' is a currency system like the gold standard. Like any economy, it is determined by politics, and in the modern age in the West it is the last, best belief system that keeps male dominance intact.”

The tragic thing is that women are allowing it and modeling it for the girls that grow up in their care and company. So come women: Let’s unite against the BODY IMAGE trap.

Thursday 27 September 2012

The road to “Finding Artemisia”

After my first visit to a community of traditional Aboriginal women in the middle of the Australian desert, I couldn’t stop thinking about how different the women were to modern women.

I’m a psychologist, specializing in anorexia and it occurred to me that these Aboriginal women had never heard of eating disorders, or psychology for that matter.

At the time I was also facilitating workshops in New York State and people were asking me about the Aboriginal culture and as I began talking about how different it was, I thought I should write about my time there, as well as my professional experiences with eating disorders.

Because they were such extreme opposites I wanted to put them together somehow, and that’s how “Finding Artemisia: A Journey into Ancient Women’s Business” began.
It’s an inspirational book, in that takes the reader into an image free world where women value each other for who they are and not what they look like. Not like the modern world of women: booby-trapped by the dieting, plastic surgery and body shaping industries.

It’s not an academic book, (there are already many on the subject of eating disorders), but it is an experience, a transformational and nourishing journey for women and their families, because its about its about matters that deeply affect them: food, sexuality, body image, and relationships. It’s a journey book that takes readers into a world they would otherwise not experience, that of ancient women’s culture. It also takes them into the hidden world of anorexia. 

AND it honors the special relationship between mother and daughter. No matter how difficult that relationship might be, all women have mothers, and if they can’t be at peace with that relationship, they will rarely find peace within themselves

Saturday 22 September 2012

Just arrived back at my coastal home to find a surprise package  from the women who attended my Finding Artemisia : a journey into ancient women's business, Desert Retreat at Uluru, in Central Australia. Thank you wondrous women and thank you for your fine words too: "life-changing" "So much blossoming still...," "so much love and gratitude," "thank you for being our guide," "I've never felt so safe with a group before," "thank you for the opportunity to connect with such wonderful women," "Thank you dearly, beautiful and wondrous woman."
Our retreat was an image free zone, where we explored the negative body image and self image issues that hold us back AND in the presence of the ancient sacred women's areas, caves, billabongs and ponds we reached back in time and caught a glimpse of what those women had, some still have: a spirit of sharing, collaboration, holding, support, strong identity and belonging, in the absence of body image matters, competition, confused identity, anxiety, eating disorders, narcissism and vanity. What a joy to be free of these modern things. What  a taste of things to come for women willing to step forward into ancient wisdom. Come join us,

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Welcome to an IMAGE FREE ZONE

I am an Australian psychologist, mother and educator and I am so excited to be able blog and start a conversation about some of the issues that fire me up: women’s bodies, minds and relationships.  What is great about a cyber blog is that it can reach women all over the world. And I have had many wonderful opportunities to talk with women from many different cultures and in many different places, in jails, refuges, board meetings, schools, universities and remote indigenous communities. And whether it be on an indigenous reserve in Arizona, a New York prison, an Australian Aboriginal community or a suburban neighborhood,  I have found that women talk about the same things: their rights, their body and self image, their food and weight issues, their kids and families, their relationships, their futures and that of the planet.

And what I sense in all of them is a frustration that they are not being seen and heard for who they are. And that they are tired of being objects of desire, second class citizens, victims of violence and subjugation.  So I would like to start a conversation with women about these things so that we can find another way of seeing each other, so that we stop competing with each other and judging ourselves and each other by criteria set by those who do not have our best interests at heart.

As a psychologist, I see many girls and women whose lives are destroyed by their negative self beliefs, their hateful self images and their fears of not being good enough. But psychology happens in a closed room, in isolation. And if there is no change outside the room then there is no support for the healing process.

And if women do not begin to change the way they see and think about themselves then it is almost impossible for girls to grow into their full potential. So it is my wish to create a better world for girls that drives me to appeal to all women, to start to change the way we see ourselves.

When I traveled to the Australian desert to stay with a community of Aboriginal women and met women who did not define themselves by their physical appearances, I realized I was in an image free zone for the first time in my life.  It was liberating to be with women who were not at all conscious of how they looked, because it began to rub off on me. After days without make-up and mirrors I let myself be seen by these women whom I knew were not judging me by my looks but by a very different set of criteria. And these women had a wisdom and connection to with each other that is rarely found in modern women’s relationships.  They are so inspiring, I want to share their wisdom, their networking and connection. And I can’t think of a better launching pad than cyber space to propel modern women into an IMAGE FREE ZONE. 

Sunday 16 September 2012

Hello from Alice Springs. Such a colourful place, dripping with Aboriginal desert art and alive with people visiting from all over the world. AND I am enjoying it all, so full of life am I after our amazing desert retreat. Five wonderful women, took time out from their lives to explore women's business in the presence of the sacred ULURU, the largest monolith on earth.   Five women, freed of their roles, their body image and their worries, stayed open to exploring the ancient art of women's business :  a world where women weren't judged by their looks. A liberating experience, in safe and inspiring environment. Stay tuned for photos and comments by the participants. Blessings.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

One more sleep before I go to Brisbane to meet one of the wonderful women who will join me in following the steps of my book "Finding Artemisia: a journey into ancient women's business." On Saturday we arrive in Alice Springs where my character, Diana, had her first spiritual encounter. See page page 34. "...she drifted into sleep. Sometime later, she had no idea how long, she was awakened by a br
ight light. She sat up. The blinds were still closed. She was sure she had turned everything off except her mobile. She glanced at it. There was no light coming from it. She sat still. Suddenly she could feel it, the light. She was immersed in it. It had substance, and it was moving. Like some diaphanous serpent, it wound past her; its opalescent scales of breathtaking proportion. As it brushed past her, the hairs on her arms stood on end. She thought she should be scared, but she wasn't. She was holding her breath, not out of fear, but out of anticipation..."

Tuesday 4 September 2012

After a number of wonderful book signings, local and in Sydney, on Monday Sept 10 I will accompany a group of women in the footsteps of my book "Finding Artemisia: a journey into ancient women's business." We will be meeting at Uluru, camping and following my character's journey around the biggest monolith on Earth. We will be visiting an Aboriginal community as the guest of a traditional elder and spending some of our days searching for medicinal plants. Imagine stars so close you can touch them, blazing night fires, wild flowers and sandy dunes. This is my inaugural retreat. There will be another next year. Meanwhile, if you haven't read my book yet, read all about it

Thursday 10 May 2012

the beauty bubble

Here are some comments I contributed to this feature on the beauty bubble:


Friday 10 February 2012

Editors: necessary or annoying?

One upon a time... before computers, computer speak/spelling, and SMSing, written language was formal - with grammar, spelling and punctuation conforming to its dictates.  Literary prose and poetry, however,  often broke the rules for the sake of rhythm, emphasis, and that wonderfully unique phenomenon - style. And there was something, too, about pacing back in that pre-computer era AND comprehension: readers, it was assumed, could retain what they had read in the preceding chapter and could savour a slow, even (God forbid) subtle exposition.
Writers like Virginia Woolf, (who wrote great slabs in parentheses,  spayed words across the page like bullets; or drawled them, creating a timeless, dream-like trail of subconscious thoughts and impressions) would have a hard time in the hands of the modern publishing editor.
My writing doesn't come close to that of Virginia's, but my experience with editors so far, has been somewhat confounding. Their first assumption is that they represent the reader - a mighty big assumption- and as such must make the work in front of them, palatable, digestible even. The reader, it is assumed, must be told everything in the first 5 mins - there has to be a hook - the reader won't wait for a slow exposition: the characters need to be defined swiftly and their connections made clear at the outset. Keeping a juicy titbit up the sleeve might startle the reader, who apparently would have felt safer to have known about it earlier.  Chapters need to force a page turn, otherwise the reader might put the book down.
(I've been putting James Joyce down since I was a girl and am still managing to pick him up.)
"Finding Artemisia-a journey into ancient women's business," is at the line edit stage. Dramatic structure has been established, characters developed and inane editorial questions answered. Now the editors are battling commas (before 'and' or 'but'?) colons (semi or the whole hog?) and dashes ('em' or 'en'?) and I humbly await their verdict.
Fortunately my publisher is giving me the last say on the tone, voice and style of my story, and that is comforting because it is, after all, my story and I am confident my readers will be inspired by it.
If you have an editing anecdote, please share.

Monday 6 February 2012

Breasts and pink ribbons

Check out PINK RIBBON INC on to see why I have not been able to support the PINK RIBBON campaign for breast cancer despite its success as a campaign and its popularity. As a therapist who sees people in recovery from mastectomies,  reconstructions, lymphectomies etc,  I have always felt uneasy about the light and fluffy, pseudo positive, girlish, pink campaign. If you check out the link, you will see that the original commemorative ribbon was a flesh colour, until it was grabbed by a cosmetic company. Since then the colour has been used to sell products supposedly in aid of breast cancer: but exactly which aspect of breast cancer? While billions of dollars have been raised, no-one seems to have raised the question: Why the ever increasing number of women succumbing to this insidious disease?
So let's look at some the changes in women's lifestyles during this era of rampant breast disease:1 the decline in breast feeding (corporate campaigns have made women nervous about the value of their milk; image consciousness and the belief that breasts will look worse after wear have had an effect; lack of social support for breast feeding mothers- even f/b at one point banned images of mothers "nursing" their babes) etc. 2 the increase in radiation, microwave and other aerial pollutants, 3 the increase in chemicals in food production 4 the massive increase in commercially produced food, take-out and food chains posing as restaurants, 5 the increase in alcohol consumption in women, 6 the increase in women's working hours, 7 the use of household carcinogenic chemicals, 8  the increase in radiating screens in women's lives, 9 chemical hormones for women. And that's not all.
So when diagnosed women come and see me and tell me their friends have advised them to be positive, I often think to myself...there but by the grace of the goddess go I, because as the environment becomes more and more carcinogenic, not having breast cancer may become the exception.  As for pink ribbons? Let's replace them with RED roars: save the food, save the earth, and put women and children before corporations!

Monday 23 January 2012

why anorexia is so difficult to treat

Anorexia is an insidious dis-ease afflicting an ever increasing number of young people, girls in particular. It can be genetically pre-disposed, or reactive to chemical imbalance, but in my clinical experience it is most often related to sexuality and in the case of girls, the trauma of entering the sea of adolescence without the rudder of  social/emotional support.  Often a family affair, anorexia strikes the daughter who has being valued as being "good;" that is not rebellious, experimental, or securely individuated. Fearing the parental disapproval that inevitably accompanies adolescent rebellion, the girl chooses a secret weapon, one that she considers safe; food. After all, if she can control what she puts into her mouth, then she expects to be the victor in the power struggle.  Sadly, and too swiftly, food ceases to be an effective weapon, but rather the girl's own enemy. Once the struggle is internalised the voice of the controlling/restrictive self becomes so strong, that the girl succumbs. For those looking in at this dis-ease, it is almost impossible to comprehend. It doesn't make any sense: it is illogical, dangerous, even fatal. In my book Finding Artemisia, the inner world of anorectic thinking is revealed by Artemisia, a desperate, anorectic girl, barely 14, who shares her thoughts through her scrap book, the Oracle, which she hopes will help other girls recover, even though she has given up on her own life.

Saturday 21 January 2012

Blurbing in space

In this age of cyber space , telling your story in a few words is a modern art form. Only at home around the dinner table, in front of the fire, over coffee can we really share our stories. So reducing the vast world of my book, Finding Artemisia-a journey into ancient women's business, to a back page blurb is a challenge. Ironically the journey takes the reader into a world where story telling is still an ancient art, but you  have to read the book to get there. So for now may I tempt you with this humble attempt at enticing you into that world by sharing the back cover blurb:

When psychologist, Dr Diana Verdi sets off to Central Australia to attend an international conference, she takes some very weighty baggage with her: the recent loss of her mother, a fraught relationship with her father and a floundering marriage. At the same time Artemisia, her fourteen year old patient, critically ill with anorexia, has disappeared.
Miles from nowhere, in the middle of the desert, Diana finds herself participating in ancient women’s ceremonies, under the watchful guidance of Aunty Millie, an indigenous elder skilled in traditional healing.
At first Diana resists the old woman’s mysterious ways, but eventually the power of the ancient culture breaks through. Diana’s relationships, both personal and professional, begin to take on a new light and by the time she leaves the desert women Diana realises they hold the key to Artemisia’s healing.
Desperate to impart the traditional women’s wisdom Diana returns home, but Artemisia is still missing.
Will she find the girl in time to impart what she has discovered?

Are you ready to take the journey?