Friday, November 21, 2008

For city kids... or anyone into happy children, school runs and yoga

This morning Jemima and I walked to school, dodging dead rats, motorbikes and Hum Vs (really, the tanks in PP have to be seen to be believed. Unfortunately the drivers inside them cannot see the rest of us mortals, especially small children), and stumbling on and off pavements that come abruptly to an end the minute we pass each brand new, gated-home development. Only very rich people get to have pavements outside their homes in Cambodia.

If you lose concentration, when walking on these rare and blessed safe islands, you will find yourself suddenly flat on your face as the paths inevitably end in a huge pile of abandoned rubble on the borders of the new construction. A pile of rubble which will gradually become littered with refuse, plastic bags, rotting food, a pile of rubble and rubbish that will never be removed. At least not until some one decides to build another posh tower block in its place. It’s fun honestly, our walk to school. Better if you go early to avoid the scorching sun, oh, and probably best to avoid taking a bag so that you do not become one of the poor souls to be robbed by a passing motodup as is now reported to happen at least twice weekly on our street, but still fun, really. A little prayer of protection is always helpful too. Or, as Jemima taught me today, a guided visualisation. Really, children have all the answers.

As the noise of cutting metal from the various new building projects rang in our ears, Jemima announced that we were pretending we lived on a beach. Lazy Beach to be precise, on the island we visited two weeks ago. This island has no shops, no people, nothing, just some bungalows and a restaurant. So as we walked Jemima led me through this beautiful pretend land where we would walk to school along the beach. The road was the sea, so we could splash in the water whenever we got stranded at the end of our pavements, and the Tuk-Tuks were fishing boats, whose drivers we were ordering our fish from, fresh for dinner that evening. Every so often one of us tripped up on a friendly crab, or an empty coconut shell fallen from one of the palms that fringed the white sands. Best of all, we could hear nothing but the gentle lapping of the waves on the shore, the call of the birds in the trees, and breeze in the trees.

On my way home I continued to imagine that I was in this beautiful peaceful scene and decided I would tell my yoga class about it. After all, one of the relaxations we do together is almost exactly the same. And I did tell them, to remind them that we too can reach within and find what it is we need to keep us strong and happy and healthy and whole, from within our own body, mind and consciousness, just as children do, even if we think we have forgotten how, or if over time we have lost touch with that inner wisdom.

The beauty of yoga is that it gives us tools to use in our every day lives to help us tap into our inner resources. Resources that children can conjure up easily, being so much more connected and responsive to the messages of their bodies and intuition. They are such pure souls, sensitive and close to whatever we like to call that bigger energy out there... universal consciousness, cosmic energy, God, infinity...

And the beauty of children is that they remind us and teach us every day a little more about ourselves and our own potential for growth and awareness. Normally we sing a meditation on the way to school, one of Jemima’s favourites. I’ll give it to you below. I love the fact that today Jemima found her own way to forget the city and take us to a happier, more peaceful place, where we both found ourselves filled with a wonderful sense of well-being. Bliss.

Two kids meditations
I am the light of my soul, I am beautiful, I am bountiful, I am bliss, I am I am. I wish I could sing it for you, though you could always find the tune on a website like I imagine.

Her other favourite meditation served her well earlier this morning, before breakfast. Jemima and I were up early because of her cough and she seemed very grumpy. I asked her if she was ok and she said: “I thought I would be happy today but I’m not”! Neither she nor I could think of anything that might be making her feel sad, so I asked her if she wanted to do the ‘I am happy’ meditation. Of course she did not because that is the last thing anyone feels like saying when they are not happy! So I asked her to remind me how it went because I could not remember. And off she went:

“I am happy! I am good! I am happy! I am good! Sat Nam Sat Nam Sat Nam Ji! Wahe Guru Wahe Guru Wahe Guru Ji!”
Over and over she said it until she was laughing and back to her normal self. Yey if only parenting were always this easy! If you do this meditation with your kids, sit in easy pose, crossed legs, and hold hands out in fists with index fingers pointing out in front of your heart. As you chant you wag your fingers up and down as though telling someone off, to the rhythm. Sat Nam becomes more like SataNam.

Have a wonderful weekend all.

If you liked this, have a read of this: lovely yoga and meditation for kids.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Bella’s co-sleeping adventures continued...

So many of you have got back to me about the fact that Bella started to
co-sleep through the night that I feel I have to keep you up to date with how it is all going. Mostly because this morning I woke up at 6am feeling spookily well-rested and then realised that I had not woken since 9.30 last night. Something must have been up. It was only when I looked around the bed for Bella that I remembered the monumental decision we took, and then acted upon very excitedly, yesterday. Of course! Bella has a new co-sleeping partner. And judging by her absence this morning, they get on well together too!

It was after five nights by the beach, where Bella and Jemima shared one bed and we slept blissfully and peacefully in the other, entirely free of little bodies. You know the ones – they are tiny by day but then strangely transmogrify into huge gangly other-worldly manifestations the minute they fall asleep in your bed? They definitely have more limbs than is normal, and feel decidedly sack-like (sand-filled) when draped across you.

Well, it was the absence of these bodies that made us finally admit to ourselves that although Bella has been effectively co-sleeping through the night, in that she rarely feeds between the hours of 7 and 6 any more, her very presence in the bed (read: on my head, under my leg, finger up my nose... go on, make up your own, they’ll all be true), not only woke both of us about three times a night, but also made it the first place Jemima thought of coming whenever anything happened to wake her (there have been a lot of night time storms lately). To put it plainly, it didn’t matter that Bella was sleeping through, we still weren’t.

So we wasted no time. Yesterday we gave Jemima’s bed back to the landlady and put her mattress on the floor. Today I will put a fairy-like mosquito net up and they will have their own little palace. Jemima was thrilled as she will no longer be on her own and Bella, well, she slept there all night cuddled up to her sister, so I am presuming she has no real objections either. She still goes to sleep on the boob and this morning at 6 she snuck into our bed for a snuggly feed and then we went back to sleep together for a while - heaven.

Should I feel sad that this era is over for us? Well, four years experience of attachment parenting has made me a realist at last. She still has many teeth to come not to mention bad dreams, illness etc... But one night of full, deep, undisturbed sleep is worth celebrating no matter how it goes from here.

My overwhelming feeling, apart from the awake-and-not-tired one, is relief. I have done something essentially for myself, and I don't feel guilty! If you are a mother you will share my astonishment. Imagine getting the reward and being able to enjoy it guilt-free! This is thanks to Jemima. With one child, if you believe in co-sleeping, the day you stop is filled with angst about letting the child down or pushing them away. Bella would probably be with us for another year if she were an only child. The fact that she has a big sister and so can continue to sleep alongside another warm and beloved body makes the whole decision so easy. And it is probably far more likely to work because it is true that if either wakes, provided they feel emotionally and physically well, seeing or feeling their sister curled up with them is enough to make them just go back to sleep rather than come looking for us. Hooray. Life feels good today. I hope yours does too.

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Green man running.. for his life!

I am off to the beach for a few days and am so excited! We have not left the city for two months.. and this is Phnom Penh, where green space has never been considered much of a priority. I feel like I am going crazy here at times. Each day there is a new building site, with a poster of the 30 storey high rise we have to look forward to. When the building commences it basically entails at least three years of nerve-wrenching, ear-splitting tile cutting.

And the traffic! Put it this way, on the new traffic lights popping up all over town the green man runs. Seriously. It runs fast too. It made me laugh out loud the first time I saw it. This city is mad. Tiny women peep their beautifully coiffed heads over the top of steering wheels (which their fragile wrists can hardly shift) of Hummers! Yes, Hum Vs. Tanks. There used to be one in Phnom Penh - now they are everywhere. Even one of Jemima's school mates rides in one now. Bonkers. Actually I have so much to say about life in this city but I have to pack so I will reflect on it from the peacefulness of the beach and come back next week to tell you all about it.. the city and the beach that is. Happy
Water festival if you are here!
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