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

image

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.

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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 ūüôā

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?

image

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.