Latest Posts

Distraction, Addiction & Avoiding Pain… Learning to be myself.

Hello,

My name is Lauren and I am an addict.  I am addicted to anything which enables me to avoid feeling my feelings.

In order not to feel, I distract myself purposefully, even wilfully by being exceptionally busy.  By saying ‘I can do that’ to anything that means I don’t have to think or feel, it might be caring for others, cooking, shopping, offering my services, teaching another yoga class, cleaning the house, scrolling through facebook, eating too many biscuits, drinking too much alcohol, the list goes on.  There are of course, lots of other drivers for these actions, but for me the ignition, before practicality or necessity and to the degree that I’m so busy I am physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted, is distraction.  It’s a deep internal pleading for my mental, emotional and sometimes physical pain to be taken away. 

‘Taking the edge off’ or even fully submerging myself in avoidance through whatever it is I’m addicted to in the moment (including Yoga classes by the way), is like putting blinkers on to tunnel the vision towards only the things I’m comfortable with seeing (i.e. the things I can control in my life).  Like a clean house, a 5K run, newly coloured hair, nails, new clothes, home furnishings and saying ‘I’m fine’ in the kind of tone we all know means, I’m really not fine, but if you push me now I’ll go psycho bitch from hell on you.

The things I can control are the things I use to build the illusion that I am in control, and sometimes it works, but you know deep down that you’re suspicious aren’t you? My blinkers tunnel my vision away from the things I don’t want to see, like my jealously of other peoples success, happiness or in any way looking more together than me; my failure that everyone else is parenting better than I do, my shame at my failure and my anxiety that I might have mental health issues; my exhaustion at thinking all of these things, and just one more glass of wine or shopping trip or yoga class to stop me thinking, feeling or trying to figure it out, because I just can’t.

Eighteen months ago life dished me the mother of all disease.  Cancer; most feared, most despised & most destructive.  Life dished me the mother of pain, through surgery, and whilst 4 hours of general anaesthetic knocked me out, I woke up screaming ‘The Pain The Pain The Pain’.  The real physical pain followed, but from where I’m standing now I recognise that cancer surgery put me in touch with the pain I’d hidden, wrapped in shame and locked down, it forced me to feel it.  Cancer had my back against the wall and gave me the choice, face it and face it all or maybe die. Whilst my diagnosis was a bolt out of the blue, the disease itself was chronic; years in the making, a curdled stew of resentment, anger, stress, the inability to process trauma and the shame and loneliness of hiding it, washed down with prosecco, curry and chocolate. Whilst on the outside things appeared to be functioning, albeit in the suspicious way we talked about earlier, but the acceptable way. The not crying in public, not speaking about shame, lying about my sex life / parenting skills / how much money we have, kind of way. Functioning had absolutely zero to do with feeling. The two were completely unrelated. Inside I was a curdled stew of a shit show.

Here’s the thing I’m coming to realise though.  In the years leading up to my diagnosis, the deep yearning & pleading for escape I was feeling was handing me the answers all along.  When I cried longing for something different, life dished up fear, pain, loneliness, jealously and exhaustion.  It gave me anger and rage and grief and loss and said ‘feel me’. Every time it did I swallowed it down with resentment and denial because I wanted an easier escape, because it was too hard, too painful and not fair. I pleaded for it to stop, burying myself in distraction to the point of addiction. Life dished harder and every time it did I ran in the opposite direction, too afraid of what I felt to understand what I was being offered. I was too far in denial, too distracted and addicted to distraction that I couldn’t possibly sit down and watch the world I’d controlled collapse around me. That collapse would expose me. It would break down the walls between how awful it felt and what it looked like and the world would know.  It would teach me just how sad and lonely I really was and just how angry I felt and it was threatening.  I believed it was all or nothing and if I let the facade slip I’d be failing.

One day only recently my sadness showed up again though. It washed over me like a tsunami and because Cancer had already broken me down to a person I didn’t know or understand anymore, I thought ‘what the fuck, go ahead and wash me up sadness, do your worst, surely theres nothing else to be broken’?  Being washed up by sadness felt refreshing. Terrifying as I watched it roll in, disorientating in the middle of it, but afterwards it was refreshing and I felt like new. The realisation dawned on me that the feelings I’d been pushing away and burying for so long were the signposts towards my own transformation, they were the doorways and rights of passage to freedom from the exhausting façade I had created.

Newly invigorated I went looking for doorways. I found my jealously and understood that it showed me what was important to me, and that I could go about working towards it. My fear showed up like a faulty smoke alarm, ringing at the slightest waft of hidden feeling and I’ve started to ignore it, I hear it, but I recognise when it’s just ‘burnt toast’! My anger is a moral compass and it shows me the boundaries of my soul. And depression, the doorway to the deepest darkest depths of my soul. The fathoms of my being move at a glacial pace shaping the landscape within me, and I am learning respect for that movement. Grief and loss shows me how to cry, and loneliness is just another wall to breakdown, to reach across and to share and find connection through writing and through talking. My loneliness asks ‘can anyone see me?’ ‘am I in here alone?’ She just wants to be heard. To be felt and to know she is seen. My loneliness wants the kind of friends that can cut through the bullshit façade. The kind of love that stands up and says ‘what’s up?’ and ‘you’re not yourself’ and I know that first I have to be able to call myself out to show up and communicate on my own behalf, to do that I have to know that I am worthy of love.

Learning to be with myself:

At the same time as life was showing me my own pain, it also gave me Yoga. It led me to teacher training, and training with the most wise and compassionate teachers. The kind who have been present for their own pain and can compassionately guide others through theirs. Being with myself now involves a dedication to stillness, to listening and to sitting. Coming to my mat involves checking in with how I feel. My practice is about balance. Some days I’m frayed and gentle grounded movement is required, some days I’m emotionally exhausted and restorative nurturing poses with blankets and bolsters is required. There are times when I feel sluggish and a more dynamic practice is called for. But however I move, the breath leads the way. The simple honouring of the wisdom of the body, underneath the chaos of family life and work. The switch that leads me back to myself, letting go of the stories I’ve told myself, free from obligation and responsibility, the breath is there to simply nourish me, to cleanse me and to lead me to union: Mind, which anchors awareness on the breath, body as it softens and unravels in order to allow the breath as spirit, the honoroing of this divine union.

The relationship with my self starts and ends here. There is nothing left to fear. I don’t have to be afraid of who I am or what I feel, I can feel it all and it all feels a lot healthier!

My Anger, My Inner World, And a love note to Agni!

My Anger…

I am so angry.  I’m angry because I’ve denied my anger for as long as I can remember.  I’ve denied my anger because I didn’t think it was pretty, or pleasing or useful.  I bought in to the Bullshit that in order to be a grown up, successful person, especially one who’s a yoga teacher, I would be pleased and gentle and kind and understanding, and above all I would put anyone else before myself, including anyone I walked past in the street and anyone who ever spoke to me, and anyone on the TV, and that’s everyone.  And then if my anger spoke up, I’d hush it away and try to pretend it wasn’t there.  Like shoving playdoh in to a pot that’s just a bit too small, bits spilling over the edges and me all the while trying to shove the lid on, playing ‘nothing to see here, anger, no, not me I’m calm and gentle and pleased about everything, stop looking at me funny and it’ll all go away’…

Buying in to this BS compounded the problem.  The problem was compounded of course, because anything that triggered my anger made me feel ashamed of myself, because I was feeling something I’d deemed inappropriate.  It was especially inappropriate because I’m a woman, and an angry woman is not attractive, and sometimes makes the people around her feel uncomfortable, and we need to preserve the illusion, so please don’t show up here anger, for goodness sake not here… It turns out that pleading with myself was as futile as the playdoh situation and just compounds shame by feeling helpless.

My Inner World…

So here I am acknowledging my anger!  I don’t care if it’s inappropriate, I don’t care if it’s too much, I don’t care what you think about it any more.  But I do care deeply, I care how I feel.  Fundamentally, deep down I care about myself and my anger is a signpost that something isn’t right.  My anger says ‘hey you, that’s not fair’, ‘I’m pretty sure that’s not right’.  It says ‘is anyone looking out for me here? can anyone hear me?’ and it says ‘yes I can’.  It says ‘yes I will’.  It says ‘set me free and let me change the world, ‘let me transform this girl’, ‘let me ignite a passion in you that will lead you deeper and deeper towards yourself in ever more fulfilling ways’.  My anger says ‘thank you to the society who suggested that I’m too loud, big, tall, fat, poor, angry etc. but no thank you’ and ‘hello to an inner relationship of love and honour’.  A relationship with myself that serves myself first, in the most deeply nourishing way, by listening to the small voices inside.  Honouring my needs, not overlooking them, accepting my self instead of feeling ashamed.  Compassionately listening and disagreeing and learning, in order to grow.  This relationship is the love of my life, my greatest passion and my most treasured connection and it is the foundation from which all life around me grows.  This is the relationship which enlightens my view of the world and it’s the bright shining star which allows me to navigate with ease.  My anger has shown me how to stop outsourcing my better judgement to anyone outside of me who I decide knows best, which at one point was anyone, desperately, longingly anyone.  My anger is pointing me towards myself with such heartfelt love that I can no longer deny it, I can only accept and love it for the treasure and insight it brings.  I follow it and it leads me and together we navigate the seas of my internal world.

And this is where my inner Yoga teacher becomes her most authentic self.  I begin to recognise my anger as life force, I recognise it as a power which can be stoked and cared for, or denied and dampened.  I do not see my cancer as separate from this.  I see the disease which visited me with such loving grace as a manifestation of this toxic inner state.  What else could my poor cells do when the message they were receiving unrelentingly was ‘you are too much and you are not enough’, they just needed a clear directive.  A boss lady who could accept the truth of her soul and lead her little cell people to liberation, and function and ease.

A love Note to Agni…

The inner fire in Yoga is also known as Agni, our Agni is responsible for all metabolic processes within the body, physical, mental & emotional.  Taking in and assimilating, breaking down and processing, all of which are nourishing and support healthy growth.  Denying the process is denying life itself, toxic thoughts, such as shame and denial are as quelling to the fire as toxic food or substance abuse.  Ultimately the inner fire will begin to die down and the system will fail to function.  Nurturing and supporting our inner fire by feeding it the good fuel, the self-love and acceptance, giving it a voice, the healthy nourishment and creative outlet, allowing the learning and the growth.  It will repay us with a genuine hunger, for our next hearty meal, for our lives and for our own personal growth.

Dear Agni,

My inner god of fire, my protector.  I see how I have neglected you now.  I’ve seen how strongly you burned and how fearful it made me feel.  I heaped you with shame instead of stoking you with love.  The toxic soot, smouldering from the cold damp logs of denial I heaped upon you almost killed you, but now you burn brightly again.  Agni, my saviour, my you burn strong, and warm.  I accept your gifts of clarity, of transformation, power, guidance and of life.  I will feed you with self acceptance, and authentic expression of yourself.  I will fuel you with an outlet that the world can see, and when the world looks back, no matter what their faces say, I will never again allow shame or judgement to dampen you, or society to mis-shape you.  You burn perfectly and that is everything to me.

Lauren x

My Name is Lauren, I am a Recovering Bullshit Addict

A year ago I discovered I had cancer.  It took six months for shock to pass (aside from the physical recovery from major surgery), and a following four months of crazily energetic distraction to finally acknowledge how much fear, grief, loss, trauma & pain my family and I have gone through.  I am finally beginning to process those feelings and its taking everything I have (almost).  I emerge from a sleepy crying, snotty ball to teach yoga, to walk my dogs and to be with my family when they need me, all of which I love, and all of which are more than enough for me to deal with.

Before cancer I was a Bullshit Addict.  I knew how to paint on a smile, I knew how to save you from my pain, my grief, my suffering and my desperate loneliness.  I was a hardcore pretender.  Bullshitting like my life depended on it, drowning my sorrows in smiles, and parties, and booze and home furnishings.  Before cancer I knew how to say ‘I’m fine’, when you asked me how I was.  Before Cancer I was disconnected from myself and from you and the world around me.  When I lied to you about how I was, I was hiding from myself and I was asking you to hide from yourself too so that neither of us had to face the truth of our losses and our suffering.  I vibrated with a fractured nervous energy which came from my torn up soul, my seething, lost, lonely, raging, desperate soul.  I drowned my sorrows in Bullshit until I successfully stopped feeling anything.  Underneath the fake smile and pretence, behind the Instagram posts, inside the well-dressed shell of a woman I became, I was screaming ‘someone help me’, ‘someone take it all away’.  But we all decided that it would be someone else’s job to do that because we were just not able to face the blinding, painful truth, until Cancer came along and made it all so desperately, painfully real.

Today my tears are cleansing, and the tired and snotty puddle of me is just as OK as it need to be right now.  When I don’t paint on a smile to save you from my pain anymore, it’s not because I’m bitter or not coping, it’s because I’m telling you the truth, it’s because this is what coping looks like.  It’s not because I’m ‘negative’ I’m simply doing my best to quit my addiction to bullshit and keep it real.  I do not need to be saved, soothed, suppressed, placated, medicated, or fixed.  I am already all of those things by being broken and being honest with myself and you about it.  It looks like a war zone at the end of a long and bitter war.  It’s ravaged, ugly and devastating to see, but there is truth here and there is love and if we roll up our sleeves we can at least be free of suffering, despite appearances.

As a recovering Bullshit Addict I need to remove myself from Bullshit.  I am on the wagon.  So don’t tell me you’re fine when you are not, support my recovery by sharing your truth with me, the joys, the sorrows, the pain, the grief and the love.  Enable me to be my best most real self, by being yours too.  Pretending only drives the hot and seething loneliness deeper.  Pretending is what disconnects us from ourselves and each other.  Lets reconnect with truth, because it’s a strong and honest foundation to build on.

“Pretending is like wearing an armour with the spikes facing inward” (said my friend Sam today). 

Wearing our spikes on the outside does not look pretty, and it does not conform to the social status quo, it’s braver, and stronger than that.  Sharing our stories is what connects us.  Sharing our losses and our pain is what makes us human family.  Sharing the love and the sorrow and the hurt and the struggle is what makes us collectively stronger and is what heals us and frees us all.  Do not diminish your suffering because you perceive someone else to be suffering more than you, it only diminishes theirs too.  Pain is pain for all of us.  Sorrow is sorrow, joy is joy and the only difference between us is the experience we have which points us towards these feelings.

Standing in my own messy truth, I am stronger and braver than I have ever been.  My Name is Lauren, I am a recovering Bullshit Addict.

 

Rosemary & Walnut Buckwheat Loaf

FE46BBEB-3F96-4140-AB55-C23C5C02208AOh hi gluten free buckwheat loaf that takes just 45 mins in the oven.  How are you, you gorgeous indulgent bread friend with benefits? Your herby lusciousness lures me to you… I drizzle you with olive oil and sink my teeth, sumptuously in to your soft nutty loafiness… Can you tell I haven’t had bread in a while?  I’m a conservative grain consumer, saving myself for only the whole and gluten free goodies among the grain family… My gut says thank you – now I’m free of stodge and bloating and my taste buds say thank you – you meet my sweet nutty desires… So for the gluten free among you, or those looking for a quick bread fix, full of nutty buckwheat goodness this is for you… Let me know how you get on…

Ingredients:

450g buckwheat flour

50g buckwheat oats

1 tsp sea salt

1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (gluten free)

450mls Almond Milk

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

large handful of chopped walnuts

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C
  2. Chop 1 sprig of rosemary and leave the other whole
  3. Mix the dry ingredients including the chopped rosemary in a bowl, then mix in the almond milk until a dough forms.
  4. Roll the dough into a loaf shape on a floured (with buckwheat flour and / or oats) surface.  Place the whole sprig of rosemary on top of the loaf and score along the long side of the dough with a sharp knife
  5. Line a baking tray with baking parchment and place the loaf on the tray
  6. Bake for 45 minutes

I love this toasted with mushrooms and asparagus… or scrambled egg… or anything else your sweet tastebuds so desire… Enjoy! x

4-Week Yoga Course for Absolute Beginners

Join Lauren for a 4-week course exploring the very basics of Yoga practice for self-care and well-being.  Lauren is a British Wheel of Yoga Certified Teacher with over 500 hours of training in Yoga philosophy, Meditation, Advanced Teaching and has a strong history with Mind Body connection.

The Course will cover:

  • Basic breathing techniques
  • Common Yoga poses
  • Introductory relaxation & meditation techniques

The course is aimed at absolute beginners of any age.  It runs for 4 weeks and will equip students with the basic knowledge required to confidently move on to either a gentle hatha yoga class or more dynamic hatha yoga class on an ongoing basis.

Dates:  Thursday 7th, 14th, 21st & 28th June 2018

Time:  9.30-10.45am

Location:  The Zen Den, Hersham

Price:  £50

The Zen Den

The Zen Den is a purpose built yoga studio equipped for up to 5 students.  With a heated bamboo floor the den is hand built and clad in Cedar wood, insulated with natural sheep’s wood and finished with non-toxic finishes.

Contact: Lauren@blackdogliving.com / 07763 135146 to book your space.

 

 

An Afternoon with the Goddess Durga

“Warrior Goddess of Protection & Inner Strength”

Durga-blank-canvas

Date:  22nd April 2018

Time:  4.00-5.30pm

Location: The Zen Den, Hersham

Booking:  £15 in advance

Durga is the embodiment of the power of love, both gentle and fierce.  Through storytelling, meditation, chant and gentle movement we will connect with the innate power of Durga within us.   Once connected, this power is ours to summon for protection and inner strength throughout all our life circumstances.

To book your place please contact Lauren:  lauren@blackdogliving.com / 07763 135146

 

Hot & Pungent Chilli Prawn Ramen Bowl & the True Benefits of Bone Broth

4653DD84-8F3D-4A56-AB7C-0540F7E5B54DCraving pungent warmth?  This ramen bowl HITS THE SPOT!  And it has lots of health benefits too.  I’m just over a stinking cold and with a fridge full of slow cooked bone broth this recipe gave me a hot hit and all the re-mineralising benefits of the broth.  Although strictly speaking this isn’t a Ramen as there are no noodles, but if you’re not grain free, then feel free to add some!

So what’s all the hype about bone broth?  I was looking for specific mineral analysis breakdowns and found lots of varying and not very promising results relating to what you actually get from bubbling your broth for long periods.  Initially I felt disheartened, but then I remembered the fab smell of the bone broth sitting in the kitchen, the warmth of the slow cooker, the good feeling of using up a carcass and the rich flavour the broth provides.  There’s no question it’s good for the skin and digestion, you feel in once you’ve eaten it, but it seems as though the jury is out on the specifics of mineral breakdown.  What I know wholeheartedly though, is that the mind body connection is where the magic happens.  If we create comfort, warmth and well being in the processes relating to our consumption, then we are already well prepared to extract the maximum nutritional benefit from our food.  This is the magical life enhancing benefit of eating to live … It’s the secret ingredient!  So enjoy!

Ingredients for the bone broth:

  1. 1 chicken carcass (left over from sunday roast)
  2. 1 carrot
  3. 1 stick celery
  4. 1 palmful of black peppercorns
  5. 1 thumb of ginger
  6. 2 bay leaves
  7. 500 mls filtered water

Method for the bone broth:

  1. Add the ingredients to the slow cooker and set to low for 24 hours.   (The bones will become soft and start dissolving)
  2. Drain the liquid in to a glass or ceramic container for storage and discard remaining bones and food.

4FD4D7DC-B88A-4368-B666-F31A67BBDAB0Ingredients for the Ramen (serves 2):

  1. 250g prawns
  2. 1/2 head finely sliced pointed cabbage (these made a noodle like alternative)
  3. 1/2 head broccoli
  4. 2 red birdseye chillis
  5. splash fish sauce
  6. 2 tsp coconut aminos
  7. 20 almonds, chopped
  8. 1 pointed red pepper finely sliced
  9. 1 thumb grated fresh turmeric
  10. Handful fresh coriander
  11. 3 spring onions, finely sliced

Method for the Ramen:

  1. Bring the bone broth to a simmer in a large pan on the hob.
  2. Add all the ingredients (apart from the coriander )and simmer for around 5-7 minutes (or until the broccoli has your desired  texture (and your prawns are pink through if they’re not already cooked)

Breathing, Biorhythms & the Bija Mantra – How Yoga Heals us…

I don’t know about you, but in the process of wanting to be well I’ve discovered just how disconnected from my sense of self I have been in the past.  Noticing is always empowering, but it’s also frustrating.  When you notice something about yourself which doesn’t conform to the picture you’d like or had subscribed to, your world falls apart, maybe in a small way, maybe fundamentally, it really depends on how much life has been built on flawed foundations.  Take the example of me being a yoga teacher.  It might look and sound to the outside world as though I’m pretty peaceful, but in truth what’s led me to yoga is a lack of peace.  Yoga scooped me up when I was at my lowest, least peaceful stage of life to date.  After leaving a career to raise my children and then seeing both children off to school I felt hopeless and lacked purpose.  I couldn’t relax or find any value in the day to day living of my life.  Anxiety set in, and there in its deepest clutches I found yoga.  In finding yoga I found a shard of peace and clung to it by the skin of my teeth (that’s the amount of peace i knew at the time).  Thank God for strong teeth skin is all I can say.  I hung on until the shard of peace grew large enough to provide a platform, and eventually a stable place from which I could stand up with the most enormous sense of relief and look around at the absolute devastation and emotional disharmony which truly made me up.  Holy Shit.  I was not a pretty picture (despite Instagram images attempting to suggest otherwise) .  This picture coincides, pretty much, with the moment where I was brave enough to look during my colonoscopy and saw the most gnarly, angry looking stage 3 cancer tumour feeding on my sigmoid colon.  I momentarily averted my gaze, you know how it is when you see something really painful or gory.  Then I realised it was in me, and of me and looked really sore.  Emotionally speaking I passed out, the effort of getting to this point was so great that I had nothing left to give, so I let go.  I screamed that I was dying.  I said goodbye to my husband and the following hours and days are a blur, although I do remember the smell of my unwashed self.

At this point Yoga picked me up again, I can’t say it was me because I had no good judgement left.  But a greater force than me scooped up me and my stink and put me down in a yoga class.  People I knew hugged me regardless – those are really good people!  And I moved, remembering how strong the body I was in could be.  During that hour I moved and I breathed and I remembered what life felt like.  Despite total emotional annihilation the thought occurred to me that my body really wanted to be alive, my heart was beating pretty hard, my lungs drawing breath, my muscles engaging, stretching and twisting in a way that my healthy, stink free, non-cancerous yogi friends were aspiring to.  When the class ended, there, as plain as day was myself, sitting on my yoga mat with only the awareness of the huge disparity between my emotional and physical self.  The disconnection of mind and body.  How could I be in two such polar extremities of life at the same time?  This is where I understood the meaning of Yoga for the first time:

‘Yoga Citta Vritti Nirodhah’ sutra 1.2, which means Yoga is the union of our innate consciousness with our life’s purpose.

Which feels very much like a channelling of all effort and purpose towards a single point.  Whether the point is asana practice, pottery, knitting, motherhood, accounting or anything else we are engaged in.  What yoga feels like is all encompassing, engaging and purposeful to the point of soul nourishing.  And, if we’re lucky, to the degree that it nourishes and becomes of service to those around us by directing those around us towards their own sense of union and purpose.  At this point in my life, aside from being on the page where I suddenly understood what that meant, to all intents and purposes I was living way off the mark.

My epiphany moment was just that, a moment.  The power of knowledge turned in to the frustration of picking up and putting back together a very broken emotional life.  Years of trauma, neglect and abuse had taken their toll and taken a hold in the form of habit, and what felt familiar, what I’d built myself on I now recognised as being part of an unhealthy problem.  I’d built relationships on this stuff.  Holy Shit, how much of my actual life was fake?  Again, I could barely look at the car crash I was experiencing, but at the same time, if I wanted to live I had no choice.

My physical yoga practice at this point left me.  I couldn’t seem to move with any conviction or with any sense of purpose.  But what emerged in its place was something far more gritty.  Something which required much deeper and more fundamental strength, the kind of strength which leaves you feeling nauseous, weak, exhausted and broken through and through.  The kind which swells your face to twice its normal size leaving you with small slits for sore eyes to peer through.  The kind which ejects salty water spontaneously from the eyes, primal howls from the throat and snot from the nose at a rate of which 1 pint water per minute could not satiate, cuing a dull thudding headache which goes on for days.   The habits of practicing yoga that I’d formed led me to my mat, but what happened when I was there was something different.  Physically I was frozen.  Instead I began to look at myself on the inside.

This inner landscape looks really beautiful, but as you look at the paradise beach in the distance, what dawns is the awareness that the only way to get there is to walk, across lava, through earthquakes, and into storms.  Climbing emotional mountains and encountering what feels like choking fog, deadly snakes and false ‘short cuts’ to the psyche.  It’s a case of ‘feeling the fear and doing it anyway’.  I couldn’t go back after all.

So here I am, 3 months post surgery and somewhere on the emotional journey towards my paradise beach which, for now, is pretty forgiving.  Like a meadow in Spring, but with the knowledge the this too will pass as life’s cycles promise.  I’m talking about my own biorhythms of course.  My own awareness of the ups and downs, round and rounds of my emotional landscape.  I have no idea if I’ll ever get to the beach, and, whilst it’s promise keeps me moving forward, the idea of arriving becomes less and less important.  Instead the moment I’m in is what I’m truly interested in.  I’m becoming a seasoned emotional explorer and adventurer even.  Becoming ever more familiar with my unique pace and rhythm of life.  And, whilst I have picked up a devoted physical practice, moving in a way which honours each moment with true love, and total admiration for a body which has endured and carried me this far, it continues to be my breathing and meditative inward focus which is most strengthening and enlightening.

Connecting with the breath & our own biorhythms through the Bija Mantra:

36B412E8-1CE7-40CC-AC5B-165762308509

It’s often the case that simple stressors disconnect us from our selves.  The expectation of a boss, hungry child, train timetables and work deadlines.  All accumulate in daily life and affect us more deeply than we are often aware of.  The breath can be shallow and quick, like a choppy ocean.  This is fine of course, providing that the ocean finds respite and the waves can subside.  Continual restlessness though can be damaging and here’s where our society needs a break, and where Yoga so often can provide respite.

The Bija Mantra offers us 7 sounds with which we can anchor our breath and awareness on.  Each sound resonates with 7 different points along the spine.  It’s along our spine that the nervous system is operating receiving and sending messages to and from our brains, cells, organs and limbs.  Connecting systematically, through sound and with awareness we can bring a sense of calm and relaxation – essentially easing ourselves back towards our natural, more peaceful biorhythms.  The science behind this links breathing ratios of 5.5-6 even breaths per minute with greater heart rate variability (HRV).

“Nearly a quarter-century of clinical research has shown that when HRV levels are high, a person experiences low levels of stress and greater resiliency. When HRV levels are low, this is an indication of greater stress and lower resiliency.”

“Breathing at a rate of 5.5 breaths per minute with equal inhalation-to-exhalation ratio increases heart rate variability” 

Using the Bija Mantra and it’s 7 sounds, we can successfully bring about this breathing ratio:

  1. Inhale for the count of 5, exhale the sound (either mentally or verbally) ‘LAM’ for 5.  This relates to the space at the base of the spine.
  2. Inhale for 5, exhale the sound ‘VAM’ for 5, relating to the space at the navel.
  3. Inhale for 5, exhale the sound ‘RAM’ for 5, relating to the space at the solar plexus.
  4. Inhale 5, Exhale YAM, relates to the space at the heart
  5. Inahle 5, Exhale HAM, relates to the hollow of the throat
  6. Inhale 5, Exhale OM, relates to the space between the eyebrows
  7. Inhale 5, Exhale OM again, relates to the space above the crown of the head

This practice will take just over a minute to complete and can be repeated over for as long as feels beneficial.  The link below to MC Yogi’s version gives you each of the sounds.

Coming to this mantra and practice for me usually brings about a transformative state, even if I think I’m pretty relaxed to start with.  I often experience my eyes tearing up, yawning, and a deep sense of connection.  I find it brings me a sense of slowing down, loosening up and a feeling of weight in my body, the reassuring connection of myself with the earth.  With that sense of connection to earth comes the reminder that I am here.  Connected to myself and not just the emotional journey in front of me, but the physical path too, whether that’s teaching a yoga class, writing a blog post or loading the dishwasher, I understand (and am still coming to learn) that these things are my work, my purpose and have equal importance in my life.  This is the purpose which is stoking and fuelling my inner fire and my passion for life.  These things fuel and sustain me and therefore each and every living moment should be cherished and honoured.  It’s true, Yoga Heals!

Namaste Yogis, Enjoy your rides…

Follow me on Instagram for real life Yoga (not just the headstand or splits – move over fake perfect life, here comes reality)

 

Eat to Live, Don’t Live to Eat…5 Life Enhancing Food Choices

I was about 10 when I heard my granddad say this.  I didn’t fully understand what he was saying as a child, I totally forgot it as a teenager of course and as an adult turned it on its head and lived for every sugary snack, pizza, glass of wine or bag of crisps I could get my hands on.  In more recent years I switched those indulgences to ‘organic’ or ‘high end’ products.  My focus was mainly on eliminating chemicals and preservatives.  I enjoyed eating healthily but I most certainly enjoyed the extras too.  That was B.C. (Before Cancer).

Cancer drops like a bomb in the centre of your life, scattering its parts far and wide… Those parts of me were and still are scattered.  Pulling my life back together is currently my life’s work.  To go back to what was though, to live relatively carelessly would be to deny what has happened, it would undermine my gratitude for being alive and well, and I just can’t do that, but equally I can’t live in fear of the ‘what if’s’.  Cancer remains my life’s most powerful teacher.  Even with the all clear.  Every decision I make is illuminated by the light of gratitude for living.

Life is uncertain.  Now is all we have.  Making the conscious choice to feel the best we can, mind body and soul right now, is the best we can do with whatever time life allows us.

Eating well for me isn’t disease prevention any more and it isn’t a guilt fuelled compromise.  Eating well is about gratitude for life, the understanding that my body sustains me and so in return I choose to sustain it (not abuse it).  An infinite flow of feedback between us, eating well makes me feel well, which leads to healthier choices.  Taking food back to basics is worth every single life enhancing meal to feel vibrant, oxygenated, nourished and energised.   Free of guilt, free of brain fog, free of hangovers, free of cravings and with all the energy that the day requires.  I’ve gained not just a sense of vibrant well-being, but the capacity to think more clearly, which is just a reflection of a more ‘clean and clear system’.  In thinking more clearly I’m less stressed, less likely to flair up, hold a grudge or ruminate on something someone said or did.   But in facing stress, my body resolves and returns to balance more quickly than it has in the past.

By now I’m sure most of us have heard of the gut being referred to as the second brain?  Apparently 90% of the cells of our body are made up of the bacteria which inhabit the gut (which we put there of course)… It’s also the case that the wrong kind of bacteria (which also come from what we put there) can cause us health problems.  In my own ponderings I wondered how much of my own anxiety and depression over the previous years was simply my mind registering an imbalance?  And I wonder how much of my emotional eating stemmed from the cravings of those bad bacteria and pathogens?  There is lots of exciting research happening, but in the mean time Dr Emily Deans, in ‘The Gut-Brain Connection, Mental Illness & Disease’ says:

All in all, the gut is a terrific place to start helping humans be as healthy, resilient, and robust as we have evolved to be.

I live by a few simple choices which I know allow me to feel well and function well.

My Life with food now involves the following principles:

  1. A Plant based diet with eggs and animal protein from chicken and fish as and when I feel I need it.  This seems to work best for me in terms of sustained energy levels, glowing skin and an ability to face my mental processes, emotions and situations.
  2. Going Sugar free.  Because sugar is a drug and it’s only purpose is to sustain itself and the businesses that exploit and manufacture it.  I will use honey, but no more than 2 tsps. a day and a little fresh fruit every day – this has led to an experience of sustained blood sugar throughout the day.  More energy all the way to bed time and less headaches.  Turns out I’m not a crazy psycho, I was just a sugar addict (My husband may disagree).
  3. Caffeine free.  For reasons as above.  My energy comes from not eating sugar or drinking caffeine.  Those things serve their own purpose and it’s only to sustain themselves.  Eliminating them means not being at their mercy.
  4. Alcohol free.  Because if life is this uncertain and short, it’s not worth the hangover.  What I thrive on is time with friends, chatting, enjoying food and tea together, enjoying our collective wisdom, love and mutual appreciation of one another in a social situation without ending up falling over, eating junk and writing off the following day to nurse the hangover.
  5. Processed food and Preservative free.  Those chemicals are not there for our wellbeing, they’re there for the purposes of shelf life and the profits of the people that make them.  Your one precious and vibrant life does not need that stuff.  Your one short, uncertain life deserves precious earth bounty, full of life and vitality.  Anything less is a self-inflicted diss.

What’s left?  Three meals a day, no snacks!  Chicken, Fish, Eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, pulses, beans, herbs & spices.  Survival food, real living vibrant food, the food that has sustained human kind since forever.  Eating this way makes me feel ALIVE because what I’m eating is nutrient dense!

The bottom life for me, is that whether the cancer returns or not, the time I have between now and my final exit I hope to be filled with life, and to truly appreciate life it needs to be treated and honoured as the gift that it is.  The experiences I have in the world are a direct consequence of the condition of the senses I perceive them through, and if those senses are impaired then so is my experience.

As my wise granddad said “Eat to live, don’t live to eat”

A Gut-Brain Bowl of lunchtime Goodness…

This was a satisfying lunch.  I was hungry so had an appetite for it, and afterwards I felt happy.  Not in a dopamine hit way (the kind you get from a bar of chocolate), but in a gut happy way which filled me with warmth, satisfaction and vitality.

4FD6383A-B6D5-4CA7-9FE7-4394A76B0CE4Ingredients (serves 1):  

1/4 head broccoli

1/4 head cauliflower

1/2 large courgette

2 cloves garlic

10 almonds (soaked in filtered water overnight)

Handful of sprouting lentils

1 tbsp. ghee

50 mls filtered water

2 tsp coconut aminos

pinch of salt & pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Add the water and ghee to a pan and bring to the boil
  2. Crush the garlic and add to the water, along with the coconut aminos
  3. Chop the courgette into cubes & the broccoli and cauliflower in to small florets and add to the water.
  4. Add the olives, almonds lentil sprouts and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  5. Simmer with the lid on the pan for around 7 minutes (depending how well you like the broccoli done!)
  6. Enjoy!