How to soak up the last vestiges of Summer …

I dread winter – the ease with which I can hibernate, curl up into myself, isolate. Summer offers a brightness that cajoles openness, connection; warmth-created contentment and ease … remnants to capture and store; memorise in order to recall.

HOW TO: Soak up the last vestiges of Summer

Wander slowly to a space that offers sunshine and a park bench.

Turn the mind inward, invite each of the five senses on a stroll through the outside.

SummerPanorama

Today I am lucky; today I walked slowly up from the coffee shop towards sunshine end-of-street; today there was no-one straddling, sitting, or otherwise commandeering a spot whose back rest sits at a 45 degree angle from upright and whose legs rest offers a chaise longue-like comfort.

Rest back. Face skyward.

Feel … radiant, bone-level warmth not yet dulled by autumn; the hard, cool, wooden seat bench, timber planks marking back and legs; insistent breeze.

Hear  … birds settling in; telephone conversations – fragmented; off-key tram bell; whizz of unbraking bicycle.

Taste … the history of coffee.

Smell … city perfume – melange of garbage, tree-green and people; sticky sugar from a half-empty can.

See … Tree trunk – red painted; bitumen footpath, grotty, butted; bicycle – gravity-pulled down the hill; advertising-wallpapered building facade; bicycle – leg-pushed up the hill; clear blue …

Eyes follow a Father Christmas; flirted with by the breeze.

Lean back – sun-bathed face, sun-kissed arms.

click

Captured warmth of Summer.

Memory stored.

 

SummerToSee

Masks and fragmentation

I entered the yoga studio feeling fragmented.

To be fair, I was on the verge of illness the level of which makes one question whether one should lounge or take to action; whether it would be socially irresponsible to extend the bug to others, or equally irresponsible to ignore the personal requirement of daily exercise …

… fragmented.

Nonetheless, in response to the question, “how are you?” my automated response was given – “fine – thanks”.

An alternate reality.

A facade.

A mask.

Masks are barriers to connection.

They are instinctively established and instinctively felt.

I protect myself from you. You sense my mistrust.

The yoga class today introduce the idea of dropping down into reality – pain, discomfort, strength, power, light …

Dropping into reality … carefully setting aside the mask.

“How are you?”

“I moved to a new city in search of a career-orientated north star. The bright light that I thought that I saw … so wanted to see … was the shimmer of sun ray off metal – bright, attention-grabbing … fleeting.

And I am still here.

Still searching for the north star.

I feel a little lost and the people that I trust with my self are on the end of fibre optic cable, and I need face-to-face.

My apartment is soon to be sold which means the one small root that I had shot down into this life is going to be pulled up.

And my dating story is not being assisted by modern technology …

So – I’m feeling a little like I don’t belong …

a little fragmented

… but thankyou for asking.”

 

What ‘food’ is … for me

Gut feel.

Creativity + Artistry + Experimentation.

Colour + Texture + Flavour …

ColoursofFood2

… sensory explosion.

 

A shared experience …

… a connector.

A bookmark for memories.

 

 

A vehicle to show love …

to give comfort …

… pleasure.

 

Passion …

commitment.

Risk + reward.

 

Unadulterated.

Honest.

Simple …

… and complex.

 

A way of moving through cacophony and into flow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yoga + Sinking + Whole heart living

A gradual descent into total submergence.

Say that slowly – and out loud.

A gradual

Descent

Into

Total

Submergence.

Sinking.

… into a moment; where I give myself up to the energy that surrounds me; where I hold no tension; where I am as opposed to am doing.

Bliss … but …

to sink scares me. I feel tether-less. I can’t touch the sides to get bearing; I don’t even know where the sides are.

I fight to find them, to get context, to keep head above water …

I am noting the words used here  – I see sinking as something to be battled – adversary and adversity …

Yoga is my perfect example.

I have dabbled in yoga for approximately twenty years …

I am at the age where I had to do the calculations … this age is too old to start a blog that will have impact …

There is so much competition … how will anyone find these words amongst the babble … why bother ?

If I don’t bother, I am guaranteed one result. If I do, the result in unknown … 

… reaching for that ‘zen-like’ moment of atom-level calm.

Reaching for a place where reaching doesn’t exist … #irony

Elusive.

I feel tightness, pain, discomfort and I seize. My brain still firmly ‘on’ – and yelling : “you could twist more – shoulder further back – this hurts – where is my knee – focus on the breath – push through – this huuurts”.

And my breath constricts.

And my shoulder and neck muscles tighten.

In my head there is a notion of ‘perfect’ – elements in every pose that must be achieved for the pose to be ‘good’.

Elusive.

No joy.

This week I found myself in a similar position.

A class of many twists. A class of many downward dogs that turned into split stances and hip openers. A class with discomfort.

A class where my head was wishing away time.

And then a dropped phrase that my brain paused to pick up : “living with a whole heart” … openly; all five senses accepting the now as it is …

Sinking.

I know that this is the (very) basic tenet of yoga … but for a second I stopped reaching for ‘perfect’ … or ‘ideal’ … or even ‘better’ … and I surrendered to what I was feeling in the moment …

Physical discomfort with psychological calm. In letting go of an ideal, I let go of the reins. I was.

And after the class a sensation of buoyancy; of joy.

I have already written about the Golden Circle retreat and a similar feeling … where mental and physical activity coalesced … where I sank …

What is the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’?. Was it the combination of physical and psychological exertion that allowed a descent into total submergence? Was it simply the type of physical – does my soul need to be wrung out with yogic twists and dance to connect to joy?

… what brought joy?

 

There is no joy is not licking

On the 4th of January, I started an 8-week program designed to reduce and then eliminate all sugar from life … no refined sugar, honey, maple syrup as a first step and then no sweetness of any kind including fruit as the next …

“I Quit Sugar” …

… which, on typing the title strikes me as grammatical insouciance verging on disrespect … … tangent …

My day-to-day contains very little sugar – I’ve done IQS before and the overarching habits stuck.

But I am super conscious of how I feel in the skin into which I was born as well as that in which I choose to clothe myself. I am also highly aware of my tendency to snack more than I should, to eat less than I should and do both more irregularly that I care to …

… and to overthink all of the above.

A 2-month food routine offered a solution that solved all of the above with brain computation optional.

Breakfast – particularised  :  Lunch – last night’s dinner  :  Dinner – detailed.

Easy.

… unless there is office-requested baking to be done.

ChocolateCake

Margaret Fulton’s (fail safe) Sour Cream Chocolate cake.

Rich, but not too. Light, but not too. Sweet, but not too.

Perfect, precisely.

It was 8pm when the chocolate was melted with a stream of still-steaming water,  8pm when the scent of cacao first wafted into my (super sensitive) olfactory system, 8pm when I was acutely aware of the richness offered by a cocoa, fat, sugar emulsion.

10 minutes later, the KitchenAid was creaming butter with sugar and I realised how much I craved sweetness – not just the taste, but sweetness in life … hugs and kisses and spontaneous laughter; swings in parks and spatula licking.

Spatula-licking gives such satisfaction – such joy. Feeling the still-crystallised sugar on tongue-tip and tasting the creamy, light-as-air sweetness of the whipped beginnings of a cake.

There is something deliciously illicit about the action …

… and the smell and imagined taste enticed my brain like mythical nymphs of the classics.

But I didn’t. No sugar. None. Not a crystal.

The stoic addition of three yolks. The stiff beating of an equal number of whites.

Shoulders tense. Stress rising. Concentration wavering.

I added melted chocolate in a steady stream. Again, the spatula, hugging the sides of the bowl, the final droplets submitting to gravity.

Rising desire … caving to distraction of Kombucha fizz. Skolled.

I added flour … and mixed in the two thirds of sour cream. I folded in the air of egg white and created the perfectly toned batter.

There was little love but an all-consuming desire to taste; to leave an index-finger strip across the mixture. There was little care, but a need to finish before the desire was consummated.

The pillowy-plop of batter dropping onto tin, and the resolute mind of the batter-dropper.

And those last streaks of batter in bowl. The ones crying for a finger to capture or tongue to lick. The ones that I would hope that my Mother would leave; the ones that my grandmother did leave.

The chocolate batter of childhood – made in family kitchens, with shared understandings, complicit spatula sneaking and bowl licking. The innocent joys …

And the chocolate batter of adulthood – made in the quiet, with self-imposed rules, calories. The ‘shoulds’ ruling the ‘wants’.

There is no joy in not licking.

 

What brings me joy #1

I find joy in cooking.

I find joy in a shared table; dinner with generous bowls.

I find joy in food, experimenting with flavour and texture.

 

Food, for me, brings joy.

Sharing food, for me, brings joy.

Cooking, for me, offers a moment where all five senses are humming and I am immersed.

 

There is a line – at the end of the movie of Anne of Green Gables … “I’ve been looking for my ideals outside of myself”

Maybe I’ve been looking for my joy outside of myself.

I’ve always thought that I should strive, that there’s value in that which is difficult … but what if there’s value in that which is enjoyable – what if I pursued that?

What would happen if I allowed myself to love cooking and eating and sharing and playing; if I let go …

What would happen if I dismissed the small voice that says “everyone and their dog loves cooking / food / writing /permutations of all – what more could you add” and floated downstream with the idea …

 

LTLpsh … supporting the very small voice

VanGoghWind

I am the kind of person who needs a little push.

I need someone inviting me, poking me, or something that prods me, into the first step.

I would love to be the person who sees the opportunity – the potential fun to be had in the unknown or undiarised … who is energised by the mere thought of doing something.

I know those people – you know those people. They are the ones that are surrounded by a group, who are always ‘out’ … they seem very light, carefree … the human equivalent of a Van Gogh wind.

The odd element in my life – I am the person who gets energy from both the unknown and the undiarised … when I’m doing them.

It’s just the first step that needs to be taken … by me … that offers the obstacle.

I was at home yesterday … a Friday … a sunny Friday … a Friday where I should have felt compelled, at the very least, to step outside.

I know that ‘should’ indicates a whole host of other issues … but I ‘should’ have because I knew that I would feel better if I did. I knew that I would feel more connected to the world and with that, my energy levels would rise and with that, I would be more inclined to step out a little further and with that … who knows …

… and yet … I couldn’t drag myself from the dark that had become my apartment (I had closed the blackout blinds at 6am after deciding not to go to the gym) until 4pm and a yin yoga class.

Even then, if truth be told, as well as the enticing idea of a class that I generally can’t get to and that required only a passive-me, I needed the little push of the imminent arrival of house guests and conversation that my brain was not prepared for …

So I stepped out of the house.

And the class was delicious – smile-inducing. And it allowed me to work out my plans for the evening and have those plans fully formed when I returned to houseguests who are also good friends. And, when I returned to good friends, I was mentally prepared and genuinely happy to see them which, in turn made them comfortable, which, in turn, made me happy …

And it started with a first step – out of the house.

HoNYMary

Humans of New York : 11 August 2011

I have kept this post in my head for rather a while (over six years apparently) … and I think …. what if I took more first steps more often and what if I made this motto mine …

And then it makes me think – how do I put the idea that ‘I should’ into an action that I do.

… insert emoji thinking face here …

… and then a voice in my brain, rolling its eyes (I anthropomorphise regularly) : “What’s the point? What’s the real chance of ‘wonderful’? Nothing’s going to change” …

… and if there’s no point …. then why do …?

And then a very small voice, soul-piquingly disheartened by the immediacy of the negative response, attempts a very small coup …

How to support the very small voice?

… another insertion … another emoji thinking face …