Tag Archives: gardening

Finding your foundation

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barefoot-87879_1280Let’s be honest….we all have times when we feel unsteady, unsure of ourselves, lacking in confidence and direction.  We can feel unsafe, insecure, as if a puff of wind could blow us away. We could feel this way for a variety of reasons – perhaps we have moved to a new area, moved on from a relationship, lost our job, or our sense of purpose.  We may be facing a challenge which feels too overwhelming.  Our emotions may be all over the place.

When we are in one of these times, we need to get in touch with our most basic instinct, that of survival. We all have this instinct, we share it with every sentient being on the planet. Sometimes it may get lost in a whirl of emotional turmoil, but it will resurface when we take time to let the dust settle. And we can take steps to strengthen our foundation, our sense of who we are, and of where we belong.

In yoga philosophy, our base chakra, mooladhara, is the key to our foundation, our survival instinct, and is our connection to the earth. We can tune into it when we spend time outdoors in nature, walking or practising yoga (perhaps barefoot on the grass or the beach when the weather warms up!). Gardeners have a particularly strong connection to the earth, which can be extremely healing in times of distress – growing and nurturing plants is now widely used as therapy, with patient volunteer groups attached to some clinics and medical practices.  Growing and cooking your own food could be a wonderful way to strengthen mooladhara, and could be practised in a small way if you have no garden – even adding a few fresh herbs from a pot on a sunny windowsill can have a dramatic effect on both the taste of your food and your emotional wellbeing.

When we moved house, we inherited two huge rhubarb plants, and I remember that it was in pulling that rhubarb and baking it into a cake in our new kitchen with my son (then 4) that the feeling of ‘being at home’, of belonging, started to set in. Even before many of the boxes were unpacked.

So in times where life unsettles us, making us unsure of our footing, it is our foundation we look to, our foundation we strengthen. In our yoga, we focus on grounding our standing posture through our feet in tadasana, through the weight of our pelvis in sitting, through the back of the body when relaxing in savasana. Lying down on the front of the body in makarasana we inhale and exhale with the earth, letting go into the earth on the exhale and drawing strength in on our inhalation. We let gravity ease our posture and the aches which our emotional unease can often exacerbate so much. We let our tension and worries drop away, down into the earth, and we start to feel strong again….in as many breaths and as many tiny steps as it takes.

Alison x

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Weekly wonders

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This week the woods I drive past every day have magically turned from almost bare trees into every shade of green.

The sun has shone today whilst digging home-made compost into the garden.  Time to put in some veggies for the summer!

A lot (!) of baby snails in my son’s aquarium.

A walk through the bluebell woods last weekend. The steady rain seemed only to intensify the heady fragrance of the flowers.

A fun morning helping with a pottery session at my son’s school. Only hope the works of art produced survive the kiln!

Moving slowly…

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Sometimes we just need to take life more slowly, and enjoy the moment we’re in. In a world where everything seems to be about not having time, we need to really take our time – at least occasionally.  In yoga, we vary our pace, moving dynamically at times, and at others we move slowly and carefully. We certainly can’t rush meditation – it just takes the time it takes.  An antidote to the rat-race. But how do we bring this quality into the rest of our lives?

Instead of driving somewhere that’s just around the corner, maybe we could walk, cycle or jog there.  It will take longer, but how much better it can make you feel!  Instead of microwaving a ready meal, or opening a jar of sauce, perhaps – now and then – we could cook the whole meal from scratch.  Instead of the car wash, could we find half an hour to wash the car ourselves, and burn off some calories too?!  I recently read an article by a gardener, advocating the use of hand tools.  More time-consuming, but really getting down to the ground, really seeing the garden at grass-roots level – literally.  More eco-friendly than weedkillers, that’s for sure.

When we rush through our lives, we build up more and more stress about how little time we have, about where we should have been 5 minutes ago, and we miss the joy inherent in the moment.

When we take our time to do things slowly, we can truly enhance our lives.  Recently, I prepared some semi-dried tomatoes for a special meal – two hours roasting in a low oven, with fresh herbs, to add to a wonderful Ottolenghi salad (my favourite cookbook of the moment!).  OK, you can buy sun-dried tomatoes in a jar, but these really were so much better, and the smell as they cooked filled my whole home, whetting my appetite for the meal ahead.  The task wasn’t difficult or arduous, but a total pleasure. I’ve also just started experimenting with making my own sourdough bread – making the starter and ‘feeding’ it every day.  Definitely a ‘slow-food’ procedure.  But again, not difficult, not particularly time-consuming, and working towards – hopefully! – a quality loaf in the end…..

So it’s not always just about the end result, but about the whole process.  Not rushing to the finish line, but enjoying the whole event.

What are the ways you slow down and take your time? Leave your comments below….

A feeling of belonging

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We all like the feeling that we belong – that we are part of a group, whether that be in school or work, with our family or friends, or our communities.  Children initially belong within their families, and, when they are very young, they accept their family’s way of doing things as the way. As we grow older, we learn that there are so many different ways of doing everything in life.  And this is where judgements can start to creep in.  We may still like to believe  the way we have been brought up is the right way.  Or we may admire someone else’s approach to life and adopt it wholeheartedly.  As parents, we can try to encourage our children to be accepting of other traditions and values, and to keep an open mind.

The sense of belonging is a comfort in difficult times.  No-one really wants to feel different to everyone else, or to feel as if nobody understands them.  But how much should we compromise our own inner guidance in order to fit in with our chosen group?  We all have an innate sense of what is right for us,  and the challenge is to adhere to that without judging someone else’s views as inferior or wrong in some way.  As we grow spiritually, we begin to see ourselves as belonging more widely –  not only all humanity but the whole planet and universe are one.  We remind ourselves of this every time we are tempted to set ourselves or others aside by our strong attachment to our own way of doing things, and we allow ourselves to lighten up.

To belong is to feel secure.  The sense of belonging is associated with our base chakra, mooladhara,  the chakra concerned with our sense of security and stability in life.  With our ability to weather the storm, and to withstand life’s ups and downs.  When our security is challenged, we may become fearful and depressed, unable to see our way out, and this can often happen when we feel rejected by a group with whom we have identified, or when a phase of our lives comes to an end and we are literally removed from a group – for example, when we leave a job,  a school or a relationship.  It can also happen when we move home, leaving the familiar and the comfortable and starting again somewhere new.

At times such as these, it is important to work on increasing our sense of security through our work on mooladhara.  This can be done through grounding yoga asanas, such as tadasana or trikonasana, feeling the ground beneath our feet.  The beautiful Dru yoga Earth sequence, Prithvi Nasmaskara, particularly when done outside, is wonderful for enhancing our sense of belonging, our sense of oneness with everything around us.  Connecting with our breath in pranayama and meditation can also help our sense of embodiment, of being safe and secure within our bodies.  Getting out into nature is another way to connect with mooladhara – exercising outdoors in the fresh air, going for a walk by the sea or in the countryside, or doing some gardening or cooking, can all help to enhance our sense of wellbeing, and our sense of belonging in our world.  When we moved home, I really started to feel settled when I went out into the garden with my son, picking rhubarb from a huge clump we had inherited, and then cooking it together in a lovely sticky cake. Amidst the boxes still waiting to be unpacked!

When we feel strong and grounded through our base chakra, we are more open to the changes that will occur throughout our lives – we feel less threatened by the movement of our lives.  As  Mary Burmeister, who brought Jin Shin Jyutsu to the West, used to say, “movement is harmony”.  Without movement, without change, we stagnate, we get stuck.  The movement of our lives keeps us fresh; change keeps us engaged in our lives with vitality and interest.  We let go of phases of our lives we have outgrown, and develop and grow with our new circumstances.  We are more able to take risks and to move into the unfamiliar.  To feel that we belong, not only in the past, not only in some imagined future, but right here, right now.