Saturday, 30 September 2017

Hello Autumn!

Oh I do love this time of year. The colours alone are enough to make my heart burst at the beauty of it all.  At Forest School I sometimes feel like closing my eyes as it's too much beauty for my little mind to handle!

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There are lots of wonderful festivals at this time of year too and I am trying to enjoy them all, savoring and relishing every one.  Squeezing all the meaning I can out of every moment.

Friday the 22nd September was the Autumn Equinox which marks the day when the number of daylight hours is equal to the number of night time hours.  It means that Winter is approaching and that it is time to say goodbye and thank you very much to Summer.

We decided to visit the standing stone circle at Avebury to mark the occasion. I am not entirely sure why.  I am drawn to the place at these times of the year when the seasons change, maybe it makes me feel a connections to my ancestors or British history or nature, I am not sure.  It is notable that the meaning of the standing stone circle at Avebury is still not known.  It is thought it might be to do with fertility, but no one can say for sure, it doesn't align with the stars, or with the sun or moon as Stone Henge does, it is till a mystery to historians. I find this fascinating because there were a number of people camping at Avebury who I thought must be Druid based on their dreadlocks and rainbow tie die (not that all Druids have dreadlocks and wear rainbow tie dye, or that all those with dreadlocks and rainbow tie dye are Druid, I happen to have penchant for rainbow tie dye myself.) who are obviously drawn to the place at this time of year also, but like me really don't know the meaning of the stones.

We walked round the circle, I tried to go "through" the stones (in the style of Claire Fraser from Outlander), it didn't work, incidentally, and we visited the museum and manor house.  All really interesting  (I highly recommend a visit).

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That evening I had a little fire in the garden, said thank you for all the good things that summer brought us; camping, visiting family, the seaside, birthdays, playgrounds, swimming pools..... and welcomed in the Autumn, (although with slight hesitation and apprehension because I am really not a fan of winter.).

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The Autumn festivities continues into the week and yesterday we celebrated Michaelmas, also known as Feast of St Michael and All Angels.  The Bible story in Revelation tells us that there was a war in Heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, (who was the Devil), and the dragon was cast out of Heaven.  Incidentally the Archangel Michael is often pictured in artworks holding a set of scales, supposedly to weigh the souls of men, and Michaelmas comes within the astrological sign of the scales (Libra)!  (I love the interconnectedness of it all!) The scales represent a balance between the darkness and death that Autumn brings and our own ability to raise ourselves up into re-birth and resurrection.  We have to fight against the inner-dragon in our own being and find the spirit to come alive in the dying year.  Taking up a new task has long been a theme for this season and we are encouraged to take a new step on our inner journey.  (I read about this in a beautiful book I have called All Year Round)

We marked the occasion by making a bread dragon, which started off as a pretty convincing dragon (though I forgot the wings!) and became a rather puffed up, swollen dragon, (giving new meaning to the song "Puff the magic dragon"!)

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While researching Michaelmas I came across a website which explains an ancient tradition that occurred on the Island of Iona in Scotland (more interconnectedness because.....Outlander) all the people and even the animals walked sunwise around the Angels Hill to seek God’s blessing on the island for the coming year. This tradition goes back to pre Christian times when Druids believed the Devil was frustrated by anything that had no end, no break, no entrance.  Celtic Christians adopted this idea, it made sense because God has no end in both time and love, and the three selves of God (Holy Trinity) form an ever circling presence. Celtic Christians would walk circles around their crops asking for God to bless them, as an adaption of the Druid practice of turning sunwise to entice the sun to bless their crops.  There is a couple of circling or Caim prayers that can be spoken to ask God to encircle anyone or anything you pray for:



Aren't they lovely!
If you want to know more visit THIS website, where I got these images and this information from.  I also came across THIS website which gives even more information about the meaning behind Michaelmas.  I really love how us humans have this deep desire to make meaning, and it is this very desire that urges me to paint, document and write.

Now as I continued to research Michaelmas, another piece of interconnectedness came up, I happened to stumble upon talk of a St Michaelmas Bannock, relevant because you know....Scotland...Outlander...St Michaelmas!! This is THE food they eat in Scotland in the 1700's!  So I was immediately drawn into this, and who would have thought I would even come across a website with a recipe for a vegan Bannock, which also talks about Outlander! (You can just imagine my excitement about this and having no one to share it witht!)  SO I am planning on making myself a vegan Bannock next week and will let you all know how it goes (check my Facebook page)

These festivals are all about transition; the transition from Summer to Autumn; and because we humans so love to embed meaning into everything, we can take this opportunity to meditate on the beauty of the season, everything is dying and it seems somehow ironic that it is at this transition point into dormancy that we find the most beauty.  At the same time the dying leaves and sleeping trees whisper the promise of the new life that is to come in the opposite time of the year (the other side of the scales if you will).  While we were walking round the stones Boris found a little chick's egg, with it's tiny peck marks going all round.  It seemed meaningful that at the turning point of the season, as it turns to death and darkness, we were reminded of the promise of new life in the mirroring season to come.

So as Summer ends and Autumn begins I am following with tradition and trying to take a moment to think about what tasks I want to complete before the year is out.  At this time of year it's easy to feel like starting new projects is a fruitless task with the end of the year approaching and the thought of New Years Resolutions on the horizon, but I feel like I really want to make the most of the year by setting goals that I can achieve before the year is thorough. I still have so many unfinished projects on the go, from my book that I have been writing for about two and a half years now to video tutorials and half finished paintings, and I also have some festive projects and products I hope to release soon.  I really want to feel a sense of completion on these.  Maybe I should pray a Caim prayer over them and the coming season!

Wow, that was a much longer blog post that I had planned, I do so love meaning and interconnectedness (is that even a word?) and Autumn! We have several more Autumnal festivals still to celebrate this season including Harvest Festival, Hallowe'en (Samhain), All Saints Day, All Souls Day, Rememberance Day, Guy Fawkes Night and Martinmas, to name but a few. I am excited for the season ahead and all opportunities for fun and family and friends that it brings.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

I stopped Eating!!

And started juicing!

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Recently I watched an episode of an American TV show about weight loss. It was really inspiring, a woman was enrolled onto a special support programme of diet and fitness and with the help of specialist gym equipment, qualified instructors and nutritionists she lost loads of weight and at the end of the show she looked really amazing, I will come back to this later.

The weekend before last I finished off my three month(ish) wholefoods vegan diet with a four day juice feast to knock those last few kilos of weight (that I really didn't need) on the head and to see if I could improve my health.

It was HARD!  I wanted solid food!  Buuuuuut not as hard as I thought it would be.  Unlike a few years ago when I did Raw Till 4, I didn't get any "detoxing" symptoms (I am putting detoxing in inverted commas because I don't like the term as it is so unscientific, but what I mean is my body didn't have such a shock switching to juice as it did switching to Raw Till 4 so, no diarrhoea, no headaches or nausea etc which I think is a testament to how healthily I was eating before hand.). although I did feel tired and had a wobbly moment on the morning of the third day where my husband had to feed me some banana so I could get out of bed!

The good news is I reached my weight loss target and actually felt pretty good on the last day and like I could have carried on for longer, (I didn't of course!  I gorged myself on Chinese food that very evening and have subsequently gained two kilos!!)

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Now I need to work at maintaining (re-achieving) my goal weight, I am already getting carried away eating toast and the like so I need to be really careful.

It is wonderful to not be overweight any more, it's is wonderful to be able to fit into all my old clothes, even if they are mostly wide legged trousers from the late 90's, to not have my thighs rub together when I wear a summer skirt, to be able to see my collar bones and most importantly to have reduced my risk of many illnesses like diabetes, cancer and heart disease.  But as I reflect on this journey I am struck by the stark fact that I am still the same person deep down that I was when I was overweight.  I don't feel like a slim person, a healthy person or any better than the person I was before.  What I have come to realise on this diet and lifestyle is that it doesn't matter how much weight you lose, how fit you are, you're still the same person you were before.

Now thankfully, over the past few years I have come to actually quite like myself, so it wasn't a massive disappointment to come to the end of the journey to find that I was in fact just as happy slim as I was overweight. But I know this isn't always the case.  In fact the mere fact of not liking ourselves to begin with can be the very things that is stopping us from losing weight in the first place.

We are sold the idea that if you're slim and fit and healthy you'll be happy too, and there is always this tendency to chase this idea, but sadly it's a lie.  It doesn't matter how slim or fit, or healthy we are, if there is something broken inside us no amount of dieting and exercising will fix it.

We might manage to fight our way along the road to a slim, toned body, but no true healing will have taken place if that journey doesn't also include a process of internal healing as well.

True happiness doesn't come from how you look on the outside, it comes from working hard on the important relationship we have with ourselves; addressing issues we have, facing up to ourselves and doing the really hard work internally.

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One of my affirmations from my be series available as a digital download in my shop

Going back to that American TV show.  The most important change the woman made in her life wasn't changing her diet or getting to the gym it was addressing some very deep pain she had from the past, issues with her family and a terrible incident that dramatically affected her life and caused her so much pain, self hatred and guilt. When she finally faced up to everything that happened and was able to put the past behind her the real change in her life occurred and she was able to be truly happy again.

I believe that the journey to a healthy body starts with a healthy mind and that somehow releasing the past opens up pathways that enable the weight to go; and to go forever.

I am reminded of some lyrics from a Dolly Parton  song that I love called "Better Get to Livin'":

                                          I said you'd better get to livin', givin'

Be willing and forgivin'

Cause all healing has to start with you
You better stop whining, pining
Get your dreams in line
And then just shine, design, refine
Until they come true
And you better get to livin'[....]

You better get to livin', givin'

A little more thought about bein'

A little more willin' to make a better way
Don't sweat the small stuff
Keep your chin up
Just hang tough
And if it gets too rough
Fall on your knees and pray
And do that everyday
Then you'll get to livin'.

Her words somehow sum up what we need to improve our lives; there is definitely a message about working on yourself from the inside, some positive visualisation, mindfulness and affirmations and last but not least submitting our lives to a higher power, and not just on the days when things get tough, but every. single. day. I am writing this to remind myself as much as to share with you as I face a future with a healthy body, I need to remember always to be working on my heart and mind, they are the most important and affect everything else.

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This was my first breakfast after my juice feast, I was seriously craving something savory and this really hit the spot.

If you're interested in the diet I followed to lose weight, check it out HERE, I am still offering this 7 day vegan wholefoods meal plan for "pay what you want".