"Everything you seek is already in you" Rumi
I have just come back from a beautiful yoga retreat in the French Alps. What the participants cherished most, was the opportunity to gather, to practice and to have time to just be. The photo above was taken just before our beautiful cacao ceremony.
"There is a synergy, a sympathetic resonance, and an entrainment of our hearts that occurs when we meet others whose vibration is an energetic match to ours. There is a fire that is ignited, a celebration, and joy in the coming together with kin."
I will be offering similar retreats throughout the year and hope to have the programme up shortly.
In these times of inner and outer turmoil, I find it particularly challenging to plan ahead - as if I had an inner resistance to create what I used be able to do so easily. I sometimes feel quite disoriented, question whether what I am doing has a purpose - seeing what is going on in the world, I find it more difficult to maintain my lightness of being. I wonder if you feel the same...
What helps me is poetry, reading that part of the human condition is in fact to wonder, to despair sometimes, but to never give up on hope. William Butler Yeats in his beautiful "Song of Wandering Aengus" goes out, into the hazel wood, to find peace of mind and to see his longing for life and love rekindle. When I go into nature, I experience the same. I reconnect to beauty, to natural rhythms, to hope. My yoga and meditation practice help to keep me grounded and facilitate the access to my inner well-spring of peace and calm. It reminds me that there is something larger than us, which we need to trust and surrender to time and time again.
It is in this spirit of reconnection that I am offering a series of online yoga classes starting next Tuesday morning. The focus will be placed on creating balance within using the age-old notion that as part of nature, we hold all the elements inside, and by harmonising these, body and mind become calm. I would love to see you, if you feel you would benefit.
Let me know how you are, I would love to reconnect.
Love all ways,
The Song of Wandering Aengus
by William Butler Yeats
I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.
When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.
Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.
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Preparation time: 15 mins
Cooking time: 25 mins
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C
150g gluten-free flour (see recipe #04)
180g dark chocolate
150g brown sugar
100g pecan nuts
Melt the butter and chocolate together in a saucepan and mix well. Beat the eggs and sugar together using a hand mixer and then gently stir in the chocolate mixture. Add the flour and continue mixing making sure the mixture is smooth. Pour the mixture into a coated 24cm diameter tin, or small baking dish lined with baking paper. Place the coarsely chopped pecans on top and bake for approximately 25 minutes. Prick the cake with a toothpick, it should be slightly crusty on the outside and soft in the middle.
Gluten-Free Flour for Cakes
320g rice flour
240g corn starch
100g ground almonds
2 teaspoons xanthan gum (or psyllium seed husks) - to bind the flour
Mix all ingredients together and place in a jar. Use whenever you would like to make gluten-free cakes, pastries or pancakes.
It is very empowering to cultivate rituals of self-care. By nurturing ourselves with a rhythm of feel-good activities, we are able to boost our immune system, boost our mood and lastly increase our resilience, making it easier to remain calm and focused and act from a place of centredness.
Here a list of things I do every day, which you might want to try out, too. Let me know, if you notice a difference in how you feel in general...
1) Fill the first moments of your day with gratitude
"Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life." - Rumi
I am presently reading "Braiding Sweetgrass" - an elegy to indigenous cultures and to Mother Nature. Author Robin Wall Kimmerer reminds us that "(...) In a consumer society, contentment is a radical proposition. Recognising abundance rather than scarcity undermines an economy that thrives by creating unmet desires. Gratitude cultivates an ethic of fullness, but the economy needs emptiness. (...)"
Carrot & Courgette Cake
gluten free - lactose free - delicious - sweet - healthy
Pre-heat the oven to approx. 180°C
450g shredded carrots and courgettes
130g brown sugar (or slightly less)
200g ground almonds
4 eggs from happy organically fed chickens
1tsp baking powder mixed with a pinch of wheat flour
nutmeg, cinnamon, lemon and orange zest, … your choice of delicious spices...
Whisk the sugar and the eggs together, add the baking powder, the ground almonds and spices, lemon and or orange zest, then fold in the shredded vegetables. The mixture is very moist and will have dripping consistency. Place into a non-stick cake mould, or: gently lace a tin with a bit of butter and ground almonds so that the cake does not stick.
The cake is ready after about 40 minutes - a skewer or toothpick inserted should come out clean.
Remove from oven and let it cool before serving.
“People say that the soul, on hearing the song of creation,
entered the body, but in reality the soul itself was the song.”
☘️Spring ☘️- I wake up every morning to the song of the birds - and with additional time on hand and the peace of silenced motors - I do believe that I have honed my listening skills. I am able to distinguish the territorial call of a robin from that of a blackbird, from the chirping of a bullfinch, the sounding of starlings... and every morning these little animals voice their delight at being alive. David G. Haskell calls birds "quick-fingered jewellers of air, crafting dozens of ornamented gems every second."
And, just as the birds sing their day into creation, humans, too, since the beginning of time have thought of sound, the word and by extension the song to be the first elements in the process of manifestation. In many beliefs and religions, the "saviour" is an embodiment of the word.
Around the world now, lockdown is being loosened, we are getting out again after this period of extended hibernation. A wonderful thing, of course. Admittedly, I am feeling slightly nostalgic already for this cocooned calm, yet eager, too, to sing my new song. I am not too sure I know the words yet, though... I think I will start with a humming - like the sound of the bumble bees on the blossoms of May.
A part of this new song will certainly be an offering of regular online classes for anybody, who feels like discovering more about the correlation of movement and breath, about that one flow that brings us back to who we are. The ritual of self-discovery and lastly that of self-love.
Another important part of this new song will be a regular collaboration with persons I hold in high esteem and whose message I would like to share with you. On the topic of words, voice and the ritual of self-discovery, I am very happy to announce two Sunday workshops with my friend, singer and songwriter Daphne Tse. She joined some of our classes last week and touched our hearts.
Irish author John O'Donohue when asked about beauty once said "(...) music is what language would love to be if it could (...)"! So, I hope you join us for this (limited spots!).
Oh, and the song of the waves has become another one of my "constants" in these times of change, and I have been putting guided meditations online for you, recorded at the ocean's edge
This delicious loaf is easy to make. It is not bread in the traditional sense of the word, as no fermentation is involved, yet will give you the same sense of satisfaction as munching on a slice of (traditional) bread and butter! It contains no gluten (except maybe for traces found in the oats).
Please only use organic ingredients, as by doing so, you support both the planet and those who plant and harvest the fruits of the earth for you.
Preparation time: 15 mins | 2 hours or overnight
Cooking time: approx. 50 mins in total
135g sunflower seeds
90g flax seeds (ground!)
65g hazelnuts or almonds (chopped or ground)
145g rolled oats
2 tablespoons (tbsp.) chia seeds
4 tbsp. psyllium seed husks (3 tbsp. if using psyllium husk powder)
A pinch or two of fine grain untreated sea salt & freshly ground black pepper & spices such as coriander seeds ground with a pestle and mortar, or cumin seeds, caraway seeds...
A dash of maple or agave syrup (optional)
3 tbsp. melted coconut oil
350ml warm water
Combine all dry ingredients, stirring well. Whisk syrup, oil and water together in a measuring cup. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix very well with your hands, feeling the textures of the ingredients, until everything is completely soaked and the dough becomes very thick. Place the mixture into a loaf tin, lined with a strip of baking paper at the bottom and press the mixture into the tin. Cover with a damp cotton dish cloth and let it sit out for about 2 hours, or all day or overnight.
When the loaf has solidified, preheat oven to 180°C.
Place the loaf pan in the oven on the middle rack, and bake for 20 minutes or so. Then remove the bread from loaf pan, place it upside down directly on the rack and bake for another 30-40 minutes. The bread is done once it sounds hollow when tapped. Let it cool completely before slicing it and enjoying it with the spread of your choice.
(Recipe based on an idea by http://www.mynewroots.org/)
In "The Celtic School of Yoga. An Aishling for the 21st Century", Jack Harrison speaks of the Yoga of Wandering: "(...) This wandering is a love of being for its own sake. It is not only the physical travelling, but it is the delight in looking at the world in all her manifestations and not just following the teaching of a single way or a single perspective." And on the heroine's journey, he says: "Whereas the classical hero has to leave his home, go out into the world, survive a series of tests and return home powerfully triumphant, the heroine has to descend into her soul and emerge with a recognition of her own power."
I wanted to combine an outward journey with a descent into my own soul and left the city for a 10-day solitary retreat.
Scantily equipped with a lust for adventure and with an initially gentle then ever stronger calling to spend time in nature and alone, to face my fears and to embark on this journey inward. It was a bit too cold for me to want to sleep outside - and I was not equipped for this - so I booked myself into simple accommodation in a guest house, on the banks of the "Byala Reka" (White River) at the edge of the Central Balkan national park in Bulgaria.
My days started with birdsong just before dawn - I packed my bag: a thin hammock, warm clothes, my journal and a pen, food and water and wandered out into the day -I took my phone, in case of an emergency (although I did not know, whom I would have called...!) and went out with no goal and no time plan - just with the natural rhythm of the day, which would beckon me home before dark.
Initially, being alone and in silence opened the floodgates of my mind... here a short video, on day 4:
The moments of inner stillness, however, expanded as the days went by. My senses became more and more alive and alert. I began to perceive of my surroundings differently and, I felt as if nature around me was responding, too. Giving me gentle nudges on what direction to take in the forest, by having a blue tit appear on a branch above me and coax me with his song to take a certain route, or simply by just making me aware of the beauty surrounding me and enticing me to follow the call of a gushing stream or to look more closely at a rock formation.
I also noticed that whenever I got caught up in thought again - i.e. I let myself be drawn out of the "now" - nature would gently remind me to be present - I would bump my head on a branch, for example, one that had "definitely not been there before" (!), or I would stumble or slip.
Some days, I would make a "basecamp", hang up my hammock, rest, gently rocked by the wind, journal or nap - and then, if I felt so inclined, would wander out from there, barefoot, maybe dance with the trees, arrange stones or twigs, bend down low to observe a spring flower making itself up into the light through thickets of leaves... I rekindled a childlike curiosity for all things animate and inanimate and remembered days, when very young, of spending hours observing ants in a microcosmic world, totally absorbed.
Everything I saw and lived, became the object of my meditation. I observed how my mind would wander between wanting to conceptualise what I saw, i.e. "oh, an oak tree", or "that must be the call of a jay" and simply beholding the presence of nature with all my senses. Skulls and bones I found allowed me to meditate on death and the wonderful privilege of being alive, on the cycle of birth and death inherent in all. I was enraptured by streams and rivers incessantly burbling down from the still snow-covered peaks, wrapping the world around them in their song.
"There is an intimate reciprocity to the senses; as we touch the bark of a tree, we feel the tree touching us; as we lend our ears to the local sounds and ally our nose to the seasonal scents, the terrain gradually tunes us in turn. The senses, that is, are the primary way that the earth has of informing our thoughts and of guiding our actions. (...) For it is only at the scale of our direct, sensory interactions with the land around us that we can appropriately notice and respond to the immediate needs of the living world." David Abrams, "The Spell of the Sensuous"
I noticed my energy change, I felt grounded, alive and strong - as never before. So excited about my experience, I wanted, too, to journal it all, but sometimes the impressions and feelings were just too many for the pen to catch all on paper. I would let my insights and thoughts go, in the hope that maybe somebody else would catch them and they would go through them.
When I returned home 10 days later, so much richer, people would say "welcome back to the real world" - yet I felt that I had been in the real world - and the city seemed "unreal"...
Yet, in any environment, we can return to our senses - "renew our bond with this wider life, to feel the soil beneath the pavement, to sense - even when indoors - the moon's gaze upon the roof." (D. Abrams)
I encourage you to do the same - I know I will, as often as I can, return and remember my place in the breathing, living, pulsing beauty of this planet.
Yoga teacher, exploring the art of living a soulful and awakened life.