Posts tagged spirituality
A choice to change or stay the same...

This tiny piece of wood hanging around my neck has a story to tell.

Over the days that lead up to the Osho Leela Mystic Heart Festival that I attended last weekend I was feeling a bubbling sense of anxiety and apprehension.

It's such an incredibly intensive and powerful spiritual gathering. One that I know has the power to shift me on so many levels.

Yet this time there was another undercurrent that was playing out in my mind.

heather ogham.jpg

Last year I attended this same festival to co-host the very same firewalk gathering, and I'd brought my boyfriend with me. It was the first spiritual event he'd ever been to and I was nervous yet excited to share the experience with him. I needn't have worried as he absolutely loved it and it was it was an incredibly powerful moment in our relationship.

I was so wrapped up in love without any clue as to what would unfold between us over the following months...

So in the lead up to the festival this year, I so many feelings bubbling under the surface.

Since we split last November, I have found it incredibly tough at times. I thought he had been 'the one' and then it all came crashing down around me.

Over the last few months as I've made peace and dropped any anger and judgments I may have been holding on to, at times I still can't help but still feel so love for him. So much love, love for who we had been together.

I worried how it might feel being back in those familiar surroundings this time on my own.

On the first day I walked into one of the workshops, in particular, one that we had shared together last year and had found so powerful. During that workshop, we had discovered that the workshop leader also carved beautiful 'oghams' from various trees and that each one had a particular symbolism and intention.

We spent hours deliberating which ones we would buy, and we gifted them to each other, both wearing them all the time in the weeks that followed. I had even spent some hours scouring Hatfield park a couple of weeks later when his had fallen off during a run and he’d been upset as loosing it. I found it.

When we split, I could not longer look at it and had to put it away in a box, along with everything else.

When I arrived at this workshop, and saw all the various carve pendants laid out across a display table. I took a deep breath and knew instinctively that this was my opportunity to rewrite that story.

Start anew with a blank slate...

A shiny new chapter...

Shake off the residual fears and anxieties...

Let go of the 'what could have beens'...

At the end of the session, I shared with the workshop leader what was going on for me as something as a declaration and internal acknowledgement of my intention that this was significant moment of choice.

A choice to change or stay the same...

A choice to hold on or let go...

A choice to look back or focus ahead...

My eye caught this particular ogham carved into heather which symbolises community, friendships, family connections and strengthening of bonds with partners. All things I'm committing to draw upon and manifest more deeply in my life.

It felt the perfect way to read write the script and reclaim my story.

The shift was immediate. As the festival unfolded over the following three days, I felt myself feeling so much more connected, having conversations with ease whereas previously I struggled to initiate, forming close relationships with the girls in my dorm room, meeting people that I've met over the last couple of years and allowing myself to relaxing into their company, and even feeling the exciting spark of potential once again.

The energy of the entire experience became so much more than I could ever have anticipated.

All from that tiny moment of choice.

That threshold moment in which I claimed the opportunity to reframe my experiences and step into my power once again.

So this is a story of choice and a reminder that we all have choices in every moment. Threshold moments that have the potential to change the entire direction of out lives if we let them.

Yet our choices they often appears to us in the tiny moments, the moments that we can so easily overlook when life gets busy, moments where we hesitate and miss the calling as it passes by.

This is your moment.

What will you choose?


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Does a plant-based diet increase creativity?

I've been a contributor to The Hectic Vegan Magazine ever since it's launch a year (or two?) ago. There is another issue due out early Spring and I realised I hadn't yet filled you in on the December release!

As per the previous issues, I had a number of recipes featured - these ones were mostly pumpkin focussed ;-)  There was also a special 50% discount on my Not Just For Goldilocks  porridge recipe book!

You can download your digital copy of the magazine (and previous issues) for FREE here! 

But... I am also excited to share another feature that I am so passionate about, that is exploring the link between creativity and a plant-based diet.

It's an absolutely fascinating topic that I am currently delving into more deeply (with a book in mind), a connection that I have experienced deeply in my own life.  This blog was also triggered by a post that caught my eye on the Veganuary Instagram page...

vegan different perspective.jpeg

I have often talked about my philosophy that a plant-based diet goes way beyond the food itself. Once we begin to question one aspect of our lives, our minds open up to explore so much more in terms of how we relate to the world around us.

@@>>>Once we think outside the box, once we shift our perspective, life literally becomes limitless!@@ 

Here is that article, you can click to zoom in (or download the magazine to read it properly!), I love how the designers have illustrated the quotes I gathered from some Facebook research in little speech bubbles (I am a sucker for quirky details!) ;-)

I also see a huge link between the concepts of 'creativity' and 'spirituality' in terms of our connection with our innate sense of self and the bigger picture beyond.. maybe that's a topic for another post, ha ha)

Feel free to chime in with your experiences too - have you noticed an increase in your creativity or spirituality since going plant-based?

I am very keen to hear from those that feel strongly about the subject... and you may well feature in my new book, planning is currently underway and I am aiming to publish it before the summer! Please drop me a note if you'd like to share your thoughts and would be open to having a chat!


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Two weeks living the Hare Krishna way

(note... I wrote this post on the plane coming back from Madrid, but then got so wrapped up in preparations for the Raw retreat Experience I have only just had a chance to add some photos and publish 10 days later!)

I've just spent two weeks volunteering within the Hare Krishna community in a little town called Brighuega just outside Madrid. This time it was not a solo adventure as I had planned the trip with Mike, a fellow coach and life explorer within a similar philosophy to my own. It was a beautiful opportunity to share this experience not just physically but on every level since there was plenty of opportunity for discussion and reflection.

As with all my Workaway experiences, I was volunteering in return for my bed and board. This time it mainly consisted of cleaning but there was actually a lot less needing doing each day that I am familiar with. Just 2-3 hours of work with the rest of the day left open for us to create whatever wanted to.... Mainly a lot of reading, writing and thinking!

One my daily tasks I was sweeping and mopping the main temple space. It was actually a very meditative experience and something I came to look forward to. The quiet spiritual energy, soft music in background. I also had to dispose of the flower garlands when they dried up... instead of putting these in the refuse I took myself off on a walk across the hills and had something of a flower ceremony where I through the petals up into the wind. A very special experience... I shared a little video here.

If you read this blog post, then you will already have got a little understanding of community life in relation to the protected cows that form a huge aspect of their lifestyle, but there was so much more. Volunteering within a community offers the richest of experiences since there are so many people to observe, to learn from, to speak to and be 'one' of. There were around 20 in this community, some were English speaking, but the majority we Spanish with very little English knowledge and this made me wish more than ever that I knew the language, and it made me more determined than ever before to step up and learn Spanish (watch this space!)

One of the things that surprised me most was how quickly and comfortably I fell into their routines. Mealtimes were twice a day with a little snack in the evening. For someone who is used to snacking little and often all day long, this was a huge change for me yet one I enjoyed and didn't struggle with as I thought I might. Very interesting... Something I will consider more once I'm back into my familiar home surroundings. Is the little and often approach serving me? Or is time to change things up?

The biggest benefit I soon became aware of, where there is no food available between mealtimes, is how little I think about food, and more importantly, how little I procrastinated! I had taken my laptop with a view to do some work and reading etc in spare time. I was amazed just how productive I could be since there were literally no distractions.

My discipline when I am at home is often very poor.... my mind can be hyperactive like a child... I get an idea for a recipe so rush in to the kitchen to make it there and then, or I nibble food unnecessarily even when I'm not hungry in a act of self sabotage to put off doing a task. At the ISKON centre (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) where there was not source of distraction by way of food, plus a very minimal bedroom set up, it became the optimum productive environment. It has me curious as to how I could re-create this for myself back at home.

Breakfast and lunch were huge meals... I've haven't eaten as big a breakfast in as long as I can remember. Literally the size of a dinner you'd eat in a restaurant. But in contrast the evening meal with no more than a light snack... Sometimes just a small bowl of fruit and a slice of cake (though I couldn't eat any cake due to the dairy). Many of the devotees skipped this 'meal' all together. I couldn't help but note it would have been very easy to follow an intermittent fasting style diet eating between the hours of 9am-3pm.

Even though dinner was tiny, I never felt hungry between meals (I guess in part because the other two were very generous).  The bread was amazing as well. I rarely eat bread but I ate it almost everyday there, it was homemade sourdough with a beautiful light and melt-in-your-mouth crumb, so very different in texture and digestibility when compared with regular bread high in gluten and additives. That's now another thing on my list to make (I've been meaning to make my own sourdough for ages to this is a good prod to do so!)

The most meaningful part about mealtimes, and something I've noted everywhere I've been, is the sense of community. The time that everyone comes together to share the experience of food, to sit together and talk. Sometimes these talks would go on for a couple hours after the meal had ended and last all afternoon. One couple who arrived on our second day were particularly interesting. Hare Krishna devotees and travelling Kirtan performers, that had a wonderful history and stories to share. It's hard to describe, but life feels so much richer having known them. We plan to keep in touch.

At every meal time you couldn’t go and help yourself to food as someone would always serve you. When it is offered and accepted, the food becomes prasadam. When Krishna accepts what we offer to Him, it becomes prasadam. The word prasadam means “mercy".  For me, the act of being served at specific mealtimes, instead of helping myself whenever I felt like it was a very  meaningful gesture of mindfulness.

Aside from the food, other elements of the was of life that I particularly enjoyed was the flow of the day... Early starts and early nights. The devotees would typically wake up between 4:30am and 6am for their service and personal practice, and so by 9:30pm every evening the entire place was dark and silent. It was beautiful. It created a space and the 'permission' for me to also go to bed much earlier than I would at home. At home, if I choose to go to bed at that time- around 10pm, the TV is often blaring and lights are on all over the house and I find it hard to allow myself to settle and end up keeping going till much closer to midnight.

At the ISKON centre, when all is quiet, dark and still by 9:30,  it's as if my body is invited to simply join in and sleep. That said, I did not get up as early as they did, but in an ideal world I'd love to wake naturally at around 6am. This is another area I am more motivated than ever to find a way to create in my own everyday life, so that a strong morning routine can be built around it. I know from experience that life flows so much better when I have a consistent, powerful morning routine.

The environment in its entirely was a beautiful platform for really exploring and questioning my life. The simple daily routines, the pace of life, the silence, the compassion of the devotees, the beautiful hillsides and the buildings themselves- beautiful old stone structures and wonderful old trees within the garden and courtyard- all served to really slow me down, to live from my heart.

The wonderful community buildings nestled in the hillside!

The wonderful community buildings nestled in the hillside!

Note: I was going to add a few words about 'Teeny Tiny Cat' who, whilst I was at the temple, stole my heart... but it seemed more fitting to dedicate a separate post to him.

P.s you can see Mike's take on the exeperience here, I love the way we both relate to the same thing very differently! 


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We Are Merkaba

On Sunday May 1st as I flew across the skies to Portugal I had absolutely no idea what lie in store. All I knew was that the Merkaba community (formerly called Rainbow City) were waiting to greet me! This was to be my month long birthday present to myself... honouring my continuing journey of self discovery.

"The mer ('light'), ka ('spirit'), ba ('body') union is a sacred one that responds directly to emotion. A simple way to define the Merkaba community would be as a 'Vegan-Yoga-Eco Community' operating from the side of a mountain in the Northern Portuguese wilderness.

I was absolutely comfortable with not knowing what lie in store... It was only when others began asking me 'so what are you going to be doing?' that I began to wonder and worry a little if I should have enquired a little further... I needed have worried!

The Merkaba community is based in the mountains of north Portugal and I had to reach them via a 3.5 hr train ride to Fundao station, it's a small station and there are only a couple of trains that run there each day. When I arrived and the train had left and the few other passengers departed, I thought I was all alone until I spotted a lady in tye-die trousers waiting at the edge of the platform. This was Tracy (amazing raw food chef and yoga teacher) who was also heading there!

Another hour later and we'd arrived.... In time for dinner! We were greeted with hugs by everyone in the community, a tour of the site and shown our rooms in a huge tent like dome- one of two that make up the main living spaces on the site. 

The adventure had truly begun!

Twenty Six days is the longest trip I've taken in my my life so far. What I found interesting what how quickly it became 'normal' life. When I've been somewhere for a week, or even two there is always an awareness around only having a 'few more days left' once the initial wow impact settles. Not this time. Each and everyday was incredible (yes even including the eight days of solid rain) but there was definitely a big chunk in the middle where I became almost complacent- thoughts such as 'I can take that photo any time' or 'I can read those books later' crept in. It's interesting how quickly this can occur, or maybe a beautiful testament to how at home I was made to feel. To really allow myself to become immersed in 'life' and thus grow as a person I am so glad I took an extended stay.

To say this was a life changing trip sounds proper cheesy but it's true. These last couple of months have been deeply magical, with my trip to Thailand so closely followed by Merkaba. My heart arrived wide open and it was filled and remained topped up by the magic and love offered by every single member of the community each and every day I was there.

Love is everywhere.... In every nook and cranny- literally!

It's painted on walls and signs and infused in the food we ate as we held hand together and blessed each meal, yet maybe most importantly (from my perspective) love is abundant in multiple hugs every day. Hugs are a big deal for me- we don't hug enough as a culture and when we do it is often simple the 'action' of a hug with superficial meaning. The Mekaba gang gave the real deal! I have more thoughts on this you may well hear more of another time.

During my stay, there was a combination of those who lived and worked there and those like me that were on 'retreat' - though of the 'reteraters' I was there for the longest time period. Whilst there no obligation to get involved, of course I wanted to join in with the vibe and so I whipped up a few healthy vegan cakes in the kitchen (all the food we ate was locally sourced plant based whole foods), made a couple of dreamcatchers, a big sign for the landscape and helped out with a bit of gardening.  I'll post more all about the food and some recipes on the nutrition blog soon!

The best part of the experience for me was the morning yoga sessions, especially the consistency with which this was practiced by everyone come rain or shine. A practice that has truly changed me. Once again (like the meditation practice at Madhyamaka) it is the energy of the space that created the magic for me, and I will be looking at how I create this energy for myself back home. Some days were taught a structured session, by more often that not the yoga was our own free-flow practice in the sunshine to a backdrop of powerful music and bird song. 

Each session opened with picking oracle cards and I absolutely loved this part of the process... So much more than I ever anticipated. It also shows me how much my spiritual journey has deepened this last year to being open to receiving the message of the cards. It was incredible just how appropriate the messages were at times and cannot be put down to mere coincidence as I once would have declared!

Another proud moment was when I opted to sleep in a hammock hung from some trees amongst the rocks on the mountainside. At one with nature.  Feel the fear and do it anyway. I was all alone. Yet I was not alone at all. There was suddenly no fear in that moment. Only unity. Turning my face to stare at the almost full moon. Time stood still. The stillness filled my soul.

I am the universe, and the universe is me.

As I sat alone again upon waking, watching the sunrise emerge from the top of the trees, I was immersed in the sounds of the birds calling to each other from each side of the mountain. The warmth of the new day greeting me.  I realised that these are the perfect moments, the moments that create our lives, yet the moments so often overlooked.

sunset.jpg

Every member of the community had their own unique skills that offered a beautiful contribution to the overall dynamic of the space... Tommy with his Tai Chi, Jamie with his life coaching, Jeremy with his amazing breath work (also known as re-birthing) and Kerri with her reiki. Dan Kruger is the main man- the guy who held the original vision alongside Anthony Lowther when it first emerged as Rainbow City, and has built it from nothing but this powerful vision that has driven him forward ever since. I have huge admiration for Dan's personal journey and was privileged to share an interview with him, one that will form the first in my forthcoming series 'Nutrition Is The Gateway To Your Optimal Self' ....more to come on that very soon!

There is also an incredible spontaneous and playful energy... this is not lost when there is a birthday in which we take the opportunity to dress up, have a morning rave and drink apple cider vinegar shots for a post breakfast boost!

The gang in their birthday party finery! 

The gang in their birthday party finery! 

There is so much more to express than I could ever put into words... And at risk of this blog post becoming even longer than it already is, I will finish here with one final anecdote that had huge meaning for me...

One morning at breakfast after six days of continuous rain, one of the resident volunteers- Charlotte, remarked how she had woken up that morning and had consciously and verbally offered her gratitude to the rain so that it could not bring her spirit down. It occurred to me that on a wider context, such a subtle simple act could be the difference between letting a situation bring you down, or accepting and rolling with it and thus the difference of how your mindset and your entire day might pan out. It has stayed with me ever since.

The community at Merkaba is unique. The energy is pure and profound. If I can extract aspects of this energy into my own retreat space one day and within the retreat holidays I look to create.... Then this is all I could wish for!

Thank you to Merkaba and to everyone who's lives I have shared over this last month.

Thank you for the love you give so willingly and freely. 

Thank you all for being so brilliantly true to your highest self and following your calling, and in doing so allowing me to come closer to doing the same. 

 

If you are intrigued to know more about Merkaba, you can find them here:

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