Tags: happiness, Health, learning, Loneliness, Relationships
Photo courtesy of I’m Priscilla/Unsplash
Think of the good relationships in your life. These could include a partner, children, parents, sibling, nephew or niece. A small group of supportive friends or colleagues. Maybe an animal companion or two. Whoever they are, think of them now….
Chances are you feel a glow deep inside you, a softening and relaxing of your whole body. It’s uplifting to think of those we love and care for. And now there is plenty of evidence that having these relationships helps us to stay healthy too.
A Harvard study which began in 1938 and is still ongoing has been tracking over 700 men, some from inner-city Boston and the others from Harvard. They were teenagers when the study began. Seventy members of the original group are still alive. The men’s wives and children are now also being included. Along the way, the researchers have discovered that people with good relationships tend to be healthier too.
“Good, close relationships predicted not just that they would stay happier, but they would also stay healthier,” says Dr Robert Waldinger, the study’s current director.
Fame and fortune – the things people so often believe they want – simply don’t have the same effect. Having enough is all that’s required as far as happiness is concerned.
Realistic, not rose-tinted
Good relationships don’t always go smoothly. But that’s just part of being human. What matters is that you feel the other person fundamentally has your back.
When relationships do end, it’s good for our long-term health to build new bonds with like-minded others.
Joining new clubs may feel daunting, but it could be the healthiest gift you can give yourself.
It’s never about the number of friends you have. What matters is the quality of your relationships. Many will agree that loneliness in a crowd is far worse than pleasant periods of chosen solitude.
Loneliness is toxic. In the Harvard study, loneliness is associated with a shorter life span. Yet it’s sadly common. Relate’s new study of relationships in Britain, ‘The Way We Are Now’, has found that 13% of UK people have no close friends, and this number has risen in the past two years.
Relate has also found that just under half of all people feel lonely sometimes. A similar number of people living together feel lonely often or all of the time.
Five steps to happiness
Nurturing the good relationships we have, and building new ones when we feel the need, are linked strongly with happiness and health. This is an active process. We have to work at it a bit. Here are some suggestions.
• Write a thoughtful letter by hand to someone you care for, full of appreciation and kindness. Ring up an old friend you haven’t spoken to lately.
• Say “I love you” often to those you love.
• Volunteer at a local charity that’s aligned with your interests and skills.
• Join a Meetup or local community group with similar interests to you. Regularly attend get-togethers.
• Finally, there is one practice that will make all of the above easier to accomplish. It’s simple really: love and cherish yourself. Remember that you are a unique member of this amazing human race. You are loveable. For many of us, this takes a little work. But it’s worth it. When you can cherish yourself, it’s infinitely easier to love others – and to allow others to love you in return.
Tags: healing, Health, inspiration, meditation, nature
The theme this week in my studio is ‘Aquamarine’. I invite you to focus on the beautiful green-blue colour of the sea. You know, the way it looks when waves rise up and daylight filters through the water…
Here is a self-healing exercise for you. Imagine you are made up entirely of this sea-glass colour. These pictures taken at Surfer’s Point in Western Australia may help you.
Visualise that any areas of pain or illness in your body are being washed away by the cleansing aquamarine light. Picture your body becoming more and more like aquamarine sea glass, as if lit from within. You might imagine that areas of pain are dark and dense, or sticky and gluey. As the water keeps washing through, these become dislodged until the whole of you is simply aquamarine: healthy; radiating with good health; and speaking with your own authentic voice. Enjoy the feeling!
Tags: food, Guidance, Health, inspiration, Mind body spirit, moon, Mother Earth, pre-history, self-awareness, wellbeing
Today is a new moon, which is an age-old invitation to begin a new project. A great day, then, to start a food diary. For 28 days, through the waxing and the waning of this new moon, I invite you to write a simple daily journal in which you list all that you eat and drink. For good measure, add notes about your daily exercise.
We live in a complicated and cluttered society, where bewildering groups of people compete to gain our currency in exchange for a wide array of things to consume. What if life were simpler? How would that feel?
We can’t go back in time. But we can imagine how much more authentic a less processed society might be, like the one that lived in Skara Brae, in Orkney, five thousand years ago. These ancestors ate healthy foods with minimal processing, such as fish and other seafood, wild herbs and simple grains.
The key is to become aware, to become conscious of what we are actually consuming. A food diary helps us to do that. So find a small notebook, with at least 28 double pages. In the front, I invite you to write a note to Mother Earth, who feeds us all. Something along these lines:
Dear Mother Earth
Thank you for these sacred gifts of food and drink, and opportunities to move and stretch.
With love from your daughter/son
At the top of the first double page, write ‘Day 1’, and make a note or symbol for today’s moon phase at the top – the New Moon. Then use the left hand page to write down all that you eat today. Use the right-hand page to record all that you drink, and also all the exercise that you do.
Continue your food diary by numbering each day and adding a little symbol for the phase of the moon. You can find a record of these at moonconnection.com. Or simply watch the sky!
During the month that follows, you will gain awareness and insights into what and how you consume. You will make wiser, more mindful choices, which can help your long-term health. You will also gain a closer connection with Mother Earth and a true appreciation for her gifts. Good luck!
Tags: flowers, healing, Health, herbs, nature, nature recipes, naturecraft
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.
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
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! 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.
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 great 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.
Tags: affirmation, Health, meditation, personal growth
I was waiting to buy some items in a local pharmacy. In front of me were two women. The one who had her purse out was elderly. The other was there to help her. The process was taking a while. I found myself studying the elderly woman. I noticed that her skin was a uniform, pale colour. I noticed that her legs in their tan-coloured tights were thin and lacked muscle tone. Her ankles were swollen. There seemed to be no sense of fire or animation about her. If I focused with my inner eye I could see the English rose she used to be. But today she was child-like and obedient, simply doing what the carer instructed her to do. The carer used simple language, as if she was talking to a child. The older lady smiled sweetly, took money out of her purse, and passed it to the cashier.
Something about the scene unsettled me. The older lady was being spoken to as if she were simple, or senile. Perhaps she was. That was certainly the assumption. Yet it would have been so easy for the carer to choose her words differently. What if the carer spoke to the older woman as though she were a wise elder, a treasure house of experiences? Would the older lady have been different as a result? I believe she would have been.
And what of the older lady herself? Was there a moment in her life when she began to say to herself: “I am old. I am not as able as I used to be.” What if she had never said that – never believed it? What if she had decided to keep herself in tip-top shape with a few gentle stretches and a walk every day? What if she’d developed a taste for nutritious daily smoothies, or loaded her plate with fresh fruit and vegetables? What if she had, as Louise Hay (87 years old) recommends, gazed at herself in the mirror every morning and said: “I really, really love you.”
I read recently that our DNA is altered by our beliefs – i.e. the physical structure of your body and mine is altered by what we believe. And these beliefs go very deep. An estimated 95% of these beliefs are unconscious. So it’s not really enough to keep telling ourselves to ‘think positive’ (although affirmations can be helpful). That approach is like trying to put a layer of sugar icing over a deep, deep ocean – it just won’t stick.
A better solution, it seems, is to access our unconscious. Luckily, there are many paths to this strange, deep place within the psyche.
Writing a journal, especially a dream journal, is one good path. It’s therapeutic to allow the intuitive insights to emerge, and listen to their wisdom.
Spending regular time in nature is also such a good idea. Most weeks, I spend a morning in the garden. Recently that involved digging up roots – elecampane and marshmallow (pictured above) – then shredding and drying them for herbal teas. The process helped me to connect with rich, dark earth; the stored up, vibrant, healing power of plants; and also my own roots.
And then, of course, there is meditation. The sort I share with others is what I sometimes call ‘Intuitive Meditation’. As a group, we enjoy the deep personal insights that emerge when we are sitting still, focusing on a single word that changes by the week.
But ultimately it’s not about following any method in order to achieve a result. Ultimately, it’s about having fun, and learning. On the deepest level, it’s about letting go of all outdated programming, and choosing to be ourselves.
Tags: affirmation, Health, inspiration, intuitive healing, life skills, meditation, wellbeing
Somewhere in the world, this very second, a baby girl has just been born. Her father is looking at her, and he is thinking: “Oh, it’s a girl.” A wave of disappointment is flowing through his energy field, and engulfing hers. On some fundamental level the little baby girl is aware of his disappointment. She is already making an adjustment to her own energy field. It is obviously wrong to be a girl, better to be the other, like her father. She must temper her femaleness. She must cover it up, just a little bit. After all, she needs to please this father of hers. She is dependent on him, and her mother.
Versions of this story are happening all over the world, right now. They were happening when you were a baby too… and for centuries before your birth. Does this matter? Big gulp: yes – in so many ways. Intuition is a major part of the story. We need to look at the female aspect of the psyche to find out more.
The yin and yang of it
Fundamentally, the female aspect receives, while the male aspect transmits. The female aspect is passive, while the male aspect is active. The opposites are famously contained in the Chinese yin yang symbol, where yin is female, and yang is male. To be perfectly clear: we each contain both male and female aspects, whatever our gender, or indeed our sexuality… though clearly the proportions vary in each gender, and even in each individual.
Intuition works in the following way. We formulate a question (male aspect); we receive the answer intuitively (female aspect); we transmit the answer (male aspect). It’s perfectly possible to be intuitive without the male aspect – to be simply open to the psychic sea that washes all around us; but we can get tired, drained and emerge with no useful answers. We need to formulate a question in order to get an answer, and we may need to transmit the answer to others.
So intuition requires both female and male aspects, but cannot possibly exist without the female element. That’s basically why the phrase ‘a woman’s intuition’ never goes away. It’s also why professional psychics often say they received their gift from their mother’s mother – through the female line. The truth is though, just as we all have a female aspect, so we all have the ability to intuit.
To return to that baby girl, who’s just been born, somewhere in the world: if she grows up not valuing her female aspect, she will dampen down her intuition… she will devalue it. If, on the other hand, she makes a decision, deep within her, to love and value the girl that she is, she will thrive and so will others in the future who will receive the benefits of her intuitive, female gift.
If we all acknowledged the female aspect in each of us, here are some of the things that would happen:
We would less time talking and more time listening.
We would spend less time doing, and more time being.
We would respond to the many messages of our bodies, and enjoy healthier, happier, and indeed slimmer lives.
We would give our own children a nurturing space in which to grow, with safe boundaries.
We would most likely enjoy a far greater degree of world peace, and the planet’s natural resources would be sympathetically managed; there would be more forests.
Affirmations to restore the balance
Here are two daily affirmations: one for women, and one for men. I suggest that you follow a daily habit of meditating (if you don’t already) – just sitting quietly for 30 minutes. While you do that, repeat the following words silently, in your mind:
If you are female:
(In-breath) I love and accept… (out-breath) the girl that I am… (in-breath) I love and accept… (out-breath) the woman that I am…
If you are male:
(In-breath) I love and accept… (out-breath) my female aspect… (in-breath) I love and accept… (out-breath) my male aspect…
Witness your body’s reaction as you do this: you may find your heart area feels warmer, and more relaxed. You may find the warmth spreading throughout your body. Simply witness what happens. By repeating this exercise daily for a while, you will receive ever more enriching insights and benefits.
You’ll find a quick guide to meditation here.
A note about the pictures: I found these ancient monarchs of Ireland while seeing in the New Year 2012 at Castle Ashford, Co. Mayo, a beautiful place with many layers of history.
Postscript: In February 2012, the UK’s Daily Telegraph published an investigation which found that abortion of female babies in the UK is sadly commonplace: http://tgr.ph/xXd0ZO
Tags: healing, Health, nature, nature recipes, naturecraft, wellbeing
We are busy gathering elderflowers for cordial right now. The fragrant flowers are all around us in the hedgerows, and easy to collect. Each head is a frothy summer’s bowl of wellbeing.
Elderflowers have been used for centuries for their health benefits. Elderflower water is mildly astringent and has traditionally been valued for the complexion. Make your own fresh elderflower toner by steeping a head or two of the fresh flowers – remove the pungent stalks first – in half a cup of boiled water, then straining. Apply on cotton wool, or spritz on to your skin. You can use it over a couple of days if kept in the fridge.
Elderflower cordial is an uplifting summer tonic – delicious with still or sparkling water on a hot summer’s day. If you have a cold or flu or feel run down, a hot drink of it in the evening is comforting and healing. Elderflowers are diaphoretic – they help the body during a fever by inducing sweating.
The recipe: we take around 25 elderflower heads, with the stalks removed, and add them to a big bowl in which 1.3 kg of sugar have been dissolved in 1.8 litres of just boiled water. We add a couples of lemons, sliced, and a couple of oranges (or limes, for a more sharply refreshing summer drink). We mix the whole thing up, cover and leave for 24 hours.
After 24 hours, strain the liquid through a muslin cloth. It’s ok to give the cloth a good squeeze to get out more of the juices. Then decant into clean, sterile bottles (You can sterilise bottles by putting them through a dishwasher, or by gently simmering in a big pan of water.) The cordial will keep for at least a month in the fridge. I have kept it for up to six months, though it usually gets drunk long before that! You can also pour it into washed plastic bottles – leave space at the top as it will expand once frozen – and store it in the freezer.
We also gather the flowers to make herbal tea, which has all the health benefits of cordial, without the sugar. Discard the thick stalks, and leave the flower heads to dry. When dry, crumble the flower heads, discarding more stems as you spot them and place in an airtight container. This will keep for a year, until the next elderflower harvest. To make your tea, put one teaspoon of flowers in a cup of boiled water, brew for three to five minutes, then drink. You can add a slice of lemon or orange and maybe a spoonful of honey…. You can also make fresh elderflower tea by steeping some of the florets (without the thicker stalks) in hot water for around 5 minutes.
Tags: flowers, Health, nature, wellbeing
If you are lucky enough to have cowslips growing in your garden or nearby, nurture them. These small, quirky relatives of primroses aren’t so common nowadays, and they carry with them the peace and slower pace of a more rural past – and a few related health benefits.
The garden around the Studio is old farmland, and so the cowslips never really left it. But it’s easy enough to sow seeds in any garden and wait for them to appear.
Just looking at them is instantly calming and relaxing. However, if you have an abundance of them, you can do much more than that…
Herbalists use cowslip flowers and roots as a nervine, to relax and calm; to help dispel chesty coughs and nervous headaches; and to promote restful sleep. Collect the flowers between March and May, and the roots before flowering time, or in the autumn. Add the flowers to herbal teas; or make a decoction of the dried root: 1 teaspoonful to a cup of water; bring to the boil and simmer gently for five minutes. Then drink three times a day.
The tiny, sweet tasting flowers are a really pretty addition to salads; you can eat the young leaves too, though we have yet to try them here. In the old days, many households made their own delicious cowslip wine from the flowers, which helped to clear winter coughs and was a popular night cap.
But the best reason to grow them is probably just to look at them. Each flower is a tiny trumpet of five connected vibrant yellow hearts. Gaze into one, and take three deep breaths, and you will receive a small but potent dose of happiness, I guarantee.
Tags: healing, Health, Intuition, intuitive healing, visualization
Vivien rang me from London to say she wanted to see me. Her cancer had returned, this time in the form of a tumour at the top of her spine, pressing very painfully on nerves between discs T1 and T2. The hospital organised a course of five radiotherapy treatments straight away, and I travelled to London to take her to the fourth treatment.
We talked in the hospital waiting room, and as we did so, I was aware that with Vivien’s words, an energetic release was taking place. I saw, intuitively, that this cancer journey for Vivien was about finding herself.
On the way back to Vivien’s sunny garden flat, she told me about her tiredness. “I feel overwhelmingly tired, much of the time,” she said.
“Are you tired in any particular parts of your body, or tired all over?”
” All over. It’s like a thing all around me – maybe like a cloak, or a cocoon.”
I mentioned that when someone is tired, it often signifies that they don’t want to be doing whatever it is they are doing at that time.
“I’m tired of life,” said Vivien.
Back in the flat, we settled down for an intuitive healing session. Vivien lay down (though clients often do simply sit in a chair for this) and I sat in a chair beside her. “We’ll use your tiredness as our route in,” I said.
I asked Vivien which hand felt most tired. Vivien opted for the left hand. I then asked her to picture herself as a little point of consciousness, and to take that consciousness outside her body to her left hand. “So now, in your mind’s eye, look at your hand from the outside,” I said. ‘Notice what it looks like.”
Vivien then, at my suggestion, entered the hand and travelled up inside her arm and into her shoulder. “Let’s give you a choice,” I said. “Would you like to travel upwards, to the brain, or downwards, to your heart?”
Journey to the heart
Vivien opted to go towards her heart. I asked her to notice what it looked like from the outside, then pointed out a door in the wall of the heart to her and asked her to open the door and enter her heart.
Vivien walked in and found herself in a vast chamber, with dark red walls, and the vague suggestion of pieces of furniture, quite a few of them. She thought they had been there for a long time. They were not used, but they were not dusty either.
Vivien walked towards one, and it came into focus: it was a big sideboard made of good walnut wood. But Vivien didn’t want to stay there. She became aware of some stairs ahead of her, and had a strong urge to go up the stairs. As she proceeded she said that the narrow staircase led nowhere – she couldn’t see a door or anything at the top of the stairs, there was just darkness.
Meeting the mother
So we went up the stairs, and on to a narrow walkway. I felt a strong presence of her mother (who is no longer with us). So I asked Vivien to visualise her mother. She saw her clearly and described her mother seeming to be very anxious – seeing her wringing her hands and fretful.
Now something curious happened. “I can’t turn around towards her,” said Vivien. “I can hardly move. I’ve become a big, heavy wooden statue.”
I asked her to see what her mother was doing. “She’s very worried,” said Vivien. “She’s extremely worried.”
“Ask your mother to go downstairs to the sideboard and open the cupboard door. There should be something in there for you.”
“There’s nothing in the cupboard.”
“Tell her to open the drawer above the cupboard. She will find a red rose in there. Ask her to bring it to you.”
Vivien’s mother brought the rose back to Vivien and placed it on the wooden folds of Vivien’s wooden clothes, by her neck.
“There is a change,” said Vivien. “The left side of my face has become flesh and blood again.”
The transformation stopped, leaving Vivien still mostly a very large, wooden statue. Vivien’s mother was wringing her hands together, still very worried and anxious.
“Give your mother the red rose now,” I suggested.
Barely able to move her big statue hands, Vivien did so. She passed it behind her, with her left hand, without turning to her mother. Her mother took the rose and cradled it, like a baby. Suddenly, her mother was released from her fretful state. Her whole body language changed as she cocooned ‘her child’. Vivien felt that she was now released energetically from her mother and felt free to move on. There was not the pull of ‘need’ from her mother. Her mother had what she needed and was at rest.
Vivien now very strongly wanted to go on and through a door which was now visible at the end of the walkway. We walked into another large chamber, much lighter and welcoming. Vivien immediately saw that the wooden cloak dropped from her and she became lithesome and agile, like a sprite – as if dancing around and carefree. She saw her colour change to pale, light blue.
The healing temple
I asked Vivien what she saw in the inner chamber. She replied that she saw a pale, blue heart the same colour as herself. It was alive and fluid: a beautiful heart shape, with full rounded edges. We entered the heart and Vivien realised she was in a temple of healing, one that she had visited many times before. The space was light and airy, and there was a stunning garden there, full of beautiful colourful flowers, and birdsong.
Vivien saw an altar of healing. “I can feel white feathers all over my back and covering the altar,” she said.
Vivien enjoyed being there for a little while. Then I suggested she take one white feather and return down the stairs with it. Vivien did so. She found her mother in the room where she’d left her, still holding the rose tenderly. “It’s time to let your mother go,” I said. So Vivien let her go, and we continued down the stairs, to the first vast chamber.
I showed Vivien that there was a simple, beautifully crafted bowl on the top of the sideboard and suggested that she put the white feather in the bowl. Vivien did so. We then went through the heart chamber door, back into the rest of her body. We made our way back towards the shoulder.
Hearing the message
“Actually,” I said. “Let’s visit T1 and T2 while we’re here.”
So we made our way to the space between the spinal discs, to her tumour.
“What can you see?” I asked.
“It’s hard, and mirror-like, black, almost like obsidian.”
“Give it your love and blessing. Give it your respect. Let it know that you respect its reason for being here and ask it what its message is for you.”
“Oh, there’s a word I don’t like – it’s passing through – something I have to deal with. The word is ‘Pride’.”
“Tell the tumour you hear the message and you respect the message; thank the tumour.”
“Oh, it’s getting smaller. It’s getting smaller all the time. It’s getting smaller and smaller… even while we’re talking… it’s vanishing. It’s gone!”
“That makes sense,” I said. “It’s delivered its message. It doesn’t have to stick around. Job done!”
Vivien was very struck by seeing the tumour vanish.
“Is the space filling with anything?” I asked.
“Divine love and light.”
Vivien travelled back down the arm and back to the hand, remarking that the arm and hand generally seemed softer and more relaxed than on it had on the way in. Then she popped out through her hand and into the air again, and her journey was complete.
I thought Vivien might want to rest, but she seemed to be full of a new energy, and I left her looking very sprite-like in her front garden.
Grateful thanks to Vivien, for consenting to have this intuitive healing session recorded, and also for sharing in the writing of the account.
If you would like to find out more or book a session, visit suzanneaskham.com.