Book Reviews

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

What Mighty Fine and STRONG Legs! Gratitude xo


I remember a conversation I once had with my dear friend during her first pregnancy.  Feeling anxious about soon giving birth to her first child she said, "As long as my baby's eyes are in the right place... as long as all the limbs are working and there are five fingers on each hand... as long as everything is intact I will be happy!"  Good Health - Tick.

I have an infatuation with the beauty and potential of the Human BODY.  The potential of our senses, organs and limbs and everything in between and specifically the MOVEMENT of the physical Body has always fascinated me.  Yoga is beautiful.  Dance has me mesmerized... and the splendour of a Cirque de Soleil performance has  me glued and amused by the wildly entertaining and AMAZING Human Body.

... so what about Walking?  The work of our legs... 'MOVEMENT' at its simplest?  Just to get us from A to B?

MOVEMENT symbolizes FREEDOM to me.
___________________________

On Sunday night whilst catching up on some reading in the Tub, a particular sentence grabbed me and had me stop.  Stop at the words "Thank you."

My thoughts trailed off and I remembered a time I used to write in my gratitude journal EVERY SINGLE DAY.  I did it for MANY years.  Writing down at least 5 blessings every day.  It first began at a time in my life when I'd just moved to a new city, in a new state.  I'd made bold moves to pack up my life, but a twist of fate had my dreams turn sour, leaving me gutted... lost and isolated in this new place.  Each day felt so forced.  And I felt so very ALONE.  I'd wake up and lug my heavy body out of bed in the freezing Winter mornings to just "get outside" and start walking to the gym.  I was on auto pilot just trying to tick the "I am being grateful" box.  As I trudged along I made the effort to say: "I'm grateful for my legs walking me to the gym." "I'm grateful for my legs walking me to the gym."  That was the ONE thing I could relate to... to CONNECT to being in the PRESENT MOMENT.  Walking - the movement of the Human physical Body down to one of its most basic "Mundane" levels.

What else could it be?  Our ability to TASTE the sweet, bitter MELT of chocolate on our tongues?  to HEAR MUSIC?  TO SEE COLOUR?  What else does life grace us with that we take for granted?  What would Helen Keller say?... from her life in the isolation of darkness and silence ???

When survival mode kicks in in our dispirited moments, I say DO WHATEVER we can to get the cake baked of each day, and nurture gratitude within us, no matter how empty and fake it might feel to begin with.  It would be a DISservice to Life, to not muster up some crumbs and ... CARRY ON.

So there I was watching my feet, my legs.... in motion on my walk to the gym ... literally CARRYING ME ON.  I dare say... without realising it... it was a practice in Mindfulness... watching one foot after the other - A walking Meditation.  Funny that...

My intuitive, innate "Knowing" was taking the reins and I was CONNECTING with life through "I'm grateful for my legs walking me to the gym."

Over the years the gratitude books overflowed with everything and anything that GENUINELY had me LOVING LIFE.  GRATITUDE just became a NATURAL Way of Life that now has me FEELING it, SAYING it, WRITING it and SHARING it without a flinch.  And although the inevitable changing weather of Life will ALWAYS set in... I say, when we find ourselves struggling ... - do everything possible to gather the scraps of courage and strength in our wearied, robotic bodies to CARRY ON and just keep "ticking" that Gratitude box.  If just a "tick" is as good as it can be... so be it.  That kick start to Re-Connect back to life may later have blessings following you at every turn... and your heart bursting with Gratitude, Compassion and Love for ALL that surrounds you. xo

So after last night's leisurely bath tub soak, I found myself digging out my old gratitude books and having a skip down memory lane.  The pages contained words revealing snippets of being HUMAN... being True and Honest with my natural child-like curiosity.  And there I fell in love with myself all over again.  The pages bared REALNESS through all of life's "interesting" motions.  Heck, deep down, we ALL know what we're doing here isn't really as sexy, glamorous nor polished as we'd like our outer shells to portray.

We're Just HUMAN BEINGS: - RAW and FUMBLING and CHIPPED... just TRYING to do what we can.  And so VERY VERY BEAUTIFUL and PERFECT - We ARE xo


Snippets of a Once Upon a Time Gratitude List:

I am grateful for.....

For the sunshine and blue sky
For my umbrella to keep me dry from the rain
For my good, long, quality phone chat with Dad
For a productive day at work and pressing thru and getting towards the finish line
For the delish Adriano Zumbo black sesame macaroons
For the beautiful guitar music from Ravi upstairs - so soothing
For a lovely bus ride
For a hot shower
For the priceless hand written message in my birthday card from Farzana
For dad taking the time out and being thoughtful and emailing me and Maira and Phillip some very pretty cherry blossom pics 
For the AMAZING boat ride from Darling Harbour to Manly to Rydalmere and having fun on the waves and chilling with wine and nibbles and sharing great laughs and taking great photos
For Marivic's sweet voice message
For the rain stopping and the sun peaking through
For my last coffee 'for now' with James and him promising on his 'imaginary bible' .. to keep in touch
For Thursday tomorrow
For my bed
For great laughs with Heidi at the Hyatt
For sleeping in and having an ultra relaxing morning with no agenda, no make up, sleeping, reading and relaxing
For it being Christmas Day and waking up to birds chirping and the sun light streaming through the curtains
For Jay offering to fix my laptop
For the excitement of the Lakers vs Denver Nuggets game
For the momentary spills of sunshine between the showers
For everyone enjoying my banana pancakes
For Heidi's email and her sending me a care package!
For wishing strangers a Merry Christmas
For my incredible, loyal and caring friends


AND WHAT WOULD YOU ADD?

Thursday, 11 July 2013

A letter, from the Heart... by Nelson Mandela



"Honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, 
pure generosity, absence of vanity, 
readiness to serve others - qualities which are within easy reach of every soul - are the foundation of one's spiritual life."
- Nelson Mandela, 
Extract from a letter to Winnie Mandela, 
Kroonstad Prison, 1 February 1975

I wish I knew more about Mr Mandela.  More details... fuller scope on EVERYTHING that has made him the Man he is, so this little post could do him more justice.  Understanding history and politics has never been my forte... But I felt SO compelled to just write now.

Out of the handful of things that I DO know of Nelson Mandela... this Man we have ALL come to respect and admire around the globe... was that he was imprisoned for close to 3 decades.  The inside of a cell was his only place of Knowing.... for the length of what is almost the length of my entire life.  A life where I can roam freely with 'choices' at every turn...whether big or small... with that glorious EXPANSIVE sky up above.  It's just always THERE above me... without question.

I felt initially awkward at the idea of reading Mr Mandela's personal letters.  Extracts of his letters all WOWed up in a special double page spread screamed for attention.  'Letters from the Darkness' said the heading in the Sunday paper.  I was ready to turn the page to leave be those private, now published words... but something caught my eye and begged my attention and I stopped.  I was drawn in and caved.

When you are in a cell for 27 years, I can only imagine that you could go one of two ways:

Lose yourself... lose your mind.. and throw it all away and admit defeat

OR

FACE yourself to uncover your TRUTH

To FACE yourself - to REALLY STOP and LOOK.  And meticulously peel away every layer of yourself, your thoughts, your heart, your BEING.  To keep probing away from every angle with a curiously open and surrendered mind - to reveal your TRUTH and discover WHO YOU ARE.  To be still and investigate what TRULY makes a human being's GREATNESS.

I don't know if the cell(s) were quiet, silent.  But I imagine there was stillness.  

Although stripped bare of all matters of CHOICE in his lonely cell - the ONE THING he had choice over, which was the CHOICE IN THE QUALITY OF HIS THOUGHTS... what a REMARKABLE thing he created.  What WISDOM, what TRUTH...

When I read the below extract, for just a moment I imagined the walls that surrounded him and how he must have felt as he wrote these words to his wife.  My heart softened and curled up and humbled itself.  

It's absolutely TRUE what he says.  

A Man locked up in a cell - GOT IT.  

I hope every one who reads this will WAKE UP and GET IT too...

 - that it's "within EASY reach of EVERY SOUL'.  EVERY SINGLE ONE of us.  

How to lead a MEANINGFUL LIFE - so simple, so straight-forward.... and beautifully wrapped up in Profound GREATNESS.

Thank you, Thank you... Nelson Mandela.


"The cell is an ideal place to know yourself, to search realistically and regularly the process of your own mind and feelings.  In judging progress as individuals we tend to concentrate on external factors such as one's social position, influence and popularity, wealth and standard of education.  These are, of course, important in measuring one's success in material matters and it is perfectly understandable if many people exert themselves mainly to achieve all these.  But internal factors may be even more crucial in assessing one's development as a human being.  Honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, pure generosity, absence of vanity, readiness to serve others - qualities which are within easy reach of every soul - are the foundation of one's spiritual life."*

- Extract from letter to Winnie Mandela, Kroonstad Prison,1 February 1975



*Harris, V. (June 29 2013) Letters from the darkness. The Sunday Telegraph, 87-89






Thursday, 20 June 2013

Leabs, pumpkins and Granola xo


My dear friend Jasmine has a son on the brink of turning 5.  She often refers to him as the 'little rascal'... 'trouble maker' and 'Tasmanian Devil'.  And trust me... I've met little Jordy on several occasions, and YES... her description is pretty much BANG ON.  But he TOO... just like every single one of us, is full of surprises ... and is a combination of ever changing faces, moods and colours.  
___________________________

The moments I most cherish in life are the ones that catch you out of no where... that click their fingers LOUD and SMACK BAM in front of your face.  They WAKE you up When and How you least expect...

They're random... and sometimes you can't put your finger on WHY, but they present you with a special message JUST at the right time to help you carry out the rest of your day... when it's just one of THOSE days... the kind of icky days we've all experienced... where we're dragging our feet through it laboriously and the load feels so much more HEAVY and UNBEARABLE on your mind and body.  Have these days before?

Well.. for me I'm thinking about a particular morning at work where my desk was already covered in ENOUGH.. and my inbox was flooding with more... MORE.... NOW... NOW.  I'd already felt overwhelmed and on edge with the projects deadlining that week... and now, screaming at me was another new and out of the blue job that had a BIG BOLD RED exclamation mark.  That simmering in my belly was knocking for more and more attention.

I don't know about you... but when I feel overwhelmed at work I'll get up and go make a cup of tea.  I have no shame in making as many cups of tea as it takes to get through a day.  If you ever catch me making REPETITIVE kitchen runs.... where you'll most likely find me stirring a spoon intently into my mug... that's a sure sign I'm having one of 'Those Days'.  On this one morning I was onto my second cup before 9am... feeling frazzled and frozen already....and gorgeous Jasmine graces the kitchen with a joy filled energy.  She had that iresistable sparkle in her eyes.  And there I was dreading returning back to my desk.  In her happy spirit she blurts out:
'Do you know what my Jordy said this morning?  You wouldn't believe it!...he's way too cute.  With all his seriousness..... Jordy pointed at the trees before getting in the car and said to me, "Look Mummy, the Leabs are turning orange!  Theres gonna be lotsa pumpkins falling soon."

...RIDICULOUS I know but that's all it took in that moment where I just BURST out laughing.  Those words from Jordy became my silly but LOUD and BRUTAL 'Click'... WAKE UP SAYA moment.  I realised right there, that all that 'STUFF' waiting for me at my work desk doesn't REALLY matter.... because at the end of the day... 'Leabs' DO turn orange and Pumpkins CAN fall from the trees.... somewhere in the world.... in fact in JORDY'S world.

I love these flashes of awareness, when I see that Life is not worth the battle... It's worth the giggles and silly child like moments along the way..... xo Right on


I love pumpkins.... so here is a newbie recipe to get cracking on if you wish.  This beauty is adapted from Sarah Wilson's recipe... healthy and delish!  The last time I made this Spiced Granola, I gave it away as a token of gratitude for once again being on the receiving end of another's kind gesture.  It's a Long story... but basically involved a broken smoke alarm, broken coffee table ..... and marked the beginning of a ONE OF A KIND friendship that will be sure to last a lifetime.

Enjoy xo

Pumpkin Ginger Spice Granola*

Ingredients:
6 tablespoons coconut oil
3 - 5 tablespoons rice malt syrup
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2 cups rolled oats
2 cupcs coconut flakes
1 teaspoon each of: cinnamon, allspice and ginger powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups roughly chopped almonds and cashews
2 cups roughly chopped pecans
1 cup pepitas
1 cup raisins


Method:
Preheat the oven to 140 degrees celsius (285 degrees Fahrenheit).

Combine rice malt syrup, pumpkin puree and coconut oil in a large saucepan and gently bring to the boil, then remove from the heat.

Stir in all the remaining ingredients (except for the raisins).  Spread mixture onto a greased or lined baking tray and bake for 30 minutes or until golden to darker and rich in colour (but not burnt!).

Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Toss the cooled granola and stir in the raisins.  


Yummmmm



*Sarah Wilson's Pumpkin Ginger Spice Granola



Sunday, 12 May 2013

Do it ANYWAY.... Stay TRUE


LIFE IS PERSONAL.  

OK Sure..., our life is woven in and out amongst that of our friends, family, work, and all the other different pieces of the puzzle in the flowing stream of our experiences....But underlying all of this is the PERSONAL LIFE of ours: Our Dreams, our Values, our Aspirations, our Morals.  It's these CORE Truths which our own actions and way of living stem from.  If we hold steadfast in our TRUTH, the Authentic Self freely shines.  

But how easily do we get "Distracted"????  Distracted by THAT neighbour; what they're doing; how they responded; how we are judged; how the world didn't 'co-operate' that day; by that inconvenient resistence that  wasn't MEANT to arise; the coulda, woulda shoulda's; and the fear driven 'what ifs'??.  How easily do we veer away from the TRUTH of what each of us ASPIRE to as honest, pure and well-intentioned human beings BECAUSE we're affected by that which is outside of ourselves?  Do we get distracted from persevering to live according to our TRUE Self because of external distractions?

In a recent 'fed up' grovel I was spilling about an incident that just WASN'T meant to happen and put pressure and temptations on me to REACT...... Someone I very much respect and admire responded with....: 'Saya... Just keep being true to your Authentic Self despite it and keep on going.  Simple as that.  See this All as your LIFE PRACTICE'.  How beautiful are those words?....  "LIFE PRACTICE."  I like the feel of those words.

The Way of our LIFE is PERSONAL.... and it's good to ask "do I sway away from my values and who I aspire to be in order to suit the 'everything else?' that's occurring and distracting me?  Rather, it's best to have an unwavering loyalty and strength, in being TRUE to who we have chosen to be in this gorgeous existence we are blessed with.  I have re-visited the below message time and time again and it sums it up pretty nice.  To hold steadfast in honoring one's own SPIRIT...., TRUTH.  To no matter what, remain AUTHENTIC, WHOLESOME and  PURE in how we carry out ourselves in this existence.  The bottom line is, the correct WAY to live, is ultimately between you and the luminous spirit that is your TRUTH within.  Keep honouring it no matter what.

xo


DO IT ANYWAY

People are often unreasonable, irrational and self-centred.  
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  
Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  
Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  
Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it may never be enough.  
Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  
It was never between you and 'them' anyway.

- Mother Teresa


   

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Presence

"Your TRUE home is in the here and now"

"To live in the present moment is a miracle. The miracle is not to walk on water.  The miracle is to walk on the green Earth in the present moment, to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now"


"When you love someone, the best thing you can offer is your PRESENCE.  How can you love if you are not there?"
- Thich Nhat Hanh


WHEREVER you are... BE THERE - right?  But who REALLY does that each and every day?  I'll be right on up first to say when I'm washing the dishes; cuddling the phone to my ear; half peeking at the TV anticipating the start of my show ... there'll most likely be veges roasting in the oven and the bath tub ready to spill over.  Or hey, I could be 'RELAXING' on the couch; magazine spread out next to me;  laptopping it as I skim through work emails, and Food Safari's just started which has my eyes jumping from laptop to tv... to laptop to glossy mag... to... yep... I'll stop right here.

Then there are moments when I REMEMBER the simple yet so HONEST and WISE message underlying just about ALL of my yoga teachers numerous anectodes and quotes he has shared over the years.... and that message is SO simple with so much peace found within it: 

Be TRULY PRESENT and MINDFUL of the Here and Now.  

'Enjoy the Breath' he'd say.  What a concept!  

I used to think being a 'Master Multi-Tasker' was what it was all about.  The words that would ring loud in my ears when I labelled myself as such, equated to 'Succeeding', 'Ambitious', 'Efficient', 'Speedy', .... ALL with BIG and loud Capitals.  A proud, head held up high kind of attitude had me with a spring in my step, without a shadow of a doubt it was one of my key assets.  It's what I saw had me as the 'go to person'.... a 'machine' that could get anything and everything done all at once who anyone could count.

Back then, an automatic 'huh?' would have followed the phrase: 'Stop and ENJOY the breath'

And now... despite still trying to nurse moments where I'm lost doing a million and one things at once holding my breath, with my mind dancing in all different directions somewhere along what I've turned into a laborious timeline, of the past and future piled high with a mental list of what needs DOING......... it still is LIBERATING and BEEEAUTIFUL to have those moments (as short lived as they MAY be sometimes...) where I can catch myself and notice the chaos and just STOP and BE.  It's not about being perfectly consistent at the click of your fingers right?  After all.... ALL of life is just about Being better than you USED to be.

Now I DO actually get it.  To ENJOY the breath.  I've done it!.... and it makes me feel WHOLE and ALIVE, revealing an AUTHENTIC presence of who I am.  Being PRESENT and AWARE of where I am, what I am doing in that single moment or who I am listening to in a conversation or sharing time with, let's me BE there for myself and others with truth and sincerity.  There is so much peace there!

The quote below has been shared numerous times over the years in my yoga classes, and it still rolls around within me in contemplation.... I hope it might stir something new within you too:

When the Dalai Lama was asked about what surprised him most about humanity he replied:

"Man surprised me most about humanity.  Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.  Then he sacrifices his money to recuperate his health.  And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die; and then dies having never really lived"
- Dalai Lama  


xo