The Lady magazine: Eat the Seasons – Summer Fruit & Veg

I know we have a few more days, possibly months, until summer finally declares it’s arrival. But when those flashes of momentary light do reach us, so will all those juicy and vibrant summer fruit and vegetables we all love to pluck, cook and devour each year. I can’t wait.

I didn’t manage to blog about seasonal fruit and vegetables this spring, but I have written about summer produce for The Lady magazine recently. You can see my full article HERE.

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Foraged Samphire from North Norfolk

Here’s a list of the seasonal fruits and veg to look out for here in the UK:

June

Asparagus, Aubergine, Beetroot, Blackcurrants, Broad Beans, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cherries, Chicory, Chillies, Courgettes, Cucumber, Elderflowers, Gooseberries, Lettuce, Marrow, New Potatoes, Peas, Peppers, Radishes, Raspberries, Redcurrants, Rhubarb, Rocket, Runner Beans, Samphire, Sorrel, Spring Greens, Spring Onions, Strawberries, Summer Squash, Swiss Chard, Tayberries, Turnips, Watercress.

July

Aubergine, Beetroot, Blackberries, Blackcurrants, Blueberries, Broad Beans, Broccoli, Carrots, Cauliflower, Cherries, Chicory, Chillies, Courgettes, Cucumber, Gooseberries, Greengages, Fennel, French Beans, Garlic, Kohlrabi, Loganberries, New Potatoes, Onions, Peas, Potatoes, Radishes, Raspberries, Redcurrants, Rhubarb, Rocket, Runner Beans, Samphire, Sorrel, Spring Greens, Spring Onions, Strawberries, Summer Squash, Swish Chard, Tomatoes, Turnips, Watercress.

August

Aubergine, Beetroot, Blackberries, Blackcurrants, Broad Beans, Broccoli, Carrots, Cauliflower, Cherries, Chicory, Chillies, Courgettes, Cucumber, Damsons, Fennel, French Beans, Garlic, Greengages, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Loganberries, Mangetout, Marrow, Mushrooms, Parsnips, Peas, Peppers, Potatoes, Plums, Pumpkin, Radishes, Raspberries, Redcurrants, Rhubarb, Rocket, Runner Beans, Samphire, Sorrel, Spring Greens, Spring Onions, Strawberries, Summer Squash, Sweetcorn, Swiss Chard, Tomatoes, Watercress.

SOURCE: The Vegetarian Society

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Globe Artichokes from White House Farm

Seasonal Veg Recipe Inspiration

If like me, you LOVE artichokes, you might like to see my recipe for Maltese Stuffed Artichokes. These are divine. Filled with sourdough breadcrumbs, fresh herbs, black and green olives, garlic and sometimes capers. With lots of olive oil. Delicious with some fresh ciabatta bread to mop up the juices and a glass of crisp white wine. There are two great farm shops here in Norfolk that sold globe artichokes last year – Wiveton Hall and The White House Farm.

And if you also share my obsession for broad beans, check out this post from years ago. It’s a really easy Broad Bean Risotto recipe using seasonal fresh peas and broad beans. Or try my very simple Broad Bean, Mint, Lemon and Garlic Bruchettas, another oldie, also from the archives.

Foraging

In the article I mention foraging – if you’re interested in foraging for samphire do check out my post about it: How to Forage for Samphire.

Out of Body Experience Workshop

That time I won an Out of Body Experience Course on Valentine’s Day. As you do.

Valentine’s Day just gone, something pretty rad happened. I won an Instagram competition. The prize was a place on an Out of Body Experience course with Jade Shaw in London. What an amazing gift to receive for a wellbeing explorer. Just perfect. Far better than all the chocolates and flowers in the world.

I first started following OBE Speaker and Teacher, Jade Shaw, on social media around a year ago after spotting her inspiring feed via her husband Charlie Shaw, who brought my lucid dreaming practice alive almost ten years ago.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Just the phrase ‘Out of Body Experience’ might seem a bit far out but stay with me – this is a really exciting and extremely beneficial thing! Plus there’s science to back up the phenomenon, and if you haven’t had one before, you can learn how to do it.

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What is an Out of Body Experience?

An Out of Body Experience, also known as Astral Projection, is literally when you separate or exit from your physical body, or if you like, your physical body is asleep, while you pop out for a moment. (Don’t worry you can return to your body at any point.)

It’s a proven and scientific phenomenon. In psychics there are 10 dimensions and apparently when you have an Out of Body Experience, this is when you enter the 6th dimension (and sometimes the 10th). Fact.

What are the benefits?

Why would you choose to leave your body? Sounds a bit like dying you’re thinking. Firstly, it’s perfectly safe and secondly it can be life-changing.

There are lots of different ways you can have an OBE. A popular way is directly via your sleep state. Some people just have them by accident and others have them during meditation. Another commonly known way is during a near-death experience. I’m sure you’ve often heard the stories of people leaving their body, looking down at the scene and then choosing to return. Once they have returned, many report coming back with a new lease of life, living their life in a more meaningful way. Well, you would wouldn’t you? If you actually experienced leaving your body (a simulation of dying) and witnessed a 360 degrees view on your life and the world, and you actually felt OK, when you returned, you would make it count, wouldn’t you. Plus you’d return reassured.

In fact, Jade mentioned a great book called “Dying to be me” which is a New York Times best-seller. Written by Anita Moorjani, who recounts the time she almost died. On the day of her (almost) death, she started to leave her body but actually chose to return. She reported being able to clearly understand and see what was going on and how her passing would impact those she was leaving behind. She didn’t feel overwhelmed or emotional but detached and content, with clarity. Although she’d been battling with cancer for years, when she returned, she started to make a recovery within in short time. Her life from then on in took on a whole new meaning.

There are other ways you might experience an OBE, if only for a split second or two. And it is possible to induce an OBE. That’s what Jade’s brilliant day-long course was about. I’m not going to mention the techniques Jade spoke about as I really think it’s important to understand the concept fully and the best way would be by heading along to one of her workshops or reading more about it (links at end of this post).

There are heaps of benefits. Similarly to Anita’s experience, you will still experience significant benefits through sleep-included OBEs.

Benefits after experiencing an OBE include:

  • Spiritual Awakening: You start to see beyond the physical body, explore the nature of mind and reality.
  • Connection: You connect to a higher universal awareness and experience the interconnectedness of all life
  • Perspective: Greater appreciation of life. It is said, after an OBE, you wake with a positively overwhelming feeling
  • Facing fears: Decreased fear of death. Overcoming fear is the art if out of body experience, which builds a habit of fearlessness
  • You become more intuitive and psychic and you can receive teachings from spirit guides or teachers.

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What actually happens during an OBE? 

Most OBEs happen when you are asleep. But don’t worry, you can only leave your body for up to 20 minutes and sometimes it’s just for a few seconds. You can return at any point. You feel as though you are separate to yourself and it’s possible to turn and look around at your body. You feel as though you are psychically there but you have no or little sense of time. In fact you can see 360 degrees and travel to anywhere in this world or beyond. Sounds far out right? But it is possible. Don’t take my word for it. Check out all the information online.

Unlike a dream or lucid dream, you can choose to actually visit places in real life. Although your lucid dream may seem realistic of real life, you’re not actually there, you’re still in your mind.

Jade wanted to verify her experience so in an early OBE she visited a nearby road, a place she hasn’t been before. She found a door and remembered the house number and that morning after she woke for the day, she walked to the house she visited. Low and behold, the door number matched the one she visited in her out of body state.

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What happened when I tried to have an OBE?

So I’ve had a lucid dreaming practice for nearly a decade now. For any lucid dreamers out there, there are some similarities between OBE and lucid dreaming in that, you’re in a different state of consciousness, you have full awareness yet not in the waking state. But, because I’m so used to lucid dreaming, it did take me a while to get my head around the idea behind OBEs.

Since the course, I keep having lucid dreams that I’m having an OBE. They are so realistic that I wake feeling certain it was one. Even prior to the course, I was sure that I’d had OBEs before. I remember leaving my body and visiting ‘real places’ but the two ingredients which seem missing are a) I didn’t experience the vibrational state before exiting my body and b) I didn’t wake feeling too different – definitely content and happier but I usually have that after a good lucid dream anyway. I get the impression that when you have an OBE, you know about it!

My Suspected OBE (which happened after the course)

The following is an extract from my lucid dreaming journal:

26th February 2018

Suspected Out of body Experience and some great lucid dreams.

(Evelyn woke at 2am and by 4am I think I got back to sleep.)

Around 4am ish I got back to sleep and stayed in the hypnogogic for a while. Was conscious of lying in my bed but sleeping. Rolled over to my right and it felt as though half of my body came out. It felt slow, not fast like I thought it would be. Almost painfully slow. I instantly wanted to turn around and look at my body but it scared me a bit and I wasn’t “fully out anyway” so I kept going “with it”.

Didn’t feel any vibrations or hear any sounds (these involve visceral sensory aspects such a floating, shifting, tearing away from the physical body – sometimes audio & visual sensations e.g. flashes of light etc).

I entered lots of blackness, but layered darkness, with white features. A white paint colour, not white light, the white was dense in places – like white markings or symbols in a cave.

Difficult to remember and explain exactly. I remember Jade’s comment about avoiding OBE if you have severe depression and I remember not being in a positive frame of mind before bed so I was holding back a little (even though my depression is much better now).

It was like I was falling but flying and I didn’t seem to have much control like I would in lucidity. There was movement but it was slow and sure and connected to something else. Not me. I felt really awake with full awareness, it was different to being lucid.

So I felt apprehensive and asked, without words, to return to my body.

I don’t remember exactly how this next part happened but I then went into a lucid dream instead.

Unlike the last experience, it was really obvious a lucid dream. I felt at ‘at home’ instantly.

I was really thrilled to be lucid. Showed huge amount of heart-felt gratitude to the dream. “I let the light in” so to speak and probably for once, really tried to genuinely connect with the feeling of gratitude and love (as learnt in mindfulness) and I was saying “I love you” to the dream (i.e. to me). Really trying to mean it. As at first I was saying I love you (to myself/dream) and didn’t feel it in my heart. So I really cultivated this deeper feeling of love for my dream, subconscious and myself.

Showed lots of love to dream. This was all done within a beautiful dark gothic sleeping city. The sleeping city responded. It breathed with joy at the love I was giving.

Lots of things happened but I don’t remember it all.

Then there was further detail about my subsequent lucid dreams – but that’s a story for another time 🙂

If you are interested in finding out more, do check out Jade’s events.

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Instagram Post: jade_shaw_obe_coach

Useful resources for expanding your OBE knowledge….

TRUE STORY VIDEOS

  1. Graham Nicholls (Self-Induced OBE)
  2. Nancy Trivellato (Spontaneous OBE)
  3. Anita Moorjani (OBE from Near Death Experience)

BOOKS

  • Navigating the Out of Body Experience – Graham Nicholl’s (Jade recommends this as the best practical book).
  • Journeys out of the body – Robert Monroe (well known classic but old book)
  • Adventures Beyond the Body – William Bulhman (Robert Monroe’s student)
  • Dying to Be Me – Anita Moorjani (near death experience mentioned previously)
  • Multidimensional Man – Jurgen Ziewe

MORE INFO:

CIA REPORT ON GATEWAY OBE PROGRAM (1983)

15 DIFFERENCES BETWEEN LUCID DREAMING & OBE’S

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For more information contact Jade Shaw

Instagram: jade_shaw_obe_coach

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WalkBetweenWorlds/

Twitter: @jadeshaw_obe

Finding my Zafu: 8 Weeks to Mindfulness

Ever been curious about mindfulness? I bet you’ve at least tried one of HeadSpace’s guided meditations before. If you would like to learn more about finding your inner power, then read on sisters. 

OK, so life has been a bit upside down since I became a parent. Once upon a time I use to meditate, quite a bit actually. I remember feeling so happy. I was the best version of myself back then. But over the last couple of years things have slipped.

Lack of sleep has ramped up the stress dials and somewhere along the way I’ve forgotten who I once was. All the wise things I used to know, the helpful stuff that used to ease things, they’ve all gone on holiday to the dark corners of my multi-tasking head, which on a good day, spins at 90 miles an hour.

So. I drank some Hendricks. That didn’t work.

I tried comfort eating. Didn’t even touch the sweet spots for more than 60 seconds.

I did also try other things that I knew would be helpful: Reiki and lucid dreaming, a shiatsu or acupuncture treatment to boost my energy levels, and homeopathy remedies, as and when. Each of these things have all been a help but I knew deep down that what I really needed was (some sleep) but also to redirect my thinking, and that of course, had to come from within.

So I decided to go back to basics. I wanted to relearn everything I’ve ever known about meditation. In January, I started an 8-week course in mindfulness for stress with Norwich Mindfulness.

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Artist Mia Charro

How Mindfulness Can Help

By using mindfulness techniques you can learn to live in the moment, work with unwanted or charged thoughts and even cope with chronic illness.

It’s all too easy to speed through life on autopilot, to operate in “doing mode”, without actually having awareness of the present moment. I mean, hey, we’re all human. Yet by simply paying more attention to our own thoughts and feelings, can have a huge impact on our life – not only on our stress levels but our psychical health too.

Now, I found this next part amazing. Did you know that humans absorb negative experiences instantly but it takes 12 whole seconds to fully take in a positive experience and for it to be part of our long-term memory?

Cathie, the amazing calm lady, who led the course by Breathworks, also confirmed that a daily meditation practise of 40 minutes, sustained over a couple of months, is enough for you to see a considerable change in your wellbeing. This felt not only reassuring but also like something achievable.

 

 

A Course in Mindfulness

The course I took part in was based here in Norfolk and run by the aforementoned mindfulness instructor, Catherine Stanley, who teaches the highly acclaimed, Breath Works programme. (Breathworks is a national institute set up by Gary Hennessey, a leading practitioner, author and trainer of mindfulness.) So don’t worry if you’re not from Norfolk, there are Breathworks teachers offering this course across the UK.

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Artist Mia Charro

What Exactly is Mindfulness?

Effectively, this is simple tool that will change your life for the better. It’s about bringing more awareness to our experience which enables us to see how we can sometimes make ourselves suffer unnecessarily. Seeing that enables us to make changes.

Mindfulness was taught by the Buddha and although it is something that’s taught as part of a spiritual practise, mindfulness is taught in secular contexts. In fact, in recent years the NHS has adopted mindfulness as an approach to be used within its mental health trusts across the UK.

Breath Works Mindfulness Course

So what happens. Well, initially there is a free taster session you can attend. Cathie has a selection of dates for you to choose from. More on her website.

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Weston Longville Village Hall – Course Loation

The course is actually a combination of workshops and home study. You’re provided with everything you need at the start. The course is comprised of:

  • 4 x workshops (5 hours each) over 8 weeks (a workshop every other week)
  • Downloadable meditations for your device
  • A Mindfulness Workbook: An easy-to-read reminder of what was covered in each class
  • The Little Mindfulness Practise Book: To log your journey:
    • A list of your home practice for each week
    • Week by wee meditation diary sheets so you can track your progress
    • Week by week Mindfulness in Action diary sheets so you can record your observations
    • Additional mindful movement instructions and illustrations
  • One month after ‘graduation’ a one-day retreat to reconvene and discuss experiences (small supplementary donation)

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Before the course…

Meh. I felt my normal self of late: exhausted, always moaning about lack of sleep, somewhat stressed and a bit anxious. Often feeling things but uncertain how those feelings had arisen.

During the course…

Sometimes days were easier than others. One week I was all like, yeah I’ve got this. I’m totally aware of me, you, the world. I know where I’m at. I can see my thoughts before they even appear. Then other days, I was in such a fuzz that I didn’t have the foggiest and became so flooded with thoughts, that I couldn’t even identify the feeling I was really feeling underneath it all.

After the course…

I’ve been more aware of my thoughts and feelings. Instead of being swept away by thoughts. You know when you feel stressed or frustrated but can’t quite put your finger on the underlying feeling but instead you become swamped by individual thoughts, most of which are unhelpful. That doesn’t happen so much.

It’s easy when you’re feeling a bit stressed or going through a bad patch to overlook the good things in life. Since doing this course I’ve definitely been connecting more with the positive things, allowing them shine into my day.

Lastly, I learnt how to work with unwanted thoughts. Things that plague you or distract you from life. It’s easy to just ignore them, react to them or push them away. I’ve been getting less caught up with these ‘stories’ and just learning to be with that feeling, watching it and observing things, without getting as involved.

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We have a retreat day in a few weeks whereby we’re all meeting up to talk about how our last month on our own has been. Because I am armed with all the guided meditations, and notes, I feel confident that if my practise slips, I’ll be able to pick this up again easily.

Overall I do feel calmer, content and more connected to others. I really do. I haven’t been as busy during this first quarter of the year and this has helped when juggling a sleepless toddler with work stress. Plus, the change in season is always a boost! But these factors aside, I really think practising has had a moderate to big impact on my day-to-day life. There still feels like heaps of room for improvement and I guess the key to success here is keeping up a daily practise, and weaving the techniques into everyday life. It feels possible and that’s given me hope and confidence, which in itself, is a powerful thing.

A big thank you to Cathie for everything – all your support and advice has been so beneficial!

More Information

For those living in Norfolk and Suffolk:

http://www.norwichmindfulness.org

For all enquiries and bookings please contact Cathie Stanley

email: cathie@norwichmindfulness.org

landline: 01603 660780 – please do leave a message if there is no answer

mobile: 07967 211329

For those in the rest of the UK, head to: https://www.breathworks-mindfulness.org.uk

If you liked this post you might also be interested to hear about a Mindfulness & Yoga Retreat weekend I attended at Chilston Park. If you’re already familiar with meditation, you might like to read about the time I went on a 10 Day Silent Retreat in India.

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I keep this wee reminder in my writing shed: Artist Mia Charro

Nightmares: How to Handle Dragons

This post is about one of my favourite subjects – dreams. Even if you never have nightmares yet you are interested in dreams and what they mean, read on…

Although nightmares are more common among children, apparently one out of every two adults have nightmares now and then – and between 2% and 8% of the adult population is plagued by nightmares.

Recently our two and a half year old has been having nightmares about the dragon from the famous book, Room on the Broom. As a child and teenager I always had vivid or lucid dreams but it’s only been over the last eight or nine years that I have developed a dedicated lucid dreaming practice, one that’s given my life a new richness and depth, one that has opened many doors in my soul.

Dreams and dragons? This was something I could help with.

And so, I actually shared a basic ‘shadow healing’ technique with our little girl recently. As you do. Within a week….whoosh…the dragon was gone.

Even if you don’t have children who have nightmares, this concept is a great way to approach any kind of fear, anxiety or phobia that manifests into a dream or within waking life too.

Now, I’m going to dive straight into what actually happened but if you’d like to read more about lucid dreaming and what I mean by ‘shadow work’, then there’s more to follow at the end of this post.

Meeting the Dragon

For those of you who haven’t read Room on the Broom, here is a picture of the scaly, wide-nostriled archenemy from Julia Donaldson’s magnificent book.

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Although our daughter has loved this story for almost a year, it’s only been the last month that we’ve had refusal of this particular book and complaints about a dragon being in her room, both at bedtime and during the night. Pesky things, dragons. But now that our little girl is understanding more about dreams, I thought, what the heck – let’s try this! Last week when she mentioned the dragon before bed and I said:

“Do you know what Mummy does when she sees a dragon at night, I hug him and tell him I love him and guess what?”

She’s wide-eyed and nodding furiously.

“He disappears! and sometimes he hugs me back!”

Her eyes lit up like Christmas day.

“It’s important to say, I love you, and really mean it, here in your heart”. I repeated these instructions a few times over the course of the week.

I was worried this was a bit risky because I thought, what if she tries to hug it and something goes wrong? And then I thought, no, trust in love, trust in the experts and above all, trust in my first-hand experience of ‘shadow work’ and the fact that her subconscious will protect her if she’s not ready. (This is true! Whatever ‘shadow work’ you do within your dreams, your subconscious will only allow you to experience what you are ready to see.)

Then… a couple of mornings ago, she woke from an uninterrupted sleep, which is very uncommon, and rose for the day at 6.45am (usually its 5am or just before 6am). She was super calm and chilled and I just think, wow, we got lucky last night.

But then, later in the afternoon, she says: “Mummy I saw the dragon last night.”

What happened?! I asked, my heart beating faster.

“I gave him a kiss and a cuddle and said I love you dragon”. (I nearly cried!).

What then, I said… “He disappeared, Mummy” she said with a wide grin. Again, I nearly cried. (She’s independently recounted the same story a couple of times since.) I honestly didn’t think she was old enough to face such a thing, and she did!

Now, toddlers are generally rather unreliable sources at times, I wouldn’t place one in a witness box, but other times they are of course razor-sharp with their honesty. Either way, even if she was just saying this to impress Mummy, what an amazing concept for her to begin to grasp, something to apply in other walks of life, teaching her to be fearless in the face of dragons and showing her what love can do, and specifically, what happens when you direct that kindness and love within, instead of pushing the fear away. But I reckon it did happen, I really do, my instinct says she really did some ‘shadow work’, which is why she woke in a great state of mind.  She was so happy that morning. (Whenever I’ve had a lucid dream in general, and specifically if it’s been a shadow lucid dream, I’ll wake feeling blissful.) Now, I’m writing this two weeks later and we haven’t heard a single thing about the dragon. Not a peep. What a brave soul she is. This is my proudest moment in parenting thus far.

So it was that simple….

My instinct says Evelyn was lucid but even if she wasn’t, I think there’s a lot of power if you can influence your mind to think differently about how you face your fears. Even if you’re not a lucid dreamer (currently), I also think it’s possible to integrate your fears by doing a visualisation before bed. There are actually loads of tips in a book called Dreaming Through Darkness mentioned later on in this post.

So instead of fighting, rejecting or fearing the dragon, give the big softie a cuddle or show it some love and acknowledgement in your own way.

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Sitting on her shadow’s shoulder’s last halloween

Exploring the Subject

I’ve learnt some great techniques from my lucid dreaming teaching Charlie Morley. His workshops, retreats and books have been life changing for me. Charlie is a brilliant teacher and has written three incredibly insightful books on the subject. Most recently, I’ve been reading his ‘Dreaming through Darkness’ book, which is all about integrating the ‘shadow’, largely through dreams but in waking life too.

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Charlie Morley’s books about Lucid Dreaming

 Lucid Dreaming

Let’s go back a couple of steps…. if you haven’t heard of lucid dreaming before, let me explain. Lucid dreaming is when you’re aware that you’re dreaming, which enables you to have a gentle influence over your dream. Many adults have lucid dreams but may not realise what they are (and the potential they hold) and most children will inherently lucid dream. As you get older, many forget or loose the ability. But it’s like riding a bike and if you’re interested in starting a lucid dreaming practice, it all starts with dream recall – keeping a dream diary and trying to remember your dreams.

I won’t go into any further detail about it here, that’s another blog post, but it’s helped me over the last ten years or so during important crossroads, with creative projects and with my spiritual practice. Whether you’re interested in simply flying, meeting a famous heartthrob, learning how to breakdance or visiting far-away lands, lucid dreaming can be such a wonderfully rich and exciting way to spend your sleeping life. Plus, whatever you do inside a lucid dream, such as repeat positive affirmations, meditate or practise yoga – the benefits of this action will be amplified. I forget the exact statistic but it’s several times more powerful to do a positive deed in a lucid dream than if you were to do the same things unconsciously within a regular dream!

My teacher Charlie Morley is far better at explaining what lucid dreaming is here in this great You Tube Interview.

Shadow Work

One of the many things that lucid dreaming has helped me with has been healing past traumas. When I say trauma, it isn’t always necessarily something huge. We all have some sort of trauma from our past, whether we’re aware of it or not: anything from relationship breakups or grief to things we’ve seen or experienced that hasn’t been dealt with.

The fall-out is often stored-up, sometimes in the form of repressed or suppressed emotions, that live in our subconscious. Carl Jung named this our shadow self – the place in our minds where our rejected traits such as anger, fear and shame are stored.

When we say ‘shadow work’, it simply means trying to integrate any fears, phobias or charged emotions that have been repressed or not dealt with.

So if you do some healing work, such as hugging a scary dragon in a lucid dream, you will have done some really deep and gentle healing. What I found most empowering about all this is that this technique enables you to heal and help yourself – to become your own therapist.

Here, Charlie talks about nightmares and lucid dreaming in his Ted Talk.

Sharing Dreams

From a very young age, my Dad always had an enthusiastic interest in my dreams. This was great training and I’m convinced the reason why I’ve always paid so much attention to my dreams, and also why I’ve always remembered so many of them.

I’ve learnt that by writing down your dreams you’re more likely to be in touch with your ‘hidden’ self, your subconscious. There’s a goldmine of creativity and potential down there, so I feel it’s really important to be in tune with your dreams.

If you have a small child, ask them about their dreams every morning. I’m pretty sure that because my own father did this with me as a child, it’s meant I’ve always had a very good relationship with my dreams.

If my two and a half year old can hug a dragon, the thing she feared most, then I believe this can work for anyone. Seize the day, seize the horns of your biggest fears and give it all your love. Don’t fight it, push it away or hide from it. Love it. Integrate it into your being – turn the darkness into light.

Other Books

These are some of my other favourite books on lucid dreaming and shadow work…

  • Dreaming Yourself Awake: Lucid Dreaming and Tibetan Dream Yoga for Insight and Transformation | B. Alan Wallace
  • Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self by Robert Waggoner
  • Owning Your Own Shadow by Robert A. Johnson
  • Living, Dreaming, Dying byt Rob Nairn
  • Feeding Your Demons by Tsultrim Allione

 

If you liked this post, you might also want to check out that time I went on a Lucid dreaming Retreat on the magical Holy Isle.

School for Parents: Review of P.E.T Method

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Muddling Through

Despite what you might see on social media, it’s not all podgy hands and daisy chains in our world.

Nobody hands you an instruction manual when you become a parent. If you’re lucky, a flurry of well-meaning friends will probably lend you a selection of parenting books, each one containing fascinating yet vastly conflicting advice, leaving you with less answers than you had before.

More often than not, most of us are all just desperately trying to keep our child alive whilst making the rest up as we go along. Parenting is all about muddling through. But wouldn’t it be nice to feel like we’ve occasionally got this?

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Why Enroll on a Parenting Course

We have a bright, beautiful and spirited little girl. Like many, motherhood has posed various challenges for me and for some time I’ve wanted to boost my confidence as a parent by understanding more about how children operate and how we can best meet her needs as well as ours.

Partly due to my profession, I’ve always been particularly sensitive to the type of language that’s used when communicating and since becoming a parent I’ve been especially aware of how we talk to our little girl.

Before she turned two she started to disagree, push back and make her specific needs known. We wanted to find a way to converse without reverting to discipline or parenting techniques such as manipulation and domination (star charts and the Naughty Step) – outcomes of each pose challenges to the parent-child relationship.

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Sifting Through the Noise

There are so many books out there to choose from! Where to begin. To me there was only one technique that seemed balanced, straightforward and fair. It’s called the Parent Effectiveness Technique (P.E.T) and in December I graduated from a course hosted by a wonderful coach and consultant called Andrea Rippon who teaches the technique here in Norfolk. (For those who live further afield, Andrea can offer Parent Coaching via Skype.)

Andrea’s taught me before. I completed two introductory courses in Person-Centred Counselling Skills and Theory, through her business “Who Are You Now?”.

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The P.E.T Course: In a Nutshell (or should that be conker?)

Let me begin with the concept that left its mark on me the most: There’s no such thing as bad behaviour. All behaviour is simply communication.

Secondly, what I loved about this method was that it was fair. The parenting approach is not authoritative or submissive; it is assertive, respectful and kind.

It is also evidence based.  The central goal is to provide communication skills and strategies that can help parents have happy, healthy and mutually satisfying relationships with their children, whether they are toddlers or teenagers.

It is based on the principle that humans want to thrive, belong and do the right thing by others.  They want to be themselves AND fit into the world. Our behaviour, as a form of communication, tries to tell others what we need in order to achieve this. But we are not always skilled at identifying our needs, let alone communicating them, especially when we are children. This is when problems can arise.

By using the P.E.T. Behaviour Window ™, I can identify who has the problem in the relationship: my daughter, me or both of us. Understanding problem ownership has helped me to select the most appropriate form of communication to address it. In every situation, the idea is that I facilitate the process by which problems are owned and solved, appropriately, by one or both of us.

One of the skills is Confronting I-messages, which I use in situations where I have a problem with my child’s behaviour. These are brilliant!

They strip away all labeling: You’re lazy, you’re unkind, you’re messy and you’re naughty. Instead, it encourages me to focus on what I see and hear in the behaviour that is causing the problem, how it has a tangible negative effect on me and how that makes me feel.   By communicating this in simple language, without blame, my daughter can experience things from my perspective. This allows her to change her behaviour to fit in with me, if she wants to (or rather, if it doesn’t cause her a problem).

In a nutshell, Andrea’s PET course is about awareness and communication, with some psychology thrown in, to help understand the context.

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PET Teaches You How to Handle Every Situation

There’s so much more to it than this but in short, the approach offers a communication skill/strategy for every situation:

  • When your child has a problem – use Active Listening skills to help them identify what they need and how they might solve their own problem. (For those problems where there is no solution, the aim is to achieve better coping strategies.)
  • When the parent has a problem with a child’s behaviour but the child doesn’t have a problem – use a Confronting I-message
  • When both the child and parent have a problem – use win/win conflict resolution and/or values collision strategies. The aim is to find solutions where everyone can win: Parent and Child.
  • When neither the parent nor the child has a problem (precious time!) – use I-messages to build the relationship and prevent problems from happening in the first place.

Did I mention that this technique can also be applied to ANY relationship in your life? I’ve tried it on my partner, parents and colleagues. I won’t go into specifics but it worked!

What I learnt

One of the greatest skills I left with was not only how to use the Behaviour Window but also I had a chance to brush up on my Active Listening skills. Mastering this opens up so much! Since using Active Listening Skills more, my little girl has been sharing more about her inner workings and her day, how she’s feeling and why she’s behaving in a certain way.

The course also reminded me about the importance of mindfulness. I used to have a very strong mindfulness and meditation practice before my daughter was born, which has since slipped. Yet as a parent, if you can use mindfulness as part of your relationship with your child, not only are you more aware of what’s really going on for you or your child but you’re also able to take a moment to pause before you react to a challenging behaviour.

On my feedback form to Andrea, one of the things I said included something like: “I want to be just like you!”. For me, this was what was so extra brilliant about the course. Yes, the method is proven but Andrea is such an inspirational person. Very wise, straight forward and calm, with a terrific sense of humour.

I left the course feeling more confident in my abilities and more resourceful in our parenting approach.

(Don’t just take my word for it. A number of others have also submitted independent reviews on Facebook, which describes the impact this course has had for them and their families and in some cases, their work colleagues.)

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A Poem for Parents

I wrote the below after watching a YouTube video about Donald Winnacott a couple of years ago. He didn’t invent P.E.T but he was a very famous paediatrician and psychoanalyst who had a very amazing stance on parenting. He basically said, hey guys, don’t worry about being the perfect parent, you might end up doing more harm if you try too hard. Instead, be real, be true and just strive to be good enough.

The Good Enough Parents

after Donald Winnacott

The happiness of humankind does not

depend on Donald Trump’s ability to

conquer carbon emissions or malaria

but on the way we parent our children

parents don’t need to be perfect, just OK.

Remember your child is fragile, helpless

fighting to simply find words to stay alive

if you fail her, it must feel to her as though

the wild beasts will gobble her up whole

Allow your child’s anger to expend itself

If a baby wails, be unruffled and unheard

this strengthens what she believes to be true

is not necessarily real. Be her still ocean.

Make sure your child isn’t too obedient

we should be very scared of good children

Adults who are dead inside are those who’ve

been made “good” way before their time.

those with chaotic parents, will overthink

those with depressed parents, will be too jovial

giving no time to process their own melancholy

Parenting is more vital than being a president.

don’t get offended when something bad emerges

from your child: tune out of yourself, empathise.

prevent the walking wounded who may have

visible success but are not true beneath the skin.

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HOW TO ENROLL

The course took us through Thomas Gordon’s Behaviour Window ™, the full set of communication and conflict-resolution skills and all the principles that underpin the PET approach.  More information is available on Andrea’s website – www.parentingclass.co.uk.

Dates for PET courses in 2018 are:

Monday mornings, 09.30-12.30:

23, 30 Apr; 14, 21 May; 11, 18 Jun, 2, 9 Jul

Tuesday evenings, 18.00-21.00:

24 Apr; 1, 15, 22 May; 12, 19 Jun; 3, 10 Jul

Venue:  Norwich, NR2

Cost: £300 course fee (£90 Deposit, £210 Balance).  Installments are available.

Andrea runs very small groups, so if you’d like to join it’s best to reserve your place online as soon as possible (http://parentingclass.co.uk/dates-times-parenting-classes)

Andrea Rippon is a Certified Parent Educator and a mum of two teenagers.  She has been running Person Centred People Skills courses for 20 years.  She writes a regular Parenting Column for the Eastern Daily Press. 

Reiki Resistance: My Article in Touch Magazine

I’d like to share one of the articles I wrote for the autumn issue of Touch Magazine – the community magazine of Reiki Association UK. I’ve been an Editorial Assistant since the late summer and so this is my first complete issue.

Although I’ve been practising Reiki for a few years, this piece touches on a challenging time where I had a resistance to my practice. Have you ever struggled to help yourself when you needed it most? What helped you out of that situation? Perhaps it was a friend or family member or maybe it was someone you’d only just met. This is what happened to me..

 

Overcoming resistance

Two years ago, assisted only by hypnobirthing techniques and universal energy, my beautiful Reiki baby was born. We were home a lot during those early weeks. Having Reiki at my fingertips felt like a real gift.

However, tickled pink soon changed to monochrome grey. After a couple of weeks we had back-to-back challenges, including breast feeding issues, various midnight trips to A&E and the Community Hospital, unsettled daytime behaviour, colic in the evenings and hourly wakes in the night. When she turned six months old, the chronic sleep deprivation really set in. I had never known exhaustion like it.

The hardest thing was that the Reiki felt muted, and worse still, my Reiki baby cried every time I attempted to give her a treatment. (Thank goodness I’d done my Second Degree in pregnancy so that I could send her Reiki while she slept.) Subsequently, I began to feel sceptical about Reiki. I just kept reciting: This is for our highest good, for our highest good. In truth, I struggled to see that at the time.

Shortly after this, I developed a resistance to Reiki. My hands weighed a ton as I placed them over my eyes in the evenings. I couldn’t visualise the symbols for long and the heat seemed to vanish. Here I was experiencing the most challenging period in my life and I felt like my practise was not making a difference. I knew I should just stick with it but I couldn’t. I felt stunningly lost.

It was only recently when I was reading Charlie Morley’s, Dreaming Through Darkness, that I learned about the Golden Shadow. I was familiar with Carl Jung’s concept of the (Dark) Shadow – the place in our minds where our rejected traits such as anger, fear and shame are stored. However, “Our Golden Shadow is made up of our hidden talents, our blinding beauty and our unfulfilled potential. It contains our intuition, our creativity, childlike vitality and spiritual power,” according to Morley.

Was the powerful gift of Reiki too bright for me to hold when I needed it most?

It was possible, but there were probably a number of factors at play, including the lethargy one feels during postnatal depression. However, there was one profoundly beautiful thing that gently brought me out of my ‘Reiki depression’. I discovered my local Reiki share. It was a two-minute walk from my city flat. Perhaps Reiki had worked after all – it led me there, and if I couldn’t reconnect by treating myself, perhaps someone else might help to release the block.

I felt anxious about giving a treatment again. Was the Reiki energy still flowing through me? What if the receiver didn’t feel anything? Perhaps I needed another attunement? All these unfounded anxieties raced through my mind.

I need not have worried, because I was grouped with the two kind-hearted hosts, Diana Cooper and Margaret Rose who, after the session, both wearing dazed smiles, made a point of telling me just how good the treatment was and I’m sure they didn’t just say this to boost a new member’s confidence.

Since joining the share group I’ve regained my composure, reconnected with my practise and experienced a whole new chapter in my journey. I’ve also made a dear friend, a fellow new mum – we both share similar interests and we often discuss just how pivotal Reiki has been during our journey in motherhood.

Wellbeing and Reiki
How I feel after Reiki – floating and connected. Illustration by Daria Hlazatova

Reiki Share Norwich

The monthly Reiki share group continues and is open to all students of any lineage. The group welcome new members and are a friendly and supportive group of all ages! Contact details below.

Awareness Day

Margaret Rose and Diana Cooper will be holding a Reiki Awareness Day at The Norwich Wellbeing Centre at the end of November/beginning December. They will be offering taster sessions and informal talks about the benefits of Reiki to anyone who is new to this healing tradition. Do let family and friends know if you think they’d be interested. Contact details below.

Courses

Following on from the inspiring courses that were run this year, Reiki Master, Margaret Rose and Diana Cooper are also finalising dates for a First Degree Reiki course in early 2018. They are also planning a Second Degree Reiki course for anyone who would like to take their journey further. All courses will be taught at The Norwich Wellbeing Centre. If you would like more information about what the courses entail, or to discuss how they might help you, please get in touch with Diana.

For all enquiries regarding the above events and to book a 1:1 treatment, please contact Diana Cooper on email: cooperd79@gmail.com or mobile: 07800 810198.

Do you practise Reiki?

Touch Magazine is looking for contributions! We cover a wide range of stories, news, events, features, and interviews about any individual, group or clinic within a Reiki context.

You don’t have to be a professional Reiki practitioner or a member of the Reiki Association to contribute as long as you’ve received Reiki training and use Reiki treatment or practise regularly.

We are currently looking for by-lined one-page stories (500 words) or two-page features (1,000 words) and any events, book launches or news from the Reiki community. We’d also love to hear from any writers, poets or artists who practise Reiki.

 

 

Eat the Seasons: Winter Special

Why seasonal & local produce is better for you and your purse strings!

Nutritionists and foodies both agree that it’s important to incorporate seasonal produce in your diet. Not only will it have a positive impact on your health and on the planet but on your purse strings too.

It’s also a great opportunity to vary your diet, try news things and experiment with different foods. Plus, you’ll probably find that your taste buds change (for the better) and it’s heaps healthier. So what’s all the fuss about seasonal foods?

Here are just five reasons why seasonal produce is a much smarter choice:

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  1. Seasonal Local Foods Taste Better

Firstly, seasonal fruit and veg will always taste fresher, lovelier, sweeter and riper. When that piece of fruit or veg has naturally ripened and has been harvested at the right time, it will have stacks more nutritional content and flavour too.

When overseas crops have been imported, usually they have been harvested early and then chilled so they travel well. However, when they are refrigerated, this reduces the flavour.

Before they even make it to the supermarkets, they’re often kept at a holding house where they’re heated so that they can complete the ripening process. This of course is artificial and doesn’t yield the same quality, flavour or texture.

I’m sure you’ve experienced this with things like watery, bland tomatoes and pale tasting strawberries!

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  1. More Nutritional

 Local produce that has been purchased in-season and close to its natural harvesting time, will have a better nutritional content. When overseas produce has been stored for some time, it will loose a lot of its goodness.

Local fruits and vegetables will also look brighter and less limp and dried up. Supermarkets often buy out of season produce that’s been treated to kill germs and sometimes they are preserved in wax to extend the shelf life.

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  1. No Nasties

 When fruit and veg has been imported, you just can’t guarantee what’s happened to them after they’ve been picked! Regulations for pesticides and herbicides vary drastically. The UK is pretty good but there are loads of countries, even those within Europe, that have relaxed laws about chemicals being sprayed on fruits and vegetables.

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  1. Easier on your bank balance

It’s a known fact than when farmers have a huge crop of seasonal produce, the cost to consumers will go down. Plus, they don’t need to worry about travel expenses and storage, production and therefore this is passed onto us the customer!

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  1. More Environmentally-Friendly


 Eating seasonally reduces the demand for out of season produce which further supports more local produce and supports local farming in your area which means less transportation, less refrigeration, less of those hot houses and less irradiation of produce.

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It’s a no-brainer, right?

However, it’s easy to loose track of what’s ‘in’ and what’s out of season. So starting this winter, I’ll be blogging about foods from each of the seasons over the coming year. Below is a list of seasonal, local foods for the winter.

UK Seasonal Winter Vegetables

EAT THE SEASONS
December January February
Cauliflower

Cranberry

Lettuce

Pear

Pumpkin

Quince

Apple

Beetroot

Sprouts

Cabbage

Cauliflower

Celeriac

Celery

Chestnuts

Jerusalem artichoke

Kale

Leek

Onion

Cabbage

Pak choi

Parsnip

Pear

Romanesco

Salsify

Spring onion

Swede

Sweet potato

Turnip

Apple

Beetroot

Sprouts

Cabbage

Cauliflower

Celeriac

Celery

Chestnuts

Chicory

Jerusalem artichoke

Kale

Leek

Onion

Cabbage

Pak choi

Parsnip

Pear

Rhubarb

Romanesco

Salsify

Spring onion

Swede

Sweet potato

Turnip

 

Apple

Sprouts

Cabbage

Cauliflower

Celeriac

Celery

Jerusalem artichoke

Kale

Leek

Onion

Parsnip

Purple sprouting broccoli

Romanesco

Rhubarb

Spring onion

Swede

Sweet potato

Turnip

 

In the Spotlight:

My Favourite Winter Seasonal Veg

I’m currently addicted to Romanesco. It’s half between a cauliflower and a broccoli. Try it roasted in the oven with a generous drizzle of olive oil and with slices of shallots or thin slices of red onion and some garlic. Cook for around 20 – 25 mins on 180 degrees. It’s great as a side dish to fish dishes and other veggie mains.

 

Fruit and veg stall pictures taken at Mike & Debs – Norwich Market, one of my favourite spots in Norfolk for local veg. www.facebook.com/MikeDebsandSons

Using creative thinking to improve your wellbeing

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This week the prestigious Bridport Prize announced the winners of its annual prose and poetry competition. It was an honour to have two of my poems shortlisted again this year. I was very surprised that they liked the sleep-deprived pieces out of those submitted, which also happened to be the first two poems I wrote after having my little girl. I was suffering from chronic sleep deprivation and PND. It was a time when I thought my creativity had plummeted. When in fact, it was those challenging times that brought a wellspring of ideas and inspiration. I was just too shattered to do very much about it at the time.

You don’t need to be a poet or artist to tap into your creativity. Let’s face it, everyone can be creative, although some people might not think they’re naturally creative. People can be creative in different ways, from crafting at home to applying creative thinking to solve a problem. Being creative can have an effect on your life in many ways and help you to improve your wellbeing. It certainly has helped me.

Whether you already try to be creative, with words, art or in another field or perhaps you want to try and tap into a hidden creative side, you could make some simple improvements to your approach. Here are my top ways you can use creative thinking to make your life better.

1. Use Creative Problem-solving

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Being creative can really help with solving problems of all kinds. If you can come up with some creative solutions to issues, it can help you in all walks of life. You might be trying to get your kids to behave, and instead of spending the day nagging them, you can distract them with something instead. Maybe at work, you could be the person to suggest a risky but creative way to solve a problem that pays off. Creative problem-solving can help you to think beyond the most obvious answers.

Top tip: Don’t be afraid to say the first thing that comes into your head during a brainstorm or if you’re working alone on something challenging, write down everything that comes into your head without stopping for five minutes to edit or reread your list, ideas or piece work. This allows you to tap into your subconscious more. If you ‘edit’ yourself too much, you will often stem the flow of creative ideas.

2. Use Creativity in Career and Business

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A lot of people feel like there’s a contrast between work and being creative. Working is often something we do to support ourselves, and for others, being creative is something we do in our spare time. But there’s no reason that you can’t do both! You don’t necessarily have to be in a creative career, although I can personal contest to the fact you’ll have more creative freedom as a freelance writer or a graphic designer. Even in jobs that aren’t traditionally creative, you can still find ways to tap into your creativity.

Top tip: Use creative thinking to help think beyond the obvious. Research any online trend reports for your sector, see what the broadsheets are saying about your industry, what are your competitors up to? Tap into these emerging trends or observe the patterns in these trends and with your knowledge of your sector, try to pre-empt the seed of a new trend!

3. Make Being Creative a Form of Therapy

The Universe Print ready
Pic Credit: Illustrator, Mia Charro – framed inspiration in my writing shed

Doing anything creative can be a great way to improve your wellbeing. Whether you like to write, draw or do crafts, creative activities give you something to focus on and a creative outlet to express yourself. It can be a method of being more mindful and concentrating on the present. It’s also a good way to express your emotions so that you don’t bottle them up. If you want a form of therapy that you can do on your own (or with others), doing something creative could be really helpful. When I was extremely sleep deprived for the 18 months after the birth of my daughter, writing poems about what was happening felt like a lifeline for me.

Top tip: As soon as you wake up, try writing down some creative ideas for poems, paintings, fiction, some lyrics, a blog post or perhaps another kind of creative project. You’ll find that you’re more in tune with your subconscious mind, and your creativity, when you first wake for the day.

4. Improve Your Patience and Persistence

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Creative activities can help you improve a range of skills and qualities. It can help you to learn better patience, appreciate delayed gratification, and be persistent to achieve your goals. Most creative projects will require you to be calm and patient and to be willing to improve your skills. If you decide to take up a new craft, you can’t expect to be brilliant at it straight away.

Top tip: I often find that I can’t force a new poem or short story. If I’m not in that space, it just won’t happen. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t feel inspired. Instead, do something you feel like you need to do in that moment but do return to it and try again the next day, and the day after, until you’re in that place.

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I’ve personally found that allowing creativity into different areas of my life has improved it in many areas. As well as doing creative activities, use your creativity in your everyday life. Once you start thinking that way, you’ll find creativity cropping up in different guises!

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The White Witch by photographer Karen Jerzyk

When I wrote the first draft of those two poems, I remember having the luxury of one hour and fifteen minutes until I needed to head home to my little girl. Milk Moss & Baker in Norwich, plied me with cake and the hot black stuff, as I furiously wrote the skeletons of these two poems – one about sleep, the other about the hypnogogic state. They were only seeds at this stage and I revisited them weeks later with a fresh set of eyes.

I dedicate this small triumph to my little sleep thief, and all the Mums out there who don’t have “a sleeper”

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NB: This is a sponsored post. Money was exchanged to feature one or more links published in this post.

A Buddhist Silent Retreat in Northern India

For less than £100, you can spend 10 days on a meditation retreat in Northern India at the Tushita Institute, located a short distance from the Dalia Lama’s residence in Dharamsala.

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This was by far the most beneficial thing I’ve ever done for my mind and soul. In 2013, I spent five months travelling around South East Asia and towards the end of this trip, during my 7-week visit to India, this retreat was by far my high point.

Why take part in a 10-day silent retreat 

I took part in this 10-day silent retreat after much deliberation because let’s face it, it doesn’t sound like the easiest thing to do, especially when you’re backpacking solo around a crazy-different albeit beautiful country. To stay silent for ten whole days? Oh boy. I changed my mind several times, visited the centre before hand, cancelled my place, rebooked my spot, cancelled my reservation again and then finally came to the realisation that I will probably never have this opportunity again and worst case scenario, hey, I could always leave half-way through if it was an absolute nightmare – no one was going to hold me to it. Only me. And actually, that’s what enabled me to complete the full course in the end. I knew I owed it to myself.

Being silent and reflective for that long isn’t something most people will ever have to attempt. So why would you? Well, I guess to actually get to know yourself properly without the countless distractions of every day life. It’s a scary thing to potentially spend that amount of time with yourself yet it’s an opportunity to face up to all sorts of interesting things.

Not only did I really get to grips with Buddhism and the philosophy surrounding the principles of meditation but I gained a huge amount of self-awareness, gained invaluable clarity on a few areas in my life, I became to understand my thought patterns, my triggers, my fears, my crutches and my vices – one of these is food, I never realised how obsessed I actually am with mealtimes. I’ve always been aware that I love food but it was something that plagued my thoughts constantly during the regular daily meditations. I also learnt more about what really makes me tick, discovered how to put my ego to one side and really experience life through a soundless mind. Whilst I was there, it felt a truly authentic way to live, the only way I should be living. There wasn’t anyone to impress, least one’s self. I surfaced from the retreat floating on Himalayan clouds. I felt like a different person and I can safely say, during this time and for quite some time following afterwards, was one of the happiest time of my life.

Of course, when you do this kind of ‘work’ on yourself, you have to invest an entire lifetime. Although ten days can really charge your path and fuel a deeper understanding of your mind, this was only really the beginning for me.

What happened during the retreat

During my stay there was an itinerary of daily talks, discussions and meditation techniques, learned from experienced teachers and monks. Set in the forested hills of McLeod Ganj, the only other inhabitants included daily passing troupes of brown and snow monkeys. Most of the 10 days is spent in silence as I immersed myself in a friendly and encouraging environment. I loved the fact there were so many different nationalities – at least 20!

Early morning and at sunset, the monkey troops were our entertainment as they swung from the prayer flags and stupas, and would steal various items from the centre right before our powerless and silent faces.

Every morning began with meditation in the beautiful Gompa, after which we enjoyed a breakfast of freshly baked rolls, honey and butter, chai tea and banana porridge as we watched the monkeys at play.

After more meditation, a daily lecture, a class discussion (this was the only time we were permitted to speak, for around an hour), a spot of karma yoga (assigned chores around the retreat centre). Then a vegetarian lunch, usually: Dahl, rice, vegetable stir-frys, mung bean salads, sometimes home made chips or baked potatoes, bean stews, homemade soups and more freshly baked rolls – yep, another mention of food :-). The afternoons were filled with more teachings and meditation sessions. Then chai masala tea at 3pm.

The body of the course is composed of philosophy classes supported by meditation sessions, all within a silent retreat environment.

About the retreat centre 

Tushita has an international reputation for this course where Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and meditation is taught from a modern perspective, giving practical tips to help you apply this ancient wisdom to increase peace and happiness in your daily life.

A suggested donation of around £75 for 10-days includes dormitory accommodation, three vegan meals a day, afternoon chai tea and all classes. For more information go to: http://tushita.info/programs/introduction-to-buddhism/

 

Photography: All photography in this post was taken by Roots and Toots. Please ask permission before using.

Toast: A Guided Meditation

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Buttery toast. One of life’s little pleasures. But how many of us really taste everything when we eat? Not just when we’re eating toast but with anything we consume. I try to eat my food mindfully when I can – although that’s easier said than done with a small toddler waving spoons of mashed potato around – but when I do have a meal to myself, I try to savour every moment, observe the colour, texture and taste, slowly and with full awareness. (Well, when I remember.)

I always think fondly of the delicious vegan food from the 10-day silent retreat in Dharamshala a few years ago, not just because the food was full of rich Indian flavours but because at every meal time, with no distractions, no talking, no iPhones, no television, your full attention was spent on each mouthful – just you and your plate.

Last week, my new yoga teacher read the following guided meditation during relaxation at the end of the class and I was keen to share it with you. Not only did I leave the class more focused than before but all I could think about for the next 24 hours was buying a loaf of my favourite sourdough bread from my local baker. (Ha! It worked on two levels.)

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If you feel like giving this simple meditation a try then simply have a read and then the next time you make some toast bear in mind what you’ve read below. You could also ask someone to read it to you whilst you sit with your eyes closed somewhere peaceful.

The idea is to pay attention to what is happening right here and now, to be fully present during everyday experiences and extract yourself from the dreamlike stage our mind wonders in.

 

Toast: A Meditation

Toast a piece of bread and as it’s cooking, savour the distinctive aroma of white or brown, ready-sliced or crusty, seeded or unseeded. Note any happy mental associations that arise. Spread the toast with butter, Marmalade or whatever takes your fancy, listening to the rasp of the knife and appraising the texture of the toasted bread as you do so. Notice and accept any frustrations as they arise in your mind. Perhaps the butter is straight out of the refrigerator and difficult to spread? Perhaps some sticky marmalade has found its way onto your fingers?

When the toast is ready to eat, look at it as if you had never seen a piece of toast before. Notice the fine structure of the bread still visible around the edges where the spread hasn’t reached, the difference in colouring and texture compared with the crust, the smoothness or runniness of the butter, the glossiness of the marmalade, its contours on the bread, its colouration and constituents. Maybe there are fine strips or chunks of orange rind, tiny air bubbles, flecks of darker colour. None of this is beneath your attention.

Sniff the toast and marmalade. Take a bite. Observe how the jaws, tongue and salivary glands immediately go to work of their own accord. Don’t try to stop them or slow them down, just note the crunch of each bite and the accompanying sounds inside your head. Now that you are actually paying attention, it might be surprising how loud these sounds are. Notice the changing texture of the food in your mouth as the teeth grind it down and saliva dissolved it. Give your full attention to the sharp acidity and sweetness of the orange, the oily butteriness of the butter, the butty toastiness of the toast.

Try all the fully automated movements of the tongue, jaws and lips as you chew and finally swallow. Notice the unfolding of all these behaviours as they happen, the almost unstoppable motivation to take another bite, and then another. All your impressions are valid, both the positive and negative. You may discover that you are enjoying the toast a whole lot more than if you’d just wolfed it down without thinking. Or perhaps you find the whole experience slightly disappointing. Maybe the toast is cold and chewy, the marmalade too sweet? There may be bitter, burned bits.

Accept it all with equanimity. This is simply how the toast is.

The above meditation was taken from the book Siddhartha’s Brain – The Science of Meditation, Mindfulness and Enlightenment by James Kingsland. 

And if you’re reading, Hester – thanks for sharing this!

 

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