Memory and a Mystery

I’m surrounded by stuff at the moment.

Stuff from simultaneously decorating (& swapping)  2 childrens bedrooms.

Where did all this rubbish carefully chosen and looked after stuff come from?   I swear I haven’t seen most of it before.

Stuff from school as everything they have produced this year is spewed out of their classrooms and into the house.

And stuff that just seems to grow and accumulate of its own accord.

I cant move for stuff.

But

When Mum died and I had to clear out her room,  there was very little stuff left.

A big part of her Alzheimers was paranoia coupled with the irresistible compulsion to destroy her own property.

Letters

Clothing

Photos

Jewellery

All the stuff that she had tended for years,  that had lovingly been moved with her from place to place

Gone

And you know what?

It’s absolutely fine

At the end of the day it’s just stuff.  Stuff that was tied up with her story and her memories.   Not so much mine.

Except.

In her wardrobe

One item that stayed pristine.

Clean.

Not attacked by scissors

Or bleach

Or

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vinegar and lemon

I would guess  this was from the late 50s or early 60s.  I certainly never saw her wear it.

But the fact that this survived and was cherished when everything else was lost speaks volumes

An

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d it will be cherished still.

Even if it is just stuff.

Yogic Lit

I realise that I am in danger of becoming a yoga bore.

So I promise this will be the last time I mention it.

For a little while a least.

Probably.

But I have been asked for recommendations for books on yoga.

And given that I’m a Librarian with a degree in history, my ability to source books on yoga far surpasses my ability to actually do it :-)

So coming at this as a complete beginner, the following have been really useful additions to the bookshelf.

And I’m sure sitting reading them with a nice cup of tea and a biscuit counts towards self practice time.

Svadhyaya, (tick), Pratyahara (tick), dharana (tick)

See, well on the way to enlightenment already.

Books to help with the Physical Practice

 The Ashtanga Yoga Practice Manual by David Swenson.  I’ve found this absolutely invaluable.  Clear photos and written descriptions of the asanas, together with variations for the more flexibly challenged.  I still struggle with so many of the postures but at least with this book my brain can get what   I’m supposed to be doing even if my body isn’t interested in joining in yet.

 Yoga Mala by the originator of Ashtanga Yoga, Pattabhi Jois.  If I’m honest I really prefer David Swensons book, but it is interesting to read a text that weaves together the physical and spiritual elements of the practice. And makes incredible claims for the healing power of yoga.

image Having freaky fingers that bend the wrong way and are also double jointed I am fascinated by mudras.

Yay, postures I have half a chance of being able to do.

This is a really good introduction to a selection of the hundreds of different hand positions that focus on different physical, mental and spiritual attributes. Nice clear photos and written descriptions.

Integration/Philosophy

image Still working my way through this one.  But as I am trying develop both a daily asana self-practice , and to integrate other elements of yoga into my life, this is a useful set of pointers and discussions.

image I love this book, it really makes me laugh (the description of the young boy who claimed to have awoken his Kundalini energy being given a good slap and told to get a grip by Iyengar is particularly memorable) as well as being thought-provoking and full of wisdom.image This is absolutely fascinating.  A bit “photo-journalist”, but given it’s a topic I knew little about that was fine.  The photos are amazing, and the descriptions of how these men (and it is largely men) live and journey towards enlightenment are even more so.  A word of warning, if you are male and read this book, be aware that some of the photos (I’m thinking in particular of one that shows them lifting heavy stones without using their normal four limbs) will make your eyes water.

image Be Here Now by Ram Dass.  Well, I’ve included this because it comes under the heading of “interesting”.

Dass was a renowned Harvard academic & psychologist who worked with Timothy Leary “researching” the use of mind altering substances such as LSD.

Not sure how academically rigorous the research actually was.

Anyway, the first part of the book is a really interesting autobiographical description of Dass seeking spiritual enlightenment, first through psychology, then through drugs, and then through his wanderings in India.  This is absolutely fascinating.

The second part of the book is a series of stream-of-consciousness statements and drawings which I must admit I struggled with as it reminded me too much of some “deep and meaningful” album covers I spent too much time analysing as an angst-ridden teen goth.

Lots of people swear by it as a starting point for their own spiritual journey.

but I think I’ll stick with The Sisters of Mercy

Breath

image I’m just starting on this, but have high hopes it will prevent a recurrence of the hair ball incident (see previous post) and my tendency to sound like Darth Vader during his death scene in Star Wars  VI.

Fiction

Who knew there would be such a rich seam of yogic fic. to tap into?

image Yes it’s chick lit, but it’s very very funny.  And the descriptions of the heroines first forays into a yoga class are hilarious.

And so true to life.

image I’ve mentioned this before, but it so good, and as someone who struggles with meditation this did offer hope that if I persevere  one day my mind may stay focused for longer than three seconds (and yep, See previous posts about meditation)

image  I really hated this book.  But if you like the sort of self-obsessed, narcissistic works of Eat, Pray, Love and the like then you’ll probably like this.  Marketing executive decides there is more to life than image and goes off in search of enlightenment by staying in posh ashrams with beautiful people.  It made me so cross I gave up half way through, but perhaps it gets better later on.

Maybe.

And just to finish off….Ayurveda

image Ayurveda is a sister discipline to yoga.  It works on the assumption that we have different body types, made up of a mixture of the doshas vata, pitta and kapha.  If these doshas become imbalanced then you will have illness -physical, mental or spiritual.  Ayurveda is a system designed to help you keep your life in balance.

There are much more complete guides to Ayurveda out there.  But if you want a light, easy introduction to the topic, this is a good staring point.

Disturbing (AKA Fiction Friday)

It’s been a long time since I last visited Stratford Butterfly Farm

In fact youngest child was about 3 the last time we visited.

That was the time I turned my back for a minute and she decided to pet a butterfly.

Only, 3 year olds are not renowned for their finesse and fine motor skills.

I do hope it wasn’t an endangered species.

Ahem.

So, it’s been a while.

And what are you greeted with when you visit nowadays?

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A shop mannequin with the top of it’s head chopped off, and filled with plants.

As youngest child said as we approached it

“Well, that’s a bit disturbing”.

This Week I Have Mostly Been Reading

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A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

This is the perfect early summer read.

It is the story of Ove, a man who at first appears bitter and unpleasant but whose tragic background, good heart and stubborn defense of his own, old fashioned, moral values and code of ethics lead, ultimately, to his rehabilitation.  You’ll laugh and, if you’re like me, you’ll weep buckets (earning plenty of eye rolls from oldest child).  This is a real feel-good story.

Next Week I Shall Mostly Be Reading

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.

It’s been on my wish list for a few years.

Hope  it’s worth the wait.

Just Breathe

You just know that any conversation that begins “Your practice is great, but” is not going to end in a way that makes you happy.

And so it seems that as well as persuading my body to form shapes it really doesn’t want to do, I have to try and control my breathing at the same time.

For some reason my normal method of holding my breath, gritting my teeth and grimacing, is somehow not yogic enough.

The key to mastering the postures is apparently ujjayi breathing.image

A way of breathing that uses the throat rather than the nostrils or the mouth

Sounds easy doesn’t it?

Ha!

Which is how I came to be stood in the middle of the self practice class, red faced, sounding like I’d just run a marathon

or was engaged in dubious phone work.

All around me the real yogis were engaged in ujjayi breath work as they performed effortless asanas.

The noise of their breath like a calming sea, waves undulating around the studio

As I stood there

Breathing with the nostrils

Still breathing with the nostrils

Still breathing with the nostrils

still, –  oh wait I think I’ve got it!

I’ve got it!

I’ve…

oh dear god I’ve made a sound like I’ve coughed up a hair ball.

Or something worse

Om.

Mmmmm

It’s June.

It’s sunny (on and off)

So there must be

Freshly picked,  sunwarmed strawberries

Freshly picked, sunwarmed strawberries

Which transform nicely into

Gently heated,  lemon infused,  strawberry scented kitchens

Gently heated, lemon infused, strawberry scented kitchens

Which stack up perfectly into

Homemade strawberry jam

Homemade strawberry jam

Which of course just perfectly lends itself to

Oven warm homemades scones with jam and clotted cream

Oven warm homemades scones with jam and clotted cream

Mmm mmm mmm.  :-)

Fiction Friday

I’m not a gardener.

I sometimes kid myself that I am.

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But that only lasts as long as the nice weather does.

Real gardeners tend to be out there in all weathers.

They nurture,  they tend,  they nurse.

They dont just bung the plants in and hope for the best.

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But sometimes.

Sometimes.

Bunging in and leaving the rest to nature?

Works.

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This Week I Have Mostly Been Reading

Walking Home by Sonia Choquette.

Which isnt a work of fiction.

Not exactly.

When her marriage breaks down and she unexpectedly suffers 2 bereavements,  Sonia Choquette decides to undertake an 820km pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago. This book describes her journey- physical,  mental and spiritual- and the stories of the people she met along the way.

I am trying to be yogic and non judgemental about this.

But this is a woman who sees fairies.

Who puts her crippling blistered feet down to the workings of Spirit

rather than the fact she bought her walking boots a couple of days before starting her walk and didn’t wear them in.

And who knows?

Perhaps the Spirit does move in mysterious ways.

But,  in spite of being slightly deranged,  (must not judge,  must not judge),  Choquette is an endearing character.

And her descriptions of battling with her experiences,  her expectations and her self are fascinating and honest.

We all need some time away from the stress and busyness of life in order to remind ourselves of who we really are.

Most of us just dont need the fairies to help us find it.

Next Week I Shall Mostly Be Reading

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

A book about a grumpy middle aged bloke.

Obviously a work of fiction then.

:-)

Fiction Friday

22 days into a daily yoga practice.

You’d think it would be making a difference wouldn’t you?

But as I hobbled out of bed this morning, everything aching, I did think this was not quite the effect I was hoping for.

And tomorrow? 

I’ve signed up for a yoga workshop.

Which sounded lovely in the initial description.

And then the teacher released a leeetttle more information a couple of days ago.

Information which included the words “splits” and “tittibhasana”.

Yes I had to look the last one up too.

It looks like the evil older brother of the bhuja pidasana pose that has defeated me for the last 6 months.

May be crawling home tomorrow.

Or hitching a lift in an ambulance.

This Week I Have mostly Been Reading

   The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton.

I loved this book.

Set amongst the merchant class of Seventeenth Century Amsterdam it deals with the life of Nella a new, very young and naive, bride and her new family.  Given a dolls house as a gift by her new husband, Nella comes to suspect (hope? Fear?) that the miniaturist who creates charming tiny replicas of the people and things in Nellas real life is in fact a prophetess or seer, or perhaps something more sinister.

The claustrophobic, damp and dingy atmosphere of seventeenth century Amsterdam is evocatively portrayed.  The themes of race, class, greed, love and jealousy beautifully interwoven.

The ending? A little disappointing.  Having developed these great characters and plot twists, it’s as if the author just didn’t know what to do with them.

Or perhaps she’s setting them up for a sequel :-)

Next Week I Shall Mostly Be Reading

   Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz.

A boy (who is really named Odd) who has two talents:  Manning the grill at a greasy spoon, and communing with the dead.  

Not at the same time.

Oh and he also hangs out with dead Elvis.

Need I say more? :-)

Beltane fire

A happy Beltane to you all.

Turning the wheel.

Moving from spring to summer. 

 A hot, sunny British summer.

I can tell this from the way I’ve just had to dig out my woolly gloves again this morning.

Ahem.

This Week I Have Mostly Been Reading

   Clovenhoof by Heide Goody and Iain Grant.

I can’t stress enough how hilariously brilliant this book is.

Oldest child kept telling me off for laughing out loud so much and spoiling his gaming concentration.

Shame.

The devil is banished to earth for failing to meet productivity targets.

Imagine a book that combines the farcical elements of Tom Sharpe with a strong awareness of the minutiae (and sometimes ludicrousness) of church law and custom.  

Throw in a healthy dose of the anarchy and heresy of (one of my favourite films) Dogma.

Set it all in Sutton Coldfield.

Just brilliant.

So brilliant that I immediately downloaded and read the other three volumes the authors have produced so far -Pigeonwings (Archangel Micheal similarly banished to Sutton Coldfield), Satans Shorts (short stories on the trials and tribulations of Michael and Satan) and GodSquad (Saints Christopher, Francis and Joan of Arc sent as an A team to earth in response to a prayer from a soulless anarchist. Yes Really.)

Can’t wait for the next volume to be published later this year :-)

Next Week I Will Mostly Be Reading

   The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton.

Love, lust, mystery and dolls houses in 17th century Amsterdam.

Cool.

Fiction Friday

You would be forgiven for thinking

  

That Armageddon, or at least a small tornado combined with an earthquake, had passed through Leamington on Wednesday

  

But no.

It was nine 8 year old girls, over for an Easter/Spring Arts and Crafts and baking day.

My ears are still bleeding from the screaming.

Oldest child locked himself in his bedroom but eventually gave up, got on his bike and went to seek sanctuary at a friends house.

He may have broken the land speed record in his haste to get away.

But, out of chaos came forth order.

Of a sort

   

      

This Week I Have Mostly Been Reading

 

 Alif the Unseen by G Willow Wilson.

Absolutely fabulous!

 It is described on Amazon as  techno thriller.  But really that does not go anywhere near capturing the depth and breadth of this book.

Set in an unspecified Arab state, it deals with censorship and control, social structures, hacking and the cyber world and mixes these uber secular themes with Djinn, fables and myths, and ideas on the power and evolution of language. Language as a power source to knowledge and to magical realms and ultimately heaven. Language and books, in particular holy  books such as the Koran,  offering a source code whose sophistication evolves with mankinds ability to decode and use it. 

Throw in elements of the Arab Spring, a love story and the Thousand and One Nights and there you have it.

Magical Realism at its best.

Next Week I shall Mostly Be reading

   Clovenhoof by Heide Goody and Iain Grant.

What if the devil was fired from hell for gross negligence and had to forge a new life trying to quietly fit in in suburban Britain?

Hmm, thinking about it I’m sure that would explain a lot about Tescos on a Tuesday morning….

Hope Your Easter is a happy and chocolatey one