Blog

BREATHE SOFTLY…

Consciously breathing softly and slowly can be one of the quickest and easiest ways to bring you out of a place of stress and discomfort into a place of wellbeing and ease.

I have had asthma since being a child and I am very conscious of my breathing. My asthma is triggered by certain allergies, by moving quickly from warm to cold environments, by sudden physical exertion (like having to climb a steep hill at the beginning of a walk) and by stress. So I am sharing with you here BREATHE SOFTLY…one of my Top 10 OPERATION SHINE! techniques, for moving quickly and easily out of stress and into a feeling of ease…Such a lovely, easy-to-use strategy, I use it every day…

Did you know that adults take 17,000 – 30,000 breaths each day when resting and up to 50,000 when active?  Mental stress can also cause us to breathe more rapidly, triggering stress hormones and sometimes leading to hyperventilation and panic attacks.  So next time you feel yourself getting stressed and your breathing is short, try this simple technique to bring you back into a place of calm and focus:

  • Sitting or standing quietly, focus on your feet. Plant them onto the ground. If it feels appropriate, place your hands on your belly.
  • Relax your body, relax your shoulders especially.
  • Begin to notice your breath going in and out. Notice your belly moving with each breath.
  • Breathe in for the count of 2, out for the count of 4. Breathe into your belly. Try three or four rounds of this. See how you feel. Then try breathing in for the count of 4, out for the count of 7. Do this three or four times. See how you feel. If you like you can extend this to in for the count of 7 and out for 11…Choose the count that works best for you and repeat it for as long as it takes for you to feel more relaxed. This should only take a few rounds.
  • When your breathing has settled, notice what’s happening that may have caused you to feel stressed in the first place.

You can use this technique for yourself wherever you like, in a meeting at work, at home watching TV, in a café or in a crowd. You can also use it to calm others and the environment around you. When you next find yourself with an upset friend, family member or colleague, notice what happens when, without them knowing, you consciously breathe softly. You can try this with upset young ones and animals too. You needn’t tell anyone else what you’re doing, although in some cases this might be helpful and appropriate. You can also use your breathing as a silent service to others, for instance in an angry impatient queue. If nothing else, you will feel better and not be contributing to the negativity around you.

Practice breathing softly, for yourself, others and our world.

Namaste Lovely Ones – The Divine Light in Me Honours the DIvine Light in You.

Advertisements

Oh No Madam…

A few years ago I had a head cold that left me bunged up in my ears and nose for longer than usual. The residual effects were little crackling and popping sounds in my ears that I didn’t really notice during the day, only in the silence of night, as I was trying to get to sleep. For a few nights I was irritated by all this unpredictable audio interference, until one night, I heard a voice / my mind / my Inner Wisdom say very clearly to me –

“Do a headstand.”

 

No word of a lie!

So, not being one to ignore suggestions from my Higher Self, I thought, OK I’ll give it a try. What did I have to lose after all? So I left Dave sleeping peacefully in bed and I crept downstairs to where I normally practice my headstands when I do my home yoga practice. I got out my yoga mat, prepared my space, did a few shoulder openers and quickly flicked myself up to headstand position against the wall. Yes, in my PJs. I do remember feeling a bit chilly! I stayed there for the count of twenty and flipped down again to the ground. There were still a few pops and crackles in my ears…Hm. Maybe it didn’t work…? Then I heard…

“One more should do it.”

Seriously?

Alrighty then! I flicked back up into headstand and counted again to twenty. When I was upright again, I noticed the popping and whizzing had gone…I went to bed feeling very pleased with myself and laughing at the ease of the solution and how I’d been ‘told what to do’…I wondered if the crackles would start again as soon as I lay down, but, amazingly, there was no more annoying kerfuffle that night…

Intrigued and still a little bunged up, I went to Boots and asked to speak to the pharmacist to see if he could recommend something to clear my tubes. I asked to speak to him privately in the one-to-one cubicle – I didn’t want everyone to know my business and what I’d been up to did I?! Ha! In fact, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted from the pharmacist –not medicine that’s for sure. I didn’t feel ill. Reassurance I guess. So, once in private, I explained to the pharmacist, a man of Asian origin with a very strong accent, what I’d been up to the night before. He recoiled from me just a little and looked a little shocked.

“Oh no Madam, we do not prescribe headstands,” he said in his heavy accent, shaking his head quickly, his eyes wide…It was comical. And he went on to give me some Sudafed decongestant…which I bought, half-heartedly, knowing I wouldn’t take it.

I seem to remember employing my night-time headstand remedy a couple of nights in a row after that, although I didn’t bother going downstairs each time, flipping up against the wardrobe in our bedroom instead, and remarkably not waking Dave…! My ears and nose cleared completely soon after.

Now I thought no more of this until a few years later, my husband Dave started to experience dizzy spells. They were particulary brought on when he sat up from a lying position and when he lifted his head after bending over. He went to our GP who immediately sent him for tests, primarily on his heart, for fear that he had a heart-related condition causing him to feel light-headed. I went with Dave to the hospital for his consultation with the heart specialist at the DGH. This consultant chap turned out to be some sort of of Eddie Izzard and Rick Mayall hybrid! We were with the registrar and a nurse when he flounced into the examination room and told Dave that he reckoned he was hyperventilating and suffering from panic attacks. Dave was sitting on a bed at the time, I remember him swinging his legs as the consultant talked, looking like a little boy… He asked Dave to breathe fast in-out in-out and then breathe into a paper bag. You see?! Cured! He told us that all the fashionable young ladies in LA had designer paper bags in their designer handbags, primed for the onset of panic. I questioned the consultant why it was that Dave’s dizziness only came on in relation to his head movements rather than any breathing abnormality. He didn’t answer my question. And when the registrar said he wanted to check whether Dave’s dizziness was related to balance issues and his ears, the consultant was dismissive and curt –

“I’m a world-renowned cardiologist! But if you, a wet-behind-the-ears registrar, want to do your tests then I suppose you must do them!”

Woah!

He obviously didn’t like his diagnosis questioned by a junior. The nurse and registrar smiled, I think the nurse stifled giggles, but I didn’t like the way the consultant had spoken to his colleague. Seconds later, the consultant pranced out of the room in the same way he’d entered, into what seemed to be a little cupboard!…Had he chosen the wrong door?

Honestly, you couldn’t make this stuff up! It was like a situation comedy.

So Dave was given an appointment for the Ear Nose and Throat clinic to see another consultant. Now this chap was lovely! Gentle, soft-spoken and kind. I noticed how big and soft his hands were as he shook mine, and I noticed his perfectly ironed peach-coloured shirt. He was also wearing some sort of sweet aftershave…

I was in the room as Dave had his examination and as the consultant worked he explained everything to us about what he was doing and why. Dave was given some crazy-huge Mr Magoo  magnifying spectacles to wear which made his eyes look enormous! The consultant lay Dave on a bed and quickly tipped him backwards, over and over again, whilst he looked intently at Dave’s eyes through the magnifying lenses to see how they moved. The consultant explained that depending on which way Dave’s eyes moved, that would tell him what he needed to do to fix Dave’s dizziness. You see, he believed that Dave’s dizziness was not caused by his heart, but because he has a condition called Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo.  In layman’s terms, he explained that there are three canals in each ear, with a jelly-like membrane lining them, and in the jelly-stuff there are tiny little crystals. Some of Dave’s crystals had become dislodged, which was why he was experiencing the dizziness and so the consultant had to ‘put them back’ in the jelly to effect a cure. By moving Dave around, he could find out which canal was affected and then move Dave accordingly to reset the crystals correctly. Time after time Dave was tipped, and he was looking very uncomfortable indeed, getting dizzier and dizzier, until finally the consultant saw his eyes flick in a certain direction, which showed him what he needed to do…Phew! He tipped Dave back one final time, turned his head sideways and held it in position for a few minutes to reposition the crystals. The consultant then used a tuning fork against the side of Dave’s head to help the crystals settle better with the vibration.

It was absolutely amazing! I was so glad to have witnessed the whole treatment, to understand what was happening and to watch the consultant at work. So different to the World Renowned Cardiologist’s way of working!

Dave was told to stay upright for the rest of the day and his dizziness passed…

And so can you see the connection between my two stories?

Interesting eh?

Oh no Madam, we do not prescribe headstands…

Well sometimes, actually, you do… 😉

Namaste X

TOPPING UP THE GOOD STUFF

Every day, every week, every month and during the year I am ‘Topping Up the Good Stuff’. This is my way of describing how I take care of myself. And because I take this time for myself, I have so much more to give to others and our world.

Many of us think it is selfish to look after ourselves before others. Many caring people feel guilty when thinking of putting themselves first. I know I have. And as a result I have spent most of my life, as a daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, volunteer and worker, on a roller-coaster of emotion and activity, constantly giving and buffeted by the needs of everyone and everything around and outside of me. In so-doing, I have neglected my own health and wellbeing.  I have become depleted, exhausted and ill. So I have learned that if I choose to take care of others and our world, I need to look after myself first. As they say in the aeroplane safety announcements – put on your own oxygen mask before you help others with theirs. And why not indeed? I too am part of humanity. I too am part of our world that needs looking after…I too am valuable enough to be taken care of…Just as you are…We are all connected…

In my mind’s eye I see myself as having a transparent vase on the top of my head, where I keep my personal resources. Into this vase I ‘plonk’ my yellow-squishy-sparkly-lemon-Turkish-delight-crystals of goodness. Walking my Fig (dog) in the woods every afternoon, for instance, represents one crystal of goodness – plonk! My weekly yoga class – plonk! My monthly massage – plonk! A weeks’ retreat in the Scottish Highlands – plonk plonk plonk! All these lovely things and many more I choose to do for myself. This brings balance into my life and has made me so much more resilient. I feel much less stress and I am more prepared for life’s challenges. My life is more balanced. And I have so much more to give! I am ready and able to do my work in the world for a lifetime, and not only for a season…

The ‘good stuff’, of course, is entirely personal to the individual. What you like to do, what enables you to feel relaxed, uplifted and happy will probably be different to my choices. You might like horse-riding, sewing, tinkering with your car, singing, dancing, gardening… Whatever works for you!  As long as you’re putting in more resources for yourself than you give out…

This is how I live. This is what I teach. I see my purpose being to remind others to look after themselves so that they can be the best possible version of themselves in every moment. And in so doing, I remind myself.

So my friends…How are you going to Top Up the Good Stuff today?

JELLY LEGS

JELLY LEGS

“I think you’re a bit young for us my dear”, said the organiser of the Beachy Head Ramblers. “Have you tried Sussex Young Walkers?”

I always loved long walks in nature, but I wasn’t at all confident going off the beaten track on my own. At this time I was unaware of the existence of public footpaths and I was yet to discover the beauty of the 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey map! But my yearning to be in the countryside led me at the end of 2003 to start researching local walking groups. Becoming a Rambler was to be my New Year’s resolution for 2004! Go Brenda!

I would’ve been quite happy to walk with my local group, but as the age profile for the Beachy Head Ramblers was over 60, I took the organiser’s advice. I found out that Sussex Young Walkers walked every other Sunday, so, as the girls were with their father on alternate weekends, I had my sights on January 25th for my first walk with the group. I bought new walking boots in December and started to break them in by walking them around town. The walk was described as ‘Ten miles around Ardingly Reservoir’. I didn’t have a clue how far ten miles would feel like to walk or how long it would take, but I had just turned 38 years old and I considered myself to be reasonably fit. After all, I was used to walking up and down Eastbourne seafront with the girls and going to the local parks.

The 25th was the Sunday after my speed-dating experience and I was looking forward to getting some fresh air, being in the countryside and meeting new people. Most of all, however, I was looking forward to doing something completely different, just for myself, just for the love of it and with no other expectation.

It turned out to be my favourite kind of winter’s day – sunny, frosty and clear, the air crisp and cold enough to see your breath. I call these hockey days, bringing back happy memories of when I used to play for the school and university hockey teams. I loved those cold winter days, the ground so hard that our boot-studs clattered on the pock-marked frozen mud. Winter has always been my favourite season. My mother says that’s because I am winter-born, my birthday being on New Year’s Eve.  I take such pleasure in putting on my walking layers, my fleece, body warmer, bobble hat, thick socks and most of all doing up my walking boots! I just love tightening the laces round those boot hooks! Such a satisfying sense of purpose and direction.

I found my way to the walk start-point – a driving adventure in itself into the countryside around Lewes. I left really early to make sure I made it on time, found the car park and then doubled-back to some freezing-cold public toilets to ‘make myself comfortable’ before meeting the group and embarking on our walk. As I came out of the sub-zero temperature toilet I crossed paths with a woman of about my age dressed in walking gear. We smiled at each other and said hello. I wondered if she might be in the walking group. When I drove back into the car park I saw that it was getting full and quite a few people were standing around. I approached the group and sure enough it was Sussex Young Walkers. Eighteen people in all – four women and fourteen men. Great odds if I’d been looking for a man! But I wasn’t. I didn’t need to be doing that did I? We milled about a bit and the walk leader and her husband came up to introduce themselves. The lady who I’d bumped into in the toilets also came up to say hello. Her name was Alison. We chatted for a few minutes about nothing in particular as the group waited for any late-comers. Two of the menfolk also came and introduced themselves briefly. The others nodded and smiled their hellos. And then we were off!

I couldn’t believe how fast they moved. It was like no walk I’d ever done – it was more of a route-march! The leaders walked up the hills as fast as on the flat and most of the group kept pace, breaking into small clusters and chatting as they went. The pace was too much for me and I struggled at the back, trying to keep up. The first hill was the hardest for me as it came straight after the car park. My lungs seized up in the freezing temperatures trying to bring in enough air to breathe. I reached for my asthma inhaler to help boost me.

Thankfully Alison stayed with me, so that I wasn’t left behind. I was so grateful to her! But I found it hard to chat and keep pace – I was so out of breath! We walked along fences, climbed over styles, crossing fields and woodland. It was muddy in places, the ground churned up by cows and then the walkers ahead of us. The leaders stopped every now and then to wait for people behind them to catch up, but as Alison and I reached them they started walking again! We had no time to rest. I had no idea where we were and it was a relief when we got to the pub for lunch.

There were lots of small round tables and the group split up into threes and fours. I ended up at a table with one of the younger guys who didn’t say much, but seemed very appreciative of my chest area. On a number of occasions I caught him staring at my breasts. We sat with a laconic woman nurse from Brighton. This was going to be hard work.

I got up to order my lunch at the bar and one of the men who’d introduced himself at the start-point was ordering just ahead of me. We got chatting and he told me his name was Dave. I couldn’t decide what to order for lunch so I asked what he’d chosen.

“Irish stew,” he replied. As I didn’t know what that was he then described it.

“I’ll have Irish stew too please,” I said when I ordered.

I sat down again with the odd couple. The young guy beamed at my chest. The woman continued to be monosyllabic. I wished I was at Dave’s table.

When we left the pub I was happy and relieved to find that Dave was walking beside me. It was a narrow roadside path and we had to walk two-by-two for quite a long stretch before we picked up the footpath again. This gave us some time to get to know each other a little. I learned that he was divorced and living alone in Uckfield with his dog, Rizzy, since 2001. He told me about his time as a tree surgeon, living and working in Germany for seven years, looking after a forest outside the town of Brilon. I liked the stories he told about looking after the trees and how they stopped work in the winter months because of the snow. He now worked for a national forestry company, carrying out tree-surgery and land-work all over the South East. I enjoyed hearing about the variety of work he did, from relocating newts for a conservation project to catching escapee rheas (South American relatives of the ostrich) at Groombridge Place; wading out to islands in lakes to clear reed beds and his annual trip to London to install a giant Christmas tree in front of Lewisham Town Hall.

The second half of the walk was less arduous for me than the first. More walking on the flat on winding woodland paths and less muddy fields. As the paths got wider I found myself flanked by Dave and another man. The other man was a bit unusual, a ‘starer’ with a monotone voice who didn’t smile, look away or even blink when he talked. As we walked along he fervently laid out his stall, telling me about his home and possessions and how well he would treat ‘his woman’.

“Like a queen,” he said emphatically. “I would treat my woman like a queen.”

I had no doubt that he meant it but he seemed to me to be a little desperate, as well as disconcertingly intense for a first meeting!

Dave stuck by my side for the whole of the rest of the walk, except for once, when he had to dart off into the trees for a couple of minutes to attend to a ‘call of nature’. When this happened another man suddenly materialised beside me. They appeared to jostling for positon! I realised that with fourteen men and four women on the walk, everyone around the same age and almost everybody single, Sussex Young Walkers was a kind of unofficial dating agency! And I was a newcomer. A new potential mate! It was hilarious and at the same time I felt rather flattered, except that some of the men were a bit unusual in their methods of communication. And then Dave came back from the trees and manoeuvred his way back by my side. I smiled to myself with an inward sigh of relief.

Looking back now I see that this was an interesting and safe way for us get to know each other, without having to call it a date. We could size each other up without having to declare any kind of romantic intention, and walk with another person if the one we were speaking to didn’t ‘fit’. And all whilst having a lovely walk in the Sussex countryside, which was for me the primary goal anyway.

As we walked along, Dave and I talked a little about our dating experiences. He told me that he’d been on a few unsuccessful dates through a dating website and I told him that I’d been speed-dating just a few days before. As I went through the list of curious men that I’d met, another chap walked by and laughed.

“Are you listing all your ex-husbands?” he joked, before he strode off to join the leaders. His Parthian shot.

As the walk came to an end and we neared the reservoir car park, Dave offered his hand to me and the other ladies to help us over the style. He was quite the gentleman, whilst the other menfolk looked on. And there was something about Dave that made me think this gesture was genuine. I didn’t get the impression that he was doing it for show or flirtation. Just to help us safely over. As simple as that. A gentle gentleman. It was coming to the end of the walk and as we’d been on the move for two hours since lunch we were all glowing nicely in our winter layers. As Dave helped me over the style I noticed that he had a very comforting smell, of warm biscuits straight out of the oven.

Back in the car park as we all said our goodbyes and made our way to our cars, Dave called me over to his side.

“I’ve got a printed programme of the year’s walks here,” he said. “I’ll be leading this walk, if you want to come along.”

He pointed out the details of his walk and was careful to show me the contact details, including his home telephone number.

“You can also contact me on this number,” he gave me his mobile number. “Or you can email me on this address. Or contact me through this dating website,” and he gave me the name of a dating website where he had his profile.

As he talked, I noticed Dave’s neighbour, Simon, grinning in the background as he watched Dave’s efforts to exchange contact details with me. He was a pink-cheeked youthful avuncular type with a cloud of mad -professor hair. I felt myself blush when I saw him looking on and I hoped that Dave hadn’t noticed my embarrassment. We were all a little red-faced from the brisk walk and chilly air!

I honestly have no idea how I got home that afternoon. Despite being unfamiliar with the route, I cannot remember driving, let alone looking for signs and checking the map. All I felt was floaty happiness and peace. I think there was even some loud celebratory singing to the radio in the car. I’d had a lovely day. I’d driven to Ardingly, I’d joined a walking group, I’d completed a ten mile hike and I’d met Dave! I was punching the air. And I was excited to get home to look up Dave’s dating profile.

When I got out of the car I laughed to find that my legs gave way a little beneath me. They’d completely turned to jelly! Now was that the ten mile hike, or the meeting with Dave that did that? A little bit of both, I suppose.

I didn’t go walking with the intention of finding love. But that’s the way things turned out. After my speed-dating adventure I’d happily and consciously let go of the need to be in a relationship. I knew that I didn’t need anyone else to ‘feel whole’ and I was already in a place of being content with my life. And then I met Dave. I didn’t need to meet him, and I know for sure that that’s why I did meet him! Because I came from a place of gratitude and acceptance and wholeness. Not a place of neediness, dissatisfaction, and emptiness. I came from a place of self-love and loving my world already. And I suppose I must’ve been giving some of that feeling out to attract this lovely man, who, like me, was happy in himself and wasn’t looking for anyone else to ‘complete’ him. At this stage in my life I knew nothing of metaphysics and the universal law of attraction. That learning was yet to come. But somehow I knew intuitively that I needed to recognise my own wholeness and be grateful for what I had already before I could attract more of what I loved into my life.

Dave and I have been together 14 years, and it’ll be our tenth wedding anniversary in October.

Speed-dating at the Chelsea Corner Bar

It’s now almost 14 years ago to the day that I met my lovely partner Dave. But the week before I met him, I went speed-dating. An experience I will never forget!

Speed-dating at the Chelsea Corner Bar

I’d been a single mum for over a year when I decided to try speed-dating. I worked from home at the time, as a pharmaceutical market analyst for an Essex-based company, and the only people I saw on a daily basis were mums and grandparents at the school gates when I went to pick up my girls. There were very few men on the school run and I had no idea if any were single even if I was attracted to them, which I wasn’t. I had tried going on a date through a local matchmaking company, but when I spoke to my date on the phone to make arrangements I was as put off by his thin reedy voice and the fact that he repeatedly dropped into the conversation that he was training to be a pilot. I wasn’t impressed. So at the last minute I cancelled our date at The Beachy Head pub. He just didn’t sound right for me. It didn’t feel right. I hoped he wouldn’t be too upset.

I was starting to wonder if I would ever meet someone to share my life with.

I was nervous but mostly intrigued as I reached the Chelsea Corner Bar, a small wine-bar in the middle of town where the speed-dating was to take place. It was January 2004. A weekday evening. I had decided to dress ‘smart casual’ in my favourite wine-coloured fitted v-neck, long black denim skirt and black leather boots. Accessorised with my delicate red pendant necklace and a dab of my favourite perfume, I was pleased with how I looked.

When I arrived I was greeted by one of the event organisers who gave me a badge with a number six on it and indicated that I should go downstairs. I took the wrought iron spiral staircase down to the basement level and saw that there were already people grouped around the bar. In unison they all looked my way.

Crikey…

All the men were standing on one side of the bar and all the women on the other. I went over to join the women and to get a drink.

“Have you done this before?” the woman nearest me asked. She was very giggly and seemed a little drunk.

“No, but I thought I’d give it a go,” I replied, more nonchalant than I felt. She told me this was her first time too and she was very nervous. The drink, she explained, lifting her glass, was ‘Dutch courage’.

She grinned widely and giggled again. Her eyes were very big, glistening with the alcohol shine behind her huge thick-lensed glasses. I could feel the energy of her excited anxiety crackling around her as she darted looks at the men on the other side of the bar.

I looked around me and noticed that the other women were very dressed up, as if they were going to a party or out clubbing. Hm. I wondered if I was underdressed. Some of the women were also very attractive.

The men were mostly in suits, all holding their pints, looking at us and chatting. They seemed to be sizing us up, gesturing with their drinks and nodding towards one or other of us. They laughed together in manly camaraderie, in what appeared to be a light-hearted, nudge-nudge kind of way. The banter of bravado I guess. The women were trying to see which person had the same number as they had, as, I was told, that’s who we’d be talking to first.

Then I overheard one of the women saying “Bin out with ’im…bin out with ’im…bin out with ’im….” indicating her failed dates with her tall drink and cigarette. Wow! A serial speed-dater. She was hard-faced, square jawed and deep-tanned. Her hair was close cropped, spiky and red-blonde in colour and she was wearing a short tight flowery dress and a lot of gold jewellery. Her tone was so bored and jaded. She was obviously fed up to see the same old daters here again. I wondered what this meant for the rest of us.

A bell then rang and the organisers asked us ladies to take a seat at the table that corresponded with the number on our badges. There were eight tables and I sat at number six. We were told that the men would then visit our tables one by one and we’d chat for ten minutes, after which time another bell would ring and the men would move on to the next table. How very gentlemanly, I thought. The men move and the ladies sit demurely and wait.

After each encounter, we were all asked to indicate on a card if we’d like to see the person again, either ‘as a friend’ or ‘more than friends’. The cards would then be collected together by the organisers at the end of the event and if there was a match we would be put in contact with each other in a few days’ time.

OK then…here we go…

My opposite number six was a Chinese guy from Hastings. He had a very wide round face and a great big child-like smile. He seemed rather agitated and he laughed a lot. At some point during our conversation he started to rummage in his trouser pocket.

Uh-oh…?

“I’m a rabbit!” he announced proudly, pulling out a Chinese zodiac chart printed on a bamboo scroll and unravelling it on the table between us.

Oh! Oh! I know this one!

“I’m a snake!” I returned.

Apparently we were not a good match. Ha!

My next date looked like a cross between Ozzy Osbourne and Richard E.Grant. Dyed-black thinning shoulder-length hair with a middle parting, long pale face and small circular glasses with blue lenses. Yes, blue. He worked in removals and was in a band. Really?

The third contestant, with a number eight on his badge, was pleasant enough but I think he lied about his age. This event was supposed to be for singles aged 35-45, but with his cloud of soft wavy white hair and finely lined face he seemed nearer 65! He looked good on it though. Very smooth skin and kind smiling blue eyes.

I was really getting into my stride now. After telling my story three times over, I was feeling much more confident. It was rather like my work at the time, which involved carrying out telephone interviews with international over-the-counter drug manufacturers to find out about emerging market trends and brand positioning. Often when I started a new piece of research I wasn’t confident in my questioning. But by the time I’d had three conversations with different industry specialists, I found that I knew enough to blag my way through subsequent calls. And of course most of the people I interviewed were men who liked to boast about their marketing successes and market share to a ‘clueless’ female market researcher! They were easily flattered as they gave away their secrets.

Next up was badge number one. He was so drunk he could hardly keep his head off the table. He had to use his elbows to prop himself up as he leaned forward, all red face and perspiration.

How long will it take for me to get over her?” he drawled, pleading with me through a fog of warm beer fumes.

He then went on to recount the story of his recent split with his girlfriend two months ago and I responded, kindly I thought, that he didn’t seem ready for another relationship. I counselled him for the rest of the date.

Therapy over, the bell rang again and it was time for a break. Most people headed to the toilets or the bar. I stayed in my seat for a while and smooth-faced Number 8 saw his opportunity and asked if he could buy me a drink. I thanked him but politely declined. Didn’t want to lead him on.

After the break came the British Gas heating engineer.

“You seem like some kind of boss woman.”

It was an original opening gambit, I give him that. He looked sideways at me and smiled, nodding knowingly. When I told him I worked in pharmaceutical market research he grinned wide and asked if I could procure him some drugs.

Next!

There was no Number 3. He was a no show. So I sat for ten minutes on my own between the bells, trying not to eavesdrop on the conversations going on around me. I was wondering if we were all just repeating ourselves, on a loop all evening, when I noticed a very attractive woman across from me. She looked Mediterranean, with dark olive skin, bright eyes and tumbling curls of black hair. Her dress was shiny gold and sequined and she wore beautiful sparkly sandals. In January. I wondered how it was that somebody like her was here…The women seemed so much more attractive than the men.

Ding! Number 4 arrived in front of me. He was a tall, thin, stern-faced man about whom I can remember very little, except that he had a northern accent and had the feel of grey, hard granite. He struggled to smile at me. He told me that he worked ‘in security’ for one of the big supermarket chains.

“A security guard?” I asked.  He wrinkled his nose with quick shake of the head as if reacting to a bad smell.

“Corporate,” he said.

We got onto the subject of holidays but when I told him that I had two young daughters he clammed up completely. Apparently he didn’t consider it worthwhile continuing the conversation! Rude! We sat trying not to look at each other for the remaining five minutes. It was very awkward.

And then my final date sat himself down in front of me. He was a large wide man, with no visible neck and surprisingly long earlobes that seemed to sit on his shoulders.  

“You wanna go to Brighton next time,” he said as he started to tell me about his long speed-dating career.

Perhaps he’s bin out with ’er at the bar?

“All you get is nurses in Eastbourne,” he complained.

Well, I’m not a nurse. And what’s wrong with nurses anyway?

Towards the end of our conversation we found that we had a mutual love of walking in the countryside. As the last bell rang he reached into his inside jacket pocket and pulled out a business card between index and middle finger. He flicked it across the table at me.

“If you ever fancy going for a walk on the Downs some time, here’s my number,” he grunted at me.

 “But don’t think we’re getting married or anything.”

I was so taken aback that I mumbled thanks and picked up the card. I wish I’d chucked it back at him.

When the evening came to an end I made my way back up the spiral staircase. Most of the daters were back at the bar, but I didn’t feel the inclination to stay. I left as I arrived, feeling all eyes on me.

As I made my way home I chuckled to myself. That was one of the strangest and at the same time most entertaining evenings I’d had in a long time. I felt light as air! I just shook my head incredulously as I realised that I really didn’t need to do that to find a man. What a revelation! I saw too that I was much more confident than I thought I was and that if I were to meet someone it would have to be in more ‘natural’ unpremeditated circumstances. But what a fascinating experience! Such an eye-opener!

I was back at work the next day and still on a massive high. And not because I’d met my Mr Right – quite the opposite! As I sat in the corner of my bedroom working at my computer I realised that I was actually really very happy. I remember taking stock and thinking, if this is all there is, if this is all there will ever be for me, then that’s just fine! I had my two beautiful daughters, my family and friends, my little three-bed semi in a nice part of town. I was financially independent and I enjoyed my part-time job. Life was good! I was really content just as things were and I embraced that feeling of being at peace with my situation for the first time in many years. Maybe the first time ever. I realised that I didn’t need to go looking for anyone to ‘complete’ me either – I was already whole! What a fantastic feeling that was! To realise I already had everything I needed to be happy right there and then.

Later that same week I bumped into the giggling lady with the glasses on the school run. We smiled over the heads of our noisy children and nodded knowingly to each other in the midst of the pick-up throng. I would’ve liked to exchange notes with her to see what she thought of the speed-dating experience, but it was the wrong time and place. Strange that I never did see her again.

A few days later the dating agency got in touch to tell me that two of the men had asked to see me again – the Chinese Rabbit and British Gas guy. On my score card I had indicated only the Chinese guy, and only ‘as a friend’. But in the end I politely declined both.

After all the following Sunday I was to meet my future husband.

Top-to-Toe Fifty-Two!

Tomorrow is my birthday and I am very pleased to announce that I will be 52 years old! Amazing eh? How grateful I am to have got to this age healthy, happy and wise…er than I’ve ever been. So I’ve written a little poem to celebrate my ageing and my age…

Namaste Lovely Ones!

TOP-TO-TOE FIFTY-TWO

 Look at Me!

I am fifty-two!

Top-to-toe fifty-two years and counting,

plus nine months in the womb…so fifty-three, nearly, really

White hair at my temples, contrast brown, red and gold

Eyes wrinkle-orbited, evidence my laughter

twinkling honey gold mischief in their off-white whites

Teeth yellowing with age, yet my grin is undimmed

Thread veins on my nose, my cheeks, chin and legs,

record pressures of life long passed

Stretchmarks on my skin, celebrate my babies carried and fed

Strong in my body, my mind and my soul –

testament to my journey, my yoga and my Fig

Slender flat feet that ran once so fast, wave back at me now with

well-exercised toes

I am top-to-toe fifty-two, nine months and counting

Wonderful, wise and strong

I am a woman. I am myself. A soul exploring…

Grateful

My own creation, in the end…as in the beginning.

 

The Well

It’s an odd time of year now, isn’t it? The days between Christmas and New Year…We don’t know which day of the week it is or the date, the days are short and dark. We can feel tired, sometimes deflated after the Christmas celebrations, full-up of and fed-up with rich and heavy foods…Too much time in close contact with our family perhaps…especially when the weather is so bad, as it’s been this year, that we’ve felt like we’ve been shut in a dark cave for days and days…But there’s New Year in sight, another celebratory milestone…and then back to work for most of us…Another year, another beginning…

For me this time of year used to hold more of a sense of dread perhaps than for most people…the reason for which I only started to unravel back in 2012 with my counsellor, through an amazing ‘matrix re-imprinting’ therapy session…I feel differently now thanks to this work we did together…as I have begun to understand, embrace and rewrite my story…

So I am sharing this now with you, my blog readers, through my story The Well, taken from my book Visits to the Glade

Namaste Lovely Ones and Happy New Year! X


The Well

My painting for ‘The Well’ in Visits to the Glade

For as long as I can remember, I have imagined the calendar year as a crescent, the curve edge of a capital letter D, but with a more open arc, like a perfectly crescent banana. January is at the bottom, and the curve is sectioned off evenly between the twelve months, ending in December at the top. And so, there has always been, in my mind, a huge gap between the end of December of one year and the beginning of January of the next, with the space in between an empty void, black, deep like outer space. Along with this image in my mind, I’ve always felt a sense of gloom and foreboding about this time of year. My birthday is December 31st. I have been uneasy about this distance between my birthday and New Year’s Day. And I have never liked the first week of January. It’s not a serious sense of anxiety that I feel, more a low-level sense of malaise. I feel better as the weeks go by and I look forward to February – a positively cheerful month to my mind. I suppose over the years I have put this down to the usual ‘January blues’ that everybody feels after the jollity of Christmas and New Year. But for some reason I have had the sense that for me there was another reason for my disquiet.

So, with my birthday approaching in December 2011, I decided to ask Suki, as a manifestation of my Higher Self, to help me understand.

Relaxed in shivasana, I go to the Glade. But I don’t see Suki there. Instead I see something like a wooden-clad shaft going into the ground where the log fire would’ve normally been. The light is dull in the Glade, the sky overcast and threatening rain, but I can still see that the shaft ends in a dark hole pinpoint, deep in the ground. I hear someone say the name Freddy and then, in an unpleasant voice they say “I look ugly when I’m dead”. I feel there is a question about who should go down into the shaft. I have the sense that I am Freddy. The other voice-person is really nasty-sounding, but the voice seems to be coming out of me too. Is that me speaking?

It was about this time that my counselling sessions with Sally-Ann were coming to an end. But we had agreed to carry on seeing each other to try out some matrix reimprinting at the beginning of 2012.

We decided to explore the experience I had had with Freddy. So, with Sally-Ann this time, I went, in my mind, back to where I was Freddy, looking at the wooden-clad shaft in the ground.

I am in a garden. It is night. I am standing next to a wooden-clad well. It looks like an inverted wooden church spire, sunken into the ground. It appears bottomless to me in the pitch black. I am a young man, tall and dark-haired with a pallid face. To the right of me stands my neighbour. He is a man known to our family, aged about sixty, short, wiry, olive-skinned and balding. He isn’t a nice-looking man – I feel something mean and pinched about him, something vicious. He indicates to me that I have to go down into the well. I don’t want to as I cannot see the bottom.

“Why do I have to go?” I ask. I am scared.

“Because I look ugly when I’m dead,” is my neighbour’s brutal reply.

I look from the shaft to my neighbour and back down into the darkness of the well. I have an overwhelming feeling of reluctance and dread. I don’t want to jump in. My neighbour assures me that the well isn’t deep and that it will be safe for me to hide there. He explains that it is boarded up a few feet down where we cannot see it, so I won’t fall to the bottom. But I don’t want to jump in. I don’t trust him. I am scared of falling, scared that the fall will break my legs.

I come back into the room with Sally-Ann.

We then worked together with the matrix reimprinting technique to change this memory into a better one, to help me get over my ‘fear of falling’.

I go back into the scene. This time it isn’t the nasty neighbour waiting for me by the well. It is my father, balding and around sixty. He is there, with his kind well-meaning face. I trust him. He asks me to hurry into the shed at the side of the garden. At the back of the shed is a wooden panel which turns out to be a hidden door. Holding up a torch, my father opens the door for me to show me a passageway beyond. The tunnel goes underground, sloping away gently to a safe hidey-hole, where there is food, a lantern and blankets neatly folded on the ground. My father tells me that I will be safe here until I can be rescued and taken to safety by others in his network.

Sally-Ann then asked me to create a different future for Freddy, where I am safe and happy.

I see myself in America. It is the 1950s. I am a Hasidic Jew. I am fat with a big pot belly! I am wealthy. I have a wife and two young children. We are eating dinner. It is a party and we are joined by my brothers and sisters. I am the eldest and my siblings are much younger than me. We are all seated around a large dark-wood polished table, laid out with shining silver cutlery. There is a chandelier and deep red velvet curtains. We are laughing and happy together.

I come out of this scene and realise then that the Freddy I had originally remembered didn’t survive the war. His neighbour betrayed him to the Nazis after luring him to the well. Freddy was caught, stuck at the bottom, his legs broken. Freddy’s family didn’t survive the war either, but Freddy doesn’t know what happened to them.

My Grandfather, Horatio Bruzon, was in the resistance against General Franco during the Spanish civil war. I remember being told by my father that Horatio was a ‘great orator’, used to speaking in front of crowds of people and campaigning against Franco’s fascist regime. Horatio was nearly murdered by a firing squad in Tangiers – punishment for speaking out against the dictatorship, but was saved at the last minute thanks to his Gibraltarian-British dual nationality. The Bruzon family, including my father, then fled Tangiers for Gibraltar, from where they were later evacuated to London. I tell Sally-Ann this part of our family history, and she wondered if I might be a ‘cycle-breaker’.

I thought that the way I see the calendar year might change after this session with Sally-Ann. I expected the image in my mind’s eye to turn into a circle, December and January united. But in fact there has not been any such shift. I still see the extended crescent shape with January and December at each end. But the ‘distance’ between New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day has lost its sense of foreboding for me. I have hardly noticed it the last couple of years. And if I do think of it, my mind now switches to happy Freddy, fat and jolly, living his well-to-do American life with his family all around him. I am aware of what happened to original Freddy, but it doesn’t frighten me or cause me any disquiet. I accept it, and I know at the same time that I have chosen an alternative reality for him.

It is my understanding that the past, present and future co-exist in our minds – the past in our memories and the future in our imagination, but that we only truly exist – we only really experience life – in the present moment. And so, with Sally-Ann’s help, I was able to recreate my ‘past-life’ memory of Freddy and the well and form a happy and hopeful image of the future for him, instead of the one that I was unconsciously reliving every New Year’s Eve.

Extract from Visits to the Glade by Brenda Bruzon, Balboa Press, Copyright 2015.