18 years in China – from where it began – Wellness consulting, opening China’s first health food store, and more – all steps leading up to the next thing. Kimberly took a two-year learning and travelling break, Eat.Pray.Love -esque. It helped shape her approach in using the Traditional Chinese Medicine understanding of food energetics, emotions, and healing to her teaching and work.
She shares how things came about – from not having a clue what and if she had a dream, to feeling viscerally a confirmation to her calling.
Amena said to me, you need to read this book or check this course out or something. And I read the term, I think it was Integrative Nutritional Therapist. I’m like, that’s me! That’s what I want to do! Literally, my whole body and my centre’s like, I gotta go do that!
I don’t know what it means still really, it’s a vague term, it could encapsulate everything I do, but it doesn’t mean one thing.
That was that first time I felt it and it stuck.Kimberly Ashton on how she felt viscerally knew this was where her heart led
- Feeling free again – a two-year exploration
- Bridging the gap in food energetics
- The missing piece: emotions and our internal organs
- Making decisions
1. Feeling free again
Karen Tsui, Where My Heart Leads
So what led to the two-year of travelling and learning after a long stretch of work? A sabbatical of sorts.
In mid 2017, the landlord took the whole block of shops back. It was sad, but a part of me was happy because I felt free again, I wasn’t confined to paying rent in a big four walls of a space.
I was still doing wellness coaching and things on the side, but for the most part with my ex partner, we went traveling quite a lot in Asia. He was still working, but we did a lot of trainings. In Qigong, we went to workshops and retreats, partly to learn, partly to just decompress from living in Shanghai for so long.
I never thought Shanghai was stressful. A lot of people I know who would would say it is, and a lot of my clients that I worked with were. I guess I transmuted the stress into excitement.
There was a lot of stress and anxiety certainly with the business. And yes with crossing the street or driving a scooter, or just living and dealing with admin and banking and getting a visa every year and the like. So yes, there’re stresses, but I never saw them as the word stress. I just took it on board, which, still affects the nervous system.
It’s definitely there. But it never put me down. I chose to be there. I chose to continue to live there.
So that sort of almost two years was a bit of a transition period of what’s next? And again, I was just learning and meeting different people and up-skilling, and taking time for myself. So that I can apply it again now. That was a really fun, interesting year, kind of felt like a little bit of two years off, but I was still working, but definitely got more into the coaching. Rather than the shop and the teaching. I do miss teaching a lot. But it will come again.
I do miss the teaching or sharing of information and helping inspire other people. Whereas coaching is one-on-one on their problems or their health issues and conditions. So teaching is more community focused or fun, if it’s a group, and the topic is a lot lighthearted than one-on-one more serious wellness coaching.
What were some takeaways from those two years of travelling and learning?
I was learning a lot about myself, and then my partner and other people, and we met a lot of new friends and new people that were, I mean, I would have never met them if I was in Shanghai or Australia.
They were very international, they were into Qi gong or yoga or whatever we were doing at the time. So definitely, new people, new energy. Just broadening my mind. I’m quite a broad thinker and an open minded person, but just again, expanding on that, meeting other people and great connections was really probably the key.
What it did reinforce was my passion for the five elements and nature and bringing in the food side. Through talking and meeting them (the people in Qigong training were many naturopaths, healers, meditation teachers, people into metaphysical things and energy) and spending time with people for that long in the training, you get to know yourself, but you get to know them, but you get to know yourself better and how you react and interact.
2. BRIDGING THE GAP – Food energetics
So whenever I meet people in that field, in that world, there’s isn’t a lot of information on food, and the connection between food and nutrition and health. So people are practicing their forms, or they’re meditating a lot. Or they’re teaching Qi Gong, or yoga or whatever they’re doing.
And I’m always like – the missing element is food!
And that’s happened to me as a theme actually since the last eight, nine years where I’ve always been like – food’s really important!
People are not aware that certain foods cause for example, a slowing down of the metabolism, or an impact on the Qi or energy.
In their practice, they’re kind of eating for the sake of eating, whereas there’s lots of really nice, seasonal things you can do, or functional foods you can add. So there is a gap in the information and what people know.
And so for me, it’s like, if only they ate better, then everything would be enhanced, or it would be increased, like they’d have more flexibility or they’d have a clearer mind or that they’ll perform better in their whatever sport or practice that they do.
So I see food more like the energy of the food and the seasonal nature of the food (the Five Elements) rather than proteins, fats and carbs.
How does emotions come in? I noticed that on your website.
I recommend people see an acupuncturist or TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) doctor because it can help rebalance the body with acupuncture, for example. And then maybe in 2015 /16, I’m like, okay, food is great, and I can help people get to here that improve their health, their physical conditions, but there’s a massive piece of the puzzle which is the emotional state that they’re in.
So I got really intrigued. And that’s one whole layer of the five elements is the emotional state of the organs and the systems in the body – because different organs hold different emotions or react to different emotions. So I was fascinated by that.
And I’m still working on bringing that more into sessions. Because what I do is such a combination of different things, when people come for a nutrition consultation, I’m very keen to get to the emotions or the the energetics of food. And it’s not really a standard thing. So definitely understanding the emotions has brought another layer in.
3. The missing piece: emotions and our internal organs
What made you realise that was missing?
Because I would see clients improve. And then they’d get stuck, because they started changing their habits, buying healthier food, cooking better, or cooking more themselves, or making healthy food choices, and then their health goals were being met.
So if it’s weight loss, or anxiety or sleep, you can do that. But then I was like, Well, no, there’s more.
I would see their emotional state, or realise that they had issues with them. Mother, father, husband, wife, boss, whatever it is that those emotional interactions and relationships was also causing them. Stress or worry, or anger or like, the emotions were there as well.
At the moment I’ve seen a lot of issues with spleen. So it’s all about worry and anxiety. They’ll start to talk about these things either in the intake form or in the sessions that I’m having with them.
So having sweet flavour like sweetened desserts are really actually very good for the spleen. But it has to be healthy ones, not Coca Cola, or cupcakes, and donuts. So just trying to get them to shift and realise, okay, why am I suddenly craving or why am I always craving chocolate? And dessert? An ice cream?
How does it make me feel? Why are you having this? Why is this emotion there? So that’s going into the emotional side, and we can use food to support that. Have some sweet things, but make healthy choices with that, start by eating more millet, sweet vegetables, like carrots and sweet potatoes. They’re very calming and soothing physically on the body. And then we’ll slowly talk about the emotion.
So there’s a bit of therapy in there as well. But I use the food as sort of like the bridge to get there. Rather than going, “You really got to stop worrying.”
Honestly, it’s the small, subtle changes that people make. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve introduced to millet in the last two months. It’s huge, go buy some millet and cook it with some pumpkin and eat it like this. And they’re like, okay, and just energetically they switch, because then automatically they’re eating less whatever they’re used to eating. Junk food, or cookies, or whatever it is.
They’ll start to relax the spleen and stomach and improve their digestion. And therefore, the worry and anxiety levels come down just that just happens.
That’s fact. Then we can start talking about who’s making you worry, the television or your mother or your boss or whatever. Because the emotional factors are going to be there for sure. And if you’re strong physically in the body, then you can handle the emotions better.
4. Making decisions
What did you get out of having lived and traveled around the world?
The first thing that came to me, which I’m like, it’s silly, it’s a bit fluffy, but is that humans, we’re all the same.
We’re all wanting experiences, to learn or to have fun or joy. Like I know that sounds a little soft. But that’s true, especially when you travel to like Vietnam. And then to like Japan. Very markedly different socio economic status, and ways of living – but you can be just as happy in an urban environment in Tokyo as someone in Hoi An in Vietnam, in the rice paddy fields.
So just that contrast. I actually really enjoy seeing how other people, how they live, first of all, and also how happy they are.
Do you have any advice for other people who are aspiring to follow their heart?
Ah, yes. Start by doing the inner work and getting comfortable with looking/listening/viewing/ experiencing inwards. That could be through meditation, yoga, Qigong, self care, coaching, kinesiology, energy work, reading books, taking courses, get to know YOU so well that no-one can tell you what to do or what you “should” do.
Heart consciousness or heart-led living is a different way or dimension of living to what we are used to doing or have in the past been experiencing. You can do the same thing and expect different results, so be prepared for change to come and to change and make shifts in thinking, beliefs and actions.
What might be the biggest challenge to do so?
Distractions, the outside world, family and friends. You have to be willing to trust yourself, develop your sense of intuition & knowingness and committed to staying on your own path.
I would suggest working on yourself and clearing all the baggage, limiting beliefs and social conditioning we have in modern times. You can’t lead a heart-based life and make clear choices for your own best interest if you don’t first have a clear relationship with yourself.
A lot of us make decisions like, Oh, that’s too risky, or I’m scared, or I better not do that, or I shouldn’t, or I will really want to, but I won’t. And that’s based fundamentally on fear. You see that with people in, entering a relationship or choosing a new job, or, buying shoes, whatever it is. Or it’s like, well, what do I really want? Am I willing to try it? Because you know, you won’t know if you don’t try it. And that’s the other option, or just jumping into it and – fearless. And that’s the other.
So that’s what I meant. A lot of people, myself included in the past, would just be like, well, I’ll just choose the safe option. And I better not do this. And so that restricts you, because you’re limited, you can’t grow. You can’t have new experiences, because you’re always going to do the same kind of jobs. Repeat the same kind of people. Yeah, have the same kind of friends.
The world is shifting. That’s exciting part. We are shifting to more living from from the heart. For sure. And heart based consciousness. Making decisions from the heart.
All images are from Kimberly Ashton unless otherwise noted.
Date of interview: 8 June, 2021 via video conferencing.
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