Sunday, November 29, 2009
"So who wants to live forever when these moments will only come the once?" -- Justin Sullivan
This week I saw the best band in the world. Every time I hear Vagabonds live my heart bursts. Dancing to NMA for 2 hours is worth feeling as though my sacro-iliac joint is on fire the next day. Never, ever stop touring. Never. One Family. One Tribe.
Also this week I am grateful for:-
* Foo Fighters on VH1 Storytellers (even if they did bleep out all the "fucks" - meanwhile Jay-Z is allowed to call women "bitches" without being bleeped!)
* Desperately needed days off work
* Donating blood (another one off my list). Having needed blood myself in the past I always swore when I was well enough I would give it back.
* Yin Yoga
* Cooking for my family (which included British wine. Yes that's right, British wine! And it was nice!)
* Sunday morning power walks followed by curling up on the sofa
* Reading a whole book in a weekend (I used to do this a lot, I just haven't found the time in the last couple of years)
* Things to look forward to
Friday, November 27, 2009
You, dear readers, keep me on my toes as do the blogs I read. So I decided, on this cold winter morning on the fens to share the love (very difficult to pick just five, but please consider yourselves all equally loved!)
1. Fiona Robyn - a published author so always an inspiration, but also a realist as can be seen in this post.
2. Eco-Yogini - her attitude to yoga, saving the earth and life in general is just right - we could do with more of her in the world. Passion without fundamentalism. Awesome.
3. Green Ink - seems to always post something that echoes my thoughts at that moment. Plus she originates from my favourite place in the world :)
4. Rand(om) Bites - next time I'm in Sydney I am so meeting up with this girl for a beer! :D
5. Strictly Writing - inspiration and cynicism mixed in with procrastination. What more can a girl want!
(and a special mention to Just Wafflin' - I love this woman and her funny, passionate very British posts!)
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
(if you look on the Google Images, you will lovely pictures of bendy yoginis made of mercury who can get their heads on their back foot. Which is great. But I'm happy with where I'm at).
So dear readers, what's your favourite asana of the moment?
Monday, November 23, 2009
(Kathleen also inspired me to choose my word of 2010 which will be "mindfulness" - but more on that later)
One: I am Rachel.
Not anyone else’s perception of Rachel,
Or an imitation,
but true to myself.
Two: I will accept
that not everything will always go to plan.
I will accept
that this is just the way things are meant to be.
Three: I know my strengths.
I know my weaknesses.
I embrace them
and am honest with myself about who I am.
Four: I will be conscious,
I will be mindful and alive
with all of my senses
at every moment.
Five: I will accept
my limitations as part of who I am,
with them rather than against them.
Six: I will learn
to receive as well as give,
to be inspired as well as to inspire,
to be kind to myself as well as to others.
Seven: I will love
with every ounce of my being.
I will say
“I love you” more often.
Eight: I will accept
my past self as part who I am.
I will no longer
be ashamed of past actions.
Nine: I will always remember
that living is so much more than getting through the day,
and only I
am responsible for my own happiness.
Ten: I am not my scoliosis.
The reality is much deeper within
than even my own spine.
It cannot hold me back.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
I spent half the week in training about new Government objectives in funding for people with disabilities. So I am thankful to live a in a country where people with disability and ill health do get finanicial help and opportunity. I am also thankful for the life I have.
The rest of the week was spent putting the final touches to a fundraising art exhibition which I have organised. It's been incredibly hard work and ridiculously frustrating but watching it all come together for the grand opening yesterday was awesome!
And a couple of other little things that make me smile right now:-
- Lovefilm sending me the first season of Frasier - I had forgotten how funny it is!
- Working out holiday plans which include going to see the new nephew.
- Finally owning a vinyl player again, which means that I can dig out all my old vinyl from my parents' attic. It also means I can listen to 125mph again (which never made it onto the remastered CD for some reason - master tapes lost I presume?)
- My dad's 71st birthday today (which he always reminds me with much delight is also the anniversary of Margaret Thatcher's resignation in 1990!)
- A shot of JD over ice before bed.
- Florence and the Machine
- Yoga every day.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Firstly, a good friend shared this one about the writer's Bad Sex Award. It made me smile particularly because I found the sex scene in Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong that it talks about one of the most cringemaking scenes ever. There is little I despise more than gratuitous sex wrapped up in literary merit.
I find sex scenes difficult to write and I'm a big fan of the "less is more" approach. The insinuation of sex is far sexier than graphic description. My favourite poem, Byron's "when we two parted", is always thought to be the ultimate break up poem. Which it is but to me it also invokes sex that has been and gone with such breathtaking and spinechilling accuracy that there is no need for description. And this dear readers is why I find the old ones to always be the gold ones!
Secondly, this article about getting to know your characters reminds me of happy afternoons in Waterlow Park, chatting away to one or other of my protagonists. I need to start some of those conversations up afresh I think.
Share your inspirations dear readers and have a beautiful weekend :)
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
I know that several of you are in various stages of a "101 things to do in 1001 days". I made mine back in January 2008 as I was planning to leave my corporate law job. At first the list had many overambitious goals on it that in reality I just wasn't going to achieve. Learning to become a blacksmith for example takes some time and a lot of commitment. Get a grip, Rachel! So recently I decided to tidy it up and publish it here to remind me of all that I have achieved.
Enjoy (the things I have done are marked in bold)!
1. Host Christmas Dinner
2. Have friends round to dinner at least 4 times
3. Rise above all family squabbles
4. Record all family history/photographs
5. Go out to dinner with Himself once a month (26/33)
6. Play golf with my dad
7. Meet at least 3 online friends in real life.
8. Write more handwritten notes, cards and letters rather than sending emails.
9. Swim 4 times a week for 3 months
10. Complete a 40 day Samadha
11. Practice 10 minutes deep relaxation every day for 3 months.
12. No alcohol for one month.
13. Don't leave the house without breakfast.
14. Practice Judith Lassater's Moon Club sequence for 3 consecutive months.
15. Practice yoga 5 times a week.
16. Drink hot water with fresh lemon every morning when I wake up.
17. Stop smoking
18. Make home cooked meals and packed lunches at least four times a week for 6 months.
19. Bake once a week for 3 months.
20. Buy only eco-friendly cleaning and household products or make my own.
21. Clear out clothes and shoes.
22. Have a massage once a week for a month.
23. Go to the chiropractor once a month for a year.
24. Go to bed before 10pm for seven consecutive nights.
25. Run 50 miles in 30 days.
26. Give up City law job by 1st April 08.
27. Take "Teaching Pregnancy Yoga" course.
28. Set up Pregnancy Yoga classes.
29. Set up Mum and Baby Yoga classes.
30. Get "Yoga and Scoliosis" paper published.
31. Teach volunteer yoga.
32. Learn HTML.
33. Take "Yoga for Cancer" course.
34. Take "Sequencing in Yoga Classes" course.
35. Teach on an overseas yoga retreat.
36. Set up own business (set up and subsequently sold!!)
37. Double length of "in progress" novel.
38. Re-visit Keats's House.
39. Become inspired in the Poetry Cafe.
40. Enrol on a Creative Writing Course or join a writers' group.
41. Finish knitting blanket.
42. Learn to play piano (I can now play Happy Birthday and a variety of Christmas songs as well as The Can-Can)
43. Write in a paper journal every day for 1001 days.
44. Have a poem published.
45. Make a scrapbook of photos, tickets and mementos of 2008.
46. Take photos of my last walk along the South Bank to work and put in an album.
47. Learn to crochet.
48. Pay off my credit card by the end of 1001 days.
49. Live within my budget for 6 months.
50. Update my Will.
51. Get my eyes tested.
52. Go to the ballet.
53. Go to the opera.
54. Kneel at the grave of James Douglas Morrison.
55. See Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon.
56. Read "Dubliners" (I think the reason I've never completed any Joyce is that I have not started small enough).
57. Read "Watership Down"
58. Read "Finn Family Moomintroll"
59. Read entire series of Inspector Morse novels.
60. Read entire series of Falco novels.
61. Read 15 Victorian novels (12/15)
62. Re-read Byron's "Don Juan"
63. Have tea at the Ritz.
64. Go camping.
65. Have a pyjama day with Himself.
66. Take Himself to Manna
67. Have a long weekend in Dublin.
68. Have a long weekend in Paris.
69. Grow my hair.
70. Make a list of 50 things that make me happy.
71. Watch 50 films I've never seen before (50/50)
72. Listen to 50 albums I've never listened to before (43/50)
73. Grow my own herbs.
74. Grow an aubergine (eggplant).
75. Paddle in the sea on Christmas Day.
76. Get a new tattoo designed by Joolz.
77. Visit 6 British towns I've never visited before (4/6)
78. Spend 7 consecutive nights by the sea.
79. Give blood.
80. Win a game of chess.
81. Watch the sun rise on midsummer's day.
82. Read a book on the English Civil War.
83. Read a book on the American Civil War.
84. Make Jam
85. Make Marmalde.
86. Bake all our own bread.
87. Read all three parts of "The Lord of the Rings" without a break and then watch all three films.
88. Scan in file and sort out family archive.
89. Move out of London so I can fall in love with it again.
90. Blog every day for 30 days.
91. Watch the stars from the top of Primrose Hill.
92. Have a pedicure.
93. Have a facial
94. Paint a Mater.
95. Learn to play a 3 chord punk song on guitar.
96. Learn to make sushi.
97. After growing my hair for 1000 days have an expensive cut and colour on the 1001st day.
98. Smile every day
99. Give £1 to The Cats Protection League for every goal I don't make.
100. Make a new list.
101. Remember that the only people who have done everything they need to do are dead.
Monday, November 16, 2009
In early 2008 I was still working in corporate law in the City whilst teaching yoga three nights a week. I was exhausted as you can probably imagine. Luckily I was already well into the process of changing my life for the better. A couple of months after that first post I left law for good after 8 years and set up my own business, teaching yoga.
Since then things have changed again. Life is nothing if not unpredictable and in constant flux. We live in Cambridge now I work for a local arts charity and make the most of my evenings off. And since the move I have started using this blog a lot more and have met some fantastic fellow bloggers. It started off as an outlet for my thoughts on teaching and practicing yoga. It has since also become my notebook for recipes, and album for photos of my spoiled kitties and a blank page for the ramblings of my mind.
So dear readers, how has your blog changed since you started writing it?
Sunday, November 15, 2009
I haven't decided where I'm taking my yoga teaching now I've moved to Cambridge. I don't think it matters that I don't know where I'm going with it. I'm certainly not worried about it. I have so much else going on in my life and so many things I want to do. Right now I just want to put the information up and see what becomes of it. If it just becomes a community yoga website, or a rescourse for yoga and scoliosis or yoga and chronic pain and I just continue as I am, subbing classes as and when, well I'm fine with that.
I was lucky enough to do everything I needed to do with my yoga teaching when I ran Thames Yoga, I even ran a retreat in Turkey. I fulfilled every ambition I had and that is an amazing thing.
Right now I'm enjoying working on my own practice, and having most of my evenings free!
Back to the website - take a look and let me know if you see any glaringly obvious errors. Also if you know of any websites that you'd like to go on the links page then let me know.
Learning to Love London Again and the Return of my Writing Mojo
It only took two and a half months of living elsewhere. On Wednesday night, for a moment, I missed London. Don't get me wrong, moving out of London was the best thing I've done in a long time, but I guess it's natural I will miss it occassionally - I lived there for ten years after all.
On examination however it wasn't London per se that I missed - it was a specific part of London. A part I haven't visited for a long long time. A part, I'm sorry to say, I have never visited with Himself.
When I first moved to London as a wide-eyed 25-year-old the Ex and I lived in a gorgeous flat in a beautiful Georgian house conversion in Highgate. It was like my dream of what London should be. We had parks, we had Coleridge's house, we had a cemetery (where EVERYONE is buried), we had Hampstead Heath just across from us in which we had Keats House. My writing muse had never been stronger than it was there. I wrote all the time. I wrote for the Ham and High paper. I wrote for the local magazine Buzz. I wrote my first (unpublished and will undoubtedly remain so) novel. Looking back it was wonderful (I look back with rose coloured spectacles here of course, it wasn't that wonderful as my health was diabolical - but isn't nostalgia and hindsight all about forgetting the bad stuff?).
We were there for just under a year - then we moved and everything started fucking me off and my hate-hate affair with London began.
Over the last week or so my writing muse has returned for the first time in ages. To put this in perspective I have written two mediocre poems in the last twelve months and that's it. No magazine articles, no short stories and the only thing I've added to my in progress novel is a comma, which, like Oscar Wilde, I later removed. (Please note the only resemblance I have to the genius of Wilde is my constant input and output of commas, nothing else. I would never assume such arrogance!) This week I have written the first draft of a poem and a short story which just may amount to something and have sent off a little something to a magazine.
And so I remember Highgate. And I want to go back and take Himself. I want to show him my past. It feels important and necessary. We're going before Christmas and I'm excited.
Other things to be thankful for this week
* Being given two weeks' worth of cover teaching for a yoga teacher I hold in very high regard.
* The latest nephew being born without a hitch and absolutely perfect apparently! :D
* Doing a presentation at a sixth form open evening for work and making lots of good networking connections. This also made me feel nostalgic for my years at sixth form and especially the Latin stall at open evenings. I ran the A Level Latin stall two years in a row. Hardly anyone ever came :(
* Solo Acoustic Everlong.
* My new Foo tshirt.
* A day off with Himself, drinking Christmas flavoured soy latte in Starbucks and discussing the future.
* Yoga with my mum.
* Walking with my face against a November storm.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If poetry could tell it
backwards, true, begin
that moment shrapnel scythed you to the stinking mud ...
but you get up, amazed, watch bled bad blood
run upwards from the slime into its wounds;
see lines and lines of British boys rewind
back to their trenches, kiss the photographs from home -
mothers, sweethearts, sisters, younger brothers
not entering the story now
to die and die and die.
Dulce - No - Decorum - No - Pro patria mori.
You walk away.
You walk away; drop your gun (fixed bayonet)
like all your mates do too -
Harry, Tommy, Wilfred, Edward, Bert -
and light a cigarette.
There's coffee in the square,
warm French bread
and all those thousands dead
are shaking dried mud from their hair
and queuing up for home. Freshly alive,
a lad plays Tipperary to the crowd, released
from History; the glistening, healthy horses fit for heroes, kings.
You lean against a wall,
your several million lives still possible
and crammed with love, work, children, talent, English beer, good food.
You see the poet tuck away his pocket-book and smile.
If poetry could truly tell it backwards,
then it would.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
I have been vegetarian since I was 13 years old after staying with my aunt in Tasmania who took one of her sheep off in the front seat of her car and brought it back as a joint of lamb. I knew where meat came from of course, I’d just never seen it actually happen.
I was lucky. My parents’ embraced my vegetarianism completely. My mother became vegetarian as well and my father barely eats meat to this day. My brother was 6 at the time so had absolutely no choice in the matter (he has since rebelled by becoming a sausage eating carnivore).
On top of this I have always been lactose intolerant. Not in a “I will die if you bring cheese near me” kind of way, but more in a “spasming stomach and unpleasantly icky kind of way”. I have always used dairy alternatives where I can and my mother has always been magnificent at inventing vegetarian recipes that do not have cheese.
I originally gave up meat for very typical “teenage girl” reasons. I did not want the lovely little animals to die. As I grew older I learned things about farming methods and animal cruelty. I became unbelievably strict with my diet. I became a fully paid up member of the Vegan Police. I ate no meat, no fish, no dairy, no honey, no eggs. I wore no leather. I was a woman obsessed! And then a few years ago I got ill. Really ill. It was around the same time I met Himself (a man who will not be vegetarian-ised!). Together we researched organic, locally farmed meat and eggs and slowly I started bringing them back into my diet. Slowly as the protein did its work I got better.
This year I decided I was in a position to give up animal products again but sensibly, using alternative methods of protein. Obviously the dairy’s not too much of a problem. If I do eat some cheese I’m soon reminded why I shouldn’t.
But then we have the egg issue. You see I love eggs so much. I never admitted to myself how much I missed them when I was vegan before. I love golden mounds of scrambled egg on (non-dairy) buttery toast. I love two perfectly fried eggs between two pieces of homemade bread – I love biting into the yellow domes of yolk and letting it run down my chin…. Mmmm-hmmmm!
I don’t want to live a restrictive life anymore. Life has enough restrictions anyway. So I have found my compromise. I don’t use eggs if I don’t have to. I bake without eggs, I make batter without eggs, I make the best sweetcorn fritters ever without eggs. But then, once or twice a week I treat myself.
I do not condone farming and shopping methods in the UK. I do not condone what the large supermakets do to the farmers. I shop at farmers’ markets and organic delivery stores. But my shoes are now leather, they keep my feet dryer and Tasmanian honey is too good not to eat.
Ahimsa isn't just about being kind to everything around us, it's about being kind to ourselves as well. And that is something I have always been very very bad at.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi
Dhiyo Yonaha Prachodayat
The Gayatri Mantra is probably my favourite of the Sanskrit Mantras I know. My favourite translation of this is "Let us meditate upon the light of that adorable Sun, May it awaken our spritual perception on the three planes - physical, vital and mental", and one of the most beautiful versions I have ever heard is chanted by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati.
The Gayatri Mantra is known as the essence of all mantras (and there are many many many mantras). It is thought to tap into the sounds of the universe. Eastern mystical philosophy believes there to be seven plains of light above us and seven spheres of darkness below us (as above so below). The vibrations of the Gayatri Mantra allow the body to tune into these seven plains of light opening the chakras and allowing freedom and health to the physical body.
Whether or not you hold with this philosophy there is no denying the Gayatri Mantra is powerful. If you have ever been lucky enough to sit in a room full of people chanting this you will know how incredible it can feel. I used to teach yoga to a group of older ladies and a few of their husbands. When I first talked about chanting to them they looked at me as though I'd asked them to go out and murder their first born. Within three weeks even the men were chanting with gusto and asking me to make a CD so they could chant along at home, such is the power of the Gayatri Mantra. I advised them to get Swami Niranjanananda's CD. I chant on the flat side and with a definite hint of a Lancashire accent - nobody wants to hear that!
There is a bizarre little story behind the mantra that Thomas Ashley-Ferrand tells perfectly in this book. I will paraphrase for now but highly recommend his version.
The god Brahma was planning a fire ritual and the celestial priests advised him of a very small time window in which the ceremony could be performed when the planets would be perfectly aligned so Brahma headed off for the sacred site leaving his wife, Saraswati (the empowerer of all things musical), to follow him on. As the time for the ritual drew close Saraswati had not turned up so Brahma asked the priests to find him a stand-in wife.
A reluctant yet beautiful milkmaid named Gayatri was soon brought to the sacred site and a hasty wedding ceremony performed between her and Brahma.
At that moment Saraswati arrived dressed in ceremonial attire. When she saw that Brahma had taken another wife she was hurt and humiliated. Angrily as the planets began to settle into alignment Saraswati cursed Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva for the parts they played in her humiliation. But Gayatri she greeted as a friend and the two women merged as one creating scripture and writing and, of course, the Vedic Mantra attributed to Gayatri through which Supreme Truth can be found.
Enjoy the Gayatri Mantra, whether in class or just listening at home. There are a few lovely versions on YouTube (good old YouTube).
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Thursday Night was lovely. The firework display for Guy Fawkes Night was awesome and it was so nice for the whole family to get together for food and laughter - it's so hard to get everyone together at the same time! I felt horribly under the weather all day on Thursday, tired and washed out, and I didn't really feel like going but it turned out (as is so often the case) that it was exactly what I needed. So I am ridiculously thankful for my hilarious family this week. Other things that have made me smile with glee this week:-
* Himself making me vegan "cheeseburgers" for tea on Friday night.
* The new Foo Fighters Greatest Hits, Dave Grohl being on Jools Holland's TV show and also him saying that a Greatest Hits does not mean the Foos are over. Hurrah!
* Becoming a redhead again.
* Having the photos taken for my new yoga website (coming soon!) and actually liking all of them.
* Buying spring bulbs with my mum.
* Planting spring bulbs and reminding myself that winter may be bleak but it doesn't last forever.
* The new Flight of the Conchords album (laughed until I cried).
* Purple stripey wooly tights - winter was invented for them!
* Yoga, yoga, yoga, yoga.
ETA: I can't believe I forgot one - this week I have "met" a whole bunch of lovely new people on the blogosphere and for that I am grateful :D
Friday, November 6, 2009
Green Ink drew my attention to this and I thought I'd join in :)
Fiona Robyn is going to blog her next novel, Thaw, starting on the 1st of March next year. The novel follows 32 year old Ruth’s diary over three months as she decides whether or not to carry on living.
To help spread the word she’s organising a Blogsplash, where blogs will publish the first page of Ruth’s diary simultaneously (and a link to the blog).
Thursday, November 5, 2009
As the practice began I felt a lot of resistance. And I mean A LOT. I haven’t felt that much resistance in a practice for years. My ego was wild with crazy thoughts (and not very yogic ones at that). As many of you know I suffer from an upper thoracic scoliosis, right about where Anahata is which results in a lot of shoulder stiffness and I suspected that this was the source of the resistance. So I stopped thinking about Anahata per se and started thinking about how I always feel I need to work into that part of my back. How I need to focus on straightness, strength and opening there.
And then somewhere during Ardha Chandrasana something snapped and the resistance just fell away and I SOARED!! Suddenly I felt remarkable, like I could do anything. And for the first time in a long time the permanent dull ache of scoliosis just…. disappeared!
One of the translations of Anahata is “Unbound” and that is exactly how I felt – as though all the tension in my upper back and ribcage had just come undone.
I drove home from class with a smile on my face that has just not been there in recent days (things have been a bit tough at home recently).
And then I got home and the cat peed on the beanbag and life went back to normal again!
I do still feel good today although I have a strange hungover feeling (as I haven’t had alcohol in months I am presuming the practice has had a detoxing effect on me), but this experience has made me remember one thing. I have never had any problem finding bliss, especially when it comes to my yoga practice, but I find it so difficult to maintain that bliss off my mat. And I think, if I get a chance, this might be what I write up for Blisschick’s latest project.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
What if I had behaved differently in a certain situation? What if I had worked harder at school? What if I had taken this job over that job?
There are times in life when we come to a crossroads and we have to make a decision as to which fork in the road we would like to travel down. Often this is not an easy decision and sometimes I think it would be easier if life were more like a Dungeons & Dragons book and I just rolled the dice to find out the outcome!
I have made decisions that in hindsight may have not been the right ones. I’ve never been sure I went to the right university. I have made decisions about people and relationships that have ended up hurting me. What if I hadn’t made those decisions?
But I know that if I hadn’t made these decisions I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I know that even the bad decisions have been huge steps of learning for me.
I have always had a bit of a habit of living in the past, of dwelling on my mistakes (or rather, what I perceive to be my mistakes). I have to remind myself to breathe and to be here with that breath, right here in the present moment. In the present moment the past plays no part and the “what ifs” become merely stepping stones on the journey to the right now.
Do you have “what if?” moments? How do you put them back into perspective?
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Samhain greetings bloggers and a very happy Celtic New Year to you all :) Reading your blogs it seems you all had a lot of fun! As you can see, our pumpkin lantern was not the most artistic one this year, but at least he looks happy!
So this seems as good a time as any to post a list of things that have made me happy this week.
* Kicking piles of autumn leaves into the air on the way back from the Post Office.
* Scratching furry cats' bellies.
* Watching Himself carve the pumpkin lantern.
* All of my yoga practices but especially class this morning because Himself came too.
* The awesome costumes that the little trick or treaters that knocked on our door last night had come up with (my favourite was the toddler dressed as pumpkin and taking it very very seriously).
* My dad winning the big tin of choccies at our work fundraiser on Thursday and giving the whole tin to me :D
* Pictures of my friend's new kitten.
* Having my medicine cards read by my office mate and them just being spot on.
* Making plans for the future.
* Just breathing.