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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the answer is always LOVE

Peace

All weekend I have been trying to make sense of the senseless and I have come up with nothing. Zilch. Nada for my woe so here I am stuck in this weltschmerz state of mind.

That human beings are capable of such awful atrocities towards their fellow brothers and sisters is not something I – a believer in all things peace and love – can even begin to comprehend AND yet here we are again AND we will be here again and again until… until what I don’t know. All I know is the world we have come to know, the times we are living cannot be changed by normal allopathic means. The time is upon us for that awakening. That energy shift. That big fat bloody miracle.

‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’~Martin Luther King, Jr.

How many of us have been fortunate enough to fall in love with Paris, well now the time has come to fall in love again. Whatever you believe in; a god, the universe, an energy vibration, an ing (as I call it) or even if you have no belief system, believe this:  We – as the wonderseekers, global citizens, inhabitants of planet Earth, lovers of life – have a challenge before us, these attacks in Paris, Beirut, Baghdad seek to divide us. They aim to turn us into an us-versus-them society. We cannot allow this to happen nor can we rely only on the leaders of the world or ‘someone else’ to resolve this. The revolution of LOVE starts with you in every breath you take, every thought you think, every word you say, every prayer you pray, every action you make, every time you meditate – it’s on you. If I sound like I am repeating myself from other posts that is because the answer is always LOVE and I will keep going until I feel that seismic change which humanity needs in order to thrive.

So are you with me? If your answer is anything but yes – what is the alternative? Wait for that elusive someone or something else to heal our world and change your FaceBook profile picture every time something senseless happens. Solidarity matters but from where I’m standing it is not enough. I don’t think there is a choice. In the words of Michael Jackson and a legion of others ‘There comes a time when we heed a certain call, when the world must come together as one… We are the world. We are the children. We are the ones to make a brighter day so let’s start giving. There’s a choice we’re making, we’re SAVING OUR OWN LIVES…’ #LetsDoThis

Sat Nam

Pour tous mes frères et sœurs à Paris and to all my brothers and sisters in Beirut, Baghdad and in all the world amour et la lumière tant d’amour et de lumière pour nous tous love and light so much love and light for us all xxx (thank you to my father who insisted I continue with French lessons instead of taking up typing or computer studies at school – it has come in very useful in the last few days, merci beaucoup père)

Also in the news:  “No one puts children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.” Home by #WarsanShire. As we have been told, the diaspora of refugees has had a causal impact in the Paris attacks as, at least one of the people responsible used the refugee route to get into Europe. How many more reasons does there need to be to resolve this crisis! #RefugeeCrisis #TheTimeisNow #GivePrayLove ♥ Adele’s new song meh! Yes she has a phenomenal voice and yes her previous work was fab but that doesn’t mean everything she sings is worthy of number one. I did enjoy seeing Dixon from 90210 in the video though #TooMuchHype ♥ Election victory for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar. About time! I love the countenance of this woman, I feel peaceful when I look at her face, obviously this has nothing to do with her leadership but any person who sacrifices precious time with their dying spouse for the love of their country and its people gets my vote. #ItsFinallyYourTime #WhoRunTheWorld

 


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good bones, needs work

I consider myself a fixer upper – good bones, needs work but potential to make magnificent if done right and that is why I am happily on my spiritual journey and as such very much a student, open to anything and everything but lately I’ve become deeply disappointed with my teacher (my spiritual guide), the one who in the past few years I’ve relied on to help me change my life. She’s introduced me to Yogi Bhajan, Kundalini yoga and guided me through A Course in Miracles, so you can see then how this about face would have me in a state of bother.

The self help market is saturated with well intentional spiritual teachers, life coaches, gurus whatever they call themselves and I recognise they have a right to earn a living so I am comfortable with their message parlaying into a sell – book, course, talk, app, tarot cards, t-shirts and the ilk but what happens when the scale begins to tip more and more in favour of the person than their ideology – when that monster called fame takes over?

We live in a world where we adulate nobodies who seek fame by sharing their sex tapes online, we give them ‘celebrity’ status and they go on to have television shows created for them heightening their fame into the stratosphere. This idea of celebrity comes about because of our perception and embrace of an individual and as much as I might loathe everything about it, I understand it is not on the vapid person who released their sex tape but on their following that has elevated them from a lay person to a celebrity and it’s everywhere not just the domain of Hollywood folk and rockstars. I once spent a weekend with my guru and I saw how fanatical people got, practically elevating him into god status; hell I myself have been preaching at the altar of Madonna for the last 32 years and yes fanatical is a word I’ve had bandied about when it comes to me and her but in both examples it is on me or others not on the person being emulated.

That anyone can be a celebrity I get, here’s my problem with my teacher, that’s not who she was about and it’s not what I bought into. When I first discovered her, it was soon after she had written her first book which highlighted her journey from addiction (drugs, work and codependency) to self help book author, her message was authentic because it was from the heart. She was committed to guiding people through their spiritual bottom back to the light and magnificence within because she had been there herself. Fast forward to now – do I need to know what she is wearing out on date night with her husband? Or what paint colours she is debating on for her living room walls? How many selfies with Oprah does one need to share? And enough of the holiday pics already, I get bored looking at holiday snaps of people I actually know – why on earth would I want to see yet another shot of you in a bikini – how is that contributing to my spiritual journey? It reeks of narcissism and haven’t you been teaching me to transcend the ego.

Enough already. I’ve reached the tipping point. Drastic action required – I have blanked her. I have shelved her books (they usually sat on my bedside table), unfollowed her on social media, unsubscribed her emails, deleted her app and I decided against attending her workshop this year. It’s sad to me that someone in the role of a teacher should have turned out to be such a disappointment, reminds me of my school teachers – the ones that weren’t any good – I have always wondered why they bothered to become teachers if they weren’t interested in teaching. It’s such an important job. I wonder if she even realises how she be might be perceived now. Would she even care! Is her fifteen minutes worth it? You will have noticed I haven’t mentioned her name, it was intentional for whilst it feels right to do this detox right now, I still believe in her message and she has a way of communicating that makes me listen and motivates me to action so I hold high hopes to reconnect with her again someday and anyway as she taught me to name and shame would be the ego speaking and that’s just not what I am about.

Sat Nam

Also this week: It’s no surprise that the refugee crisis is a very contentious issue, people I have spoken to tend to get very animated when discussing whether they think their country is doing too much or too little, or even whether it is their problem to deal with and everyone is entitled to their opinions BUT this crisis is not something you will hear in the news for a while and then will just magically go away. I don’t know the right solution but I think it just plain wrong this has become a problem for democratic nations to fix whilst neighbouring countries stay stum, and while they do nothing – someone has to do something. A lot of someones. #DoSomething #RefugeeCrisis #YouDon’tHaveToLiveLikeARefugee • Speaking of neighbouring countries, as I write in Saudi the execution of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr is imminent. Ali was arrested in 2012 for his participation in Arab Spring protests when he was just a child. I live in a country where I have free will to express myself; the Arab Spring protests were pro-democracy, people expressing their wish to have that same free will I enjoy everyday. Ali is to be killed by beheading and crucifixion. In this day and age forget about how no one has a right to take the life of another human being NO ONE forget that for second – beheaded and crucified – how fucked up is that! And these barbarians who make these decisions are the same people that litter the hotel foyers in Beverly Hills, the same people whose fancy cars are seen outside Harrods but I guess that’s okay because oil is more important than the life of a human being #ThisIsNotRight #EveryLifeMatters • On a much more happier note loving having Kathy back on the Square on Eastenders, best comeback of the year #IanGotHisMammaBack • And that Dem debate – or as I like to call it the Sanders/Clinton show – now that’s how you debate with clarity, substance and grace – GOP hope you were taking notes. Hillary proved yet again why she is the right person for the job, I just love hearing that woman talk. Intelligence is sexy #EnoughAboutThoseBloodyEmails #Hillary16 • And last but not least, how about that game on Saturday! My first game of this tournament and what a game to witness. This kiwi girl was screaming, crying and just so so so proud. I’ve started to dream about the doable. Bring on the saffas – sorry to my SA family I love you long time but we are gonna kick your arse and it’s going to be so lekker #RWC15 #AllBlackEverything


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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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debunking

Med

I meditate. Morning and night and anytime in between if desired. One of the questions I get asked a lot is how do you find time to do it? My response – do you have time to breathe? It really is that basic, well it is to me at least and as I believe meditation should be an essential part of every soul’s journey I’ve set about debunking (love that word) some commonly held myths about meditation – myths I myself held at one point in my life – and by doing so just maybe (if you haven’t already embraced it) convince you to give it a try.

Myth No. 1: I can’t because… I don’t have time. If you have time to check Facebook then you have time to meditate. If you have time to sit in front of the tele then you have time to meditate. If Oprah and Rupert Murdoch have time to meditate then you have time to meditate. There is an old Zen saying: ‘You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes a day, unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.’ Here’s the reality: Meditation actually makes you more efficient, present and productive with your day-to-day. Author Peter Bregman writes that “Meditation makes you more productive. How? By increasing your capacity to resist distracting urges.” He continues, “Our ability to resist an impulse determines our success in learning a new behavior or changing an old habit. It’s probably the single most important skill for our growth and development. As it turns out, that’s one of the things meditation teaches us. It’s also one of the hardest to learn.”

I currently meditate 43 minutes first thing in the morning and eleven minutes before bed and in between I add in mini meditations (one-three minutes) just to bring some awareness into my day. Now it comes easy but it took years for me to get into this routine, I chose to commit then made a conscientious effort to keep at it. If meditation becomes a priority in your life, you will find time for it. Start small, even just a few minutes at a time is better than no minutes.

Myth No. 2: I can’t because… I can’t be sitting crossed leg. The lotus position is the ideal position to sit but it is not the only acceptable position. The Lotus Pose or Padmasana is the über pose when meditating because, by aligning the spine and opening the channels that run through the centre of the body, upright sitting encourages an unimpeded circulation of prana (energy); which in turn contributes to wakefulness on all levels — physical, mental, and spiritual AND it is a very balanced and symmetrical posture, which means the body can be held motionless with the least distractions.

However lotus position does require open hips and a lot of practice seeing as most of us won’t have sat cross legged much since leaving school. Meditation is meant to be calming and relatively easy so if lotus causes discomfort in any way you can stand up, sit on a chair or even lie down (just watch you don’t fall asleep), just as long as your spine is reasonably straight.

Myth No. 3: I can’t because… I don’t think I can still my thoughts. There is this idea that meditation is about banishing or controlling thoughts but just like you cannot stop hearing you cannot stop thinking. Try it. The more you resist the more it persists. The practice of meditation is to observe what happens in the mind in a non-judgmental way, and by focusing your mind on something else (an image, mantra, your breathing) you consciously withdraw your attention away from these thoughts, this allows the mind to slowly calm down. Anytime you catch your monkey mind wandering then you bring it back to the present moment (to your meditation) again and again and again and again. As you continue to practice, in time you will notice that although thoughts are present you aren’t getting lost in their content.

Myth No. 4: I can’t because… It’s not for me. For years I held the preconceived idea that meditation only worked for the devoutly religious or tripped out hippies and whilst being a tripped out hippie has always appealed to me, even as meditation grew into a global widely known practice I stubbornly resolved ‘I wasn’t that type of person.’ However it is my belief that you can talk yourself in or out of anything, so if you think meditation isn’t for you than it probably isn’t but I think if you feel a calling for it like I did or just simply want to give it a go – then it is absolutely for you. There is no right type of person when it comes to meditation. All that is required of you is that you show up and commit to the practice.

Myth No. 5: I can’t because… I would feel silly chanting. Then don’t or do and feel silly anyway. There are so many types of meditation and ways to meditate, some involve chanting of mantras but there are plenty others that don’t. I have a friend who says running is her meditation and another who says he feels he is meditating when he is out hiking. At different stages of my study I have learnt mindfulness meditation (non chant), mantra meditation (chant), guided meditation (non chant), kundalini meditation (chant) and transcendental meditation (chant). That said don’t discount the merit (and fun) of chanting altogether, the silliness won’t last but the feel good sensation you have inside will. I’ve always found when I take myself out of my comfort zone that’s when l thrive.

Myth No. 6: I can’t because… I’m already a better person Maybe you are but isn’t there always room for improvement. Meditation came into my life when I was living an unhappy chaotic existence. I’ve mentioned previously that it was calling, I’ll explain why. Years ago I was walking down the high street near my home and I walked passed a monk, not an usual occurrence I didn’t live near temple or anything like that, so he was noticed by moi. Next day same again, this time he smiled at me. Then the next day I said to myself before leaving home ‘I wonder if I will see that monk again.’ I walked along the same street looking out for him but to no avail so I went about my business and forgot about him. Three hours later eight tube stops away I bumped into him outside Pizza Express in Baker Street. He caught me staring at him, we smiled at each other as if acknowledging a comrade. That night and for the following four nights I dreamt of that monk, each time he would be in meditation. After that fifth night I woke up feeling a call to meditate, I actually said out loud ‘that’s what I’m going to do.’ I never saw that monk again in real life or in my dreams.

To put this story into context at this point in my life I was looking for something – meaning, purpose anything… I’d read so many books The Art of Loving, The Celestial Prophecy, The Secret, a little Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Thich Nhat Hanh and on and on, learnt The Kabbalah(some), seen tarot card readers and psychics, dabbled in yoga but hadn’t found a practice I enjoyed yet, had my astrology chart done, you name it I was trying it or at least thinking about trying it – all the while I was ‘finding’ myself  I was also engaging in destructive behaviours – nothing was sticking. Then I had this experience and I just knew. Something had finally stuck. It was one of those moments I could feel the universe had my back. Does meditation make me a better person? It definitely helps. I found my way in meditation and my regular practice leaves me feeling energised and this incredible feeling filters through into all areas of my life. I see it as an addenda like eating greens and drinking water.

I find myself going into a meditative state in the most unlikely places like when I’m dancing or more recently colouring, as in colouring in books (yes its a thing, adults do it now too) and that’s because there are no rules when it comes to meditation, no right or wrong way, all it takes is commitment but then so does anything worth having in life.

Sat Nam

Also this week: Gold for Jessica Ennis-Hill at World Championships in Beijing, whop whop! #WonderWomanlives • And while we are in China… how about that stock market! Aiya! #DominoDancing • ‘Straight Outta Compton’ in memory of my brother’s pet frogs Dre, Tupac, Snoop and Warren G I think I want to see this movie #BoyzntheHood #OldSkool • 1D to split, to you fans – I feel your pain, I went through it with Wham #ItDoesGetBetter #1DAnonymous

 


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every day. is beautiful.

Every day in life is beautiful. Every day. Is beautiful.’ Every now and then you come across someone whose light shines so bright it touches your heart. These words are from Alice Herz-Sommer and to me, she is one such someone.

I was cooking when I heard these words, and they made me stop what I was doing and pay attention and so this is how I happened upon the documentary The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life and by extension the life of Alice Herz-Sommer. At the time of filming she, at 109 was the oldest known holocaust survivor. The short documentary documents her life; as an accomplished concert pianist who grew up in Czechoslovakia, her time in Theresienstadt concentration camp (she survived because she could play the piano and the Nazis used this prison to fool the Red Cross into believing they were benevolent towards Jews and that this was a camp where music and the arts thrived), it goes on to describe briefly her life in Israel and then lastly London where she lived independently in Belsize Park. Throughout her life, it is music that has been her spiritual sustenance and this documentary focuses on the music not on the particular events that happened during her long life.

‘Music saved my life and music saves me still… I am Jewish, but Beethoven is my religion.’

I watched her thinking how did I know of her before this moment, she should be discussed in schools so I set about writing this piece to share her with you. What captivated me was her spirit. This was a woman who experienced unthinkable horrors including the loss of her mother and husband, horrors that you and I will never know or even really understand and yet she lived with optimism and a complete lack of rancour. No pity, no tragedy in her demeanour. This is forgiveness in true practice. And even at this advanced age she was still able to recall memories from her mentally sharp mind, which made watching her on screen an invigorating experience. Alice Herz-Sommer died age 110 a week before this documentary won an Oscar in 2014. She continued to play the piano every single day right to the end of her life. There is an expression used in Kundalini yoga, which has come to be the measure by which I hold all my thoughts and actions accountable – the grace of god. Alice Herz-Sommer was the grace of god. As you go about your day my hope is that you take the essence of her words with you. ‘Every day in life is beautiful. Every day. Is beautiful.’

Sat Nam

ps speaking of la vita e bella, so happy for Ireland voting – by a huge majority – to legalise same-sex marriage, the revolution of love is in full force. #LoveWins #LoveisLove

pss please watch


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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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for Eve and for Adam

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When I first started this blog, I knew one day I would write about Eve and Adam, two people who are no longer with us but who deserve to be remembered not least for the impact they made on my life.

Once upon a time in the 80s there was a little girl called Eve who had been born premature and one of the life-saving blood transfusions she was given at birth infected her with a then little known virus. Unfortunately she lived in an ignorant country where, because of the stigma attached to this virus, people would cross the road to avoid being in close contact with her and they made it difficult for her to do normal kiddie activities like going to kindergarten. This prejudice eventually led to Eve and her family moving countries to somewhere she would be embraced and know nothing but love.

The ignorant country was Australia, the welcoming country was New Zealand and the little known virus was HIV. Eve would live till she was eleven and half and in her short lifetime she would touch many hearts including that of Princess Diana and mine. I never got to meet Eve but I collected stories about her from magazines and would watch her television interviews because back then I guess you could say she became the unofficial face of HIV/AIDS in New Zealand.

It was because of Eve I gave a speech on AIDS to my form two class, it was 1986 I was twelve and I remember writing with a thick black marker pen ‘AIDS’ by my name as my speech topic. I’m not sure why I felt compelled to choose it except that I knew Eve had been treated badly and that there was a stigma attached to this illness which I didn’t understand – my logic then (and still) was someone was sick they needed to be helped and loved no matter what. As for the speech, I had to have most of what I ended up saying, first explained to me by my aunt who was a nurse; imagine being that young and trying to understand the workings of the immune system and male coupling (I didn’t even know about heterosexual sex and here I was learning about male on male action!) After this informative and somewhat shocking education, I had to recite my finished speech in front of my teacher and headmistress so they could deem it appropriate before I was allowed to give it in front of my class. To both their credit they didn’t censor me at all, in fact they were both really encouraging.

I have often wondered if, because of this encouragement and my aunt’s thorough explanation, that is why I never got caught up in the controversy of HIV/AIDS, because haters were all around me, remember this was in the 80s when there was very little known about it, no cure in sight, very little funding provided by governments around the world to find a cure yet millions of people dying – which combined created widespread ignorance. I remember this one DJ on the radio who without fail whenever he played a WHAM song would follow up with ‘and that was by We Help AIDS Multiply,’ wonder how his life turned out, karma’s a bitch.

To this day that speech I gave is the one I am most proud of and I have given a fair few in my time. In hindsight knowing how much intolerance there has been and still is with HIV/AIDS, I am proud that I stood up against the haters. Because of Eve I would continue to be an advocate for the AIDS cause, and I still am.

♥♥♥

Then there was my Adam. Still feels wrong to use the past tense in regards to him. To know him was to know a very present person, his being filled every room he walked into. Adam and I met in our teens and we bonded over our love for Madonna, Basquiat, Keith Haring and Mapplethorpe. We would talk for hours about taking a trip together to New York to see the works of our favourite artists and watch Madonna perform at Madison Square Garden and we spent many a Friday night dancing away at Wellington staple Alfie’s. Our friendship grew distant when he moved to London to do his OE but we kept in touch via the odd letter – well letters from me. I think in the whole time he was away I got maybe three postcards from him. Then after four years away, he slipped quietly back to New Zealand and settled down to suburban life with his boyfriend. I caught up with him a few times but I had moved on in my life so our catch ups got rarer and rarer until they stopped.

About a year after having had no contact I bumped into his mother and I asked after Adam. She looked at me with such sadness that I felt a pang in my heart. She went on to tell me he was unwell and that he would love to hear from me. I can’t remember why but I didn’t make contact with him for another three months. When I did, he invited me over to his house and I remembering thinking it odd because we had never been to each other’s homes before, but the reason for the home invite became plainly obvious the second I stepped into his bedroom.

My friend Adam was a beautiful boy, he had modelled briefly in Europe that’s how beautiful he was on the outside and on the inside his soul was equally beautiful, he had such natural charm and gentleness. I think I was always a little in love with him. This was the Adam in my mind as I walked through his house not the man I saw lying in bed, so altered by illness, so frail I thought he would break when I hugged him, I was so shocked my grief caused my body to convulse. After many tears I learnt he was dying of AIDS. It remains one of the most surreal moments of my life. That night I slept beside him holding his brittle hand. I remember I kept waking up through the night to check if he was still breathing. He died less than three weeks later.

♥♥♥

I was twelve years old when I first heard of Eve’s plight and illness, through her I learnt social responsibility. I was in my twenties when my Adam died of AIDS and he is missed every day (every time I go to New York, it isn’t the same without him). For Eve and for Adam and for the others who are no longer with us and for those who continue to live in different stages of this disease I continue to be a wearer of the red ribbon and an activist for an AIDS free generation. #WorldAIDSDay #GlobalCitizen #WeCanBeatThis

Sat Nam