The Sacred Centre

sharing – daring – caring – writing from the heart

Category: The good Life

That New Year Feeling

As the end of the year drew closer I felt inspired to create a new vision board for the New Year.

I thumped through pages and pages of magazines with beautiful photos and inspiring quotes, following a feeling that I had for the New Year. It is a humbling feeling, much calmer and peaceful than the past couple of years. I will be finishing university in the summer and am looking forward to resting during the latter half of the year. And I have achieved quite a fair amount in the past year. New opportunities have opened, my role at work has changed fundamentally and I as a person have equally grown and changed. Now I feel the need to take some time to adapt to those changes, to re-centre and find my save ground again on which I can stand and feel safe while I figure out what kind of person I am now.

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“Be the change you want to see in the world.” Ghandi – Dreaming, waking, sleeping, devoting. – This is it (Thich Nhat Hanh). – “Be present where you are.”

The end result of ripping through magazine pages was the above vision board. I felt the need to use my native language German for it, something that I have not done so far. It was this Christmas that I had seen most of my family in Germany, some of whom I hadn’t seen for six or more years. It made me more aware again about my roots and my origin.

There had been a rift within our family for a few years and for Christmas my brother and I had written “Love Letters” to family members based on Thich Nhat Hanh. The idea is that when we acknowledge the good in others it might not only help them see it too but it might also break down old habits and create change where there had been old patterns preventing communication between individuals. It partially worked and we sincerely believe that whatever seed we planted with this that it now can grow until the time is right.

The small circle of “This is it” on the collage is also from Thich Nhat Hanh representing the arrival in the present moment where one only breathes and smiles. It goes together with the big yellow  “Be present where you are”, to fully emerge and participate in every moment. This leads me onto the many roses on my collage which I felt really drawn to. I have plans to plant some more roses next year and I would like to have plenty of time to “smell the roses”.

“Be the change you want to see in the world” by Gandhi will be my mantra for the next year. Instead of preaching to simply be what I believe in. For me this notion is a much calmer and more humbling perspective than my last few years of actively breaking down convention to create positive change.

The big Buddha face in the centre is a painting by a lady called Maurah and it simply spoke to me with it’s calm presence and air of “this is it”. The smaller Buddha figure underneath holds the teaching mudra, which is another aspect that I feel drawn to in my life. To live and teach by example, not only by theory but by practice.

Dreaming, waking, sleeping, devoting – going for a welly boot walk by the sea, following the never ending circle of life. To arrive within myself, to breathe, to smile, to walk slowly. It  surely sounds like a beautifully mellow 2015 😉

Happy New Year to you all!

Love
Anna

Beyond Words

Writing for me is coupled with emotions, an urge to express myself and my feelings, something that can often be difficult to put into words. However, the process of finding words to describe emotions has been hugely beneficial in that it made me look at myself and help me understand the connections between my feelings and the way I react to them. Often I found myself looking for more information on topics I was writing about and even learned a thing or two on the way.

And I can certainly say that I have changed a great deal since I began writing a couple of years ago, even believe that the writing process helped me to lay some issues from the past at rest. After the initial burp of endless blog posts I have calmed down a little. As if I have found my inner peace at last. I don’t seem to get outraged so much no more, often don’t even feel like writing about thoughts that pop up. I find myself smiling at them and watch them flutter away like butterflies.

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Reading through some of my past blog posts I find a lot of wisdom and am often surprised at the almost accidental knowledge and insights that I unearth while writing. Whether anyone else has benefitted from my posts I won’t know for sure, but I am greatly reassured by the vast knowledge that is seemingly hidden within me, be it inspired from a higher source or simply just hidden from view, only available when the present moment requires it.

Recently I have become very angry and upset with the electronic developments of our time. What good are they to humanity in the long run, especially since we are depleting the planet of its natural resources to fund them. We’re getting way too dependent on them and won’t be able to live without them, which makes me very sad. I got so angry with Facebook and mobile phones that I came to the point where I silently made the decision to cut any electronic related hassle out of my life. I even refused to write another blog. Easier said than done. Because how can I condemn all the other users of electronic gadgets but still use it myself? And where was all the anger coming from anyway?

The funny insight came after I had calmed down a little and I realised how threatened I felt by a device or system that wasn’t actually posing any direct threat to me. It was just my own dissatisfaction with the development of machines and the thoughtless use of consumers using them that upset me. Once I had acknowledged that I took a deep breath, dropped the anger and allowed for the clever gadgets to co-exist without interrupting my peace of mind. For it is presently not within my capacity to prevent humanity from using any electronic equipment and revert to prehistoric living standards. All I can do is find my own peace of mind and live a happy life which maybe others will take note of and begin to make small changes themselves. The secret is to take advantage of today’s clever gadgets with a mindful approach but to not be sucked into their mindless maze of activities and waste precious present moments of your life.

Ask yourself: Am I taking a photo or am I living the moment?

It is so important to find peace of mind, and yet so difficult to actually achieve it. Years of practice doesn’t sound promising to most and albeit it is necessary if you want to permanently achieve mental calmness, so the process starts with the very first minute that you simply close your eyes and take a deep breath. Note the thoughts that arise, smile at them and let them move on with the wind and the clouds. If a persistent thought won’t leave you in peace, maybe consider writing about it and find out what it tries to tell you.

Happiness is a peaceful mind, not a Facebook update 😉

Love
Anna

When Happiness Returns

Suddenly I felt this pure happiness wafting through my body. Like as if a window had been opened in a stuffy room to let the fresh spring air in and awaken the sleeping mind. I admit it had been a while since I last felt it. We’re probably talking a good 5 years. My goodness, what had happened that I spent all that time semi-unhappy?

What kept me going those past years was that last memory of a sunny morning that I woke up early in my little studio flat, refreshed after sleeping sound through the night, went for a run along the seafront and settled with a good read on the sofa. I had a little patio on which I grew as many vegetables as possible in pots, even a little apple tree. And I felt happy, really happy. And ever since have I tried to get back to feeling happy just like that.

The decline followed on after a big depression which was the result of an emotionally abusive relationship, the shockwaves of which would follow me around more or less for most of those years. The foundation was fear. The fear of either living a life under the control of someone, which I didn’t want or living with the consequences of leaving the confines of control and be subject to harassment. I chose to break free but from then on didn’t sleep properly, couldn’t eat properly, got an adrenaline rush every time I heard a noise outside or spotted someone in the streets that looked like my ex and my menstrual cycle was all over the place as well. This naturally is a disaster recipe for unhappiness.

I have come a long way since then and sensing that glimpse of happiness made me realise how much work I had done on myself and on my surroundings. It would be great to assume that happiness is something that is freely available, but I don’t think it is. And it may also be interpreted differently by everyone. What happiness is to you might not be happiness to the person next to you.

Opening up to a new partner was hell for me and I only got through it because he was so patient and understanding, something I will be eternally grateful for. What I have learned over the past years is that if a relationship has no mutual respect and understanding for both parties, neither will be happy and sometimes the only way to be happy is to get out, however hard it may be.

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Sometimes you have to make sacrifices to find lasting happiness. This means to give up something you like or release people from your life who get you down. My sacrifice was to move in with my new partner into a small second floor flat along a main road to safe money for a better place. There were always people shouting and suspicious groups of people hanging out outside and I missed my connection to nature and to grow my veg. Together with my fear of commitment based on my last experience this meant another dip in spirits. But now I have been rewarded with a lovely little house and beautiful garden in a really quiet area with views onto the magnificent green hills of the South Downs. And here it was that suddenly my happiness perked up. Totally and completely 100% undiluted happiness.

“WOW”

My menstrual cycle is still a bit out of sync but thanks to acupuncture treatments as well as my own applied acupressure, healing, meditation and yoga I’m not as affected mentally, the ups and downs of which were the biggest obstacle to happiness. Food is also still an ongoing battle because I find that there are more and more things my body reacts to with tiredness, fatigue, aches and pains.

So, to keep your spirits up and be truly happy it is crucial to be with people who appreciate and value you, who listen to you and who understand who you are and what makes you tick. To release people from your life that cause you unhappiness isn’t an easy one. When I was in that situation I read somewhere that by raising your own happiness, to be yourself, to not let yourself get down and to surround yourself with people who contribute to your happiness will quite likely lead to the natural disappearance of those who don’t contribute to your happiness. The Law of Attraction says that you get more of what you put out. It sort of worked like that for me. We’re all annoying at times, we all have our ups and downs, but if you can reflect on yourself and acknowledge those around you, to laugh with them and sometimes even without them on your own, just for the sheer joy of it, then you will have found happiness.

If you then support yourself and others with a simple diet that is full of fresh ingredients, swapping common sugar with natural sweeteners (read my “Sugar Hangover Diaries” if you would like to know more) and enjoyed with “gusto” you will find that your body will be a good vehicle from which to shine your light of happiness. We well and truly are what we eat and food has a big effect on us, how we feel, how we act, how we present ourselves, which I belief isn’t nearly given as much attention as it deserves. We’re all such individual personalities that one rule doesn’t fit all of us. So what I find important is that you figure out who you are, what you need to be truly happy and to give you more of what you need, not only in food but also in people around you and the space you live in. It all starts with the simple thought of what you want.

You can change and create your life just how you want it. Down to the very T 🙂

Love
Anna

The Extrovert Detox

I was born an introvert, quiet, highly sensitive to my surroundings with the purpose of changing the world for the better. These might be at odds and you might wonder how a quiet introvert can possibly take on the challenge of changing the world. The answer lies in the adaptability of life, the life choices I make and the actions I take on the way.

Being highly sensitive means that I take in more than others of clues and information that I encounter every single waking minute of my life. At night I have vivid dreams that seem to overcompensate for the quiet life I choose to live. Because of my highly sensitive nature I can often feel overwhelmed. A simple conversation or group activity can leave me feeling mentally exhausted and ready to hide somewhere alone, just to try and recuperate.

Being like that, however, also has its positives. It means that I spend more time thinking and evaluating what I encounter. I read more, learn more, study more. A self-confessed know-it-all, this is the best preparation to challenge the world to change its thinking. Mainstream doesn’t work with me, not very often anyway. I tend to question, wanting to know the whys and hows and what ifs. Often this approach hasn’t gotten me very far in discussions with others because they either couldn’t understand the complexity of my question or didn’t know the answer. All too often I was told not to ask such silly questions.

Self-doubt has been, and still is with me most days. But again, it helps to evaluate myself, my behaviour and the reactions from others. One might say that it is a lonely path I chose, an idealistic freedom fighter on the way to unknown territory. The fact that only about 20% of the world population is introvert makes it harder for us to prove our validity and to explain why we choose quiet solitude over crowded parties. The majority of people loves to go out clubbing and listen to loud music and to talk exuberantly as if there was no tomorrow. And they have come to understand that most people like that sort of thing. That’s what today’s mainstream marketing is aiming at. At the extrovert fun and action loving people.

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This makes it even harder for introverts to stand up for themselves and say it is okay to be like I am, because all through their life have they been told that it is not. That they were too quiet, that they were geeky, that they were boring together with plain weird and not worth wasting time on. But if you ever spent that time on that quiet person in the corner, you will not only find a really interesting personality but also a friend for life that you can trust and who will listen deeply, offering good advice and who would will inspire you to be more like them and less like the actual boring drunken people who scream and shout before stripping off and jumping naked into the pool. I suppose it adds a little excitement to your life if that’s what you need.

Evaluative question: why am I writing about this? Maybe because I feel so misunderstood by society. My whole life have I played some strange copy of Jekyll and Hyde in a weak attempt to adapt to people around me. And whereas there were times when I enjoyed drinking and exhausting laughter I remember mostly that this were times where I wasn’t truly myself. But it is a long and arduous trek to accept that you are simply different and don’t want to play this game no more.

I have all but given up table sugar and changed my diet to a great deal to avoid food groups that I don’t agree with, which was a battle of its own. And I am now ready to give up on that false reality of pretending to be extrovert and wholly accept my introvert and sensitive nature and not so much avoid extrovert groups but more so make choices to participate in activities that I feel happy with and to not just do what others expect of me because it suits their idea of fun.

There have already been times where I declined going for a drink or to a club and had to undergo the exhaustive discussion to explain why I didn’t feel like it without offending anyone. I was often lost for words. The more true to myself I become, the less I begin to worry about the complexity of words. A gentle smile, a grateful word a gentle decline. Not a problem, if you learn how to.

This whole topic on introversion and high sensitivity have been much clearer to me after reading the book “Quiet” by Susan Cain and “The Highly Sensitive Person” by Elaine Aron. It was almost as if I was reading books about myself. All the confusion about who I was and who I was supposed to be settled and merged into a much stronger version of my quiet self. “Quiet” even explained that it is possible to grow out of being shy and to adapt a much more dominant mannerism, something that I had already observed in myself.  The more you practice something that causes you stress, the more your nervous system, particularly the amygdala, will calm down.

Reading this reaffirmed to me that it is indeed possible as an introvert to conquer the world. When I was younger people said about me that I was shy. I didn’t like it, but not knowing the difference between being shy and being a highly sensitive introvert I accepted my shyness, maybe even hid behind it at times when I couldn’t be bothered to do something. In recent years, however, have I morphed into this outspoken individual that reaches for as many stars as she can reach and doesn’t stop at a barrier. Instead she carefully dissembles any barrier and carries on with her quest to the infinite answer.

The important clue in this is that you can do anything, however shy or introvert you may be, as long as you are standing up for something that is close to your heart. It’s almost like as if your heart itself will give you extra power to succeed. Try it! The next time you have to do that presentation or lead that talk or whatever else it may be that makes you feel insecure and causes you to go blank and trip over your tongue, make sure there is something in that talk that really inspires you and that you feel will create a positive change in the listeners. And don’t forget to breathe, as this is vital for your brain function 😉

Read my associated posts on “Seeking Solitude in a Loud World” and “Dizzy Bliss vs Forgetfulness“.

To a happy and quiet life!

Love
Anna

What makes you Happy?

The question is not whether to believe or not believe, or whether one religion is more true than another, or whether confession is going to make you a better person, or if there is a life after death…

The simple truth is that we all strive for some form of happiness.

For some this may mean a big family, others prefer a nomadic existence in isolation. A child gazing up to a balloon, an athlete winning a gold medal, getting that job, laying at the beach in the sun. There are those that want to earn loads of money to live a splendid life when they retire and those who have learned that possessions alone don’t bring about happiness.

Another simple truth may be that most people don’t intend to cause harm, they just don’t know that what they do is bad because they either grew up believing it is acceptable or can only see the benefit for themselves and lack the insight necessary to see that their benefit may harm others. Apart from a few psychopaths who really simply don’t care.

And among all these questions – polarities – of what is considered right and wrong and who actually decides who is right or wrong, lets just decide we are neither right nor wrong, we simple follow different ways to our very own happiness, which are all acceptable, as long as they don’t harm anyone else.

“When the thought of someone’s decapitated head upsets you, that is love”

it says in the silly movie “The Dictator”. Silly, and slightly wrong, yet quite true in view of our universal responsibility, which I had previously mentioned here.

As Raimon Panikkar put it so aptly:
Our responsibility is based on the response we give to ourselves, to our being, because our being is constitutively related to all other beings. We have responsibility towards others (legal) and to ourselves (ethical). We are not just responsible for our actions but also for our thoughts.

The seat of our responsibility lies not in the good or bad example we set, not in the good or bad effect we have on others, but in our very being. The seat is inside us, it is ourselves. Aware of our intrinsic responsibility in our very being, we do not frantically run to influence other people or “convert” them to our ways by extrinsic means. Instead it is the purity of heart that counts and the transparency of our lives.”

With that in mind I breathe in deeply and breathe out unhindered, cherishing the moment, the pure act of air entering and leaving my body, being grateful to be able to sit, walk, smile, knowing that I am an incredible individual with many talents.

These talents of mine don’t need to be forced onto the world. They merely exist inside of me to filter trough the masses as and when needed. Timing is crucial, as a mere demonstration of a talent could be misunderstood and lead to confusion in those who are not yet ready to learn from it.

When you learn to follow your breath, you will intrinsically know the right timing and be in tune with the universal ebb and flow of life.

Ultimate happiness lies in the breath of the present moment. Here I dwell in serene calmness and smile as I watch the world go by.

There is way too much noise and information out there. Put aside your phone for a moment, switch off the telly, close the iPad and stop the music. Listen, breathe, smile. Close your eyes and simply be.

And it is okay not to talk about it on Facebook 😉

Love
Anna

Smile Breathe Walk

The first thing I learned about mindfulness was that it is important to smile at yourself, to smile at your thoughts, to breathe and to walk. “If you can do these things, you will be happy”, said the sister at Plum Village.

The practice of mindfulness can bring a little more ease into our everyday life. Breathing deeply  and following the natural flow of our breath in and out of our body for a few minutes is a simple tool to arrive in the present moment, to feel calm and be at peace with yourself.

Calligraphy by Tich Nhat Hanh

A brilliant help on the path of mindfulness is the mindfulness bell. Any kind of sound – a bell, ringing phone, door bell, beeping car – can be utilised to bring our awareness back to our breath and most importantly, to drop those tight shoulders. Common side effects include no more neck pain, a serene happiness and reduced anxiety.

If you would like to make use of the mindfulness bell you can use this clever gadget that you can install on your computer, or run via your web browser and that you can set to a preferred time or let it surprise you at random. www.mindfulnessdc.org/bell/index.html

My singing bowl – the perfect mindfulness bell!

I even extended the idea of using any sound to bring me back to the present moment to someone screaming outside, which used to infuriate me, but has now become a reason for me to simply focus on my breathing and to smile. Believe it or not, I actually sleep through most of the midnight screamers now. Pure bliss 🙂

By living more consciously aware of yourself and your surroundings you can arrive in the present moment any time. Another tool is the practice of slow walking, or walking meditation. Walking not to get somewhere but simply to walk for the sake of walking, breathing, smiling, slowing down and giving the present moment a chance to catch up with you.

Brothers and sisters walking slowly at Plum Village, France

I quite often walk along our seafront in Eastbourne, UK at low tide and decided I am going to invite others along to share the practice of mindfulness and help them to slow down a little and become more peaceful.

So if you live somewhere around Eastbourne, UK, or are planning to visit, and would like to join me on a mindful low tide walk, follow me on Facebook or Twitter where I will announce when I will be going. This will be very sporadic, whenever I am free and it happens to be low tide, and quite likely on a short term notice.

The walk will be very slow and in silence, but there will be a little time after and before for questions. Make sure you are there at least 5 minutes before the time stated, I will not wait. As a meeting point I suggest the old fountain outside of Fusciardie’s Ice Cream Parlour. I like to walk barefoot, and like to encourage others to do the same, but feel free to wear wellies or water proof shoes if it would make you feel more comfortable. There is absolutely no charge, besides, air is free to breathe as well 😉

However, if you wish to donate something, I am collecting for urgent maintenance and repair work in Plum Village, aiming to send all donations over in December as a Christmas present.

Bell Tower and Lotus Pond at Plum Village, France

Plum Village was established over 30 years ago, and time is passing which means that there are cracks in the walls and boards falling from the ceilings (yes it came down right outside my room door 🙂 ). There also are a lot of Government regulations and expectations to live up to, and if things don’t improve, Plum Village will not be able to take any more visitors, which would be a great loss. It is such a tranquil place of peace and calm, which also supports many Vietnamese living under very poor conditions in Vietnam.

If you are unable to join me in Eastbourne, why not practice on your own. Walk slowly, breath deeply and smile to yourself 😉

Enjoy living and breathing in the present moment!

Love
Anna

Linseed Tea

Why linseed tea? Because it’s good for ya 😉

I wanted it to be part of our Mini Retreats as a way to introduce others to its soothing and rehydrating properties. Most people know the small brown or golden linseeds and may have used linseed oil as a supplement to replenish their omega-3 levels, but not many have heard of it as tea.

I came across it first in Barbara Wren’s book “Cellular Awakening“, which addresses the natural healing processes of our bodies on a cellular level. A very interesting read! “The founding principle of cellular awakening is that any kind of stress is registered on the water component of the body as dehydration.” So stress registers in the body as dehydration and dehydration also causes stress in the body. This can become a vicious circle, hence the importance to keep our body hydrated. According to Barbara it is our colon that registers dehydration which is why we need to give this part of the body the clear message that we are hydrated. Our diet needs to be hydrating and reassuring to our colon.

This is what linseed tea does. It covers the intestinal walls with a mucous layer that acts similar to absorbent gel in hanging flower baskets which catches the water so that it doesn’t just run out when the soil is very dry. It gives the plant a chance to rehydrate by slowly giving the water back, which is the same as what the layer of linseed does to your intestinal walls.

Our body consists to about 70% of water, of which our brain alone is 80% water. If the brain isn’t hydrated enough we can’t function properly. Just like the brain can’t survive long without oxygen. Water itself is incredibly receptive to outside influences. This is addressed in our sound healing, which is also part of our retreat and which I have also written about. Check out Dr Masaru Emoto’s experiments with water!

Dehydration changes our body pH, which in turn makes us more acidic which then makes us more prone to illnesses. Sugar, which I am lecturing about a lot, also has a dehydrating effect on the body. If you can’t live without sugar yet, try at least to cut it down. You will feel much better straight away!

At first I thought that the taste of linseed tea was rather odd, but the more I drank, the more I cherished it, together with a plumper skin, less blemishes, less food cravings, a soothed intestinal tract and less reactions to my common food intolerances. It also helps to balance my blood sugar levels.

How to make your own linseed tea:
For 1 three day batch of tea.

1. Take 2 TBSP linseeds on 1 litre of water.

2. Bring to the boil, take off heat, leave to stand covered for 12 hours or overnight.

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Soak those seeds!

3. Bring to the boil, gently simmer for one hour and then strain off the seeds.

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Strain that gloop!

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Gloopy seeds – so much fun! 🙂

4. The fluid should now be a nicely gloopy consistency. That’s the bit that will help rehydrate your colon! The seeds can go on a compost if you have one, otherwise in the bin.

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Get that kettle boiling!

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Pour in the gloop!

5. Fill about  1/4 of your mug with the thickened fluid and top it up with hot water to make tea. You may want to use less of the thickened fluid if it is very thick because it can be a strange sensation trying to gobble it down 😉

Enjoy your tea and rehydrate!

6. Drink a cup of linseed tea about three to four times a day. Best is half an hour before a meal to prepare your gut.

7. Use and store remaining thickened fluid in an air tight container in the fridge for up to three days, after which it will go off and taste funny.

A little bit on the seed itself: Linseed, also called flaxseed, is a food and fibre crop which grows in the cooler regions of the world. Until the nineteenth century, flax was predominantly used to produce cloth before cotton took over, although the fibres in flax are twice as strong. Linseed oil is not only very nutritious but also used in paints, varnishes, linoleum and printing inks. It is native to the area stretching from the eastern Mediterranean to India. A discovery of spun, dyed, and knotted wild flax fibres in a prehistoric cave in the Republic of Georgia shows that the plant was already in use by humans around 30,000 BC.

Both brown and golden linseeds have similar nutritional values and omega-3 fatty acids. You can either enjoy the seeds sprinkled directly over your muesli or in home made bread and obviously as tea. Excessive consumption of flax seeds with inadequate water is said to cause bowel obstruction. It is considered to have antioxidant and cancer-preventing properties and is used as a nutritional supplement because of its high levels of α-Linolenic acid (a particular form of omega-3 fatty acid).

Discover what linseed tea has in store for you! Either try making it yourself or come and sample it at one of our Mini Retreats!

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If you like to take part in a Mini Retreat in Eastbourne, UK, get in touch! Check out the dates for our retreats in 2013.

 

Peacocks and the year 11

Led by a sales sign, I was drawn into Monsoon, the shop with the most beautiful, and unfortunately most expensive, clothes on our high street. Technically, I hate shopping. Particularly when there is a sale on. I just don’t like people ramming into me, standing in my way and generally overloading me with their stressed-out energy.

Anyhow, Monsoon convinces me of the better and I spend a good two hours rafting through the sales racks and disappearing in the changing room at least three times with my arms loaded with colourful cloths. Their colours and patterns are simply mesmerizing. I ended up with a tunic that had a peacock feather print on it and my inner child rejoiced at the look of it. My inner critic announced steadfast that it was way too tacky, but I followed my first instinct and took it home at a third of the original price. Bargain!

Monsoon tunic

That something so mundane and yet beautiful can make you so happy … particularly after previously having talked about detachment from worldly possessions… But this is a different sensation. It is once again anchored in childhood, chasing peacocks around a park, crawling around in bushes in hunt for just one valuable iridescent feather and a well-known German children’s song comes to mind. It’s about a marriage between two birds. I remember acting out the song with my whole class, all in bird’s costumes, I believe it was in second or third grade. Accordingly, it is the part in the song with the peacock that I am humming. Was I the peacock at the school play? My memory forsakes.

I decided I would wear the dress on my thirties birthday party next month which feels like a very special time in my life. Besides the big 3-0 being an important point of adulthood for me, numerologically, I am coming out from a year one (new beginnings) and instead of carrying on with the obvious year two (cooperation and balance), I am entering a special master number 11 year which is all about great prospects, opportunities and big rewards.

The last time I encountered a year 11, unbeknown to the number, I took my first flight ever and jetted to New Zealand on my own to see the bottom of the world. Four months later, I moved out from my mum’s house for the first time and changed my previous career in graphic design to study foreign languages. The one before that brought with it a chance encounter that sparked my interest in esotericism which would lay the foundations for my future in healing. So I can only faintly envisage what this year will have in store for me. Until the foreseeable future, or until I’m 66 at least, there will be a master year 11 every 9 years. I only ever had a normal year 2 when I was 3. I am currently covered by sheets of papers with loads of numbers written neatly underneath each other in an attempt to find out why there are so many years 11 but no year 22, in proper “The Number 23” style 🙂

Maybe I will have figured it out by the time I turn 66. Could you do me a favour and see how many 11 years you have in your lifetime? Just add together your birthday plus the running year (day+month+year e.g. 14+12+2011) and reduce the numbers until you have a number from 1 to 9. If any random number on the way happens to reduce to 11 or 22, note the year and let me know! I would be soo interested!

And what is the symbolism behind the peacock? It not only brings me back to India, where it is originally from, but also shows vanity as much as pride, beauty, awakening, protection, immortality and renewal. The peacock is sacred in India and is also considered to be a symbol of good-luck.

Love
Anna

The New Year’s Runners

On Sunday I woke up early and since there was a beautifully serene atmosphere outside, I decided to go for an early walk, aiming to forego the masses of Sunday walkers usually about on the seafront at the end of the week. Yet, at 8.45 am I encountered hordes of runners in bright coloured garment, who probably thought the same as me. I might be terribly tactless, possibly even a hypocrite, for I once was one of them, when I refer to at least 60% of them as “New Year’s Runners”. It is really quite obvious compared to the rest of the year.

Bless them, they are clearly trying to get back into shape after all the treats and indulgence that Christmas had on offer, by totally overworking their bodies to achieve something, they just aren’t prepared for physically. You can find the single experienced runner cutting through the crowd like a razor blade. Then there is the single de-oxygenated runner, near the verge of cardiac arrest. There is the pair runners, one starting out, one training the other. Support groups, three leading, five mingling in the middle, chatting and laughing out of breath, one trailing behind, unable to talk. The ladies’ duet, middle-aged women committing to each other’s endurance, one only as strong as the other. And lastly the pretend runner, looking extra efficient when passing by, yet dying to collapse on the floor but not wanting to look like a weak fool in front of the others. Well, that was probably just me.

Why did I begin to run one year in January? Because I wanted to be fit so I could run away really fast in case my ex would live up to his threats and would come after me. And also because I was hoping to apply for the police where I would have to pass a fitness test. How long did it last? With varying commitment way into the year after. I just don’t really like running. I started kickboxing instead. Not at New Year’s though, I hasten to say 🙂

I’m sure that every single New Year’s Runner has their very own dreams and ideas which gives them the incentive to start running. Just why do we tend to do it on New Year’s?

Caesar instituted January 1 as the first day of the year in 46 B.C, partly to honor the month’s namesake “Janus”, the Roman god of beginning, in an attempt to bring the calendar back into sync with the sun after some changes that had occurred over the past centuries.

But the tradition of New Year’s celebrations is actually said to date back as much as 4000 years to the ancient Babylon, which celebrated the first new moon after the spring equinox as the start of the new year. They celebrated the cutting of barley (Akitu), their sky god Marduk and also crowned a new king during that time.

As the different calendars in different cultures changed around the world, the day of the new year was typically linked to an agricultural or astronomical event. In Egypt, for instance, the year began with the annual flooding of the Nile, which coincided with the rising of the star Sirius. The first day of the Chinese new year, meanwhile, occurred with the second new moon after the winter solstice. In medieval Europe, Christian leaders temporarily replaced January 1 as the first of the year with days carrying more religious significance, such as December 25 (the anniversary of Jesus’ birth). Knights took the “peacock vow” at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry. It was Pope Gregory XIII who reestablished January 1 as New Year’s Day in 1582, the start of the calendar as we know it now. www.history.com/topics/new-years

These calendars are still not exact. Nor is time. Humanity has simply tried to coin a point in time (read my blog on “The Funny Thing About Age“). In order to realign the Roman calendar with the sun, Julius Caesar actually had to add 90 extra days to the year when he introduced his new Julian calendar. The motivation for the Gregorian reform was that the Julian calendar assumes that the time between spring equinoxes is 365.25 days, when in fact it is almost 11 minutes shorter. This results in a drift of about three days every 400 years. At the time of Gregory’s reform there had already been a drift of 10 days since Roman times, resulting in the spring equinox falling on 11 March instead of the ecclesiastically fixed date of 21 March. Because of the connection with Easter in the Roman Catholic Church, this steady movement in the date of the equinox was undesirable. (The Mayan Calendar also didn’t really match ours … I leave this clever person to tell you all about it 🙂 http://jameswatt.me/2012/03/07/mayan-calendar-and-the-gregorian-leap-year/)

And again I’m asking: Why do we start with new resolutions on January 1st? It might well be that we just follow the crowd and adapt to regional customs. Personally, however, I wonder, how much influence the small amounts of extra daylight has, that has slowly been trickling into our life since the winter solstice. But even more so do I personally want to make you aware of the influence of personal shifts and developments.

Besides personal life changing experiences, there are different theories about how our character is affected by certain life cycles of development. For example there is a seven year cycle, which doesn’t only include the complete change of the cells in our body, but also comprises of the understanding that we change mentally, evolve, mature and possibly even change in personality. Then there is also numerology, which I never used to pay much attention to, but was hooked the first time I did. A numerological year begins and ends with your birthday. You can determine which year you are in by adding together your day and month of birth with the current year. For me, these numerological years have much more significance, and influence, than New Year’s Day. I can only recommend the book “Zillionz” by Titiania Hardie. Overall meanings shouldn’t change much with different books, just the way information is given.

Every day is a new day for change!

Happy New Year! 😉

Love
Anna

Cow’s Milk vs Goat’s Milk

I had previously mentioned the negative effect that cow’s milk can have on our system. This is mainly due to a lack of digestive enzymes in our gut, which we have more of when we are babies because we are breast-fed, yet not when we are grown up.

Last week I was asked why goat’s milk is better than cow’s milk, and I realized that I didn’t know the answer. Personally I know that I agree better with goat’s milk, but is that a good enough reason to say it is better overall?

Researching on the good old www, I found out that the fat molecules in goat’s milk are much smaller than those found in cow’s milk which makes it much easier to be broken down in the gut. Also, goat’s milk contains less lactose than cow’s milk and is recommended if you are allergic to cow’s milk which is likely caused by the alpha S1 casein protein. Both human milk and goat milk lacks this protein. Goat’s milk also lacks lactalbumin, a protein found in cow’s milk that is responsible for the allergic response in many small children.

Goat’s milk is apparently very similar to human breast milk which would suggest a more natural approach to receiving necessary nutrients. Another advantage is that it contains vitamin A, which can be absorbed straight away by the body and plays a role in the function of vision, immune system, reproduction, bone metabolism, skin and cellular health. Although cow’s milk does contain vitamin A, it is often in the form of carotenoids, which need to be converted by the body first before they become vitamin A, adding an extra strain on our system.

Goat’s milk also has a higher content of riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, which helps in the metabolism of other minerals like proteins and carbohydrates and strengthens the immune system by stimulating the production of antibodies. Surprisingly, goat’s milk also contains more protein and calcium than cow’s milk.

Last but not least, goat’s milk is also one of the best sources of bioorganic sodium, a mineral that assists in the production of enzymes in the stomach. A lack of bioorganic sodium can lead to digestive problems, bloating and even ulcers.

This information opened my eyes and adds a little bit more to my understanding why cow’s milk shouldn’t necessarily be our first choice. I don’t want to say that it is totally bad, however, the process it goes though nowadays is, as with any processed food, not good. Additionally, milk and related proteins, sugars (lactose), whey powder etc are mixed in with many commercially prepared meals which makes me suspicious as to how much our tolerance to cow’s milk can stretch.

Goat’s milk might have more fat and calories but also lightens your purse significantly more than cow’s milk. Yet, I personally think that it has a few good points over the common mass-produced cow’s milk and deserves to be tried and tested.

Happy discovery! 😉

Love
Anna

www.everything-goat-milk.com/goat-milk-vs-cow-milk.html
www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/goat-milk-vs-cow-milk.html

By Trial and Error

A few months ago, I had a water leak at home. In came the plumber and upon noticing my Tibetan Healing bowl we got talking and it turns out that we both know the same yoga teacher. On his next visit, he handed me a card from his wife, who offers holistic massage treatments and the minute I saw the card I knew something was on the way.

Since the beginning of the year I had cycled past a sign advertising “Natural Wonders Therapies” and I kept saying to myself that I ought to see if they had treatment rooms for hire. But when I did look on the website, it didn’t look like that was the case and I put the thought to investigate further aside for the moment. Until the plumber gave me this card.

Of course it was the same as the sign! It was only a couple of weeks earlier that I had actually been on her website and now it seemed like the universe was giving me a gentle yet stern nudge to do something about it. When I rang her up she was not surprised and said she was about to call me too. It turns out that we were both born in Germany and had wandered abroad to live and explore. Having worked as a massage therapist she was at the point of opening up to the more subtler energies of life whereas I had been studying energy healing for the past years and was just about to embark on a massage course.

It was at this cross road that I met Elke. We spoke about our dreams and visions and we soon found ourselves talking about a joint workshop. Shortly after she introduced me to Corina, an artist and psychotherapists, and suddenly we were at full speed ahead planning our Awareness Spa Mini Retreats.

We had a vision and we had something to tell and we also had repeat bouts of worry that we wouldn’t be able to see it through. Life goes like that sometimes. It sends us on field trips and makes us hike up to the top of the highest mountains to reach for the stars, and it is only on the way up that we realise we forgot to pack wooly socks and a hat to keep us warm on the summit. Yet the view is breathtaking and well worth the rugged ascend. We forget all aches and pains and the smile on our face tells us that we did reach our highest goal.

After three months of brainstorming and concrete planning we were finally there. The fear of the unknown broke through every now and again but took no hold in our eager and strong hearts to accomplish our vision. The first setback on the day of our first Mini Retreat were three cancellations, which however, enabled us all to take part in each others segments and to go along our trial run without any signs of stress.

After an initial flutter of nerves, the retreat began with my workshop on finding the “Inner Self” with meditation and inspiration and I delivered a relaxing sound bath with my healing bowl. After my workshop I was pleased to be able to participate in Corina’s workshop on Art from the Soul which gave me the long sought after time to engage in colours, shapes and paint on my fingers again. When we had managed to get most of the paint off our hands, we covered them in delicious chocolate as I introduced an easy to follow recipe for a raw chocolate treat while Elke prepared a refreshing and filling Raw Lunch Snack with lettuce boats filled with humous and a green smoothie. After lunch, Elke and I gave our participants a massage and we closed the retreat with a grounding circle amidst the warm autumn sun outside in the garden.

It truly was a successful day and I felt more like taking part in a retreat than actually leading it. It was a very rewarding day after all the preparation we had put into it.

Our vision had become reality and we are now fully prepared and set to start monthly Mini Retreats in the new year. Do get in touch if you are interested!

And never stop following your instincts and your dreams!

Love
Anna

via By Trial and Error.

Stress

Signs of stress can be as varied as an individual’s personality which is why everyone will show different signs of stress and will have different ways of dealing with them. Yet there are a few common physical and emotional symptoms like a rapid heartbeat, aches and pains, nausea, irritability and feeling overwhelmed and depressed. Additionally one might experience the inability to concentrate or relax, constant worrying, changes in eating and sleeping behaviours and the neglect of usual responsibilities. There are many more…

Stress could be related to the pressure to meet own goals, dealing with situations that you feel you can’t cope with, expectations from managers, friends, family, financial problems and major life changes such as a bereavement.

Personally, I begin to feel stressed when I have too many things on my plate and not enough time to do it all together with a strong sense that I have to. At work this happens when we are short staffed and, on top of the general duties that form my daily routine, experience a high demand of requests from fellow staff as well as clients. My patience generally stretches a long way, but in a situation like this I can easily feel overwhelmed and anxious to please everyone which can be quite frankly impossible. I then feel guilty and sad that I can’t help all of them, which to me feels like I am incapable of doing a good job. It gets especially bad when I begin to worry that others think I simply don’t care.

At the end of the day I will have a headache, aching limbs and feel very exhausted, sad and possibly a little angry. All I want to do is sleep because I find that I can’t concentrate on anything, especially not reading my book and my eyes are too sore to watch telly, and I really can’t follow the storyline anyway. The next day I wake up and ache all over. I still have the overwhelming feeling of tiredness and don’t really feel like getting up. If I have to go to work again, I just get on with it. If I don’t, I have a bit of a lie in until I feel like I should be doing things. These things take up all day, once again too many things, not enough time, and suddenly I’m back in bed for an early night because I simply still feel so terribly tired, yet I also feel like I have not achieved very much, which I can beat myself up with at times.

Now, you might have realised that I have just described two days which appear to have been fully packed with tasks but actually didn’t indicate any time to relax at all. When I find that I don’t have much time, I tend to rather just go to bed a bit earlier in the hope that my body will recuperate on its own, than try to actively relax. However, I do actively practice yoga and meditation to calm down, unwind and stretch and attend a weekly kickboxing class which counteracts stress quite vigorously. Also, I do enjoy a brisk walk along the seafront or the cliffs which supplies fresh oxygen for fresh thinking and the movement wakes up my muscles. I really should do this more often though! Painting I have done since childhood and I do feel the need to be more artistic at times but unfortunately find myself once again lacking time and patience. Yet, when I do, I feel very calm and relaxed after with a very warm and happy feeling in my gut that I have achieved something beautiful. Generally I find myself constantly making lists with things to do and it feels reassuring to be able to cross things off once they have been done. Also, simply by becoming aware of how we react to stressors and particularly what stresses us most, is a good step in counteracting it.

I think that I find it difficult to just do nothing. It gives me the feeling that I am a failure. This in its own is probably my main stressor. Accordingly, I maintain a very active life outside work, with courses, workshops, new skills and people. I like my shift patterns because to me every day off feels like a holiday, there is no routine, which suits me. Another stressor for me would be to not be able to get out or away, the feeling of which a 5 day week would certainly contribute to. The only time I feel like I am stretching my resilience would be when I find my shifts on alternating days – one day on, one day off – for a whole week. Because it feels like I can’t rest fully, since I basically continually apply the two-day routine described at the beginning.

If, additional to normal stress factors, someone has had an unfortunate experience which gave them a very high level of stress as a result of extreme fear or sadness, other stressors can have a much bigger impact and it can be much more difficult to counteract them. In such cases, if they still experience anxiety at times, it might be advisable to seek advice from a professional.

As far as possible, I would suggest that a solution focused approach would be good in dealing with any kind of stress. Because if we only ever think about the things we can’t do and the time we don’t have and the stress we experience, we are likely to get “stuck in a rut”. But when we focus on what we can do, we can step by step work towards it by acknowledging what we do, rather than worry about what we don’t do.

Take a minute and write down what stresses you most. Come up with a solution how to deal with a stressful situation and the next time you encounter it, you will know how to counteract it!

Together with two other lovely ladies I have just recently set up the “Awareness Spa Mini Retreats“, which will be taking place every second Thursday of the month and offer a little getaway amidst the bleakness of our weekly routine with the aim to de-stress. The Mini Retreat will run from 9.30am to 3pm in Eastbourne, UK and offers meditation, art, mini massages and inspiration for a fresh look at yourself and your life. Contact me for more information, if you are interested.

Love
Anna

All Hallows Eve and Pandora’s Box

Halloween is upon us again and quite honestly I have really been looking forward to carving my pumpkin and making soup out of the orange flesh. Should I remark that I am nearly 30?

When I was younger, Halloween – as it is celebrated today – did not exist. I grew up in Germany and during my childhood years in the late 80s and early 90s I remember celebrating the common harvest festival or thanksgiving, though not to be compared with the American celebration. Long before “trick-or-treating”, I used to go round houses on St Martin’s Day (11 November) with a little home-made lantern, singing traditional songs and hoping to get a few pennies or sweets in return. Once, my lantern, equipped with a real candle, as you did back then, caught fire and left the lantern in a pile of ash and me in tears. Oh, bitter-sweet childhood.  Also, there is All Saints’ Day on November 1st, which is kind of the same tradition of remembering the dead, referring to All Hallows Eve.

It wasn’t until a few years later, then a riveting teenager, that I was very much into the history of witches and pagan customs and decided to have a fun night in with friends where we all dressed up and had a ball of a time. Of course I transformed myself into a witch. Way better than all the witches’ costumes around these days! This is my personal first instigated memory of Halloween.

Of course we heard more and more about it in American TV shows and I suspect that was the way how it finally encapsulated the rest of mainland Europe. Pandora’s Box had been opened and spilled it’s content all over the world. It is interesting though to learn that it actually originated in Ireland, where it is linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain, which comes from the Old Irish for “summer’s end” and is thought to have pagan roots. Ironically, it was “shipped over” to America with the many Irish settlers in the 19th century that set up base there and soon morphed into a yearly nationwide children’s event. From America it made its way back over to Europe, strangely starting with France (not so sure why, since the French usually don’t approve much of foreign customs) and from there spreading out to Germany and the rest of the world.

Personally, I’m not really bothered by all the hype, particularly the marketing side of it. But, following the tradition of giving thanks for the harvest at the end of the year and together with the mystic belief to ward off evil spirits, I thoroughly enjoy my own little ritual of carving and soup making.

Though the first time I tried pumpkin soup, I was repulsed! The bland flavour and slimy texture really didn’t do it for me at all. I needed a few more years to mature and carve my own very first pumpkin until the realisation set in that it is such a waste to just throw away all the remains. So off I went in search of a suitable, non-slimy and flavourful recipe for pumpkin soup.

Nowadays I don’t need the instructions anymore, I just do the following:

1. Take the biggest pot you have and fry a chopped onion in a little oil until soft.
2. Add 3 chopped cloves of garlic and fry for a couple of minutes.
3, Chop all carved pumpkin flesh into small pieces and add to the onions.
4. Add chopped potatoes equal to the amount of a third of the pumpkin flesh.
3. Fill the pot with water until all pumpkin flesh and potatoes are well covered.
4. Season with salt, pepper and 2 or 3 bay leaves.
5. Bring to the boil and simmer until all the pumpkin flesh and potatoes are soft, about 30 to 40 minutes.
6. Puree the ingredients and simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes.
7. Take off the heat and add one or two teaspoons of mustard. Careful not to use too much!
8. Season to taste and enjoy with some crusty bread.

And after another few years of maturation I proceeded to use the pumpkin seeds as well. I rinse them under running water to get rid of as much stickiness as possible, place them onto a grease proof paper, coat them in oil and sprinkle with salt and dry them in the oven at about 130 Celsius for 20 to 30 minutes or longer if they are still too wet. It’s a great nibble for dark and cold evenings.

Happy Halloween!

Love
Anna

What Shall I Have For Breakfast Today?

Ah, another quiet Sunday that I am off work. But today I awoke half-heartedly at 7am with a rather insistent feeling of hunger. However, my eyes really didn’t want to open just yet, nor were my limbs particularly interested in engaging in any major activities.

After tossing and turning for another hour I finally gave in, thinking that I could be much more productive by pulling myself together and getting up and going instead of wasting time rolling from one side of the bed to the other. My hungry self finally convinced me that it was about time to enter the kitchen arena for some much needed fuel. Sleepily gazing into the cupboards and fridge I found nothing I fancied. And I really didn’t want yet another lazy banana milkshake, despite all the trimmings and possibilities open to the experienced DIY foodist that tries to avoid certain ingredients due to intolerances.

What did I fancy? Something more substantial than a shake, but common bread is not an option! Remember, it will make you feel slightly ill. Not worth it. Pitty that all my homemade bread had gone already, have to make more soon.

Suddenly I remembered a friend’s breakfast which consisted of a raw chocolate cake she had made which I terribly enjoyed together with a banana and some nut milk. With that in mind there was no stopping me and I mixed together my own raw chocolate breakfast cake with random wholesome ingredients that I found in the cupboards.

E voila, fantastic! It tasted just like chocolate flavoured cereals from the supermarket, just that little bit better. And the grand thing is that it is completely free from the common sugars and additives and full of natural flavours and ingredients. I added some crunchy honey granola oats (also free from the above) and a banana. I topped it with soya milk which the chocolate cake turned into a oh-so-gorgeous chocolate flavoured indulgence that I couldn’t help but smile all the way through while I was eating.

Listen up everyone, here is the recipe:

1 cup ground oats
1 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup ground sesame seeds
1/4 cup raw cacao powder
1/3 cup agave nectar
2-3 tbsp maca powder
2-3 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla essence
Dash of cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Mix it all together (it really doesn’t matter if you haven’t got some of the ingredients!) and either eat some straight away in crumbled form or squash it into a medium size container, depending on how thick you want the layer to be, and store it in the fridge.

Now, I also had recently purchased raw cacao paste, which I had seen as a listed ingredient on raw chocolate wrappers and was curious how I could incorporate it into my raw chocolate experiments. So while I was mixing together the cake, I simply put small pieces of the cacao paste (which was actually a big lump of rock hard cacao instead of the more liquid assumption of paste) into a cup and placed it into a container with hot water from the tap.

After a few minutes it began to melt and turned into the assumed paste. I was wondering if it was the byproduct of the cold pressed extraction of the cacao butter from the cacao powder and whether I could make raw chocolate out of it. So I also threw in a few tablespoons of raw coconut oil and agave nectar, added a little bit cinnamon, vanilla essence and the good old pinch of salt to enhance the flavour. Once it was all melted and tasted exquisitely beautiful, I poured it over the cake and put it into the fridge to settle.

It turns out that it doesn’t replace the cacao butter, which makes the raw chocolate firm to the bite. Raw cacao paste is essentially simply the original cacao bean turned into nibs (broken into pieces) and ground into a smooth paste. So far, my raw chocolate made with cacao butter and cacao powder usually hardens the minute it comes into contact with anything colder than the liquid chocolate. So the next time I use cacao paste to make ordinary raw chocolate, I may add some raw cacao butter as well.

And I just found this blog which beautifully explains my questions: http://bestsuperfoods.wordpress.com/2012/06/18/cacao-powder-versus-cacao-paste

Now then, it is 10am now and compared to last week, where I only fell out of bed at this time, I have already created, consumed and blogged about my Raw Chocolate Breakfast Cake.

Love it 🙂
Anna

A Perfect Sunday Morning

Working shifts, my job enables me to have a variety of different days off within a week.

But there is nothing that compares to an actual Sunday. Although I’m not entirely sure why that is, I have concluded that there is generally less noise outside. There are no bin men making a racket of a noise, there is no postman rattling on letter boxes, no children on their way to school and fewer people are out and about on their way to work. And even all the usually noisy people and mutating clubbers and pubbers have finally shut up and are peacefully sleeping off their hangover.

You can literally seize the peace in the air. And this is what I woke up to this morning. And I enjoyed it long enough to make it nearly 10 o’clock before I finally rolled out of bed.

This peaceful serenity was topped with my exquisitely good mood after a month of hormonal ups and downs and so I cuddled up on the sofa with my boyfriend and we had freshly baked croissants from a container that popped loudly when I opened it and revealed triangular-shaped pieces of dough which had to be rolled up and baked in the oven for an exclusive makeshift continental Sunday morning breakfast experience. Just imagine the beautiful smell!

All the while we watched children’s TV which could only be topped by Sabrina the Teenage Witch and transported me back a good 15 years to a time of blissful naivety without work and bills where the only real problems were school, boys and teenage girls.

Outside presented itself a windy and rainy September day, which was even better, because I didn’t have to feel guilty about not leaving the house!

These mere two hours made life so perfectly worthwhile. A small fraction of my life, a seemingly insignificant experience, noticed and transformed into food for the heart.

Love
Anna

A Stroll through Kathmandu

There must have been something in the air this morning because suddenly I found myself back in the middle of Kathmandu, Nepal, on my way to one of the monasteries I had been assigned to as a volunteer to teach English.

The sun was high in the sky when I left the big and cool stone building of the Student Guest House and the streets were already filled with locals rearing to welcome tourists and friends alike. I admired the young mother who swept the three small steps to her shop so devotedly as if she was caring for her own child. The air was still relatively free from dust, washed down by last night’s rain and a mild wind ruffled timidly on my light cotton clothes. As I walked on towards the centre of Thamel (according to the local sign it stands for “To Homely Atmosphere & More Enjoyable Living”) I see more and more proud shop owners offering their goods. Yes, it did struck me how proud these people are of their achievements and yet how little they actually have.

Ignoring the usual offers by sellers and taxi and rickshaw drivers, I turn right at the butcher’s hatch with mixed feelings towards the bleating goat which has been tethered right next to the already skinned and ready to be sold goat. In the absence of fridges, life stock is the best preserve. Shortly after I pass the local laundry, a mere stone basin of plain water around which the local women have hung all their whites (spotless, I have to remark) whilst the children played around and underneath. Further on, a holy cow (no offense) duly ruminates amidst a massive pile of rubbish on the side of the road.

The road widens as I approach the bridge which leads to Swayambhu and crosses over the Bishnumati River which is lined with bags and bags of rubbish and has the most extraordinary smell about itself. I arrive at a flight of stone steps leading to a small temple or school where I greet the old local man who appears to be sitting on the top of the stairs all day every day offering the traditional “Namaste” unconditionally to anyone passing by. It is from him that I learned that it doesn’t have to be the prim and proper both hands clasped together and raised to the forehead. It can be as fleeting as just bowing the head down a little and raising one hand. It is the gist of the gesture that counts, not a fully choreographed play.

After passing yet another pile of rubbish, this time with chickens picking away, I pass a few garages filled with beads. Local women are busily threading mala beads while the local lads chat among themselves, leaning on their motorbikes. The roads up here are mere dust tracks compared to the tarmaced road down in town. Uneven and full of holes filled with the aftermath of the latest gush of monsoon, creating muddy pools that splash everywhere when a car passes by. I notice some children flying small square kites on a slope overlooking the City of Kathmandu until my attention is caught by a bowl maker. I acquired a healing bowl myself a few days ago and was intrigued to see the skilled man hammering away on a flat piece of metal, slowly shaping it into a bowl shape.

A beeping taxi ushers me out of the way and I carry on the last bit of road until I reach the foot of the Monkey Temple, named after the holy monkeys resident there. The Swayambhunath Stupa is said to be the oldest religious site in Nepal and at the bottom of the entrance steps that I am currently standing is also a pair of feet engraved. These feet can be found in places that Buddha has set foot on.

Well, I’m on my way to “work”, so I can’t linger long and instead follow the road to the left, past the police station. While the resident officers are getting ready for the day, a local man has set up his fruit shop on a bicycle right next to the entrance.

A snake slithered past me in the drain on the side of the road making me jump and squeak embarrassingly. After a couple of shops which are blaring out a mix of the latest Bollywood hits and traditional prayer music, I reach another set of small shops which sell prayer flags and incents. The heavy scent floats in the air. There are a line of prayer wheels on the wall running along the bottom of the hillside of the Monkey Temple and I decide to set them into a spin to release prayers and mantras to heaven.

Finally I reach the big road and that’s when all the town’s hustle and bustle catches up with me again. There are mini buses, taxis, motorcycles, bicycles, rickshaws, dogs, cows and people of all ages, genders and professions on the road, swerving and veering around each other in a beautiful harmonious chaos all under the watchful eyes of a giant golden Buddha statue. The challenge is to cross this road myself. The idea is to just go and everything will just swirl around you. Just don’t stop. A wonderfully exhilarating experience. I disappear in a small road leading up into nowhere, literally turning into a steep, dried up river bed. There are a few houses before the road disappears and half way along the road lies the Karma Samten Ling Monastery where I will be teaching the little monks English for a few days.

 

This was exactly two years ago but the memory is still as visibly clear in my head as if I was actually there. It was a fantastic opportunity of an eye opener to see the world from a different angle. Namely from one of the poorest countries of the world. Yet I was fascinated by the easy-going attitude of the locals and how they just carried on regardless. No power cut, no landslide nor monsoon could stop them. And to see the pride in their work shining in their eyes, from the sweeping shop owner over the window display creator to the wood-carver, who proudly runs his hand along the finished piece after putting it up on the wall outside. I found this very inspiring.

But the very best was watching the sun rise over the Annapurna mountain range in Pokhara. Unforgettable!

Love

Anna

Fresh and Green

Why is it, I wonder, that good, wholesome and nutritious food is refered to as healthy? And why am I being put to stringent enquiries by colleagues every time I have my lunch? Is it really that much out of the ordinary?

Looking into my lunch box I see a mix of red and yellow pulses, red and green lettuce leaves, vibrant red peppers, green courgette, orange sweet potato and some white mozzarella pieces roughly torn scattered somewhere in between. On my tongue lingers the satisfying aftertaste of garlic, mustard, lemon and herbs which I had thrown together to create a dressing.

Well, yes, I sigh. I can understand why the “common people” see this as healthy. But to me it is simply just a quick and easy nutritious meal that will keep me going over the day by providing me with a balanced mix of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and not to forget the immune enhancing properties of garlic (really difficult to forget after consumption ;)).

I suppose what gets me most is the fact that food which is “normal and good” is said to be healthy, whereas any food should be normal and good in the first place. Where did the “bad food” come from? And why are people eating it if they quite obviously know and see the difference?

Ok, I am aware of the unfortunate rift between prices of raw vegetables and ready-made meals. My shopping bill literally doubled when I began to eat more consciously. Sadly you can get two ready-made meals for the price of a bag of peppers. How much can you do with a bag of peppers? It is obvious that a full meal looks much more appealing. Just that it isn’t really a full meal. It has been highly processed and overheated and contains artificial additives as well as salt and strangely enough even sugar and milk to enhance the flavour that has gone lost in the process.

Now, I raised the issue with milk and sugar in a previous post. Please feel free to read up on it. I feel strongly about it! In short: neither do us any favour. Sugar is highly addictive and has a negative impact on our health and in regards to milk: we don’t have the digestive enzyme to break milk down which leads to allergies and again, affects our health.

So maybe you can see why ready-made meals are not such a good idea. Usually, the more ingredients there are listed on the package, the less nutrients are in the package and the higher the likelihood that it will irritate our system somehow somewhere. The nice thing is that you probably won’t even know that you are affected. The symptoms are subtle and can be little irritants like a mildly blocked nose, tiredness, lack of concentration and the good old aches and pains.

All these can be released if we eat good, proper, wholesome food. It is good to have identified the difference between good and bad food, but merely pointing at nutritious food and saying: “Oh that is healthy” is like thinking: “I should really wash my feet, they stink!”, but not do it anyway. Start making small changes to your own food. Add a few leaves of rocket or spinach to a meal. It doesn’t only look much nicer, but also supplies our body with essential minerals and vitamins, as do any green vegetables. Of course, it is just as important to cook with all colours of the rainbow, but whatever colours you use, just don’t forget the green. A small salad as a starter gets all your digestive enzymes going and also makes you feel fuller quicker. Did you know that it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register that your stomach has had enough?

Our early ancestors ate mainly green leaves, picking and eating as they went along. A bit like horses, I suppose. But it makes sense to me to eat as much greens as possible. And the offers are endless. I actually only just this very summer discovered my love for asparagus. Namely the green version. The white one I have been detesting ever since I was a child. I was really pleased that I got over my apathy and at least gave the green ones a chance. What a revelation! 🙂

To make a change, any change, in our life, we need to stick with a decision for at least 21 days in order to break existing habits. So, add as many coloured freshly prepared vegetables to your daily meals as you can. They don’t have to be raw, but the less they have been cooked, the more nutrients they retain.

Small changes, one step after another. Once your body has got the message of what you want it will adapt. Resist sugar cravings and try to substitute with natural, low GI, sweeteners. There are by far too many different approaches to food and diets out to even consider counting them. And everyone is different and has their very own likes and dislikes. In the end I say I will eat what my body wants because to me, a hunger, not a craving, indicates that this particular type of food contains some nutrients which my body is in need of. The reason why I say “hunger, not craving” is that our body gets used to certain food and will want more of it. Just like with excessive alcohol consumption, sugar will do the same. So if you crave sugar, have a date instead! The sweet taste and soft texture of medjool dates for example are my perfect sugar craving substitute. Try them with peanut butter. Seriously! 🙂

You have done the first step to identify healthy food, now get going and make it yourself! The simpler, the better.

Love
Anna

Home is where the Heart is

Just what is home and where is my heart?

Having been born and bred in Germany on the mainland of good old Europe, one day, having just turned 21, the growing feeling of something missing got too much and I escaped for a few weeks, off to see the bottom of the world, the glorious New Zealand.

Just a year earlier I had been adamant that I wouldn’t ever go very far from my localities, namely family and friends, with more emphasis on friends at that time. It just happened that this big and merry circle of friends broke into many pieces after a few personal indifference between the many male and few female counterparts which lead me to re-evaluate my current status.

Did I really want to stay in this area? Did my temporary job as a web programmer really make a difference to the world? Would a full-time employment really give me the reward I craved? Was I prepared to keep travelling the 50 kilometers to work every day, or would I even dare consider moving into this bleak industrial city?

The decision was served on a silver tray by my boss announcing the arrival of a new member of the team who would not only take over my work load and foreign correspondence but also be permanently employed… Oh the bitter-sweet epiphany.

Lagunenfeuer von Anna Hoffmann

Suddenly the sun rose on my horizon. And it was a very wide horizon indeed. The whole world was open. I had no ties, nothing that held me back. For the first time in my life I was ready to take a leap. And leap I did, though a little shaky, onto my first plane ride ever, 25 hours to the other end of the world.

When I got back I brought with me a little bit of the smiles and openness I had encountered in the land of sheep and decided that I would very much like to live there one day. Adamant to fulfill that dream I changed career and studied foreign languages (only German, English and a little bit of Spanish to be precise).

I vividly remember the moment that I stood in the hallway of my mother’s house, which had been a home for the past eight years and thus for most of my conscious youth, and it suddenly struck me that the minute I walk through that front door, life will never be the same again. And for a few seconds I actually struggled to move. Memories from childhood flooded in, the comfort of a home, of family, security, knowing that you will be looked after, all this I was about to give up. But I also knew that if I wouldn’t give it up, I would never grow.

And I’m glad I did. I certainly lost a part of my heart to the ever so beautiful old town of Heidelberg in southern Germany, and made many good friends. I even said that this would be the perfect place to spend the last few years of my life. I don’t know for sure whether it was just the fact that I had left my mother’s house for the first time, or if I just really loved this place, but despite my obvious desire and curiosity to go abroad, I well and truly had arrived in a place where I felt home. But the niggling feeling to go further afield never ceased.

It did, however, stop the minute I arrived in England. And nothing, absolutely nothing, could have sparked it anew or made me leave again. And I did encounter a few nasty incidents over the years. One told me to “f*** off back to my own country”. Well, here I was. Everything around me was new. I discovered a part of me that had long been suppressed by other’s ideals and concepts and which could now just be and grow without having to justify itself. And the little voice that had pushed me so hard to finish my education and move abroad had become silent.

It’s place was taken over by a much stronger voice. This new voice reminded me again and again that this was my place to be. No lack of money, job or accommodation could stop me. I was given an easy option out by means of a coach driver who was working for the German student organisation that I had come over to work for as an intern, who quite happily would have taken me back to Germany the very day I had quit the internship, but hey, that would have been far too easy.

I well knew I had to stay, because I felt wholly and completely at home. Considering the lack of financial security or the mere prospect of work or a room to stay, which most people would associate “home” with, I had arrived in my heart, which in turn provided enough space to call home. It created a feeling of happiness, a little excitement too, a sheer sense of being and  happiness about it.

And exactly this sensation was my driving force. It propelled me forward to finding work, from the shittiest cleaning job to  jaw-clenching boring data entry and finally lead me to the health care sector, in which I, by all means, never wanted to end up. But somehow I did. And turns out it actually is the only job I have ever done so far that gives me that rewarding feeling that I actually do something good to someone else on a physical as well as mental level which I never got from my work in front of a computer.

So, having found myself and something that fulfills me, was” the key to my home”.

Why, out of all places, it had to be an island that gives me the sense of freedom, I don’t know. Compared to the vast opportunities on the Eurasian continent, from Spain to Russia to Africa to  China and India, all of which I could theoretically reach by foot, here I will have to either be a really strong swimmer or have a boat at hand to ship me over. Neither of which I can count to my personal resources. Yet, I feel happy and content when the fresh sea air wafts around my nose and the green grass of the South Downs collides with the white chalk cliffs surrounded by the inherently beautiful blue of the sea and the sky.

Of course, now that I begin to settle, I dream of a proper home, a house, that will provide me with shelter, a garden to grow food and a green and serene surrounding to relax and unwind. But this place won’t be possible, unless I am happy with who I am, as a person on the outside as well as a spiritual being on the inside. And as long as I have a good cause which will contribute to the improvement of society and the world at large, either in terms of full-time employment or even as a hobby, nothing will stand in the way of me, my heart and my home.

Love
Anna

How Do We Do Nothing?

While trying to explain to my mom why I hadn’t returned any of her calls recently I said that I had been soo busy and every now and again tried to do nothing for a change as well. And she asked candidly: ” When, or how, do you do nothing?”

Yes, what do I do when I do nothing?

Just the pure act of “doing” nothing already implies that I actually am doing something. No matter how hard I try, I will always be doing something, even if it is the simply act of breathing.

So what do we mean when we imply that we are doing nothing? I assume that we usually want to get away from our usual everyday tasks and duties and relax.

Thinking about a moment when I feel closest to doing nothing I came to the conclusion that it happens when I am fully there in the present moment and happy with myself. And if it should compare to doing nothing then I should indeed not be doing much in that moment. This would bring us to meditation. Of course, I am meditating compared to doing nothing, but once I am fully relaxed, watching fresh air filling my lungs naturally with each in breath and letting go of any worries and tensions on the out breath, I experience a moment in which I’m not doing anything constructive but instead am able to unwind and experience a deep level of relaxation.

If you are conscious of living in the present moment, you might experience these moments of bliss even when you are not meditating or actively letting go. You might find yourself adoring a beautiful flower, reading a really good book, watching the clouds move by, noticing the smell after a summer rain…

Today I found myself sitting on top of the South Downs overlooking the green land stretched out in front of me and I thought that this is what God must feel like looking upon his creations. Of course I didn’t create any of it but after a short centering in my heart centre, connecting to my higher self and grounding in the earth I felt such an immense feeling of peace and pure happiness that is difficult to describe with words. Apart from the wind and the bird’s twittering there were no other sounds and the clouds moved majestically along the sky pulling massive shadows along with them casting them over the green hills and fields.

And in all this sheer beauty of the moment I found myself doing absolutely nothing until the wind got the better of me and drove me back to the car, jittering with cold, bare feet touching the lush green grass and eyes squinting against the sun revealed by the clouds every now and again. These few precious minutes up there were enough to recharge my batteries to the full.

So go out there and get blown about by the wind, get your feet out of your tight shoes, laugh at the sun and even the rain and enjoy the special moment in every minute of the day!

Love
Anna

The Wonder of a Smile

“Everytime  you come in you only need to smile and it immediately lifts the mood in the room”, said a patient of mine to me yesterday.

And it is true. I do smile most of the times. “Oh yes, the one that always looks happy”, is another description of myself I was once told. And why do you think I smile so much? Because I don’t have a care in the world? Because I am simple-minded? No, I knowingly smile because it makes life more bearable and less stramineous. Life is easier lived with a smile than with clenched lips, for clenching adds extra strain to our muscles and thus makes the day so much more tiring.

The day not only goes easier for you because your smile in turn activates and consequently releases more “happy brain chemicals”, making you even happier, but also can it be contagious and lighten the day of those around you.

“Just seeing you makes me happy”, from a colleague the other day or simply seeing the light return to patient’s eyes when you smile at them is proof for that.

Of course there are days where I really rather cry, and it is okay to cry. It is in fact very clearing, but again leads to tiredness when it lasts for a long time. Apparently, poking your fingers into your lower cheeks and lifting them up (we are talking about the face by the way), can already trigger the happy-making hormones and it can only get better from there. Try it, I dare you!

The happy chemicals, or endorphins can also be found in certain food, particularly in chocolate. I wrote about raw chocolate and it’s benefits over the “not-so-chocolaty-chocolate” commonly found in supermarkets. Real, untreated, sugar and milk free chocolate will make your smile (and teeth) last longer.

Love
Anna

How the Little Girl Learned to Love Herself

Every Monday morning, the teacher of an elementary school would allow time at the beginning of the class to give pupils the opportunity to share experiences they had over the weekend. One day, a little girl wanted to share her exuberant joy of having seen a group of bunnies crossing her path on the way to school this very morning. She raised her hand so high she thought it would fall off would she raise it any higher and impatiently moved around on her small chair. Her little heart beat faster with excitement with every child that finished their story expecting to be the next to be picked. But her turn never came. She felt utterly disappointed and in her mind she made a crucial decision: If my teacher isn’t going to pick me despite of me raising my hand so high, I am not going to raise my hand again ever. And however strong the urge was to raise it and participate thereafter, she fought the urge and stuck with her decision.

This little girl was me when I was about six years of age. And the believe I made twenty-six years ago has ever since stopped me from participating in groups. I would begin a new school, new course, new group full of joy and interest only to slowly retreat form thereon, unable to raise my hand or voice in front of a group. It also massively impacted on my school marks, especially oral participation, which made up a third of the mark resulting in me not achieving entry levels needed for higher education.

In line with my blog about the power of thought, this shows how much of an influence a single thought can have over our whole life!

Today I found out that nowhere in my heightened awareness did I have a space to keep my positive experiences, compared to the massive pile of negative experiences which can be found neatly filed away in a safe part of my consciousness.

How did that even happen?

I have recently come to the conclusion that I do have the tendency to focus on negative aspects more than I probably should, but with the healthy intention to make them better. This doesn’t always work though and in the end I realised that it would technically make me a negative person. The thing is, however, that I don’t particularly think that I am all that negative. In fact I thought that I was very positive in the way I was leading my life and influenced others around me.

My mind is set out to see possible futures. I see numerous steps ahead from any given point in time which, to other people, appears insane. Besides it not making any sense to them it would be thought of as ludicrous since it doesn’t confirm anything and thus would be considered mere guessing and daydreaming. Numerous times have I been told to stop asking silly questions, only because I wanted to know what to do in case one of my possible futures would come true. But the other person thought of it as an entirely different matter which had nothing to do with the current topic only because they couldn’t see that far ahead.

I believe that by working out the worst case scenario I would be safe because I could work around it and thereby avoid it. And possibly help others to avoid it too. However, I once again find myself back at thinking about negative stuff!

Now, today I figured out why I would predominantly think in negative terms. Not only to be prepared for the worst that could possibly happen, but because I didn’t have anywhere to store positive experiences. Turns out that when I am in a truly happy and positive state, I really live that moment, suck it up with every pore of my body, but evidently didn’t have a space set out for storage of this experience. So once I had savoured the moment it would slowly disintegrate into the ether. Or so it would seem. In actual fact, unconsciously, I would re-file it into the negative part of my collective consciousness. This is because I couldn’t find another appropriate place for it to stay. The positive storage space hasn’t been set up yet and in my attempt to share my happiness with other people I would either encounter envy, plain non-interest or would be ridiculed. I also felt that it wasn’t acceptable in our society to openly proclaim that I was a fantastic person or that I did a really good job. It seems to be good to be highly thought of by others but not to announce it in public. So I would transform it into a negative emotion merely due to the fact that I didn’t feel I could openly express it and hence it got filed under the negative experiences since that was the only option of filling any of my experiences.

All the self-help books that proclaim how much positive thoughts will change your life and how important it is to love oneself, it doesn’t go anywhere if there isn’t a space for it to go to. This is at least true for myself. All the mirror exercises looking at myself, saying nice words didn’t have any lasting effect. I was aware of the effect they had, but couldn’t hold onto it for long before I began to feel foolish and let down again. And so the circle would carry on. This has been having an impact on every part of my life and has  also been partly influencing my self-esteem. I would clearly remember the negative experiences on a long-term basis and only temporarily live the positive ones.

I have now created a brand new space in my consciousness in which I will file any future events that have a positive effect on me. Interestingly it is impossible to re-file the negative emotions into positive ones so I have to start to build up a whole new array of ideas and believes. The first one will be that “I am a truly intelligent woman”. Replacing, or rather counteracting, the imposed believe that I am stupid.

The believe that the little girl was stupid has been meticulously worked into her psyche by her teacher over the following seven years following the morning she saw the bunnies. There is a lot to work through, but for now I will rejoice in filling my new found storage space with beautiful new things.

Love
Anna

Hugs and Trees

Until a few years ago I didn’t even like to shake people’s hands but over the past years I have transformed from a reluctant hand-shaker into an all-encompassing hugger. This is a big development because hugging doesn’t come natural to everyone. A lot of people prefer to stay away from each other as far as they possibly can. However, hugging is good for us! It creates a bond between people and shows that we care about someone.

The first time I received a proper unconditional hug I didn’t know what to do and felt rather embarrassed about it. With this one person came more for whom hugging was the most natural way of greeting and departing or to simply say “Well done” or “It’s going to be alright”.

And after a while it was indeed alright. And so I carried forth what I had learned and became a more open and approachable person.

My next challenge was tree hugging. “Tree hugging? Are you serious?” I hear you say.

Well yes. Again, it all started with a lot of embarrassment for me. A friend had suggested it and up to that point I had always wondered why someone would want to do it but had rather left it to those spiritually minded “weirdos” and hippies with whom you would generally associate such activities. Who goes and hugs trees, for the love of God? Actually, for the love of God is quite a good reason really. Leaving all religion out of this, it is simply a connection with the earth we are living on and also with ourselves.

Lets face it, I am a weirdo. From early childhood I was repeatedly told that I was weird and it is still a trait of mine otherwise this word wouldn’t still be following me. But that is fine with me. I like to be exceptional and otherwise different from the general mainstream. But this really isn’t the only excuse to hug trees! What is yours?

My first tree hug was awkward, just like my first encounter with a human hug. Just that a tree is much rougher on the outside but so much more reassuring and calming. Unlike people, trees don’t comment. Unfortunately I was all too quickly pulled away from my first encounter of this new kind when I heard food steps approaching and I jumped out from behind the tree like a lunatic pretending to be doing something else which must have been far more suspicious than had I just stayed glued to the tree.

I am now developing a longing to go into the woods and hug a tree every now and again but I still run away as soon as I hear someone approaching because I am embarrassed of what they might think of me. I shouldn’t be! I know.

Different trees emanate different energetic vibrations. For example, I have come to the realisation that conifers seem to send energy from the earth up like an antenna whereas broadleaf trees appear to channel energy down into the earth. This is an interesting sensation. If you want to ground yourself and look for something calming hug a leafy tree, if you want to widen your horizon and be inspirational hug a conifer. Either way, hug whichever tree you feel drawn to!

Take a heart and go for it! Try it at least once before ridiculing it. Close your eyes and enjoy a silent meditation with the tree. Listen what it has to say. Feel what it emanates out to you. Trees are the best example for grounding so by holding on to them they will take on all the energies that don’t serve you anymore and ground them and while doing so they will replenish you with new energy, just like they filter the air we breathe. Notice how you feel afterwards.

I am intrigued to hear your experiences!

Love
Anna

Chocolate and other Culprits

I love chocolate. Who doesn’t? But did you know that the kind of chocolate you find stacked on super market shelves has very little in common with actual, proper chocolate? Once you had the enlightening experience of tasting real raw chocolate you will understand. Raw chocolate doesn’t contain sugar nor milk and it has been lovingly mixed together with original untreated cacao and heated below 46 Celsius so that it still contains all the original goodness which is very heat sensitive and would otherwise be destroyed in the heating process.

For those of you who say: “I don’t like dark chocolate”, let me explain something to you:  Just a single drop of milk destroys most of the good chemicals contained in raw cacao. Cow’s milk was never intended for human consumption. It is fine for calves, but we only have a milk digesting enzyme until we are about two years of age and after that our body will have significant trouble coping with it. Nowadays cow’s milk is being “made fit for human consumption” by pasteurisation and thus heating it far beyond its heat labile point at which it begins to change its chemical configuration. This can and unfortunately nowadays is happening to any food which explains why there are so many people who are intolerant to milk and other products. Interestingly, the enzyme necessary for digestion of cow’s milk is only created in the fermentation process which is why people with an intolerance to milk might find that they are able to tolerate e.g. cheese and yoghurt. I have never really agreed with cow’s milk without actually realising and have now converted to soya or nut milk. Soya milk can be found pretty much in any supermarket, but make sure you choose unsweetened and sugar-free and as a general rule of thumb choose one that has as little ingredients as possible. The ingredients in the soya milk of my choice only contain soya beans, water and salt. Nut milks will be available in your local health food shop or online.

Now to those sugar addicts out there. I raise my hand voluntarily admitting:” Yes, I am a sugar addict.” The truth is, everyone is, but not everyone is aware of it. And to be fair, it is not easy to avoid it because nowadays it is added to pretty much anything to enhance flavour. It nearly borders on conspiracy which I am eager to make clear to everyone. Sugar as in the refined white stuff we commonly use in everyday life is a secret killer. No need to panic here, keep using it if you are happy with it. But understanding what affect it can have on us and how addictive it can be, or in fact is, I made the decision to remove it from my diet.  Trying to come off sugar can take time because your body will still crave for it for a long time after your last consumption. Picture yourself repeatedly going back to that chocolate box for yet another “fix”. You feel you need more in order to keep you alert and running, but this is a misconception. Yes, it will make you feel more energized, for about 30 minutes, after which your blood sugar comes crashing down again and you find yourself reaching for the next sugar fix. This is a tough lesson and after three years of repeatedly attempting to avoid it I only just start to settle on a diet without it. I firmly believe that most chronic conditions would be diminished or reduced if we simply remove cane sugar from our diet. And I mean any cane sugar, not just the refined version. Cane sugar alters our body chemicals. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t go without it for very long, once you realise how much better you feel without it you will try until your body doesn’t want it anymore. If you wish to avoid the damaging effects of sugar on your health, I strongly encourage you to take the first leap. The end result will be a much more alert, happy and active you. And believe me, your aches and pains will probably just disappear.

There are natural sugar replacements with a low GI value (Glycemic Index i.e. keeps your blood sugar levels stable). I personally use agave nectar or xylitol instead of sugar. Check your local health food shop or the internet. Agave nectar can now even be found in Tesco and dare I say at a much better price than health food shops. But please give your local health food shop a visit because the other good stuff they stock is well worth it and will most likely not be found in general super markets. The arising cost implication is a minor nuisance that I now easily dismiss in favour of a healthy and balanced lifestyle and the fact that I am indeed able to live my life and not be controlled by my dietary intake.

Most people don’t realise how milk, sugar and other food groups affect them or that they are in fact intolerant to any of them. An intolerance is difficult to spot. It isn’t always obvious because a reaction can be subtle and at times doesn’t show at all until the next day unlike an allergy which usually occurs straight after consumption and can be potentially life threatening. To give you an idea I will list some of my symptoms: feeling ill or sick and tired, aches and pains, blocked nose, headache, poor concentration, mood swings, viral infections, skin irritations, fluid retention in hands and feet and a swollen face upon waking in the morning plus not being able to wake up properly. After an acute intake of “ordinary” sweets and chocolates I even get a blurry vision at times. I did get checked for diabetes because some of my symptoms were quite similar but the test was negative.

It took me years to figure out that I didn’t agree with certain types of food and went to my GP at least once a year to have myself checked because I just didn’t feel well. But all standard tests were fine. And when I finally figured out that my reason for feeling unwell was indeed an intolerance to food I was told by my GP that they won’t test for food intolerances and that I ought to go privately. Others might have more luck with this but in the end I consulted a Kinesiologist (muscles reflex testing) who identified which food I was most sensitive to and confirmed mostly what I had already figured out myself simply by watching what I was eating and how I felt afterwards.

If you think you might have a food sensitivity keep a food log and record what you eat and how you feel and you might be able to come to an astonishing realisation. Try to avoid foods that give you problems and ensure you eat a balanced diet with as much raw or steamed vegetables as possible. Also try to avoid sugary drinks; they really don’t do you any favour. Water is the elixir of life 😉

Now back to the chocolate again. Raw chocolate contains no milk and no refined sugar. Just natural sweeteners and cacao. I have been experimenting with it for a couple of years now and have created the most delicious chocolate treats ever. And the best? I don’t feel ill after and I don’t end up craving in an unhealthy manner.

The naturally good properties and health benefits of raw chocolate: Most concentrated source of magnesium in nature. Magnesium supports the heart, increases brain power, relaxes muscles, increases flexibility, promotes healthy bowel movements, helps build strong bones, facilitates more than 300 different detoxification and elimination functions. Highest food source of chromium which assists in balancing blood sugar levels. Possibly best source of antioxidants containing 10,000mg/10%. Also contains vitamins B1, B2, B5, B6, C and E and to a lesser extend fibre, iron, phosphorous and hundreds more. Theobromine, the sister molecule to caffeine but much milder, dilates blood vessels, acts as a cough remedy and has shown cariostatic effects. Phenylethylamine, the love or happy chemical, is naturally produced by our brain and other than that is only found in raw cacao and blue-green algae. Anandamide, the bliss chemical released in the brain when we feel really good. Tryptophan, necessary for the production of serotonin which can lower anxiety and stress. Most of these properties are very sensitive to heat and usually destroyed in the cooking process. (List of properties taken from Sweet Gratitude by Matthew Rogers and Tiziana Alipo Tamborra)

For those of you who had the opportunity to try some of my chocolate experiments will know where to get more. For those of you who haven’t yet, either come to one of my workshops where I will always have some on offer or contact me for more information or on how to make raw chocolate yourself.

Love
Anna