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Category: BoboMama’s Quest for Authenticity

Is it time to reboot and recharge?

Is it time to reboot and recharge?

This week marks the rekindling of self-care. Which has lapsed considerably over the school holidays. Indeed pretty much since June. Which not only shows, I can feel it in my body. I feel tired, lacklustre, my skin is a bit rubbish and I’m once again resorting to wine a little too much in order to zone out.

I feel like I’ve had adrenaline coursing through my body for weeks on end. And even though I’ve known that I need to take time out to stop and just BE rather than rushing on with my to-do list, I’ve found this nearly impossible to implement.

If I lived by the beach and had access to this glorious, Ikarian view, it might come easier. But I no longer do, so it’s about putting an end to the excuses and making the effort to get out from behind my desk and scheduling in some non-negotiable, me-time down-time. 

Because if we don’t, we end up running on empty. Which is what I discovered is happening to me, yesterday during my Chi Nei Tsang treatment (an incredible Chinese medicine abdominal massage that detoxifies the internal organs and removes energetic blocks). Not good.

So today, I set aside 10 minutes to meditate before getting down to work and I’ve reset my AIRIN app to 25 times a day (it sounds a gong to remind you to take a mindful breath). It bongs so often that even the kids are now trained in it : )

As autumn sets in and the wind and rain start to ramp up, the seasons are telling us to SLOW DOWN.

What would help YOU to reset your hard drive?

What do you need to give yourself PERMISSION to pause?

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A new chapter…

A new chapter…

It’s on days like this that I feel super grateful for the place I live in. A city that is architecturally beautiful in its own right but also dotted with meadows (containing actual, live cows) and crossed by a beautiful river (populated by houseboats, punts and rowers).

This was our first ever family bike ride – 5 people, 5 bikes – and not a cargo bike or stabiliser in site.

It felt amazing!

I might be mourning the loss of my babies (all three of my muskateers are now at school), but little trips like this show me that there is a whole new world of adventure that is out there, just waiting for us now that they are older.

And that is exciting.

A new chapter is always a double-edged sword: loss of the old and apprehension for what lies ahead sit alongside excitement for the new and growth as we adjust to a different comfort zone.

I often forget to acknowledge transitions, allowing my focus to zoom immediately into the next stage. So I’m practising noticing this one and almost savouring it. Because when I do that, I become more present. Alive in the now rather than distracted by the past or daydreaming about the future.

And what does that bring? Freedom! And a release of energy (just think how much is wasted by dipping into stories about the past or future)…

Which is lucky, because I had to carry one of these bikes back perched ontop of my own. The new chapter has started. We’re just not quite there yet 😁.

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How the Goddess Lilith got me out of my funk…

How the Goddess Lilith got me out of my funk…

Meet Lilith. A Middle-Eastern goddess of abundance and fertility (she gifted humans with agriculture) as well as death and transformation. Pretty powerful, eh?

I picked this beauty from my Goddesses Knowledge Cards pack last week and she’s been perched on my laptop ever since.

Not just because of the abundance – after all, we could all do with a bit of abundance – but also because of her story.

I was feeling a bit fragile as well as angry last week (solar eclipse + heavy work load + 14 weeks of 3 small kids at home with me + pre-menstrual + trying to work out what my soul “message” was = overwhelm), so the fact that she was the first woman created and the first wife of Adam “who refused to be subordinate to him in any way” inspired me. In a just-get-out-of-your-own-head-and-start-seeing-the-bigger-picture kind of way.

Because that is my kind of feminism: refusing to be subordinate to ANYONE. Not out of defensiveness or from a place of aggression. But out of a place of self-worth. The energy is very different. Lilith honours who she is by respecting her own needs, dreams and desires. She sees these as equal to anyone else’s.

For when you are truly empowered, there is no need to put anyone else down in order to feel good about yourself. There isn’t a finite amount of “feel-good pie” which requires one to have less than the other.

We are all entitled to abundance, self-worth, success, fulfillment and happiness. Every single one of us. And wishing for it for yourself DOES NOT mean that someone else has to make do with less. There is more than enough to go round.

True empowerment comes from within. A knowing that you are unique and beautiful and a gift to the world, whatever your flaws, whatever your imperfections and deepest secrets.

And Lilith models this beautifully because she is also associated with the lotus – that gorgeous flower that blossoms out of dark, decaying earth.

The symbolism here is that Lilith therefore encourages, and challenges us, to integrate our own darkest shadows however they manifest in us. She inspires us to look at the aspects of us that we prefer to keep private because they are shameful or “not nice” – our meanness, our superiority, our unkindness, our manipulation, our viciousness for example – and accept that they are indeed part of us.

Because when we can do this, they then have less of a hold over us.  We can can control them or choose whether or not to act out upon the impulse behind them. We become aware: conscious not just instinctual.

And that leads to FREEDOM…

THIS is what I needed to be reminded of last week. When I was feeling overwhelmed, emotional and frustrated. Lilith inspired me to own all of my feelings, even the “negative” ones, to love and accept that part of myself, and then from a place of wholeness and self-worth – subordinate to no-one – to pick myself up and get on with being me. Unique and flawed and precious. Just as I am. Just as you are.

Lilith helped me see the bigger picture. I’d love to know if and how Lilith resonates with you? Let me know in the comments below! 

 

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Why some places resonate more than others…

Why some places resonate more than others…

Best thing about India: prescription medicines (without a prescription) for just a couple of pence!     Best thing about Goa: endless beaches and warm sea     New favourite treat: chick-pea flour, honey & cardamon balls     What I am loving: open-air yoga surrounded by nature     What I am over: power cuts and any form of dal     What I am missing: friendship

3 SMALL KIDS, 2 CRAZY ADULTS, 1 YEAR TO TRAVEL THE WORLD

POST 15: 7th May 2017, Goa, India. 

In my 20s, just before I went to India for the first time, I was told by an old-hand that it was impossible to visit without being changed in some way. (Or kissed by a prince). They were right on both accounts. India – the chaos, the colour, the noise and its people – activated what was lying dormant inside. (The kiss was a bonus). A friend posited more recently that India works you. It massages and manipulates your soul so that you emerge the other end a more spiritually-condensed version of yourself. I think this is also true. Indeed, it’s probably why I feel uncomfortable.

Our first three weeks in southern India were jam-packed with incredible sights, novel experiences, exotic tastes and warm people. And despite being tourists, we felt very much at home. But oddly, the opposite now seems to be the case: we are no longer tourists but don’t feel any more settled. In fact, I feel quite isolated. Firstly, because Goans seem a lot more guarded than other southern Indians – no spontaneous smiles here – and secondly, because despite living amongst a welcoming but close-knit group of expats – they refer to South Goa as a village – we are naturally (as six-week drop-ins), viewed as being on the outside. And I am jealous. I want to be on the inside! After 8 months on the road with no social network apart from my own family, I am starting to crave the nurturing that friendships provide.

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Photo caption: just a few of our local beaches 

Feeling ill at ease is also a result of the draining emotional transition I am forced to make every time we settle in one place. Because ‘exploring’ and ‘living’ require two very different kinds of psyche: during the former, I inevitably put up an invisible barrier between my little inner circle and the rest of the world. As the responsible adult, I create a sort of a safety bubble which allows us to be open but not too open, to relax but not to let go completely. We become totally self-sufficient emotionally: we must be our own entertainment and support system. Which isn’t easy. So I am proud of how, when travelling, I seem to take hardships in my stride. In fact, I even try my best to make every new place we stay in feel cosy, neat, familiar and safe, even if it’s for just one night. Low points endured heroically include cracked sinks held together (badly) with masking tape; holes in walls; cockroaches, ants and scorpions in our rooms; monkeys and snakes outside them; nowhere to unpack or put any of our stuff; interrupted sleep (howling dogs, trains, power cuts and parties); 41 degree heat with no air-con, as well as dirt and dust just about everywhere.

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Photo caption: cows are absolutely everywhere (top left); my open-air yoga shala (top right); the kids in front of their new school (bottom left); boho-chic retail (bottom right)

In a way, travelling is easy – you are free to do whatever you want to do, whenever you want to do it. Chores are outsourced (laundry, cooking, cleaning) and there is the constant thrill of being ‘entertained’. But the flip side is that this also demands a continually high input of adrenaline, and requires endless planning ahead and sorting out of logistics. This is even more the case if you have three small children under 7 that still need chaperoning in every physical, emotional and mental way possible. So forget any head space of your own: your thoughts, feelings and needs get pushed to the bottom of the pile. They are repressed until further notice. There is no time or room to give them the attention they deserve. And this has repercussions.

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Photo caption: Goa is actually much greener than I had imagined. And it’s not even rainy season yet! 

‘Living’ somewhere on the other hand, demands a different approach. It may seem like the easier option, when you’re jaded and exhausted by being on the road, but it can actually be even more stressful. There are just as many logistics to sort out – where to live? how to school the kids? how to get about? where to find provisions? And the responsibility that comes with each decision is even greater, because the consequences are long-term rather than temporary. When we decide to settle in one place, my tough exterior slowly melts and I suddenly remember that I am actually a princess! I realise that I was only able to put up with the hardships because there was the prospect of comfort in sight and now I absolutely must be surrounded by a degree of beauty in order to feel calm, happy and secure. Plus those emotional needs I shelved earlier finally come up to the surface for air. It can feel like a lot to deal with all at once.

This trip, we have explored three countries (Myanmar, Laos and India) and lived in four (Greece, Thailand, Bali and India) and each time, the transition from one to the other has left me feeling frustrated, anxious and confused. Frustrated because I naively expect some kind of respite as soon as we stop moving (which always takes longer than I would like), anxiety over whether we chose the right place to stay (what if we got it wrong? should we find elsewhere? how long do we give this place before deciding?) and then confusion because I am forced to sit – powerless – in the unknown. (Which, as an organising, controlling, perfectionist Virgo, is tough).

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Photo caption: Goan architecture (top and bottom left); our temple house (bottom right)

Being abroad is a bit like being inside a snow globe: when you are on the road, the snow gets all stirred up and when you stop in one place, it takes time for it to settle. And the most important thing I need to remember, is that until it does, it is as though I am wearing blinkers. It is impossible to see properly nor appreciate what is unique and special in the new.

The problem is, I did forget this fourth time round and was temporarily blinded when we arrived by what Goa was not: unlike Thailand and Bali’s relatively good-value luxury villas, rental stock here is limited and basic; private transport for hire is non-existent, shabby or unreliable (cars are decrepid and the tyre on our first scooter burst whilst driving to the garage to fix a puncture on our second) and supermarkets are grotty and basic. It has taken a while to get used to this.

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Photo caption: Saturday is market day when the streets are flooded with lots of fresh fish and fruit and veg (top); the school-run doesn’t get much better than this (bottom)

But now that we have been here for 3 weeks, I am finally beginning to see the beauty inherent in this particular corner of the world: the school the children are in is small, friendly and welcoming; the beaches nearby are deserted, clean and the water is warm; I have re-instated my regular yoga practise and once again, I have time to myself to meditate and process things. Hurrah!

Unfortunately however, there is one thing that the adjustment period won’t change. We arrived in off-season. Which is something I was aware of but seriously underestimated. I thought it meant low season – less tourists, a bit of daily rain and cheaper prices. I was wrong. Actually, it means that everyone leaves (locals and expats) and that everything closes. The school is dwindling in size by the day; most of the beach restaurants and cafes have already shut; yoga classes are winding up and local stores are disappearing alongside the diminishing tourist dollar. Then there is the weather: May is the hottest and most humid month of the year (oops) and June brings monsoon. Not just a daily rainstorm that clears the air but a torrential onslaught that tears down all impermanent structures and makes your clothes to go mouldy. Because this is India after all. And everything is extreme here.

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Photo caption: drying chillies (top left); our local beach shack restaurant (top right): turtle hatchery (bottom left); colourful Goan houses (bottom right)

So, whilst we originally thought we would stay until the first week of July, we have decided to move on earlier. Which is fine. Because even though I can now see the attractions of Goa and I appreciate its own, special charm, I don’t think it truly resonates with me. Probably because it is too much like me.

Whereas Ubud is supposed to be governed by feminine shakti energy, which felt nurturing, supportive and loving, Goa is supposed to be ruled by masculine shiva consciousness which is about activating the feminine energy – giving it direction, form and content – and about getting things done. And I don’t need any more pushing. I am just learning to allow. My still dominant masculine energy wants to receive and surrender, to be softened and not tamed. So my friend was right: India does work you, just not in the way I need right now…

To see where we are on a map, click here!

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On embracing our multi-passionate selves…

On embracing our multi-passionate selves…

As soon as we are of school age, we are taught to hone our skills and limit our field of interests. After assessments on 10 or so subjects aged 16, that number is quartered for our final set of exams. Next, it’s off to university to focus on one single subject followed by a career whose ideal progress is linear, direct and upwards. At this point, everything else must be excluded from public view, in case it is seen as a distraction. Why else would interviewers narrow the field by asking where you see yourself in 5 years’ time?

Thus, we are groomed by a patriarchal society to prioritise our masculine energy over our feminine. We are taught that in order to thrive, regardless of our sex, we have to adopt a logical and analytical view of the world. We learn that to get ahead, we must be fearlessly determined, single-mindedly independent and driven towards a financially-orientated definition of success.

Until recently, I was the perfect disciple: intellectually assertive, in control and busy. I saw myself as the sum total of my skills, achievements and job roles to date, not as the person behind them.

But this didn’t always come naturally. I came across my first stumbling block just after university – that weird limbo between childhood and adulthood when you do not yet know what your purpose is, nor how you should present yourself to the world. Having favoured intellectual curiosity over the emotional kind, I had no idea who I really was. The arena in which the masculine had thrived no longer existed. I was suffering from a quarter-life crisis and my existential angst was not assuaged by hearing that “the world was my oyster”. Because faced with a quagmire of potential career options and no route map to navigate it, the oyster looked pretty bleak.

What I needed was some balancing feminine energy: something to ground me, to allow me to surrender and to be flexible. But with no tools to access it nor role model to emulate, I replaced intuition with strategy, took up a seemingly random job and continued to forge ahead.

I hit another such block in my late 20s, when the masculine model revealed a few more flaws: I was exhausted of doing rather than being, of pushing rather than allowing, of always striving for a better future or lingering in the past, of not feeling enough, right now. But still ignorant of an alternative modus operandi, I again dismissed these warning signs and struggled on impervious.

It was only when I became a mother and was forced to slow down, that the once small stirrings of my neglected feminine became a clamour. Mothering in my masculine had been successful for a while (Gina Ford offers an arguably acceptable role model), but a second, less ‘pliant’ infant and a demanding toddler in tow, made me see that children need more than just the essentials: they needed my full presence, complete acceptance and constant, unconditional love. In this arena, my masculine was revealed as impotent. I had reached my mid-life crisis.

And so began a difficult but rewarding journey towards emotional and spiritual balance. I took a long, hard look at my motivations, beliefs, reactions and triggers, at the people and situations I was surrounded by and at what makes me truly happy and fulfilled. Finally I met my divine feminine: I practised reconnecting to my body and intuition, I began to allow uncomfortable feelings and I implemented self-care. I balanced my yang yoga with some yin; I carved out time to be meditative and calm, and worked on cultivating patience and gratitude.

Don’t get me wrong, life is not now miraculously easy. But it is easier. For the first time, it includes centredness, joy, fulfilment and connection. And to quote Marianne Williamson, I would much rather endure the occasional, “sharp pains of self-discovery” than the enduring, “dull pain of unconsciousness”.

These days, I try to see the world through feminine-tinted glasses: to be more collaborative, vulnerable, soft and creative; to flow with life and allow unexpected, magical things to happen in the spaces I no longer rush to fill. Instead of pigeon-holing myself into the Linked-In mindset, I have embraced my multi-faceted nature. I realise that being authentically me means revealing more than just one of my many faces; that I can navigate different paths at the same time and that these actually enrich and enhance each other.

And I also want my children to value these feminine traits –  just as highly as the masculine ones. To combine both energies in the way that best suits their unique range of skills. Which is hard. Because there are so few role models. Particularly amongst those who, like me, toed the academic party line. I can count on the fingers of one hand the women with whom I was hot-housed who are running their own, creative businesses. It seems that those who dare to step out of the intellectual matrix in order to shine their creative light, are few and far between.

For our current educational system promotes the story that the intellect and intuition/creativity are mutually exclusive and then trains you to exemplify this: the more academic you are considered to be, the more your passions are (subtly) repressed. You are taught to worship your powers of critical analysis, your prize a career that is “intellectually rigorous and rewarding”.

But what if we could be intellectually rigorous AND intuitive, driven and present, nurturing and successful? I want my kids to know that WHO they are and the WAY they are is just as important as WHAT they do.

So, I won’t ask them what they want to be when they grow up, instead I will ask them what they love to do. I will show them that they can be pulled in more than one direction. I will encourage them to be proudly multi-faceted. Because then, the world really IS their oyster…

Art by Christian Schloe

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On navigating the triggers of parenting…

On navigating the triggers of parenting…

(My latest blog has been featured on the Women’s Network. I’m super excited to be included as one of their storytellers! Click on the READ MORE link below for the entire story).

It has taken me a while to accept that life is a journey of ups and downs. Mainly because I hate being down. But whilst I would love to feel eternally connected, centred and serene, I have come to appreciate that the triggers that cause the downs in life, are actually gifts. I have learnt to see them as opportunities to restore the spiritual imbalance which is presenting itself for attention (when I am willing, that is).

Somehow though, these potential lessons always seem to catch me unawares, despite being the parent of three small kids who provide me with perfect trigger-fodder on an almost daily basis. After all, they know exactly which buttons to press, they don’t ever let up, and I’m kind of stuck with them.

Last week was a particularly bad example. I’d had enough of being greeted at the school gate with a sulk. I was really fed up with restoring the living room to its normal state after daily ‘den-building’ exercises and I was finding them particularly boisterous, demanding and ungrateful. I was also premenstrual. And as a rule, the more stressed I am, the less present I am as a parent, so I was not being particularly patient, kind nor nurturing. Which made me feel even worse.

READ MORE

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Living life in the slow lane…

Living life in the slow lane…

3 SMALL KIDS, 2 CRAZY ADULTS, 1 YEAR TO TRAVEL THE WORLD

POST 12: 27th January 2017, Ubud, Bali.   

Ever since I first backpacked around Indonesia as a fledgling 20-year-old, I have secretly wondered if I could live here full time. 21 years later and 8 weeks into our 4-month-long stay, my dream finally seems to have materialised. Leaving for a 2-day visa run to Singapore this week and realising that I really missed the Balinese vibe, only confirmed just what it is (aside from the obvious) that attracted me all those years ago.

It is the speed of life. It is so SLOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWW: here, no-one is ever in a rush; no-one is ever in a frenzy and no-one takes pride in being ‘too busy’ to stop to do something else. People talk meaningfully, they always look you in the eye and everyone’s movements are considered and deliberate. Time doesn’t seem to be measured here in quite the same way as it is in Europe; there is no notion of either ‘on time’ or ‘late’, and group as well as individual schedules are flexible whatever the ‘importance’ of the action being programmed: just as yoga classes, language lessons and even religious ceremonies often start late, pupils and adherents often turn up late. No one is fussed about a few minutes (or hours) here and there because there is no notion of missing out (on the part of the attendees) and there is no concept of disrespect (on the part of the organisers).

Here, timeliness is not a quality to aspire to so it is not considered ‘rude’ not to do so. Indeed, there hardly ever seem to be any grounds for taking offence. The Balinese live in harmony with the flow of life and accept that with flow, naturally comes flexibility.

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Photo caption: just one of the hundreds of ceremonies that take place nearly every day throughout Bali but our first as participants. This one was in honour of Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and wisdom. It was celebrated in temples across the country as well in schools – this one was held for Pelangi school parents, pupils and teachers. Needless to say, it started an hour and a quarter after the ‘scheduled’ time. 

This is also the case on the roads. There is no sense of possession over lanes and so no resulting outrage from those in the one opposite to your own if you spend too long in ‘theirs’. In fact, here, the act of overtaking takes priority over any other manoeuvre: oncoming traffic slows down to give you more time to complete it and vehicles move to the side in order to make room. Horns are used thoughtfully in warning rather than angrily to sound outrage – if you hear a ‘toot’ it is because the driver behind you is gently informing you to be careful because he is about to overtake.

The Balinese accommodate each other – slowly – and the overwhelming vibe is that of working towards harmonious balance: with one another, with nature and with the gods. Life is lived very much in the present moment. They literally embody the spiritual mantra that not only does everything have its time and place but that everything is perfect as it is. Just observing this being played out around us is calming and nourishing. So bit by bit, we too have followed suit and just as ‘busyness’ is contagious in Europe, ‘slowness’ is as infectious here. There simply isn’t any other way to be.

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Photo caption: Offerings or “canang sari” epitomise the deliberate slowness of life in Bali. Even the word itself is made up of ca – beautiful and nang – purpose as well as sari (essence). Whilst they range from the simple coconut leaf trays left daily around the house to the fantastically intricate kinds offered up on a full moon or ceremony day, they are always beautifully crafted to combine various elements that each represent a major Hindu god. Flowers (which are a symbol for sincerity and love) each represent a different deity and are placed pointing in a certain direction (white for Iswara which points to the east; red for fiery Brahma which points to the south; yellow for Mahadeva which points to the west and blue or green for cool Vishnu who points to the north). Placed on top is a stick of incense – as it burns the essence of the offering rises up to heaven. They are seen as a kind of selfless act – an offering of money and time made partly in gratitude and partly in appeasement to the potentially ‘mischeivous’ lower spirits. Equally importantly, the act of making them (always a female task) offers a chance to pause and meditate in communal creativity.  

This slow pace is particularly good for me because my natural inclination is towards the opposite: I speak fast; I react fast; I think fast; I move fast. Going from ‘a’ to ‘b’ was always a self-imposed mini challenge: how many calories could I burn in getting there? How much muscle power could I convert into accelerated motion? How late I could I leave it before setting off for the next destination thereby maximising the time allocated on whatever I was doing before? I often listened to reply instead of to understand; I used to try to fix things in order to move on rather than patiently witnessing their unfolding.

Having previously always lived in capitalist societies, whose mantra, ‘time is money’, had until now seeped insidiously into my belief system, I always thought that speed was necessary. Not only because I had so much to cram into my ‘tight’ schedule: three small kids to manage, a house and its chores to oversee, a wine events and consultancy business to run, womens’ circles to organise, blogs to write, yoga classes to attend, runs to be completed – how else could I possibly fit everything into a day? But also because I secretly loved (and still do) the adrenalin rush that comes with speed, the thrill of acceleration, the whiff of danger it exudes.

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Photo caption: family-time Balinese style. 

I thought that working in a frenzied state was not only desirable but laudable. But what I didn’t get and do now, is that acting rushed never does extend time. In fact, it usually does the opposite. And so pushing through instead of surrendering to the flow meant that I never felt that there was enough time, regardless of how fast I completed things. It also meant that I was rarely in the present, distracted instead by the ticking hand of the clock and what was next on my ‘to do’ list.

Here, on the other hand, the time at my disposal feels more spacious. I really can be a human being rather than a human doing. Bali has allowed me to slow down, to be more conscious and as a result, to tune into my intuition, heart and emotions. Now it is they that lead the show rather than my busy, cluttered state of mind.

It definitely helps that we have a weekly masseuse, that I outsource our laundry and ironing, and that there is home help who sweep the floor (yay) and make the beds (double yay – isn’t it so much more relaxing to climb into a neat bed that wasn’t made by yourself)? It also helps that the two eldest kiddies are at school with the youngest at nursery in the SAME venue, which means that for the first time in 7 years, I have one drop off, one pick up and a WHOLE DAY in between to do WHATEVER I WANT. Oh yeah!

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Photo caption: Bali’s simple, timeless pleasures are food for the soul: the sight of locals tending to their land, atmospheric sunsets, lush paddy fields and exotic beaches. 

But it is more than that. I have changed my attitude: I no longer feel guilty that someone else is doing my washing, nor that I am not the sole provider of entertainment, comfort, instruction and love for my children. Crucially, I no longer feel that it is my duty to do everything and to be everything to everyone just because I am not yet contributing enough financially to feel justified in doing my own thing. Instead, we have realised as a family, that by spending that little bit extra on outsourcing what you can, you get SO MUCH MORE. You get the extra time that would have been spent on chores of course, but you also get space. And from that stems a desire to create that comes from inspiration instead of from a self-inflicted pressure to perform. This then leads to real productivity and true abundance. I hope so anyway. I’m working on it!

I still speak fast. And think fast. But I move a bit slower and I feel less rushed inside. Now, rather than letting it annoy me, I enjoy the ‘bonus’ relaxing time that arises if a class starts later than its scheduled time; I travel in a leisurely fashion and leave more time to get to places; I have implemented a daily meditation practise (something I never felt I had the time to fit in before) and I have started to listen more actively. I have also started to breathe slower, to widen my shoulders and to open my chest (and not just in downward dog). And in finally surrendering to time, it now feels like there is so much more of it!

So the travel part of our year-long adventure has temporarily stalled – the kids and I are even learning to speak and write the local language. We have made a conscious decision to get stuck here, to explore living abroad in a slower and more meaningful way than is possible when just passing through. To quote a friend, Bali has become our ‘happy place’. And that surely, has to be something worth pausing for….

To see where we are on a map, click here!

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On restraint…

On restraint…

I’ve been reflecting a lot recently on the notion of restraint: on whether it is a concept that is positive or negative and on what would happen if we were free of it.

Restraint would have been lauded in Victorian times, I suppose; in those days it was intricately linked to dignity. But that only makes sense if you assume that deep down we are naturally feral and need to be controlled in order to be civil.

You could say that we sometimes need to apply boundaries to our behaviour because without them we would all become lazy, unfit, obese, indulgent and selfish. But I don’t share that view. I don’t think we naturally tend towards wildness or excess. I think we may need to moderate ourselves from time to time, to check-in to see whether some of our habits make long-term sense, but we don’t need restraint. Restraint means self-control; it means keeping ourselves within limits. And in my book, that’s never good.

So for me, it is a negative concept. I feel a sense of scorn when I see it written or say it out loud. Probably because I have spent so many years under its spell: feeling that I needed to restrain parts of myself (physically and emotionally) in order to fit in, in order to please others, in order not to be ‘too much’.

For example, until recently, I’ve always envied quiet, shy, retiring violets; introverts who think before they speak, or even more elusively, don’t say much at all. Because onto these types of people I could project just about anything I wished I could be. They were the ideal blank slates. I also envied them because I knew deep down that they provided the perfect antonym to my (usually) loud and intense presence.

So in order to emulate them I would use restraint. Or rather, since I’m not very good at restraint-on-the-spot as it were, I’d be BIG by mistake and then regret it (usually because I felt I was the only one in the room being quite that big) and would resort to retrospective restraint in the form of guilt, shame and self-blame: “I’ll be less direct next time, less passionate next time…”

But I don’t do that anymore. Firstly, because I saw that there was no point. I never was able to curb my bigness. And secondly because I realised that all of my self-imposed limits were based on an entirely subjective appraisal of myself and of what others might think of me.

For there are degrees of bigness. And I saw that there was no point beating myself up for being at one end of the spectrum rather than at the other. Because, the spectrum can start and finish wherever you choose it to and my judgement of what was too much or too little was equally arbitrary! I realised that I will always be louder than some people (especially in withdrawn, stiff-upper-lip, collar-buttoned-up UK) and I will always be more introvert than others (perhaps why I love Spaniards, Italians and Americans!)

Our self-perception is dependent upon the precise sector of humanity against whom we choose to compare ourselves, as well as upon the set of values we decide to attach to our bigness (or smallness or anything we pick as not being ‘good enough’). Tact, passion, discretion, restraint and assertiveness are all culturally relative: they hold different values according to the nationality, culture and social setting into which we are born.

And when I finally got this, I started allowing myself to be more authentic, more natural, less forced: I stopped depending so much on others for approval, and started caring less if I didn’t it get it. It felt GOOD. The only thing that had been stopping me was fear. Fear of accepting the unrestrained version of myself, a fear of indulging my authentic self.

And I think this is a sentiment that is far more widely held than we care to admit. We are so used to being controlled by the system, by others, by ourselves, that most of us fear what would happen if our limits weren’t in place. Because as the inspirational ‘spiritual activist’ Marianne Williamson so beautifully puts it in the oft-quoted passage from her book: “our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”

So to this end, I would like to propose a New Year’s experiment: what if we each had as our aim this coming year to feel good rather than to be conventional? What if we each took up our unique niche on the beautiful, far-ranging scale of bigness with pride instead of timidity or shame? What if we ditched the restraint and let ourselves be as big as each of us is meant to be? As messy and naturally responsive as our bodies and emotions allowed?

Just imagine if we could all commit to becoming a little more authentic this year. Because ultimately, authenticity leads to acceptance that each of us comes in different flavours, shapes, tones and volumes. And that each is as perfect as the other. Now wouldn’t that be awesome and worthwhile?

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Artwork: Christian Schloe

On clearing and cleansing…

On clearing and cleansing…

I have been working for a while now on feeling “enough”: that I am indeed enough, just as I am, in all my glorious imperfection. Sometimes I get it and feel pretty invincible. Other times I lapse into believing the myth of fragmentation – that I can only feel whole with the input from someone or something else; a myth that is dangerously comforting in its familiarity.

And whilst signing up for a My Word Goddess Reading for 2017, I thought I’d take another look at this year’s. Last December, I was introduced to the Goddess ISIS. My word for the year was REMEMBER. Both were incredibly on point. Because, just as Isis is famous for, over the course of 2016 I have been re-membering my true self as well as remembering who I was always meant to be. The year has been about subtraction, about shedding the falsely acquired beliefs and habits to unearth the divine blue print beneath.

Not only does Isis tell us that we were never broken, that we have always been perfect and whole, but she also embodies the empowered feminine and the capacity to feel deeply. She therefore reminds us to acknowledge and accept the depth of our emotions. She also shows us how to create the life we desire rather than simply opposing what we don’t like – she creates as well as renews.

So yesterday when I woke up feeling I had had enough of not feeling enough and that it was perhaps exactly this comforting familiarity which was preventing me from moving on, I decided to channel my goddess, Isis, and to take action. To ‘feel deeply’ and to acknowledge and accept my emotions by finally giving a voice to my mind gremlins. This is something I find very hard to do. So I indulged them, and wrote out one big, fat list of “I am not…..enough”. It pretty much extended into every aspect of my life: intellectual, emotional, spiritual, physical. It wasn’t pretty reading. But the exercise felt perversely good – I was clearing out the mistaken beliefs, releasing them from my head, consciously disowning them.

Next I wrote out the exact opposite (with a little heart after each for good measure). Again I took the lead from Isis, creating what I want in life rather than just opposing what I don’t like. And to seal out the crap and draw in the good, I did some EFT or ‘tapping’. (This is a new tool to me which I was introduced to by the Law of Attraction guru, Natalie Jenkins. As I recently learnt on one of her online courses, it can be used both to release and clear mistaken beliefs, as well as to assist in manifesting affirmations. I did both.)

The universe was clearly working in harmony with me yesterday because the focus for that afternoon’s restorative yoga class was clearing and cleaning out anything that no longer served us. And that night? The almightiest rainstorm I have ever witnessed! A spectacular light and sound show that lasted for about four hours, wiping out all of the power in the house and vicinity as though commanding us to watch, enthralled and humbled.

Drawn to its magnificent energy – watching didn’t feel like enough – I had a sudden urge to get in it, to be at one with this natural and cleansing spectacle. So I stripped off and stood under the heavens with hands raised upwards to receive and legs rooted in the shallow pool that used to be the lawn. I allowed myself to be soaked and purified by the incredible downpour; I roared in harmony with the thunder as the trees around me bent forwards in submission to the mighty power of the storm. It was AWESOME.

And the best thing of all? My two girls, aged 7 and 5, came to join me. Well after their official bedtime. Here we were, three naked humans in the dark, in the howling wind and torrential rain, unleashing and merging our feminine voices in response to the thunderous masculine. We shared our natural wildness in a moment of pure, uninhibited joy, communing with the tremendous forces of Gaia.

It is the unbridled and serendipitous moments like this one that remind me that clearing blockages doesn’t always have to be laboured. When you’ve done the hard work, then comes the fun. I’m so glad I indulged myself and allowed the girls to join in. It was a rare, spontaneous bonding experience that none of us will forget in a hurry.

And just in case yesterday’s monumental efforts of journalling, affirmations, EFT, yoga and a family rain dance didn’t do the trick, I have consciously chosen to release the notion of unworthiness from my life this December. To let go of lack and of the sense of not being enough. After all, they’ve had more than their piece of the pie. It’s time to move on. Next year is about feeling WHOLE, PERFECT, ENOUGH.

And so I turn to YOU – if you had something you wanted to release, what would it be? What have you had enough of? What sentiment is no longer serving you? How can you move one step closer to being the best possible version of yourself?

With the Solstice taking place in the Northern hemisphere tomorrow and Xmas and New Year round the corner, now is the time to start preparing to let go of mistaken beliefs, those that are no longer yours to carry. Being witnessed in your intent only magnifies it, so go on, please join me in conscious transitioning into 2017, and share what it is that you want to release in the comments below. Let’s make this end of year a powerful one! You owe it to yourself…

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Art by Christian Schloe

On connecting…

On connecting…

Yesterday’s yoga class was about staying connected. It was my first proper Yin class as opposed to a restorative one, and jeez, was it tough! We started by sitting on our knees with our toes bent back underneath us. I have only ever done this once before in a pregnancy yoga class designed to help you “get used to” the agony that is labour. In actual fact, whilst it may be a technique that works to great effect in Thailand where it originated, it did nothing of the sort for me. It is a pose with which I do not wish to get more acquainted.

The following one – pigeon (or sleeping swan as our Aussie teacher called it, held for over 5 minutes each side in order to help us “melt into it”) – was not to be taken lightly either. My contorted body resembled neither that of a pigeon nor a swan, sleeping or awake. As a distraction from the pain, I focused on the theme for the class and the reason behind this particular series of asanas: that the increasingly common sense of emptiness we are all prone to feeling (which is encouraged by our consumerist, capitalist societies – after all, you will only buy yet more stuff if you think you ‘need’ it to feel whole), is the result of a disconnect with our earth element.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Image: Christian Schloe