A young hare’s guide to peace

03/07/2015 at 4:26 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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When we are peaceful in nature, nature comes peacefully to us. Last spring, collecting wild garlic in the woods, I was delighted when a deer came to graze nearby. We continued to crop the spring greens, each in our own way. It was companionable. I was the one who moved away first, when my basket was full.

Harry the hare

Then, ten days ago, a young hare came to live in our garden. He wasn’t distant; he was frequently under our heels. Although we startled him, he didn’t move far away. He ate some carrots I left out for him. One day, I sat on a stone step, drinking green tea, and he sat nearby, eating grass in the sunlight. Ears upright and contented. I chatted. He listened. I loved the way his ears swivelled attentively when I spoke. If you want to learn the art of true listening, watch a hare.

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When a being so wild and natural is happy in your company, it is a wonderful feeling. Again, I was the one who eventually moved away. My human schedule beckoned. His precocial nature allowed him to simply be.

Our hare is now spending more time in the field next door. But he still visits our garden. Two nights ago, I saw him in the silver light of the full moon, grazing on the lawn.

Hares and people have a lot in common. When we are peaceful, others around us are more likely to be calm and contented. Maybe that is how we will eventually create a more tranquil world: not by telling others that they are wrong and we are right, but by experiencing a deep, numinous peace within ourselves. It’s a feeling that others can’t help but respond to.

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Be of good heart with hawthorn blossom tea

14/05/2015 at 5:00 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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In late spring there’s a plentiful blossom in the hedgerows that makes an unusual health-giving tea. Hawthorn blossom and leaves alike are good for all aspects of the heart. Rich in tannins and bioflavonoids, it’s a great alternative to green tea. But harvest it wrongly, and you may never want to touch it again.

Hawthorn fragrance is an intriguing mix of sweet and… well, not so sweet. When it’s ultra-fresh, the sweetness prevails. When it’s wilted, there’s a lingering whiff of something rank.

And yet when hawthorn has completely dried, it becomes again a delightful, drinkable tea – rather like a lightly fermented green China tea.

Simply collecting the blossoms on a dappled sunlit day is therapy in itself. I like to follow Lucinda Warner of Whispering Earth’s advice and pick miniature sprigs of young flowers surrounded by a few leaves.  You have to watch out for the thorns, but they’re easy to avoid.

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To drink hawthorn blossom fresh

A single fresh sprig, plucked straight from the tree, makes a lovely cup of tea for one. Place one fresh sprig in a cup of boiled water, and brew for a few minutes. It’s fun to drink while the sprig is still in the cup. If wished, add a squeeze of lemon and a small teaspoon of honey.

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To drink hawthorn blossom dried

Place your sprigs of hawthorn blossom complete with their leaves on a tray in a well-ventilated place to dry. Cover with paper if you need to protect your harvest. Sometimes I simply place them so they can lie in a single layer inside a large paper bag, then leave them on a shelf in a warm and airy place. If you have a dehydrator, you can speed up the process dramatically and produce dried sprigs on a gentle setting in just a few hours.

To drink, place one to three dried sprigs in a tea filter, inside a cup of boiled water, and brew for a few minutes. Remove filter and enjoy.

Why it’s good for you

Hawthorn blossom, leaves and berries have all been long used as a tonic for the heart, helping with irregular heart beats, tiredness associated with poor heart function, and lowering of blood pressure. It’s also helpful for the whole circulatory system. And it’s been used as a tonic for the emotional heart, helping alleviate anxiety and bring calm. The feeling after drinking is as if your heart is basking in a warm, reassuring glow of wellbeing – that’s how it always feels to me.

Herbalist Nina Nissen suggests that it’s best drunk daily in small dosages over a period of 2-3 months, but it can safely be taken continuously if required.

If you are taking other medicines, particularly heart pressure ones, check with your doctor before drinking hawthorn infusions.

Hawthorn, a member of the rose family, has been viewed as a sacred medicinal plant for millennia. It’s a plant of many dimensions, endlessly fascinating to those who take the time to hear its teachings. The blossom is a wise and beautiful addition to any tea collection – and it’s free.

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How to gather and cook wild garlic

01/05/2015 at 10:50 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Garlic bud Wild garlic grows in vast, natural fields in damp woodlands in the spring. It’s just waiting for you to harvest it and if the buds are looking like this one above, the perfect time to harvest is right now. Here are some guidelines for you.

Be sure to identify it correctly

Wild garlic, or Allium ursinum, has long very pale green stems. Its leaves are arrowhead-shaped, one per stem. Its buds grow one per stem, and opens out into a loose tuft of pretty white flowers. Every part of the flower has a pungent garlicky fragrance which is best experienced by crushing a leaf lightly between your fingers. There are two toxic plants that must never be confused with wild garlic. Lily of the valley has similar leaves but purple stems, and its flowers grow in a long spray. Lord and Ladies, an arum, has different shaped leaves but grows among the wild garlic and could be scooped up by an over-hasty picker.

Only gather what you need

One spring I went out with relatives and we all went a bit crazy, picking as much garlic as we could carry. Of course it was next to impossible to process all that food, and I’m sorry to say some of the surplus ended up in the compost. It’s a plant that is best eaten fresh, so just gather what you need. If you’re intending to cook wild garlic as a side dish, 20 leaves per person makes a generous portion.

Pick the stems low to the ground

The stems have a more delicate taste and pleasant texture, so be sure to collect them as well as the green leaves. Don’t unearth the bulbs which are very small. The goodness we want is in the aerial part of the plant: the part above the ground.

Vase of garlicProcess it early

It will keep for two or three days in your kitchen, either in a loose bag in the fridge, or in water as shown here.

Eat it raw

Wash, chop roughly and add in small quantities to salads. The open flowers can also be added to salads, contributing beauty and an amazing peppery taste. Wild garlic pesto

Create a pesto

There are many recipes on the internet. My favourites don’t copy the classic basil pesto, but blend ingredients that perfectly suit garlic’s distinctive taste. This is a great example by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall. Blend 50 g of lightly toasted and cooled walnuts in a food processor with around 75 g of washed and chopped garlic leaves, 35 g parmesan cheese, finely grated zest and juice from half an unwaxed lemon and around 130 ml of olive oil. Add sea salt and black pepper to taste. Spoon into a clean empty jar, and store in the fridge. It will keep for several days, but probably won’t last that long – too yummy! You can also freeze portions for up to six months, in my experience. Mix it with pasta or spread on crisp bread.

Cook it as a spring green

Wash and roughly chop leaves and stems, and simmer for a few minutes in a little water until soft and wilted. Make sure the pan doesn’t boil dry. The flavour when cooked is remarkably mild, making it a perfect spring vegetable. You can also add the washed, chopped leaves to a casserole for the last few minutes of cooking. You can create a soup with onion, a little potato, and lots of wild garlic with seasoning and a swirl of cream. Or you can simply add a single raw garlic bud to the centre of any soup as a peppery garnish.

Garlic bouquet

Give a truly fragrant gift

Wrap some wild garlic up in some brown paper and write some simple instructions on the paper. As gifts go, it’s a definite talking point, and you may even be introducing someone to a great spring ingredient. A jar of wild garlic pesto is another popular foodie gift.

Bask in the health benefits

Wild garlic is antibacterial and antiviral, and of all the allium family it is particularly good at lowering blood pressure. So it’s helpful for your immunity and your heart.

A rose for hard times

31/03/2015 at 7:52 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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There’s a simple meditative technique we can use in hard times. I call it the Rose Meditation. You can do this anywhere: cleaning the house, ploughing through work, undergoing medical treatment, in a high-voltage meeting….

All you do is this: focus, in your mind’s eye, on a rose. The example shown here was photographed after rain, in the sunshine of the Dordogne.

Picture the feather-light, velvety smoothness of the petals. Imagine yourself miniaturised, resting between the scented petals as though they are the softest bed in the world. Breathe in their heavenly fragrance.

Notice the variations in colour between the inner and outer petals. Absorb the beautiful colours with every cell of your body.

Touch the raindrops; taste their sweetness.

Explore the petals, going inward towards the nectar, and outwards again towards the sun and fresh air.

Do this visualisation any time you feel the need. The rose contains powerful therapy, and simply thinking about it in this way can be soothing, and healing.

Can calm thoughts create a calmer life?

28/05/2014 at 5:59 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments
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In a couple of weeks’ time, I’m running a meditation workshop on The Healing Power of Calm. A few months back, I decided to be rather organised. I decided to meditate regularly on the word ‘calm’ for 30 days. There was a question I wanted to answer. Could meditating on the word ‘calm’ actually create a calmer life for oneself? Here are some extracts from my diary.

Day 1. There begins to be a sense, with every out breath, of every cell in the body releasing stuff it has been hanging on to: letting it go. No longer trying to control, hold on or sit on top of stuff. Just letting it go… Outside, wood doves coo and blackbirds sing, and the mild winter air feels fresh and sweet.

Day 2. I realise that the cells as I visualise them are faithfully taking on the colour of the air outside. Today it is that time just before dawn, so my cells are night-dark, with early glimmerings of light.

Day 4. It seems to me that each day is like a mandala: a circular or perhaps spherical pattern. The mandala begins at the very centre of me with a seed thought: ‘calm’. And as the day and the mandala expand, the seed’s qualities of calm permeate and manifest. This happens in ways that perfectly reflect my seed intention.

Day 5. Now I understand that what has stood between ‘calm’ and me is a need to control. I have been trying to control life itself by building a house of cards, to protect those I love, and myself, from the inchoate chaos that lies beyond all things. Yet there is only one thing that can save me: I need to surrender. I cannot hold back chaos. That is impossible.  Instead, I need to step into the abyss, with a sense of trust. As I realise this, my whole body relaxes. A tingling makes itself felt at the top of my head. I feel myself beginning to grow, like a flower. But not too far, not yet. And the moment of growing passes, and is gone. But I have glimpsed it.

Day 6.  After yesterday’s brief sensation of surrender, today’s meditation brings sadness – a sense of regret, of what might have been. It feels good to let the emotions flow. I realise that is all I need to do: let it flow, let it go. I understand that to experience calm, we do need to travel through our bottled-up emotions. There is no other way. Beneath, beyond and through the sadness lies that deep, infinite calm.

Day 13. Things have been busy lately. My son turned 18 (true cause to celebrate: it was never a given). A party. Many overnight guests. A welcome time of celebration and gratitude. I notice, unsurprisingly, that my meditation sessions have been patchy: ten minutes here, five minutes there. When I do succeed in calming my mind, I learn that it is necessary to value oneself in order to maintain one’s calm. If I am constantly available to all, I am present for none, least of all myself. I need to reconnect with the stillness within me in order to make sense of a busy world.

Day 24. I have been able to reach a point where my days do not feel pressured. Many of my commitments seem to have melted away. For example, out of the blue, the school run is now being handled largely by others. This liberates extra hours in my days. Life has become more spacious – a beautiful word. I feel as though I haven’t experienced this since becoming a mother, 18 years ago.

Day 30. I notice that I have become more ordered in my life. I am better at completing one project before starting the next. There continues to be more space in my days, and in the ‘to do’ list in my mind.

For the first time in many years I feel as though I am one with the rhythms of my life and of the wider world – not all the time, but more often.

Conclusion:

In one month, the outer world around me did seem to rearrange itself to reflect the calm that I was focusing on. Some of the changes were initiated by me. But many, such as the lighter school run commitment, were initiated by changes in the outer world. And that change made a big difference!

I notice from the diary entries that just as I was beginning to get real breakthroughs – expressed through the sadness flowing – I got busy. On some level it seems to me that I decided that I had dealt with enough bottled-up emotions for the time being. After that point, the practice felt like more a consolidation of new habits. It felt ok to do that. But I wonder what would have happened if I had, for example, gone on a longer retreat and effectively forced myself to go into the subject more fully. However, the beauty of this daily system was that I could make changes at a comfortable pace. Over all, I liked it a lot. I will do it again, perhaps soon.

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PS The pebbles photographed above were three that I picked up on Brey Beach on the Island of Alderney last summer, and placed on a window sill. I have discovered that calm lies in such simple, sunlit moments.

Goodbye, Dr Nocebo

02/04/2014 at 7:00 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 16 Comments
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Easter, three years ago. My teenaged son, Tim, is still convalescing after a critical illness in Florida. We are now back in England, and he has caught a new chest infection. He goes to hospital where he is put on intravenous antibiotics. I stay with him. It’s not really possible to leave Tim on his own, because he has complex learning difficulties and other people don’t understand him.

So we are sitting in the hospital, day after day, and nothing much seems to be happening. Tim’s not getting worse, but he’s not getting better either. Some days I don’t even spot a doctor. Tim is scarcely eating, so I ask to see a nutritionist, but am told that all the paediatric ones are away. After a couple of days, an adult one materializes and gives me some food supplements. I am grateful for those, but surprised that I had to work so hard to get them. Surely this is the sort of thing that Tim’s doctor should pick up on?

To be fair, there are some very good nurses around, and a lovely school teacher. But apart from them, the atmosphere seems lacklustre. I can’t help comparing it with the medical team that saved Tim’s life in Florida. They seemed full of energy and a belief in their skills and medicine. They didn’t think Tim would pull through, but they did everything in their power to help him, and were thrilled when he made it.

Here, in contrast, it feels as though Tim has been somehow written off.

One morning a doctor comes into Tim’s ward. It wouldn’t be fair to give his real name, so I shall call him Doctor Nocebo.

Absolutely, the name is symbolic.

Nocebo effect: when a person in a position of authority, such as a doctor, leads a patient to believe that they are going to get worse. This negatively harnesses the patient’s own unconscious power to alter health outcomes. If the patient believes the doctor, the nocebo prediction can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The opposite of the nocebo effect is the better-known placebo effect: the body’s innate ability to heal itself when it believes it can. Drug trials have to take the placebo effect into account because a high percentage of people get better when they believe in an imaginary medicine.

Dr Nocebo is accompanied by a handful of medical students.

While they look on, he gives Tim a cursory examination. He notices Tim’s physical disabilities: his very pronounced spinal curvature, his tendency to lie still while he’s ill.

Then he turns to me and tells me, in graphic detail, how Tim will get more and more chest infections and they will become more and more frequent. And he will die – the implication is sooner rather than later.

As he talks, I feel faint. There is something inhuman about the way Dr Nocebo is delivering this news. It almost feels as though he is showing off his power in front of his students.

That evening, I go to a small parents’ bedroom near the ward. I get into bed. I lie there, in the dark, and worry about Tim’s slow rate of recovery.

And then it happens. I hear a voice: loudly, insistently, inside my mind.

“Suzanne,” it says. That’s all. But accompanying my name comes all sorts of information. It’s a full conversation, delivered in one word.

I realize straight away that I have fallen prey to the nocebo effect on my son’s behalf. I have been picturing Tim getting more and more poorly. I have believed Doctor Nocebo’s words.

I now have an urgent job to do. I must visualize my son well. And I must keep doing it.

The actual visualization comes with great ease. It is as if someone is leading me through it.

First I picture, in great detail, that I am standing in beautiful countryside. There are fruit trees in blossom all around. In front of me is a healing temple. I walk up 10 steps, and enter the temple. I go to the reception desk, and sign in. I am given a special healing disc to wear around my neck, over my heart.

I walk across the light and airy atrium, to the healing centre of the temple. There, I take a seat. In front of me is a shimmering space. I picture Tim in the space, receiving all the healing he requires. Before my eyes, he becomes well and strong.

I leave the temple, still wearing the disc.

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The next day, Tim’s dad Steven is the lucky one who gets to see Dr Nocebo. The doctor of doom duly gives Steven the same talk he gave me: your son will soon die, etc.

Steven, being the practical one, asks: “Yes, but what about exercise? Won’t that help?”

Steven is fully aware that Tim normally does lots of physiotherapy and yoga. Dr Nocebo just sees a pale and poorly disabled child. He has no idea that when Tim is well he can be pretty active. He can, for example, stand up on one leg, with support, and do the Tree position in yoga.

Take that, Dr Nocebo!

“Oh yes,” said Dr Nocebo, surprised. “Yes, that could help.”

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In my imagination, I return to the temple once a day. Each time, I first go to the reception desk. The healing disc I wear over my heart is checked. Each time it is black and smoky with negative energy. It feels polluted. So I hand it in and receive a new one. And then I go to the healing area in the centre of the temple, and picture Tim strong and well.

In real life, Tim does get better, and we leave hospital. But even at home, whenever I feel the need, I continue to visit the healing temple, in my imagination, on his behalf.

I notice, on my visits, that the healing discs aren’t getting so polluted. Then, on one visit, I am given a special, permanent healing disc to wear. People gather round to congratulate me. I realize that I have graduated to a new level. This new disc is gold and iridescent. It will stay naturally clean of negative pollution. However, I will still get it checked at the reception desk from time to time.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Soon after Tim’s encounter with Dr Nocebo, I realize that there is just one more thing to do: we need to change hospitals. So I arrange for Tim’s care to be transferred to a newer and better hospital. We don’t get to see the new consultant for 18 months though. There is no need. Despite his disabilities, Tim enjoys a period of excellent health.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Unfortunately, Dr Nocebo has many cousins, all equally negative and miserable. So if you happen to encounter one of them, remember this: when Dr (or Mr or Ms) Nocebo talks negative, it’s up to you to visualize positive.

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Avebury vision: gateway to the Universe

01/09/2013 at 9:56 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments
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John Wilding lives with his family in the centre of Avebury Stone Circle. It must be a little like living in a fairy tale, full of myth and magic. Do you know Avebury? It’s a picturesque Wiltshire village which contains the largest stone circle in the world. (Or maybe, even, the stone circle contains the village).

John runs the Henge Shop, which is full of delightful mystic gems and esoteric books. It’s a hub for spiritual travellers from all around the world.

To help the visitors, John is setting up a new website, to be called Visit Avebury. Last week he asked me to write 200 words on sacred sites and meditation for the new website. “I’d love to,” I emailed back.

It then occurred to me that I can’t remember the last time I meditated at Avebury. How can that be? I only live 15 minutes’ drive away. So I decided to get up early at the weekend and do my usual morning meditation there, within the circle…

First, I share a quick breakfast with my nine-year-old daughter, who usually loves a trip. She wants to know why I am going to Avebury. She doesn’t look impressed when I explain.

“Are you definitely going to meditate at the stones?” she asks.

“I am.”

“Then I’m definitely not coming,” she decides.

I smile. It appears that my daughter has just started to understand that parents can be Seriously Embarrassing.

As I walk down to the garage, I happen to glance into our front yard. I see the words ‘hope’, ‘joy’ and ‘love’ chalked onto the stone slabs in a childish hand. I smile again. Maybe she and I are not so different after all.

At Avebury, I walk over to my favourite part of the circle, the quieter north semi-circle. There are no people here, just sheep. I go up to several of the stones and place the palms of my hands against their rough surface. It feels like a form of greeting, a ‘signing in’ as it were. I study the patterns of rock and lichen. I am tuning in.

I notice that I am feeling distinctly light-headed, and the feeling persists.

Carefully, I choose a stone in the outer circle to sit by – then walk to an entirely different one. I sit on the ground and lean back. The stone supports my back so well, it almost feels soft.

Meditation stone

The sun is warm in front of me. The stone is cool behind me.

A gentle wind brushes a few hairs against my face. I hear wood pigeons cooing placidly high in the trees.

I decide to do a listening meditation. Simply breathe, and listen, and feel, and listen.

Meanwhile, my mind has decided to do its bit to unlock the mysteries of the circle. No one really knows why Avebury Stone Circle is here, and there are countless theories. My mind is intrigued by the fact that there are two smaller inner circles within the outer circle. Within the best surviving inner circle, near where I’m sitting, there are two giant stones which many people call a female  and a male stone. Guess which is which…

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And then I remember that I am here to meditate. I am here to breathe, listen and feel…

Maybe, my mind points out, the stone circle is a Neolithic depiction of Yin and Yang? All physical matter is composed of binary opposites: sun and moon, male and female, hot and cold and so on… surely Avebury is a beautiful representation of that?

And then I remember, once more, that I am here to meditate…

The area around my heart begins to feel warm: a spreading, pleasant glow.

It’s then that I notice that a particular, unusual word keeps popping up in my mind:

“Locus. The circle is a locus.”

Just in case there is any doubt, the voice repeats itself.

“Locus.”

And then… it happens.

I hear these words:

“It is not the stones themselves that matter. It’s the spaces in between. “

Without any warning, there is a whoosh!

I see a gateway to the All That Is. The stones are the gateway.  Through them, I can see the Universe.

And on my right side, between the stones, laughing, I can see women, very like those I have seen before. Maybe they are the same. Natural, lean and bare-limbed, they are laughing at me, though not unkindly.

At least you are beginning to get it,” they are saying.

And then I am through the gateway and I am dancing between the particles of matter.

I am bigger than the stars and smaller than the atoms.

My previous light-headed feeling has gone, because I am now in the space in which  I am meant to be. This is my normal state of being, I realise. The rest is just a crammed up, box-like dream.

This is real life. This is reality.

I am in bliss.

I am bliss.

There is only bliss… bliss stretching out to infinity….

Gradually, as if from above, I become aware of the pattern of the stones again. I understand now how they act as a locus. The circular structure is helpful for returning back to your body.

We can think it, perhaps, as a Neolithic landing pad for the soul.

And then I am back again, sitting on baked bare earth, the sun on my face, cool stone behind my back. My heart area still feels pleasantly warm and glowing.

I am happy.

I return home via Silbury Hill, the tallest prehistoric human-made mound in Europe.

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In my psychically open state, I can see a man directing others in front of a younger and smaller mound. A wise woman, well-regarded, is behind him. She is in the light. Younger men are asking why they are building up the sky.

The old man says, “It will remind them. 

“The time of forgetting will come. 

“The time of forgetting is necessary.

But then, the time of remembering will come. “

This is fascinating, and I want to stay, to learn more. But I am feeling a growing pressure. At home, my family are waiting for my return. So Silbury must be a story for another day.

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What I wish I’d said to Anita Moorjani

26/08/2013 at 1:08 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 58 Comments
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There’s an autumnal edge to the air, and outside the leaves are speckled brown in places. The apples are reddening on the trees, and children’s school shoes are flying out of the shops. I’m about to plan the meditation themes for a new term in the Studio. So, all in all, I have that ‘going back to school’ feeling. The weather is cooling off and it’s time to learn again (as if we ever stop).

Instead of working, I keep thinking about a ‘nearly’ conversation I had with Anita Moorjani at the Hay House ‘I can do it!’ London conference last autumn. It keeps playing on my mind. I haven’t thought about it for months. So there must be a reason why it’s coming up now.

I heard Anita speak about her near death experience at the conference. I had previously read her book, Dying to be Me, and loved it. Last year, Anita was still fairly new to public speaking, and she was accompanied on stage by Dr Wayne Dyer. I liked her lack of ego. She wasn’t trying to prove anything. She simply had an amazing experience to share. Anita’s essential message seemed to be: Live your life fearlessly. You are always loved. You are magnificent. You are meant to be you, no one else. Live your life to the full. Enjoy being you.

At the end of the conference, I saw Anita again. I was standing in a long queue on the stairs, waiting for luggage from the cloakroom. Anita walked up the steps with her husband Danny. I said a quiet, heartfelt ‘Thank you’.

To my surprise, in all that noise Anita heard me and stopped. She looked at me, waiting for more. I didn’t know what to say. So I opted for: “Thank you for your talk. I really enjoyed it.”

“Why, thank you so much,” said Anita, and carried on her way.

Now the thing is, I wasn’t being honest. There was more I could have said. Much more.

What was I really thanking Anita for?

The clue is in this photo.

Timothy and Steven

It’s a picture of my teenaged son, Timothy, with his lovely, supportive dad – my partner Steven. You will notice that Timothy is disabled. He has an undiagnosed condition which means that he cannot walk, except for a few wobbly steps. He cannot talk, beyond a few basic words. “Ready, steady go!” is his favourite expression. He uses signs to communicate. He is holding his ‘taggy’, a favourite soft shape covered with labels that he likes to play with.

You may also notice that Timothy is smiling. Timothy smiles a lot. He loves people. When I’m with him I always have a sense that I am unconditionally loved and accepted. Other people experience the same thing. Timothy feels good to be around.

So what does this have to do with Anita Moorjani?

A vision of bliss

Unlike Anita, I have not had a near death experience. But the year before Timothy was born I had an experience which was very like one. I call it a vision, but it involved other senses too.

In my vision, I wasn’t in my body. It felt to me that I was pure energy. Somehow, I was occupying the space between matter, between the particles of matter. Matter itself, our physical world, appeared insubstantial, like a movie image that you could put your hands through.

The feeling I had was pure, absolute bliss. I was known, and witnessed and absolutely loved by the overriding intelligence that was everywhere in that space. For want of a better word, I called that intelligent being, ‘God’. But I knew it had nothing in common with external views of God.  I was unconditionally loved. I was incapable of sinning. I was this shining, wondrously loving consciousness in which I bathed, and it was me. There was no separation. And these same truths applied to every being on this earth.

Hard lessons

My vision of bliss has never completely left me. It sustained me when Timothy was born with complex and life-threatening issues, which became more apparent as he grew older.

As every parent of a disabled child knows, it is incredibly difficult dealing with the complex medical decisions for someone you adore, whose survival may at times seem fragile at best. It took me a while, and I stumbled many times, but gradually I learnt to trust my intuition – the inner voice of wisdom. And I believe this has helped Timothy immeasurably, many times over.

Not only that, after the vision it was as if a door remained open to the Other Realm. I have had, and continue to have, other visions that teach, sustain and delight me. Increasingly, I share these with others.

To me, it seems that Timothy himself occupies a space between this world and the Other Realm. He can appear immensely intuitive. He can sign an answer to me when I’ve only just framed the question in my mind – before I’ve spoken it aloud. And his unconditional love, his lack of judgement, is powerfully like the energy I experienced in my original vision of bliss.

 

So what exactly was I thanking Anita for? 

In a word, validation.

Anita appeared to be terminally ill with cancer, on the verge of complete organ failure, when she had her near-death experience. In her book, Dying to be Me, she describes how she experienced a state of extreme bliss while also being aware of what was going on in the hospital, and also where her brother was, many hundreds of miles away. She describes how she understood that she was completely loved, and magnificent. And when she returned, her body healed within days.

What Anita describes corresponds to my own vision, although our circumstances were very different. I am grateful that Anita worked hard to share her experiences in a thoughtful and balanced way. Eighteen years ago, when I experienced my vision, these things were less talked about. I have always felt that I live two lives: the physical one here, and the blissful one, in the space between the particles.  The first I talked about; the second, I did not.

Well, that is changing. Now I am talking about my experience of bliss – why ever wouldn’t I? Seeing Anita stand up and speak her truth, with dignity, on a stage before  hundreds of people has got a lot to do with that.

The autumn term begins here in one week’s time. There’s one thing I’m sure about, whether I’m learning, or sharing what I’ve learnt: I will speak my truth.

What did you do today?

07/07/2013 at 10:36 pm | Posted in Happiness, Inspiration, Nature, Uncategorized | 11 Comments
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Yarrow“What did you do today?”

I breathed. I lived. I put my bare feet on the earth.

“Yes, but what did you do?”

I’ve just told you what I did.

“What else did you do?”

I had a laugh with ones I love. I ate almonds under a wild cherry tree. I breathed the sweet scent of a pure white rose.

“Sounds nice. Anything else?”

Yes, now that you come to mention it, I gathered yarrow under a cloudless sky. I touched a silver birch whose leaves were shimmering in the breeze. And I watched the red sun go down, while a handsome man held me close…

That’s what I did today. And what about you; what did you do? Don’t tell me the stuff you didn’t really care about. Tell me what mattered to you.

The healing power of swimming

16/03/2013 at 4:49 pm | Posted in Exercise, Happiness, Inspiration, Uncategorized, Wellbeing | 5 Comments
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WaterA few days ago I went back to my local pool after a long absence. As I glided through the water, reflections of blue sky danced over the surface. I could feel myself relaxing, letting the water support me. And I remembered the joy of swimming.

We know that water can be kind to the human body: whatever the level of fitness, water provides a small but significant resistance that increases the overall benefit.

Less talked about, it does something equally interesting to the psyche: it connects us an earlier, more aquatic stage of life: the womb… and even, more distantly, our evolutionary past.

When I am in water, I feel different. The hard angular surfaces of modern life give way to a fluid world in which I feel safe, held, and simply more inclined to go with the flow. There is something inherently fun about the experience, and I feel zingy and cleansed.

As I swam, I started an internal chant, and this is how it went:

“I am beautiful… I am one… I am beautiful”… I am one…”

Each phrase corresponded to a swimming stroke. When I reached the end of the pool and turned around, the chant had become: “I am beautiful… I am two… I am beautiful… I am two…”

With each new length, the number went up. I was counting lengths, and throwing in an affirmation too.

And then I realized I was actually imagining myself at the age of one, two, and so on. Not only that, I was feeling the dominant emotions of that age, in connection with beauty and self-worth. As I continued to swim up and down the pool, the happy self-belief of young childhood gave way to the huge, wobbly uncertainty of my teens, and a growing feeling of confidence in adulthood. As I remembered sad times, it felt as though the water was washing the pain away.

Effectively, I was healing each stage of my life’s journey with the help of water, and affirmations. My adult self was sending love and support back through the years to all my younger selves who were still there, it seemed to me, in the memories held within my body. The process felt deeply restorative and I recommend it to you.

Next time you’re in the pool, you might like to affirm “I am beautiful… I am one” and so on, all the way through your teens, twenties – all the way up to your present age. You can spread the exercise over more than one swim session, if you choose. But when you have swum a length for every year you’ve lived, you can start all over again with a new word. “I am strong”, and “I am well” both have great healing potential. What affirmation would you choose?

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