These darkening days of Autumn can feel a little gloomy for some, especially when we have had a Summer bypass this year. The Last Light season always has an element of fear – do I have enough firewood to keep warm? Is the roof leak fixed? Over the last 3 years the pandemic added health concerns to this list. Will I stay well? Will my loved ones be ok? And now with the rising cost of living it can feel overwhelming. Who the f**^% can afford a cauliflower anymore?!
It might seem preferable to just start fasting, don a onesie, slide under your duvet and wait for Spring however I have a much more fun plan and it is FREE. Even better it might ease some of your back niggles, lift your mood and put a sparkle in your eyes. For as long as I can remember movement, music and dance have always been my happy place. It has never been about the confines of classical ballet, or even trying to be a good dancer. Early games in childhood seemed to involve smearing on a truckload of makeup, donning a leotard and twirling about. To be honest nothing much has changed, except the makeup and the outfits are decidedly dowdy in comparison. I simply love to have a daily thrash around in my kitchen to something with a good beat. Whenever I do this with music that matches where I am at, I feel freed of all cares, worries and overwhelm. This daily regulation of my nervous system is so simple and effective, and I love discovering new music.
This year I decided to invite you all along to join me with a daily dose of dance medicine. Sadhana in yoga means a daily practice to connect with your higher self – for most this means yoga asana, pranayama or meditation. This winter, dance is our sadhana. As the leaves drop and the sap nourishes the roots, we shall bless the earth with the drumming of our feet. Whether you just shuffle to one song or do a whole sweaty long hour does not matter. You don’t need any special gear, outfits or even to leave the house. You just need a finger to press play and then the freedom to move in any way that feels good.
Sign up to join the group and you can make suggestions to the weekly playlist. You might just choose to play your own cds/records or use a streaming app to try new music. Occasionally we shall have a dance party in my living room and you are so welcome to join in. Sometimes we just need to connect and hear other feet stomp and knees creak. Sometimes we need that feeling that all our hearts are beating to the same rhythm. If that sounds like you, then join in the fun, starting May 1st. More details are here
It is early morning in the chook forest and there is gentle mizzling over the apple and plum trees. As usual I am out at dawn in my jammies and dressing gown feeding the girls and inhaling the peace. I have very organised friends who call this time their Tour and Tidy. They survey their garden with a cuppa and make lists of what needs doing. These people do not have couchgrass, bindweed or naughty errant chickens. But then they are also retired and have much smaller gardens to cosset.
I treasure this time of day – simply appreciating the habitat we have created for wildlife and ourselves. I try to avoid the Tour and Tidy vibe as it quickly turns into Overwhelm and Avoid. Instead, I focus on what needs to be done to maintain the health and vitality of my planty and feathered friends. And today I notice that suddenly it is the season of Apple Thinning. Our Brambley apple is covered in hundreds of juicy green marbles all in bunches of 5-6 baby apples. As I look beyond to the food forest and the opposite slope, I can see that all our trees are calling for some help. Usually, a good gale or five in Spring do all the thinning for me but this year has been strangely still, with not enough wind to shred blossoms, break branches or rattle all the baby fruit off the tree.
Apple thinning is one of the things I did 30 years ago to pay my way through university. It involves scooting up a slippery ladder in Spring showers and making tough decisions about who stays and who goes. If you leave all the fruit on, the apples are then prone to black spot, they are small, and the tree branches will break with the weight. However, if you get carried away on a thinning frenzy then you end up with a few huge apples but not enough to share. Like all things in life, it requires a healthy balance.
For the last few years, I have been apple greedy and lacking in time to thin and this has cost me limbs in some of my heavy fruiters such as Peasgood Nonesuch (chosen for the name!) and Monty’s suprise. They now have some stumpy sawn-off bits; they bear the scars of my neglect. As I climb the tree getting soggy in my nightwear, I start thinning and reflect on how thinning needs to be applied to all areas of life.
Where can I remove stuff to allow life to be big, juicy and with enough to share? Somehow these pandemic years have become all about keeping on keeping on, seizing the opportunity to study and trying to pay the bills. So many little apples! And yet all the energy needed to grow such a big crop has diluted the experience and left me with a few scarred limbs. As I thin, I make a decision to grow a more balanced crop, perhaps 2 apples per bunch and perhaps even fewer on the spindlier branches. Sitting in the tree I can feel it responding to this act of care, the limbs almost breathe a sigh of relief, and they visibly lift.
I know that I need to do the same. As this year draws to a close and the growing season kicks into gear, I know I will be spending my summer break making decisions about the coming year and how to grow a sustainable crop. There are lots of exciting things I want to start and perhaps some things to let go. Somehow, I need to scale the ladder of all that I have been doing and get a good bird’s eye view.
What about you? What needs thinning to let in the light, air and have room to grow? What can you let go of? What can do to calm and soothe your nervous system? Can you make the call for a sustainable life?
A few people have asked me for my summer read recommendations since this is the bit they love most in my monthly newsletters. So, I have broken this down into a few categories so you can just skip over the bits that don’t interest you. Most are available through SmartLibraries in our local library system.
Talking about a Revolution – These are the books to head to if you would like to open up your headspace to a whole new world. Why not start the new year with a fresh perspective?
Four thousand weeks and how to use it – Oliver Burkeman. I adored his Guardian column on how to change your life and this book is top of my summer reading pile. Mr O took about 4000 weeks to read it, but it definitely changed his priority list. Now that I have started it, I am choosing to wallow rather than gobble. I am shaping my new year around these insights.
The Body is not an apology – the power of radical self love – Sonya Renee Taylor. This was the first on my reading list for a course in decolonisation, delving into the fact that our very bodies have been judged, shamed and coerced into fitting the ‘norm”. Taylor writes with some humour and a lot of compassion about confronting topics. Her unapologetic inquiries are a fantastic way to journal or start a conversation with a good friend who does not shy away from the big stuff. A good one to start after Christmas to avoid some heated family discussions….
Pleasure Activism – adrienne maree brown. Another goodie from my course this year. She argues that pleasure activism is the work we do to reclaim our whole, happy, and satisfiable selves from the impacts, delusions, and limitations of oppression and/ or supremacy. What brings us pleasure and at whose expense? Could everyone have a second helping of that pie rather than just a few paltry crumbs? What would your life look like if you made decisions fueled by your purpose and pleasure rather than struggle and duty? My Presbyterian childhood was extremely delighted to read this book!
A small blue thing – Julie Hanify – If you are intrigued by neurodivergence then you will love this memoir by this Wellington teacher, writer and musician. Her adult diagnosis of ADHD and somewhere on the Autism spectrum brings deep understanding and self-compassion as she reflects upon her schooling and teaching career. She recognises that she became a teacher as she never wanted a child to suffer as she did at school. Could you just accept that everybody thinks and processes differently?
On Gallows Down – place, protest and belonging – Nicola Chester. If you love nature writing then you are in for a treat. Chester traces her life long quest to protect the wild spaces and create connection in her community. From Greenham Common to bypasses and complete destruction and finding seeds of hope on the horizon. I loved this book.
Wawata – moon dreaming – Dr Hinemoa Elder. Mr O and I take turns reading this to each other before going to bed each night. Follow the cycle of the moon with stories and insightful questions. One to start on holiday and reread all year.
Whatever happened to….. sometimes a sequel can spoil the flavour of the original. However here are some that you might love. If you missed the first one then you have double (or triple) the joy!
All the broken places by John Boyne follows on from The boy in striped pyjamas. If you ever wondered what happened to Bruno’s family then the wait is over. A beautiful novel about trying to live with guilt and remorse. Can you ever find peace with yourself?
The Red of My Blood by Clover Stroud follows on from My Wild and Sleepness Nights and The Wild Other. These memoirs speak so viscerally of life, birth and death that I gobbled them up in a sitting and then reread immediately to appreciate her language. Stroud reminds you to live and love fiercely.
Landlines follows on from The Salt Path and The Wild Silence by Raynor Winn. Not many people would decide to take on an epic coastal walk when declared bankrupt, homeless and with a terminal diagnosis. Moth and Raynor do just that, defying the odds and creating a whole new life.
Surefire Binge Reads – these are authors that I reserved all their novels to take on holiday over the last few years …Maggie O’Farrell, John Wyndham, Laurence Fearnley, Sarah Moss, Kate Atkinson
Some Pageturners – for those days on the beach or at the bach. Forget the world exists and dive in
The Change – Kirsten Miller. A trio of kickarse menopausal women take on the misogny of the patriarchy in their neighbourhood. Hilarious and sobering all at once.
The Secret River – Kate Grenville. This came out years ago but I finally got around to reading it last summer. You will never be the same afterwards. What happens when you delve into your family history….
What about the FLUFF – we all need some fluff! Some warm fuzzies to gladden your heart for Christmas
An almost perfect Christmas – Nina Stibbe. Anything by Nina Stibbe is hilarious. Her spotify carol playlist and her Mother’s turkey failures are legendary
The Christmas Stocking and other stories – Katie Fforde. If even a Christmas grinch can enjoy these romantic Christmas stories then there is hope for peace on earth
Have a wonderful summer everyone and get your library reserves in early!
Hearing women talk about their bellies can be painful. This is the space of much shame, judgement and comparison that seems to poison our confidence and pleasure. It is also a space of physical pain for many women that has been overlooked or belittled. The fact that a woman with an appendix threatening to burst first needs to rule out period cramps is perhaps an indication of how much suffering has been normalised. However most women truck on with even much milder symptoms such as IBS, ovulation pain, cramps, bloating and nausea and consider that to be just a part of life.
Our relationship with our bellies is about learning to to digest all our experiences. Do we have the capacity to assimilate all that we see, read and hear? Thanks to the internet we can now bombard our senses with such a density of images, articles, chat and music that we feel overloaded. Do we have space to emotionally process all the inputs in daily life and release what is not serving us? Can we ever switch off and relax fully?
These last few years have challenged us on all levels to adjust how we work, parent and connect with others. Menstrual and digestive cycles have become disrupted and there is not much research being done about whether this is “just stress” or another little understood aspect of covid recovery. For others who have reached second spring in the land of post menopause, they might be surprised to find a whole new terrain of tummy woes just when they thought they had nailed menopause.
Loving your tum is a four week class to turn around your relationship with your tummy and listen to your gut and pelvis.
simple techniques of gentle abdominal massage
breathwork to process our emotions
super gentle yoga for digestive support and hormonal balance (for all stages of life) and practices to reinstate our body rhythms for rest and digest mode
discover the magic poo button (I just might have renamed this) and easy acupressure points for supporting our digestion
delve into being able to love our bellies with acceptance and delight
5 simple steps that you can start to ease bloating and discomfort
If that sounds like your cup of tea then come along and join in person or zoom in. Details are here and you can sign up here We start on Wed Sept 14th at 7pm
Every time I see anything about manifestation or visualisation I feel a little bit sick. Surely the intended audience has not only a roof over their head, food in their belly, possibly even enough possessions to need to declutter, and yet like the Very Hungry Caterpillar they still want MORE. My curiosity about this desire for more inspired me to scratch around behind this need and discover the gaping wide hollow of emptiness.
Most people are doing what they think they want to with their time and resources but in reality they are simply ticking the boxes of what was socially prescribed for them. We have all had those mouse-wheel days of getting up, going to a job we loathe to pay the bills so that we can be sheltered and fed. We go to bed tired and wake up and repeat it again and again. On holiday we might remember Who We Are and then it gets stuffed away when we return to the grind. So I understand why people want the nice shiny things to give them hope and rewards for their suck-full week at work. How many times though have you purchased the clothing/holiday house/car/latest BBQ gadget and felt fantastic for a few days only to return to the dissatisfaction once more.
The Mucho Manifestival is not about getting the designer wardrobe, the Duran Duran yacht or the perfect bum. Instead it is a year long exploration of self study into all the programming that has driven your life up to this point and then hopefully (!) how you can be liberated from this. We explore the unconscious agreements that we never signed up for – those slimy little suckers that keep us in our place and often uphold unreasonable standards that benefit those in a place of power. We unravel the societal and familial expectations and even the limitations that we have placed upon ourselves, along with some simple and gentle techniques to release all the unprocessed emotions that have been triggering the hollow feeling. Often we realise that all our thoughts have been projecting out into the world and we have actually been very effective manifestors – it is just that we were not aware of what we really, truly desired. Throughout the year we delve into all this using the tools of yoga nidra, pranayama, tapping for unprocessed experiences, meditation, intention setting with lunar phases and morning pages/journal exploration.
My hope is that we emerge blinking like Moley in Springtime and see the bright light of endless possibilities and freedom. As we explore our dharma ( divine path and purpose) and sankalpa (intention) we can align our lives to better fit our path and purpose. Perhaps a desire will arise to connect on a deeper level with loved ones, community, perhaps we will feel the call to create a fair and equal society, perhaps we will simply want to grow our food and share our crops. Who knows what will emerge by January 2024? If you share this curiosity too then join in for a year of exploration.