Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Why Taste Matters

I entered a portal to the perfect-health dimension last Saturday. As my feet  landed on the other side of bright orange entrance doors, I felt a ticklish current move through my waters. I knew I had been transported someplace really special. I had arrived at Satmya.

Rows of potions and lotions glimmered and shimmered from rustic, wooden shelves; teas and tonics and oils and elixirs beamed vitality; rosehip oil and calendula cream oozed soothing, uplifting scents. Books of wisdom and ancient texts of lore offered the seeds to spiritual enlightenment.

I breathed in a ‘this-is-lovely’ breath and further explored its otherworldly terrain. Once satisfied, I did what I came to do: attend an Ayurvedic winter cooking class. Boy, did I absorb some quality info.

I have already posted  on the basic principle of Ayurvedic Medicine. For a brief summary, view it here: http://audreyshanahan.blogspot.com/2010/10/petals-in-air.html

Anywho, what I learned on Saturday was mostly how the six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent) influence our humours or individual constitutions. In Ayurveda there are three humours: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. All of these humours are made up in differing proportions of the five great elements. In turn, the elements are associated with specific tastes. Tastes are our biggest clue when deciding what is best for us individually. For example, a person with a dominant Pitta humour (fire and water) may want to avoid pungent tastes such as raw onions and chillies. Overdosing on such tastes could well light the fires of indignation. Not cool. Choose sweet, earthy tastes to pacify the Pitta bull.

I also learned how choosing seasonally relevant tastes can optimize health. For instance, in early winter, which is the current season, the Kapha (water and earth) principle naturally dominates. Kapha tastes are generally sweet, so individual Kapha types may want to veer away from sweet and earthy root vegetables at this time of year or risk aggravation/overload/heaviness.

There’s much more to discover. Satmya’s website www.satmya.com is chock-full of information. Click on their link below to find out your personal dosha. http://satmya.com/satmya/ayurveda/dosha-quiz/

Friday, 19 November 2010

Ireland Will Rise from the Ashes

This post is going to make a hypocrite of me. Last night I didn’t just watch the news, I watched Prime Time. The sheer scale of the nation’s financial crisis drew me in the way spinach does Popeye. With one exception: the news’s effect on my physical state was more shock than strength-enhancing. Wow, as Harry said to Marv in Home Alone when the ceiling fell through, what a hole.

I won’t go into how the presence of the IMF and the European Central Bank is going to erode our sovereignty. Or how debt forgiveness laws in our country are archaic, or how the next budget will likely reveal a plan that trumpets bleeding money into flailing banks over encouraging economic growth. I won’t go into it because everyone everywhere is going into it more than most of us can stomach. And personally, I feel that economists are really the only people who are qualified to gauge the outcome. Not politicians with dubious credentials or journalists with egos, and certainly not me - however accurate I may think my ill-supported guesstulations are.

Why, oh why, I ask myself, isn’t there a system in place that sees to it that only the most qualified - and not the most charming and manipulative - sit in positions of major importance? Doesn’t it seem like a no-brainer? How did we not see the importance of brainpower? There is a difference - a major one - between intelligence and cunning, the latter being the prized quality of the modern-day politician. The good news: we now clearly see the Emperor is naked.

Anyway, I digress. I’ll give my positive twist; my entirely subjective, if flaky, opinion on how the situation may actually turn in our favour.

For one thing: the truth is about to out. No longer will the Irish people be lured by false promises. No longer will we be hoodwinked by cunning spin. The bamboozling is over. The game is up. There is going to be major systemic change in this country. We may even veer towards total social equality, which was, let us remember, the dream of the patriots who began again our country's journey to independence in 1916. Funny that it was Fianna Fail that quashed their dreams, too.

 How could we not change to socially conscious government now we’ve seen what money-obsessed neo-liberal ideologues are capable of? Possibly, and this is wildly optimistic, we may even change our views on how Government itself is structured. Maybe we'll see through the whole power myth and realize that we alone are our masters. These are exciting times, no doubting it.

We’re at a crossroads. We have decisions to make - even though it may take a few years before we’re totally free to implement them. I believe in evolution and I believe in Ireland. Mostly, though, I believe in the people of Ireland.

We will rise again. We don't need to wear ourselves down with anger or violence or upheaval. We need to get wise. 

Henry Ford said: “Failure is only the opportunity to more intelligently begin again.”

I agree. I am in no way undermining the stress families are under when I say that. Our system has failed us spectacularly and I have nothing but compassion for those who have been forced to bear the brunt of it.

Let us never let it happen to us again.There is no greater teacher than suffering.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

The News Today

I walked in on my dad last night. He was doing it again: watching the main evening news. Generally, when I hear the bullet-spray beat of the terrorising intro music, I dive for a safe corner. I dread to see those stern faced harbingers of doom (reporters) sensationalising reality for the worse.

In fact, if I were to take a no-holds-barred shot at expressing my disdain for the news, I’d say this: I abhor it in full awareness of how strong a word abhor actually is.

I just don’t think it helps anyone’s mental health. It provokes, aggravates, shocks and startles – because hat’s what it’s designed to do. I earned a Masters in journalism a couple of years ago. A chief condition of that award was my demonstration of an understanding of the art of news making. Man, was that a slog. I mean, besides a shrink, who wants to understand madness?

I sat pale faced as I listened to lecturers explain to us – as though it were a noble art – how to shock the socks off people.  Points were awarded for adding a ‘shock factor.’ “This is what the people want,” we were told. Our seniors told us, in no uncertain terms, that fear and awe were the most important components of news journalism. They told us to occasionally mix the horror with heart warming animal stories. “People like animals too,” the sages would say. Notice how after subjecting you to war and violence and corruption, reporters will flick to daisy the dolphin in Florida who can flip right through a tiny plastic ring. It’s insulting.

Well, they didn’t persuade me to follow their write-by-numbers approach to news. I couldn’t and still can’t be persuaded to make people miserable, which is why I’m blogging and writing fiction with my time. Thing is, I’d prefer to make my world up as I go along. I figure that if it’s all going to be plucked from the ether, I’d prefer to do the plucking myself rather than have someone else do it for me. That way, I at least get to smile a few times a day instead of passively listening to people tell me the world is ending.

Funny story about my sister Jen:

When Jen was small, mam tells us, she would protest to the news by draping a cloth over the television screen. This would get my news-loving parents up in arms. “Take that down! We’re trying to watch the news.”

Jen’s protest never worked because she was smaller than my parents. But what her elders didn’t understand was that she wasn’t just smaller than them – she was wiser, too; and sensitive to the mood that would wash over the room once the blaring bulletins got in. She probably felt like she had a duty to protect her family since both her parents were hypnotised in their armchairs. Imagine the pressure? Both parents down, infected by the negativity, her - the next most senior person in the room, watching the happiness ship go under. She undoubtedly honoured her duty of care to her younger siblings by reaching for a cloth and, for that, kudos to her – even though her peaceful rebellion was ultimately squashed like a bug. Come hell or high water, we all had to sit and listen to the always well-groomed Ann Doyle elegantly dish the dirt.

It all boils down to this, I think:

Children are super sentient and pick up on negative vibrations more discerningly than adults. Grown ups have long become numbed, and perhaps addicted, to bad news. Children just want to play unperturbed with their toys. They appreciate peace and happiness.

Why can’t we?

Does the fact that I still hide from the news mean I should be playing with alphabet bocks? I hope not, though many would say it does.

I don’t care. I’d rather watch oops TV with Justin Lee Collins than listen to hell’s bells.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

School has disappeared...

When I was smaller, around the size of a street bin, I remember walking to school with my older brother and two younger siblings. My brother, head of the litter, would tell us that the school had disappeared; that it had been swallowed up by the mist and fog. This would make our stomachs bubble explosively in the kind of excitement that encouraged the morning’s porridge to erupt out of our mouths. “The school’s disappeared, the school’s disappeared,” we would bounce and shout and scream, our minds insane on freedom. We’d walk through the haze, pirouetting and skipping out of sight of one another. “I can’t see you. Where have you gone? You’ve disappeared!”

The world had been veiled from our eyes in a cloak of ethereal white air. We played with the limitless possibilities it offered; ran and zig-zagged like young pups. We grasped the untouchable cloak of fog in search of one another. “Come back, it’s not funny,” the younger ones might shriek after a minor silence; to which we, the wise elders, would respond before their distress got out of hand. Sometimes.

But, alas, the blazing fires of our passion were put out at the sight of the school building as we approached it. The mist, we then learned, was not as magic as it seemed. My big brother, already versed in the ways of the real world, would look at us apologetically, as though he knew how it felt to have lofty dreams crumble. But his game was worth playing, worth believing in; even if it only lasted a few dewy minutes.

In a child’s life, a few minutes of magic moments live forever. To this day, when I open my curtains and see a heavy mist, I wonder if the real world, with all its responsibilities and chores, has disappeared.

I hope children still play that game.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Is there anybody out there?

Her name is Mazlan Othman, she’s an astrophysicist and the UN has so much confidence in her they’re getting ready to appoint her to greet ETs. Yes, you heard right - the UN are appointing an envoy to welcome ETs. It’s unlikely the meeting will be over coffee at the UN’s New York headquarters, but it’s looking increasingly likely there will be a meeting. And now that we’ve accepted that, we’ve started to get ready for the big day. We’ve chosen a leader.

The Case for Aliens

Stephen Hawking, the earth’s eminent physicist, told The Times of London in an interview in April:  "To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational…The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like."

In the same interview, Hawking also said: “I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. The outcome for us would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”

His opinion, and that’s all it is, creates a few points of contention for this writer. The first one: In anticipating what aliens may be like, he assumes that they are exploitative beings who want to make contact only because they’ve bankrupted their own resources. This is cynicism at its most grandiose. He’s basically saying, ‘they’re not curious, they’re hungry, now RUN for your lives.’

The second point of contention: Hawking uses an historical reference – an earthly one at that - to anticipate an event in the future. His thinking goes along the following lines: ‘Well, I know that the last time unkown lands were discovered here on earth, the explorers pillaged and wrecked the place, so that’s bound to be what will happen when the aliens arrive.’

Perhaps, and this is only a suggestion, we should make sure Hawking is busy when the aliens arrive? Because the man has a flaw and it’s this – he’s a scaredy cat. ‘This bad thing happened in the past, so it’s going to happen again in the future,’ is not the strongest belief system. If an individual reported to their doctor with Hawking’s beliefs, that doctor, or any loving person, would diagnose the individual with low self-esteem. The individual would also be encouraged to see things in a more positive light. Unfortunately, we seem to accept low self-esteem and fear-based thinking on a collective level in a way we just don’t in a private individual.

How do you feel?

There’s no right or wrong answer, there’s just a preferred answer, and that’s open. That is, of course, assuming we all want a friendly universe - especially now that we’re coming to accept that the universe doesn’t just revolve around us.

Are you frightened? Intrigued? Ecstatic? Confused? I ask because your answer, our answer, will ultimately shape how the greatest ever meeting in history will go. The most important question we can ask, and Einstein will back me up on this, is: ‘Is the universe friendly?’  Our perceptions – this is scientifically proven – shape our reality. I’m not saying it’s simple, but I am saying that it’s science. If you anticipate friendliness, it’s likely that you’re going to be met with friendliness. For humanoids who need the support of empirical evidence, I will elaborate on that. To those of you who ‘just know’ and need no proof, I say, you’ll get something out of reading the proof anyway. Here it is:

The Observer Effect

What you observe as affects what you observe. Quantum physicists have collectively spent eons on this concept, trying to tidy it up and iron out all of its ambiguities. They found that each time they tried to prove a particular concept, they did indeed prove it. If they chose to disprove the very same one, then they could do that, too. How?

The most famous experiment, and the one that featured in the paradigm shifting documentary What The Bleep Do We Know? is the experiment conducted on light. It went like this:

Scientists shone a beam of light on a barrier with two open slits. Some of the light travelled through the barrier, indicating that light has the property of a wave. The rest of the light went through the slits, indicating that light also has a particle property. When they closed one slit, and left the other open, the light appeared as just a single shaft of light. Besides the fact that the experiments proved that light can be both a particle and a wave – at the same time – it proved that the behaviour of light depended on the experimental setup. Ask a question a certain way and you get a certain answer. That’s what quantum physicists call The Observer Effect.

Intriguing, eh? Not to mention the fact that we can use a word like behaviour when referring to light.

Is the universe friendly?

When a highly specialist, vast and intricate pattern appeared in a crop field in Chilbolton, England, on the morning of August 14th 2001, locals were left scratching their heads. Who had created it? How had they created it? Why did they create it? Darcy Ladd, manager of the nearby Chilbolton Radio Observatory, reported that no unusual activity had been detected the night before – either in the field or in the airspace above. How could they – whoever it was that formulated and executed the genius pattern – have gone undetected? An aerial view of the wheat art revealed a human face, expertly woven into the crops through a series of what looked like megapixels.

A few days later, another pattern or glyph appeared in a nearby field. The second glyph appeared to be a response to a transmission sent into deep space thirty years previously by the SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). SETI called it the Arecibo Glyph. Having calculated that it wouldn’t reach its destination - a star cluster in far space - for thousands of years, they reduced the crop message to hoax. Daniel Pinchbeck, New York based journalist and author, wasn’t satisfied with the brush off and investigated further. In an article for Wired magazine the following year, he addressed naked facts.

The original Arecibo message was fired into space as an encoded radio transmission. It contained the numbers one to 10, the atomic numbers of elements important to human life, a depiction of the physical structure of DNA, our solar system, a human figure, and the radio dish that was used to send the message. The response contained the following fascinating alterations:

-          Silicon – with an alternative atomic number
-          An altered strand of DNA
-          An altered solar system
-          A picture of a big-headed humanoid
-          A completely different transmitter.

Now, unless there are some brainiac individuals on this planet with knowledge and equipment the rest of us don’t have, the glyph was a pretty clear message that we’re not alone. If it’s taken for what it is, then we can assume that the aliens are friendly, too – since they’re swapping notes with us. But, alas, we’re human, and we don’t believe just any old thing. Maybe, then, we should just keep an open mind.


Da Vinci once famously said “I am still learning.” This summed up an attitude of total openness. He couldn’t, and we can’t, know all there is to know. How could we? The universe is constantly changing and evolving. We can only try to keep up with that change and avoid anchoring ourselves to the familiarity of fear-based beliefs. The unkown is not a place where bad things happen; it’s a place that hasn’t been explored yet. True, our history has taught us that explorers aren’t the nicest people, but history belongs in its place – the past. We take the positive lessons from it and dump the rest. Is that not what we do in our individual lives?  It has never been more important for us to replace our fear with curiosity. We are on the cusp of a complete paradigm shift. Even the UN thinks so. If it’s going to happen, why not embrace it? 

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

London, Gujarati-style

"Come in," Roshni motioned to me, "I’m just feeding the baby."

Roshni was a married Indian woman living in London in a five bedroom house with 13 of her fellow countrymen. I, at the time a down and out 24-year-old Irish girl, remember feeling grateful to finally have found a place to live. Yes, grateful – even though my new Gujarati house mates thought I was looking for a place to lay low. Why, oh why, they asked me with their eyes, would I choose to live among them? Who would choose to be the black, pardon me, white sheep?

The answer goes a bit like this: I had a broken heart, a Masters, no job, was broke, and the stupid ‘sub-prime’ recession was just sinking its teeth in. All of this and I wanted to live in London with my hip journo friends. So I compromised - by culling my beliefs, high standards and all manner of prejudicial attitudinal tendencies. I sucked it up. And it worked. It really, really worked. I had my own room in the house – the only person with that privilege, which helped. And in just a few months, I emerged through its door, 18 Chaplin Road, just off Wembley High Street, transformed. It helped enormously that my house mates turned out to be amongst the nicest, warmest people I have ever met.

 At first, of course, I didn't know that. So I neglected to tell my family and friends the gritty facts. I told them an outright lie – that I was living in a spacious house with people my own age with similar interests and career objectives – that we were all pals, it was cosy, fluffy, safe and warm. I wanted my loved ones to be able to sleep at night, even if I couldn’t. I had given them enough reason to doubt the viability of me as an Independent person - my recent solo trip to Vietnam to the detriment of my career and long-tem relationship just one. I was throwing dice with life just to see what would show up. I had nothing, nothing to lose. I figured if I tried to be brave, even if I didn’t really feel brave, that the universe would reward me.

Now, I’m not a gambler, but since my experience, I have learned that the odds of reward - especially when a person trusts and puts their heart into something - are huge. Scrap that – guaranteed.

My first night in the house was spent in Mr French’s arms. Mr French is a teddy bear (I’m human and I need comfort, forgive me). I had been in an unhealthy co-dependent relationship with Mr French (not my first) since my return from Asia. The deal went something like this: he hugged me at night and I made sure not to leave him face down on the floor when I left him alone for hours at a time. It worked.  And though I had to force his coarse, stubby arms around me at night, I felt safe. When the sound of adolescent Indian boys playing computer games in the next room filled mine, I’ll admit, I did cry. And I did ask myself what the hell I was doing, why I was doing it and if it was likely that I had completely lost my mind. And then, to prove to myself that I had, I took an internship, an unpaid internship. Why would I do that? Well, to get ahead, of course.

I remember being in the basement office of the magazine in central London, which was run by a self-serving businessman who I later discovered wasn’t paying anyone. After two weeks of hard graft and finger-numbing writing, I felt compelled by some force (possibly a proletariat aversion to exploitation) to tell him what I thought of him. I left without expenses or references. Besides an old Nokia phone, which caused me untold misery - and a borderline anorexic wallet - the cotton shopping bag I had been passing off as ‘boho chic’ was depressingly empty.

At that point, I figured I was karmically owed a windfall and that if I just hung on, it would come. It didn’t. All I had to my name was a box of weetabix, no milk and a loaf of bread (I did have butter). I started to cry, sometimes like a newborn. I was lost and afraid and felt that life was so unfair. Just so unfair. I started to talk to the man upstairs. I asked him to notice me, to see that I was trying with everything I had to make something of myself. I apologised for the mistakes of my past and asked for a clean slate. I told him I would do good things with my life if he would just grant me some fortune. I meant every word.

The next day, maybe not actually the next day, but very soon after, Kaushal, Roshni’s entrepreneur husband, asked me to write content for a business website of his. For money. ‘Act cool,’ I told myself, eyes ravenous for the green stuff. ‘How much, Kaushal?’ I asked, cool as. ‘Two weeks rent?’ Done. I had bought myself time; enough to land a job in a down trodden bar near Wembley Stadium. “Of course I know how to change a keg,” I smugly told the manager, “Piss easy, really.” When the time came, as it was inevitably going to, I bottled it. But before I did, I attempted the task, knowing full well I didn’t have the skills - a trait of mine that has led me down some dark roads, particularly where machines are concerned.

I, mechanically-challenged person, released a lever I guessed was relevant to the job. “Oh no,” I croaked, a mili-second later, “I immediately regret this decision.” I heard an angry, hissing release of gas and imagined being blown out through the doors of the pub onto the street, my life cut short. I ran for it upstairs to the owner’s flat. Holding back tears, I came clean. I kept my job, but gained a reputation as the token blonde ditz. I could accept that. It was a humbling lesson in honesty. I grew from it.

What followed was a chain of events that I can only put down to fate, orchestrated, of course, by a force I can only call mysterious. A kind Irish woman I met in an Irish pub - whose daughter worked for a large media firm - arranged an interview for me. Just like that. I began meditation (to relieve myself of mounting tension) and found a centre, just on my doorstep, where it was offered for free. Gratuit. No charge. In this day and age, that is a rare thing. I grew and grew in personal awareness and strength. I climbed my way steadily to where I am today: author of a debut novel, which my agent thinks will be published, called The Enlightenment Trail. I live in Ireland, with my boyfriend, and am an exceedingly happy person who doesn’t tell all that many lies. There’s not much I’d be afraid to try at this stage. I know now that it’s possible to get where you want to go if you just trust. I don’t mean that in a ‘to hell with responsibility’ way. I mean it in a ‘if the world challenges you for all you have, call its bluff,’ kind of way.

I have since left Mr French. I don’t know where I got the strength. I left him on the landing in Chaplin Road, face up, hopeful that someone would find him and love him the way I did. I was flying with this country’s notorious cheap airline company and had to be strict with myself on space. It was a cold act, but one that ultimately freed us both.

To any graduate in today’s lousy financial climate who feels like it was all for nothing, I say: “Just do it – whatever it is your heart desires.” You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. In fact, if you’re coming from a place where you have no job, you can only gain from trying. 

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Clouds, Lily Moses, and Spirit Art

It was just another wintry summer’s day in Ireland. As I stared forlorn at unseasonal clusters of black and grey clouds, I wondered for a while: how did the rolling, water-vapour fluffs in the sky ever come into creation? A geographer, with wrinkled brow, would probably tell me to study the hydrological cycle, but I'd probably tell that geographer to scoot off. Because I, for one, do not believe that a textbook explanation is all there is to clouds…

Prior to water, prior to any element, what was there? Who was there? What force manifested into visible forms, such as clouds? When I ponder over this and really focus on the properties of specific forms, like clouds, I go all gooey inside. I feel something burning. My cells vibrate, pulsate; come to life. If I can observe those movements, then I am not those movements. They exist independently of me.

I usually conclude that I am somehow connected to, and independent of, all of life, like the force that must have created the clouds. It’s a bizarrely wonderful thought to follow. Am I, in essence, the force that creates visible forms? What could I create if I tapped into the purest, greatest part of myself?

Feeling inspired and in the mood to be seduced by beauty, I typed the keywords ‘beautiful art’ into Google. Link after link, I hopped through the cyber world, arrested by nothing I saw. I wanted to see more than just landscape and pretty fruit bowls; I wanted to see manifestations of pure beauty. Then, after a while, I stumbled upon Lily’s site http://www.lilymoses.com/. Oh my.

Phwoo. I can’t describe the beauty, purity, love and mysticism that must come through that girl’s brush. So I won’t. Words would only spoil it.

Kudos, Lily Moses.

A little post script:

I have permanently copied Lily’s videos into this blog under the video section to remind myself (and anyone who reads this blog) just how beautiful the world can be. Enjoy how big your smile’s going to be. x 

Eckhart at the RDS

Eckhart Tolle’s teachings changed my life. Not a small amount or a significant amount; totally. His books about life in the present moment blew to smithereens my outdated thinking in one almighty mind bomb. If that sounds like more inner destruction than it’s worth, consider that his second book, A New Earth, sold over five million copies. That’s a lot of people paying money to have their heads torn apart. Maybe, then, there’s something to be gained from destroying old thought patterns to make room for head space. Maybe, there’s something about Eckhart...

When Oprah Winfrey hosted a live web chat with The Power of Now author over a ten-week period, 35 million people tuned in. It’s clear that the man has universal appeal – even though he basically tells you that all of your pain is self-created and unnecessary.

Though Tolle is widely considered the leading spiritual teacher of the modern age; to look at him – which I did last Thursday in the RDS – you’d think him an ordinary Joe Soap. His humility and diminutive disposition are awe-inspiring. It’s easy to see that the man, a German-born ex-academic, has shed all ego. There are a rare few people in the world who can truly say they have no ego, and I’m definitely not one. But I’d like to be one some day, which is why I went to Tolle’s surprisingly packed-out talk in Dublin. Looking around at people my age; or older people in professional garb getting out of BMWs and Mercs, I got a first, real taste of just how prevalent alternative philosophies have become in Ireland. It wasn’t a hippy fest, or a meet-up for neurotics; it was normal. Scrap that; it was better than normal. It was, and I don’t use this word willy-nilly: enlightening.

Eckhart inspires because his every word and movement come, quite obviously, from a place of focused, still and uninterrupted consciousness. He preaches nothing – no doctrine, law or gospel. Instead, he points seekers of truth to inner peace. Ignore thoughts and see what happens, he smiled, as he addressed worried people in the audience who were convinced they just couldn’t. Stop identifying with thoughts, his books say, and see just how vast your true identity is. Live your life without future or past; stay only in the present moment. After all, he points outs, amused at the beautiful simplicity of it: the present moment is all you ever have.


Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Ruby, the foster dog who can sit

Ruby, my new border collie, was born in a barn. And like other creatures sharing that distinction, she has issues with doors. Closed doors. She hates to see a freakin' door closed on her. It makes me want to grrrowl right back at her. But I'm working on taking the high road instead, with her help. Now, before I elaborate further on her door issues, I'll first tell her story; exactly what happened from the day she arrived to when she learned her first command :) Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, I give you the tail of ruby the dog ;)

Marie from Paw Pourri Rescue Centre http://www.pawpourri.net/  handed 9-week-old Ruby to me with no more than a collar around her neck. Poor Ruby was shivering, riddled in fleas, suffering from an ear infection and had her tail between her legs. I immediately wanted to put my Super Mammy skills to action on her. She was petrified. With a soft all-white coat and intense brown eyes, my urge was to coo and woo her, wrap her in cotton, and hum a Beethoven lullaby in her floppy ears. However, that kind of mammyish behaviour, I have learned, is exactly what you shouldn't do to a distressed dog. So I stifled my visceral urges and decided to think like a dog, for the sake of the dog. I hung up my superhero accoutrements (mask, underpants, lycra leggings), sat back, and gave her space.

For a painstaking hour, I watched silently (almost) as she sniffed her way around our small apartment, which was as alien to her as a spaceship would be to us. She fast considered me her mother/guardian/whatever and followed me, you guessed it, like a lost puppy. Everywhere - to the sink, the couch, the toilet, etc. At first glimpse, I thought it cutiepatootie cute but after a few days it started to get old. Really old. And I began to wonder if I was sowing separation-anxiety seeds by letting her follow me ev-er-y-where. Sad to say, I think my wonderments might have been right...

Because now, one week on, I can't get a decent night's kip. It's no longer the Riddler keeping me up at night (see ignoring the riddler post), it's a tiny dog catapulting herself at my sitting room door, yelping and whining louder than a Doberman would. I got to sleep last night at 2:30 in the friggin' am. The night before, there wasn't a peep from her; she slept like a good baby. How does that erratic behaviour make any sense? Hmm? I seriously need to implement a solid bedtime routine or Ruby's gonna, I don't know, suffer in an acceptable, fair and legal way. My options:

Because I live in an apartment, ignoring her for too long is simply not an option - unless I want grumpy neighbours ringing my bell, which I don't. So I have to watch her fall asleep, tip toe out of the room, and maybe get some sleep for my efforts. If she hears me leave, she's straight up and bouncing all over the place. Leaving her without making even a hair-pin-falling sound has become a fine art; a strategy I hone every other night as I creep in the dark. And although I might make a crafty burglar after all my work, I definitely won't make it as an eyedrop model. The bags. Sleep deprivation does no-thing for radiance, I can tell you now.

But the positive news, and the reason for this post: Ruby has learned her first command: sit. I was so PROUD. I've never had a dog and never really considered myself a dog person, but with encouragement from dog enthusiast and manipulator, Julie Hyde, I've been dipping my toe in and liking it. I guess that fostering Ruby (Hyde's idea) means that I'm all the way in now, especially because I've taught her something, right?

Anyway, I'm happy and surprised to say that I still have my head above water.  But please, Ruby, be a good girl tonight.

A little post script:

Tomorrow, Ruby learns to give the paw. Watch this space for results.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Ignoring The Riddler...

Since I was old enough to realise my mother didn’t make me, I’ve smelled a rat: this creation malarkey is not what it appears to be. My mother, bless her, did not stay alert for nine months and decide that, yes, Mondays were for making toes, Tuesdays for neural pathways to the prefrontal cortex and Wednesdays for dendritic end bulbs. Of course she didn’t. My mother hosted me, the intelligence created me. I’ve spent my grown-up life trying to catch the tiniest glimpse of this elusive intelligence. And pondering over it for any length of time makes me want to ask the big one, the ultimate one:

Who am I?

Now this question hangs around me like a bad smell. It forces its way into my personal head space and lingers until it stagnates, leaving me - it’s unwilling host - put out that it ever came near me. It’s impossible to address and even harder to get rid of. At least you can assert yourself against a person if they send one rolling your way. But you can’t speak to a thought. So you have to learn to live with it, deal with it – whatever it takes to not end up pacing up and down a chicken coop at night.

I call it, the unanswerable question, the Riddler. He/she/it whooshes around my mindscape in the quiet of the night, challenging me for an answer.

‘Who am I? It whispers.

The Riddler’s question always hits me from left field. And because I’m never aware it’s coming, I usually don’t answer very well. I usually don’t answer at all. In fact, I’m that kind of girl who answers a question with a question.

‘Am I you, Riddler?’

I always offer my answer in gritted-teeth trepidation. After all, adding another layer of intensity to an already impossible conundrum is hardly wise. And I know I’m not the Riddler, so am basically just trying to keep it quiet by offering it utter fandangle. But, lately, the fog has been lifting and I feel I now know at least this much for certain:

I’m not the Riddler because the Riddler is just a thought. How could I be just a thought? I am not my thoughts. I am the awareness behind my thoughts. I observe my thoughts.  I’m the Observer, not the Riddler.

The Riddler is just a wisp of air – not me or a Jim Carrey villain in question-mark-print spandex. It has no mass. It’s just a thought that lurks within and around the recesses of my unmanaged subconscious. But for some unknowable reason, I end up chasing for answers to its questions like a dog after its own tail. And all at the expense of a decent night’s sleep. I need to, me thinks, put an end to this destructive pattern and consider a more enlightened route for figuring out who I am. So…

Henceforth, I do declare, I will approach existential questions from the Observer state. I’m going to listen to nothing but the stillness. The answer will come to me if I just rest in peace. I’m going to commit myself to meditation, the way I’ve been doing this past week (barring two mornings - I’m human).

My new Ayurvedic lifestyle plan (see Petals in the Air post) may just prove to be the vital link that’s been missing in my life. I’m beginning to see, dear peeps, that early morning meditation is where it’s at…

So, SCREW YOU, Riddler! I'm on to you...

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


With my good pal Julie, I have co-created a brand spanking new meet-up club called, drum roll please...The Clare Veg Group! It feels just fine to invent something - and even though the result may not be as important as what Marie Curie found in a petri dish, I am, we are, rather proud. What can I say? It's fun to oscillate in and around the excitement spectrum.

We've done up the flyer, the blog:  http://www.clareveggroup.blogspot.com/  and chosen the location. All going to plan, we'll meet up with like-minded folk every first Thursday of the month and share ideas about making vegetarianism effortless, interesting and fun. If this sounds like something any reader of this blog would be interested in, then do come along - even if you're just curious about meat-flouting.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Petals in the Air...

Today I start over.

Today I begin the journey to resplendence, one step at a time.  My new and bespoke health regime – planned by Ayurvedic practitioner Doug Hyde www.satmya.com  is perfectly suited to my personal constitution. Yes, perfectly.  After an hour-long consultation, in which Doug and I discussed my current lifestyle, I listened to the prognosis. “Follow the plan I have set out,’’ he said, “and you will absolutely-without-a-doubt sparkle like stardust and rainbows.” A side-effect, however, he warned, was that I may start to fart flower petals. He didn’t actually say any of those things, but that’s what I interpreted from his positively peppered parlance.

On a less flighty note, though, I do know that It’s going to require determination, not least of all because I have to rise early, chant a sacred syllable, do a listening meditation, massage myself in spicy oil AND shower before eating breakfast. It’s a lot to incorporate, but I figure it’s worth it. I figure I’m worth it. I’m tired of neglecting common sense advice because the will to listen to it has been weakened by recurrent foolish behaviour. It’s time to grind the proverbial axe; knuckle down – whatever. I’m just doing it and nothing - not even a death-by-chocolate or a dunkable digestive – can stop me.

This is my new mantra:

I’ll remember to add aloe vera to my pomegranate juice twice a day and take my psyllium husks and slippery elm sludge-drink at night. I’ll even remember to take my Chandraprabharati three times a day, eat more nuts and seeds and replace oats in my diet with barley. I’ll sweat more to eliminate ama or toxins, and go to bed earlier so I don’t wake up feeling as though I’m trapped like a miner under rocks. My lunch will be bigger than my dinner and my digestive fires will be stimulated with spices such as asafoetida, turmeric, black pepper, ginger and ajwain.

I am doing this. I am doing this. I am doing this.

Less about me, more about Ayurvedic Medicine.

Ayurvedic medicine sees people as uniquely individual; made up in differing parts of the five great elements: ether, air, earth, water and fire. When an individual reports to a practitioner, the first thing that practitioner does is find out which dosha or type their client is i.e which concentration of elements are strongest within them. The combinations of the five great elements are subdivided into three general types or doshas:

  1. Pitta:  ruled by fire and water. Pitta types are said to be, not surprisingly, fiery. They are also competitive, determined, intelligent and passionate. Out of balance, they are prone to anger, irritability and other ‘inflammatory’ emotions.
  2. Vata is ruled by air and ether. Vata is sometimes considered the primary dosha as it is responsible for all movement, hence life, in the body. Vata types are highly energetic, prone to change and creative. Out of balance, they suffer anxiety and other fearful emotions as the speed of the movement of thoughts becomes increased.
  3. Kapha is ruled by earth and water. Kapha types are steady, reliable, consistent and sweet. Out of balance they can become lethargic, depressed, gloomy or ‘stuck.’

And back to me.

I’m a Pitta/Vata type, so bi-doshic, not polar. And as competitive Pitta is my dominant dosha, grim determination is my birthright. I have enough of the stuff to lift a goalpost out of the earth, bend it into one of those balloon-poodle designs, and throw it far enough into the sky for the reversed law of gravity to keep it suspended in space for infinity. There’s no way I’m not doing this. I’m reinventing my body TODAY. No more excuses.

For less subjective advice about Ayurveda and other alternative health systems, I recommend Doug’s and Yvette’s website www.satmya.com. Yvette is Doug’s wife/ business partner, is an award-winning naturopath and advises clients about Eastern and Western health systems. Not too shabby.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010


This article comes with a health warning. Read it only if you are interested in hearing about a system which, if ever implemented, would tear down the very foundations of the society in which we live. The alternative social system as proposed in Zeitgeist, a bold documentary, and the subject of this article, is brazen. It’s brazen enough to suggest a society that values resources over money and equality over elitism. If you have a vested interest in the latter, the following words will deeply offend you. In fact, your feathers won’t be ruffled, they’ll stand up and grey. If, however, you’re on the other side of the fence, then you’re in for a treat. Here goes:

You’re burning money. How often have those words been directed at you? If you’re like me; regularly. From an early age, we’re taught the importance of currency, its value and the foolishness of wasting it. We treat it as a resource, the most valuable one. But here’s the rub: it’s not a resource, and it’s definitely not as important as, say, water, earth or air. Sound audacious? It’s not, really. It’s just common sense. Truth is, we could live without it. Money is a man-made concept that was created out of thin air (a resource) on the whims of a few very powerful men. It’s an invention.

Invention is synonymous with that time old saying which says that necessity is mother. In the case of cash, currency, legal tender, the green stuff, this is also true. But out of what need was it born? More importantly, out of whose need was it born? Zeitgeist, a myth-busting, cerebral documentary, investigates this question. And then some. 

What is money?

The documentary takes the standpoint that money has been used throughout history to manipulate and distort reality for the purpose of keeping wealth in the hands of a select few. As well as shining a light on injustice, it implores us to remember something we have long forgotten: that all men and women are born equal - with equal rights to the earth and her resources. Money, the narrator argues, is all that gets in the way of this, as well as corrupt religions that have us believe that we are not the masters of our own destiny. The latter is a sensitive subject for many, and one I dare not approach. But the makers of Zeitgeist do, so be warned if you are pro-doctrine and established religion. If you are, Zeitgeist will only offend you or cause you great indignation. If you’re open, and curious, then enjoy the theories it propagates. Definitely, they are food for thought.

What is Zeitgiest?

Zeitgeist is a truly groundbreaking documentary that reveals the corrupt nature of the banking system. You won’t find it on prime time TV because, frankly, it’s just too dissident, too bold and, perhaps, too close to the truth. It is available, however, on google video to download for free.

What’s the message?

Zeitgeist debunks the lie that Western Society has tricked us into believing: that subservience is a necessary part of life. By keeping us in a never-ending cycle of debt, banks maintain their hold over us. We work at menial jobs that do nothing to serve our personal growth, or humankind’s, so that we have money to repay our debts.

How can the banks persuade us to do such a thing? By convincing us that we need the latest and greatest this, the shiniest that. By creating the image of a perfect life, house, car, etc. and enticing us to reach for it. By convincing us that we don’t have a right to our basic needs. By having us believe that the planet’s resources are not for everyone, just those who can afford them. Imagine? It asks rhetorically, that we actually buy into it.

Zeitgeist slaps us about the face, pours a bucket of water over us and screams at us to wake up. Mostly, it calls upon us to believe in our worth as human beings. We are not consumers; it shouts from the screen, we are human beings. And we have worth.

In the follow-up documentary, Zeitgeist Addendum, a bold new system is proposed in which humans are free to achieve their highest potential - without the need for slavery-through-labour, money or a class system. Sound impossible? Airy Fairy? Plain stupid? A shout-out to communism? It’s not. It’s called the Venus Project and you can check it out online for yourself. Its founder, Jacque Fresco, hung out with Einstein. He’s ninety-four years of age, and describes himself as a social engineer. If you’re not at the very least impressed by his vision and intelligence, I’ll eat my hat.

Humans are curious creatures by nature. We want to explore the universe, understand ourselves and find answers to existential questions. The only thing stopping our deepest inquiries is the corrupt system that asks us to live our lives inside a tiny box with tiny windows. ‘Close those curtains!’ it might as well say. ‘There’s nothing to see out there. Get back to work, you lout. You’re losing me money.’

The universe is gargantuan, limitless, infinite and virtually unexplored. Why aren’t we looking up at the stars at night, wondering what’s beyond them? Why don’t we look to a better future? Zeitgeist provides a theory: Because we’re worried sick that our houses will be taken if we can’t meet mortgage repayments, that we won’t have enough money to meet our basic needs, that we’ll end up destitute. We’re in such a tight bind that we just don’t have the mental energy to consider the most wonderful facets of human existence. Is that, or is that not, a tragedy? Zeitgeist asks.

There are enough resources in the world for everyone to, at the very least, survive - not to mention thrive. Why are children dying every day of starvation? Might there be a chance that our collective mentality is very, very malaised? If questioning the system makes ‘weirdoes’ or ‘hippies’ out of us, then maybe we need to redefine our definition of normal. Because it’s not normal to stifle our higher nature. And it’s not normal that children, with imaginations and hopes and dreams, die every day because they have no food. Or is it? Is death through scarcity just the nature of competition? The flip-side of a supply and demand based free economy? Is it only natural that there are unfortunate losers, like dead children? Puh-lease. No one truly believes that. So, why then, do we support the system that does? That’s what Zeitgeist is concerned with.


Saturday, 28 August 2010


    you and I sitting on the verandah,
    apparently two, but one in soul, you and I.
    We feel the flowing water of life here,
    you and I, with the garden's beauty
    and the birds singing.
    The stars will be watching us,
    and we will show them
    what it is to be a thin crescent moon.
    You and I unselfed, will be together,
    indifferent to idle speculation, you and I.
    The parrots of heaven will be cracking sugar
    as we laugh together, you and I.
    In one form upon this earth,
    and in another form in a timeless sweet land.

Vietnam (novel excerpt)

The hostess’ stilt house stood over a patchwork of rice fields, offering the perfect vantage point for the expected full moon. To the Vietnamese, Lillian had learned, the night of a full moon was the most auspicious in the lunar calendar. In quiet anticipation, she watched evening’s orange sun melt into the horizon. In a blink, night arrived; dressed in a raven cape and flashing silver, moving the sky to its celestial beat.

Rainbow coloured lanterns dangled around the boundaries of rice fields. Each glittering hue fused expertly with the glow of the night, as though designed. Beauty reigned supreme; captivating; seducing Lillian, who was floating now - over cultural divides, language, custom and every other unnatural concept mankind used to divide existence from truth. She glimpsed freedom.

‘Come, come now.’

Anh gently waved Lillian inside.

A teenage girl with warm eyes sat down beside her. There was no hint, she thought, of a hormonal ‘troubled teenager’ in her. Maybe psychological labels put on dysfunction are nothing more than that, she thought, folding a blanket into a seat. Carefree, she let her mind dissolve in the romance of the velvet night. A waterfall of peace crashed over her analytical mind, sending out tidal-waves of perfect peace to everyone in the room.

Baskets of malleable sticky rice passed round in baskets, with a side of crushed nuts. A quiet man whom she hadn’t yet heard speak gently rolled a portion of rice into a cylinder with his bare hands. He handed it to her and bowed his head. She replicated the act of humility.

Older men and women, inspired by the charged environment, unleashed their party tricks – stories, poems, songs, musical performances and even, to Lillian’s enchantment, water puppets in the rice fields. There was a baffling paradox at the very core of these people, she thought, looking around at their childlike playfulness. They were tough enough to defeat brutal enemies and yet, at the same time, were openly vulnerable. Did it really happen; Lillian asked herself, that B52s dropped bombs onto serene villages like this? Where people just wanted to sit in circles? Lillian took a moment to scold the ghosts of politicians past. Humankind wasn’t all kind, but here, now, in this moment, it was everything she had ever hoped it to be. 

Friday, 2 April 2010


We weave ourselves into a tapestry of experience that grows more exalted as the time passes, yet every thread is nothing but a wisp of thought, desire or feeling. Every moment lived adds another stitch, and even if you cannot envision what the final pattern will look like, it helps to know that the thread is golden.

Deepak Chopra

In my dreams, I remember...

A pink feathered August twilight turned to night. Lillian took a deep breath in and held it, suspended, for as long as it took to absorb every atom of the twinkling sky. Its frequency switched hers to almost still, like rain water drip-dropping on a silk summer leaf. It was time to sleep. But before her final surrender, one last spectacle auditioned for attention. Golden thought bubbles often came in gentle showers, as nourishment from the highest floor of her fantasy-prone mind. Tonight, a single orb floated alone, bright and growing brighter. It flickered into a wish, a prayer, that some day the man lying on the other side of the bed would ask her to be his wife. Her small lips stretched in a smile as it prophesised her wedding day. Nothing was sweeter than night-dreaming.

Then suddenly, out of nothing; an abrupt noise, a creak; definitely, a movement. Her instincts screamed danger. She sat up. Adrenaline pumped through her. She and Phil weren’t alone. Thumps from her distressed heart flooded her ears. Her blood ran cold. Deadly silence returned. What was that noise? She asked herself, too terrified to consider the answer.

A silhouette darted across the balcony. It was a man, a burglar, dressed in black, with a weapon. Her voice left her, like the worst kind of traitor; the kind that leaves in an hour of need. Alone, she tried desperately to cope, to react, to the terrifying realisation that someone was trying to break in. Her limbs joined the mutiny. She was within inches of Phil, trying to move. Gloved fingers from outside separated the curtains. A man walked through.  The intruder looked straight into her eyes through the slits in his penguin mask. She noticed his long beak, pointed and sharp like a razor. He was going to end her life.

There was blood. It poured in buckets onto a grey road. Brambly hedges and thorny bushes poked at her, forcing her to look at what she had done, at what she had caused. She saw the car, a red ’96 Ford Orion and screamed at herself to wake up.

She clung to the blanket, drenched, and sobbed quietly in the dark. Was it still normal to grieve after all these years? She thought, as she wiped her tears.

Subconscious minds were not to be treated as cesspits, she understood, but still didn’t quite know. Without mature patrolling, there was every chance that they could morph into frenzied dreamweavers, indiscriminately throwing up the random content of traumatic memories. She knew that, too. She could have done more to prevent the nightmares recurring, she thought, angry at herself.

There were plenty of signs, lead-ups to this grand finale. Lately her dreams had been urging her to take heed, to end her grand delusions. Her once sunny slumber movies had turned a shade darker, warning her that ominous clouds weren’t just ominous; that a hard rain was gonna fall.

‘God damn you, mind,’ she spitted out loud inside. All she wanted was a little co-operation. Was it really too much to ask?