Stephanie Brake
Stephanie Brake
New Zealand 2011-2012
Stephanie Brake earned a Bachelor of Arts in Entertainment Industry Studies from Belmont University with a minor in Spiritual Formation. Volunteer work on a farm in Waipahi, New Zealand will provide an opportunity to dig deeper into social justice, Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) and a host family in the South Otago region. " Read More About Stephanie →

Gateway to Aspiration

The end of the second week carried me to Wanaka, New Zealand. The city is known as the Gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park since the tracks leading to the peak the conservation is named after start there. Graham and Giselle wanted to give me room to breathe as well as send me on some health business.

I already imagined the next few days of holiday would be worthwhile simply from the bus ride. If the fact that the driver was Bono’s bald twin didn’t suffice, it was definitely the views from where I sat. The landscapes on the other side of the glass would change nearly every 15 minutes. And dramatically: hills like Marama to begin with, then canyons with cliffs I’ve never seen more rocky, then flatlands with rows of fruit trees and vineyards, then river dams and historic gold mines with caves, and finally… the mountains. My quiet traveling mates and I bid hello and farewell to Rae’s Junction, Roxburgh, Alexandra, Clyde and Cromwell through our pondering glances before we stopped at the I-Site location right off Lake Wanaka’s shores. I remember stepping off, throwing the duffle over my shoulder, walking out onto the dock and standing in awe until the sun went down.

Mount Apiring National Park from Eely Point

The health business mentioned above was an appointment with a naturopath highly recommended by my host family. Her name is Margaret Balogh, and her occupation aligns in the holistic movement. Though I’m still digging into what this is, from what research I’ve conducted, practitioners in this “medical” field generally don’t agree with mainstream physicians and scientists. These could include the acupuncturists, massage therapists, zen masters, yoga instructors, etc. They put nutrition and natural, human wellness at the forefront of their work as well as recognize that each person’s body is different.

Again, prejudice followed me into the waiting room that Friday afternoon. I was socialized by a system to accept the diagnostics of those in white coats. It never occurred to me that medicine usually attacks the symptom(s) but ultimately, not the problem(s) which created the symptom(s); or how prescriptions constantly fight against our immunity. It never occurred to me that genetics has been, time and time again, used as an excuse (i.e. “Oh, well since your mother has a bad fill-in-the-blank, then there’s nothing really you can do if you have it since it was passed down to you” or “He died of a heart attack at 50, but it ran in the family”); could it be that through DNA, our bodies are prone to certain conditions if we follow the diets and lifestyle trends as our parents and especially if we are raised in the same environments as they were? Could it be that if I started focusing my finances towards good groceries now, would I need to worry so much about the necessity of health insurance later on?

Marg came out of her office and invited me inside so our session could proceed. From first looks, she had the wisdom in her gaze of someone middle-aged but seemed, physically, at least 10 years younger. Her voice was gentle and encouraging, and she answered questions firmly and with grace. She performed a vegatest on me, which sent painless electric currents throughout my body to determine a) intolerances, b) deficiencies, c) acid levels and d) how organs were functioning. I held a metal rod and she poked at my big toe. Apparently, I was too acidic. The worst organs were my intestinal lining, liver and thyroid. I lacked zinc, magnesium, chromium and boron. I didn’t respond well to dairy, sugar, wheat and coffee. Her feedback would require me to change what I ate and how I moved, like exercising three to four times a week, adding meat again because my blood type was O positive, consuming six handfuls of veggies and three palms of protein a day, going gluten-free, and taking a dietary supplement, a multi-vitamin, B12, detox clay, high-concentrated fish oil and zinc powder; she supplied the last three.

I should pause here to confess that my results were not what surprised me the most nor did they have the biggest impact. It was actually our discussion beforehand, as she filled out my profile sheet. We got the generic health information out of the way when the more personal inquiry came – things like my sexual history, family background, childhood, what I wanted to be, and if I supposed any problems/fears associated in these areas might have contributed to unwanted weight gain. After a brief and painful story few people in my life know about, this was her response: “Yeah, we tend to do that, don’t we? We use food as a defense mechanism. So we don’t really have to face what hurts us.”

Aspiration is such a funny term; it could mean ambition, goal, objective, aim, target, hope, desire and wish. You need it to get off your butt. You need it before every step. You need it so you don’t throw your arms in the air and wave surrender. You even need it to forgive and to just let the crappy stuff go. When Marg said that, it was exactly what I knew had to be done. No one had previously pointed out the sheer importance of strong mental power in the equation or that success had a particularly higher probability if I entered the race with a clean slate. I had to clear up the baggage in my head before I took on her suggestions. Mind before matter.

Wanaka was my gateway to aspiration and believing that with a combination of carefully-guided support, emotional release and self direction, I could achieve virtually anything. If I was entirely truthful (with no offense intended towards education or religion), four days there and one meeting with Marg taught what four years of college and two decades of spirituality failed to confront or counsel. Wanaka empowered me to make the choice; it presented the evidence, gave me the tools and said I deserved happiness.

Sculpture at Lake Wanaka

Sculpture’s inscription

Let’s fast forward several weeks. If you knocked on the cottage at 8:30 am, you’d discover I was already gone getting things done – and at a much faster rate than before. My hair grew like a weed, and I’d brush my fingers through it to show how soft it was. You’d find my acne about cleared and my skin tan from all of the daily sun I got. We’d be at dinner in the evening and talk about ourselves, and you’d notice my confidence freely displaying itself.

Oh, and as of yesterday, I’ve thus far lost four belt holes around my waist. Something must be right about the weirdos, as Graham would say.


 “The chance is yours for the taking, and everything depends/ On this transient moment that could turn strangers into friends/ The possibilities fill the air like a song played from far away/ Full of stories, hopes, dreams/ And laced with insecurity, scars, and pain/ The possibilities float like ghosts/ And theyre haunting my every thought.” ~Foreverinmotion

4 thoughts on “Gateway to Aspiration”

  1. I love reading your blog Stef!!! 🙂 And I’m so happy you’re having a great time! <3

  2. “Aspiration is such a funny term; it could mean ambition, goal, objective, aim, target, hope, desire and wish. You need it to get off your butt. You need it before every step. You need it so you don’t throw your arms in the air and wave surrender. You even need it to forgive and to just let the crappy stuff go.” – Stef Brake

    My most favorite thing I’ve ever read by you.

  3. I’m so so proud of you 🙂 You sound different on the phone, too… more confidence and comfortable with yourself. I love you!

  4. Steph, we are so proud of you – and impressed by your reflections too. Well done learning so much, being open and sharing your experiences. Great photos too!

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