On connecting...


Yesterday’s yoga class was about staying connected. It was my first proper Yin class as opposed to a restorative one, and jeez, was it tough! We started by sitting on our knees with our toes bent back underneath us. I have only ever done this once before in a pregnancy yoga class designed to help you “get used to” the agony that is labour. In actual fact, whilst it may be a technique that works to great effect in Thailand where it originated, it did nothing of the sort for me. It is a pose with which I do not wish to get more acquainted. The following one - pigeon (or sleeping swan as our Aussie teacher called it, held for over 5 minutes each side in order to help us “melt into it”) - was not to be taken lightly either. My contorted body resembled neither that of a pigeon nor a swan, sleeping or awake. As a distraction from the pain, I focused on the theme for the class and the reason behind this particular series of asanas: that the increasingly common sense of emptiness we are all prone to feeling (which is encouraged by our consumerist, capitalist societies - after all, you will only buy yet more stuff if you think you 'need' it to feel whole), is the result of a disconnect with our earth element.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, each of us holds the energy of all five elements within us (wood, earth, fire, metal and water) although one will be more dominant than the others. That of the earth helps us feel grounded and safe. And when it is out of balance, we can feel empty, needy, obsessive, worry unnecessarily about the future as well as suffer from digestive issues. Whilst many of us may unconsciously turn to addictive behaviours or substances in an attempt to numb these uncomfortable feelings, it is only through reconnecting with and rebalancing the earth element that we can reach a longer-lasting sense of calm.

This struck a chord with me because I have recently been feeling pretty empty and needy myself. Unhappy and feeling like I'm missing something, despite living in a gorgeous villa in a stunning setting in a tropical, welcoming and beautiful country. Which has been very frustrating when I know only too well how much there is to be grateful for and happy about. A classic case of shonky earth element.

Usually for me, the most effective way of looking behind what is really going on is to parent my child energy (more about this in my next blog). But when your earth element is out of whack, this becomes tricky because it is precisely this which allows us to inner parent. As the Institute of Classical Five-Element Acupuncture writes "the Earth element grants us the ability to internalize the mother by learning to nourish and care for ourselves".

So instead of doing the deep inner work necessary to make me feel better, I've been relying on the quick fix of other people behaving in a certain way or on my surroundings to be ‘just right’ in order to feel calm. (It's so much easier to blame others or external circumstances, don't you think?) The problem with this is that it does not deliver a quick fix: other people and things can never really be counted on. Selfishly, they tend only to be concerned with themselves. So you end up having to do the work anyway.

Luckily there are also other ways to restore the connection: by practising yoga (and in particular, a form that focuses on opening up the spleen meridian), by communing with Nature, or by doing anything that takes us out of our heads and puts us firmly back into our bodies in this present moment (such as meditation, dance or sport).

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So as a reminder to me to connect to my earth element, and to come back to the 'present' next time I am feeling particularly needy or empty, I retrieved a beautiful stone from the bottom of my rucksack that was pilfered in September from a beach on Ikaria. I have decided to carry it around with me as a sort of talisman. For not only are stones the natural symbol for the earth element but this one in particular probably has its own unique healing power, drawn from its exposure to the transformative “radioenergy” of the thermal springs near which it was found. It is also a lovely yellow which is a reminder of the light within us all. So far so New Age - that's the Bohemian half : )

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Image: Christian Schloe

On giving attention...


Today I felt like I was a great mum. Yes. "Great". Honestly. Something I rarely, if ever, feel. Why? Because I spent all day with just one of my three children. It wasn’t purely one-on-one attention. I volunteered to help out on a school trip. But wow. What a difference. My middle daughter was a joy to be around. I was a joy to be around. Sure, I couldn’t (and don’t generally) shout at my kids when surrounded by others – I save that for the pure overwhelming exasperation I feel when left on my own with all three - but it wasn’t just that. I felt calm. She was calm. There was no need to shout. I was actually fun to be around! It felt great. And then I felt depressed. I got to thinking about why I couldn’t be this way when all three are there. And I realised that when they are, in my mind, they become a unit. They are just ‘the kids’ – something to be marshalled through the late afternoon and evening by ticking various boxes: supper (not too unhealthy/varied (ie not what we had yesterday)/not too complicated; wash (without soaking the entire bathroom with various bath toys/water pistols/splashing); bedtime story (not too long/appeals to 2, 4 and 6 year old, male and female audience/not too taxing read). The “unit” is in a battle with “time”; more time spent on getting the “unit” into bed = less time I have as a conscious human being before conking out due to exhaustion. I need time to myself and therefore it becomes supremely precious. Therefore I lose sight of who each of them truly is. They are no longer gorgeous little people in their own right. They are a mass of bickering, violent, loud energy determined to encroach upon my allocated (but gradually shrinking) right to the evening.

And that sucks. I realised how much it sucks tonight. When I tried to spend some quality time with the others having spent all day with one and they started fighting about how fair / unfair it was that I was colouring in with one and not the other. It also suddenly dawned on me why they often talk about how worried they are about death. When my eldest first voiced her concerns, I was so touched that I lay down in bed with her for 5 or so minutes, soothing her fears and holding her close. The others soon clocked on that this was the only way mummy actually spends time with you, so they then started up. It makes me so sad that I can’t give them the time they crave with me purely because there is more than one of them. But at the same time it made me see that so much of me feeling like a bad mother is because I am simply overwhelmed by their power as a unit. They become more than the total of their parts. I can feel myself ‘hunkering down’ in order to ‘deal’ with them and get through the evening until I have a scrap of time left to myself.

Well, I don’t want to do that anymore. Today I thought that my middle child should have been born first. She was meant to be an only child. She needs that much attention. And then I thought that actually ALL children probably feel like that. I know that I did. Their requirements for love are boundless. And then I realised that that is her path in life. She was born second because that is what she needs to learn. And I have three because giving each of them the attention and affection they deserve is what I need to learn.

I have no idea how to do that yet but at least I know it’s what I need to work on. And for now, it will just mean signing up to helping out on more school trips!

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Artwork: 'Casting the Net' by Joyce Huntington

On healing wounds...


I hate wounds. I hate having to deal with my own shit. It feels so hard. To delve deep into what is really behind your dissatisfaction, your anger, your sadness, your frustration. Right now, I am currently dealing with two sides of the same thing: the need for space and the need for people. Both co-exist in me and yet fight within me. It is doing my head in.

With three small kids aged 6 and under constantly needing me to wipe their bums, look at their latest cartwheel, listen to their reading, help them make a paper aeroplane, assist them in learning to tie a shoe lace, watch them cycle with one hand, witness their first drawing, I am constantly in demand. And usually all three want me at the same time. The minute I decide I will try to be 'present' and spend some quality time with one of them, the others start fighting or disturbing the 'chosen one' so that it all ends in fighting and me screaming.

So I crave time to myself. Peace. Quiet. A breath. In and out. Shoulders dropping. Chest opening. A time when I am no longer 'responsible' for someone else, for their safety, their behaviour, the person they might become if I let them continue in this vein without punishment or correction. Why? Because to try and be in control of all of these balls (not to mention the housework, the provision of healthy, home-cooked meals, my own career path, my businesses and self-care) = OVERWHELM. Sometimes I can cope and feel very grateful for my life and my beautiful, healthy children and sometimes I feel I have made one huge mistake: that I am not cut out to be a mother. It was all a big mistake. I should just quit whilst I am 'ahead' and confess I am actually really bad at all of this.

But on the rare occasions when I do get the time to myself, I crave being with my kids, their exuberance, their life force because I get panicked by the very silence that I craved. The endless time stretching out ahead of me. It's almost as though I am so unused to it that when it is there, I no longer know how to be in it. So I swing from one extreme to another: desperate for time alone, and then rudderless and scared when I have it.

I know that these are both a need for me to find the comfort I need from within. But it just feels so hard. I can't do it right now. I can't yet be the person who both notices the pattern and soothes the inner child who is panicked. For now, it will have to do just to notice it. To watch as I fall into the familiar pattern of self-criticism, berating myself for wanting not to have kids, wishing I was one of those single people that could do whatever they want whenever they want; observing as I fill my time with needless, small tasks when I finally do have time to myself, desperate to fill the void that suddenly feels too huge for me to occupy.

So for now, I am just going to sit with this feeling of being shit. I don't like it. But I don't yet have the strength or wisdom to heal this wound. Instead I opted for quite a lot of white wine, pasta and lashings of garlic (no idea why but garlic seems to provides bottomless comfort) followed by one (OK, two) chocolate brownies and some more chocolate on top of that. Plus a good cry and a soul session with my ever-committed partner. And that is ok. Because healing takes time. And you can't force it. And if any of you are struggling right now, I am here with you - feeling the pain to release it. After all, if you notice your pattern, then that means you are more than half way to letting it go. It's not great to admit defeat but it's all I can do. And that's ok. Here's to being in spiritual limbo.....

Art by Christian Schloe

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On remembering...


I haven't posted for a while because I have been deliberately absorbed in taking time out of the matrix to journey deep into my soul and into my past: working out who I am, what I stand for, what is truly me and what is just inherited baggage from my cultural, social, class-specific and also personal upbringing. My word for the year was REMEMBER and for me this meant remembering the divine blue print that was me before everything was altered or amended in a bid to fit in and belong. It was no surprise to get given this word earlier this year (as part of Amy Palko's Goddess Reading) as it complemented perfectly my burgeoning commitment to embark upon Bethany Webster's Healing the Mother Wound course which I started in January and for which I have set aside my emotional and spiritual energy for at least the first six months of this year. The course has provided an incredible framework for an intense unearthing of long-hidden emotions and feelings which needed recognition and release in order to make space for the subsequently liberating life energy that is now starting to flow through me bringing clarity and strength. I would recommend it to anyone that is even slightly called to it - what you get out of it, is priceless.

I was reminded of this dance between rigidity (energy that is stuck in a wound and therefore makes us feel drained and exhausted) and flow (energy that can be channelled into joy, creativity and a sense of inner peace) during my yoga class yesterday. The focus of the session was on connecting to our inner strength in order to yield to our own softness. After all, we can't be soft if we do not feel grounded and safe. Flexibility only comes from a deep knowing of what we are at our core. Intellectually, this is relatively simple but it is literally only this week, at the grand old age of 40 (part of the thrust for embarking on this course - "real" life starts at 40!) that I have begun to get this on an emotional level. I have always struggled to know what the 'I' was behind my inherited beliefs and beyond my current triggers and needs but this course is slowly uncovering and rebuilding this inner sense of grounded calm through guiding me to remember and reconnect with my essence. I finally feel like I now have boundaries - I know where I stop, and others start; I recognise which behaviours and patterns have been primarily fuelled by triggers rather than by something else. And it feels awesome!

So today I want to encourage you to find the courage to dig deep, to remember who you really are behind the masks and the triggers and the wounds and the inherited patterns. To listen to your heart, emotions and intuition rather than to your analytical, reasonable mind. This is the start of the journey. And it only gets better from there!

"It's impossible," said pride.

"It's risky," said experience.

"It's pointless," said reason.

"Give it a try," whispered the heart! (Anup Karlsson)

Art by Christian Schloe.

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Why authenticity is the antidote to depression...


I came across this great article recently and wanted to share its hugely important message: http://upliftconnect.com/antidote-for-depression

For there is no greater pointer to a life being lived inauthentically than feeling depressed. I too suffered for a period of time when life was unbearable, a big black sink hole. And when I reflect back, it was a time when most of my surroundings: people, possessions and places were not in alignment with me - the real me that I was suppressing in order to try to fit in. Once I realised this and broke free, things radically improved. It therefore served as one of the major turning points in my life. A wound that became a transformational blessing.

Depression is not to be dismissed lightly but at the same time, it is merely a by-product of our superficial, disconnected times. The more we can channel our warrior and "soothe" ourselves past our fears about becoming the real version of ourselves despite the consequences, the more we can move towards a fulfilled, self sufficient, happier and connected life.

(PS the word "soothe" is in inverted commas because it is so alien to me that I have to distance myself from it by using punctuation marks. To find a way to be "soothing" has therefore become my particular challenge for the day - to get that tapping into your inner warrior can also be a form of self-care not just self punishment. The old me just pushed her way through fears by closing her eyes, clenching her fists and turning numb in case the consequences hurt too much - if you can't feel, nothing can hurt. So in line with this article, my next step is to allow the softer, more tender part of me to emerge. The bit that doesn't hold a shield. I am weary of pushing. Time for some surrender.)

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