Thursday, June 29, 2017

Finding a space for grief

It is not uncommon in my yoga classes for someone to be quietly shedding tears. From time to time someone sits and sobs their way through the class. The music and the closed eyes make this more comfortable. And I positively encourage it. No tissues or hugs that interrupt the person in their grief and cause them to feel concern about the people around them. Just leave them be to cry out their pain. In the past year three of my yoga students, all of whom were also private clients with deep trauma and pain, two with life-crippling addictions, have passed away. In one way or another, each of these deaths was a kind of suicide. And so it was me, the teacher, who sobbed her way through the class last Friday, in the little hall by the church where the funeral of one of these beloved women, was, simultaneously, being prepared. While able to express myself comfortably to a certain extent - to sing and chant with my fellow yogis was a great comfort - there was obviously a level of restraint since I was teaching. After that, I really needed to go into a field and scream, as I remembered doing after the passing of my beloved yoga teacher, but I had another appointment. From there I went to the funeral and did my best, as did the rest of the packed church-full, not to cry too loudly. Watching her sister, another beloved and inspiring yoga student, bravely stand and read a poem about sisters, moved me to let the tears and snot begin to flow. But it didn't feel acceptable to really let go. By the end of the funeral I felt I would burst. The field beckoned but instead I did my weekly hour with elderly folk with dementia. It was wonderful... no tears but plenty of laughter as I sat in an arm chair wearing a wedding hat, to keep one of the women company - she is very fond of the dressing up hats - inviting them to stretch their arms up between nodding off. "Breathe in Glenys and wave your arms about! Wake up Brenda! Yes Betty, I do have children, three of them... And relax your arms down and breathe out and have a lovely rest. That's wonderful Bob. Oh thank you Pat, your hat suits you very well too! Yes, I have three children. And breathe in and stretch your arms up again! Eileen I am not sure John wants you to tickle him... and relax. Swap hats Pat? Ok, why not ... thank you, your's looks great too! And brea.. Sorry Betty? Yes I do! Three!" And to collect the children from school... by the end of the weekend I was so full of unexpressed grief that I was cross and impatient and snappy. It was Monday morning when I finally sat down and cried. Why is a church, packed full of people who are likely to have in common the fact that they dearly loved and cherished the soul who has passed on, a place of such emotional restraint? A room full of people desperately trying not to cry, to wait until they are alone at home to let the tears flow, if it's not too late and the feeling hasn't been pushed down inside somewhere. Where, in our society, is it acceptable to cry and really not care how loudly or for how long? I keep wondering how the close relatives of the dear souls passed on are managing in their grief. Or how my wonderful close friend, who's mother just passed away, is finding time and space for her grief. Watching one of my yoga students break down and sob in class yesterday inspired me... a soul brave enough to feel what she was feeling when she was feeling it without trying to be or do anything else. This is why I love the Kundalini Yoga tradition of chanting Akaaaaal - the great undying - for 17 days after the passing of a loved one. We have been doing this in class lately and a room full of like-minded souls, inhaling deeply and bellowing out a long exhaled Akaaaaaaal feels like the most tremendous release of grief and pent-up emotion. I am reminded of the day I heard that my yoga teacher trainer passed away and I went into that longed-for field, a field right behind the house, it is important to note. I chanted Akaaaaaal at the top of my voice for a good few minutes. Then I asked her to speak to me. I sent her love and light and healing on her journey and I thanked her for all that she had given me. We were not that close during my teacher training, I was immature and on a self-absorbing journey, but now I understand how well she knew me and the incredible gifts she passed on to me. We were cosmically close, of that I feel sure. As I stood in the field the heavens opened. Moments later, and damp from the downpour, I walked back into the garden, where my father was sitting in the sun with his book. He looked up from his chair, bemused.. and suspiciously dry... "Why are you all wet? Rain? It hasn't rained here!" If Hanneke were alive today I know she would tell me that it is an honour to be a part of a soul's journey into the light, even if they don't make it there in this lifetime. That I can't save every one. And as a wise yoga friend told me, that there is a beauty to holding someone's hand on the way, and giving them glimpses of peace and relief, a beauty and a gift always worth the possible pain of disappointment and loss later on. To those women I offer my heart, and a healing guiding light, wherever they are now. And I thank them for all that they taught me and for the courage they showed me along the way. I feel that now that they are guiding me in return, lighting up the way for me to keep offering comfort and peace to the new souls who come my way. And I pray for a world where we are free to express ourselves without fear or holding back... tears of grief and tears of joy. Sat Nam text
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Friday, December 7, 2012

How can yoga help us as we prepare for Christmas?

So much for my plan of 2012 to write my blog again! One post in January and here I am back in December! But, anyway here is a little something for Christmas. I was about to spend some time ordering Christmas gifts on line with Amazon while my son is asleep. But I have decided to resist the rush and the simplicity of 'getting all my presents in one place' as the TV so desperately wants me to (besides, someone has just informed me that Amazon pay no tax). Instead I shall go to Hereford next week and spend a leisurely day - my son in tow - shopping the good old fashioned way, sharing chat and eye contact with shop owners and having a good old dig through the charity shops. So I will spend today's precious nap time sharing with you some yoga thoughts that have been preoccupying me lately - nothing very new or well-written below - but just a reflection on how yoga can help us in this run up to Christmas. As we prepare for the festive season, with the abundance of choice and special offers regarding gifts, food, decorations and Christmas activities, what can yoga & meditation bring us at this time? I hope it can help us slow down and prepare for Christmas mindfully, ethically and perhaps, more simply. And it can help us learn how to receive as well as give. Whether or not we celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus or just as a happy age-old tradition, or not at all, the essence of love and sharing can easily be lost in the madness of on-line shopping and 'getting it all over with', ticking off on our to-do lists. We have been bombarded with Christmas food and images since the day after Halloween after all, so by now it is easy to feel pressured that everything should be ready with as little expense or bother as possible. There is a sense of hurry, pressure and financial stress at this time of year, when actually shouldn't we be slowing down and going to earth for a winter rest? Or relaxing and rejoicing in time with loved ones if we are that fortunate? My children are already disillusioned with Santa Claus who keeps turning up on every corner even in sleepy Herefordshire! (The most convincingly real and old-fashioned one will be on the steam train at Titley Junction this weekend by the way - another opportunity to buy presents more personally and locally!) As yogis we work hard to elevate ourselves. By paying attention to our own physical, mental and spiritual health and growth we become more compassionate, loving and forgiving beings. The more we care for ourselves the more energy and open-heartedness we have for others. And the more aware and highly conscious we become the more we can positively affect the planet and its people and animals through the decisions we make, regarding how we live, act, where we invest our money and what we consume. And! … the more we open our hearts the more connected we become with others. (Tell that to anyone who snorts at meditation and talks about 'navel gazing'!) All this is relevant for me at this time of the year because my yoga and meditation practice help remind me that Christmas should be about indulgence of love, time spent with loved ones and sharing with those who are less fortunate than myself, rather than over indulgence of food, drink and gifts. This is not to say that we should not enjoy a feast with our friends and family, but let us rejoice and feel grateful for that feast, and shop for it, prepare it and eat it mindfully. When I do yoga and open up my heart I am reminded that real love is not in the size or price of the gift but the intention of giving something special to someone you love. The thought and care that goes into buying something - where does it come from, who made it and has it caused any harm to people or planet? - is hard to maintain at a time when purse strings are tight and the days are flying by. But when we meditate and feel connected and at one with the rest of humanity, and with our natural environment, we become more responsible and caring consumers. Yoga also helps us when it comes to receiving a gift. When was the last time we told someone who bought us a gift "Oh you shouldn't have bothered"? Yoga helps us to love and accept ourselves for who we are. If we love ourselves we are more likely to feel worthy of receiving a gift. And when we receive a gift with an open heart we bring joy to the giver. This Christmas - whether we struggle with self-esteem or not - let's practice the art of mindful receiving as well as giving! The words of Yogi Bhajan will inspire me this Christmas: "We are not humans here for a spiritual experience. We are spirits here for a human experience". I wish you all a very very Happy Christmas! May your every mince pie, glass of mulled wine and exciting gift be treasured and mindfully and joyfully consumed! If any of you are moved to dropping the odd bit of change from your Christmas shopping to help those whose Christmas will be very different to ours, Herefordshire's own international development charity Concern Universal, where my husband James works, spends its money very carefully and with wonderful results in poor countries in Africa and Latin America. Apologies if you already have your own favourite charity, but it never hurts to ask! Follow this link for more information about Concern Universal. love, light & peace Georgie
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Thursday, January 5, 2012

I am back! With a new baby boy! Here is my birth story...

My new year's resolution is to start this blog again. But shorter posts this time! Two months ago I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, Solomon. So while I am on maternity leave I will make time for my writing. And as he is teaching me so much, as is seven year old Jemima and 4 year old Bella, I will share it with my readers. What better place to start than with my birth story. Ok this one is long because I wrote it for me, not for a blog :-)

Birthing Solomon 4th November 2011

The scene at home was beautiful and candle lit. The midwives were wonderful and the girls there for the pushing and my yoga music - so from outside it was perfect and exactly as I had wanted – I even made the muffins I had wanted to make for everyone while in very early stages! And I had a lovely acupuncturist come to the house and treat me – after the muffins! While rushes still only 20 mins apart. The whole thing lasted about 12 hours. Soli was born at 450am on the 4th.

I was deeply self reliant and in control this time thanks to yoga, meditation and the practice of mindfulness. And hypno birthing too. This and the water meant I did not use Gas and Air as I have in the past (with a love-hate relationship to it).

BUT! The pain I experienced was as intense as always. More so at times. My pelvis and hips and legs felt like they might break in two. It really was agony. It is simply that I didn't say it was this time! In the past I have yelled out “I’m going to die!” or “I can’t do it!” but this time I didn't voice my fears or my pain. Instead I just thought to myself “It hurts now but in a moment it will feel different.” “This is now, in a min you will be blissfully relaxed again.” “Don't be afraid you have done this before you know you are not going to split it two really.” “Work harder! This baby is not coming out anywhere but in this pool!” Etc etc!

I hardly needed James although I absolutely needed his presence, his love and his hand to squeeze in pushes. (Sorry but they were pushes! Bearing down yes, but I still roared thru most, some quiet breathing down too.) And James was wonderfully loving and gentle and present as he always has been. Water was wonderful in the breaks but it didn’t make a difference to the pain in my legs during each surge.

The midwife was totally calm, shared my approach and was confident in my body. She kept saying “your body is working beautifully for you, everything is going perfectly, just as I would have hoped” That was very comforting.

And my doula training meant that I knew exactly what was going on at each stage. So when I vomited and ripped off clothes and weeed in garden under the stars and wanted to be alone, I knew I was well dilated and ready to get in the pool! I asked to be examined and the midwife did it beautifully and quickly and was so cool cos she said I was 5 cms and when I said “that means I am probably 7cms when not being examined” she said, “yes, exactly, absolutely. Happy for you to get in the pool!” And that was the only examination and even that one was at my request. I could have got in pool without it but I wanted to be sure myself.

It was great to be so informed but it did mean I had my own doula voice in my head all along - mostly a very good comforting doula coaching me through! I would like to have me as a doula! Which is good from a professional point of view!

But I also has a less helpful voice in my head: “Aren’t you supposed to be quiet this time? Isnt it supposed to be gentle and less painful?!” That was less helpful but then I was quite good at saying back “Oh be quiet! It is what it is! You are who you are!”

The actual birth was beautiful despite extreme intense pain. I saw his head come out in the water beneath me. The midwife could not see so thought I was not there yet! Then I looked again once shoulders out. And then again when torso out. (He was so big that the final exit was slow and hard! – Bella just slopped out after the head!) And then when his legs came out I said “He’s all out, shall I just lift him out now?” and everyone was totally surprised when I lifted him out of the water! It was so dark and he was coming out under me so no one could see. Disappointing for girls and James but lovely for me as I didn’t really see the girls come out. James did.

A boy! Hooray! Twenty mins skin to skin in water and then the girls and James had cuddles while I struggled out of the pool. Agony still in my legs and hips and no momentum anymore to get me through it. I felt very low then until the placenta finally came out and with it came total relief and bliss and flood of love and peace which has yet to leave me!

And after that it was party time. Breakfast of tea and muffins and an hour of feeding and chatting to midwives (three now! Student had been there all through, and now back up midwife here). And then to bed – heaven - where I pretty much stayed for two weeks, naked under covers with Solomon, running James off his feet fetching and carrying and cooking! Then, at two weeks, Solomon’s long career of school runs began. Luckily for him he sleeps through the in and out the car business and lucky for me Jemima loves doing that bit and can do up car seat buckles no problem. So all as good as it could be. 

And one more precious gift… Jemima - after watching 50 mins of me roaring my head off in 2nd stage and then baby born - grabbed a scrap of paper and wrote me this poem:

“Mummy you are lovely. WOW! Like fireworks! You are so brave! You are so strong!”

Four weeks later and I feel sooo blessed. The girls are totally in love with Solomon and hold him and kiss him constantly but are very caring and sensitive towards him so it is not too much at all. They are helpful and caring towards me and I keep thanking them for being such incredibly loving, giving individuals who have made having a third child pure joy and no stress at all. School runs have been (mostly!) happier and calmer than ever – and they were the thing I was thinking would be the biggest challenge. And bonus of bonuses! We can get three children in the back of our 3 door Clio so my fears of third child meaning bigger, more expensive, more polluting car unfounded! Just need get a trailer for the nappies and the tent now! Happy days despite sleepless nights.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Birthday blog - really just a letter to far flung friends xxx

Wow, all four of us have had birthdays since I last blogged! A few people have reminded me that I have a blog lately! Not sure if can still call it that since I only write once every few months at moment, but as it is my birthday, which means refusing to cook or clean or work, I will sum up the last few months instead.

Today I am 37. When I think back to my last birthday, spent in steamy exotic Phnom Penh eating brunch in Fresco's with a friend and buying second hand clothes from the very bustling very boiling local market... wow life has changed! It is a lot quieter and a lot colder... but still very blessed and full of colour and love.

I was woken in the dark for a birthday breakfast before school and James' leaving for work. Yes! He has a job, in a real office, in a real International NGO, the only one near us in fact, in Hereford! Hoorah, we are here to stay. James is now Learning and Advocacy Manager for Concern Universal which means he once again has to jump on his bike each day to Kington and then the bus to Hereford City - one hour on bus through gorgeous hills and countryside. After Xmas he may be able to work at home a few days each week. But he is happy and the job seems great so far.

My day today pretty much sums up my life here right now. Even my birthday gifts say a lot. The girls gave me pink wellies. And yes, I will probably wear them every day (those are Wellington Boots for the Americans out there who are not sure what I am talking about!).

This morning I taught/goaded an 87 year old woman into shoulder stand. She kept assuring me (upside down, legs straight up like a candle) that she could not do it, until I pointed out that she was already doing it. I am not sure which one of us was more excited.

After the class I had a very luxurious middle of the day coffee with my dear new friend Briony, and her gorgeous daughter, Jemima's dearest friend, Florence, who was off school. They made me flap jacks and gave me chocolates and I felt very loved. While I unfortunately do not have time out with friends each day, lovely encounters with dear friends and yoga students - young and old, - is very much part of my life here.

Then I came home to continue to try to train our crazy rescue dog who is a bit like a third child but harder to discipline, and now I have precisely one hour before collecting from school and cooking supper for the girls and their friends, so I am by the fire, my book and chocolates await me.

That is pretty much my life here - without the chocolates and reading by the fire on a work day bit! I am teaching loads of yoga, cook non stop for my hungry children, husband and father, and spend a lot of time in my wellies. I have spent the last month up to my eyeballs in apples, damsons, blackberries, figs and green beans. I have spent whole weeks making chutney and jam to keep on top of it all and I love it.

I used to have so much to say about Cambodia but really, this just about sums it up for here and now. The hedges have been cut, the birds are feasting on Autumn berries, the potatoes and corn fields are being harvested and the sun is finally shining and warming up this cold, crisp October day. The leaves are gorgeous and I love it all. I still feel most definitely home. Though today I have thought so much about all my lovely Cambodia friends who celebrated with me last year. I send lots and lots of love to you all xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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Friday, July 2, 2010

Catching up - natural healing

Well it has been a long time indeed since my last post. Thanks to those of you who have asked me to come back! I guess it does not feel as if I have so much to say now that we are back in UK. Or, probably more likely, now that I no longer have Sophy at home helping out and I am teaching half the week I don't have the time to think about what we been up to let alone write it down! But I have been meaning to follow up from my last post for ages. So here goes.

So, four days after Jemima started taking her potions from our crystal dousing healer (I have since discovered she is not a homeopath but uses all sorts of remedies) all her tantrums and bad moods disappeared. It was amazing and she has stayed healthy and strong ever since, even despite the house being full of her very ill cousins for a week and James and I both coming down with flu. Bella has also been to see her and is also much stronger and has not had any more coughs or colds since, after previously getting them every other week and often they lasted weeks longer.

I have been totally amazed by the results - James says I am a Born Again and he is right really. I have paid about six visits to the crystal shop since seeing Liz and the girls both have rose quartz under their pillows which I swear has made them totally madly in love with each other. They miss each other and play brilliantly together when they are both at home. Jemima has not had any more nightmares since the day I put some Smoky Quartz by her bed as well :-).

And whenever I feel skeptical about the power of a crystal to divine what is wrong with our bodies Liz comes up with a total mind boggler. She detected that I had taken paracetemol exactly five days before. And I had, for the first time in months. She detected shock in Jemima dating back exactly to the day that Bella and I took off to London for a few days. Jemima had a great time camping with James but she did call Bella every night and said she really missed her.

I think living in the countryside somehow makes all this easier for me to believe. I am surrounded by nature and every day I watch the seasons change, birds make their nests, bees pollinating flowers... My vegetables are growing and we have eaten our first spinach and cabbage. The garden is full of healing herbs and the idea that nature and the universe has a better idea than we do about what we need and what the truth could not seem more natural. There is a sense of humility that comes from living in such a place of natural beauty. It becomes much harder to believe that we have all the answers than to believe in the power of creative consciousness.

Daily meditation makes me realise how much more there is to understand about the world and our experience in it, that we just don't see until we meditate. When we are able to quieten the mind and just look and listen without agenda or attachment, insights come to us, a sense of what might heal, a sense of purpose or destiny... Certainly when I meditate I feel that I am a spirit here for a human experience and life just becomes easier, I become kinder and happier and everything just flows much more easily. And everything feels possible, including swinging crystals telling me what can heal me! I am lucky not to feel alone in this either as I have discovered many friends who are also amazed by the results of crystal dowsing.

Bella is calling but I will be back soon, sooner than last time!

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Detoxifying Jemima!

I had an amazing experience yesterday, one that I wish all parents & children could have. I took Jemima to my new but already very much beloved homeopath - she also uses Bowen Technique, Bach Flower Remedies and other natural remedies. But what threw me the first time, and now utterly fascinates me, is that fact that she douses, using a crystal pendulum. I was sceptical for about a minute. Now I am hooked.

You come away from Liz feeling that you have had a complete MOT. The crystal looks at your entire body and mind and soul and Liz then makes up remedies accordingly. liz simply places a hand on your hand and ask questions about each bodily system and about your emotional health. She also touches different remedies to see which ones you need. By the end of the consultation she has pulled out about 20 (or in Jemima's case 40) bottles out and she makes her remedy with all of them. Although Jemima had so many needs she said she could not possibly use all the remedies at once!

According to a crystal pendulum is quite simply a tool that is used to check what the subconscious already knows. The Pendulum itself is an extension of our inner senses which creates a visual representation of our inner energy changes.On an subconscious level we know everything about our previous lives and everything that our current and future lives have in store for us. Only when we can access the subconscious can we access this information.

What she found out about Jemima was nothing serious, but still quite upsetting to hear. She is riddled with toxins - from vaccine carriers and preservatives (they must have been in her system for over two years now as she has not had a vaccine in that long), pharmaceutical drugs (ditto), bleach (PP swimming pools/ the school loo?), formaldehyde (hmmm, preservatives used for fresh food in Phnom penh's markets and vaccines) and lots more. Her immunue system is rock bottom, she has a skin virus, and there is candida in her gut. She now has various potions and remedies to take, some dealing with the physical aspects of her healing and others with emotional problems.

The crystal revealed shock in her body dating back five and a half years ago... her birth! (Children love
rebirthing meditations.) Jemima also appears to feel a sense of loss, and a fear of opening her heart to new relationships. Of course! Just think how many friends Jemima has said goodbye to in her short life, let alone twice being uprooted from what she knew as home. There was one positive - she won a prize for being the most hydrated child Liz has ever come across :-) I am a bit of a water pusher it is true, mainly cos her spirits lift instantly after drinking water.

I knew something was up with Jemima, who mostly appears healthy and vital and very happy, because she has been having daily screaming fits over the smallest thing, and has become obsessed with sweets and pudding! She also has had a rash of Molloscum Contagiosum for months now, all over her neck. I did not tell any of this to Liz though until after the consultation. And what she revealed still came as quite a shock for me, especially after spending sooo much time and energy on raising my children as organically and naturally as possible. The diagnosis could not have made more sense and some of it was also what our previous homeopath in Cambodia had recognised.

Knowing all of this is such a wonderful gift because we can do something about it. It is so wonderful to understand what is going on inside her body. Now I know she is fighting all these toxins and that she has sugar-hungry fungus in her tummy, I feel much less worried and much more able to deal with her mini-tantrums.

It is such a privilege to be in a position to take such a holistic approach to my daughter's deep, inner healing. You could argue that she would have survived perfectly well without these insights and remedies. I myself have just totally identifed with (and laughed my head off) at the latest email circular "We was brung up proper", about my generation of children playing in the streets all day eating what we liked, completely unmonitored. But look at the appalling state of our physical and emotional health of our nation's adults.

With this precious knowlege and understanding I hope that Jemima can really thrive and live to her full potential, energy levels and be happier and calmer and healthier. I shall keep you posted but I feel very positive and blessed and much less inclined to scream back at Jemima at dinner tonight! It helps that the sun is shining and the lambs are playing in the daffodils. Here's to new life & new experiences.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How can we help our children, and ourselves to live happily, peacefully and spiritually?

This is for all parents and all women. Yogis believe that all women are mothers, whether of their own biological offspring, other children in their lives, people in their community, or any other earthly creations. I am afraid this has become less of a blog post and more of a very long article with loads of ideas!

Many mothers have asked me recently how they can help their children calm down during or after a tantrum, how they can deal effectively with unreasonable behaviour, how they can allow children to express anger without hurting themselves or others, and how we as mothers can remain calm and avoid losing our tempers during these very stressful and upsetting episodes. As a mother of two young girls, a yoga teacher and a healing arts practitioner, I am always contemplating these same questions myself. And for me, the answers to many of them lie in how easily we and our children are in touch with and led by our spirit. Because I have experienced that when we speak and act from that place deep inside ourselves, life flows more easily and happily.

So I would like thank those who have approached me as you have inspired me to write and share some of the ideas and methods I have been using over the last few years with my own children and within yoga sessions, both for children and for adults. There are so many more ideas out there, these are just a few that I use most. Some of these I have learned from others and some I have made up myself and some are a mixture of the two. I hope they can bring a sense of peace and grace into your lives as they have into mine, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts and your own ideas for awakening and soothing our children and our souls.
Meditation and visualisation
Early this morning as I was sitting peacefully in front of the window with the sun pouring in, quietly and breathing before starting my yoga, feeling blissfully alone, I suddenly found myself - hmm, how can I put this positively? - embraced by my two-year-old daughter Bella AND our significantly older, larger and heavier dog, Brecon. They appeared to be competing, though quite good naturedly, for the best place on my lap. In the end Bella conceded and hugged me from behind while Brecon curled up in my lap, quite like a baby, only several stone heavier.

I had to laugh (a yogi must never lose their sense of humour). I have always told my students that animals and children love yoga. I have been visited by cats, dogs, frogs, even geckos before, but this is the first time I have had an enormous great hulk of a dog, (lab/collie/who knows but definitely with a bit of bull terrier thrown in) actually nestle his way into my arms. Brecon proceeded to spread out on my mat beneath my triangle (downward dog) and snuggle into my outspread arms like a lover when I was relaxing on my back an eventful hour later. I wished James had been there with his camera. It would have been wonderful to show this photo to illustrate what I strongly believe: that, as parents, and in particular mothers, we are the spiritual guides of the household. When we shine, our families bask in our light.

The best way for us to teach our children to live from their heart – not the organ but the home of their spirit – is by example. Telling a small child to sit still and breathe or to stay in a yoga position as long as possible is likely to suppress their natural energy and instinct, let alone their enthusiasm for yoga. I have seen this happen with Jemima in the past, and just yesterday in my kid’s class when I mistakenly tried to help five year olds perfect their dog poses, instead of letting them get it in their own time as I normally do.

When a child sees you enjoying some minutes of quiet breathing, or a particular yoga pose, s/he will be inspired to join you. The peaceful energy you will usually radiate will at some stage become irresistible for your child, and they will be curious to know why you want to do what you are doing. Your flow may be interrupted but if you are able to open your heart, let go of your attachment to the previous plan you had for your yoga and wrap your loving arms around your child (or pet!), you are likely to get twice as much benefit from your meditation.

I know this is true from my own experience. I have had times when I have got annoyed and begged to be left alone and ended up raising my voice with my own children, leaving me feeling guilty and all of us miserable. This is hardly the desired result from meditation, and is a sure way to make children believe that meditation will be of absolutely no benefit to them! Now I try to let go every time and go with the flow, cherishing those sacred moments of holding and connecting with my children and listening to the silence around and within us. Usually they will then wander off and play before long and I can continue with my yoga. When they do not I just have to resolve to wake a little earlier the next day so I can have some solitude before our yoga cuddles begin.

Of course there are some wonderful meditations to do with very young children, which they will love to. All children love to sing mantras. They do not have to be in English - in my classes the children often chant mantras from Sanskrit or Gurumukh – but you can make up any of your own mantras to suit the moment. Some examples are:

I am happy, I am good.
I am brave, I am bold, my own spirit I can hold.
I feel my peace, I feel my light, I feel my love.
I am strong, I am well.
I sleep peacefully.
I am beautiful. I am thankful… and so on.

Jemima has climbed up many hills with the mantra “I’m not tired, I feel strong!” after melting down into protests before hand. I know, poor child! Reassuringly, she has often resisted this technique, letting her own resilient spirit shine through, firmly grounded on her bottom at the foot of the hill. But she has also embraced it and sung it at the top of her voice and called out: “It works Mummy!”

As children get older, around six or seven, although they can continue to enjoy the above ideas, they can also be encouraged to sit quietly for a few minutes of listening to their breath, visualising drawing light in their body, or any other ideas you like to use. Start with one minute and slowly increase the time as your child gets older or more used to it. I feel it is important that we should always be sensitive to how long they seem focused and try to end it before they lose interest so that they feel good about what they have done rather than being left with the feeling that they could have done better. Always emphasise the point that this is supposed to feel nice, help them care for themselves and their body and if there is any challenge, it should be a healthy, happy, fun personal challenge only (e.g let’s add 30 seconds on to our quiet time today shall we?), rather than a competition with anyone else. Remember that laughing is ok, as children get the giggles when asked to meditate for the first time. You might also remind them gently to relax their face as I have noticed children sometimes screw up their faces with great tension when they are concentrating. If they just can’t sit still, let it go and try again another time.

You can help your child sit for longer by adding visualisations. These are easy to find on line or in books and I also make up a whole host of different visualisations that suit the moment or that follow a yoga story we have done. Examples are: lying gazing at the stars picking out their special star that is watching over them and breathing deeply and imagining they become that star and are shining so brightly they can guide others and lift them in their light; thinking of a word/image that makes them feel good (give examples for words, e.g. happy, peaceful, loving, loved etc, but normally left alone they will choose an image on their own that means a lot to them – jewels, butterflies, rainbow sparkly fairies and strong men/lions seem to come up quite frequently) and breathing in the word/image so that they become that word/image and when others come near they feel that way and breath it and become it too; imagining they are on a beach and their breath is a gentle safe wave washing over them calming and soothing them… and so many more. Children love to be given something to hold during meditation or relaxation, a soft scarf or a cuddly toy and they love to be told that the animal is drawn to be near to them because it feels so safe and good to be close to them. They love to take care of their animal and be responsible for its well-being.

At night Jemima often falls asleep with a rainbow visualisation where she floats on a cloud through all the colours of the rainbow and each colour washes over her so that she can feel the quality of each colour – I do it with the chakra colours and qualities. Jemima always gets to start the story so she is often a rabbit or a puppy and she often has lots of friends around her who also have to feel the colours … arrghh! It can get quite complicated and exasperating at times when I have to remember a whole load of different made up names and the five minute sleepy meditation becomes an hour long saga! Perhaps you could start with more boundaries than I did!

There are so many different ideas for this sort of meditation and the lovely part about it is that as adults we can become creative and activate our childlike imaginations again. One day I will write down all my stories and ideas but this is getting long enough already! I will just say that in class, when I wake children from their relaxation I do it with a puppet who whispers something different and relevant and affirming it each child, something I have noticed about them in class, or something I feel about their presence. Obviously, this is always something positive, and might be different each week. Healthy children are like sponges when you tell them something lovely and true about them, and those who finder it harder to believe will benefit all the more from this positive affirmation.

After an argument/tantrum
Let’s hope that some of the above will help our children become less frustrated and angry, and more able to deal with the pain they experience in moments of trauma. And I really do mean trauma. Have you ever heard your child cry out in their sleep during what appears to be a terrible nightmare? This is a great indicator for truly understanding how small a child’s world is, and just how huge and important, tiny inconsequential things can appear. Bella is often tormented by having to share her grapes or have the pink bowl according to her sleep talking. It makes me laugh at the time but it also reminds me never to say: “It doesn’t matter” to her, because quite clearly, in her world it does matter an awful lot.

For a two year old, not being allowed to take open the car door themselves when we are in a hurry, or having to share a toy, can cause such toxic levels of the stress hormone cortisone to rush to their brain that it can kill off brain cells. They are experiencing pain and if we are able to put ourselves in their tiny shoes and their tiny world (our own yoga will help us be able to do this!) we will be calmer ourselves and more help to them. Such emotional pain can also be experienced by a five-year-old whose mother cannot find the right shade of grey tights for school that match her best friend’s tights. Yes, that was this morning. Click here for more info and ideas for understanding and dealing with different kinds of tantrums.

While we often feel helpless during a tantrum there are ways we can make things better afterwards and for the next time. When Jemima and I have an argument or she flips out over something we play this game: We pretend to take off all our angry clothes, flinging them to the side with great energy. I have to do this with her to encourage her and we really get into it. If we are at the school gates we do it very subtly or we play the marshmallow game instead (below). Once we have left all our angry clothes (you can do this for tired/sad/shy etc as well) we do some very freeing swinging twists from side to side with our arms out (not at the school gate) to wash away all the black and make everything sunny again, and then we pretend to get dressed again in lovely warm, happy, cosy and comfy clothes. It is a wonderful fun way to heal and to learn how to take care of ourselves and it can be done in one minute so can easily be done before saying goodbye, rather than leaving each other in a state of stress and regret. I also try to get Jemima to drink water - I tell her to imagine a wilted tired stressed out flower that is dehydrated and when we give it water it grows tall, blossoms and is bright and colourful and happy again. (Our bodies are 77% water so dehydration is an extremely common cause of bad temper and irritability for all of us).

Another very healing and affirming act to do after any outburst or release of emotion is to press our hands one over the other firmly on our heart centre in the middle of our chest. We can say a mantra to ourselves as we do this and children love it.

Oh, the marshmallow game. This is a bit like the sack of sand game, where you imagine you are a hard very full sack of sand and the end opens and all the sand flows out and you become very soft and floppy and relaxed. Jemima loves to pretend to be a marshmallow melting on top of hot chocolate getting softer and softer as all the tension and anger melts away. I know some parents also encourage their children to go and sit in their happy, peaceful corner and calm down.

Of course all of the above has an emphasis on preventing and healing but we also need to teach our children that anger is ok to feel and to express, as long as they do not hurt themselves or anyone else. A cross corner where they are allowed to tear paper, throw a ball against a wall or paint with lots of black paint, dress up in costumes like lions or pirates or whatever they associate with not being lovely and good for a change, is a great way to help children find outlets for their feelings. Our children are mostly expected to produce pretty pictures with nice colours and wear pretty clothes with nice colours and to feel happy. When we can find ways to show them that it is ok not to feel happy and not to feel bright we are setting them free to be themselves, whatever their mood. This usually helps them feel better simply by the pure act of being accepted just as they are. For let’s face it, if there is one thing a parent can and should do for his/her child, no matter how hard this can be at times, it must surely be to set the child free from all of our own neuroses, standards and expectations, so that his/her own true and pure spirit can shine. And what a beautiful, healing thing this is for parents to do: to let go of the reins for a change, and allow ourselves to be uplifted and led by our child’s spirit and light.

For more posts with ideas for children and yoga try or here or here

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bella has friends! Cambodia to Kington part two... can hardly believe how different our lives have become

This is what I think about five times a day here. E.g. When I walk out the door to teach yoga with two jumpers on and my white yoga trousers -white enhances your aura - tucked in to wellies to avoid the mud and drive through the cold foggy night to the village hall early to heat it up before my students arrive, (instead of jumping on a tuk-tuk vest top worrying about how dirty my flip flopped feet are). Or when I cover each student up in their blankets for relaxation (rather than watching hot sweaty students collapse down hoping to finally cool off). Or when Bella falls asleep and I leave her with James while I walk up the hill with the dog and look around me at the 360 degrees stunning views of hills and farm land (instead of hiding in the lovely Comme a la Maison for a mosquito accompanied coffee & croissant under a fan pretending to study). Or when Jemima reports that today, grandparents day, only two in her class of 24 pupils did not have a grandparent come in for the celebrations (ah, she did so miss our family in Phnom Penh). Or when I realise that only three people have responded to posters about yoga in at least a month (how many requests did we get to teach a class every day in PP, Mindy? Oh for a local version of the Cambodia Parents Network!) Oh, one more... but I won't even go there... it relates to washing up, cleaning the bathroom, hanging out the washing, hoovering the stairs, shampooing the dog after he has rolled in dead rabbit(???) etc etc etc..

There are days when I can't believe how lucky I am to be living in such a beautiful friendly peaceful place and there are days when I ask myself what on earth am I doing here in the middle of nowhere where the sun sometimes forgets to say hello all day and you have to actively seek people out. We have yet to share Kington playground with another child! I guess once Spring begins that will change. Anyway, here we are, boxes finally collected from the ship (quite literally - they gave us a crow bar and left us to hack our way into huge wooden crates holding 30 boxes, reminding us to take the wood away with us when we left! 12 hours later that same day we unloaded the 30 boxes from our hire van into the house at 2:30am, under a star-lit freezing sky. This is the cheap way of moving country to country, when the resettlement package is non-existent. I don't recommend it even if it did give us an excuse for a whole day without the girls.)

So nice to open our boxes though and settle in and... creme de la creme.. Bella finally has some friends! (Jemima made about ten in the first two days of being here) We have found the most wonderful childminders, Kate and Sam, a gorgeous young couple who live in the hills and are green and peace-loving and totally child centred and, basically Bella's new favourite people! They drive their own kids to school (Jemima's school) every day and pick up Bella and her friends from in their child-seat equipped van and drive them back to their children's paradise for a few hours of heaven, feeding guinea pigs, scrambling around in their garden, trampolining, baking and lots lots more. Bella has only been twice but talks about them as if she has known them all her life. She comes home snotty and painty and floury and muddy and utterly joyful. And she is actually walking instead of asking to be carried all day (tuk tuks = door to door delivery service = very lazy toddler). She told me today that she walked because "that's why she has feet". Thank you Sam! She is still breastfeeding and pretends to be a baby for about 99.9% of her day but is far too irresistible for me to want to do anything to change that. Long may it last. Actually, these days she is mostly a cat, one which Jemima pulls along on a lead with great glee.

Jemima's school continues to be totally cool and the head teacher is so open and brings so much into the school. We are excited about me teaching yoga there as part of their Enrichment afternoons and I am really looking forward to working more closely with the lovely staff there. Yey!

I know there was something else I wanted to blog about but it has escaped me and it is late so I shall sign off for now and will will will put some photos up soon I hope! Send me all your news lovely friends, near and far xxxxx

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Friday, February 5, 2010

My walk in the hills

Today was one of those bleak, misty, wet British days, the sort that threatened to lower my spirits to the very pit of my stomach. I could quite easily have stayed indoors all day wondering why we had sacrificed the constant sunshine and bustle of Cambodia for the cold, grey rain that falls all too often in the lonely Herefordshire countryside. Thank goodness for our new dog Brecon.

If it were not for Brecon I would have curled up with Bella and shared her midday nap, and felt even worse on awakening to find the day already darkening. Or I would have cleaned the house and done the laundry and worked at my computer, all the time wishing for some sun to dry the clothes and warm the house. Instead Brecon and I went for a walk. How differently I saw the day.

We walked up the old lane behind our house, a lane that has not changed in the thirty-six years that I have known it. It beckoned us up the hill and into the wood, where Brecon sniffed for rabbits and I wondered how it is possible that in all those years I have never met a single soul on this lane. As we emerged from the wood into my favourite valley, I might have walked into one of Constable’s paintings. Had he come across this sacred place I’m sure he would have found it just as it is now.

One side of the valley is edged by the wood, until it rises up to Offa’s Dyke, the original border, where rabbits act out Watership Down and I used to stand, legs stretched out, calling: “one foot in Wales and one in England!” On the other side, across the lake from where I stood, at the top of hill, the leafless branches of the oak, beech and ash appeared tangled and blackened against the white sky, shrouded in a gloomy, hanging fog that filled the air between the trees and me with tiny drops of soft floating rain. I stopped and stood in this valley, where I have come hundreds of times before.

I stood as still as the murky blue green water of the recently thawed lake, for there was hardly a breath of wind in the air.

I stood and listened to the silence that surrounded me, disturbed only by the sound of sheep bleating on the hill and bird song from the woods. It feels as though no human hand has ever touched this place.

I stood and breathed and felt the cool damp air on my face and in my hair.

I could have stayed home and moped today. Instead I walked and felt inspired to write as I learned that no amount of cold, grey mist can dampen my spirits, when in a place of such natural, earthly, English and Welsh beauty. I braved the day and I remembered why I had longed to come home to live. I remembered how I had answered my friends’ well-meaning question: “But won’t you get sick of the rain?”

“No, not there. It is too beautiful, whatever the weather”. I was right.

Last night I heard a woman on the radio say: “When you spend long enough in a place it becomes a part of your spirit, a part of who you are”. She spoke from my heart. I am blessed.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

HEALING SPIRITS! (and where are all the childwen Mummy?)

Hooray I am happy to announce that my new yoga website is finally arrived live. Check out and forward to anyone who lives near Herefordshire who may be interested! All is going very well here and I shall write very soon about our new and very lovely dog Brecon, rescued from the hills in Brecon, and the mysterious lack of pre-school aged children in Kington or Presteigne between school drop off and home time. Bella and I have looked and looked, in the playgrounds, in the swimming pool, on the high streets, but as she says, it does seem that "All the children are in Cambodia aren't they Mummy?" Ah, it breaks my heart. I am determined to solve the mystery soon. I cannot endure being woken up with the words "Where are my little friends Mummy? I don't got any do I?" each morning, any longer. Parent and toddler groups watch out, here we come. Or I shall set one up myself.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

How to laugh before breakfast and other yogi ideas …

Most of my yoga students have heard me go on and on about cold showers, though most seem unconvinced, it has to be said. I totally understand that they think I am crazy. I used to raise my eyebrows just as sceptically when my old yoga teacher told me about them - until I tried it myself.
I have always been the queen of hot baths, preferably accompanied by a cup of tea or a glass of wine and a good book, or my best friend sitting on the loo seat to chat to me (three sisters = no inhibitions), or on the end of the phone as a last resort. So, how can it be that in the last three weeks of living in the coldest, snowiest weather I can remember since I was a child, I have had precisely one hot bath and 22 cold showers? You only have to try it once to know the answer.

Honestly, I have had a cold shower every morning since I arrived, including the day we got off the plane from 30 to -2 degrees and snow, and a friend’s very under-heated flat. It takes your breath away of course. In fact it makes me laugh every time I do it, which is a good enough reason to do it in itself – how many mornings do you have a good laugh before breakfast?

Other benefits of hydrotherapy or ishnaan (cold showers) are well known. The practice keeps your skin radiant and softer, (this is definitely true for me, and no product has ever helped my skin before) opens up your capillaries, flushes all your organs (not literally, you should keep your mouth closed), keeps blood chemistry young and healthy and it stimulates healthy glandular secretions. It also strengthens and widens your aura, your electro-magnetic field, your light and your radiance.

You have to do it right though (for right, read, my way:-)). I do not follow all the rules of Ishnaan (there is a sequence of body massage you are supposed to follow but that takes about ten minutes which I think is way too long and uses up too much water.) But here is the more eco-friendly - or more cowardly - two minute version. The winter version. In the summer I can be under for much longer and wash my hair too if I am feeling brave. Of course in Cambodia it was hard to get a shower to be cold enough and you would be sweating minutes after getting dry, but in England, summer or winter, the water runs seriously cold.

In the bathroom, or near enough to it, do a few minutes of energetic yoga. Squats, breath of fire, and aura strengthening arm raises are my favourite. Then put some almond oil in your hands and massage your whole body for as long or as short as you like. Then get in the shower and start by putting your hands under and gradually put your whole body under while massaging your body vigorously as you do. Wash with some natural soap and when you have stopped laughing and have had enough get out! Dry yourself, get dressed straight away and ideally follow with your favourite yoga. And have a cup of yogi tea afterwards as you sit back and bask in your bravery and radiance. It is that simple.

I challenge you to try this for a week and come back and tell me how you feel. I do this every morning, preferably before the children wake up, and when I sit down to do yoga, despite the floors being made of stone, the sun not yet having risen and the heating not yet having come on, I really do feel very warm and very calm. And I bet if you asked my family whether they could tell which days I did this before breakfast they would be able to tell. (I just asked. They can.) It makes me a better mother there is no doubt about it. I feel uplifted and energetic throughout the day after this ritual, and I am much more patient and fun with my children.

Go on, have a go :-)
N.B. Do not practice the above if you are pregnant or have any health issues that would make this not a good idea. If at all concerned google Ishnaan and ask your doctor first.

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Recipe for Yogi Tea

Sorry, this has been a long time in coming. So, for a wonderfully delicious tea that strengthens your bones, purifies the blood, aids healthy digestion and is a natural antibiotic here goes:

To 1 1/2 litres water add 5-10 slices of ginger, 20 cardamom pods
20 peppercorns, 15 cloves and 3 cinnamon sticks.

Simmer for 40 minutes. Add 1 tbs. black tea (optional) then reheat to the boiling point, remove from the stove, and strain. Add honey/milk to taste.

It keeps in fridge for a week and is also nice iced (well, if you are in tropical Cambodia, that is, not snowy Kington!) Jemima likes it diluted with lots of milk and it is good for teething. My father is addicted too now, and the house smells lovely when you are making it.


Click here for more recipes
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Friday, January 8, 2010

Rambles about new life and new school in Herefordshire! (Unedited, sorry)

Hello hello, we are on line in Herefordshire hooray! And someone has just posted this: Tell us about your household and family and town in Herefordshire! (who are you? :-) and so I shall. And tomorrow I will add lots of snowy pictures too.
It is beautiful and white and frosty here and today was the coldest day recorded in Herefordshire in 30 years apparently. It was barely under freezing which by my Norwegian friend Tone's standards must be a hot day given that it is -30c there right now, but for England it is a bit of a national emergency when it snows.

Schools are closed, buses and trains cancelled, rubbish remains uncollected... and today I think we ran out of salt. (I mean we as in England, not the Treasure-Evans, and salt as in grit, not table salt)

I love it! We are forced to surrender to the powers of nature for a change. Having to take a day or two off work is also a good reminder that we are not that important and the world will not collapse without us. I can say this easily though because James and I are not working yet. At least not in the economically-recognised manner of the word. Cooking, cleaning, rearranging and rebuilding our lives while taking care of two children is keeping us busy enough though. Oh I miss Sophy. (Oh, I must blog about our farewell at the airport. Sophy's entire family came to see us off, placing garlands of jasmine around our necks and pressing their noses into our necks for minutes at a time, sniffing our skin as they do with children, as as if to remember forever how we smell. It was overwhelming and moving and I sobbed my heart out. I really do miss Sophy, and I do not mean for her washing up or childcare. I miss her warm, gentle presence in our family and I wonder how she is doing without her darling Bella to make her laugh every day. Ah, more about leaving Cambodia later.)

Jemima started school on Monday and completely loved it. I missed her so much at lunchtime, after five years of having her home! But I love her school as much as she does. It is very eco- and socially conscious, small and familial. Really, I had to stop myself from throwing my arms around her teachers in joy and relief. Jemima's teacher is very zen and softly spoken and manages to make a class of 24 children seem more like a class of ten. The atmosphere in her classroom and in the whole school was so happy and peaceful and there was a lot of emphasis on kindness and caring for each other. We were all really welcomed and spent the whole morning there. The Head Teacher is young and gorgeous and seems to adore her job. And she had so much time for us. She had time to play with Bella, share ideas about James' career, and chat to me, on the first day back at school before giving a lovely and inspiring assembly (yes I nearly cried then too).

This is something I have loved so much about this last week - everyone seems to have time for us. Everyone we meet stops to chat and seems genuinely interested in us and our children. They all seem to want to come to yoga too so I better get that organised soon. And the health food shop will re fill our Ecover bottles! Ah how I have missed little things like this!

Kington is small (about 2-3000 people) and has a lovely high street currently adorned with coloured flags and each house as a Christmas tree on the front wall, upstairs hanging over the street, as has been tradition for centuries. There are small independent shops for everything and a Co'op, with lots of organic and fair trade products. Our house is a mile out of Kington surrounded by hills and fields all covered at the moment in a blanket of snow. We can sit in our kitchen and watch twenty birds having their breakfast in the garden, including the robin that comes right up to the door, if Bella is quiet enough. There are log fires inside, snowmen outside and I have seen the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets every day since we arrived. I am totally loving cooking and being domestic in such gorgeous surroundings and we have been sledging on near perfect slopes which we can walk to from the house every day. The girls are loving it but they need friends. Once school opens again that should be taken care of though. And they have Grandpa.

We are living with my father. This house has been our family holiday house since I was born and my father has been living here alone for the last ten years or so. It regularly fills up with my sisters and their families though so I think he knew what he was in for when he invited us to come and share his home. My father is 80 but looks and seems closer to late 60s. So far so good - we seem to co-exist really happily, sharing meals most of the time but being independent when we need to be. It feels so lovely to be living with extended family and the girls love their grandpa very much. (My mother, Granny Melly, lives in the next county so can easily visit or receive visits from her grandchildren too.)

My father is coping admirably with the upheaval, raising his eyebrows from time to time as we squeeze by him on the stairs with some huge, antique piece of furniture wobbling precariously between us "Just rearranging a couple of things, don't worry about it Daddy!", or as the girls completely melt down over that final item of winter clothing, after half an hour of trying to get out of the front door. He already has our vegetable patch marked out for us and few jobs up his sleeve, and he has babysat a mostly sleeping Bella twice already in one week, it feels so right to be able to help each other out as families should.

Oh gosh it is 11pm which means my friends in Cambodia will be getting up now (7 hours ahead). I can still hear the birdsong and the traffic noises - but I can't imagine the heat anymore, my feet have frozen up as I type. I have to go to bed so that I can get up early before the girls for my yoga. My new years resolution, cold shower and yoga before breakfast, but more about that soon! Good night or good morning depending on where you are reading me!

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Life in England... goodbye ice creams and sunshine, hello school uniforms and snow!

We are back! England has welcomed us gloriously with snow and sun and frost and despite wearing hats in bed we are actually enjoying the cold. While there are many things I shall miss about Cambodia, right now I am loving the fact that I can run and skip down the road with the girls safely (apart from the patches of black ice), that they wake up at 830 each morning instead of 6, and that they have learnt how to walk further than from the front door to the gate or Tuk Tuk once more. We have walked up a hill every day since we arrived, been sledging, had hot chocolates by the fire and they have even stopped complaining about the ten layers of clothing they have to wear each time they leave the house. It is good to be home.

Yes, it feels like the right decision despite having left so many precious people behind. We still think and talk of Cambodia all the time and this feels like a holiday for the girls I am sure. For me it is frighteningly real. Jemima starts school on Monday. MONDAY! I have nightmares about her wearing the wrong uniform (we have not got it yet!) or arriving late or not being able to start the car but she is completely relaxed and excited. While I am in mourning at the thought of her not coming home for lunch all she can talk about is the school puddings she has read about on the menu on the school website!

I am sure this blog will be a bit of a T-E family settling back into life in the sticks for a while, so if you are good friends you will enjoy, especially if reading from our old beloved hot and sultry Cambodia. If you are new to Motherland you may find it more interesting to read some of my other less mundane scribblings :-)

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

What will I take home from Cambodia?

A dear friend asked me yesterday, what will you take home from Cambodia? Today these words come tumbling out, fast and furious. I could edit it but I don't want to. Better to give you the raw unfinished rough draft, a from the heart flow …


So many smiles mask so much pain.
So much gold, so much dirt.

Gold Towers, evictions, Lexuses, rape,
Swimming pools & sewers where children play.

White sand islands, plastic bags,
Coconuts palms, foreign owned.

Colourful weddings, music and lights!
Bride unrecognisable. Woman in chains.
Make-up that hides her soul.

Glinting green rice paddies, warm russet earth,
Yellow afternoons.

Sunsets that bathe a whole city in red.
Monks swathed in orange, photographed daily. Fed by the poor. Faith uncertain.

Mangoes and jasmine, cyclos and street kids.

So many smiles. So much pain.

What will I take home with me from you, Cambodia?

Scents and impressions of all of this. Branded into my soul.

And more.

Healing, love, art and peace
Destiny found and embraced

Humility, outrage and hopelessness

Hope, patience, empathy and light.

Flow, grace. Nightmares and dreams.

Tolerance for dogs and music and traffic
Yearning for space and tears and passion

A desire to see something here change
The fear that nothing will

Friends, forever, deep in my heart.

Soul touched. Soul love.

Bella! Conceived and nurtured from nought to two. Naked and free, loved everywhere.

Jemima, already five! Wise and beautiful, loving and strong.

James, closer every day. Forgiving, brave and true.

Loving, warm and trusting. Open hearts, open lives.

Cambodia embraced us all.

How can I leave?

How can I stay?

Trust. Trust and let go.

For more rough poems click here

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Who is out of control?

A thought for the day on tantrums - as a few people have asked me about this lately. Many people think that a child who does not have tantrums must somehow be happier or more secure. Parents absolutely dread their child having a tantrum in public. Children who have tantrums are often tutted at, what unacceptable behaviour! The mother who drags the tantruming child screaming out of the room (yes I have done it too) is, however, often sympathised with and considered absolutely right in her actions. The lack of empathy for a tantruming child in a public space often makes us parents respond wrongly simply because we know that all everyone wants is for that child to shut up, and we feel those judgments flying in our direction. We prioritise pleasing the crowd and getting the hell out of there fast, meanwhile increasing the already toxic levels of the stress hormone cortisone flooding our child's brain. If only we were able to accept and understand that tantrums happen, and for a reason, then maybe we would all be able breathe and smile and be supportive as the parent and child work together to find ways to calm down.
I absolutely believe that tantrums are normal and a sign that the child has a strong will that is alive and kicking. If we look at the five minutes before a tantrum starts we can often easily see how right and understandable the tantrum response was and how we can try to prevent it in the future. Imagine we could not express in words what we wanted to achieve and when we tried to no one understood or everything went wrong. Imagine we were whisked up from a game we were playing and undressed and plopped in the bath without prior warning. Imagine we desperately wanted to wear our green t shirt over our red dress but were not allowed out of the house until we had changed.

When we put ourselves in our children's shoes, trying to remember how small and 'about me' their world is, a tantrum almost always seems easier to understand and less likely to make us angry in our response. And maybe we will see that while some tantrums are beyond our control and will always occur at some point - one child snatching a toy from another - others are quite clearly of our own making.

I very recently witnessed a 4 year old boy playing with my daughters very sweetly. Something happened which I did not see - I think he did not come when his dad asked him to but perhaps he snatched something from someone, I am not sure. But what was a peaceful scene of kids playing one moment turned into a horrible scene of anger. Guess what happened? The dad had a tantrum!

The boy was smacked on the bottom and dragged off screaming and kicking and thrown in the car. So upsetting to watch. I wanted nothing more than to ask the dad to stop and think. (Actually I would quite liked to have sent him to the naughty step but I don't believe in them. At least not for children.) How he would have felt to have been humiliated and physically hurt in front of his friends and then banished without the chance to say goodbye. I could just imagine the feelings of injustice and lack of control flooding the little boy's brain as he sat crying in the car.

How can we expect our kids to have control over their behaviour when a parent has no control of his own? I was ready to tell him: "You have just violated your child". But he was gone too fast. He might have replied that I had no right to tell him how to treat his own child. Of course I think I do. His child is not a possession but a person with the right to be defended.

It is appropriate for a child to have a tantrum; just not a parent. And if children have a safe space to express their will, without suppression, but with support and love and help to process deep feelings, and gentle boundaries when appropriate, both parent and child can learn from each experience and both will be stronger and more emotionally aware as a result.

Here is what I wrote a good while back about tantrums to help us know how to deal with them and how to distinguish between those that need attention and holding and those that need to be ignored or gently but firmly handled. And here is another you might like.

If we act with an open heart and with humility our children will blossom in our light and love. Good luck

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Leaving Cambodia.. for real this time..

Ok, I know this blog has been sleeping for a long time. (I haven’t.) I also know that I wrote about a year ago that we were leaving Cambodia and I never quite got round to writing that we were not leaving after all. But this time it is true. After four incredible years here we are flying home for Christmas and not coming back. At least, not any time soon. So of course I have to write. I can’t imagine anyone visits my blog now it has been such a long time since I last wrote, but I need to write anyway, for the girls and to relieve my heavy heart. Oh, and for my mother. I know she will be reading. :-)
Cycling home last night through Phnom Penh at dusk, having spent the afternoon playing yoga games and creative arts with a team of Cambodian counsellors and social workers who are in great need of some Time for Me (as the project is called) to release stress and trauma and to learn to support each other, I was ready to cancel our flight booking. However much I long for the green hills of Herefordshire and however much I am excited for our new life in the countryside, I still cannot really imagine saying goodbye to this extraordinary city and its wonderful people. Last night the streets were madly busy, the uncovered sewer, or black river, was especially pungent, the sun was huge and red in the sky, weddings blocked off whole streets on my bike route, and the air was its usual warm, damp, musky self, with that unmistakable Phnom Penh smell that hit me the first time I stepped off the plane and which I will never forget.

There was a time, three years back, when I would have been so ready to leave here. Now, although I know leaving is the right thing for us to do in many ways, it feels as though time is slipping through my fingers. I don’t feel ready to let go, no matter how much yoga I do for the 1st chakra!

What has been incredibly moving, and also quite surprising, over the last few weeks, is to see how Cambodians become very emotional and expressive when it comes to goodbyes. I am used to the smiles that mask the real feelings within, when it comes to most of my Cambodian friends. However I am beginning to understand how goodbyes trigger off subconscious memories of previous endings - endings which, for most Cambodians, have been deeply painful traumatic events. I can honestly say that not a day has passed in the last week or so when someone has not welled up on seeing me or the girls. I totally understand of course. I fight back the tears (or let them flow forth actually) several times a day at the moment, at the market, in nearly every yoga class I teach, and especially when hanging out or working with one of my dearest friends and yoga colleague in Cambodia, Mindy, and her son Ivan, Bella’s best friend. Seeing my girls with their friends, lovely children who have come to mean so much to me, many of whom are also my little yoga students, is probably the hardest thing of all. It is at times like that when the urge to stamp my feet and shout “No, I can’t leave them!” comes upon me. But I was not prepared for the sheer amounts of love and expressed sadness from the Cambodians in my life. Bella and Jemima’s teachers, our beloved nanny and house help Sophy, her daughter, her daughter in law, her daughter’s friend…. It is overwhelming, exhausting but it is so honest and real that I would not want it to be any different. A friend reminded me that the pain of leaving honours the deep relationships we have built here. If it were easy to leave what would that say about the last four years? I never thought I would feel at home here, but right now this is the most at home I can imagine feeling anywhere. The fact that it is not our home is one of the main reasons we are leaving I suppose. To go back to England and put down some roots. Once we have a home back in England maybe one day we will feel free to move overseas to live again, knowing where we came from and where we will go back to.

Jemima is very excited of course. She keeps looking at the school menu in the local primary school she will go to and talking about uniforms and white socks and black shoes. Bella is altogether much harder to imagine in England. She is deeply settled and happy here. She is naked about 99% of the day. She is loved and adored wherever she goes. She has a touchingly profound friendship with Ivan, who is absolutely her equal in everyway – from naked bottom wiggling to non-stop conversation to butterfly catching and everything else… you should see them feeding each other raisins and caressing each other’s faces. When Bella is upset and I cannot console her, she knows who can. With a look of anguish on her face she will plead me with “I NEED Ivan, Mummy. I need to go to his house and play with him now!”

How will Bella be received in her naked splendour in England? (If you are thinking what I think you are, yes, I know but Bella likes to be cold. I think she will go sledging in her bottom given half the chance.) What will people say when she sheds all her clothing in the middle of the supermarket and sighs loudly and sensually “Ahhh, I got my botty. I love my botty.”? How will she feel without the constant company of Tuk-Tuk drivers, friends and general bustle around her? Cambodia is so full of life and there are people everywhere. Herefordshire, how ever much I love it, is rather quiet, let’s face it! While I can imagine Jemima curled up in a corner of the house looking at a book or lost in a game of make believe, what will Bella make of those long hours when her sister is at school and she is stuck with me at home?

I guess I will find out soon enough. In the meantime I plan to live every moment of this Cambodian life until the minute we board the plane. And probably the next time I write will be from the freezing hills of Herefordshire. It is currently 7 degrees Celsius, which I know thanks to the setting James has added to my desktop. Every time I log on I have to be reminded of the fact that we are leaving the constant warmth and light of the sun behind. It has been three years since I experienced a dark winter morning in England. 7 degrees?? I wonder what Bella’s beloved botty will make of that.

I am off to teach my little 5 year old yoginis. Today we will explore how it feels to say goodbye.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Ideas for Halloween fun!

If you are new to Phnom Penh don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll miss Halloween this year. My daughter is still haunted by the image of four giant eyeballs passing silently down St 57 in a Tuk Tuk at sunset.

This year, given the recent bloodthirst for Stephenie Meyer’s series of Twilight novels, I expect to see a lot of romantic, well-intentioned vampires lurking in the shadows of Phnom Penh. Should they come knocking at your door, don’t be alarmed. Meyer’s vampires are mostly vegetarian. You might want to hang a crucifix and a string of garlic round your neck to be sure, but they will probably be pacified with a spider web chocolate fudge muffin or a basket of bleeding eye balls. Read on for more haunting Halloween party ideas and ask at your local school for details of organised Trick or Treat Tuk Tuk tours. Happy Halloween!

Repulsive recipes

Spooky spider web chocolate fudge muffins
Preheat oven to 190°C/Gas 5.
Heat 50g dark chocolate, 85g butter, 1 tbsp milk until melted. Stir. Cool.
Mix 200g SR flour, ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda, 85g brown sugar, 50g castor sugar.
Add 1 beaten egg, 142ml sour cream. Mix well.
Stir into chocolate don’t over mix.
Bake in greased muffin tin or cases for 20 min.
Spread cooled muffins with melted dark chocolate. Pipe 4 circles of white chocolate on top. Drag a skewer from centre to the edge to create a cobweb effect. Alternate dark on white.

Sugared eye balls
Fill a basket of blood-shot, blood curdling starey eyeballs and offer them to hungry vamps at your door. Dip marzipan or cookie dough balls into melted white chocolate, add a smartie for the pupil and drip red colouring for veins. Black grapes in icing sugar or lychees are an easier option!

Who can make the creepiest cookie? Let your kids loose to decorate their favourite cookies – you could turn it into a party game.

Pumpkin pie
A traditional Halloween party would not be complete without pumpkin
Preheat oven to 180°C/Gas 4. Bake a pumpkin. Scoop out the flesh. Use 1 cup mashed for the pie, freeze the rest or mash with butter, salt and pepper for comfort food.

Grind a packet of Ginger Nuts / Digestives with a pinch of ground ginger / Cinnamon Grahams. Mix with ¼ cup of melted butter. Stir and cook for 2 mins. Press mix into bottom of greased tart dish. Bake 10 mins.

Turn the oven up to 220°C/Gas 7

Mix pumpkin with 100g sugar, ½ tsp salt, 1½ tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp ginger, ½ tsp nutmeg, ½ tsp allspice, ½ tsp cloves and 1 tin evaporated milk. Pour into cooled biscuit base. Bake at 220°C for 15 mins. Turn the oven down to 180°C. Bake for another 35 mins. Serve warm with double cream or vanilla ice cream. Enjoy cold, set leftovers the next day.

Freaky fashion
Olympic market (upstairs) and Orussey Market (outside) has great fabrics and sequins for costumes, including a range of printed fake fur for animal costumes. BKK market is worth searching for princess costumes and black and red velvet dresses for your little witches and devils. Pick up a pumpkin while you are there for your lantern carving.
Cheeky Monkey at Le Jardin, St 360 also sells good costumes. Why not support Friends’ face painting team at their shop on St 13? They have a good creative repertoire or take along your own ghoulish design.

Ghastly, ghostly games
Apple bobbing is the perfect Halloween game for the tropics. Hot and sticky Trick or Treaters can cool off whilst trying to pick up floating apples from a bowl of water… with their teeth! Warning – face paints may run.

Pin the tail on the devil, wart on the witch’s nose, fangs on the vampire... let your kids decide!

Wrap the Mummy – use loo roll or old sheets torn into long strips. Who can wrap up their friend the fastest?

Sleeping witches, vampires, ghosts… again let your kids decide! The kids lie very still on the floor and when you move you are out. Perfect for calming down sugar fuelled zombies.

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Think your child will never eat spinach? Think again...

Asia life article July! For many parents, feeding our children is the most stressful aspect of parenting. We tend to associate meal times with battles over control, bribes we later regret, left over food and a lot of mess. Georgie Treasure-Evans offers a few ideas and some child-friendly vegetarian recipes to bring the fun back into family meals, as well as a balanced healthy diet.

It is a common misperception in many countries that children like their food plain and easily distinguishable. Here it is rice porridge. Where I come from, fish fingers, alphabet chips and tiny frozen veg spring to mind. You may find it hard to imagine your kids eating the necessary pulses and leafy vegetables that replace the iron, protein and vitamins that we get from meat and fish.

Luckily the reality is that most young children love strong flavours and will happily eat whatever their parents do, allowing for personal preferences, of course. Resistance at meal times usually has more to do with how they are feeling than with the food itself. When a child is ill, tired, upset or over excited his appetite is often the first thing to go, followed shortly by his ability to behave as we might wish them to.

The best advice I received for dealing with meal times is to relax, let go and trust that your children will eat what they need when they need it. Offer everything in small helpings and allow them to create a little mess as well. Give them some of the much sought after control that they so rarely experience in their young lives. And make it fun.

The tried and tested recipes below are just a start, to get your own creative juices flowing. Enjoy the process as much as the result. Remember that small kids love to cook and are more likely to eat what they have helped to make! Let them help you or your cook chop soft vegetables, grate cheese, crush the garlic, and lick the bowl. If you are in a hurry give them some pots and their own ingredients and let them make messy mixtures on the floor.

Lentil Bolognaise (vegan)
This can be a sauce for pasta or baked potatoes, with cheese on top if not vegan, or topped with mashed potato (sweet and normal) and baked as shepherd’s pie. Make lots and freeze half, or blend into soup. Soak green lentils or mung beans over night, cook red and yellow split peas from dried. Tinned lentils are a quick alternative.

Fry 2 chopped onions and 1 garlic clove in a large pan with olive oil until soft.
Add chopped carrot/courgette/pepper/aubergine/mushrooms (any or all as desired) and two cups of lentils. Fry for another minute. Stir in vegetable stock and simmer for about 40 minutes, adding stock until the lentils are soft. Add two cans of chopped tomatoes, season to taste, fresh thyme and oregano go nicely with this.

Ten minute green spaghetti
Puree steamed fresh or frozen spinach – either on its own or with a bit of cream / cream cheese / splash of milk, and grated nutmeg. Pour over pasta and pile grated cheese on top.

Spinach quiche
Find a short crust pastry recipe and follow, or buy ready-made from Veggies, on St 240. Line a quiche dish and bake blind for 10 minutes (score the pastry with a knife first). Fill with steamed spinach and cubes of feta. Pour over mix of 3 beaten eggs, half a pint of milk, and a teaspoon of English mustard. Grate black pepper on one side for adults. Bake
for 30 mins approx. Spinach is a great source of iron but you can replace with any veg you like.

Courgette pasta
Get the kids to cut or grate courgettes. Steam and toss into favourite pasta shapes with a little sour cream, crushed garlic and grate cheese on top. Add pine nuts or cashews for protein.

Peruvian bean stew with feta
Cut 1lb potato and1lb pumpkin into cubes and cook until nearly soft. Fry 1 onion and garlic, 1 optional chilli, 1tsp cumin and add 1 tin of tomatoes. When the onion is soft stir in potato and pumpkin and a little water and cook until soft. Stir in 1 cup white beans (cannelini/lima/butter), 1 cup corn and 1 cup peas. Crumble feta cheese on top and lots of fresh thyme, parsley or coriander. Eat with brown bread, rice or quinoa for really high protein meal.

Hot “chocolate’ ice cream sauce
Soak prunes and dried apricots in boiling water until soft. Blend with bananas and pour while hot over vanilla ice cream or plain yoghurt. Tastes like chocolate caramel but full of iron. Enjoy

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Back to school...

This is for any parents resisting sending their children to pre-school or kindergarten, and lacking faith in their decision. Bella started three mornings a week at her sister's little pre-school last week. Now she runs around the house singing, with attitude, "Jemima! You are naughty poo poo pee pee!" So that is what they mean by socialising. Long may it last.
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