Category Archives for "Blog"

New Year’s Resolutions

When I read about New Year’s resolutions on the Internet, I learn about ancient customs of reflecting on the year that’s been, and committing before one’s God to a new beginning as a better person. January is named for Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions. He has two faces, one looking to the past and one gazing into the future…
I must confess though that most years when January comes, my reflection on the past is lost amongst plans of What To Do For New Years Eve, and my resolve to the future largely revolves around quick fixes for whatever is currently causing me dissatisfaction: losing weight, saving money. Goals can be motivating and drive us forward, but they can also be thinly veiled discontent.
This year I’m trying something different, maybe more in keeping with the original season of new beginnings.
First, I look back on the year that was – not in the form of dwelling in the past, but to ground myself in the gratitude for the blessings I was fortunate enough to harvest. I list all these blessings, large and small, and take a moment to acknowledge each accomplishment, kindness, and act of love. Some blessings are easily recognized – my happy wedding day, my travels, the supportive people in my life. Others are lessons of non-attachment when finally accepting that life has its own flow, and no amount of paddling upstream or expecting others to conform to my expectations will change this. There have been some moments where the only option was futile resistance or complete surrender and trusting in grace. For these moments I am grateful that I can surrender, and that I do trust.
Part of this acceptance leads to putting aside the events of the year, and letting go to the moments I wish could last forever, as well as the ones I’d go back and change.
Facing forward, I decide this year not to base resolutions on my goals. The goals are still there, but perhaps more as surface details. Today I reflect on the commitment I’d like to make to my higher self, in order to progress along my journey in this lifetime.
Two commitments occur to me as essential for true progress. First, to spend time more frequently in reflection with my inner guidance. The only way this guidance can be stronger than external distractions is by paying it more attention. And after all, it is only inside myself that peace and happiness reside. I will never find out there what I’m not connected to in here.
Next I accept that I can only progress if I am willing to forgive. Every slight or hurt I perceive as being done by others – but also those I see in myself. Every event that has happened – but also every dream that hasn’t.
For it is in forgiveness that acceptance, peace and compassion reside, and only in forgiving are we free to reach our potential for happiness. We forgive not for those who hurt us, but for those who didn’t who deserve our less distracted attention, and for ourselves. We forgive not for the dreams that died, but for the ones that still have the chance to live. Forgiveness is not an exercise in righteousness or weakness, but a choice for happiness, and an act of extreme courage.
Lastly from all this reflection I bring myself back to the present moment, the sounds of my dog snuffling in the hope a treat might be waiting on the kitchen floor, and my husband cheerfully fixing something in the next room. It is in this present moment that my resolutions ultimately can be effected, not in either past or future.
So this year, I resolve:
To look back only in gratitude
To reconnect with my inner guidance
To be willing to forgive
To be present
Wishing everyone a truly happy new year.

Wabi Sabi Compost

Sometimes I am a lazy gardener. I want the harvest without the hard work. When I think of my garden I’m besotted by the seedlings, in love with the blossom trees. I anticipate the fruits and vegetables and herbs to come. But the compost heap can be untended and forgotten.
There’s something richly imperfect about compost. Its stinking and decaying goodness is the first ingredient for a lush garden. But how many of us love the process of lifting that lid to the rotting stench below, turning and wetting and inspecting? Given the choice of spending this fine Spring day in the garden, could you blame me for wanting to propagate seeds, inspect the new growth, admire the buds?
I confess that while we’ve been adding religiously to our growing heap, the turning of it has been somewhat of a standoff, neither John or I willing to draw. Today I decided to embrace the turning of the compost… Both in the garden and in Life.
Falling in love and moving to paradise has drawn up a stark contrast to the parts of my life in decline and those parts I’ve neglected, with a lid firmly closed to hide the stench. But I know nothing new can hope to grow unless the lid is lifted; the crumbling parts wet with sweat and tears; that which has been hidden in the darkness, turned. In some cultures they have learnt to embrace the imperfect, unfinished and impermanent. In Japan this is called Wabi Sabi, and the embodiment of this simplicity and accepting Life in its entirety is considered the first step to enlightenment. Turn compost, find peace.
The funny thing is, when I finally lift that lid to the rotting scraps and crawling insects and start turning… It becomes easier, nicer, more wholesome. As I tend, it turns into something that is simply part of the garden, vital.
I promise myself to tend all else that’s neglected… Starting with my writing. I accept the pieces of the past I can’t hold on to, the hurts and even the things that stink. I see how the water shed onto these impermanent and imperfect pieces of my life and my Self are richly preparing me to grow. The fire that rages up my spine makes me stand taller, take action. The projects and relationships and stories that seem unfinished are ok, just as they are. For even the parts that appear in decomposition are, after all, Wabi Sabi. And that’s perfect.
What I’ve learnt about making compost so far:
* Leaf mould is a great way to make compost where there’s an over- abundance of fallen leaves. These are simply raked up and placed into garbage bags. I pour in some water, tie them up, stab holes in them with the garden fork ( great way to vent by the way) and leave them in a pile to decompose into something glorious
* A worm farm is kinda cool too. I had one years ago but I was unmotivated and forgot to feed them. The worms went on strike and then got fed up and moved out. I’m ready to start the farm again. This time I’ll give them lots of food (no meat, I’m veggie and they are too; no citrus, onion or dairy), and keep their newspaper blanket the perfect kind of damp.
* the old fashioned compost heap isn’t as funky as a worm farm but it just works. Throw in dirty chook bedding, plenty of chook poo, leaves, fruit and veggie scraps. Be more disciplined than me and water and turn weekly or when you can bear to.
* I’ve recently discovered a fancy compost bin that comes with a turning device. We’re going to give this a go to supplement rather than replace the old-school heap.
I’d love to hear your compost stories… From your garden, and from Life.

The Problem with Goals and the Death of Should

As far back as I can remember, I have been driven by goals. Particularly in the New Year. And I’ve reached many of them, too. The problem is, a lot of my goals are big, and can leave me overwhelmed and filled with procrastination. And others are at least in part out of my control, and when I’ve done everything in my power and the goal recedes further out of reach, I find myself feeling dis-empowered, defeating the purpose of goals altogether.
The other thing I’m aware of as I look back, is the pattern I have of being upset at others’ behaviour or random events in my life. The one thing these all have in common is – you guessed it: Me. More relevantly, what they have in common is that I judged them against the way things “should” be. There’s a lot to be said for the way I believe people SHOULD behave and how the world SHOULD be. If I had my way it would be a peaceful, happy place. Only one small issue, but it’s a deal breaker: that’s NOT how the world is. I don’t get to be the benevolent dictator making everyone play nice. They’re all going to continue exactly as they choose, like it or not.
As long as I continue to view the gap between where I’m at and my goals, and as long as I respond to people and events in terms of how they “should” be, I will be discontented, frustrated and stuck. Instead, this New Year I will consider the path I wish to walk and start walking, one step at a time. I will practice mindfulness of what’s happening around me and choose my actions in response based on my values and chosen direction.
As for the word “should” – my great intention is that it will die forever from my vocabulary, and certainly from my thoughts.
So, without goals or shoulds or even resolutions, my intentions for 2014 are
* to practice mindfulness
* to practice acceptance and surrender
* to respond to life with value and purpose
* to make daily choices based on the above
* to practice gratitude for whatever unfolds
I think the word “practice” is important too. Although life isn’t a dress rehearsal, it’s not something we perfect either. Let’s all be kinder to ourselves on the journey.

The hard won victory

I’ve been studying hard for a human biology exam. Well, when I say hard, I really mean it was hard to study at all! Procrastinate much? I’m not going to lie, it’s a tough subject for me. I took this subject at 18 and scraped through with about 52 or 54%. So sitting it again felt like I hadn’t made progress. But this time, I put in the work. I fought my resistance. Sometimes I lost the battle, but I ultimately won the war. Today I received a high distinction for this subject. And it means more than the aces I scored in all the subjects that come easily. Because I sweated and swore over this one, the grade is not just a grade, it’s a personal triumph.
Sometimes in life we all struggle with something that seems to come easily for others. Maybe we are shy and see others light up the room. Or we’re always the single girl at our friends’ weddings. Maybe we see others reach the pinnacle in their careers, while we wonder what we’re going to do once we grow up… and we’re 40.
These times can feel relentless and disheartening, but when we reach that hard won goal it’s all the sweeter. So we dust ourselves off, we pick ourselves up. We keep going. And we will win.
Now I’d love to hear from you… what triumph in life are you determined to reach? Let me know in the comments, and you can be sure I’ll be cheering you on!

How I save 90% on my facial cream, and get a better product

A few months ago I had the privilege of studying herbal manufacturing as part of my naturopathy degree. We learnt how to make all sorts of creams, infusions and herbal extracts, as well as herbal pills and poultices. When I made a cream for my assignment, I got curious as to the costs of what I’d prepared. 100g worked out to cost $3AUD! This was a revelation to me, as I’d been forking out $45 a jar for years. As it turned out, the cream I made was full of natural ingredients including beneficial medicinal herbs.

The basic formula for making a cream with any choice of herbs comes from the book Herbal manufacturing: How to make medicines from plants (This is not an affiliate link, I just think people need to be empowered to make their own!).

I played around with the formula a bit and here’s what my skin loves. Be careful though, only use the ingredients right for your skin, ask your health professional if you’re not sure. Patch test before use and stop if any sensitivity occurs.

Ingredients I used:
* Calendula flowers/ petals
* organic olive oil
* cold pressed rosehip oil (optional, good for anti-ageing but not suited for rosacea)
* emulsifying wax
* citricidal (from grapefruit, to preserve)
* distilled water
* chamomile flowers/ petals
* vodka
* tea tree essential oil or eucalyptus essential oil
* 2 x 500ml glass jars
* 2 x brown paper bags
* 200ml amber glass jar

Phase One

1. Ensure all surfaces are clean. Wash the 500ml glass jars and place in an oven set to 150 degrees Celsius. Leave them in there for half an hour to sterilise – no one wants bacteria on their face!

2. Place 1 part (e.g. 20g) of dried calendula in a mortar and pestle and grind to smaller size. Place in the sterilised 500ml glass jar and pour 10 parts (e.g. 200ml) of olive oil into jar and seal. Shake jar and place in brown paper bag in cupboard. Shake it at least once daily for two weeks. Strain through clean muslin. This is calendula infused oil.

3. Place 10g chamomile in mortar and pestle. Grind the chamomile and place in the second 500ml glass jar. Add 40ml of vodka. Seal and place in brown paper bag. Shake daily for two weeks. Strain through clean muslin. This is a chamomile tincture.

Phase two: two weeks later

4. Add some ground chamomile flowers to a pot with 100ml of distilled water and simmer down to 90ml. Strain through clean muslin. This is your chamomile infusion.

5. Put two pots half filled with water on low heat. Place a pyrex bowl in each. One will hold the oil mix and one the water mix. Also, wash and dry and then place amber glass jar in an oven at 150 degrees Celsius.

6. In the first add either 30ml of calendula infused oil and 20ml of rosehip cold pressed oil, OR simply just 50ml of calendula oil. Add 1tbsp of emulsifying wax and allow to slowly melt together.

7. In the second, add 10ml of chamomile extract and 90ml of chamomile infusion. Slowly heat to the same temperature as the oil mix.

8. It is essential to measure that the oil and water mixtures are the same temperature before combining. The order of combination is also vital. Remove both mixtures from the heat.Take the water mix and very gradually add to the oil mix, while whisking the oil mix continuously. Keep whisking until all the water mix is added, and the two mixtures are completely combined and have a silky creamy texture. This may take some time but inadequate mixing will cause separation.

9. Once slightly cooler, add 10 drops of citricidal and 5 drops of tea tree or eucalyptus essential oils. Combine with whisk. Pour into amber glass jar. Allow to cool, then seal and label with ingredients and date.

So, that’s how I make heavenly face cream. I’d love to hear from you, do you have a natural cosmetic recipe you’d like to share?

4 ways to help animals without being vegetarian

I have been vegetarian most of my life, and I usually try not to bring it up in conversation. But when out for meals with others, it invariably comes up when the food arrives. I’ve had all sorts of reactions over the years; one of the interesting ones is when people tell me they care a lot about animal welfare, but don’t feel they can go vegetarian so feel there’s nothing they can do. In addition, many people would try to “catch me out” as a hypocrite. I’d be asked things like “Do you eat cheese?”, “Are those leather shoes you’re wearing?” and “Do you still eat desserts with gelatin?”, as though admitting any of these things would render any attempt to reduce my impact on the planet as worthless.

Many of us have this kind of thinking in some area of our life or another. In mental health we called it all-or-nothing thinking, “If I’m not prepared to be a vegetarian I can’t do anything to help animals”.

In reality, most of life exists on a spectrum not at two poles. This includes animal welfare. I wish I’d known when I became vegetarian that ANY efforts are worthwhile, even if they seem imperfect. Maybe I wouldn’t be so hard on myself if I’d known that from the beginning.

So if you’re interested in the welfare of animals, here are some contributions you can make, even if you’re not planning on becoming vegetarian:

1. Tweak your existing diet.
You may consider adding Meat-free Mondays to your routine. Or perhaps smaller portions of meat and larger serves of veggies (your arteries say thank you). Going organic and free range ensures that any animal who ends up on a plate has a better existence while they are alive, and the lack of hormone and antibiotic use provides a better meal for you too. Give some thought to the way each species is treated too – the dairy industry results in bobby calves killed as babies to make veal, and the egg industry is still appalling in its use of cramped cages and destruction of male chicks at just days old. You may find that while you continue to eat meat, you may choose with discernment which ones.

2. Adopt, don’t shop.
Hundreds of thousands of animals end up in shelters in Australia every year. And yet too many people still buy their pets from breeders or worse, pet shops. Many of these animals are bred in inhumane ways, and supporting these industries not only means they are encouraged to continue, but as a result a huge proportion of shelter animals are put down. Adopting from a no-kill shelter, or fostering an animal while it waits for adoption ( a great option for animal lovers who don’t want a 15 year commitment) are truly rewarding ways to show the love. If you can’t commit to an animal, consider a donation to a shelter so they can keep up their great work.

3. Vote with your dollar
Day to day purchases may seem like arbitrary events, but in fact they’re like voting in an election – you get to help decide which company continues and which company closes down. So consider where your dollar is spent. As far as animals are concerned, there is an option to choose cosmetics and cleaning products that are not tested on animals, and clothes that are fur free (watch out for cheap dog fur clothes, ensure anything hairy is confirmed “Faux”). You may even go as far as non-leather shoes and bags. And it goes without saying that when overseas, buy souvenirs that are not made from animals.

4. Get better hobbies
Unfortunately some people still engage in hobbies that base themselves in cruelty to animals. These include hunting, horse racing, dog racing, fights, etc. If this applies to you, may I suggest you dabble in some new interests? If you love the adrenaline, watch humans play sport instead. At least that way it’s a fair game.

And now I want to hear from you. Let me know in the comments below, what’s one thing you do to support animals? And, what new action can you take to make your lifestyle more animal friendly?

The Old Switcheroo

A lot of the time when I think about improving my nutrition it seems pretty overwhelming. I think we can tend to be a bit all-or-nothing in our thinking, and this means we sometimes don’t improve our health until we feel ready to “do it all”. But the real changes are the tiny ones, that we implement as we slowly evolve our lifestyles and don’t feel the need to resist or procrastinate.

Some of the changes I have made to my nutrition in recent years were just a simple switching of basic ingredients. These don’t affect the foods I prepare, but do make my diet cleaner and more nutritious.

So here’s 8 switches that I made, see if any of them could be right for you:

8 nutrition switches

The brilliant thing about stevia and coconut sugar as sweeteners is that they’re both natural, won’t spike sugar levels and are less likely to be stored as fat, and don’t have nasty effects on our long-term health that artificial sweeteners and sugar itself can.

Manuka honey is traditionally used in herbal preparations for its soothing, demulcent and antibacterial actions. Like any honey it is a natural sugar and therefore needs to be eaten in moderation and anyone on a sugar-restricted diet needs to check with a health professional. However, if you’re already eating honey, Manuka is the way to go for health benefits.

Himalayan pink salt contains trace minerals needed in our diet such as sulphur, calcium, potassium, magnesium, iodine, iron, zinc and selenium. Table salt has been stripped of its benefits; it just makes sense to change.

Tamari is basically soy sauce without the wheat, a common irritant. I also love that the Tamari I buy is organic so the soy beans are whole and not GMO. Soy still needs to be taken in moderation, but I think these improvements keep it on the side of good.

It’s funny these days how everyone argues about whether organic food is actually better for you. But not so long ago organic food was just…. food. The argument needs to change to how bad pesticides, fungicides and other chemicals are on our health, not to mention some unbiased research into the long term effects of eating genetically modified foods. I’d like to see all of us on organic until the others can prove themselves. I must admit convenience has me often lapsing to buy more readily available fruits and vegetables, but recently I looked into a local organic provider and I’m so glad I did.

The materials that we use to cook and store our food can leach in and effect our health, so it’s not enough just to consider the ingredients themselves. I like to cook in a cast iron skillet (so retro!) in the hopes I’m receiving iron rather than aluminium from the pan, and I store in glass to prevent too many chemicals leaching into my food from plastic. My next mission is to stop eating food from tins!

Now over to you: what switches have you already made, and is there a step you want to take to improve the ingredients in your pantry? Please let me know in the comments below.

The Meaning of Life in 111 words

The most frightening idea I ever heard in studying Buddhism is that life has no meaning. Even now, when I consider this it seems completely nihilist. Some would call it liberating.

Perhaps another way of looking at it is that life has the meaning we assign to it.

We can hurtle through life assuming how we view the world is reality, but the truth is we choose how we perceive everything that happens, and we assign meaning.

It’s easy to forget this, and life is much easier without the responsibility. But think of the possibility of deciding for yourself what every moment means.

Your turn: What have you assigned meaning to?

If you could change just one thing….

If you could change one thing… just one… what would it be? Would it be something about the face or body staring back at you from the mirror?

Seems like a shallow question, right? And yet so much of what we see on the media -social and otherwise – is about our appearance.

Every time I go on-line I’m bombarded by media telling me how to lose weight, shrink my stomach, firm up, tone up, dress up…. but rarely how to show up.

And yet, without this ridiculous social pressure, if we really thought about what will ultimately matter at the end of our lives… it won’t be the shape of our nose or the size of our thighs that we will wish we’d changed.

So here’s the thing… the one thing we can change about our lives is to stop wishing ourselves different… and truly showing up.

Here are 6 ways to show up in life:
* show up for your passions by taking small, regular action steps rather than just talking about it (my big one!)
* show up for the people you care about by giving them your full attention during a conversation
* show up for your self… eat for nutrition not deprivation, be kind to yourself in the ups and downs of life, move your booty
* live in the present moment, be conscious of your thoughts and bring them back from stewing on past events or worrying about the future
* be grateful… if you’re reading this it means you have access to more resources than most people on this planet. Let that sink in.
* contribute… whether your contribution is carrying a neighbour’s shopping, protecting the forests or saving lives, the important thing is to move from being someone with good intentions and become someone with good actions.

start simple

I start today with nothing but an intention… after too many years of getting by and working hard and doing what’s expected, I’ve decided to pause. Reflect. And live on purpose.

Things that matter to me are putting into practice all the tools I know make for a great life – connecting with awesome people, creativity, taking care of this gorgeous and astounding planet in my everyday way of life, and looking after myself – body and soul – with integrity.

This website is my forum for sharing all those awesome discoveries along the way… hope you’ll join me on the journey. IMG_8016

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