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 www.crystalhealingshop.com 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
http://motherland1.blogspot.com/2007/11/expecting-too-much-from-my-toddler.html 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 www.healingspirits.co.uk 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.


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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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