The Sacred Centre

sharing – daring – caring – writing from the heart

A Subtle Difference

As a world nation with different ethnic backgrounds and even more diverse believes and outlooks on life, we get it pretty wrong at times.

We look what others have and compare ourselves to their looks, their money, their success and downfalls, their strengths and weaknesses and somehow end up thinking that we are either better or worse than them, creating within ourselves a believe that separates us from our very own self and thus creates war not only within our own hearts but also between nations.

I myself notice far too often a sensation of inadequateness when I look at other’s success. And sometimes I look at others and see what they are lacking that I have already found for myself.

We are quite quick in judging others, usually within the first few seconds of meeting someone have we come up with an idea of what this person is like. This is a natural reflex of our brain trying to understand what’s going on and assess potential danger. Just how wrong we often are only emerges should we choose to get to know someone better. And by judging others we ultimately judge ourselves.

However, a simple solution is at hand: If you were to realise that you are in essence part of those around you, you can learn to love yourself even more. Genetics suggest that we are all to some 98% chimpanzee, and currently we are estimated to decent from only 7 mothers. Bring in the soul aspect, the one consciousness that combines us all, and you have an idea why we are essentially more the same than our small differences suggest.

You might have noticed how similar individuals from other ethnic backgrounds appear at first glance and we are quick in identifying an Asian origin by their eyes, but its only when getting to know them more that you realise that there are many subtle hints that sets them apart from each other and separates Asians into Chinese, Nepalese, Japanese and so on.

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So by assuming that we all still simply originated from chimpanzees and taking into account that we all started off in Africa to populate the word, it might help you to see a little bit of yourself in any member of the world population. And if you then love someone, like your partner, family, friends, your own love will reflect back to you from your own particles that connect you with these people and all you have to do is accept that love.

This goes back to the well know thesis to “love yourself”, but by believing that I should love myself as an individual, I may be in danger of isolating myself form the collective consciousness. But by recognizing myself in everyone around me, I can become whole.

The question to ask yourself is why you either feel inadequate or better than others. What caused you to believe you should prove yourself to be better than others, and why is it that bad if you are not the best? When I overhear someone complimenting someone else, I immediately take it to mean that I am clearly not good enough otherwise they would have said it to me instead. On the other hand I find it hard to actually take compliments, thinking that I don’t deserve it and worry that others won’t like me now because they think I am somewhat better.

None of it makes any sense, yet it registers within me as a failure. Realising this is the first step to begin the healing process. The subtle difference is instead of “wanting to be the best” you should simply “just be the best”. Honour the present moment instead of hoping for the future. Instead of looking for perfection within others, look for it within yourself. Instead of starting a war because you disagree with someone, sit together and discuss it peacefully over a cup of tea.

If only it was that simple, the world would be a much better place. So spread the word and hopefully we will all soon be drinking tea together 😉

Love
Anna

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Life, Visions, Doubts and Passions

Insights come in the most unexpected ways. It might be a coincidence that this post comes while chopping up mushrooms for my risotto. Dish of the day, huh? 😉

After reading someone’s blog I left the comment:

“Life is based on visions – and you decide what your life’s vision is!”

and following on after the author’s comment to keep it in mind the next time doubts would creep in I concluded:

“Doubts are necessary because they make you re-evaluate your visions.”

And suddenly I wondered what had happened to my own vision. Maybe a little re-evaluation of my own little business wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

This comes after re-evaluating the Awareness Spa Mini Retreats, which I am part of, deciding to take a step back and simply hold the space, inviting people as they come and show interest. We all felt such relief after a year of constant advertising, which was three times as exhausting than actually running the retreat once a month.

I have changed. I now embark on another new step in my life which gently forces me to stop and do something different for a while. I am starting a two year university course in clinical health care as part of my employment.

It has been a passionate of mine to set up a little complementary business next to my main job. I have attended many interesting courses, met even more interesting people and took part in arduous networking meetings with little understanding of what I was supposed to talk about nor what it actually was that I wanted from it. It was all a great learning curve. So instead of spending my time advertising and feeling disappointed that I don’t get much response, I will now concentrate on university and let happen whatever will happen.

It’s almost like I have been creating different identities of myself in recent years, creating different blogs for different audiences because I didn’t feel that one could cope with the other. But I see now how beautifully they all work together. It’s an amalgamation of who I am as an individual, and of a life that I am proud to be living.

My previous website was build with simple HTML to keep my web design skills up but it got more and more difficult due to time and bothersome techniques to even update a single sentence, whereas I could spent hours blogging about a topic I felt passionate about here on wordpress. So I chose to transfer some of the content from my website onto my blog site since I am on here most of the time anyway.

First part of the amalgamation has been done. Now I can relax.

A passion to help is great – just that you can’t help if someone doesn’t want to be helped.

People rather have you fix their problems for them instead of genuinely wanting to solve them with your help.

Symptom control is impossible in the long-term unless you change something in your life. If you’re not happy to change your life, you might have to live with the symptoms.

I actually feel like I can be even more open in expressing myself through my writing now that I don’t have the burden of attracting potential clients. Too much have I been indoctrinated by several different codes of conducts relevant to whichever course I went for to behave and talk in a certain way.

Whereas I fully respect a professional appearance and a non-discriminatory approach and to refrain from practices that I am not qualified in, I also felt like I couldn’t fully be me, unable to breathe, stifled by the code and conduct’s suggested demeanours and crippled by my insurance’s terms and conditions.

My passion to help is joined by my passion to teach. So what better approach could I choose than simply be myself and lead by example. If someone would like to understand more about what I do they can ask. And I will be more than happy to fill them in.

I draw inspiration from my own experiences and thoughts as well as what I observe in the world around me. I don’t mean to offend anyone with my thoughts, they are merely expressions of my Inner Self, hence the term “The Sacred Centre”, in case you were wondering.

I refer to the Sacred Centre as the Inner Self that lies within you, in the centre of your chest. Seeing the world with your heart, not with your head will put a smile on your face. It brings you one step closer to the rest of the world, one step closer to yourself.

Writing brings clarity into my mind. With each story I share it feels like I am getting closer to finding inner peace.

To a new future filled with fun 😀

Love
Anna

Destiny

I try to be still, breathing in and out, calming my thoughts, but internally I writhe and twist under my mental turmoil.

Nothing major happened, just an accumulation of occurrences that whirl around in my head, unable to find a niche to settle in.

Let’s try and create one. Where do I even begin?

It’s actually all down to other’s opinions and behaviours. Just why does it affect me that much? Is it because it stirs something in me? Connects to memories and experiences that unsettle me?

Like, being unable to deal effectively with confrontation and disagreements. It’s scares the hell out of me. It makes me feel very insecure. It makes me want to run away. And in running away I am very good. I swallow my anger, my frustration out of fear that letting it out will create unrest around me and rather silently disappear a few years down the line, when the build up has gotten too much.

Coupled with the anxiety I still feel when seeing people on the street that resemble an individual that caused me a lot of emotional trauma, I came home mentally exhausted and collapsed on the bed.

Now I was left facing the last issue which is infesting my mind. Irritatingly it goes back to my father issues once again. How many times?

There is a young dad who has decided he can’t be a dad yet. And whereas I know him I am nowhere near enough to him as to know the exact details. But every single fibre in my body wants to tell him to please consider what effect this can have on his child in the future. Purely based on my own father issues, or rather his non-existence.

Just who am I to tell him that, considering everyone else is already miffed with him after having made his decision. I wonder what made him decide he didn’t want a family. At the same time I know that it is completely different to the decision my father made 30 years ago.

It’s interesting to note that there is a young man, pretty much the same age as my father was when I was born, and I am watching the whole scenario from the position of a person sharing the same age and yet with the emotions of a child that wasn’t wanted by it’s father.

If I had the chance to talk to him what would I say? If I have had the chance to talk to my father at the time he decided against me, what would I have said to him?

Would I say he is making a mistake? Surely it is his decision, he can’t be forced into something he doesn’t want to do. Maybe it’s even better to not be there at all than being a crap dad because he can’t be bothered.

Would it help either of them to have the perspective of a 30 year old future child with all its faults and perfections, all its dreams and anxieties, all its hopes and fears?

Would it change anything? Would it make them reconsider? And least of all, what would it change for me?

Does tempering with other’s destiny solve anything in the long term? Or is it destiny that someone came and tempered with it?

Either way, I will have to think about it a little more, but for now at least it helped me put these thoughts into a comfy niche and put my mind at rest for the night.

Love
Anna

A State of Mind

After two busy twelve hour shifts I awake tired and achy, unwilling to move or do anything for that matter.

I force myself out of bed at 10am only to get back into it less than three hours later. There I lie, reading a few pages in my book, before I loose the rest of my concentration and focus for the world and roll over in an attempt to sleep a little more.

Just sleep doesn’t want to come. I waft in and out of a dozing half-sleep state, a few thoughts making their way through the processing centre of my brain.

I actually enjoy this state of interbeing, being one with everything without actually doing anything. In fact, I was way too tired to sit upright and meditate and even my yoga practice was abandoned prematurely due to a slight sensation of light-headedness and lack of limb control.

As I lie there, one of the patients I was looking after over the past two days came into my mind. He has tetraplegia, paralyzed from the neck down, with just a little uncoordinated movement in his arms.

Once again I try to put myself into the position of such an individual, which is impossible, and unfortunately I don’t see it as acceptable to ask such an individual how they feel about it, especially not from my position as the care-giver.

However, the question has been with me for years and since I can’t find an answer it comes up again and again: how is it to be unable to move?

Even if I was to ask an individual and would be invited to gain an insight into his/her thoughts and emotions, it would only represent this one particular individual, not all those who are paralysed. Books  like “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” or stories like Tony Nicklinson’s case help to gain an insight, though both of them were unable to communicate verbally.

What I always find remarkable is the contentment I encounter in individuals who are paralyzed but still able to talk. Rarely have I come across someone who represents a difficult individual with a negative mindset. The majority are witty people with a wicked sense of humour.

Is it vital for us humans to communicate in order for life to make sense?

In cases of those who are paralyzed and able to talk, apart form the fact that they can’t mobilise, they seem to enjoy a mentally engaging life. Some learn languages, others travel abroad, and a lot of those I had the pleasure of meeting talk about their state of the art TV set that they can control with the blink of their eye which offers them much more than just TV and internet. As the story goes, some care homes even arrange escorts on their resident’s wishes. (watch “The Sessions“)

Dare to smile?

Another burning question: are they really happy?

As I blissfully enjoy my lazy state of interbeing, my legs all heavy and my back achy, I wonder if this is what it feels like for a paralyzed individual. Are they happy that they don’t really have a care in the world beside requiring others to look after them and enduring the processes of manual evacuation and washes under the constant eyes of others? Dare I wonder if they enjoy not having to move, having to go shopping, having to cook? Or is this too patronising and violates their dignity and respect?

Their sheer joy for life seems to stand out. It must give them something, otherwise they would have given up by now, like Tony Nicklinson, for example. I have seen the process of simply giving up so many times, that I can say that if someone loses the will to live, they usually begin to loose their appetite first, followed by a physical deterioration resulting in poor health and unless they can bring the spark back into their lives, they will simply cease to exist.

This does apply a lot more to the older generation, who have lost partners, most friends, don’t have many family members, have a physical ailment and are tired of being ill and don’t want to be a nuisance to others. It is quite sad to watch, but I can also emphasize and understand their point.

In paralyzed individuals who are able to communicate effectively, I observe a gist for life and a very healthy appetite. I would assume that it means that these particular individuals have accepted their condition to be part of their life and make the most of it.

I suppose all the above questions and contemplations refer back to myself and my very last question: would I want to live like that?

Considering I am a very intellectually active person, loving to teach and spread my acquired knowledge, and also bringing in my awareness of a much subtler world around us that can be engaged with by thought, I think I would be happy to still have the chance to be able to share my knowledge, even if my physical body wasn’t any longer following my mental commands.

In the case that I was unable to express my thoughts properly, I think I would rather like to go back to the state where I came from before I was born, in which the physical world doesn’t play a part, wherever that may be.

I have developed a huge respect for these paralyzed individuals followed by an ever increasing compassion towards them. And at the end of the day I have to say that I see this as the purpose of living, to learn about ourselves as much as we learn about others. And when we are able to understand others, we will also be able to understand more about ourselves.

And vice versa 🙂

Love
Anna

Natural Selection

I notoriously try to avoid the news. I just can’t bear to listen to all the negativity, deaths, assaults, wars, economic disasters and poverty and starvation in poor countries.

It makes me very very  sad, touches a seed inside of me that I do not wish to water. Why is it that bad news sell better than good news?

Is it naïve or selfish to prefer to live in my little bubble of happiness, trying to keep my little candle alight amidst all the disasters of the world happening around me?

I do like to help others keep their candle alight, teach them a way to practice life more peacefully and at ease with themselves. But ultimately it is their own responsibility to look after their candle light and to ensure it isn’t blown out by the threatening wind created by bad news and other’s opinions.

There are people who predict the end of the world quite frequently and others who say the financial system is going to go bust and that America is going to go down just like Atlantis did.

They don’t mean to upset anyone, they actually try to make us aware of what is about to come so that we are prepared for when it happens.

Just when is this extra knowledge worth the worries? Wouldn’t it be much better that we aim for a peaceful way of living and dying instead of spending our life preparing for a possibly disastrous end?

And why is it that we need to survive by all means? If I think that a massive wave of water is going to hit our coast and make its way inland over the flood planes, is my house going to survive? How about I ensure my car has inflatables build in underneath so that it can float for a little while or even build a helicopter type construction under the roof so that it can lift me up to the next higher hill?

You see, that’s the effect bad news has on me. They send me a little barmy. My innate sense for survival kicking in and looking for solutions to survive straight away.

What are we in the face of evolution?

Now, I do believe in the power of thought and law of attraction, as it has worked repeatedly in my favour, and also, I hasten to say, against me. What you put out you are likely to get. So what about these conspiracy theories? Wouldn’t it be basic law of attraction at work, should we all worry about the end of the world, that it will indeed happen?

Shouldn’t we instead focus on simple life changes to bring about a healthy planet and inhabitants?

There is a reason I don’t listen to the news or engage in political polls or discussions. Call me ignorant, but I simply don’t see how it is going to change anything if we all trust into someone to make changes for us instead of beginning with the change within ourselves.

If you want a better world, begin to create one instead of waiting for someone to create it for you!

Natural disasters have been part of shaping the universe long before the existence of humans and it will likely carry on happening. I suppose we have to accept that and consider looking at it from a slightly different angle, seeing it more as natural selection than a catastrophe, despite the obviously sad impact on family and friends that may have lost against nature, which is sad, I don’t deny that.

But I also think that, if we ourselves weren’t so ignorant to believe that we could live forever, and face the fact that we will all die one day, that maybe this acceptance of our ultimate vulnerability would lead us to value our short existence on this planet in the face of human and planetary evolution and make the best of it.

So build yourself a bubble to protect your own light, lead by example and create a better world now!

Love
Anna

A New Perspective

“Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are”.
Berthold Brecht

When I started this blog I was hoping to fill it with interesting topics on alternative health and complementary therapies and to bring the idea of the Inner Self closer to others. I also thought it would enhance my own complementary business that I had just set up.

A full year and a half later I can say that it neither gave me more clients, nor that I have written many blogs on alternative health options. But the mere act of writing had a transforming effect on me. It greatly helped to understand myself, where I came from, who I am, who I want to be and what is shaping me on the way and mostly to make peace with myself.

And I realised that it isn’t important for me to master the unseen energies surrounding us, neither is it important to convince others of their existence.  I came to understand that it is actually much more important for me to live my life as a leading example.

Remaining calm when disagreements occur, smile when others get angry, breathe and listen when someone cuts into my sentence, prepare and eat simple nutritious foods to keep me going, meditate to maintain my inner peace, practice yoga to keep flexible as age gets on.

Even more so did I see how much the extra knowledge I have acquired over the last two decades influences the way I carry out my main job. And even though I can’t apply any of my complementary skills in my main job, the background knowledge still filters through in the way I think, converse with others, handle situations and express myself. It enables me to see others from a different angle and somewhat see more to them than they themselves would.

Setting up your own business is a tiring process that requires a lot of determination and dedication. Especially through the initial starting phase where it looks like its just not going to happen. It depends on whether this job will be your main income or whether you will have another job in the background that will keep you above water while your new business is growing.

In my case I was never going to give up my main job, more likely reducing the hours should I get busy with my own business. It might be that this is a reason why I don’t have very many private clients. I might simply not have put enough effort in because it wasn’t like my life depended on it. I also have been continuously in education since I sat up my own business. I simply didn’t have enough time to direct my whole attention onto it, despite my passion to make it happen.

Now I have been very lucky to get promoted at work which means I will go to university for the next two years and will have to put my little business on hold. And it doesn’t bother me a bit. Something inside of me already knows that I will be much better off once I finish this course. I will be stronger, more knowledgeable, ready to take on the whole world.

It’s just strange that, now that I am in full anticipation to start the new course, people suddenly get interested in my complementary treatments. Or is it because of the new course? Does it make me more appealing or trustworthy in a professional sense? Or am I being tested once again from higher sources to see what I really want to do?

The promotion came after having held a strong vision of mine for a good two years. Call it cosmic ordering, or law of attraction, I got what I wanted without much effort. And although I initially feel like I am cheating myself, converting from complementary therapies to a more clinical practice, I know that it is all part of the parcel, part of being more accepted by the world as a whole.

Regardless of what your vision is, and regardless of whether it changes from time to time, as long as you have a vision, you know where you are going.

Interestingly, now that I move on to another topic, away from healing energies, I find myself get embarrassed when asked about it. It almost feels like I have grown out of it. Don’t get me wrong, I am still fully aware that these energies are there, but I have learned to acknowledge them and work with them in such a subtle way, that I don’t need to address them openly anymore.

Over the past few years, when I began to attend courses in Energy Healing, that was the only thing I was interested in, and was equally keen on getting others interested too. But I only know now that it doesn’t work that way. Only because you are interested by something doesn’t mean that others will be interested. Even if you see that they would benefit from the extra knowledge.

You can’t force others to heal, even if you have their best interest at heart and only want to help. They need to find their own way, and if it is supposed to be, their paths will cross with yours.

That’s just the way things are 🙂

Love
Anna

Life is a Roundabout

If you have encountered one of the “magic roundabouts” you know just how confusing it can be. But having made it through alive and without damage to you or others, you also realise that things will be okay as long as you go with the flow.

Just what does it mean??

The other day I was waiting by a roundabout for a friend and since there was nothing else to do, my mind wandered and naturally focused on the most engaging option, the traffic going round the roundabout.

After a few unconscious minutes of staring at the cars whooshing by, my awareness was alerted by the realisation that this roundabout was a spitting image of the concept of life and the cosmos.

Not only did the central island represent the sun and the cars somewhat the planets circling around it, but also did the whole appearing and disappearing of cars resemble the coming and going of life, death, rebirth and also the theory of cause and effect – what comes around, goes around.

This idea was born when I recognized some drivers and seeing how different everyone behaved and interacted with each other. Some steered confident and self-assured through the roundabout only to be beeped at by someone who thought that it wasn’t going fast enough which in turn upset the anxious driver in the lane next to them who worried they made a mistake.

Regardless of individual’s driving styles and experiences, everyone left the circle of life at some point and took with it a different view based on their own experience. The only thing that remains the same, a constant observer, is the centre island, affected only by the seasons.

Representing a similar entity to what some would call a “God”, the centre island would also be our haven, a peaceful sanctuary, a point from where to see all and everything, an oracle that could tell you what happened and why. Although it was actually designed to block off the view for the opposing oncoming traffic so that they would focus on the traffic coming from one side only.

An even higher authority designed the layouts and decided that this was a good way to make traffic run smoothly. Of course not everyone obeys the rules. Most people don’t stay in their lane and cut through the middle, especially if there is no centre island. Recently I was doing my best staying in my lane when going straight over the roundabout, only to be cut off by someone entering the roundabout right in front of me. He probably thought I was about to leave the roundabout at the first exit because I was in the outside lane instead of cutting through the middle, like most probably do.

Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland, New Zealand

When I was about to visit New Zealand I was shown a picture of a roundabout layout by a friend which at first glance looked very terrifying, considering I was a German national and about to drive on the “wrong” side of the road. So before I went to pick up the car I had hired downtown Auckland, I walked the first few blocks that I was about to drive on, just to make sure I wouldn’t crash right away.

But soon I swerved gently through the traffic and actually had more trouble back on the roads in Germany adjusting to driving on the “normal” side of the  road, as I had been taught. Now that I have been living in the UK for over 7 years, I avoid driving in Germany because I find it too confusing and intimidating, despite it being the roads that I initially learned to drive on.

Roundabouts are a beautifully choreographed version of life and watching the traffic circle is almost like meditating. And although cars may or may not be the best example to compare life to, especially since they stink to heaven, excuse my choice of words, the epiphany that derives directly from simply watching is grandiose.

An interesting comparison from my point of view is that in Nepal I found that, stepping out to cross over a road, I myself became a centre island around which the traffic swerved frighteningly. But that is just the way it goes there. 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. The idea is to just go and everything will just swirl around you. Just don’t stop. A wonderfully exhilarating experience.

Roundabout in Kathmandu, Nepal

Roundabout in Kathmandu, Nepal

So we all have our own parcel to carry, or drive around. And what we do with life is up to us and us alone. If you ever wonder why life is the way it is, sit yourself next to a roundabout and watch. The answer will come to you 😉

Love
Anna

The Mini Evolution

Having been researching a little into my mitochondrial past, my mother line, and being aware of today’s understanding of human evolution, I came to see just how fast we develop today.

What our ancestors learned over many thousands, even millions of years, we now learn in a single lifetime. We learn to walk in the first couple of years of our life together with the first words that soon transform into proper sentences followed by proper reading and writing when we enter school.

During our teens we discover ourselves and the world around us, we trial and test and grow up with a pretty good understanding of how we should behave, though a lot of us might have different ideas.

We enter adolescence and are expected to become responsible, look after ourselves and make decisions about our life and the future. We are curious and want to see for ourselves if the photos from places far away are correct and many go to see it for themselves.

Annapurna, Himalaya, Nepal

After a few years we may get tired, no longer hungry for knowledge we begin to settle down. Quite naturally children are born which repeat the cycle of growing up and once they have left the house to explore the world for themselves, we hope to spend the rest of our life in the peaceful surroundings of our home that we have established during our lifetime.

Granted this describes the average Western view on life. In poorer countries, like Nepal above for example, which is one of the poorest countries in the world, this theory is a completely different ballgame.

Today we live on average twice as long as my mitochondrial mother Helena did 20 000 years ago, at the time of the last ice age. We can get a good 90 years out of it if we are lucky, yet the majority of important transformations take place in the first 20 years of our life. So what are we doing with the rest of our life? Is it maybe not that lucky at all to live to such a high age?

What is it that evolution tries to teach us by enabling us to grow up to our full potential so quickly and then allowing us to live that long?

On a related concept, researchers have realised that our brain has been steadily shrinking for the past 20 000 years. The reasons are yet unknown. One idea I like. It suggests that we have adapted to life, became used to our surroundings and simply don’t need some of the early functions that enabled us to survive in the wild. It is for example also mentioned that a larger head would have been of benefit to counteract the cold ice age. http://discovermagazine.com/2010/sep/25-modern-humans-smart-why-brain-shrinking

Our ancient ancestors were mostly travelling by foot and many didn’t make it either due to old age, illness or accidental death while hunting. Today’s life offers us the possibility to travel relatively safe to places that those living a few thousand years ago didn’t even knew existed. Travelling further got easier with the first railway tracks and nowadays we take travelling afar for granted.

Aotearoa – New Zealand – The land of the long white cloud

The first time I set foot on a plane was nine years ago, at the adventurous age of 21, when I decided to take a look at New Zealand at the bottom of the world. Prior to that I thought flying was only for rich people. And to be fair, it has only been a fairly recent development that low cost airlines made flying more accessible to those on a low budget.

Two years after my trip to New Zealand I moved from Germany to England and spent the first few years flying back and forth twice a year to see my family until I got fed up with it and began taking the car on the ferry to cross the English Channel about once each year.

It was the realisation during the years of “commuting” between England and Germany that I looked at myself and asked “Just when did you become a frequent flyer?” An innate fear response set in that suggested that the more often I fly the higher the chance I will crash one day. So I stopped flying, which I know is silly since crashing I can anywhere be it in a car, bus, train or even more so on my bike. Did my prehistoric ancestors begin to settle in one place because they were afraid to venture further into a dangerous wild?

However silly this approach of mine to flying may be, it does enable me to be prepared for the possibility that the oil on the planet may run out at some point. How prepared are you to do without the comfort of distant travels and to be forced back onto your own two feet to walk, just like our prehistoric ancestors did? Would that cause our brain to grow again?

As mentioned above, I have become a little less adventurous now compared to a few years ago when I went to Nepal and ended up climbing over a massive rock and mudslide.

Rock and mudslide in Nepal

Actually, this may sound clichéd, having just turned 30 I feel I have aged a lot in the past six months. As if the whole of evolution had suddenly caught up with me. My eyesight rapidly declined, my driving isn’t as boisterous as it used to be, I am more aware of the possible dangers around me and my handwriting is deteriorating to mere hieroglyphs. I read somewhere once that our body is only designed to function to it’s fullest potential until about age 37. Is this what I’m feeling?

My sense of adventure has turned inward, to be happy with myself wherever I am. I have even only recently bought a little bungalow. “Only old people buy bungalows” used to be a common stereotype. I just like the compact cuteness of it. And the immense feeling of security this new house evokes in me is tremendous, despite my inability to commit even to a fulltime job until a few years ago.

My warm and happy feelings towards the house as a place where I can retreat to and rest might be similar to the first farmers 10 000 years ago that settled down because they found it much more comfortable to grow their food around the house compared to running after it in the wild.

We all start of as hunters when we are born and return to the shelter of a home to settle down in comfort. And I think that in my very own mini evolution, I am just at that point. Just children are not on my horizon 😉

Love
Anna

The Call of Life

What is the purpose of living? And why do we carry on producing offspring to further populate an already overcrowded planet? Are we unconsciously preparing for an expedition to Mars after all?

20 000 years ago it was the declining ice cover over northern Europe that enabled Helena, my mitochondrial mother, to move further north from southern France and discover unknown territory. It must have been exciting as well as terrifying and dangerous, to say the least.

20 000 years later I decide to leave my home country of Germany to move to England after accepting a six months work experience placement. I saw it as a stepping stone from which to travel the rest of the world. It was exciting, terrifying but more than anything, I had enough of Germany, a place that didn’t hold much excitement for me anymore at the time.

Friends had fallen out with each other, my part time job had been given to someone else, and actually, something had been missing all along. And I was keen to find out what it was that I was missing out on.

Apart from the known facts that Helena, whose name derives from the haplogroup letter H, was said to belong to the hunter and gatherers, long before humans settled down to farm, one of her main aims was to keep finding food to survive, an important instinct that we still possess today.

When I made the decision to move abroad, my instinct was to find something new, a challenge, somewhere else. English as a language seemed to come easy to me and I enjoyed talking, watching movies and reading in English. I would love to know how Helena communicated and whether her clan had trouble communicating with other clans.

Chalk Cliffs at Dover, UK.

Six months in England have now turned into seven years. How did that happen? And I wonder just how it happened that my ancestors decided to settle in Germany. How did the hunter and gatherers come to begin farming? Because they realised that it was much easier to grow food in close proximity than having to run around in the wild for days to hunt it down.

I have to admit, though I didn’t get very far with my ambitious plans to travel the world, after a decade of discovering myself, beginning by leaving my mother’s house, re-educating myself from graphic design to foreign languages to healthcare, adding complementary therapies, jetting off to inspect far away places like New Zealand and teaching English at Buddhist monasteries in Nepal, I feel like I spent my twenties well with researching my options and playing around with all the possibilities.

I have figured out what I want out of life, realised that the horizon will still be there to discover more if I wish and that I am now ready to lay back and enjoy living my thirties, which would have been a fulfilling middle age for Helena, a little more peaceful.

Well, maybe after the two years university that lie ahead 🙂

I hasten to say that it is more my mental attitude that has changed, more at ease with myself, more accepting of myself and others, a little calmer. Why yes, we are still a constantly evolving species after all.

The genetic mutations that make up our markers which make it possible to establish where our DNA has travelled, are estimated to arise every few thousand years and can be used to give us a rough idea when and where these people lived. What I find interesting is the finding that humans never had a milk digesting enzyme, other than as babies, and that it was a genetic mutation that arouse a few thousand years ago that enabled humans to digest milk from animals. It is suggested that this strand of humans went on to populate Europe, since most Asian and African populations are not able to tolerate milk.

I don’t tolerate milk very well, with the symptoms of headache, bloating, nausea, but my DNA result didn’t include this information, so I don’t know for sure if any of my ancestors carried the lactose tolerating enzyme and if they did, where it began.

I have written before about the story how and why I left Germany, which you can read here if you like. But it is only now that I don’t just consider it a spiritual calling, the influence of reincarnation, but begin to wonder whether it was maybe my genes calling me just as much. How much would a genetic predisposition influence our decision where we feel home?

Only in the last year did I write about my nomadic behaviour of running away in connection with my engagement, about being home where the heart is, reminisced about the winds of change, releasing toy horses and discovered the Buddha within.

Feel free to click on the links and read!

And why do I feel drawn to certain places on the globe and not at all to others? Is it the total unknown that fascinates me or is it familiarities? Can we put any emphasis on these questions at all? I always say that if I had lived a few hundred years ago, I would have discovered the world. Did I?

The end result is that I feel happy where I am and would only consider moving away if I found find that I wasn’t happy anymore. However, I have come to learn to deal with such situations and transform them, which is probably why I am still here.

Did the same happen to Helena and my more recent German ancestors? Did they simply stay where they were because they were happy? Or did other commitments keep them bound to the area? Did they feel they had to raise children to maintain the family line or did it just happen? Or was it just not possibly for them to pack their bags and run for the hills, like I did?

Even if someone claims to know the answers, there will be hardly any evidence to support them. Which makes this topic so exciting 😉

Love
Anna

Common Ancestors

If I share the same mitochondrial DNA with a certain group of people, that can be traced back to 20 000 years ago, how much do I have in common with these people?

Bryan Sykes gives us an idea of how life must have been like for Helena, the woman that everyone with the haplogroup H can be traced back to. He bases it on DNA, archaeological finds and global weather data. The last ice age was still covering most of Europe back then and Helena survived with her clan in caves in Southern France. A lot of it is speculation, a lot remains unknown.

What I found striking in the inspiring TV show “Meet the Izzards” was how similar Eddie Izzard looked next to random people with the same DNA markers as his despite them being from different ethnic groups. I have only a handful of people from my maternal line to compare to. Can you spot similarities?

My brother, granny, mother and me.

It’s funny that we all share my grandfathers surname and at the same time share the mitochondrial DNA from one individual female who is said to have lived 20 000 years ago, which has nothing to do with my grandfather. Watch below as I trace back my own mother line.

My brother and I share the same mtDNA from our mother, but only I could give it on to my children.

My mother and I.

My mother as a young child.

My granny Ursula when she was about 18.

Granny when she was a young child.

My great grandmother Anna with baby granny.

My great grandmother Anna as a young girl, born 1897.

My great great grandmother Pauline born 1862.

A younger great great grandmother Pauline.

My great great great grandmother Katharina, born 1833.

Of my great great great great grandmother I only know her name, Elisabeth, but not when she was born or what she looked like. Everything before that is a mystery.

As with anything, we can put far too much into this. Looking back from today’s view point, we can say that only the strongest and cleverest prevailed. Natural selection played its part. How much is my decision to not continue my maternal line part of this natural selection process? Is it because my physiology wouldn’t permit it anyway? Should I maybe try anyway, just to carry on the tradition? Why would I show so much interest only to then not actively contribute to it? Or is this where my belief comes in, that the physical is secondary to the spiritual?

In the belief of incarnation, some say that we choose the conditions we would like to be born into. These can be good or bad, depending on what we would like to learn from it. Looking at my own birth conditions, my mother being told she had a chance near to nothing to be able to conceive, yet I came, despite my father’s request of abortion, with the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck twice, reluctant to breathe and yet announcing myself long before my mother even knew she was expecting by repeatedly telling her my name. Bless her, she was actually seeking psychological support because of it and only a supposed appendicitis revealed that she was actually pregnant.

Growing up without a father isn’t really a problem, as long as you ignore the arising feelings of rejection. Once they come up, and they do, literally at any junction on your life’s path, you learn from them and transform. For me, they were basically my outboard motor that accelerated me into unknown territory, always on the quest to a better me.

What I learned from my mother’s line DNA is that I belong to the strongest mitochondrial haplogroup to populate Europe, said to be well equipped to stand up against infection, which made it so widespread. Long before the DNA report have I come to realise that I am blessed with strong immunity.

Bringing in my personal life purpose, I have decided I am going to save the world by helping one person at a time to become better after an illness as part of my clinical role, and to become happier overall as part of my complimentary business.  Which is why I don’t feel the need to concentrate on just one individual, as in a child of my own.

All in all, I am a born fighter. And I really don’t think I would be a fighter if I had been born into a happy “standard” family environment, because I wouldn’t have felt the need to fight for myself and others against injustices and misunderstandings.

Still, the original question remains: Is there a connection between my soul purpose and my mitochondrial past? Or is it all just a coincidence? Why don’t I like to believe it is a mere coincidence? Does life really need to have a purpose for it to be worth living?

Until the next.

Love
Anna

Incarnation vs Mutation

I like the idea of reincarnation, life as a cycle of learning, dying, being born again, living life as a quest to fulfil a deeper understanding which lays beyond our comprehension.

And while I like a certain idea, I am also just as equally interested in other ideas, like the on-going research into our genetic history.

These two are worlds apart, one might think. The idea of incarnation seems to be attached to a belief system, religion, an airy gist of a thought manifestation that somehow made it into present history as a possibility, though commonly established in Eastern traditions.

Genetic research seems to follow a set of rules that are based on material evidence found over the years. However, even genetics had to prove itself against an array of scientists who didn’t “believe” what the latest discoveries showed and only gave in when many others showed equal results.

Both, incarnation and genetics, could be put down to evolution, the constant evolving of a species that is at the same time spirit and flesh, yet haven’t come to fully see the connection between both.

A question that arose while I was looking into my own mitochondrial past was if we would possibly reincarnate into the same haplogroup, a group that consists of people with the same genetic mutations in their mitochondrial DNA, which is only passed along the maternal line.

Why did that question arise? Because for me, considering that one is said to evolve with each incarnation and to possibly be reincarnated with similar people, it would make sense to stay in the same clan, to move it forward, mentally driven by spiritual aspects and physically by carrying forth our genetic blueprint, using our common mutation for the better of humanity.

To be fair, I haven’t got a clue what I am talking about, mere speculations, yet the topic doesn’t let me rest. So excuse my waffling, but I have got to find a common ground here.

Another question: “How much do genes remember of themselves? Do they have a collective memory or conscience/awareness like we are said to have?” Spiritually it is suggested that we are all one. One soul, split into different segments to enable incarnation, to learn for the better of the whole.

Have you heard about the joke with the Dalai Lama and the Pizza? Got to watch it! 🙂
http://youtu.be/BNw_eeH2Tp8

Atoms, for example, tiny tiny particles, together, vibrating at different speeds, create a material object. Though even for atoms to be acknowledged by humanity took almost 2000 years since their discovery approximately 400 BCE by Democritus, a Greek scholar, Back then, his idea was refused as one saw the world as something divine, whereas today we have gone the other way, accepting only what can be proven by science.

“It only looks like a thing has a colour and it only appears to be sweet or bitter. In reality, there are only atoms and the empty space”. Democritus

According to Paul Davis in “The fifth miracle”, every human has about one billion atoms in their body which once belonged to Shakespeare or even Buddha or Mozart. He claims that due to the constant circle of life and the apparent long-living atoms, a permanent new use as a dewdrop, leaf or new human is possible.

Bryan Sykes completes his book “The seven daughters of Eve” by stating that our genes didn’t just appear when we were born. They have been carried to us by millions of individual lives over thousands of generations. And even though we are all a complete mixture, at the same time, we are all related. Each gene can trace its own journey to a different common ancestor.

Just how much do I have in common with my ancestors?

To the next.

Love
Anna

My Mitochondrial Past

Ok, so I spit into this small tube, put it into the post and a month later I learn that I descend from the pioneers that populated Europe after the last ice age a few thousand years ago. 20 000 years to be precise, or as precise as today’s genetics can be. Of course, we are talking about DNA here.

I was curious. Watching Eddie Izzard (www.izzardsdna.com) discover his ancient genetic relatives left me wanting to know more about my own. Actually, I was even more interested to compare the findings with my theory of soul connections.

Katharina Zinsenheim 1833

My great great great grandmother Katharina Zinsenheim, born 1833 in Germany.

Considering that I have names of my maternal line for a good seven generations up to about 1800 AD and given that my surname, from my mother’s father, is one of the most common names in Germany, I don’t know much beyond that.

And what did my spit reveal?

2013-02-27 11.40.07

It revealed the journey of ancient humanity, homo sapiens, the first humans leaving Africa 60 000 years ago to discover the plains of the globe, vast untouched wilderness, only populated by wild animals.

As a woman I can only be tested for my mother line with the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which is contained in our cells, male and female, but can only be given on to an offspring with the fertilized female egg. Men can be tested for the mtDNA as well as the Y chromosome (YDNA), but I would have to somehow convince my non-existent father to donate some spit in order for me to learn more about my father line, which is presently impossible.

My mitochondrial DNA markers indicate that I belong to the haplogroup H (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_H_(mtDNA)) with the subtype of H5a. To not confuse you too much, a haplogroup is a group of similar haplotypes, sharing common ancestors with the same mutation, which are assigned letters to group similar ones together and set them apart from those with different mutations.

It is estimated that my haplogroup H arose about 40 000 years ago in the vast land between Western Iran, Kazakhstan and Mongolia and then went on to move towards Europe. Today it is the most common group in Europe with the biggest percentage of 47% alone in Germany, which, who would have thought, is my country of origin, closely followed by the Balkans with 36% and Slovakia with 34%.

France contributes with 29%, which is the place Bryan Sykes (www.oxfordancestors.com) pinpointed as “Helena’s” place of birth a good 20 000 years ago, the mother of all those grouped together in haplogroup H. In case you’re wondering how he knows the name of this ambitious “clan leader”, he simply made up names beginning with the letter assigned to the different haplogroups.

Talking about soul connections, a strange coincidence was that I had booked myself a trip to France head over heels to visit a Buddhist retreat for a week, unknowingly exactly where I later learned Helena was said to have originated, in the Dordogne region, with the cave of Lascaux (ice-age refuge with magnificent paintings) only an hours drive away.

Rolling hills in Dordogne, France

Unfortunately, other than a present day photo of a heavily farmed Southern France, there is obviously no other photographic evidence of Helena’s existence, just traces of DNA extracted from bones excavated over the years, traced back to one person, the mother of the mother of a mother, an unbroken chain for 20 000 years. In “The Seven Daughters of Eve”, Bryan Sykes gives us a glimpse into what life must have been like for Helena and the other “clan mothers” based on meteorological data and archaeological finds.

What I find interesting is that some research (http://genome.wellcome.ac.uk/doc_WTX042228.html) suggests that the reason why haplogroup H is so dominant and widespread is that the genetic predisposition offers a naturally high protection from infection. I can personally attest that I hardly ever get ill, other than a little cold every now and again. On the other hand, there is also a risk factor for late onset Alzheimer’s Disease. At least it’s not early onset 🙂

My subtype H5a is said to have arisen in Europe about 5500 years ago and is most common in Iberia, the Balkans and Scandinavia. The report I received from the test lab wasn’t very extensive. However, I did find a website (http://www.buildinghistory.org/distantpast/ancientdna.shtml) which assigns markers to excavations, where I for example discovered that I share the same genetic marker for blue eyes as does the famous Copernicus (http://www.pnas.org/content/106/30/12279).

If anyone out there has done a DNA test and would like to compare, my marker definitions for subtype H5a are: 10398A,  12705C,  2706A,  7028C,  456T,  4336C.

I tested with Britains DNA, mainly because they had a program on national TV so I found I could trust they would give me a good result. Please do your own research before ordering any tests to find a test lab that suits your circumstances.

So far, so goo. Now that I have given you the facts, let me ponder on the influence of our higher self or soul on our genetic blueprint.

Until the next.

Love
Anna

Ode to an Unknown

During my stay at Plum Village I learned about the writing of “love letters”, listing all the good things about someone that you have fallen out with or stopped communicating on bad terms. This came in connection with a talk about our parents, but can be applied to anyone. Our awareness was particularly drawn onto picturing our parents as 5 year olds, in order to maybe gain some insight into their behaviour.

Having had done some thinking in recent years about my feelings in relation to my non-existing father, I wondered what difference it would make to write to him again, since he simply ignores all my letters. But the nun at Plum Village strongly encouraged us to do this, citing numerous occasions where people had found together again by this simple act of kindness.

At first I didn’t know where to start, I didn’t even know my father properly, how could I possibly know anything good about him? For a brief moment the feelings of resentment came up again, the anger at him for not seeing me and how he simply sticks to his decision to not wanting to be involved in my life.

Then suddenly I realised that this was indeed a sign of extraordinary willpower and strength, which in fact I found quite admirable and which I can see in myself. I wondered how much more I could find out about him by considering my own character traits.

A monk at Plum Village suggested that if we can’t understand our parents, we might be able to find out what is going on inside of them by watching our own thoughts and habits, because it is the same genes at work. So I began to write yet another letter to my father. This time a different one.

I admire your willpower, that you make a decision and stick with it. It shows strength and endurance, what evidently helps us  to get along in life.

I see this this willpower in myself. It is very helpful when I try to get somewhere, but it can also lead to stubbornness. There are many things I didn’t get or experience because I was too stubborn to see that my thoughts or decisions weren’t right. I am often too proud to admit that I have made a mistake. But at the same time I am also very courageous and often embark on new adventures.

For a long time did I have a certain sense of sadness within me, a feeling of abandonment, which made it impossible for me to fully acknowledge myself. Then I realised that my thoughts and feelings are way too dependent on other people, instead of simply being happy with myself just the way I am.

If someone smiles at us we take it as a sign that we are being acknowledged and liked. If someone shouts at us, we think we did something wrong. If someone is being totally ignored, does that mean that one is invisible? How does one feel when one is invisible?

With this also came the realisation that my urge to run away, hide, to not commit to long-term commitments, must have been the same that you felt when you ran away from me. You still hide, just like me. I even moved to another country.

When I was in first grade, every Monday morning, we were allowed to talk a little about our weekend at the beginning of class. On just such a Monday morning I had seen some bunnies crossing my path to school, which excited me as a six year old very much. This excitement I was eager to share with my fellow class mates and particularly with my teacher.

But regardless of how often I raised my small arm, she didn’t seem to notice me and didn’t give me the chance to communicate. Out of this deep disappointment did I make the decision, that if I raise my hand and am not picked, then I simply won’t raise my hand again ever.

And over the following weeks I used my strong willpower and consequently suppressed the need to raise my hand in class, even if I actually would have wanted to. I conditioned myself to a behavioural pattern, which affected the rest of my future education and social group activities and negatively influenced my oral participation in class as well as my abilities to communicate in larger groups.

All I wanted was to be seen. I am working on correcting this decision of mine, which isn’t at all easy, just as it probably isn’t easy for you to see and acknowledge me.

Life consists of an array of decisions which ultimately form the cobbles on our path. Our decisions shouldn’t create problems, just like our path shouldn’t have any tripping hazards. Trip, however, we can anytime, even over our own two feet. Sometimes there is someone to help us up, other times we are left to our own devices.

Sometimes, our path leads us in circles, sometimes it takes a sharp turn. Sometimes it goes arduously uphill, sometimes way too quickly downhill. With every step, with every decision, we are changing, learning more about ourselves and those around us. Sometimes we share our path with others.

One day we will wake up and realise that our whole life hasn’t been lived to the full, for we were by far too much concerned with not stumbling along our path, instead of simply taking it just the way it is.

Despite the negative effects, I am grateful that I carry your willpower in me, for it gives me the drive to create a better world.

But above all am I grateful that I have the possibility to make all these fantastic experiences and live an interesting and complex life, which wouldn’t be possible without you.

To this day I have not had a reply, but I am not expecting one. I have learned that the mere act of writing, of focusing one’s thoughts, can act as a way of coming to terms with issues and make peace with it.

Just like I was strongly encouraged to write a “love letter”, so I would like to encourage you to do the same. If you don’t feel like sending it off, then don’t do it. But I dare you, that the question whether it could possibly change anything will not let you rest until you send it off 🙂

And the person you are writing to doesn’t even have to be among the living anymore. And you might as well write a love letter to yourself as well. We all deserve to be loved!

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

The Buddha Within the Sacred Centre

Now this is interesting.

A year and a half ago I decided it was time to create a business around my idea to help people. This was mainly driven by the thought that I ought to declare any extra income so I don’t get into trouble one day and have to pay a silly amount of money to the tax man.

At that time I didn’t have a regular income outside my main job but was naively believing that I would one day. I still don’t take much more in on the side but beside the reassurance that I am abiding the law (however irritating and confusing the self-assessment tax returns are), it actually helped me to pin point what I really wanted this little extra business to be.

My main drive was to help and I wanted to do this by sharing my own practice together with knowledge acquired along the way. While searching for the all important internet domain, I settled for “The Sacred Centre“. The decision was certainly mainly fueled by my omnipresent gut feeling and possibly because it sound good. But mostly it resonated with a sensation inside of me, in the centre of my chest, that I had come to see as a space where my Inner Self resides peacefully.

Fast forward a year and a half, after having lead many workshops on raising other’s awareness of this “Sacred Centre” within, I found something even deeper at Plum Village, a Buddhist Retreat in France.

Statue at Lower Hamlet, Plum Village

In that same space that I had stumbled across a few years ago, I found what a Buddhist nun referred to as the “Buddha within”, a sense of pure happiness and joy, so beautiful, I have no words to describe it.

Discovering my Sacred Centre was like standing in a doorway, fully aware of the room inside, yet the most vital feature within that room was still out of reach, hidden by the mists of the past. It was no doubt a vital discovery, but having been able to completely wind down and relax for a week at Plum Village enabled me to shift that mist and see the Buddha within clearly, understanding what it means to “really arrive, to be truly at home“.

And upon my return home, after nearly two years living in a flat that I didn’t like, surrounded by loud traffic and screaming people, I was able to be happy where I was, in the present moment, with the Buddha within me. Only three weeks later arrived the long awaited offer to buy the flat, giving us the opportunity to move on to live in a much calmer environment of our choice.

I have often made the discovery that if someone, me included, wasn’t happy with their place of living, they would also encounter difficulties in selling or renting a new place. However, as soon as they made the decision to stop looking and redecorate, thinking if they have to stay they might as well make themselves comfortable, the offers came in and they moved out of a beautifully redecorated house into another!

I did a lot of cobweb dusting during working meditation at Plum Village and it truly applied to those around myself as much as those inside of me. Clear your inner cobwebs, redecorate and smile and breathe deeply from time to time! In truth it doesn’t matter where you are, as long as you are happy with yourself. If you aren’t happy with yourself, your surroundings will let you know 😉

Love
Anna

The Breath of Life

I have come to see more and more recently, how important our breathing is and how distant we become from ourselves if we are unable to connect with our breath. Breath is life – life is breathing. We could possibly survive without food for about a month or two, without water for two to three days but without oxygen only for a few minutes.

Breathing deeply can help to maintain the connection to our body and inner self. Taking a deep breath and following the natural flow of your breathing in and out of your body for a few minutes can be a simple way to celebrate being alive. It can bring you back into the present moment and also give you a sense of calmness and being at peace with yourself.

However, not everyone is able to breathe properly, me included. I spent a week at Plum Village recently, a Buddhist retreat in France, and there I learned to use any kind of sound – a bell, ringing phone, door bell, beeping car – as a way of centring, bringing my awareness back to my breath and most importantly, to drop my shoulders.

Small Bell at the Lower Hamlet, Plum Village

At first, this was strange to me, I actually tensed up even more whenever I heard the mindfulness bell, as if I innately feared something bad was going to happen. At the same time I realised that my breath literally got stuck in my chest, I was unable to breathe properly. It was as if someone was holding a tight grip on my neck and shoulders, as if I was doing something I shouldn’t do, as if I wasn’t allowed to be alive.

This actually translates nicely onto my father’s decision to have me aborted. His words posed a danger to my most basic need, being alive and breathing, and once I took my first breath they unconsciously haunted me for most of my life, giving me the feeling that I shouldn’t be here, alive, breathing.

Calligraphy by Thich Nhat Hanh

I had some deep revelations and a lot of letting go during my stay at Plum Village, which you can read about in the category “On the Road to Mindfulness“, and soon I began to relax whenever I heard the bell. I even began to long for the sound of mindfulness to bring me back to peace.

Back home I found this clever gadget, a mindfulness bell 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

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 🙂

It was a couple of months before I learned about the mindfulness bell that I felt the urge to get myself another singing bowl in addition to the one I had bought in Nepal a few years ago. It is only now that I realise that this little bowl serves as the perfect mindfulness bell! 🙂

By living more consciously aware of yourself and your surroundings you can celebrate life at any moment in time. Another tool I would like to carry forth from Plum Village is the practice of slow walking, or walking meditation. Walking not to get somewhere but simply to walk for the sake of walking, breathing, slowing down and arriving in the present moment.

While I was doing just that today along our seafront on the sand that the low tide had revealed, I decided I am going to invite others along whenever I do a walk like that to spread the teaching of mindfulness and help others to slow down and become more peaceful within themselves.

Monks and Nuns walking slowly at Son Ha, Plum Village

So if you read this and you live somewhere around Eastbourne, or are planning to visit, and would like to join me on a mindful low tide walk along Eastbourne’s seafront, 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 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 would like to collect for urgent maintenance and repair work in Plum Village, aiming to send all donations over in December as a Christmas present. Plum Village is such a tranquil place of peace and calm, which also supports a lot of Vietnamese living under very poor conditions in Vietnam.

My room was in Persimmon House at the Lower Hamlet, Plum Village

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.

Bell Tower and Lotus Pond at Lower Hamlet, Plum Village

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

Enjoy living and breathing in the present moment!

Love
Anna

Mindfulness in Reality

So how do I integrate the practices of mindfulness I had learned at Plum Village into my daily life? Whereas it is possible while I make an effort, it is also more difficult than I had thought. 

While on holiday one has time and it is easier to fully dedicate myself to meditate, slow down and relax. But back at home in every day life, there is always something that needs to be done which causes distractions followed by stress.

Even though I take the time to sit and breathe, my mind wants to carry on planning the day and get things done. And it really doesn’t help that I have loads of photos to sort through and a very slow computer to do it with! 🙂

I’m loosing all my mindfulness over it… Does mindfulness require a good working computer?

Although I am generally more at ease and less stressed in most situations, I also feel that all my joy and excitement has fallen to the wayside, overshadowed by a soft blanket of peace and calm. My first day back at work was almost surreal, colleagues joked I look lost, asking whether I was away for too long and had forgotten what to do. How can I get back to being more actively joyful without directly toppling over into the cycle of mania and depression?

It is almost as if my body and mind are fighting to prevail over my soul. I notice pure anger welling up as my computer stops working once again… I scream out loud. Not mindful at all. I decide it is time for a new computer.

I see that the true lesson of mindfulness is not to master being mindful but to integrate mindfulness into daily life. And to not get upset or angry at our or other’s unmindful behaviour but to use our awareness to be more mindful in the future. Our behaviour will be noticed by others, who in turn will reflect it back to us. How would you like to be treated? Treat others the same!

Another new behaviour of mine is that I don’t feel like eating meat. After a week of wholesome vegan cuisine at Plum Village I am left wanting more of it and even feel repulsed at the thought of eating meat. It is almost like eating my own brother. At the same time I don’t like to call myself a vegetarian, it is so limiting. I have been eating meat since I came back, but I get less and less inclined to carry on, and more and more excited about trying vegan dishes. They are just so easy and delicious!

Interestingly, a lot of people assume that I already am vegetarian. When I ask what gave them the idea, they shrug their shoulders and say they just thought I was. Is it because most of my meals are vegetarian or because I eat a lot of salad, or because I promote raw chocolate? I don’t know, but does it matter?

Nope 🙂

To a mindful life and new ways of thinking!

Love
Anna

A Mindful Journey Home

When the bell invites me for breakfast the last time, I step outside into the warm rays of the sun that are filtering through the leaves, into the fresh morning air, sensing the cold, as the cuckoo greets me with his call.

Bell tower at Lower Hamlet in Plum Village

Reality sucked me in like the East Australian Current does with the sea turtles. At first I withstood the current, smiling, driving far too slowly through the rolling green hills as I leave Plum Village behind me. But all too soon did other drivers, traffic jams and time catch up with me. I maintained my conscious breathing, which did help to remain calm. It was difficult, however, to find decent food. I just didn’t want to eat meat. And everything had cream of some sort or another. When I actually found a salad bar along the motorway they didn’t even have green salad leaves.

After a ten hour drive north, I arrive with my protector on the roof in the pretty country village of Mont-Dol, where I had booked in for two nights. This time I took full advantage of my protector and he duly took me to the nearest toilet or petrol station whenever I asked for it, even if it meant that I “accidentally” misread the sat-nav.

The BnB is a beautiful farm building and is run by a lovely couple, accompanied by two friendly dogs, a loud goose and a few horses, still, the atmosphere is noticeably different to Plum Village. People ask so many interrogative questions and the old awkwardness of having to make conversation for the sakes of it hangs in the air, all the while the TV is running in the background. In my lovely little attic room hang abstract drawings of nude ladies.

Countryside BnB in Mont-Dol

I try to accommodate the “new world” which is clashing with my inner peace like two rivers meeting and being expected to share the one and only river bed. Outside it thunders and the heavens are pouring tons of hail over us. There was thunder the evening I arrived at Plum Village… I remember one of the nuns saying yesterday that “It isn’t other people, songs, movies, books etc. that make us sad or happy, but that they merely bring up the sadness or happiness which is already in us”.

Walking towards Mont St Michel

The whole next day I spend on Mont St Michel, a granite rock island topped with a picturesque abbey and even has a few houses dating back to the middle ages, which are now mainly hotels, restaurants and gift shops. Up the stairs, down the stairs, left round, right round and then down to the beach and round the island rock at low tide. Pretty impressive!

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View of St Aubert’s Chapel at the beach of Mont St Michel

The following morning I wake up early, as if my body unconsciously joined in the morning meditation at Plum Village, and as I look outside the window a huge full moon is hovering over misty fields. I nearly lost all my mindfulness trying to open the window, but it wouldn’t budge, so I only got a blurry impression of the mighty scene. Oh how I wished I was at Mont St Michel now! Why didn’t I at least go outside? Because I was at the top floor of a tree story farm house whose stairs creaked like nobody’s business and it was Sunday after all and I worried the owners might think I try to sneak away without paying 🙂

Mindfulness is to enjoy the moment when it happens and not to look at it on a photo later.

When I enter the dining room for breakfast I naturally bow as I see a monk in cream coloured robe sitting at the table. Oh dear, I wonder if I shouldn’t have. Plum Village has properly conditioned me 🙂

Nearly two weeks driving through Europe including 6 countries and many toll stations on the last leg of my travels, and I was back again at the familiar ferry port in Calais. Earlier I had found myself suddenly and unexpectedly on a rather high bridge crossing the Seine estuary, clinging to the wheel of my car for dear life as I reach the middle of the bridge which was way too high above the water.

On the ferry I get myself an über-expensive meal because I am proper hungry and as I sit by the window eating, watching the French coast pass by, I feel like the Queen of England 🙂

As soon as I have finished eating I am outside, pointing my noise into the wind. With no more spaces left on my memory card, eliminating the chance of taking any further photos, I surrendered fully to the present moment. With view of the French and English coastlines as time grants me an extra hour, I find a place to simply be. Soon the first seagulls announce land and the familiar white chalk cliffs welcome me home. We even get an extra tour along the cliffs thrown in for free as the port wasn’t ready to take us in and we had to wait for a little while.

Chalk cliffs at Dover

The last couple hours driving on English soil pass in no time and I find myself back home, sitting on the sofa, smiling blissfully hoping that this feeling will last.

And I totally forgot to add the map in all my blissfulness 🙂

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Travelled from Plum Village (4) to Mont-Dol (5).

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And from Mont-Dol back to Eastbourne.

Truly Arriving at the Sixth Day of Mindfulness

Frogs of the Lotus Pond at Plum Village

As the wind rustles through the trees, we are standing around the lotus pond, listening to the frog’s song as they jump and play around. The sun is out and the daisies are smiling up at me from the green grass and I can’t help but smile back at them. We had butterflies passing by, spiders and ants crossing our path while walking mindfully through the plum tree orchard. And as the wind blew through the bamboo, I knew that I had learned something new. As I pass underneath the sweet scent of the elderberry tree I pause and feel at peace as I reach to smell the roses and admire the beautiful orange-yellow against the stone wall. I have finally arrived, I am truly home.

Having finally arrived, being truly at home expressed itself to me as an immense feeling of calmness, a deep sense of happiness, the absence of all worries, just being present in the moment. All my tensions and funny gut sensations seem to have vanished. At our last Dharma sharing I made a feeble attempt to communicate this sensation of peace to the others, which I had no words for. And while my confusing array of words was simultaneously translated into French, the French speakers looked at me with slight bewilderment.

How do you express a feeling and put it into words? I compared it to being in love – just different. One of the Vietnamese sisters said she fully understands what I mean, because many here have experienced the same sensation of pure happiness and she was happy for me to have found it here too. A French sister called it “the Buddha within”, saying that I can carry it within me wherever I go, but that it is also important to nourish it well. Those comments already added great nourishment to my inner Buddha 🙂

“If a feeling is so intrinsically beautiful that it can’t be expressed by words,
it can only be expressed by living it.”
Anna

“Water your flowers”

The language barrier meant that there were some participants that I didn’t talk much to. It is interesting to notice that something in me assumed that we wouldn’t have anything in common either. A few days ago I was thinking to myself how easily we meet new people and judge them straight away on first sight and then slowly get to know them by listening to their Dharma sharing and suddenly you begin to feel a connection with them.

Today a French participant had said this about a mushroom: “Up to now I never liked the big Asian mushrooms, just didn’t like the look of them, with their big wobbly shape. Today I tried one. At first I just looked at it, deeply, until I could sense the connection with it to the whole cosmos. Then I ate it, with every bite recognizing and assessing the texture, the taste, the smell, and I began to like it, just the way it is.” The intensity and huge meaning behind it touched me deeply, particularly because I was sitting next to her while she was poking around at her food while I caught myself thinking why she wasn’t just eating it…

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I was surprised to see how many participants here have problems with their parents, either not being fully accepted or trying to live up to individual expectations. Once again quite aptly we were watching a Dharma talk by Thay on video about children and parents today, suggesting that we should aim to see our parents as 5 year olds in order to help us develop compassion towards them and to enable us to heal the pain we associate with them. And it came to me that parents are also just people with problems they are trying to heal. And they then try to create a world for their children that fulfils their own dreams and ideas, believing they are making it better than their own childhood. When children begin to work on realising their own dreams and ideas, parents might meet them with misunderstanding and criticism, purely because they think their view is better, for they surely must know it best. Who gives us the ideal of how parents or children should be?

Some people came with similar expectations to Plum Village. Some left earlier because they didn’t think there was enough teaching. Others said they didn’t get their money’s worth out of this week. Once again, what are they basing their evaluation on? Some only want to come to meet the honourable Thich Nhat Hanh. He actually has written over hundred books on the theory and philosophy of Plum Village, you don’t need to come here to be taught what you can read in them anywhere in the world. Here you can come to practice mindfulness. I came without any expectations, only hoping that I would be able to calm down a little. This I have done, together with unexpected profound insights and wonderful occurrences. The arising uneasiness from the negative comments I settled with deep breathing.

The welcome letter in our room (click to enlarge)

Though my back still aches during sitting meditation, the pain seems to have moved downwards below the shoulder blades. I am pleased to say that today I actually felt light while sitting in meditation, as it should feel like, unlike the past days, where I always felt like a heavy block of pain. Having observed the brothers and sisters sitting gracefully in peaceful silence, I wonder how long it took them to sit trough the pain until they were able to meditate without being bothered by pain.

Replaying some conversations I had with brothers and sisters or remembering individuals I had listened to during Dharma talks and sharing, I wonder whether one decides to become a monk or nun because one feels unable to cope with or to have failed in “normal life”? Is it a way out, like running away or is it possibly the true path of awareness that the “normal world” can’t actually give us what we really need to live in the here and now? For what kind of life is it to be running from here to there and simultaneously be thinking about yesterday and tomorrow, if one could joyfully live every moment to the full right here and now? Who determines how fast the world should turn around itself to function properly?

Buddha statue at the Lower Hamlet

Together with all the issues we seem to have with our parents, I wonder whether we could be happier living alone.  Having come to the understanding that monks and nuns live apart from each other so they could devote themselves undisturbed to finding inner peace, yet still live under a shared roof, the thought arises whether God only created Adam to share the wonders of his creations with someone else? Because what worth is there to being able to create if one can’t show it to someone? Is this maybe the reason why us humans on principle can’t be alone?  I myself am very creative and wonder what it would be worth if there was nobody who I could create things for. What would I do if I was the last human on earth?

The last gongs of the big bell announce noble silence. I pause, breathing in and out. Standing under green foliage, I watch a yellowing leaf gliding to the ground as a couple of birds fly up from the trees toward the evening sky.

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I sit in the small meditation hall on my own for the last time. Tomorrow I will already leave Plum Village, though I am not sad about departing, rather excited to share my insights and new practices with the world.

The air is crisp and cool and fresh from the rain, the dark blue evening sky is clear. The frogs and crickets are singing their song, in the distance the sound of a tawny owl. I watch in awe as the moon rises bright and big above the bell tower roof.

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A Serene Fifth Day of Mindfulness

A grey lazy morning, rain is mixing with the water of the lotus pond, a gentle wind, otherwise silence. Can’t possibly walk past the water drops on the roses without taking a photo.

 I think I have finally understood the table manners now. Fill empty seats at a table before sitting at an empty table, bow before sitting down, wait until everyone is seated at the table and bow before beginning to eat. When finished eating, bow before standing up, wash up your plates and remain silent for the whole procedure 😉

Cat outside dining room

Cat outside dining room

I have been watching many “random acts of kindness” or rather “rescue missions” of small creepy crawlies and invertebrates the last days. Just like flowers are left untroubled by slow walking Buddhists. It gives you an idea what impact mindfulness could have on the planet if we were all to incorporate it into our daily lives.

The bell and I

My stay here has greatly helped me to breathe better or slower. My shoulders are also so much more relaxed and I can now hear a clicking noise every now and again when I take a deep breath, which might not sound good, but compared to the previous tightness, is definitely a positive change. At first I was unable to join in with the group singing, partly because I didn’t know the texts and melody, but also due to shame and embarrassment. As the days went by I began to recognize some of the songs and began to sing along. Today I even sang a short German song in the group on my own, which was complemented with cheerful hand fluttering, for here nobody claps their hands.

Small bell

It dawns on me why monasteries separate men from women, because I understand now that it is about finding inner peace, which is impossible to find if there is someone who you just can’t get out of your head. For if I have found inner peace, I can engage peacefully with the other sex without my head being full to the brim with perplexity. And I realise how perfect it is that I have found a loving long-term partner, who gives me all the time and space in the world when I need it and yet is also there to listen, talk and share my life with. Even though I might at times long for the excitement we felt when we had just met, I also know that these feelings won’t last in any relationship, and if I were to keep looking for these feelings of excitement, they will be all I will ever have. For once they will stop me from finding inner peace and secondly experience the beauty of real love, which develops over time. Just like wine, as the French will tell you 🙂

View over plum orchard at Plum Village

Today’s walking meditation leads us past the plum trees with a beautiful view onto Plum Village. We stop for a mindful moment and I smile when I see that the tall grass is bowing to me in the wind and I bow back. A purple flower is standing proud amidst the green border. My head prickles under the sun. I’m breathing in and I’m breathing out as feet slowly pace ahead again.

The bowing grass and the purple flower

Working meditation was on the schedule again and I was once again allocated to remove the cobwebs, this time in the big meditation hall. The little nuns made the most of it and took full advantage of my height, even tying a long bamboo stick to my mob so I could reach the high ceiling. I wondered what more figurative cobwebs there were  that I still needed to get rid off, didn’t I already remove enough during my stay?

Big meditation hall at Plum Village

When I reached the far end of the hall and began to remove cobwebs around the magnificent stained glass window depicting Buddha, I came to the conclusion that the last few figurative cobwebs were still clouding my full devotion to whatever there is that makes us live. As I looked at the vibrant colours of the glass, I promised myself to continue practicing mindfulness, as it seemed to be a practice of real worth to the inner self, which is where devotion should be aimed at first and foremost.

Stained glass window in the big meditation hall

Yesterday I had talked to the brother about how I don’t like to be part of a group, especially not a religious belief, since I don’t believe in a one and only belief and that I don’t like the rules that come with such group formations. This was reason enough for me to decline my holy communion when I was 14, and I wasn’t prepared to let my search for the truth be blinded by somebody’s teaching of their truth.

The golden light of the evening sun

But what I had come to like at Plum Village was the ease of simply going with the flow of your breath. Yes, there are certain rules, like the table manners for example, which are really just courtesy rules, whereas the teachings are mainly based on the heart, on being in the present moment, being mindful of yourself and your surroundings and to practice for your own inner peace. And like the brother had said: “You don’t need to be a Buddhist in order to practice.”

A cheeky noble silence cherry picking

As noble silence sets in me and my room mate are reaching for red cherries, giggling and whispering merrily.

Cheeky cherries

Celebrating Wesak on the Fourth Day of Mindfulness

Stick exercise! Equipped with a bamboo stick matching my height, I stand in a circle in the dim morning light while a faint rain is drip dropping on my rain coat. Wielding my stick precariously over my head, stretching with it behind my back, this is fun!

 

Early morning stick exercise

Today we are leaving the Lower Hamlet again in the white mini vans to celebrate Wesak, the Buddha’s Birthday, at the Son Ha building, a short drive away. Everyone from all Hamlets gathered together again for a few songs, wholesome lunch, a short walking meditation and obviously for the Wesak Ceremony.

Happy Wesak

The previous day, some brothers and sisters had lovingly decorated the estate. They had hung garlands along the water bank, attached flowers to the small bridge crossing the water and, on what seemed a tiny island, had set up a place with a small Buddha statue and a water basin filled with flower petals. It looked really pretty, just the weather didn’t.

Everyone gathered around the big tree to listen to the story of Buddha’s birth. The brothers, sisters and lay friends formed two lines, separating men and women, and slowly walked towards the second bridge, crossing the water, along the small strip of island towards the Buddha shrine.

Up to the very end, as it was nearly my turn, I didn’t really know what I was supposed to do. Nervously observing those in front of me, I bowed, got down on my knees, scooped up a ladle of petal water and poured it over the Buddha statue. Then I put the ladle back down, bowed, stood up and walked as slowly as my nerves were letting me over the bridge and relaxed. It just doesn’t help if a large group of people is looking at me (that includes Buddhist monks).

Suddenly I felt socially very awkward. I didn’t know anyone and couldn’t see the other girls from my hamlet. It didn’t help that a fellow German lay friend recognized me from the Dharma sharing two days ago and started talking to me. It was really quite surprising to notice how different it is to talk to men after a few days among women. It threw me off balance and made me rather nervous. Even more surprising was my reaction to him saying he was getting himself a cup of tea, asking if I was having one. I said no – I simply don’t drink tea – which always seems to give off the idea that I don’t just want tea but don’t want to carry on talking either, which is never my intention. After an awkward moment he turned away to get his tea whereas my throat was blocking off again, and the feelings of rejection came flooding up, just like they had done two days ago at the dinner table.

Small bell at Son Ha

Now that was strange. I went for a slow walk to calm me down and noticed the brother from the Dharma sharing two days ago, whose story had brought up my invisible core. I approached him, bowed and asked if I could share something with him. “Of course sister”, came the open answer. I told him about my breakthrough and thanked him for sharing his story, as it did help me, unlike I had said there and then, for which I apologized again. I really liked the uncomplicated yet deep way we talked. When he said that I didn’t sound like someone who had only been here in Plum Village for a few days, rather a few years, I replied that I have been talking and thinking like this for many years, just that I don’t really listen to myself often, hence I was here hoping to find stillness so I could listen to myself.

With his tall statue and unique facial features, he stood out from the crowd of mainly short Vietnamese monks and nuns and I couldn’t help but wonder why he had curly brown hair, unlike his fellow brothers and sisters. He explained that shaving your head is a choice you make and that it is usually an obvious sign that something is going on in someone’s head if the hair is growing. I asked if he had found complete peace here with his practice of mindfulness and whether old hurts would therefore cause him no more pain. He replied that even though he had found peace here, he could still feel the pain.

I was thinking aloud whether pain is peace, or peace is to be found in pain. They both appear to be directly connected with each other. Maybe the goal is to find peace in pain? The brother made an interesting remark that stuck with me. With his big blue eyes, he seemingly looked straight into my heart when he said that if we can’t understand our parents, we might be able to find out what is going on inside of them by watching our own thoughts and habits, because it is the same genes at work.

Vegan BBQ – really good!

The scent of burning charcoal and roasting vegetables raised my interest and I went to inspect my first vegan BBQ. And it was really, really good! The many different varieties of tofu I have encountered this week is phenomenal! After lunch we are being entertained by brothers and sister with catchy songs, jokes and laughter.

Afternoon of entertainment

I did speak to the German again briefly during the afternoon, noticing again the difference, this time compared to the monk I was talking to, and how much I long for attention and also affection, not especially his, or of any other random male for that matter, but for my father’s. Though for years and years I thought it was mere attraction to the opposite sex. Now I realise that it is just the missing recognition and accordingly the missing link to a neutral male, being unable to understand fundamental differences between men and women and how to interact. Talking to the brother was like talking from soul to soul whereas talking to the German was like talking from man to woman. Is it necessary for a man to be celibate for me to not get nervous?

I had arranged to walk back to the Lower Hamlet with one of the aspirant nuns form my Hamlet so we could talk. I had asked her a few days ago if she would like to share her story with me. Neither the German nor the brother were around when we were about to leave which to me felt like unfinished business. Even if I knew I would possibly never see them again, I still had made a link with them and simply wanted to say goodbye.

Buddha Statues near Upper Hamlet

We walked towards the Upper Hamlet and I was able to see the impressive group of Buddha statues in the woods. She remarked that I was lucky to see all the hamlets within one week. That usually doesn’t happen, she said. While passing through the Upper Hamlet, we not only bump into the German for yet another banter but the brother also walked round the corner. I get to say a proper goodbye and leave with a serene feeling of happiness, which is topped by the brother driving past us a little further down the road, leaning out of the window saying ” Good luck with everything, Anna, and thank you again for sharing!”

While talking to the aspirant nun I see a lot of similarities.  I observe her talking with another brother and wonder what would happen if brothers and sisters fall in love. She explains to me later that she isn’t permitted to talk to brothers unless she has a “second body”, another nun, with her. This she finds hard, especially since she has quite a good friendship with one of the brothers. She tells me that she had come to realise that she is much happier without a relationship because it enables her to be herself, without being tied down by others. Her story resonate with me, since I used to picture myself living at a monastery when I was younger. I am in awe with the way the brothers and sisters treat each other here, with unconditional love, just like real brothers and sisters.

Both encounters, with the brother and the sister, touched me deeply. And all these other wonderful conversations, so deep and profound, with people that I had met only so briefly, left me feeling as if I had known them forever. And together with the Buddha’s birthday and last night’s ceremony on beginning anew, I also feel like I have just been born again.

A Lazy Third Day of Mindfulness

On a lazy evening followed a lazy day, where we can do whatever we like. Still, I got up before breakfast to meditate and practice yoga, which seems to come naturally to me here. It is good to have nothing else to do or not to need to go somewhere. This way I can fully emerge myself in my practice until the bell rings for breakfast.

Schedule of Lazy Day (click to enlarge)

I have to say that compared to a “normal holiday”, I feel so much more relaxed here, despite of getting up so early and sitting upright without back support for most of the day. This inner tranquillity, that I already feel after such a short time, is very pleasant.

“A true holiday begins within yourself”!

It is truly remarkable and sweet how much the nuns enjoy singing, even if they are not quite sure of the notes. They sing from their hearts, because it brings them joy, not because they want to shine.

Mindful Photography = take time to actually smell the roses!

Mindful Photography – try that 🙂

Most of my three weeks in New Zealand, nearly a decade ago, was spent driving around the north island, jumping in and out of the car, taking photos to capture as much as possible of this beautiful country at the bottom of the world, forgetting to actually be there in the moment. I have long since been aware that I keep doing this. Taking photos to marvel at after instead of looking at the actual motive. Now I am vowing to myself once again that in future I will take time to look at the motive more with my eyes than with my camera lens.

Before lunch today, me and my room mate decided to discover the area around Plum Village. We strolled up along the road towards Loubes-Bernac in fluorescent vests, which the nuns had asked us to do, since there are actually no pavements or walking paths here.

Yes I am a tourist and I am fine with that!

As seen from Loubes-Bernac

We took plenty of mindful photos of the town’s church and then carried on along the road, hoping it would take us in the promised circle back to Plum Village.

Church in Loubes-Bernac

When it was nearly lunch time we realised that we would never make it back to Plum Village in time for lunch. We asked a lady in a car whether she knew a quick way back to “Village des Pruniers” to which she looked at us in disbelief and offered us a lift back. Maybe we were actually lost, just a little bit 🙂

Plum Village Sign

After a few minutes of driving back along the road we had come from, it was now actually raining, we arrived at the Plum Village car park, excited like little children at Christmas. We exuberantly thanked the kind lady, even threw a few bowings in, just because it had become so natural for us to do, which seemed to delight the kind lady, and we cheerfully went on to have lunch.

Soaking beans for dinner

Today I realised that just chewing slower isn’t really mindful eating if you are at the same time already digging in your bowl, preparing your spoon for the next load. So I tried to wait until my mouth was completely empty and then began filling my spoon. What a difference! It took me twice as long to finish my meal, which I really enjoyed. This meant that I even got caught out by the mindfulness bell twice 🙂

The big meditation hall

In the evening we had a “New Beginning Ceremony”, which follows on nicely after yesterday’s revelation. The ceremony involves a lot of  “touching the earth” practice and I vowed to myself that I would leave the past behind, to live unattached by it, to accept it as it is and to start anew from today. This beginning anew can be done as many times as you like. Listening to the nun reading from a book, I begin to like the idea of it more and more, understanding that this practice helps to get rid of old grudges you hold towards others and to simply start again with a new mindset.

Buddha statue outside Dharma Nectar Hall

It differs slightly to my usual “trying to forget and get over it” in that it is actually leaving the past behind and not just jumping over it in an attempt to move on. But it also doesn’t mean you simply forget, but that you understand the mistakes of yourself and others and try to make it better the next time. It would also help if you share this with another person, particularly one that you have a disagreement with. If only it was that easy…

Swing under big oak tree

I’m spending the sunny evening on the swing, hanging from the massive oak tree with its deep green roof of leaves, listening to the evening song of a nun with the regular gong of the big bell inbetween. Apart from that, the wind in the trees and the distant song of birds, there is silence. Even the frogs in the pond are silent.

Big Bell

Letting go at the Second Day of Mindfulness

It took exactly 48 hours for me to begin to cry, of all places right in the middle of dinner. It had been mentioned during our introduction that it is common to cry when we begin to slow down, because we finally have the time to stop and give our feelings a chance to speak. I didn’t think then that I had anything to cry about. Anyhow, I didn’t come here to solve emotional problems. I came here to slow down and become calmer.

After the early morning meditation, my own much needed yoga practice and another nutritious breakfast taken mindfully in silence with the only interruption being the mindfulness bell, the whole Sangha of the Lower Hamlet set off in white mini vans through the rolling hills of Southern France, to visit the Upper Hamlet for a get-together with the other brothers and sisters of Plum Village.

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Questions and Answers with Brothers and Sisters

This was the time for my headphones to shine. We sat together with about 200 monks, nuns and lay friends in the big hall of the Upper Hamlet, listening to questions and answers of anyone who had something to say from their heart, which was simultaneously translated into French, English and Vietnamese. A cheerful choir of Vietnamese nuns sing merrily, while the monks sit silently, smiling.

Parlez vous anglais?

Considerate problem solving and translations

Today was a really beautiful sunny day as the whole 200 people set off slowly through the plum trees and up the hill on a silent walking meditation. I am convinced that if a big group of Buddhists is walking over a field, not a single flower will be bent. We stop further up the hill and sit on the grass, overlooking the Upper Hamlet and beyond. All you can hear is the birds singing and crickets chirring.

Walking Meditation under Plum Trees

Silent rest from walking

“Formal Lunch” is taking place seated in the big hall. All the brothers and sisters have brought along their own eating bowls and my room mate had advised me to just use a bowl instead of a plate. “It is much easier to eat”, she had said with a twinkle. I was quite excited to sit on the floor in a traditional Buddhist way, eating my lunch, but alas, as we entered the hall, all the brothers and sisters were sitting gracefully and serene on their cushions with their filled lunch bowls in front of them, men on the right, women on the left, while normal chairs awaited us lay friends in the back rows.

No shoes inside!

After everyone has finally arrived, a talk about the importance of mindful eating suggests to focus solely on our food and to be aware of the process it has undergone, from being sown, harvested, transported, washed, cooked, prepared and to be grateful for all those involved in the process, who made it possible for us to have this meal here and now. We therefore ought to eat slowly and mindfully, chewing at least 30 times. It was probably the most awkward meal I have ever taken. It is these situation that put you to the test.

I was very hungry all the while it took probably about 30 to 45 minutes from cueing up at the buffet table to walking to the hall, waiting for everyone else to arrive, listening to someone talk about food and then sitting on a chair with an aching back, balancing a hot bowl of food in one hand, trying to get the mix of rice, noodles, tofu, soup and vegetables out with a spoon and fork with the other hand, all the while feeling terribly looked at by a wall of about 100 male faces of monks and lay men in complete silence.

What an experience! I certainly don’t value my food anywhere near far enough!

In the afternoon we have another round of Dharma Sharing in a group of English speakers from all hamlets. That’s where it started. As I was listening to a brother talk about the non-acceptance he encounters from his parents, neither now that he is an ordained Buddhist monk, nor before that, something inside of me stirred. He finished his sharing saying that he hopes that his story maybe helps someone else to come to terms with their issues.

I felt like a volcano about to erupt from the inside, yet from the outside I remained calm, joined my hands to bow into the round to signal I would like to say something. As everyone bowed back in acceptance, turning to me to listen, I was lost for words. “Actually, this doesn’t help me at all”, I said, apologizing that I don’t mean it like that, just that for me, it is much more than not being accepted, it is more that I am actually not even being seen at all! If someone smiles at you, it means that he accepts you and likes you. If someone shouts at you, you feel uneasy and think you have done something wrong. But if someone doesn’t even see you and ignores you, does that mean you are invisible?

As I said that I also felt that I couldn’t breathe anymore. The underlying issue here is my father, who decided before my birth that he didn’t want to have anything to do with me. It is a long story. Recent letters have been left unanswered. He simply sticks to his decision. To him I am invisible. I bowed out to the group, feeling strangely lightheaded.

Buddha statues at the Upper Hamlet.
Am I invisible?

We left the Upper Hamlet shortly after and returned to the Lower Hamlet just in time for dinner. Mealtimes seem to dominate the days here 🙂

I still felt a little strange. Entering the dining hall, putting together yet another bowl of delicious vegan cuisine, I decide to sit opposite one of the girls. Only earlier in the day did it emerge that she had German parents, something that connects us. We looked at each other and giggled. We sat and ate in silence. This is not unusual here, though at dinner it is okay to talk quietly, if you like. But I have been conditioned to make conversation, was even told when I was younger that I was strange for not talking much. Accordingly, I felt mildly uneasy, because my conditioned mind believed it would be appropriate to make at least a little bit of conversation. We didn’t.

When the other girl had finished her dinner, she bowed, I bowed back, we smiled and she left the hall to wash her dishes while tears had already began streaming down my cheeks. Oh dear. Here we were. They just rolled and rolled. I finished my dinner as mindfully quick as I could, washed my dishes without looking up too much and headed straight for the small meditation hall.

Inside the small meditation hall

There I sat and sobbed my heart out until I felt a sense of calmness surrounding me. At times I laughed, at times I was quiet, most times I just sobbed. I read aloud all the Vietnamese words from the wooden boards on the walls in a way that would probably make Buddha himself weep and released my sadness with the practice of “touching the earth”, which I had learned only this morning.

I know that the mere act of my dinner companion leaving had triggered the feelings of rejection I feel from my father. And I really hadn’t come all the way here to France to work through this stuff again. I actually thought I was done with it, had talked about it and worked through it a lot over the past years. But then I also realised that this part of me that was sobbing on the floor here was a part that had still been invisible until now. Because it had never been seen by anyone before, hadn’t been recognized by my father, it had also been invisible to myself.

And the only thing to make this unseen part in me visible was to stop and slow down, which I hardly ever do. Never, to be honest. I am always off to the next adventure, a never ending journey of self-discovery. I am glad that I was able to find a save space to stop and finally see this invisible core of myself and to give it the much needed opportunity to express itself.

Another small bell at Plum Village

I saw that because it was out of my control, because I couldn’t make my father look at me, that this is why I have trouble breathing…this whole issue, his decision, was literally and figuratively cutting off my life supply. And since we have been practicing a lot of breathing and letting go here the past two days, it had finally emerged. We burry so much inside of us by busying ourselves with all sorts of stuff!

I thought I had been over it, but I realise now that it was my mind that had been over it, but not my heart. It isn’t my fault. I can only carry on with my existence and accept that my father had problems of his own and that it isn’t my task to solve them. And I decide I will write this to him.

You can now read the letter here.

The First Day of Mindfulness

The sound of the big bell travels through the darkness at five o’clock in the morning. Grey figures slowly wander towards the big hall for the morning meditation. The air is fresh and crisp. I am serenely excited.

Silent on the way to the early morning meditation

The fresh morning air is lovely and after  an hour of meditation I decide to practice yoga in the Dharma Nectar Hall, stretching my limbs and aching back. I’m not used to sit in meditation for that long.

Another bell breaks the silence, announcing that breakfast is ready. A mouthful of porridge gets stuck in my mouth as another gong prompts us to pause for a moment of mindfulness. Nobody talks, nobody shoves and jostles, nobody complains. Everyone moves together in silent unity.

Small Bell

I catch myself repeatedly noticing that my shoulders continuously gravitate upwards, tightening themselves unnoticed. Every time the mindfulness bell sounds, I automatically tense up, as if I fear something is going to attack me if I stop for a moment. I attempt to teach myself to take a deep breath when the bell sounds and to relax and drop my shoulders.

Time is different here. Sometimes you have a few hours spare, then suddenly there are only a few minutes left. Sometimes we get caught out and we jump up and hurry towards the door to put our shoes on and then remember that we are practicing mindfulness and try to walk solemnly to the next task. But some people really walk just too slow 🙂

After breakfast, we sit together in a circle for “Dharma Sharing”, reading passages from “Awakening of the Heart” by Thich Nhat Hanh, talking about our present feelings, listening to the sound of the huge bowl, while I watch an ant beginning the long journey toward the centre of the circle. I am aware that I still carry this awful misplaced feeling inside my gut. The passage I read from the book suitably talks about the connection between our mind and our physical body.

Huge Sitting Bell

Then we walk slowly in a “walking meditation” along green fields, very slowly in peaceful silence. I notice how much more tiring slow walking is compared to my usual fast pace. It is interesting to notice my thoughts and feelings when someone overtakes or stops in front of me. I’m so easily distracted by others 🙂

Green France

I begin to notice a mild headache, which slowly gets heavier as the day goes on. I wonder if it is because I’m still too tensed up or if this could even be the beginning of relaxation. I’m also very tired … the whole sitting upright all day…

Today’s Schedule (click to enlarge)

Today’s schedule proposed “working meditation”, the mindful carrying out of general cleaning duties. I was allocated to remove cobwebs from the dining room and veranda. Now, take this figuratively and you realise that you don’t just remove the cobwebs from the ceiling, but the whole act of being mindful, doing this simple task with every cell of your body, to try and keep your thoughts in the very moment that you are working, you begin to push through your very own mental cobwebs and begin to clear them away. Not to forget the grand sensation of achievement after it is all so much cleaner.

There is a lot of singing in Plum Village. Sometimes we sing in English, sometimes in French, sometimes in Vietnamese, sometimes nobody knows the melody. Everyone seems to simply enjoy the act of singing, no need to know the words or melody. I don’t sing very much.

Centre Building at Plum Village

I spend my free time in the afternoon walking around the lotus pond, past frogs that disappear with a plop and splash underwater, and lingering by the big bell. Have been walking in circles around the centre of Plum Village a lot. A kind of restlessness.

Now it is silent again, noble silence, until tomorrow after breakfast. It is very relaxing, nobody feels like they ought to say something, no unnecessary words just to fill gaps.

Wholesomeness 🙂

Big Bell and Lotus Lake

Surprise Company on the Road to Mindfulness

The weather really hasn’t shown it’s best side since I had left England, but I was way too excited to finally get to Plum Village, so despite the accompanying rain I optimistically got back on the road for the last day of driving to mindfulness.

After a few hours of driving south, past many more vineyards, the weather cheered up a little. It was only while serenely driving up alongside a canal with uncountable flood-gates, enabling small boats to travel up the canal, that I became aware of the presence of a protector. I could sense this presence, definitely male, definitely some higher hierarchy and definitely on the roof of my car. Upon checking in more with this presence, I chuckled. To mind came Jason from the Argonauts, wielding his sword at animated skeletons and Twilight’s Emmett, atop a pick up truck. Don’t ask 🙂

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This other-worldly protector was here purely to ensure my safe travel and quite obviously enjoying the ride. Head up in the wind, on all four on my roof, a big smile on his face, with his steel-engraved leather straps and sword flapping in the wind. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at this visual image of him that I had and the sheer joy of having him there, knowing I would arrive safely, wherever the road would lead me.

Even though I still wasn’t entirely sure what exactly the term “mindfulness” encompassed, I knew that my week at Plum Village would entail a lot of meditation, vegan cuisine and, well, to be mindful with anything you do, particularly with those around you. While on the road I found it nearly impossible to find vegan food. At this moment I was probably still digesting the Boeuf Bourguignon from last night’s exclusive hotel restaurant experience (it was easy to order and I knew what it was).

Today, however, I felt like I couldn’t possibly eat meat and carry it into a vegan area. It just felt wrong. Luckily I found a service area along the route where I could choose a selection of cooked food, so I loaded a plate up with rice and different vegetables, while trying to make the lady behind the counter understand that I really didn’t want any meat. I was secretly hoping it would make up for the many lives of flies that were left on my windscreen (not to mention the bird that plunged onto my roof later).

It is pretty much the same food that I load on my plate at the dining hall in Plum Village a few hours later. I feel insecure, I’d rather run and hide, I am terribly, terribly scared that I do something wrong,  and in my throat is a big lump, which makes it really difficult to eat this simple but nice food. I feel that everyone is staring at me and take the giggling from a group of nuns personal. I was convinced that I sat where I shouldn’t have sat and felt like an intruder into the overall stillness in which everyone was eating so peacefully.

I gulped my food down past the lump as quickly as possible and got up and out of the hall, following others who are carrying their dishes. Outside are basins with water – one to wash with a little soap and three more to rinse it off – and finally a rack to leave the clean dishes to dry. Playing copycat during the process and then I went on to put my belongings into my room, which I had been shown by one of the Vietnamese nuns.

A lady hesitantly calls my name. She is my room mate and her name is Ana, just like mine. She helps me settle and shows me around. I begin to feel more at ease. The sight of a nun on a lawn mower makes me laugh, easing my insecurities even more.

Among other new arrivals, I sit in the small meditation hall, sucking in the subtle scent of wet and old wood, following the introductory talk and learning that to be mindful, it is important to smile at yourself, to smile at your thoughts, to breathe and to walk.

Sitting outside on the green grass later, listening to the Vietnamese chanting of a nun as she sounds the big bell, inviting noble silence, while lightning and thunder roll over the green hills of Plum Village. Beautiful!

I have arrived – but I am not home yet … the week to come will speak for itself.

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Travelled from Vougeot (3) to Plum Village (4). Click to enlarge map.

Exploring Ancient Roads on the Way to Mindfulness

After eight more hours behind the wheel, having passed many yellow rapeseed fields, it feels like I am getting a pressure sore on my heel. Why was I driving the whole journey again?

Something in me resonates with our connection to ancient trade routes, wondering how old and much travelled the road I’m currently travelling on is. For starters, you don’t get that feeling with flying. There you get catapulted high up into thin air only to be plunged back down onto mother earth a few hours later, where you are then let loose again, slightly disorientated and confused about your precise whereabouts in the known universe.

The town I live in in England has a relatively new harbour (opened in 1993), which was developed from the beachland and gives me a similar feeling of confusion that I get from flying. All the buildings there are build in a similar new style and the roads are newly mapped. Every time I go there, I have the overwhelming feeling of being lost. And I’m not the only one who gets lost there, nor am I someone who easily gets lost in the first place. A thought appeared that maybe it is because it is all newly built and therefore bears no connection to any old or ancient routes, which is why my unconscious route planner has no signal to pick up on in regards to which way to go.

There are a lot of places on earth that I feel an immense connection and sense of awe with. Some might be unconscious, e.g. the fact that I learned after I had booked myself into Plum Village (where I am heading at the moment) that there is a cave nearby in which my prehistoric ancestors survived the last ice age about 24 000 years ago. And also the fact that I left my home country of Germany to live in England, where I feel much more at home. To me, that means a lot.

Most of the early ancient trampled pathways are nowadays big major transport links. This became visibly clear when approaching Langres, France, which is an impressive big town, towering on top of a hill, clearly visible to everyone from a long distance. I could also judge this by road names such as “Route de Paris, Route de Dijon, Route de…” you get the idea. Like how Napoleon had set up avenues of trees so that his troops could walk in the cool shade.

After discovering that Dijon has indeed a very strange smell about itself, the Route des Grands Crus, or road of the great wines (approx. 60 kilometre tourist route from Dijon to Santenay in Burgundy, France) brought me to Vougeot, where a colleague had arranged a room for me in a hotel she used to work at. Amidst many, many acres of vineyards, including a small castle, I settled for a much earned overnight break.

Castle at Vougeot

Castle at Vougeot

Hunting for food, in the literal sense, can be difficult when you are travelling in a country whose language you’re not quite capable of (and if you have a slug phobia and are terrified the French might accidentally serve these to you). I’m, however, quite pleased with the few words I had learned and accordingly barged into a hotel restaurant saying: “Je voudrais la carte s’il vous plait”. And whenever anyone started jabbering in French I politely said: “Je ne parler pas France, parle vous Anglais?.” Excuse my spelling mistakes, I can just about master talking 🙂

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So I found myself sitting at a table with a deep wine red coloured table cloth, looking over the opposing empty chair through a massive panorama window onto the garden with pool and a mill wheel, which was merrily turning around itself in the small river that bizarrely disappeared under a house. Most of the time I felt uneasy sitting there on my own … once again the expectations of others … but then I heard myself talk in French and it strangely put me at ease with myself. And then I even topped myself with “Excuse moi, monsieur , je voudrais la addition s’il vous plait.” Why, the French language is quite beautiful and soo serene 🙂

Plenty of wine

Plenty of wine

Still, despite this being famous wine tasting territory, I did not try any, simply because I just don’t like it.

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Travelled from Germany (2) to Vougeot in France (3). Click for larger image.

On the Road to Mindfulness

As I am setting off by car into the exciting unknown, I notice a slight feeling of uneasiness. It is almost like as if I fear that everything will be different when I come back. And I’m asking myself why I even go on a journey of self-discovery, where I am already with myself right here and now? Cliché thinking 🙂

I chose to travel by car to see more of the surroundings, to pay my mother a visit on the way and to avoid flying, which my anxiety has been rebelling against a little in recent years. But I also noticed how much the driving contributed to me slowing down, to tune into a more mindful approach of thinking and being. Like as if I slowed down already with every mile that I got closer to Plum Village.

I love road trips and the planning that goes with it. I could sit stooped over a map forever and forget the time while exploring all the corners of a country, possible places to see, yet unknown territory, wondering what it might look like. Leaving England on the ferry at Dover, feeling the fresh wind around my nose and the familiar white chalk cliffs slowly fading in the distance, with the French coast already waiting for me at the opposing horizon, I feel free and I can’t help but smile to myself.

Eight hours later I arrive at my mum’s town in Germany and the first thing I notice is the sweet and refreshing scent of the green leafed trees and blossoms, saturated from the rain. A scent like this I haven’t came across in England yet and I wonder if it is specific to the local trees here? It smells like home.

The next morning I sit by the window in my mum’s living room, overlooking the garden I played in when I was younger, listening to the rain as it drums onto the plastic cover over the annex. I’m asking myself where mindfulness begins. I have trouble putting my phone aside without fully knowing whether anyone needs to get hold of me urgently. Do I really have to be on call all the time? Does my phone really always have to be ready to receive a call? Is it important to check my emails on regular intervals? What will happen to the planning of our retreat in England if emails don’t get answered straight away and no comments are left on Facebook to show we are engaging in our business?

Will something change if I simply go my way without constantly aiming to be a better person and to be available for others? It would be so good if I could become calmer and were able to let go, and wouldn’t feel the persistent need to capture each moment by all means instead of simply living with full awareness in the present. How calming the drumming rain is…

Nowadays we are expected to have access to email and phone at all times. And if we don’t, it is our own fault if we miss out on something. Worst is that others start to worry if they can’t get hold of us immediately. Other’s expectations….

I spend the afternoon and evening discussing ancestors and looking at old photos with my mother and grandmother over a raw chocolate cake I had made for my mum’s birthday. For over 200 years can my recent ancestors been traced back to having lived in this area. This is mostly the female line. I dive into the lush green woodlands around the town, trotting on my family’s pathways before I retreat to bed to be ready for my next journey in the early morning.

I saw a fairy gate on my travels in the woods. These are like doorways to another realm. Just look at the difference in colours before and after the bow! For me, it is the perfect symbol for the beginning of my journey to mindfulness.

Travelled from England to Germany

Travelled from England to Germany

Fullness of Mind vs Mindfulness

What on earth possessed me to spend a week at a Buddhist monastery somewhere in France?

Do you really want to know?

It was a simple smile from an Asian woman on a page in a magazine, that touched my heart and stirred something inside of me, that was serenely humble and yet still a little fragile at that point. In fact, her smile had such an impact on me, that I not only had to include her on my vision board collage that I was creating at that time  (read about it here), but also looked her up and upon realising that she had created Plum Village, a Buddhist retreat, together with Thich Nhat Hanh, a well known peace activist and author of a hundred books, I booked myself in straight away.

Looking at this collage again now, two months later, after having experienced the wonders of Plum Village, I see that basically all the word snippets around the smiling Chân Không describe what I found during my stay at Plum Village! To start with, the moon was exactly like pictured, slowly increasing. There was a lotus lake and though there were no lotus blossoms yet, I found a card with the photo of a lotus flower that spoke to me with the saying “No mud, no lotus.”, which has a profound meaning to me.

During that week, my mind became indeed “luminous and empty”, I meditated on a mat pretty exactly like the one on the collage, even the same colour, believe it or not! Intentional change, path of peace, life’s journey… very vague, but apt. Plenty of Buddha statues, and roses and feelings and love.

“A life free of fear, pain, insecurity and doubt is not only possible, it’s our birth right.” This peacefulness I found at Plum Village. It was my “season of awakening”.

I would like to share my path to mindfulness with my mind ever so full of stuff that didn’t serve it anymore. Read on if you would like to join me on this liberating journey to peace of mind!

Love
Anna

Defining Self

As I was running errands in town today and stopped at a pedestrian crossing, a tourist bus passed me by and I noticed a young boy’s head eagerly taking in anything he could catch of the world that was passing by on the other side of the window.

For a brief second I saw the world through his eyes, filled with excitement and wonder at the buildings, streets, sea gulls and people that were new to him. More in particular I saw myself, standing slightly annoyed with a hue of impatience at the traffic light figuring out how to best tackle the oncoming front of mothers armed with fully loaded prams.

This I suppose is what one would call self-awareness, which I often see lacking in other people. Whereas I tend to have too much of it, which can be frustrating if you have perfectionist tendencies and are forever trying to reinvent yourself on the way to becoming a better person, the urge of which is driven by minor setbacks evolving from interactions with others.

Deepak Chopra says in his latest book “Super Brain”: “Self-awareness changes perception. The subtle regions of awareness are where the real power lies. The more aware we are, the more power we have over reality.”

I believe it is this awareness that makes it possible for me to help others as much as myself to heal, or at least to straighten myself up a little and put on a smile every now and again. Although I still have the notion of doubting myself, which, coupled with my perfectionist thinking and the disbelief of others, is destructive to the power of healing and, as Deepak says, reality.

I get profound messages popping up in my mind at times, usually when I least expect it, when I am just about to fall asleep or have a vacant moment while daydreaming. Listen to this one: “There will be a time when the need to prove and explain oneself and their gifts will simply fall away, become unnecessary. Then we can be fully integrated beings, functioning at our highest level.”

It is true that we really shouldn’t have to explain our existence. However, if you feel that the purpose of your existence is to heal the world, or even to prepare the world to heal, this can be pretty challenging, especially if it isn’t always very clear how this is supposed to be done. The little messages I get every now and again may be reassuring and open my awareness a little bit more to the profound possibilities the universe has on offer, but to then go and explain that to others who don’t have the concept or understanding of this can be ever such a tough journey.

Ego aside, I am not the one who actually does the healing. I see myself more as a road sign that can give you an idea where you are going compared to ridding you of all your problems there and then. Life is a journey – and I am just a sign on the way. There is no need to name my skills or gifts. They just are who I am. I aim to help opening the gates to a higher awareness, not carry you there single handed. This is a developmental process. The first step towards a new aspect of the self, which works differently for different people.

Looking at my main job in clinical healthcare it increasingly dawns on me that my extrasensory abilities and awareness are needed there especially more than in any holistic or alternative environment. Although I am not permitted to practice my complementary skills at my work place, it is my deeper insight, understanding, awareness and additional knowledge that enables me to treat a patient in all aspects and see them as more than just a person with an illness.

Gandhi said: “The patient is the most important person in the hospital. He is not an interruption to our work, he is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our hospital, he is part of it. We are not serving a favour by serving him, he is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so.”

Sometimes I can see into people’s soul and work with them on that soul-to-soul level. I look inside them, not at them. This brings about a great amount of compassion and requires the ability to truly listen – with heart and head.

My task is not to fix or heal you, but to help you heal yourself.

Love
Anna

The Sound of Eternity

In 2010 I jetted off to spend three weeks teaching young monks English at Buddhist monasteries in Nepal. That was a great experience in its own, however, what I took back morphed into something even bigger than I hadn’t seen coming.

Discovering a different culture and learning from it can be profound. I had a small list on me with things I was hoping to bring back. Among prayer flags, incenses, mala beads and a small Buddha figurine was also a small singing bowl. These I had seen here and there in the West but they didn’t bear any connection had I simply bought them. It means so much more to me to have a personal memory or experience attached to an object.

When I was unexpectedly introduced to a large healing bowl atop the Swayambhunath Stupa and saw the water splashing up when hit with a mallet, I was hooked. The word “healing” did it for me since I practice subtle energy healing. And I hadn’t mentioned that to anyone there. Still I might have well simply fallen prey to a standard marketing trick, since a book of mine mentions just that, and that there are only singing bowls, no healing bowls – albeit they may have a healing influence on our body. But did it matter? No! Because I took home a beautiful bowl with mysterious inscriptures and a beautiful humming sound that evokes beautiful memories of a few short weeks away in the Himalayas.

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When I began to look more into the inscripted symbolism I found out that next to the big lotus petals on the bottom, which represent a chakra, the inscriptures along the inside wall depict the eight auspicious symbols which are the traditional offerings to the deities in Buddhist mythology. The outside wall shows the traditional prayer “Om mani peme hung” in Sanskrit symbols. The note of it is a C, which corresponds either with the base or the sacral chakra, depending on if you follow the Vedic or Tibetan belief.

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On my daily walk to the monastery in Nepal, I passed a singing bowl manufacturer who was busily hammering away on a piece of metal alloy, shaping it into a bowl. I hadn’t fully grasped the concept of singing bowls at that point and regret that I didn’t spent more time watching him. I definitely will should I ever be in Kathmandu again!

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Unfortunately, these magnificent bowls hold more mysteries than what is known about them. The tradition of making them is said to date back to the time of the Buddha – approx. 2000 years. Nowadays it is said that they are a dying art and that most knowledge about them is dying with the old bowl makers.

Singing bowls are said to have traditionally been made by hand in varying quantities of seven metals representing the seven heavenly bodies as well as the seven chakras and a corresponding musical note. However, research has found that most bowls mainly consist of copper and tin. There are two different belief systems that connect musical notes with chakras, the Tibetan and the Vedic system. But I suggest you just listen to your intuition.

Bowls originate in Asia and you can hear them being called Tibetan or Himalayan Bowls. There are also bowls that come from Japan or China. They are all basically bells that sit rather than hang but are actually not commonly found in temples or stupas. A lot of bowls are made with machinery nowadays which affects their sound and they sometimes don’t ring as long or full as the traditionally handmade bowls.

Bowls vary in size and some have a more golden colour, others might be darker. Some have symbols or inscriptures on them, others are plain.  Though the way it looks will be pleasing on the eye and an impressive object in the room, but in the end it is the sound that promotes healing.

As mentioned in my Linseed Tea blog, our body consists of about 70% of water and that it is therefore important to keep ourselves properly hydrated. Sound waves can have an influence on the fluid part of our body and can release tensions. This is called “Sound Healing”. Everything around us consists of atoms that vibrate at a different speed. Bowls, when struck, vibrate. This vibration translates onto the body, either by placing the bowl directly onto the body or carried forth by sound waves. Because of the vibrations, singing bowls are just as effective for those who are hard of hearing.

Eva Rudy Jansen describes in her book “Singing Bowls – A practical Handbook” that sound creates and arranges. She further explains that a healthy organ is well tuned, vibrating at its own frequency, whereas the frequency of a sick organ is disturbed. Singing bowls can assist to recreate the original harmonic frequency and stimulate the body to rediscover its own by making it vibrate to the frequency of the bowl so that it can vibrate independently once it is synchronized.

“Anyone who expects something from sound will make the greatest discovery by not expecting anything.” Eva Rudy Jansen

Beside the vibrations, sound can act as a focus for our mind and help us relax, calm down and shift from lower emotions to higher. Suren Shrestha says in his book “How to Heal with Singing Bowls”: “When we use sound with intention, which is the most important aspect of healing, we can direct sound vibrations to raise the body’s vibrational frequency.” He describes the vibrational influence of sound on our body fluid as “creating a mandala which is healing and relaxing”. No need to belief in any of the mysticism surround singing bowls or any of its inscriptures. They are art, sound, history and a simple tool to assist relaxation.

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A few weeks ago I acquired another smaller bowl with a more golden appearance and a magnificent and clear high sound of G. There wasn’t much information of its history available, but its sound resonated with me, which was my main interest.

I chose my singing bowls to be part of my meditation and relaxation session at our monthly Mini Retreat to share their magic, to offer participant’s the chance to get from them whatever it is that they need and to enhance overall relaxation. Do book yourself in if you would like to experience a sound bath with my singing bowls and keep hydrated with linseed tea to receive sound to the fullest! And if you are interested I would love to show you the effect of sound on water when playing the bowl when it is actually filled with water! 😉

Love
Anna

“Your sound bath/meditation was so soothing and spiritual.” Alexia

Anna with Tibetan Singing Bowl

“The need for music, the urge to dive into a world filled with colour and sound. Into absolute silence and equality. To dance under rays of sun, under a rainbow of emotions. To find complete happiness, without fear of failing. To find oneself. To master challenges. And to know in the end that it was worth it.”

Anna Hoffmann, 2004

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If you like to take part in a Mini Retreat in Eastbourne, UK, get in touch! There are still places available on all our retreats in 2013.

For more information call either below or email: info@awarenessspa.co.uk 

Elke 07986361649
Anna 07547431317
Korina 07866543782

Find us on Facebook (AwarenessSpa) and Twitter (@AwarenessSpa)!

Blessings to www.adaptatrap.co.uk for my latest singing bowl!
Also check out: www.himalayanbowls.com

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.

 

The Look in His Eyes

I have spent the last few days caring for a man with Multiple Sclerosis. He is unable to talk properly and move any part of his body other than a few facial muscles. At first it was difficult to find out what he tried to communicate to me but with every day it got a little bit better. If I wasn’t sure what he meant I asked him to blink once for a yes and twice for a no. It was quite funny at times when I asked him to blink only once to confirm if I got it right and he just stared back at me blankly, yet with a light grin on his face trying not to move or accidentally blink which clearly meant that I had gotten it wrong again.

We have quite a few patients coming in from the same home that he is living at. They are all paralysed in one way or another to a more or lesser extent. Some had sudden accidents that had damaged their spine and others succumbed to an illness like MS, that creeps up on you slowly.  Most of those patients are hard work, physically, because they are unable to move properly and need a lot of care. This only from the outside. From the inside, however, they are absolutely wonderful people with really interesting personalities and quite a wicked sense of humour. Only rarely did I find that someone from this care home was grumpy and unhappy. They all seem to thoroughly enjoy a happy life. I wonder, what gives them the drive to carry on living?

Last year we had Tony Nicklinson in the news, a man who was also unable to move his body, fighting for the right to die but wasn’t granted his wish. I wrote a blog on the topic of death and dying back then already. Interestingly, the man I have been looking after over the past few days didn’t want to die at all! He appeared tremendously content with himself. Sadly he is currently quite unwell and needed intense hospital care with his chances of recovery being slim. But he insisted for quite a long time to remain for resuscitation. Again the question in my head: What gives him the urge to carry on living? And how did it all start?

I asked a friend of his who came to visit him regularly if she could tell me a little bit more about him. She said that she had known him for the past 10 years and told me that he used to lead a very active life as a Civil Servant until the onset of MS when his wife left him because she didn’t feel like she could care for him and has only two other relatives that visit him occasionally. His illness started with numbness in his little finger about 20 years ago. The past 16 years he had spent paralysed at the special care home. He has a huge telly that he can operate with eye movement where he gets his entertainment and information from. His friend also mentioned that he has a very strong will and has areas of interest that he follows.

When I met him first I was taken back by his intense eyes, full of information, full of expression full of unspoken words. These eyes are on you whenever you look at him. This morning they were vague and turned upwards to the ceiling and my heart sank at the thought that his condition had gotten worse. But during the course of the day he perked up a little and was even able to throw a few surprise sentences into the room. For example, when I offered to switch the radio on for him and went to get some headphones he hissed “No I don’t want those” quite clearly. Not so clear was the information that he didn’t take milk in his tea, which, for English standards, is rather unusual hence it took me a little bit longer to work it out. There are so many things that I would like to ask him.

It must be so hard to not be able to bring your point across properly. But I guess that at his home he is happy because people there know him and he has everything he needs. It hit me surprisingly hard when I was told earlier that he would be moved to another ward because we needed his bed space for an emergency admission. After all the effort to try and get to know him, to begin to communicate, find out what he likes and especially for him to get comfortable in an unfamiliar hospital environment, he was now to be moved to another department only to start all over again. And I don’t want to make it sound like the staff there won’t look well after him, but I did worry that it would worsen his condition and that he would give up on himself. I escorted him to the other department and left with a big lump in my throat after a much too short goodbye.

What does it mean anyway? Who is he to me – who am I to him?

These emotions topped a recent encounter of the daughter of a former relative who recognized me outside work and said that I had looked so well after her father and that he used to call me his angel. Her little daughter chirped in straight away: “He used to say that to all of the nurses.” Of course he would, he was a lovely gentleman. Gentle in any way. Though there must be something about her saying this to me, because at times he would decline help by other members of staff insisting to wait until I was available because I “had a certain way of doing things”, as he would put it. He passed away a week ago. But he was also happy.

So what more do words express compared to the look in someone’s eyes? If we had only a certain amount of words available, what would we spend them on?

Love
Anna

A Matter of Perception

“And what colour is it?” did I overhear a mother ask her young daughter who was merrily trying to keep up with her mum’s long strides while attentively looking at her new toy. “It’s green”, announced the little girl proudly, to which the mother explained candidly that it was actually red, not green.

It makes me wonder how much of a red her red was to her daughter’s red. Who determines that what I see as blue is in fact the same blue as yours? Is it pure childhood conditioning? What about those who are diagnosed as being colour blind?

There is no way to know if we see the same colours or in fact feel the same about something! Watch this interesting YouTube clip!

So it must have to do with conditioning, our parent’s and peers telling us what they see and us adapting to their names and descriptions for what we see, just as much as they have done when they were younger. And it is so easy to take on what other people say, especially if they are older or simply more dominant.

I do remember the day a class mate said that Santa Claus didn’t exist, which completely threw me. Of course I didn’t want to admit that I didn’t knew this already, but inside of me something special broke. Just like my favourite birthday party game of “pot hitting”, where you crawl around the floor blindfolded, equipped only with a wooden spoon looking for a pot underneath which some goodies have been hidden. If you find the pot by hitting it with your spoon, the goodies are yours. One year someone decided that we were too old to play that game, and another part of me broke. Not only was I deeply saddened because I felt that I could never ever again play this game, but also did I feel like a fool for believing in something that others clearly didn’t approve of. And finally to the time when I was jumping around in my underpants in our town’s fountain one hot summer day, only to be reminded by my slightly embarrassed friend that I really shouldn’t do this anymore.

All these happened around age 8 or 10 and marked significant changes to the end of childhood and the beginning of adolescence. And if it isn’t you that realises that you possibly ought to start growing up, then it will be your peers or parents who put an abrupt halt on a joyful time. What a sad end to the infinite childhood experience! Though I wouldn’t recommend you should still be jumping around in the public wearing only your underwear at 30 plus 🙂

I believe that the same goes with out sixth sense. We all have it, right from birth and beyond. However, unless someone tells you that you have it or helps you develop it, chances are that it will just be forgotten, like Santa Clause, a myth that was never real. Even more saddening is the fact that you are quite likely seen as a weirdo should you dare expressing your extrasensory perceptions. Or at least will have to work hard against an army of mainstream lay people who don’t know it any better. Though it might actually be worse if someone knows it better, because then the same conditioning as above applies, which can actually suppress your individual talents if they are not recognized by the know-it-all whose talents might be completely different from yours.

Unfortunately there is a fine line between paranoia and premonitions. Someone once suggested that the majority of psychiatric patients would probably be pretty good mediums. While one can’t generalise this, I know from my own experiences that a heightened awareness and perception of subtler worlds beyond the material can be a scary place as much as it can be truly magnificent. Sometimes you can’t be sure if you are going nuts, having an out-of-body experience or are indeed surrounded by outer worldly beings. The astral plane can be very deceptive and what you pick up from it is subject to a lot of things, which might never make it into reality. Then there is the increasing understanding that you can have and be whatever you want. You create your future, it is jus not always how you had planned it to be. I briefly touched on the topic in my last blog.

There I express that sometimes I can’t get my head around whether it really was my thoughts that created the outcome, or whether these thoughts were premonitions of an event that was inevitably going to happen. How much can I influence and accordingly change the outcome of such events? This can truly drive you insane if you don’t keep it under control.

Especially when working in this field one can get pretty strange requests. A recent phone consultation revealed a healer desperate for help with energies that had become too much, giving her a funny pressure on her head that she already felt upon entering her house. There was a blockage somewhere and she felt she couldn’t progress to what she had attuned everything around her. Unfortunate for her, she believed that I wasn’t competent enough to help her unblock her dilemma. She wanted something specific that I believe she was unlikely to get unless she opened up and allowed to receive whatever it was she would need. I was trained to allow healing to take place and not to force it to where you want it. This example showed me that if you get in too deep, you might not be able to get out again.

Personally I am ever so conscious to stay in contact with the earth, to remain grounded and to not just disappear somewhere in space like an astronaut that has drifted away from his space station. It dawned on me that it isn’t just about becoming a master of the subtle realms and to sell spirituality as if it was the latest kitchen equipment, especially not like all the psychic stuff on telly, but to rather simply just live it, incorporate it into my daily activities. Stick to your day job, that is if you are happy with it, and carry it out with all your heart. Become aware of a bigger picture. Let your heightened awareness and understanding of your origin, from source or a mere atom floating in space, be part of your life – not the total sum of your life. I don’t believe in defining myself as a spiritual or psychic or any of the like. I simply like to help others to incorporate this awareness into their life, to become more settled in whatever they choose to do with their life. There surely is a reason why we are who we are right here and now, human beings with a purpose. Well, I suppose, having said that, maybe I should give psychics that have taken to the media more credit.

There are just too many words to describe experiences that actually can’t be described with words. How often do I find myself writing, rewriting and deleting words, phrases and whole paragraphs in search of relaying what I actually mean. And what is it that I mean? Is the reason why I feel that I am contradicting myself in my writing and verbal expressions that I am not sure what to believe in? Or am I trying too hard to accommodate other’s ideas and believes because I don’t want to upset or criticise them, or, even wore, don’t want to be criticised myself? I’ve written before about “The ideal truth of a dreamer“. How can I best describe that I feel a deep connection to something that I like to call source to avoid giving it neither shape nor gender, and at the same time just as deeply consider my own DNA and atoms that have reproduced and evolved over million of years?

Our ideas and perceptions could be regarded as a “catch 22”. Nobody will know for sure why we are here and what happens before or after our life, just like nobody can prove that your or my experiences are real or imagined. In the end it boils down to how you deal with this. Whether you let your ideals direct your life or let other people lead you. Regardless of other’s belief in you or whether you believe in others. If you can see or were born blind, if you can see all colours of the spectrum or if you can see more than others but don’t know it yet. Does it matter? You decide what you let get in your way of living your life happily and to the full!

“You have achieved enlightenment when you realise that there is no enlightenment and at the same time that you have been enlightened all along.”

Love
Anna

The Magic of making the Sun shine

Off and away for a few days and of course I wanted the sun to shine. It did, however, only peek out occasionally from behind big bubbly clouds, so I thought lets make it shine. Heard of “cloud busting” before? Watch “Men who stare at goats“! 🙂

Rather than staring at clouds hoping they bust and let more sun in, I visualised on the sun shining already, which to me makes sense since you attract what you put out. Want more of something? Assume that you have it already.

Soon after it got a little brighter and finally the sun was casting its warm rays across our roofs. It didn’t last very long thought and in the end I got tired of trying to keep it out from behind the clouds and let the weather do what it thought was best. A thought came up: “What if others are desperately trying to create rain at the same time? Would this be the cause of a hurricane? Is the reason why  we never get the weather we want because everyone is trying to get theirs?”

In the end we didn’t have any sun at all for the whole next day and instead a complete grey cloud cover looming above us. I did feel a little guilty for possibly messing up the weather by messing with it in the first place. But then, did I actually ever change anything that wasn’t going to happen anyway?

My brother happened to be in Bali when it was my 30th birthday, and if you care to read my blog in preparation to my birthday as well as a previous blog about the Naga Buddha, you will understand why I asked him to try and find me such Buddha while he was in Bali. In short, the Naga Buddha is a Buddha figure that is sheltered by a king cobra and happens to be the Buddha allocated to Saturday, the day I was born. I also recently learned that this year is governed by the snake, which together with my year 11 is just incredibly fascinating stuff. I told you, read the above mentioned blogs!

Anyhow, the only reference by brother had was my blog about the Naga Buddha which had a photo of one in it. I assumed that since the tradition of allocating some of Buddha’s events to days of the week is practiced in Thai Buddhism, that it would be found in Bali too. Please forgive me if this sounds like plain ignorance on my part not fully understanding the cultural difference. So my poor little brother was looking high and low for this mysterious Buddha and did not find it. Just those where the snakes resemble the Nazgûl’s winged fell beasts, which I had explicitly asked not to get me. In the end he actually showed a local crafts man the picture who made one especially for me.

Naga Buddha

This reminds me of a story I read once about someone creating a vision board about the perfect house they would like to live in one day, only to realise years later when digging up the old vision board, that they were actually living in exactly the same house as on the photo on the vision board without being aware of it. I now held a Buddha in my hands that came close to what I wanted based on a photo I had looked at so many times hoping I would find it one day. These are only two examples in a line of events that had recently made it from thought into reality.

I remember looking at some photographs of Stonehenge on the walls of the ward I did my first shift on about five years ago. Back then I thought that these might as well be mine since I had some with a nearly identical motive. Ever since I could not shake off the thought of one day having some of my photographs on display in hospital, only to realise last week that my photos are now hanging on the walls of that exact ward that I had the initial thought.

And just to mention on the side that back then I wasn’t permanently employed and that the department that I had been working permanently on for the past three years now had moved twice in that time, only to end up on this one initial ward, which now has my photographs on the walls, all thanks to my manager who suggested it one day after I mentioned on the side that I paint sometimes…

The same goes for our “Awareness Spa“. Within six months we had gone from brainstorming to having led three engaging Mini Retreats. We had a vision and we worked on making it reality. Also the same I found with my on-going training opportunities at work and my arrival in the UK exactly 7 years ago, which you can read more about too if you like. I didn’t have much to live on back then but “knew” that it would be fine. I was on the search for who I really was and on the way I completely reinvented myself. It is almost like writing a script and then acting it out on stage. And it all starts with a single thought.

On the other hand, visions can create equally negative things in your life. For example, somehow I dreaded the thought of slugs in my lettuce which went as far as worrying that one day I might find one in my frozen peas. Unfortunately, I could not shake off this weird thought and one day it happened. Oh the drama of it! 🙂

And then I also used to worry at times that I would meet my ex in the streets, who caused me a lot of fear and anxiety. And yes, he crossed the street as I was driving in a car with my friend and bizarrely cycled along the road when we got back about two hours later. Twice more did I see him cycling past where I live when I “happened” to look out of the window. It has not happened since. I had managed to make peace with it.

The one thing I can’t get my head around sometimes is whether it really was my thoughts that created the outcome, or whether these thoughts were premonitions of an event that was inevitably going to happen. How much can I influence and accordingly change the outcome of such events?

The first law of Esoteric Healing is that “energy follows thought”. How apt and true this is. But in order to use it for our highest good, we first need to learn to become aware of what we are thinking. If you don’t want negative things happening to you, like frozen invertebrates in your peas, aim to try and think in more positive ways. Don’t underestimate the “Power of Thought” and “trust in yourself” and what you believe to be true. Just “know” that it is going to happen, regardless of how ridiculously illogical and unfathomable it may seem at the time. You never know who will be just around the corner (or sitting in some workshop in the centre of Bali) who can tailor fit your dreams to your reality.

A few days ago I created a vision board in view of our latest project, the “Awareness Spa“. Feel free to look at it here. I wonder now if I will soon meet the lady monk with the beautiful serene smile on her face. I have already booked into a monastery that she helped set up 30 years ago. This was another funny thing: Someone enquired if our Mini Retreats (Awareness Spa) were like mindfulness yoga. I had to look this up since I didn’t know what exactly it encompassed. The first person that came up under mindfulness was Thich Nhat Hanh who set up Plum Village (the monastery I just booked). The day after I find this lady monk while creating my vision board and really felt like I need to include her, although I don’t usually go for faces in vision boards. Looking her up later I came straight back to Thich Nhat Hanh, with whom she, as it turns out, had set up Plum Village. And to stretch it even further, Wikipedia’s first sentence states “Mindfulness (Pali: sati,Sanskrit: smṛti; also translated as awareness)”. So back full circle to our Awareness Spa and on the way I had found two people that I possibly can learn from a lot.

Oh look, the sun has suddenly come out again 🙂

Love
Anna

Ocean of Bliss

How often do you feel so lost and low that you finally stop and listen to yourself? It might not happen often, sometimes this marks a once in a lifetime moment that can change everything. When we arrive at a point where we think we can’t carry on anymore, be it due to prolonged illness, mental turmoil or abuse, we are faced with two options: end it or make the best of it.

Which option gives you more room for improvement? Like how I would put it: “What have you got to lose if you have hit rock bottom anyway?” That’s it, you might as well get your knees off the dirty and cold floor, take a breath of fresh air and look at what you could do next. Because, believe it or not, there are millions of options to choose from.

When I found myself on this literal floor once again last week, battered by some out-of-control hormones on an emotional destruction derby which the general medicine calls PMS, just to clarify the situation, I found myself hopelessly asking for help from some higher source that I so believe in. But the returning silence also made me wonder how mad I could be to do this, to believe in something that wasn’t even acknowledged by the majority of the population, least of all science, and concluded with the famous “What’s the point of it all anyway?”

As I lay back on the floor, I was actually practicing yoga at the time, I wouldn’t really just lie on the floor, I sighed deeply and gave up expecting an answer from the mystery force which may or may not be out there and switched off. “Whatever happens, happens for a reason”, was my surrendering thought at which I was flooded with a nurturing warm sensation that extended from top to toe and gave me back my hope that all will be well.

I was pleasantly surprised, almost a little bit too surprised since this was not the first time it had happened. I just seem to forget, clouded by the fumes of the destruction derby in my endocrine pathways, that it is so much easier to just surrender to the universe instead of painstakingly ask for help.

You’ve got to see the difference in energetic vibration these two emanate. Asking is an active “wanting of some kind”, which can mean that you might not get it if it isn’t part of your parcel or you aren’t actually ready for it yet. At the same time it may block whatever else tries to reach you.

Surrendering on the other hand is a passive “accepting whatever is for the highest good”. It enables you to receive exactly what you need at that precise moment in time, which essentially serves as a building block for the next task. In a world driven by a “who comes first gets it first attitude”, a simple task like “just letting it happen” can be difficult. We are task orientated and are taught to actively get on the case to reap the fruit of our labour.

Of course it is okay to ask, just don’t expect anything. Instead just let go and assume the surrendering process. This is the basic Law of Attraction.

And especially if we are not thinking clearly, which we likely won’t if we are depressed and can’t see a way out, it becomes even more difficult to remember to just let go and surrender. Yet, when you are, you will be swimming once again on the ocean of bliss that life can be, if you let it.

Love
Anna

Previous related posts:

The Power of Thought

Trust – The lesson of a life time

 

Was it Left or Right?

After I had turned left again instead of the announced right, or possibly the other way around, my boyfriend asked me: “Why is it then that you can’t tell left from right?”

I said I will look into it later and he can then read my blog 😉

Now I have been trying to find an explanation, or condition on the web that would neatly summarise my difficulty of distinguishing between left and right but could not find a proper niche to fit in. But there are several options to pick from, should I choose to give in to my occasional hypochondria.

I couldn’t coin a point in time that I was suddenly aware that I got my directions wrong. It just seemed to happen the more I grew up and began articulating. When I checked with my mother whether she noticed anything when I was young, she said that the first time she became aware that I had problems with left and right was when I painted my right thumbnail for my first driving lesson. There are suggestions that left-right disorders are hereditary.

Philippe De Sainte Maresville has the same problem and describes that it appears to be the words that get it wrong, not so much the hand movement. According to him we damn well know where left and right is, just that the words seem to appear on a random basis, unfortunately not necessarily the right one. Those who often experience mix ups might need a lot of concentration to get it right and most hiccups happen under stress or when tired. He also links it to psychological typing, that we have certain behavioural traits which work with certain parts of the brain.

Wikipedia offered me Acalculia at first, an acquired impairment with difficulty performing simple maths, but the fact that it appears to be acquired later in life as part of a neurological injury, or a stroke, I don’t think it might be what I am looking for.

The next on offer is Dyscalculia, a specific developmental disorder which becomes evident when beginning to learn maths early in life. The list of symptoms is extensive. Interesting is that I can tick most boxes, inlcuding frequent difficulties with arithmetic,  tables and mental arithmetic, often unable to grasp and remember mathematical concepts, rules, formulae, and sequences. I remember well the countless times of counting with my fingers under the table under the stern silence of my likewise stern teacher. If it was down to her, I would have been in a school for children with special needs.

Continuing with difficulty conceptualizing time and judging the passing of time, may be chronically late or early (it’s the early for me), problems with differentiating between left and right (yes), difficulty navigating or mentally “turning” the map to face the current direction rather than the common North=Top usage (oh yes, though I usually find my way around quite well), having particular difficulty mentally estimating the measurement of an object or distance, inability to concentrate on mentally intensive tasks and mistaken recollection of names, poor name/face retrieval, may substitute names beginning with same letter.

“Sorry, what was your name again?”

The list further includes the inability to visualize mentally, which I’m actually really good at. Could it be because of the associated well-developed sense of imagination, possibly as cognitive compensation to mathematical-numeric deficits? I definitely have difficulty reading musical notation and it took three years of weekly violin lessons until someone figured this out! My hearing took over and enabled me to play after having heard it played once, after which I simply copied by sound. And the point stating that we might do exceptionally well in a writing-related field makes me believe that maybe my blog will be famous one day after all. 😉

The following last point actually has a much bigger impact on me than the left-right confusion: low latent inhibition, i.e., over-sensitivity to noise, smell, light and the inability to tune out, filtering unwanted information or impressions. I always had an exceptionally good hearing, to the point where I went to have my ears tested because I actually couldn’t hear well, but found out that it was because I heard too much and probably had difficulties filtering the important from the background noise. I also feel overwhelmed quickly in crowded places… Another explanation for my behaviour on the first day of kindergarten?

Thinking about it, how much would the fact that I hit my head with a spade on a summer fair at the kindergarten go in line with the theory of Acalculia and the acquired neurological impairment? Actually, both, Dyscalculia and Acalculia affect the same part of the brain, namely the parietal lobe and the angular gyrus, which is about the location where the spade hit on the left side, which is also the side of the parietal lobe associated with mathematical problems. And that it was the left is in this case certain 🙂

A note on the side: apparently there have been experiments that showed the possibility that stimulation of the angular gyrus is the cause of out-of-body experiences. Synesthesia would also generally fit well in this topic. But I will tell you more about those another time.

I was secretly hoping that today’s research would also uncover, or at least find a correlation to my decision-making problems and also differentiating between two, which is at times impossible for me. I tend to need a third option in order to make a decision. I always assumed those must somehow be connected to my left-right disorder, but apart from a small experiment that interestingly also links decision-making to the parietal lobe, I could find no correlation other than the possibility of the influence of stress, anxiety or depression.

So I will carry on pretending to pick up imaginary pens to see where my right is and to try to be calm and think twice before I give someone directions. And it would probably be best to actually use a real pen to write down if someone gives me directions, because I surely won’t be able to remember when to go left and where to turn right 😉

Love
Anna

Feeding Anger or Spreading the Light

I’m asking myself what effectively gets you further: courtesy or plain rudeness. Besides the fact that I don’t think I would be capable of being rude I get terribly upset if my friendly approach doesn’t get returned or even if I find out that I have been lied to, despite all my niceness, small talk and plenty of expressions of gratitude.

Yes, it might be that I take this too personal, but I honestly just don’t get it. I begin to believe that maybe I am just too naive. I have the tendency to believe in the good in everyone, hence I got caught up in an emotionally abusive relationship. And I didn’t know how to tell someone that she kept upsetting me because I sincerely believed she didn’t know she was doing it and didn’t want to upset her, when she suddenly told me that I was the one being rude and cocky.

She had stopped talking to me after she asked me why I had behaved differently recently and I had told her then, although I still didn’t know how to say it without upsetting her. And she is still not talking to me after nearly a year. And I decided that it is her problem, not mine, based on the evidence that she fell out and stopped talking to an average of two people per year since I met her.

I once stopped talking to a close childhood friend because she did something which affected me and I didn’t think was right. It was eight years until I gave in to my curiosity to find out what she was up to and looked her up on Facebook. But we had grown apart, or maybe we never were particularly close after all. “Just a childhood friendship”, nothing based on common interests. Interestingly, one of the many reasons I stopped talking to her was that I knew if I wanted to change I had to get out and move away. Falling out with her was basically my ejector seat to a new life.

I have learned from my past experiences and have begun to talk directly about my feelings instead of bottling it up, running away or stop talking. When you’re too open, you’re also more prone to feeling upset. Though you might think that being positive and self-assured would make it less likely for other’s criticism to take hold. And maybe that is why it gets me down so much when I don’t seem to get anywhere despite my best efforts for everyone to like me. Why do I want everyone to like me? Where does this need come from? Is it an insecurity of not being good enough?

You can’t change or influence other’s actions, especially not when they don’t care who you are or what you do. This seems to be more so when the other person feels threatened by your own actions, however good-willed or polite you might be, because they innately fear that you are going to be better than them or even are going to make them look incapable of doing their job.

People often say things they don’t mean. Words sometimes fall out of someone’s mouth like apples from a tree. That’s just what they do. So really no reason to take those personal. And if words are spoken with intention and they upset you, again, don’t get affected by them, question the reason behind them and voice your opinion. It is a strange thing, that two people can fall out because they think that the other one is in the wrong, yet both parties believe to be in the right. This is a universal paradox. And yes, there could well be two different realities, opinions, ways that are equally right, each from their own point of view, just not from the other’s point of view.

This took me a while to understand. “Acceptance is the key to cure”, it is said in the recent zombie teen flick “Warm Bodies”. There the zombies develop a feeling of love, which appeared after watching the human girl and the zombie boy holding hands and literally jump-started their hearts again. Those zombies that had given up turned into evil monsters, but love cured the remaining zombies and made them nearly human again. A wonderful comparison!

So when I felt suddenly very down again because someone had made a comment in a rather upsetting way, which was completely ducking me under the murky waters of misery and non-comprehension, I remembered how important it is to remain positive, because negativity is, unfortunately, much more contagious and spreads much faster than positivity. So I had the choice of either feeding anger or spreading the light. And I chose to spread the light, because I thought that if I have the awareness and the capability to change at least something, than I should damn well get on and do it! 🙂

“All you need is love.”  The Beatles

Read my blog about the power of thought here.

Love
Anna

The Courage of Valentinus

I only ever once got something resembling a love letter, and I don’t think it was even on Valentine’s Day. Reason to worry? Not really. Life is still worth living even if we don’t receive any Valentine’s cards or presents!

It took some effort on my part to get some of my past boyfriends to get me something for Valentine’s. Why? Because they didn’t believe in the consumerism of it whereas I was mesmerized by the idea of romance. It’s no surprise, considering you will see heart-shaped balloons, red roses and special chocolate tins plus all the cute cuddly teddy bears everywhere in the weeks running up to February 14th.

Now then, what happened that shaped this custom of ours?

There seems to be a bit of guess-work going on around the origin of Valentine’s Day. In the third century, there were actually three Valentinuses, who allegedly all died on February 14th. Most seem to put their bet on St Valentinus of Rome, who married couples against the law under the reign of Roman emperor Claudius II around 270. He was ultimately found out and imprisoned. While in prison, he was asked to teach the daughter of a prison guard, to whom he wrote a letter the day before his death signed “from your Valentine”. It is likely that any records of Saint Valentine were destroyed during the Diocletianic Persecution at the beginning of the 4th century.

I was made aware of this little cartoon for those visual learners out there 🙂

I really wish I still had the post card that was pushed through underneath our front door a good 25 years ago. I remember that it had a print of a painting with some field mice in a garden, a typical children’s book picture. We had just learned writing, accordingly, on the back, my admirer had written in big capital letters that he liked me. In between each word he had drawn a plump big red heart. Unfortunately, this card has vanished somewhere along my life.

Next week I will be running a mini retreat on “Finding your Inner Valentine“. Our retreats take place every second Thursday of the month and this one coincidentally fell exactly on Valentine’s Day. One of the co-founders said at first that we are probably unlikely to get people in on that day. But I thought that it would be perfect for all the singles out there, to give them the opportunity to treat themselves to something good. And surprisingly, or not, we were booked out quite quickly.

The question now is what these participants expect. I sometimes use my blogs as inspirational handouts and wanted to produce one of them for the Valentine’s retreat. But the information I researched just doesn’t resonate with me. It doesn’t touch my heart, even despite Valentine’s typical symbolism being a heart. So what can we draw from the original story of St Valentinus of Rome?

He definitely fought for his beliefs. Christianity was suppressed by the Romans, but Valentinus wasn’t prepared to just drop his belief. He had the courage to carry on, to still offer those in love the holy sacrament of marriage. Even when he got imprisoned for it, he still taught the prison guard’s daughter about life and his belief. The story goes that she was born blind but together with what she had learned about God by Valentinus and her own belief formed following the teaching, it is said that she was able to see.

We don’t know if this really happened, but do we need to know the facts in order to belief? Let’s take this simple little story and belief in ourselves, our strengths, possibilities and the person we are. Take up the courage to do with our life what we believe to be right. And maybe, instead of just throwing chocolates and flowers at those dear to us, begin to see these qualities in them as much as we see them in ourself.

It surely takes courage to tell someone how you feel about them. You won’t know what the other is feeling until you made the first step. Leaving fears and worries behind, the pure acknowledgement of another person, believing in them no matter what,that, to me, is an essence to Valentine’s Day that touches my heart.

Love
Anna

The sugar brain

Without realising the impact of my naive realisation, I had first compared my relationship to sugar with the alcohol and drug addiction of my ex-boyfriend a couple of years ago. Out of the blue did I say to someone in conversation: “Trying to come off sugar is just as bad as coming off heroin.” To which I received the reply:”Actually, heroin is out of your system after four days. It’s much more difficult to stop smoking.”

Read more about “The sugar brain“.

To Practice What I preach

You see, it took me a good week of a persisting cough to actually start using my knowledge of acupressure to push the pressure points said to relieve the problem. And the few reluctant attempts at gargling with salt water or aspirin and the one occasion that I actually laid down to give myself some energy healing are nearly not worth mentioning.

This problem has occurred to me on numerous occasions, at times I even got really irritable if someone gave me advice that I would usually give others, only because I was clearly not using it for myself. I even found myself turning a deaf ear to my mother’s advise to make cold compresses.

The biggest light-bulb moment came when I was asked in a therapy session what I could do to release a build up of anger that wasn’t needed. I timidly explained that maybe I could do the same as I do during my daily centring, connecting and grounding routine, namely visualise a white light washing through my body, taking with it all negative feelings. And while I said it I felt such a fool for doing this procedure EVERY DAY, yet being unable to apply it when I actually really needed it. Why did I train in Energy Healing for two years only to still not get the actual message four years later to simply heal myself with intention.

Why is it so difficult for us to do something about our suffering instead of waiting for someone to take it from us? “Don’t wait for someone to heal you, assume that the healing is already taking place.” Anna

Do I really believe I can help others heal, all the while I completely ignore my own healing? What a hypocrite. Maybe I didn’t learn to heal in order to help humanity, but to actually help myself. Anyhow, healing takes place within us first, after which we can go round the globe and attempt in healing others. I think our ego is not only preventing us from accepting ourselves for who we are but also stops us to deal with our deepest issues, which need a lot of attention and patience and probably endurance as well to get to the core of it.

Why does the ego do this? Quite likely because we have become used to who we are (not to be confused with acceptance), warts and all, and it would not be acceptable to suddenly not have anything left to complain about. We wouldn’t need anyone to look after us if we were all healed. We would fear that we would end up alone because nobody would need us anymore. And we have become so used to rely on others for our comfort and wellbeing. Doctors always have something to prescribe and our friends always need something from us. This gives us the idea of being looked after and also to be of value to others.

So if I was suddenly getting up and began healing myself, what of this cosy comforts would be of need to me? This concept needs a certain amount of getting used to. And it is also partly the same issue why some people simply don’t heal. Because their ego unconsciously tells them that it would mean to let go of all old patterns that define who they are. A very childish version of my inner child sometimes creates a bit of drama just so it can get a sympathising word or a hug. No drama, no hugs? Of course not! No drama, plenty of hugs free from conditions and full of love!

Just sit back and think for a moment. Who do you think you could be by allowing yourself to fully heal and, best of all, be the main contributor of that process?

Love
Anna

The Many Stages of Grief and Belief

I have just tackled the last unit on death and dying in my diploma. I wanted to do this unit because it forms such a big part of my job and is also an interesting topic that I wanted to learn more about. However, it took me a good year until I finally actually started it. And this was not only because nobody passed away while I was on duty, which should be a positive thing really, but probably more so because a little insecurity signalled that I might have to begin to look behind my emotional barriers and address my own issues to do with endings and the passing of others and myself.

Death is an uncertainty. Yet, the only certainty is death. This concerns humans as much as animals, plants, the whole universe. But because we only know life as it is, it can frighten us to not know what will happen. Uncertainty is often worse. A saying by Paulo Coelho goes: “Fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself”.

Death can happen at any time, yet we walk around with a distinct sense of security. This helps us to live our life to the full, which we wouldn’t be able to were we to worry about potential dangers around every corner. Death at a young age is usually seen as more tragic, compared to a natural end after a long and successful life. Just, how much more tragic is a gradual decline with Alzheimers, which can weigh heavily on relatives and carers, not to mention the individual himself, compared to a sudden death, maybe due to an accident, where the suffering might be more intense but shortened? At what point are we considered to be “at the end of our life”, if we know that one day we will quite definitely die anyway? How accurate are diagnoses in relation to life expectancy, if some outlive theirs by a few decades, whereas other’s comes to an end unexpectedly quick? These questions remain mostly unanswered, partially because we have no control over life, even with all the medical enhancements, and also because we all experience fear and grief differently.

While working my way through this unit I happened to stumble across a related article in a newspaper. It was about a young doctor that had recently been diagnosed with cancer and had written about both sides, her experiences as a doctor and now as a patient. I ordered both her books straight away (intake goes to charity) and am following her blog (http://drkategranger.wordpress.com). She is exactly my age, which, together with my current thought processes on dealing with death and worrying about ovarian cysts, found its way into my deepest inner self. How would I feel if I was suddenly diagnosed with a terminal illness? What would I do? On top of it comes the worry of my partner that I would rather die young than undergo invasive treatments, since I tend to prefer the natural approach to illnesses.

Since we are all individuals with different life experiences and beliefs, we will all deal with death differently. Some get overtly emotional and cry, others simply withdraw, unable to talk about their feelings. There are those who express anger, who don’t want to give up, who think they have many things left to do and can’t see how they can possibly do it all with the time they have left. They would give anything for a little more time. There are worries about pain and suffering. And there are those who accept this part of life for what it is and often become the rock for their relatives and friends, who might have an even harder time coping with the upcoming loss, since they are the ones left with a gap in their lives. All these responses go hand in hand with the five stages of grief, as outlined by Kübler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. These can affect everyone involved in someone’s death. The dying individual as much as relatives, old acquaintances and those involved in the care.

How we deal with death depends on our belief or religion. Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs for example, believe in re-birth, whereas the belief of a Jehovah’s Witness is that their whole existence stops forever when a person dies. Atheists do not hold any belief at all. Christianity proposes that life is a gift from God which is available to all who believe and seek forgiveness and the Mormon Church views life as a test to see if we are ready to return to God after death. Judaism holds the belief that death is the end of earthly life, but that eternal life is offered if we have the right relationship with God. Islamic practises see death as a transition from one state of being to another as part of the will of Allah. (From The Royal Marsden Clinical Nursing Procedures)

Some people only begin to find solace in a religious belief when they are in despair, even if they didn’t belief in anything whatsoever during their whole life. The opposite can be the case as well. Sadly I have known someone who was very dedicated to his spiritual beliefs during his lifetime but was said to have lost all his faith just before he died, making his passing very unsettling for him and those near him.

Then last night there was a documentation on TV about death row in the US. They interviewed those on life sentence and talked about those who had been sentenced to death. This takes on a completely different view on death. Surely, these prisoners must have done terrible things to be sentenced to death. How do they deal with what they have done and what will happen to them? With homicide as much as with euthanasia, the question is: who can justify a killing of another being?

I could probably say that I find it easier to cope with death than the process of dying. I am generally quite open to anything, yet there comes a point where I encounter a natural barrier, something that stops me opening up too much to a situation in order to avoid getting upset. Or maybe even more out of fear that I would lose control over my emotions.

I would do most things for my patients, but sometimes I rather feel like not getting too involved in their care, or with them personally, because I fear I would be overwhelmed with emotions. Sometimes I feel that I am unable to offer all my sympathy and concern a situation requires and end a conversation with a pat on the arm and a reassuring word and smile, which appears rather awkward and foolish to me.

It was a huge moment of change for me when I began working in care, at first being terrified to apply personal care. This has now become routine for me over the years, but it doesn’t have any personal emotions attached to it. Even though you consider dignity, personal preferences and apply a professional standard, there is a difference between a routine bed bath and a comforting hug or holding someone’s hand. It requires a different set of emotional awareness, and actually also preparedness.

The worst is if someone, and this relates to anyone, even in my private life, begins to cry. My immediate response used to be to just run away, to just not have to deal with it. More recently I have begun to remain calm and just listen. To give the individual time to get the first tears out, let the first steam out of the kettle, and then to offer constructive support, to just be there for them, without being overly sympathetic. I am aware of these processes and am still working on them. Attending a course for basic counselling skills has hugely contributed to my awareness and development.

Very “coincidental” came the natural conversation with a patient about his acceptance of death being the gate to eternity, as he called it. He was talking about how he had served in Australia during the war and had only come back to the UK to see his parents, when he fell in love and ultimately become a Christian because of his mother-in-law. He never used to believe in anything in particular before that, if anything than rather more in guides. Now he sais that he has ticked all the boxes that allowed him to go back to God. He had asked for forgiveness for all his sins, had lived a good and interesting life and was rather excited to see what would happen when he finally passed over. He was actually doing really well for 93. I liked his open and cheerful attitude towards death. Of course, a natural death after a long and happy life would be the best option. Wouldn’t it?

A year on after writing about endings I have maybe come a little bit closer to accepting that everything ends one day. Still, we won’t know what will happen after. But I firmly belief that it will be our own belief that will influence that moment for the better or worse. Which way will you choose?

Love
Anna

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

Reaching for the Stars

Having just watched the mesmerizing “Life of Pi”, I wonder, when is a story just a story? When is a dream just a dream? When does reality begin and phantasy end?

Our whole existence is crammed into a universe, that is reflected as a tiny microcosm in every single cell of us.

A human cell contains about 100 trillion atoms. The Milky Way consists of an estimate 100 thousand million stars. That is twice as many zeros in a cell than in the Milky Way! If my math is right.

Imagine the nucleus of a cell gazing up to see more stars around it than us. Imagine we also are just a cell in an organism that we can’t yet comprehend!

This morning I stumbled across a piece of paper where I had carelessly noted a thought process of mine, which I presently can’t place, but which perfectly fits in here: “If your dreams suddenly collapse, or your realise that you are the dream and not even real, what do you do? Would you rather be a dream dreamt by someone else, or would you be better off as the one having the dream?”

In “Life of Pi”, spoiler alert, he offers two different stories. One is to please those investigating the sinking of the ship. The other is the one that leads to God. Which one will you believe? And where will it lead you?

If something as simple as a story can lead us to a higher being, wouldn’t it also at the same time lead to ourselves? Reverting back to the cell and it’s nucleus,  being just a particle in an organism that we can’t comprehend, we become what we see, hear, feel and eat, and yet we already were what we are about to take in long before we even began to engage all our senses.

The reality of ourselves is what we make it out to be. We will always be perceived differently by different kinds, yet we remain the same. The moment we surrender to the macrocosm, we will come to understand the microcosm. And if we stay true to ourselves, to who we are, macrocosm and microcosm combined, we will grow one day, to reach all the stars in the sky.

Love
Anna

Of Toy Horses and Existence

After eight years I have finally moved out of my mother’s house for good. Don’t get me wrong. I had actually left my home country of Germany seven years ago, just with a suit case and bare necessities. Most of my stuff I had left behind, knowing that they would be save where they were.

Initially I had taken most of my belongings 300 km south where I would be studying for the next year and a half, only to move them up again once I had decided to live in another country. From there, twice yearly visits turned into once yearly, but still, every time I took something that seemed important enough with me into my new home across the English Channel. It is incredible really if you think about the stuff we accumulate and hold dear. It’s our most innate habit: existence, holding on to things that define who we are.

In an interview with Ophra, the Dalai Lama remarked: “Even when a person has all of life’s comforts—good food, good  shelter, a companion—he or she can still become unhappy when encountering a  tragic situation. Physical comforts cannot subdue mental suffering, and if we  look closely we can see that those who have many possessions are not necessarily  happy. In fact, being wealthy often brings even more anxiety. On the other hand,  those who don’t have a life filled with luxury may have a home filled with  compassion, based on their choice to be content and to practice self-discipline.”
(Read more: http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/Oprah-Interviews-The-Dalai-Lama/2#ixzz2H2GUEuwD)

When my mother mentioned she might move into a much smaller accommodation, I decided it was time to rid myself of the extra belongings that had not been in use since I had left them. By no means did I think it would turn into an ordeal with the extend of a near breakdown.

It was mainly the memories that arose with each single piece from dust-covered boxes. Most were school related, arts and crafts, paintings, including end of year reports which reflected the negative impact my teacher of eight years had on my upbringing. There were notebooks with terrible handwriting and yet pretty interesting content. All my Barbie dolls plus an impressive array of horses, one of which could even walk, resembling some peculiar Michael Jackson move, providing you put batteries in. None of these I really needed, yet they were part of my childhood, part of who I once was, the part that made me who I am now. How can you just chuck that part away? You wouldn’t cut out a piece of your thigh and continue walking as if nothing had happened, would you? Yet, some people never even had the opportunity to accumulate any worldly possessions…

2012-12-23 20.48.40

After the first sorting run, the second already proved less emotional. With the third, I had thrown away another half of what I initially was unable to part with. Now I had gone through the process of remembering, the joys and pains, and had come to realise that there was no need to keep it and was finally able to let go. Though I did worry that in a decade or two I would be looking for some memorabilia, that would not be there no more. It was more about “just looking at it and remembering”. The other thing, however, was to try and fit it all into an already crammed tiny flat.

It might be a coincidence that this process of letting go also applies to a change in my diet, mainly excluding refined cane sugar, which I am currently writing about in a separate blog. Being back at my mother’s house at Christmas, the place I spent all my childhood, I find myself reverting back to the little child I once was, with the reflection of the wax candles in my eyes only merely covering up the gleam of near insanity, or child-like joy, at the sight of granny´s big Christmas plate filled with lebkuchen, stollen, biscuits, marzipan and chocolates filled with the most delicious mousse and cream, all wrapped in all the colours of the universe. And somewhere deep inside I wonder whether I will ever be able to abstain from sugar for good.

Of course, my 30-year-old self still couldn´t help itself in view of the Christmas treats, though it was more in control than the last years. I had cut down on sugar in every-day life, with the exception of festive periods. With every sugar-coated almond, chocolate coated marzipan, chocolate nougat ball, poppy crumble cake, waffle topped with hot cherries and rice pudding I ate, I said my last goodbye, knowing that if I want to change, I will have to just do it.

The same goes with my material belongings. If I want to be free and filled with happiness, I will have to just let go of things that don’t serve me no more. I know that it is about time to let go and I vow to myself that I will lovingly do so. And if it isn’t so much letting go of all worldly possessions yet, so it will begin with thought processes. The past is over and gone and has no impact on me. I acknowledge it as a stepping stone that made me who I am today. My life is full of joy, laughter and fun and I fully love myself and those around me. I choose my own future and create my life to my highest good. Wherever I go, life offers me splendid opportunities to grow. I only hold love in my thoughts, speak truth with my words and warm others with my radiant smile.

2013-01-03 13.11.28

For this is not happiness 😉

To a new year, filled with new adventures.

Love
Anna

Thumbs Up or What?

When talking to people from a different country, it can sometimes be difficult to communicate properly with lots and lots of misunderstandings. But even with different social groups within the same country one can encounter different interpretations or meanings. Especially with the English language, which is found on all the continents on earth with various accents and individual developments. A small example for different meanings for the same wording: AA can stand for Alcoholics Anonymous as well as the Automobile Association, a banger can either be a sausage, a small firework or even an old car, and a bap could refer to a soft bread roll, a lady’s décolleté and in Northern Ireland even a person’s head.

I do love the Scottish accent, but I find it impossible to understand. So if someone tells you to “Awa’ an bile yer heid” (in simple English “Away and boil your head!”), he actually tells you to ‘get lost!’ or ‘forget it!
www.scottish-at-heart.com/scottish-sayings.html

When I started out in healthcare, I sincerely believed that a lady wanted to buy something from the shops when she insisted she wanted to spend a penny first before going back to bed. Being a German national, to me the saying “to spend a penny” as in needing to pass urine, simply didn’t exist. A similar experience I had on my first day as a housekeeping assistant when making tea. I did not know that the English take milk in their tea, until an indignant elderly man complained that I had forgotent to put milk in his tea.

At work, if the language barrier can’t be overcome we can summon an interpreter, ask relatives to help out or use sign posters with icons and pictures to point to. However, I would like to indicate here how differently the common “thumbs up” sign for “everything okay” is being interpreted around the world (according to Wikipedia).

In some Middle Eastern countries, the “thumbs up” gesture is the foulest of signs, meaning in the most straightforward interpretation “Up yours, pal!” It has a similar meaning in parts of West Africa, South America, Iran (here similar to our “middle finger”) and even Sardinia.

In Italy, Germany, Greece and Hungary it could mean “okay” or simply indicate the number one whereas in Russia and Finland the expression translates as “awesome”, “good” or “well done” and more so in Finland even “keeping fingers crossed”.

Australia has assigned this hand shape to sign language as meaning “good” with the general meaning being “terrific”. In American sign language, however, this gesture means “yourself” and when wiggled modestly left and right it indicates the number ten. When lifted up by the other palm it creates the meaning of “help”. Japanese sign language on the other side associates thumbs up with a man or a male gender.

The gesture is well accepted in India, yet if the hand is wagged from side to side in a reverse-pendulum like motion, it means “won’t work” or “disagree”.

The meaning in Egypt, Iraq and Israel is “perfect” or “very good”, in Brazil it might indicate “thanks” and in Denmark it means “awesome” or “good to go”.

In the West, hitchhikers use the gesture with an outstretched arm to get a lift. Just imagine what trouble you could get yourself into hitchhiking in the Middle East! Or think of an American mute “shouting” for help and we assume that he is doing just fine.

I might have to think more carefully the next time I raise my thumbs 🙂

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

A Sound Bath with a Difference

Last week I enjoyed my first full-length crystal bowl sound bath. I was excitedly looking forward to it after having had two short tasters in the past.

In case you don’t know, and even I had to look into it, crystal bowls are made from highly purified quartz powder (approx. 98.9% silicon quartz) which is fused together at a high temperature. They are a more recent product compared to the ancient metal singing bowls traditionally made in Tibet and Nepal. When played, these bowls emit a sound vibration which registers in the fluid of our physical as well as in our more subtle energy bodies. Sound healing is a fantastic tool which works gently, yet with a sometimes surprising intensity.

Another reason why crystal bowls in particular work is because apparently our bones, blood, brain and DNA are crystalline in structure and our cells contain silica, which is the same formula as natural quartz crystal. So when the crystal bowls are played, the crystalline cells in our body begin to vibrate at the same frequency as the bowls. You do the maths.

I have been very busy this year with a lot of major new projects and was really looking forward to the opportunity to just lie flat on the floor (the most humble and relaxing position) and enjoy a good hour of sound healing. Using the sound of my Tibetan healing bowl in my own workshops, I was ever so pleased to have someone else (the magnificent Wenche) create beautiful waves of sound that sent my body and mind into the most exquisite state of apathy.

For a long time I was even able to resist the urge to move or relieve that niggling itch until the nerves in my left hand got  the better of it and twitched involuntarily. My joints began to feel painfully stiff from my self-imposed “corpse pose”, so I began to move my hands and feet lightly when a massive bang and shattering of glass interrupted us. I knew instantly that one of the bowls must have broken and I worried that it was me. When I’m not fully in control of my physical movements and thoughts at the same time, I have in the past been blowing numerous light bulbs or other electrical equipment, not to mention the electric shocks from various metal objects. Since I learned to actively work with energies, these occurrences have lessened, but still happen now and again. I wasn’t the only one who reported sensations of restlessness before the bowl burst.

Before the start of the sound healing session, Wenche was talking about the upcoming shift of human consciousness later in the months, so it now appeared to be very auspicious, especially since she didn’t even play the bowl when it broke. The bowl was tuned to the note A, the brow chakra/third eye and had the attribute of Capricorn, whose zodiac sign we will be entering on the long-awaited day of doom and gloom, December 21st. Wenche was, however, playing the bowls on the other side, among which was the bowl associated with the heart chakra, which not only resonates more with me and my Sacred Centre work, but also leads me to another topic that I stumbled across on my research on crystal bowls.

(From www.healingcrystalbowls.com) In the ancient lands of Egypt, the healers travelled from door to door with a special healing Crystal Bowl called the “Faience Bowl”. It was tuned to the note of F# for the high heart. The ancients believed that the way to facilitate healing is by opening the high heart that connects the hearts of all beings. The high heart is the one heart that connects all hearts to the One, to spirit, to God. It is located in the thymus gland or the center for the immune system. To ancient Egyptians, it was the heart and not the brain that was the seat of emotion, thought, will and intention. Since I began my work to lead others into their heart space, their “Sacred Centre”, I have come across a few mentions and stories of like-minded people and in general the importance of moving up into the higher chakras, in conjunction with the rise of consciousness in line with December 21st.

According to Wenche, bowls don’t just shatter like that, especially not when she didn’t even play the one in question. She said it literally jumped off its rubber ring. If you want, you can see it as an auspicious sign, a sign of higher ascension and the beginning of a new age, shattering of old habits and past thinking. The third eye is associated with wisdom, higher vision and insight, but surely it would teach us a much bigger lesson by staying intact and gently opening our sixth centre instead of shocking us out of our minds. Or is that, after all, exactly what we needed?

Anyway, after the initial physical reaction to the shock of a loud noise and possible danger, I thought to myself that this is yet another perfect situation to let go of  my past fears. Interestingly, I found a suitable attribute to the third eye during research: “The state of our fears, experience, memories and facts come together to be our wisdom. The development of detachment is in this chakra. ” How very true and important this is for me. And without knowing it then, this was exactly what I did. And as the sound bath continued around me, I let it wash away my thumping heart beat together with old fears and anxieties.

Still, I had to find out what the likelihood of a crystal bowl breaking was. Spectrum Wellbeing states that “on rare occasions and not always for any apparent reason, quartz bowls have been known to shatter while they are being played. All quartz bowls are susceptible to this, though this is a rare happening and has fortunately never happened to us although we have often done some of the things we are now warning against! To minimise the risk of breaking, never play the bowl with excessive force, don’t hit the bowl with the stick, only tap lightly, keep bowls a foot apart from each other when playing, don’t play a very large bowl in a very tiny room, play on the outside of the rim and not on the inside. A 15 minute break is recommended to ensure that the energy field is not overloaded and everyone has a chance to assimilate the changes.

In the end, nobody will know for sure why it happened. The cynics will insist that any of the cautionary terms above weren’t met, whereas the spiritually minded will insist on their auspicious signs. Everyone gets out of it what they believe to be true, or just to mention another theme of the third eye chakra:  “As you think, so you become”.

If you have the chance to attend a crystal bowl sound bath, go for it! It might feel strange at first, some find they have to leave the room because it influences them strongly. You are likely to benefit most if you can just accept it and let it happen for the highest good.

Have a listen to this YouTube video if you want to know what crystal bowls sound like.

More on the ascension theory I found here.

After the sound bath we sat in a circle and, after discussing the event of the broken bowl, we were asked to describe how we feel in one word. “Immortal” came up for me, which surely can’t mean the end of everything 😉

Love
Anna

When East meets West

I work in a general healthcare setting in which most alternative treatments are not seen as valid treatment unless they have been trialed and tested and found to work. Most of them don’t.

So you can probably emphasise with my enthusiasm when I learned that a request has been put forward to treat urinary problems with fibular nerve stimulation using needles. My excitement was beyond reason, particularly because I had just recently completed an acupressure massage course in which I learned about the application of points on the achillis, which were exactly the point of stimulation for the fibular nerve.

Of course I wanted to know more and be part of this incredible project. So I eagerly asked the person who had put the request forward and it emerged that we were essentially talking about the same thing, yet from two completely unrelated points of view.

I was talking about applied pressure to stimulate two points (BL 60, KI 3) on either side of the achillis tendon at the back of the foot which have many, many properties, among others the said urinary problems but also gynecological disorders, menopause, lumber pain, sciatica, diarrhoea, dyspnoea, asthma, dizziness, fever, insomnia, impotence, oedema and many more. However, BL60, which isn’t as important for urinary problems as is KI 3, can also induce labour. It is purely easier to squeeze both of them together, but one should consider the desired outcome before the treatment.

Anyway, my person of reference was talking about inserting a needle into the said area (to which I still nodded approvingly) and then wiring it up to a device which sends an electrical current via the needle to stimulate the fibular nerve.

Ok, still sounds interesting to me, it’s essentially just a much stronger acupuncture treatment, however, my heart skipped a beat when she responded to my explanation of manual stimulation with: “Well that doesn’t work. It can only work if it has been tested and undergone approved procedures.””But it is the same points and meridians”, I said, even pushing the points on her foot. Although she found my approach very interesting, she couldn’t do anything about it, because she was just yet another puppet in the system, like me.

Curious as I am, I set out to learn more about PTNS (percutaneous tibular nerve stimulation). But all I could find was that it was invented by a Dr. Marshall L. Stoller, medical director of the Urinary Stone Center at UCSF Medical Center, USA. His invention coined the treatment of PTNS in 2010, which, however followed a century full of research of nerve stimulation from direct bladder to lumber nerve stimulation and only further research went along the lower limbs to find that it had a 80% success rate in treating urinary urgency and incontinence. Just why exactly, nobody could say. And I could not find any links relating to acupuncture anywhere in the test documents.

Funny, isn’t it just, how western people need over a century to trial and test something they think might be a good idea in order to solve a problem, actually find a solution yet don’t actually know why it does so, when acupressure has been actively used in the East for thousands of years. And still applies today.

If the western medical researchers would open their minds just a little bit to a seemingly less viable concept, they would know why their tried and tested solution works. They would maybe see that there is more than just nerves, blood, bones, cells and muscles in our bodies, and that the reason why their solution works, is because they have accidentally found one of many points that act as a gateway allowing the physical and energetic worlds to merge.

So long, I would still like to take part in this project, but the requesting period takes at least six weeks, and whether anyone will have mercy with my eager willingness to improve people’s suffering on a less invasive level, I won’t know anytime soon.

Yet, it has opened my mind to western practices, seeing that maybe it isn’t all that bad since they surely know how to find the unknown and see reason, if only they would find the part within them that has all the answers.

A much more all-encompassing related article if you would like to learn more: http://www.acupuncturemoxibustion.com/conditions/overactive-bladder

Love
Anna

On Auras and Empowerment

Last month I had a polaroid picture of my aura taken. “Anna. . .what? . .really. . .what r u on about?” Someone promptly asked.

An aura is the energetic field around our physical body. Besides our  electromagnetic field it can represent our emotional and mental states and can indicate where we are in life at the moment. A clever Mr Semyon Kirlian accidentally discovered in 1939 that if objects with a high-voltage source are placed on a photographic plate, they produce an image on it. This was then called electrophotography or “Kirlian Photography”.  To take an aura photo you put your hands on a metal detector which distributes your electricity to the camera.

Though there is still a lot of debate about the buts and ifs and hows of this mysterious energetic field and it’s photographic evidence, though not proof at all, I think it is good fun and worth it for the sakes of a colourful polaroid and an engaging reading with a medium or clairvoyant. What you think of it and do with it is up to you.

It is now about five years since my first aura photo. Back then my picture was mainly blue and green (excuse the poor copy quality). The medium then spoke about my own form of healing in connection with “Atlantean Healing”, mentioned that I learn a lot and that it will still take a few years until I will establish my own healing business (to my disappointment). He also said that it was unusual that the clear blue was so close to my head. He also mentioned creativity, nursing and typing on a computer, which all apply to me.

Ever since I have been wondering if there was much difference if I had another one taken. In all fairness, it would probably already look different 5 minutes later. Anyway, the opportunity came on the London Yoga Show last month where there was a stall for aura photography. I had been looking for the polaroid photo version because the computerised photo prints are just not as nice, but also seemingly difficult to find.

So here I was, five years down the line, full of exciting new projects, and a completely different person to who I was back then. And my god did it show!

I wasn’t even recognizable! A shear explosion of red and yellow, nothing else. The clairvoyant said it was very unusual that the colours would hide the person. He estimated my face to be somewhere in the yellow area. He also identified two colour hues that he had not seen as such, a dark purplish red and a faint greyish blue in the centre of the photo, again, very unusual, he said. The red on the outside stands for practical work, with hands, whereas the yellow represents the mental plane, teaching and knowledge. The purple spot on my right side is my spiritual sense and knowledge and the faint green on my left is trying to create balance. All in all I am full of activity with a lot of potential and only need to find a way to channel it all into a good practical skill.

And that’s where the problem lies. Over the past five years I have changed, have learned a lot, acquired many new skills – energy healing as well as more recently acupressure massage – and was now at a point where I was full of it and didn’t know how to give birth to the idea to help others improve their lives and themselves. I had, however, started to teach and offer workshops tat the beginning of his year.

A mere two days prior to the day I had the last aura photo taken I was attending a networking meeting. When it was my turn to talk a little bit about my project and what I had on offer, all I did was babble along, spitting out words as they appeared in my head and henceforth caused utter confusion in the group.

“What is it exactly that you do? And what do you want to tell us?” Oh the embarrassment of it.

I just want to help. And I have all these fantastic tools, yet feel that others either don’t understand them or simply don’t understand me. Ah, yet another epiphany 🙂

In the nicest possible way I was told that: “I dont need to advertise all my skills and knowledge in one go – most of it will shine through in my daily work anyway”. I need to concentrate on one point, one aspect, and work on perfecting it.

The clairvoyant advised me to wear more red to turn my knowledge into practice. I don’t particularly like red…

With these two recent experiences in mind I entered the Kundalini Yoga Workshop. All good and fun until we were asked to turn to the person on our right. Both people on either side of me had turned and vanished somewhere else (kinda like sports class back in school), and I suddenly found myself facing the very small lady that had been standing in front of me. Again, first judgement: she is soo tiny.

“You are very tall”, she said promptly. We giggled awkwardly. Turns out that this exercise was to acknowledge us and others just as we are. We had to put our right hand out with the palm of the hand facing close towards the other’s heart and to look into the other’s left eye. We were to see our inner self reflecting back at us, for we are all one. The little lady had to reach high to come close to my heart and I could tell she found it difficult to hold her gaze on my left eye. Her eyes kept wandering off and at one point I feared she would burst into tears.

Suddenly I was very aware of the power that was emanating from me, my red aura, pouring over this small being. I tried to hold it back, to smile a little, to soften my gaze, to minimise the effect my tall appearance had on this much smaller person. I felt like I was towering over her, like a huge stone statue, and I didn’t like it at all.

When I was 12 I used to test my “power gaze” on the priest of my communion class. The custom was for the priest to hold every child’s hand upon entering the hall and to say a little verse. I was the small one back then, but I stared straight up into the eyes of the priest, strong and bold, which lead to moving eyes and some stumbling over words at times. No idea what I tried to prove back then, but in the end I was the only one out of a group of 30 who refused to receive the holy communion.

But now, this situation didn’t need power, it needed empowerment. At the end of this exercise everyone hugged their partner and returned to their space.

I don’t want to be scary!  I only want to help. I just need to find a way to better articulate myself and focus.

Love

Anna