self-healing

What is top of your fear list?

 
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Spiders perhaps? (And just in case you were wondering, this one was yellow, black and red, and was the size of my outstretched hand). What feeling does this picture bring up in you? Awe at the beauty of nature? Or FEAR?  

I used to have a phobia against spiders. I remember vividly - still now - waking up screaming aged about 5 having dreamt that a huge one was ontop of my face.

And yet, now, the phobia seems to have gone. Disappeared. Cured!

That doesn't mean I would want this particular spider to live just next to my bed, but it does mean that I didn't mind it having its nest just by my scooter in Bali (during our travel adventure earlier this year). It also meant that I have tolerated quite a big spider dangling just above my desk for the past couple of months.

Which got me thinking - do our fears disappear or at least lessen with exposure to them? Or do they just get replaced with worse ones which put them into perspective? (My phobia of cockroaches has reached an all time high as a result of multiple exposure during the same travel experience. Thank the Lord they are rare in England)

I have been exploring this topic with the new year coming up and in particular, since I was prompted to write down a fear list and to go through it, one by one.

Do you know what my first entry was? Eating alone at a table in a restaurant/cafe/bar.

Which I totally realise is weird. Because it is so common. And normal. But I've never, ever done it. Not even breakfast in a hotel. I always have it sent to my room.

Why? I’m not sure. I need to journal on it. Something to do with feeling self-consciousness. Something about occupying an empty space. A fear of being approached. Intense vulnerability. A feeling of dangerous exposure.

Most odd. But I’m going to work through it and whatever it means for me. 2018 is the year.

Who’s up for the challenge? Which fear can you work through next year? Share below so that we can hold each other accountable!


Are you fulfilling your greatest potential, mama? Are you getting paid to do what you love whilst parenting in a calm and positive way? Are you feeling happy and fulfilled both at work and at home? Because you deserve to! Book a complimentary discovery session with me on skype (no strings attached) and we can explore taking concrete steps towards creating a life in which you feel motivated and in control once more!  

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Anyone for a forest bathe?

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Can you feel how the energy in a wood is unlike that of the urban 'jungle'? Do you feel different when you are in nature: more calm and more embodied? Perhaps you've noticed that your breathing slows, your thoughts are less scattered? If so, you are not inventing things. Because it has been scientifically proven that being around 'greenery' (in any form) reduces the risk of depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, stress and many other scourges of our modern lives.  

Not surprising really given that we are animals at heart. But we seem to forget this and then wonder why we feel like we do when we have been deprived of Nature: cooped up indoors, immobile in front of our computer screens with little natural light, central heating and no expansive outdoor vista.

Which is why “shinrin yoku” or forest bathing is where it’s at for many of us over-civilised, urban dwellers. This Japanese therapy was developed in the 1980s and is so well regarded as a preventative healthcare treatment that it now even has its own dot org.

I try to practise shinrin yoku (sounds more impressive when you say it in Japanese), at least once a week to de-stress, clear my mind and reconnect to my 'higher self' or what I also call my 'whole woman' - the one lurking behind the mama, daughter, partner, yogini, solopreneur, superwoman masks. The part of me that is tuned into Nature, to my instinctual self, to my body. She who is wise, unflappable, endlessly patient and trusting; an objective observer of my monkey-mind.

And it works! The mountainous issues on my radar shrink back to manageable molehills, the urgency of deadlines falls by the way side, and pleasure - bit by bit - takes over the need to perform.

In a forest, I can be unashamedly myself. There is no judgement so I judge myself less. Trees never fail to reset my hard drive and remind me of what (rather than who) I am. 

Why don't you try it for yourself? The spectacular autumnal show that is put on for us at this time of year when the Earth's seasonal cycle turns to releasing and death (a bit dramatic but that's the truth of it) is the perfect excuse to go for a Nature walk. And if you really can’t face leaving home, try hanging out next to a potted plant or staring out of a window at some nearby greenery. Even a patch of grass will do.

We all need regular self-care boosts in life and this is probably one of the easiest to implement and maintain.

Green is the new black...


Are you fulfilling your greatest potential, mama? Are you getting paid to do what you love whilst parenting in a calm and positive way? Are you feeling happy and fulfilled both at work and at home? Because you deserve to! Book a complimentary discovery session with me on skype and we can explore taking concrete steps towards creating a life in which you feel motivated and in control once more!  

Don’t forget you can also follow me on facebookyoutube & instagram!

Our big, fat, Greek kiss...

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Ikarian highlights: beautiful sunsets, continuous ocean vistas, the islanders     What I am loving: swimming in a crystal-clear, turquoise sea     What I am struggling with: neither over-ordering nor over-eating Greek food      What I am missing: me time (school is out)     Most impressive thing about Ikaria: its energy     Most disappointing thing about Ikaria: its wine (an acquired taste)     New skill acquired: treating head lice (thank you, Goa)     Family broken/lost sunglasses tally: 13     Items packed that have still not been used: mosquito nets, hairdryer

3 SMALL KIDS, 2 CRAZY ADULTS, 1 YEAR TO TRAVEL THE WORLD

POST 16: 13th June 2017, Ikaria, Greece 

Well, we started in Greece, so we thought we'd (almost) finish in Greece. After all, with a month to kill before re-entering the rat race (our house is tenanted until the end of June), it seemed silly not to.

We hadn't always planned a revisit. When we first found out about Goa in monsoon, we had toyed with the idea of moving elsewhere in India. The favoured option was Dharamshala - it is the hilly home of the Dalai Lama, many Goans spend the rainy season there, and I have never been to the Himalaya. But that was before I remembered that we only have one set of cold weather clothes each, that I really couldn't face any more Indian food and that after 8 months in Asia, I was a bit tired of it (and in particular, of not feeling fully relaxed about what I could wear, when I could wear it and what was deemed 'culturally appropriate' behaviour for a woman).

 
23 hours non-stop
 

Photo caption: How parents deal with 23 hour's non-stop travelling from Goa (top left); how children deal with 23 hour's non-stop travelling from Goa (top right); the view from our room (bottom left), the view up to our room (bottom right)

So we looked further afield. Costa Rica seemed enticing, Vietnam and Ibiza too, and whilst all of them boasted what looked like awesome drop-in schools for the kids to attend until the end of the summer term, plus a beach-based lifestyle and a cool, hippy-yoga vibe, none of them offered nearby golf (which is a non-negotiable component of Bobopapa's chosen career).

And so the itinerary for our final European leg was formalised: a second (golfless) stint on the wild and beautiful island of Ikaria, followed by nearly a month on the coast of Catalonia, Spain. Greece thus became our omega as well as our alpha. For what neater way to tie up the loose ends of our trip? And how better to test how we'd changed, if at all?

 
Ikaria
 

Photo caption: beaches, mountains, river gorges and turquoise sea - Ikaria has it all...

It is said that Ikaria either kicks you or kisses you. Indeed, visitors have been known to head back to the airport shortly after their arrival. Similar to other energetic hubs, such as Bali and India, Ikaria holds a mirror up to your disowned emotional baggage. It lifts up the carpet and hides the broom. And when you're not ready to acknowledge what is hidden underneath, it can feel a little harsh. In September we certainly felt its power. But this time, after 9 months of rummaging into our darkest recesses, we experienced a softer landing. Perhaps Ikaria decided that we had transformed enough, that we needed a rest. And so it bestowed upon us a big, fat, Greek kiss.

And here's how it felt: my star sign of Virgo is related to the element of earth. And I am indeed extremely dependable and productive - a mistress of assessing and organizing. Unlike the dictates of this element however, I would not describe myself as orientated purely to what is real, and I frequently find it hard to feel 'grounded'. When yoga teachers prompt their pupils to picture their roots digging deep into the centre of the earth - to feel heavy and supported by it - I often can't. Instead, I usually feel as though I am hovering a little above the ground. In Ikaria however, it was the opposite: I literally felt as though I was being pulled downwards - solid, embodied, real!

 
Play time
 

Photo caption: Play time! Jumping the waves (top left); sampling organic, Ikarian, goat's milk, ice cream (top right); feeding the turtles (bottom left); exploring nature (bottom right)

The locals must sense it too. Because you just couldn't meet more grounded people. In fact, they are absolute models of authenticity. On Ikaria, the western malaise of 'not feeling enough' does not exist; you are simply presented with what is and there is no effort made to embellish it. You get what you see and you either take it or leave it.

The first time round, we found this a little awkward. As is the norm back home, we were expecting to be rewarded for being who we were with a constant torrent of perhaps fake but polite niceties and gushing reassurances. And so the islander's lack of vacant chit-chat automatically led us to think that we must be rubbing people up the wrong way. But we weren't. We just hadn't got it. This time, we understood that small talk simply doesn't exist here: words are neither spoken to fill spaces nor to make people feel better about themselves. There is no need for frills because everyone is loved for who they are. Everyone and everything is enough. And we soon followed suit.

 
our local haunts
 

Photo caption: our local haunts - Christos Raches (or the village that never sleeps) for home-made cakes from the women's co-operative (top left); Anna's Taverna (top right); Thea's Inn (bottom left) and trying to make the most of a dodgy internet connection in order to work from home at Artemis Studios (bottom right)

Other 'wounds' that had been stirred up in us the first time, revealed themselves as healed. The need to be 'in control' for example. A formerly big manifestation of this in me, was to always favour giving over receiving. (Because the latter often felt slightly awkward and embarrassing. So far so repressed English.) Not an issue this time though! Instead, I was able to revel in the incredible generosity of Ikarians: accepting a free gift in the supermarket (without questioning how the cashier could even make a gift of something that surely wasn't his to give?); gorging on almost daily, fresh cake deliveries from the restaurant below our room "for the children"; taking advantage, as encouraged, of the endless bounty of fresh apricots from the tree outside our room - and all this without worrying about paying for it or doing something in return. Indeed, I happily left my coffee bill unpaid for a whole 24 hours because they didn't have the right change for me at the time, and received with a smile both the complimentary donuts at Raphael's birthday dinner and the last minute rounding down of my room bill.

And on reflection, it is really not surprising that the Ikarians are generous. For this is just another by-product of being grounded: if you know that you are enough, just by being you, it follows that there is enough. Once you see everything through the lens of abundance, generosity flows naturally!

 
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Photo caption: when you've treated the whole family for nits and can't get the greasy stuff out of your hair, there is nothing left but to tie it up and channel Erykah Badu (left); our second birthday on the road (right)

And so as each day passed, we were shown how much we had grown in our absence. On our first visit, we had filled our days with exploring and excursions. Caves, mountains, forests, beaches, monasteries, castles and medieval towers - all of them we had enthusiastically ticked off the list. This time, there was no list. Not just because we had seen everything there was to see, but also because we were content just being rather than doing.

I also amazed myself by witnessing how what had really bothered me last time, didn't seem quite so important now: the derelict cars by the sides of the road, the seriously sketchy internet connection. But instead of getting riled by these things all over again, I quietly accepted the status quo and got on with things as best I could. (And those that know me well will realise just how monumental this is; before our trip, drama was pretty much my middle name.)

 
nature
 

Photo caption: nature's slideshow - every sunset was slightly different but equally captivating...

And so our second leg on this quietly powerful island showed us both how we have changed, as well as how we are continuing to slow down. Not just in ourselves but also in the energetic winding up the trip. Because just as Ikaria served as a stepping stone between an easeful life in Europe and adventure backpacking in Asia, it acted as the opposite on our return. Which was deeply comforting. But also a quite odd. Because it made us feel as though we'd been in a bit of a time warp. Despite having spent two thirds of a year away, filling it with action-packed, assumption-challenging, culturally-awakening globe-trotting, the steadiness of Ikaria and its inhabitants almost made us question if we'd ever left. It seemed to make the intervening 8 months shrink into an almost imperceptible slice of time, when in fact they had felt quite the opposite.

Which is all down to the fact that Ikaria and its inhabitants don't really ever change. Indeed, they are defined by their slow predictability. Which is precisely why we love them. Unfortunately though, this made leaving quite a challenge. And it made me realise just how much this half of the trip has felt dominated by good-byes. For as we inexorably edge nearer to our return date, our departures become more and more emotionally charged: leaving Bali was an effort, departing from India was emotional and in Ikaria, I even shed a tear.

 
Xanthe
 

Photo caption: spot the difference - same sign (Xanthi), same girl (Xanthe), same rabbit. Who said we ever left? 

Fortunately for us, life on Ikaria will always be the same. Or at least I hope it will. Slow. Unaffected by the outside world. Untamed and natural. What changes is the way we fit in with it or not. It acts as a barometer for our internal landscape. We may always find it unchanged on our return, but each time it will present us with something different: exactly what it is that we most need to look at.

And luckily, it is still relatively unknown. For now. But shhh! Let's keep it a secret. I'd like it to stay that way...

To see where we are on a map, click here!

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Why some places resonate more than others...

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Best thing about India: prescription medicines (without a prescription) for just a couple of pence!     Best thing about Goa: endless beaches and warm sea     New favourite treat: chick-pea flour, honey & cardamon balls     What I am loving: open-air yoga surrounded by nature     What I am over: power cuts and any form of dal     What I am missing: friendship

3 SMALL KIDS, 2 CRAZY ADULTS, 1 YEAR TO TRAVEL THE WORLD

POST 15: 7th May 2017, Goa, India. 

In my 20s, just before I went to India for the first time, I was told by an old-hand that it was impossible to visit without being changed in some way. (Or kissed by a prince). They were right on both accounts. India - the chaos, the colour, the noise and its people - activated what was lying dormant inside. (The kiss was a bonus). A friend posited more recently that India works you. It massages and manipulates your soul so that you emerge the other end a more spiritually-condensed version of yourself. I think this is also true. Indeed, it's probably why I feel uncomfortable.

Our first three weeks in southern India were jam-packed with incredible sights, novel experiences, exotic tastes and warm people. And despite being tourists, we felt very much at home. But oddly, the opposite now seems to be the case: we are no longer tourists but don't feel any more settled. In fact, I feel quite isolated. Firstly, because Goans seem a lot more guarded than other southern Indians - no spontaneous smiles here - and secondly, because despite living amongst a welcoming but close-knit group of expats - they refer to South Goa as a village - we are naturally (as six-week drop-ins), viewed as being on the outside. And I am jealous. I want to be on the inside! After 8 months on the road with no social network apart from my own family, I am starting to crave the nurturing that friendships provide.

 
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Photo caption: just a few of our local beaches

Feeling ill at ease is also a result of the draining emotional transition I am forced to make every time we settle in one place. Because 'exploring' and 'living' require two very different kinds of psyche: during the former, I inevitably put up an invisible barrier between my little inner circle and the rest of the world. As the responsible adult, I create a sort of a safety bubble which allows us to be open but not too open, to relax but not to let go completely. We become totally self-sufficient emotionally: we must be our own entertainment and support system. Which isn't easy. So I am proud of how, when travelling, I seem to take hardships in my stride. In fact, I even try my best to make every new place we stay in feel cosy, neat, familiar and safe, even if it's for just one night. Low points endured heroically include cracked sinks held together (badly) with masking tape; holes in walls; cockroaches, ants and scorpions in our rooms; monkeys and snakes outside them; nowhere to unpack or put any of our stuff; interrupted sleep (howling dogs, trains, power cuts and parties); 41 degree heat with no air-con, as well as dirt and dust just about everywhere.

 
kidsandyoga
 

Photo caption: cows are absolutely everywhere (top left); my open-air yoga shala (top right); the kids in front of their new school (bottom left); boho-chic retail (bottom right)

In a way, travelling is easy - you are free to do whatever you want to do, whenever you want to do it. Chores are outsourced (laundry, cooking, cleaning) and there is the constant thrill of being 'entertained'. But the flip side is that this also demands a continually high input of adrenaline, and requires endless planning ahead and sorting out of logistics. This is even more the case if you have three small children under 7 that still need chaperoning in every physical, emotional and mental way possible. So forget any head space of your own: your thoughts, feelings and needs get pushed to the bottom of the pile. They are repressed until further notice. There is no time or room to give them the attention they deserve. And this has repercussions.

 
greener
 

Photo caption: Goa is actually much greener than I had imagined. And it's not even rainy season yet! 

'Living' somewhere on the other hand, demands a different approach. It may seem like the easier option, when you're jaded and exhausted by being on the road, but it can actually be even more stressful. There are just as many logistics to sort out – where to live? how to school the kids? how to get about? where to find provisions? And the responsibility that comes with each decision is even greater, because the consequences are long-term rather than temporary. When we decide to settle in one place, my tough exterior slowly melts and I suddenly remember that I am actually a princess! I realise that I was only able to put up with the hardships because there was the prospect of comfort in sight and now I absolutely must be surrounded by a degree of beauty in order to feel calm, happy and secure. Plus those emotional needs I shelved earlier finally come up to the surface for air. It can feel like a lot to deal with all at once.

This trip, we have explored three countries (Myanmar, Laos and India) and lived in four (Greece, Thailand, Bali and India) and each time, the transition from one to the other has left me feeling frustrated, anxious and confused. Frustrated because I naively expect some kind of respite as soon as we stop moving (which always takes longer than I would like), anxiety over whether we chose the right place to stay (what if we got it wrong? should we find elsewhere? how long do we give this place before deciding?) and then confusion because I am forced to sit - powerless - in the unknown. (Which, as an organising, controlling, perfectionist Virgo, is tough).

 
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Photo caption: Goan architecture (top and bottom left); our temple house (bottom right)

Being abroad is a bit like being inside a snow globe: when you are on the road, the snow gets all stirred up and when you stop in one place, it takes time for it to settle. And the most important thing I need to remember, is that until it does, it is as though I am wearing blinkers. It is impossible to see properly nor appreciate what is unique and special in the new.

The problem is, I did forget this fourth time round and was temporarily blinded when we arrived by what Goa was not: unlike Thailand and Bali's relatively good-value luxury villas, rental stock here is limited and basic; private transport for hire is non-existent, shabby or unreliable (cars are decrepid and the tyre on our first scooter burst whilst driving to the garage to fix a puncture on our second) and supermarkets are grotty and basic. It has taken a while to get used to this.

 
market
 

Photo caption: Saturday is market day when the streets are flooded with lots of fresh fish and fruit and veg (top); the school-run doesn't get much better than this (bottom)

But now that we have been here for 3 weeks, I am finally beginning to see the beauty inherent in this particular corner of the world: the school the children are in is small, friendly and welcoming; the beaches nearby are deserted, clean and the water is warm; I have re-instated my regular yoga practise and once again, I have time to myself to meditate and process things. Hurrah!

Unfortunately however, there is one thing that the adjustment period won't change. We arrived in off-season. Which is something I was aware of but seriously underestimated. I thought it meant low season - less tourists, a bit of daily rain and cheaper prices. I was wrong. Actually, it means that everyone leaves (locals and expats) and that everything closes. The school is dwindling in size by the day; most of the beach restaurants and cafes have already shut; yoga classes are winding up and local stores are disappearing alongside the diminishing tourist dollar. Then there is the weather: May is the hottest and most humid month of the year (oops) and June brings monsoon. Not just a daily rainstorm that clears the air but a torrential onslaught that tears down all impermanent structures and makes your clothes to go mouldy. Because this is India after all. And everything is extreme here.

 
chile
 

Photo caption: drying chillies (top left); our local beach shack restaurant (top right): turtle hatchery (bottom left); colourful Goan houses (bottom right)

So, whilst we originally thought we would stay until the first week of July, we have decided to move on earlier. Which is fine. Because even though I can now see the attractions of Goa and I appreciate its own, special charm, I don't think it truly resonates with me. Probably because it is too much like me.

Whereas Ubud is supposed to be governed by feminine shakti energy, which felt nurturing, supportive and loving, Goa is supposed to be ruled by masculine shiva consciousness which is about activating the feminine energy - giving it direction, form and content - and about getting things done. And I don't need any more pushing. I am just learning to allow. My still dominant masculine energy wants to receive and surrender, to be softened and not tamed. So my friend was right: India does work you, just not in the way I need right now...

To see where we are on a map, click here!

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On navigating the triggers of parenting...

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(My latest blog has been featured on the Women's Network. I'm super excited to be included as one of their storytellers! Click on the READ MORE link below for the entire story). It has taken me a while to accept that life is a journey of ups and downs. Mainly because I hate being down. But whilst I would love to feel eternally connected, centred and serene, I have come to appreciate that the triggers that cause the downs in life, are actually gifts. I have learnt to see them as opportunities to restore the spiritual imbalance which is presenting itself for attention (when I am willing, that is).

Somehow though, these potential lessons always seem to catch me unawares, despite being the parent of three small kids who provide me with perfect trigger-fodder on an almost daily basis. After all, they know exactly which buttons to press, they don’t ever let up, and I’m kind of stuck with them.

Last week was a particularly bad example. I’d had enough of being greeted at the school gate with a sulk. I was really fed up with restoring the living room to its normal state after daily ‘den-building’ exercises and I was finding them particularly boisterous, demanding and ungrateful. I was also premenstrual. And as a rule, the more stressed I am, the less present I am as a parent, so I was not being particularly patient, kind nor nurturing. Which made me feel even worse.

READ MORE

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