A Charmed Life


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i wonder

Sometimes I look at my smart phone and wonder at its smartness; it allows people to talk to me, to see me, it plays music, takes me through my yoga routine, checks me in when I fly, lets me catch up on Eastenders and… well actually it might be easier listing what it doesn’t do, it really is the little gadget that could. 

I do that a lot though – wonder. I often allude in this blog to changes that I made in the last few years, and even though there were specific events that transpired to make me have to change, in hindsight all I really did was pare down my life significantly. I have tried to let go of anything that which did not serve me, be it people, possessions or vibes. The effect has been quite surprising, where I assumed paring down would make my world smaller, it has had the opposite effect in that my life feels bigger. I best describe myself as one who was drowning and who then – by letting go – was able to float to the top to breathe and breathe possibly for the first time in my adult life. This left me lighter, grateful and gift of gifts – in a state of wonder. I mean this in a wondrous wonder way, not the kind of wonder most of us have as we consider how long we must put up with tiny hands oops agent orange oops lord voldemort oops hair force one oops predator in chief oops well you know he who must not be named.

The kind of wonder children do so naturally, the kind of wonder we forget when we become adults bogged down by the minutiae of life and yet, the universe never gives up on us it keeps giving us plenty to wonder about, every single moment of every single day. So happily I give myself over to wonder; be it in the joy on the faces of young orphans as they see themselves reflected back to them on my smart phone or looking up at a magenta sky or in knowing the crossword answer to 2d fifteenth Greek letter when I couldn’t possibly know (it is omicron in case you are wondering) or in an email from a mentoree informing me they got the long sought after job that we worked hard to prepare for or – and I kid you not – as I write this post about wonder hearing ‘I wonder’ by Rodriguez on the radio. 
And just like that the dance of the universe continues.

Sat Nam

And… I have a hot/cold relationship with social media, it starts off as a good idea but at some point I come to question the worthiness of it. Why do we post what we post? It is of course about connection and some about showing off. I know I use it to either be heard or because I feel the need to share something I see but does anyone actually care! I suppose that answer lies in the amount of likes I get. However where I believe social media has triumphed is that it no longer feels like there is six degrees of separation with the folk who are more known than you or I; recently on Twitter I have been followed by Scott Maslen and over on Instagram discussed the plight of Haiti with Caroline Stanbury, Karyn Hay’s new book with Danielle Cormack (to the kiwis old enough to remember yes as in Radio with Pictures’ Karyn Hay), and the fruitlessness in Samuel L. Jackson’s comments about British black actors taking roles off African American actors with Thandie Newton. Through social media the mystery to these famous folk has gone and I think this is good, they are humans like us after all albeit humans with really shiny hair and killer wardrobes but humans all the same.

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why I think HE will make a great president

2017Yeah right! No I have not had a lobotomy since I last wrote nor have I lost my liberal do-gooder instincts, I just thought the title would make for a laugh. Seriously though – can anyone think of even one reason! 

I love the idea of a new year, a time to start afresh with new hopes and dreams. A rebirth so to speak. It is at this time of year I like to get in some extra guidance of the mystic variety, so this past weekend I took myself off to have my numerology chart done and a tarot card reading. I won’t go into what was said as it is uninteresting to anyone but me except I will say from past experience they have been eerily bang on. It is what was said at the end of the session that was particularly appealing to me ‘whatever happens remember you are a spiritual being having a human experience.’

We are spiritual beings having a human experience. Not for the first time have I heard this but it feels rather timely to have heard it now because who knows the trajectory 2017 will follow: Everywhere you turn, there is this feeling lunatics are running the asylum WHERE fake news is the order of the day WHERE we are days out from seeing a man-child take the office as leader of the free world WHERE (arguably) the world’s best healthcare system the NHS is increasingly in crisis to the point of collapse WHERE the tenet of democracy is being tested WHERE the next Great British Bake Off will air without Mary Berry WHERE previous cold war enemies are now in cahoots WHERE Katie Hopkins is still being employed to spread her unique brand of bigotry WHERE climate change is still being denied even when we see proof of decline everywhere. Who knows. But if we are spiritual beings having a human experience it really does not matter what reality looks like, all that matters is how we show up, what is in our souls – that part of us that observes quietly behind what we do, think, believe and feel, that part of us that existed before this human life and that will continue to exist after our present physical form transitions.

What gives me perspective everyday are four separate realities – the plight of the Chibok girls who were kidnapped in April 2014 by Boko Haram in Nigeria, the imprisonment and sentencing to death by beheading and crucifixion of Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia, the war in Yemen and the ever growing refugee crisis all over our the globe – the universe lead me to them and now I have made it my mission to be involved in these plights and as insurmountable as each situation seems, the people who I meet spiritual beings just like me whose only prerequisite is that we care, the acts of kindness I have witnessed make me hopeful for peaceful resolution, make me feel hopeful for our communal human experience, make me feel like maybe just maybe 2017 might be a bit of alright.

Happy New Year. May your 2017 be perfect and blissful in every way.

Sat Nam

And… Award season has began and I have but one word Moonlight. Moonlight is a raw, thought provoking, emotional, graceful, important experience. Moonlight reminded me that great cinema is about the storytelling. Moonlight deserves every award it has won and will win. Moonlight is not for everybody but everybody should see it. Moonlight ~ step into the light, witness the magic and be transformed  Every time I hear of oldies coming back I feel this nervous excitement. I want them back but I want them back good and preferably with the same original line up. I remember seeing Duran Duran live once with just Simon and Nick, it was just wrong without John, Roger and Andy. Then there was Bewitched the movie version, okay original line up was impossible but to leave out key characters and go completely off script was a dumb move. So it was with nervous excitement I awaited the Cold Feet and Gilmore Girls revivals (thankfully both were perfect in their warmth and nostalgia) and it is with nervous excitement I await Twin Peaks but if truth be told when you have been waiting 25 years for more like I have, nothing could actually stop me from returning to Twin Peaks because even when David Lynch is not good he is still kind of brilliant  I really really really did not want to write this year about the above mentioned man-child nor about loss, 2016 had far too much of both. I had every intention to go forward with that which makes my heart sing but as I have already spoken of the former I might as well go the whole hog as it would be remiss of me not to mention George Michael or my husband, as he was referred to in my circles growing up. Precious George, Its done then, god gave you the voice of an angel a generous heart and the most tormented soul. Ever since standard four you have been there with me through all the key moments in my life; when I needed to dance you had the moves when I was torn you helped put me back together. And even though I knew this day was coming here I am completely torn you are not in my orbit anymore and this time you can’t heal me, not right now anyway. Does it feel good to be free at last? I hope you can see how much love there is for you. Thank you macushla for the trail of magic you created, you sing with the angels now #HeavenSent #HeavenStole


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one size fits all

Do you think you breathe properly? I’m here to tell you, chances are you probably don’t, most likely you are a ‘shallow’ breather (as in you only use your chest). Unless you specifically seek it out, learning to breathe properly is not a life skill we are taught, mores the pity for breathing properly creates a positive domino effect in every aspect of your life and who’s saying no to that right?

I say this from experience for, it wasn’t until I took up meditation that I discovered a) just how lousey a breather I was b) the benefits gained in getting this breathing gig right; and as someone who suffers from anxiety I can’t tell you enough how this – to be able to apply a breathing technique to counterbalance any threat of a panic attack – has changed my confidence and all round mental health. The reason for this, as Yogis have always known and the medical profession finally agrees with, is because breathing is intimately connected to the autonomic nervous system and the mind. Don’t worry I’m not going to go into the science of why you should be using your diaphragm when you breathe or why breathing through your nose is much better for your health, that would be too much for a science dunce like me to explain, I’ll leave that for you to GOOGLE, instead I am just going to share my go-to breathing practice for anxiety.

Here goes:
♠Close your mouth. Breathe in through your nose counting to four as you inhale.
♠Hold your breath again counting to four.
♠Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of four.
♠Pause for four.

This is one breath. Repeat the cycle as the practice gains in power with repetition. Continuing this breathing for one minute or for four full breaths is good start for a beginner. As you improve you can increase your counts to six then eight and your body will tell you when you are ready to stop.

This one size fits all tool has served me well. It’s easy once you get the hang of it AND it really works in alleviating stress and restoring calm AND it is so handy to have up your sleeve, ready to use whenever wherever you are aware of any internal tension.

Sat Nam

Also this week: My favourite instagram follow HUMANSOFNY is currently sharing stories from refugees in Europe/Middle East. I urge you to read/follow if you haven’t already, en masse the crisis feels daunting and impersonal but reading these individual stories provides context – feel your stomach clench in knots and the tears roll down your cheeks – its hard to digest but it’s real and if it projects you into doing something proactive to help PLEASE DO #HealtheWorld #MakeItABetterPlace • As a rule I am anti religion, spiritual yes but religion can go do one as far I’m concerned but this Pope Francis he seems a bit alright; progressive and remorseful in all the right places #ImaStMarysOldGirl • And at the very other end of the progressive spectrum – this Putin guy, I don’t get his motivation at all. If I ruled a country I would push my country to thrive in all areas. Putin has done the opposite over and over; LGBT rights, freedom of the Press, Ukraine, Syria and okay you hate America but learn to communicate in English effectively – seriously you’ve been around too long not to, surely that must be a prerequisite for world domination 101.  #WhatWouldTolstoyThink • RWC15 the All Blacks are through to the quarter finals, no surprises there. I won’t say anything about England except that I was gutted #ImaFauxBrit but #aRealProperKiwi #goABs


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embracing love

KeithHaringLike many of you, I feel heartsick thinking about the unconscionable loss of lives and the destruction caused by the earthquake(s) in Nepal. When tragedy like this happens I struggle with the ‘why,’ it churns over and over in my head until I feel like I’m going to burst. Of course what I think or feel doesn’t make the tragedy not exist so I know there is no point on dwelling, what is done is done, so I am trying to let go of the negativity and focus on embracing love.

Mother Theresa said ‘Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put in that action’ and because I believe god is in the details I’ve compiled a quick list of ways to take responsibility for our own energy to embrace love (in addition to other goodies like meditation, prayer, being in gratitude…):

  1. Allow yourself a little extra sleep. I say this because sleep is something, as I wrote previously  I had to learn to appreciate. Now that I understand the value of sleep I actively try to get a little extra now and then whether it’s by going to bed a half hour earlier or sleeping in an extra fifteen minutes. I always feel better for it.
  2. Replace strenuous exercise with something less intense like yin yoga. I have an exercise regimen which I am very strict in following daily but I have learnt that is okay to have a day off but because it is not in my nature to do absolutely nothing, I find yin yoga to be a good substitute on these down days.
  3. Express yourself creatively. Dance and sing, get up and do your thing. When you are engaged in something fun and expressive you are less likely to stress and over-think.
  4. Tell someone you value “I want you to know you make a difference in my life. Thank you for being you.” It’s an instant feel good for the recipient and for you.
  5. Identify what you’re really seeking from technology. This is huge bugbear for me, for the growing reliance on technology does not sit well with me at all. I am pretty good at being disciplined about how long I spend online but I know there is still room to improve. There was time before Facebook and Twitter, it’s a bit hazy now but it did exist and it wasn’t so bad so whether it is acceptance, acknowledgment, or stimulation you are seeking from technology, switch off and look for ways to get that without logging on.
  6. Stop what you’re doing and look directly into their eyes when someone is talking to you. It is something I do naturally – maintain eye contact but increasingly in this age of smart technology it is getting rarer that I see people doing so with me. It’s not just good manners, it also makes you more appealing.
  7. Count successes. Coulda, woulda, shoulda… it’s human nature to think about what didn’t happen. Well I say Meh! to that and instead make a note of all the things you’ve done well, and give yourself permission to be proud instead of frustrated with what you haven’t done.

A special epoch in my life came many many moons ago when I shared a flat in London with one of my treasured friends and her partner (now husband). Looking back, we were very much like The Odd Couple for while we had a shared history (same school, same ballet class and a love of English literature), she loved to hoard and I so did not, and where I like routine she rocked a more boho vibe. Despite this, I am constantly reminded of the many lessons I learnt while we cohabited; for where I would reserve weekends for mundane tasks like house cleaning she would encourage me to:

  1. Be Together. She taught me to relax and enjoy each other’s company. One our favourite things to do on a Sunday was to veg on a sofa and watch the Eastenders omnibus or some obscure channel 5 show whilst drinking copious cups of tea.
  2. Go outside and immerse yourself in nature. With Hyde Park at our doorstep we used to frequent those grounds all the time. Before I was never one to like being near trees or grass but in this time I learnt how to make daisy hair bands and to love the feel of grass underneath my feet, dancing in the rain, laying like broccoli on the grass watching birds fly by and star gazing. What I didn’t realise at the time was I learning how to be mindful.
  3. Set aside some time to play. It probably speaks to our sensibilities but we did the most silliest of things; go out in our pyjamas, eat cake for breakfast, skip whilst holding hands and it was so much fun. As we get older and focus on the minutiae of life we tend forget what awful fun it is to stop thinking so much and be childlike. Okay you might look a bit naff on a swing but I bet you would have the time of your life swinging.

‘When we function from a place of positive energy, the world around us becomes more positive.’~Gabrielle Bernstein

In the spirit of this post today – embracing love  –  please join me in sending a kiss to the sky for our brothers and sisters who have lost their lives in Nepal (and in Tibet and India) AND spare a thought for a very courageous man… one Bruce Jenner. Never in this lifetime did I think I would ever say this but it seems that there is a redeemable member in THAT family. To Bruce, your bravery will save lives, sending so much love to you as you go about your journey to be who you authentically are.

Sat Nam


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this princess needs her sleep

sleepI’m not the greatest television watcher – no patience for the ads you see – so I tend to dip in and out of shows. Last week was one of those weeks in which I dipped right in, like many Eastenders fans I was sat watching each episode with bated breath during live week and I’m still reeling from the shock that Kathy is alive (only in soap land can a character not be truly dead, note to the Coro producers, bring back Haley – Roy’s not same without her, he’s beating up people). Anyway I digress Eastenders live week came with so much hype… the whodunit element, the live segments and the 30th anniversary of the show.. that every night I was left wonting, impatient for the next episode. It’s the kind of tele that renders one unable to sleep. Being unable to sleep is something I know all too well. That’s why I had to do something about it.

Now I know people who love to sleep, they say they function better on a good night’s sleep and I always mistook this for weakness, for I was the better person because I could exist on minimal sleep. A completely asinine thought I know that now, but only after a severe bout of insomnia. Sometimes it takes being deprived of something to understand the importance of it in your life, to then take action to get it back.

So take action I did, unable to help myself, I sought out a hypnotherapist who help me to see how I had been suffering serious sleep debt for most of my adult life. Through hypnosis I learnt to sleep again, to sleep longer and deeper but unless I wanted to listen to a recording every night I knew I had to figure out how to sleep better naturally. I did my research, spoke to a load of folk; my therapist, nutritionist, friends, even my manager at work, listened to subliminal messaging recordings and I read articles (I bypassed books, only now when I think about it, reading a book on ‘how to sleep better’ might have been just the ticket to put me to sleep), dipped into a little ASMR and I even emailed a professor of sleep but received no reply. Don’t you think it bizarre how we know we need sleep but we rarely spare a thought on why we do other than because we are tired.

“I have one piece of advice for you: sleep your way to the top.” ~ Arianna Huffington

Turns out I had always been pretty rubbish when it came to sleep. It wasn’t just that I was sleeping less, whatever sleep I was getting would be interrupted by a slight sound, the need to pee, checking my phone for texts/calls/emails/Facebook or angst of the previous day; and once I was up I found it difficult to get back to sleep. So on average I would sleep for four hours. Actually let me rephrase that for full impact – on average I was functioning on four hours sleep a night (except when I was on the sauce, of course then I would sleep like a baby).

Bona fide ways I improved my sleep
Change Mindset: This was a game changer for me as I held the belief that sleep was a waste of time and the idea of sleeping more actually made me feel more anxious which obviously defeated the purpose. In one conversation I had with my therapist he said ‘sleep is not a guilty pleasure.’ Now I have a mother who is always on the go and who survives on very little sleep and I guess I fancied myself to be just like her so remained delusional in equating sleep with reduced productivity so guilt hung like a noose around my neck. This was why I researched sleep in the first place I needed to understand the impact the sleep in order to think and act differently. I learnt to not feel guilty about having a lie-in, or going to bed early. Even extra hour of sleep a day can make all the difference, as your body switches off and calms down so the brain can reprocess the day in turn helping you get over a particularly stressful day. Some scientists believe a good night’s sleep can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease as it allows the brain to sift and store memories. There is an abundance of benefits.

Eat/Drink: Maintain a balanced diet as fluctuating blood sugar levels can trigger early waking. Don’t eat too late in the evening(leave at least two hours between eating and sleeping). Don’t drink caffeine or alcohol after 3pm as the sugar and caffeine will keep you awake and you’ll miss out on those precious extra hours. Also limit the amount of tea and coffee you consume to 2-3 max a day.

Exercise: Exercise in the late afternoon as you’ll tire yourself out, leading to a deeper sleep BUT avoid exercise within a couple of hours before bedtime as exercise will give you energy and you are less likely to get a good night’s rest.

Take those devices out of the bedroom: How did we survive before smart phones, tablets, laptops even tele? I still marvel at the way these gadgets have taken over our lives.  In any case not only do they disturb pillow talk, the blue light in them halts the production of the sleep hormone melatonin so get rid of them from the bedroom.

Meditate: Mindfulness is proven to reduce the time taken to fall to sleep and improve sleep quality, the way to do this is instead of dwelling on stressful thoughts, notice and let go of them by focusing on how cosy your duvet and pillow are, watch how the light reflects around the room, having an awareness on your body and the room around you. I’ve been meditating for a good few years now but even so I didn’t connect the idea of meditation to a good night’s sleep, introducing a nightly meditation into my life made an vast improvement to my state of mind thus making sleep easier

Stay in bed: Bringing in these improvements didn’t change my sleep pattern overnight, I still woke up in the night. I had to resist the urge to get out of bed in the middle of the night as getting up trains the body to wake up more frequently.

Regular routine: Much like the aforementionedno alcohol after 3 pm,’ keeping to a regular routine is not an easy feat but heading to bed at roughly the same time each night strengthens the link between the night-time and sleep consequently keeping your body clock on an even keel.

AND here are some other ways that are said to assist with better sleep: Ensure the bedroom is conducive to a good sleep (ideally it should be quiet, cool, dark, comfortable and about 17°), Invest in a good bed, and don’t hit the snooze button when you wake up (you are most refreshed after unbroken sleep), recharge with a power nap (no more than 30 minutes).

“A problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.” ~ John Steinbeck

We’re all guilty of aiming to have an early night but being distracted by our phones or binge-watching a television show or in my case a movie I’ve already seen like a million times already… only to realise its past one and you have to be up early the next day. That sleep is vital to your good health and well being is like saying you need to brush your teeth twice daily for dental hygiene – a no-brainer right? But like brushing your teeth it is worth taking a few seconds to consider if your sleep routine is ensuring you reap the many benefits sleep provides.

As for my own sleep journey I am happy to report that I am much better friends with sleep, we meet on average for at least six uninterrupted hours most nights; and the difference in my cognitive function is evident every time I do The Guardian crossword, which I can now finish in under fifteen minutes something I couldn’t never do before (she says with smug grin).

Sat Nam


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do – skipping

What was your favourite playground activity when you were younger? Was it Tag? Or Bullrush? How about Rounders? The Jungle Gym? Or was it Hanging off the monkey bars? Elastics? Or Knucklebones? Mine was Skipping and yet as much as I loved it I outgrew it, as one does with many childhood occupations and so it would have remained but a fond memory, had it not been for a bout of acute insomnia which led to late night tele watching – got to love those infomercials!

So I picked up a jump rope and rediscovered my love for it. Now I can’t get by without my daily fix. Yes for some of us it’s a skinny mocha, pour moi its 1800 jumps in 15 minutes. I’m not so good at being consistent when it comes to exercise; I lack passion for the gym, I don’t live near horses to ride regularly, I’m not a strong enough swimmer, I’m fickle when it comes to running and I’m still a newbie when it comes to cycling. I do love yoga but twice maybe three times a week is enough for me. So skipping has been quite the revelation – an exercise that I feel inspired about and can do everyday AND it is the exercise that keeps on giving – here’s a list of reasons I’ve compiled as to why skipping rocks:

♦You’ve done it before so you know what to do. Who didn’t jump rope when they were younger even if it wasn’t something you did by choice at lunchtime, you still had to for Phys-Ed or at the very least for the jump rope for heart fundraisers.
♦You can do it anywhere; backyard, garage, in front of the tele, in a park, hotel room, foyer – basically any empty four by six foot area.
♦Totally portable, you can take the rope with you in your handbag/man bag and it’s a fits all ages and sizes exercise.
♦The only gear you need is your workout clothes (ladies, a good sport bra is a must) and a jump rope.
♦Assuming you already own workout gear the only outlay is for the jump rope and if you still have your rope from when you were young happy days you don’t have to spend a single cent. Although it has to be said ropes are fancier now, forget cloth ropes, most are now made from moulded plastic, metal wire coated in acrylic or space-age polymers – all made to be smoother and lighter. There are also digital ones available that can track number of jumps, time taken, calories lost.
♦When I started skipping I knew if I was consistent I could end up with killer calves. I have since learnt that it is a full body workout for apart from using your legs for jumping, shoulders and arms for turning the rope it hits almost every muscle in some way chiefly the biceps (front of upper arm), triceps (back of upper arm), forearms, deltoids (shoulder) core (abdominals, lower back and obliques), glutes (butt), quadriceps (top of thigh) and of course your calves. This makes skipping the perfect total body toning exercise. It’s high intensity cardio so using a jump rope improves your heart rate and blood pressure. Other health benefits – it is less jolting on your joints than running AND improves flexibility AND as skipping forces you to keep a rhythmic pace and use proper form it enhances your coordination and balance  AND it is a weight-bearing exercise so can help in improving bone density, which we need to ward off osteoporosis.
JumpRope.jpg♦Once you get into a flow there are many different variationsthere is no boredom factor.
♦You can do it at your own pace for as long as you like. It does take a few attempts to get into a rhythm but even a few minutes skipping can make a difference to your well being. It has taken me a good few months to work up to my current regime, this involves doing three 5 minute bursts with 10 second rest in between twice a day.

Skipping – Easy, Convenient, Fun and Good for you. I totally recommend it. Relive your youth and have a go.

Sat Nam

 


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not even if you hold a gun to my head

MY ANTI-BUCKET LIST: I always feel a bit wary when I use the word ‘never’ because if life has taught me one thing for certain – it’s that you just don’t know what is around the corner BUT I know for certain (well 99.9% certain) I will never:

Go shark diving, swimming with sharks, down in a shark cage or anything to do with sharks. This is a girl who still gets scared when she watches Jaws, yes I know it’s not real but what can I say I have an over active imagination (ps totally anti shark culling though – hopefully that will keep the bro happy)

Partake in a bungee jump. I know it’s a kiwi thing and yay for that but it just doesn’t feel right. 

Wear a crop top in public. My days of acting like a young Madonna are over unfortunately, yet another sign I’m getting older.

Drink kombucha. Just the smell of it freaks me out.

Run for a political position. I am a very opinionated person and have a view of how I would run the world but I’m not sure I have the thick skin or the cunning required for any type of public role and in any case the idea of old photos of me being dug up and put out there for all to ridicule makes me cringe.

Ride a hot air balloon – seems romantic but looks boring. What if you need to go to the loo up there?

Finish 50 Shades of Grey. I read the first 166 pages but couldn’t make myself read anymore. To those who stayed away from it, I concur it really is a lesson in banality… still if you are interested I know of this new author who has her first book coming out soon 😉

I can think of a load more that I could add; like how I will never go to North Korea (well Kim whatshisface doesn’t sell it very well does he?) or that I will never wear crocs (one word yuck) or that I will never get plastic surgery (fingers crossed I continue to look like I’m under thirty for many years to come) but I can’t know for certain if North Korea, crocs or plastic surgery will pop up in my life or not. Anyway enough about me – what’s on your anti-bucket list? Come on spill…

Love


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do – Ho Ho Ha Ha

I first heard about Laughter yoga when Fearne Cotton talked about it on her radio show. Thought it sounded interesting but I didn’t give it another thought. Fast forward a few months later and today I find myself at a Laughter yoga class. What can I say? I saw a sign for the class and it had to be done.

Here I am, it’s a small class, five people including me and six others all wearing the same purple t-shirts so I’m assuming they are making up the numbers (turns out I’m right, apparently this type of yoga is done best with a crowd). Once our instructor welcomes us in prayer, we begin with clapping – palm to palm clapping – to which chants are added HO HO HA HA (reminds me of the scene in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ when Matthew McConaughey and Leonardo DiCaprio are at lunch and Matthew starts beating his chest and chanting Hmmm). This warm up is done to increase energy levels.

Next to follow are deep breathing exercises and then for the next fifty minutes we continue to do the breathing with stretching and different types of Laughter exercises including one that had me fake milking a cow. The instructor keeps repeating that we want to attain a child like playfulness. We are encouraged to make eye contact with each other as this encourages laughter.  Anyone want to pretend to be a lion with me (yet another exercise we did).

SOME FACTS: Laughter yoga was created by Indian physician Dr. Madan Kataria. The concept of Laughter yoga is based on the scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter. One gets the same physiological and psychological benefits. Clinical research show that Laughter lowers the level of stress hormones (epinephrine, cortisol, etc) in the blood and it helps to change your mood within minutes by releasing endorphins. Yes its true people laughter really is the best medicine.

MY VERDICT: Before I went to this class, someone said to me ‘Laughter yoga? Come on yoga is yoga – don’t bastardise it with all kinds of weird variations.’ And he is right, that is exactly why I was intrigued in the first place and having done the class I’m still not sure what the ‘yoga’ component was meant to be and I did feel a sense of the ridiculous at first, but eventually fake awkward laughter gave way to real laughter and it felt good.

And although I have never had a problem laughing or laughing in public for that matter, as this is a physical rather than a mental laughter you are left feeling uninhabited. If I had to describe how I felt after the class I would say energized and open – kind of loose if that makes sense.

I’m not sure I’m going to convince the skeptic in you to give it go except I will say when does it not feel good to laugh? I would say give it go if you are up for anything, in need of a laugh or just plain curious. Laughter clubs are popping up everywhere and my class was free so you are not left out of pocket (well I did make a donation).

I will leave you with this fact: In the 1950s people laughed for an average of 18 minutes per day, but now the average is just six minutes. I think we all could do with a little bit more laughter in our lives – wouldn’t you agree?

Love


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do – right here, right now

lotusIn previous blogs I have talked about being mindful, taking it for granted that its meaning is a given. It wasn’t until a friend asked me if being mindful meant being aware and if it did what were you meant to be aware of – I realised that maybe I might have been a tad presumptuous thinking people would just know. After all I didn’t know about it until I started looking into it.

For years I have been practicing mindfulness in my morning mediation and in my everyday life. I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered it yet but I’m getting there. So what is it? Inherited from Buddhist tradition, my friend is right – it does mean exactly that – being aware but to quantify it further mindfulness aims to achieve a relaxed, non-judgmental awareness of your thoughts, feelings and sensations at any given moment. For much of our lives we are on autopilot and unfortunately in living like this we miss the gifts of the present. When you live in mindfulness you live consciously moment to moment so for example when walking down a street you are noticing the colour of the sky, the people you pass, the buildings, the footpath, you are conscious of your breathing, the smell of grass, sounds of traffic and so forth.

The benefit of mindfulness is that it takes you away from living in your head thus aiding you to live calmer, focused, alert, creatively and with less anxiety. Who doesn’t want to live like that? Such are its benefits that it is used to help deal with depression and it has been included in the curriculum at some schools around the UK.

See Think you need more convincing to see if this is for you – watch 10 mindful minutes AND/OR

Read Recommended Books for all ages.
1) 10 Mindful Minutes: Giving our children – and ourselves – the skills to reduce stress and anxiety for healthier, happier lives by Goldie Hawn and Wendy Holden
2)The Miracle Of Mindfulness: The Classic Guide to Meditation by the World’s Most Revered Master by Thich Nhat Han

Do If you are at all interested in learning how to incorporate being mindful into your day – check out tips on how to AND/OR are you an app person? Then head over to headspace AND/OR Londoners if you are interested in mindful meditation I highly recommend London Meditation, based in Camden they hold informative workshops for all levels in a calm urban sanctuary.

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do – floatation tank

I had my first experience in a floatation tank yesterday. Twenty four later I am still feeling the effects of it, my body feels floppy and my mind is relaxed.

Float7.jpgWHAT IS IT  A floatation tank – also known as an isolation tank, sensory-deprivation tank or restricted environmental stimulation therapy tank – is sold on the idea that it is the closest possible simulation of being in the womb. You float naked and weightless in complete darkness, enveloped in a salty solution. But, unlike the womb you can play music.

WHAT HAPPENED After taking my clothes off and a quick shower, I stepped into the tank which was about ten inches deep, made up of a solution of Epsom salts and water that is the same temperature as the outside of your skin. Once in, I closed the door shut, Float5switched off the lights and lay myself down in a supine position with my arms over my head (as instructed). I let the music relax me into it. There was a little movement at first as my body adjusted but then there was just stillness.

As for my mind… firstly I had these random thoughts  – ‘there is water going in my ears’ ‘can I drown’ ‘how do I possibly stay buoyant the entire Float5.jpgtime’ ‘if I fall asleep how will remember so I can blog it’ 😉 – but then as the music stopped I could feel my brain activity reducing to nothingness and I entered into a near meditative state of complete calm and in this state I could only hear my heartbeat. One hour later music played again to announce that the float session was coming to a close. I was so out of it I wasn’t even aware of it coming back on. It wasn’t until the pumps started that I gently aroused back into consciousness. Taking my time to get my bearings, I made my way out of the tank and had a refreshing shower to rid myself of the salts and then after getting dressed I made my way to the chill out lounge. Feeling like wobbly jelly I plopped myself onto a sofa and relaxed with a cup a tea.

AND IT FEELS LIKE As for the experience, as mentioned above, it is meant to feel like being in the womb but I can’t remember that far back so can’t quite relate to that. I can only akin it to the idea of being in space or beingFloat8.jpg buoyant like seaweed  – that kind of weightlessness. As I transitioned back to the real world I could feel my senses heightened. Out in the street the surroundings felt sharper. I went to lunch afterwards and as I was seated everything around me felt brighter and my hearing was more acute, my taste buds more intense. This is to be expected as being in the tank effectively shuts down all your senses. I also had a very deep sleep last night (not usual for me).

It is called floatation therapy even though there is no therapist involved, it is just you and the tank but it is a form of therapy. Epsom salts are made from naturally occurring minerals and are renowned for their health and beauty benefits; reducing stress, soothing muscles, helping with anxiety, pain, swelling, insomnia and jet lag. I will definitely be doing it again (and again and again). If you want an all over feeling of immense relaxation that lasts definitely give it a go; even on the off chance you have no need for relaxation in your life, it is still a pretty amazing experience to try.

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