Monday, 30 June 2008

Out on the open road...

I intend to add more detail later, but thought I'd announce DH and I just got home from our first 'car tour' of England. We went to see his parents in Gorleston-on-Sea, and decided to work in some stops to pretty little towns we would never attempt to get to by train because it's just too much time and money and effort. This weekend we stopped in Southwold, Beccles and Bury St Edmunds, and all of them were wonderful...and none of them were even out of our way! We really enjoyed the beautiful weather and seeing towns that always make us say in unison, 'Why do we live in Nuneaton?' (Of course, there were a few minutes that were a bit fraught, like when I freaked out half-way up the lighthouse in Southwold and had to go back down again, and when we missed our turning on the A14 and had to go back to Cambridge to turn around...just a few raised voices and minor contusions, nothing to worry about!)

It occurred to us that we could do this sort of thing every weekend--just pick an A road and stop in any lovely little town or interesting attraction along the way. Oh, the possibilities. Derek was practically chanting, 'I love my car, I love my car, I love my car!'

More detail soon, with photos!

May all beings be at ease.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

The Eight Human Talents

"The chakra system helps us to understand our bodies. Metaphors are important; they bring understanding. When we marry, we say that 'the two shall be as one'. Obviously we don't mean they are now conjoined twins connected by living tissue. We mean it as a metaphor. That's why the metaphor of partnership, two halves of a whole, can help create a healthy marriage, or heal an unhealthy one. For that same reason, we can view our body as comprising eight power centres. Imagining each centre exuding one of the brilliant gifts or talents of humanity can help us create a metaphorical self-image of our physical body that is healthy, happy and whole."
~Gurmukh, p. 39

The Eight Human Talents: the Yoga Way to Restore Balance and Serenity by Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa presents the chakras in a refreshingly grounded and realistic way. As you can see from the above quote, Gurmukh is candid about the metaphorical nature of the concept of chakras. She sees them as metaphors, or symbols, for what she defines as the eight qualities or talents that make human beings unique. Each talent also has a 'shadow emotion'. (This concept of positive and negative qualities is also seen in flower essences). The eight human talents as set out by Gurmukh are:

1. Acceptance (shadow emotion: resentment)--Root Chakra
2. Creativity (shadow emotion: tedium, boredom)--Sacral Chakra
3. Commitment (shadow emotion: anger)--Solar Plexus Chakra
4. Compassion (shadow emotion: fear, worry)--Heart Chakra
5. Truth (shadow emotion: denial)--Throat Chakra
6. Intuition (shadow emotion: confusion)--Brow or Third Eye Chakra
7. Boundlessness (shadow emotion: being caught in the illusion of permanence)--Crown
8. Radiance (shadow emotion: none)--the auric field around the body

Gurmukh explains the function and meaning of each of the 8 chakras using anecdotes from personal experience and stories of her students, friends and acquaintances. She offers a few kundalini yoga meditations for each chakra, as well as specific kundalini yoga exercises for each chakra.

For the root chakra, Crow Pose
For the sacral chakra, Frog Pose

For the solar plexus chakra, Stretch Pose

For the heart chakra, Camel Pose

For the throat chakra, Head Rolls

And so on.

This is a lovely book. When I read it, I can hear Gurmukh's calm and gentle voice speaking to me from the pages. She is both radiant and grounded firmly in reality, and so I believe I have found an understanding of the chakras that I can accept and integrate into my daily life and practice. I borrowed this book through interlibrary loan, but I may buy myself a copy.

This book is not really an introduction to kundalini yoga, but it could be. After reading it, you might want to find out more. There are plenty of books and DVDs that will take you further in your kundalini practice than this book can take you. But it's a great place to start! As Gurmukh says, once you get over the 'silliness' of it all, you can't argue with the results.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

BOOK REVIEW Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill

Buddhists often talk about 'skilful means' and being skilful in their dealings with themselves and others. This book written by a Buddhist monk who also happens to be a former molecular biologist, photographer and philosopher, examines happiness as a skill that can be developed. Whereas most people conceive happiness as 'a momentary, fleeting impression, whose intensity and duration vary according to the availability of the resources that make it possible,' author Matthieu Ricard looks at it differently. Ricard declares that happiness is actually a skill that can be honed through a two-pronged approach at overcoming 'ignorance', in the Buddhist sense of the word. 'Ignorance' is the inability to recognize the true nature of things and the law of cause and effect that governs happiness and suffering. Ignorance can be dispelled through honest and sincere introspection:

*A candid and systematic evaluation of every aspect of our own suffering and of the suffering we inflict on others , development of understanding which thoughts, words and actions inevitably lead to pain and which contribute to well-being.

*Contemplation which allows us to rise above the whirlpool of our own thoughts for a moment and to look calmly within, as if at an interior landscape, to find out our deepest aspirations.

This introspection is achieved through the practice of meditation, and Ricard offers some exercises to help with developing a meditation practice.

The most interesting aspect of the book is the detailed look at scientific studies done to determine how meditation affects the brain wave patterns of people. I could go into it here, but there has been a lot of coverage on Ricard and these studies, so I will provide links instead:

Scientists Meditate on Happiness

A geneticist-turned-monk takes a scientific approach to a spiritual life

How Thinking Can Change the Brain

Matthieu Ricard: Meet Mr Happy
This article is my favourite, as it is written by a typically cynical Brit.

I haven't finished this book yet, but I am certainly enjoying it. I am nearly half way through it. I have to admit, there is not much new here. There are only so many ways you can spin the 4 Noble Truths and the Noble 8-Fold Path. Buddhism is not complicated, but is deeply profound. Matthieu Ricard's book resonates with me more deeply than did Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth. The fundamentals remain the same...the difference is the remarkable and endlessly fascinating ways that basic tenets Buddhism line up with science. This is merely touched on in this book, and yet is the aspect of the book that I find most appealing, in addition to Ricard's excellent writing style.

Which leads me to the next book I intend to seek out: The Quantum and the Lotus, in which Ricard and a quantum physicist compare ideas.

May all beings be at ease.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Guess who drove her own car today!

We got up early and Derek drove me to a quiet suburb so I could try out our car. I have only driven with a driving instructor so far, and that makes me so nervous that I had no way of judging if I would be able to handle driving it myself out of our parking space and through town. However, I found that without the instructor's constant nitpicking, I was able to just drive the car. I drove around the quiet neighborhood for a while, then drove home and parked up, no problem! I think I will just pull out and drive from here next time we go out to practice, although I think it would be best to do it in the early morning hours so that I can get used to road markings, etc, before I then have to deal with traffic.

Derek says I did okay. :)

I feel very relieved that driving is as I remember it, in the absence of a driving instructor. This helps me believe that I can pass my test and actually drive myself around one day.

I just have to master this steering technique (cannot under any circumstances cross your arms) and some of these other picky details, but that shouldn't be too awful.

Now to apply for my theory test and get that out of the way!!


An another note, today I bought a lovely white cotton gauze tunic to wear during kundalini yoga practice. I have white shorts and workout vest I can wear under it during summer, and I intend to buy some white sport leggings for winter or colder days.

I also just ordered this wonderful chakra pendant:

I ordered a 16" snake chain to go with it. I have been searching for a long time for some sort of yoga-related jewelry. I really had my heart set on a pendant in the shape of someone meditating in lotus pose, but I just couldn't find one. This seemed like a good choice, because the colours of the chakras are represented, and the spiral shape is reminiscent of the kundalini energy.

I have found a white cotton gauze headwrap online as well and as it's so cheap I'm thinking of ordering one. One is supposed to wear white during kundalini practice for purity and energy flow, and covering one's head is traditional in the practice as well--plus it's fun to play dress up!

Saturday, 14 June 2008

BOOK REVIEW Innocent Traitor: A Novel of Lady Jane Grey

The Lady Jane Grey was Queen of England for nine days, 10th-19th July 1553. Her mother, Lady Frances Brandon, Marquess of Dorset, was the daughter of Mary Tudor (King Henry VIII's sister); therefore, Jane was the great-granddaughter of Henry VII. Still, despite her royal lineage, Jane would never have expected to ascend to the throne. Henry VIII had two daughters (Mary and Elizabeth, who would become Mary I and Elizabeth I) and a son (Edward, who would become Edward VI).

Jane's birth closely followed the birth of Henry the VIII's son, Edward, and Jane's mother, disappointed that Jane had not been a son, immediately begins planning to groom Jane to become the wife of Edward and thus become Queen of England. After the death of Henry VIII, at around the age of 10, Jane enters the household of Henry VIII's last queen, Katherine Parr, where she is exposed to a strongly Protestant, academic environment. Jane develops into an intelligent and pious woman. Edward VI ascends the throne, and the fiercely Protestant Duke of Northumberland, Earl of Warwick, John Dudley, acts as regent to the young King Edward VI. As it becomes clear that Edward VI is very ill and will not live, Jane's mother switches her plans for Jane to marry him. She, her husband and Northumberland plot to convince the dying boy king to forbid his half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth succession on the grounds that they are of illegitimate birth, and transfer succession to the next in line, the granddaughter of Henry VII, Jane's mother. Jane's mother will then renounce her claim to the throne and pass it on to Jane. Jane's parents agree to marry Jane off to Northumberland's son, Guildford Dudley. Guildford and Jane loathe each other, but must do as their parents demand, so they marry. It is the closest John Dudley can get to being King himself, feeling sure that he can control Guildford, and of course as husband, Guildford will control Jane. Jane does not want to marry Guildford or be Queen, but she is entirely powerless against the adults who control her life. Four days after the death of Edward VI, Jane is crowned Queen.

Mary Tudor has widespread popular support and within days, even Suffolk has abandoned his daughter, Jane, and is attempting to save himself by proclaiming Mary queen. Northumberland's supporters melt away and Suffolk easily persuades his daughter to relinquish the crown, which she never wanted to begin with.

Mary imprisons Jane, her husband and her father in the Tower of London. While Suffolk is pardoned, Jane and her husband are tried for high treason in November 1553. Jane pleads guilty and is sentenced to death. The carrying out of the sentence is suspended. Mary does not want to kill Jane because she realises that Jane has been a pawn in the game of others. She tries to get Jane to convert to Catholicism so she can free her from the Tower, but Jane refuses. Amazingly, Jane's father then supports Sir Thomas Wyatt's rebellion in February 1554 to try to put Jane back on the throne. This seals Jane's fate. On 12 February, she and her husband are beheaded; her father follows them two days later.

These are the facts of what happened to Lady Jane Grey. The novel 'Innocent Traitor', written by prominent historian Alison Weir, makes for a riveting and quick read. The story is told in first person alternately from the points of view of Jane's mother, Jane, Jane's nurse, and other characters. This takes a few chapters to get used to, but is an interesting approach to telling the story. The final chapter is from the point of view of the executioner.

If you enjoy historically accurate historical fiction (not those bodice-ripper types with grey-eyed earls called Raven de Winter Montfitzhue and violet-eyed heroines called Lady Abrielle...gag!), then you will certainly love this book.

This was Alison Weir's first novel, and I intend to read her second novel, 'The Lady Elizabeth', as soon as I finish reading 'Into the Wild'.

May all beings be at ease.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

No more news

I am not watching the news any more.

It was bad enough when watching the news gave me a sense of impending doom and disaster--budget deficits, dangerous yobs on the streets with knives, OAPs being conned or molested in their homes, rising house prices, etc, etc, but now, on top of the doom and gloom, I am forced to endure story after story about celebrities. It all winds me up and I hereby declare I am freeing my mind from it. I am not watching it any more.

What story could have been the last straw? Colleen Whatsername and that footballer with the round red face are getting married. They've spent a bunch of money on it and have booked up an abbey or something for five days and there are British goombah security guys standing guard over it. Okay. So a house of God is closed to the public because some oik from a counsel estate who can bounce a ball off his head has made an insane amount of money and has absolutely no class or taste but does have the dosh to do the most coarse, gauche things. Like hire an 80 metre yacht and an abbey, spend £5 million on a wedding. And have his face on my telly for the majority of my morning. In the meantime, there are things happening in the world that I might like to know about, things that actually have some relevance to me. Like whether it's going to rain this afternoon! I mean, I've barely recovered from the spectacle of Jordan in her Barbie fashions pink wedding gown! Now this! What have I learned from the morning news? Shrek's getting married and Del Boy won 'The Apprentice'. I feel so edified.

From now on, I'm either going to just keep the blooming telly off in the morning, or I'm going to turn it to UK Gold or Dave TV and watch old reruns of comedy shows. It's not going to make a dime's bit of difference whether I watch the news or not. The only difference to the world that it's going to make is that I will no longer feel a sense of dread about the prospects for the future of myself and this country, because I won't have heard all the gloomy stories, and I won't be wound up by being forced to listen to the inane doings of useless tossers who somehow managed to get themselves rich and famous.

I feel better already.

May all beings be at ease, even if you are still watching the travesty that is network news.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Flower links

Here are some interesting articles for further exploration of flower essences, if you're so inclined...

Blossom into Health with Flower Essences
Very well-written first look at flower essences.

The Healing Power of Flowers
Presents anecdotal evidence and details of small studies.

Flower Essences' Connection to Nature's Transformative Power
Written by a psychiatrist who both uses the flower remedies herself and administers them to her patients. (Of particular relevance is a section titled 'Flower Remedies as a Harmless Option.')

Testing a Complementary Therapy
This is only a summary of a clinical trial, but interesting results...

Monday, 9 June 2008

Great meditation

Just thought I'd post about my meditation today. I used Erin Kamler's CD and chanted the mantra:
Wah yantee, kar yantee
jaga duta patee adakita waha
brahmaday tresha guru ita wahey guru

The translation for this is:
Great macroself, creative self
All that is creative through time, all that is the Great One,
3 aspects of God
That is indescribable ecstasy of light from darkness.

I wish you could hear Erin Kamler's beautiful version of this mantra. It lasts about 8 minutes.

As I chanted this, I felt a tingling up my spine and at the crown of my head. After the chant finished, I sat for 10 minutes doing long deep breathing, eyes half closed, using the yogic technique of dragging the breath over the back of the tongue. It sounds just like someone who is asleep, and feels like you get much more oxygen to every cell of your body as you breathe.

It was just a great experience.

May all beings be at ease.

Response to a comment

I've had a couple of friends express concern about me becoming dependent of flower remedies. Thanks for your concern, but I think you might misunderstand what flower essences are. You don't need to worry because:

1. There is actually no plant material or at most a miniscule amount in flower remedies. They have no pharmacological effect whatsoever. They have been tested and researchers have concluded that any effect they have is likely entirely a placebo effect. No scientific studies have shown that flower essences have a pharmacological efficacy. Any benefit is in the mind of the person taking the remedy. Flower essences are not the same as herbal extracts, like echinacea or St. John's wort. There's nothing in the bottle but mineral water and brandy. (You might ask why then did I feel compelled to write the company about their product as opposed to others. I was curious as to what the answer could be, given that the remedies are all the same--water that has had flowers in it, plus brandy. The bottom line of Bach's response was that they can't label their product with an active ingredient because there isn't one. Did you catch that in the letter I posted?)

2. The mineral water has, however, had blossoms of these flowers sitting in it before being mixed with brandy. Certain New Age-types say that the flower imparts its 'vibrational frequency' to the water, which is then transmuted to you when you take it. While I consider myself something of a 'New Age-type', I am not sure about this whole vibrational frequency thing, it sounds cool, but who knows. Bottom line, though, is that by any known measurement, all you're getting in the bottle is water and brandy.

3. So why would someone as health-conscious, penny-pinching and skeptical as me get involved with this system? Because I struggle mightily with depression and anxiety and have in the past been on real anti-depressants. That's no joke and it's no fun. Makes you feel like a zombie and it's scary to have your doctor remind you every time he refills your scrip that you dare not accidentally get pregnant while taking them.

I have searched for a long time to find a way to get a grip on some very old issues that you probably know nothing about. Issues that have settled in layer upon layer of the personality. These issues cause behaviours and emotions that are inexplicable to yourself. Some people see a therapist to peel these layers back, others find their own way. I have seen a therapist, too, by the way.

The thing about the remedies that is so beneficial for me, is they are actually a tool to help me identify aspects of my personality that I realise are making me unhappy, causing me to engage in behaviours and patterns of thought that I don't like and want to improve. To use the flower remedies, you have to pinpoint precisely where the problem lies. You have to be willing to face negative aspects of your personality instead of always thinking you're right and why, oh why, can't the world let up on you, or whatever. This is a harmless form of self-analysis. The droplets contain nothing that can harm me. But realising there are subtle ways I can change in order to feel happier within myself can only help me. You advise me to stop overthinking--this is my way of working on that. Believe me, whether I'm thinking with a view to self-improvement, or thinking in complete self-condemnation, either way I am going to be thinking. I'm not the kind of person that can stop thinking. I have certainly tried.

Think of the remedies as a harmless ritual. You could look upon it as me coming up with some goals for the week. This week I am going to stop worrying that I weigh 135. I am going to try to be more tolerant because it doesn't do any good to go around in a rage all the time. I am going to be less critical of people I care about it. (I know, for example, that feeling like a horrible person for eating a piece of chocolate is not good. I want change that about myself, to let up on myself. Rock water is meant to remind me that this is an aspect of myself that I can change. I don't have to just wallow in these feelings, I can identify them and do something else--but first I do have to identify the source of what before might be generalised feelings of wretchedness!) Then to kind of cement these goals in my mind, I engage in a ritual of placing little drops of a brandy water mixture that was labelled with a flower to symbolise my goal, and throughout the day I add droplets of this mixture to my drinking water as a constant reminder of what I'm working on. I love the notion of the vibrations of a flower resonating with my aura. It makes me smile, it feels special to me. It's not unlike people who hold crystals. Some people might think it's kooky or misguided, but you'd never have to worry that there was any physical harm to come of it.

Unless you believe in vibrational healing and 'sympathetic resonance' (Google it!) then you would look at a chemical analysis of these products and say 'There's nothing in this--I got a bridge I can sell you.' But I have my reasons. I have been honest with myself about the placebo effect of the flower essences, but obviously haven't made that clear on my blog. If you could please do me a favour and not berate me for spending my money on this, it would be very helpful to me. You might not understand why I am interested in the remedies seeing that I know the whole truth about them, but I am enjoying using them as a tool for self-improvement, and I have enjoyed posting to my blog about them. I do have a tendency to take very deeply to heart what people say to me and then question and condemn myself for my choices based on what they have said, and I have to admit I found your comments a bit crushing. This is another aspect of myself which I am trying to heal.

Since I started working this system, I have felt better. I have behaved better. I have responded to things better. I like talking about the 'healing properties of flowers'. I like associating flowers with self-improvement. I like the feeling of closeness to the earth and everything else that I get from the idea of being healed by flowers. I even like saying the word 'flower' -- it conjures up good feeling. My moderate approach to the remedies will likely frustrate flower practitioners who believe wholeheartedly that the system works through vibrational healing as well as complete skeptics who think it's a complete waste of time. I'm someone who likes the idea of it, realises any effect is all in my head, but is going ahead with it anyway. That's gonna confuse everybody, but so what. I don't care why it's working, but I can assure you it's not a drug effect, so there's nothing I need to let my body recover from. All is cool.

(Oh, I just noticed there was an implication on the original comment that I've been depriving my body of the nutrients it needs---what! Trust me, I eat well. No worries whatsoever on that front! 100% scientifically sound diet, I assure you.)

Sunday, 8 June 2008

BFR Update 4

I finished my 3rd treatment bottle today. That one had been mixed for specific upcoming events, but did not include remedies for certain ongoing deep-seated problems. I did this because you aren't supposed to use more than a maximum of 7 remedies in a bottle, and I didn't want to muddle it up. I think, though, that this resulted in old patterns of thought and behaviour emerging again. I was not taking the cherry plum or white chestnut, for example, and I did find myself losing my temper and falling into bouts of overthinking again. While I performed well on the tasks I was preparing for (I took hornbeam, larch, mimulus, beech and cerato), I believe a better approach will be to use the treatment bottle only for long-term work, and take other remedies as needed in a glass of water at the time.

I just mixed my 4th treatment bottle, and have made this mixture:

Crab apple--My weight has crept up to 135 over the past few months, and I have been feeling very bad about myself for it. I must get over this negative view of my body and myself in order to move forward with taking care of the problem.

White chestnut--Although admittedly not nearly as bad as in the past, I have found myself falling into the same old grooves of worry and guilt about certain things. My treatment goal is to break out of this, to recognise it and turn it aside at once.

Cherry plum--My temper has got much better since I started the Bach Flower Remedies, but having gone the last few weeks without cherry plum, I have noticed a difference. PMT came on with a vengeance (although when I was taking the cherry plum last month, my period arrived on time but there were no symptoms of PMT at all). I have also found myself returning to the old habit of turning any minor upset into a cliff face for me to hurl myself off of. Back to good old cherry plum, then!

Beech--Some introspection has led me to understand that my intolerance goes way deeper than just UK driving lessons. I need beech.

Chicory--I had to go and buy this one this morning, because it only just occurred to me that I need this remedy. Admitting to yourself that you have chicory tendencies is not easy. So many of the Bach remedies require you to be brutally honest with yourself and face negative aspects of your personality. But I believe that a lot of my quick-tempered nature is due to a negative imbalance of the chicory state. I chose this remedy because of this description:

While they are easily hurt by what they consider to be rejections or snubs, chicory types can just as easily mimic the hurt and magnify perfectly normal, reasonable behaviour into the basest treachery...They quite literally fall in love with themselves, with all the attendant feelings of self-regard and self-pity and selfishness that this implies. But in fact this self-regard is accompanied by low self-esteem, and chicory types are often lonely or afraid of being left alone. They may feel genuinely unloved or unlovable.
~'Flower Remedies: A Complete Guide to Dr. Bach's Natural Healing System', Stefan Ball

I arrived at this essence to my surprise this morning, when I sat and tried to figure out why I have such a tendency to fly off the handle at the slightest thing. DH and I both can take instant offence at something and become highly agitated and defensive, when the other person was absolutely NOT trying to start any sort of argument. I told him I decided on chicory, and encouraged him to try to arrive at his own conclusions for what remedy he might need for his. This is because the same behavioural symptoms can originate from very different emotional places, and his quick temper and defensive may come from totally different place than mine.

Rock Water--This is another one I had to buy this morning because I hadn't yet realised I need it. The descriptions always talk about self-sacrifice and self-denial, and as I always feel I am overindulging in everything, I thought it couldn't possibly be describing me. But I've been feeling frustrated lately with my yoga practice, feeling I'm not flexible enough, that I'm not making good enough progress, and that my meditation practice is lacking. I've been down on myself for eating chocolates and so forth. This is a complete negative rock water state! Listen to this:

In their attempts to live according to their principles, rock water people tend to be very rigid in their outlook and their desire for perfection leads them to push themselves beyond accepted limits. They are hard on themselves, denying themselves quite normal pleasures such as wine or chocolate as part of their efforts to dominate and master their desires. They tend to follow strict exercise routines and set diets--spiritual as well as physical--in the attempt to reach the ideal they have set. When the practicalities of life force them to 'cheat' and miss a yoga session or eat the wrong kind of food, they get upset and accuse themselves of weakness. In this way, their unforgiving natures turn self-denial into self-martyrdom.
~'Flower Remedies: A Complete Guide to Dr. Bach's Natural Healing System', Stefan Ball

So I have included rock water in this treatment bottle. My treatment goal is to encourage greater flexibility in achieving ideals, and turn my gaze more outward away from myself.

This bottle, I used mineral water, two droppers of brandy, and two drops each of flower essence from the stock bottles. We'll see how this goes.

May all beings be at ease.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Saw consultant yesterday

At last I got to see the consultant. My hearing was checked yet again and I was told:

1. I have what is classed as a mild hearing loss.
2. It is difficult to determine whether my hearing loss is caused by scarring and perforation of the eardrums due to infections or otosclerosis.
3. Without exploratory surgery (cutting open and peeling back the eardrum to get a look), there is no 100% accurate way to diagnose otosclerosis.
4. A CT scan can help to diagnose otosclerosis, but is not 100%.
5. My hearing loss can be treated with hearing aids, and I am a good candidate for open-fit hearing aids.
6. Since we don't know if my loss is from otosclerosis or hardening of the eardrum, the stapedectomy surgery may not be of much help. (I made it clear, however, that I am not interested in the surgery, anyway, as a 3-5% chance of it resulting in profound deafness is WAY too high for me. He did not dispute those figures.)
6. There is no way of knowing how much my hearing loss will progress or how fast it will progress, but it will probably get no worse than 40-50dB (moderate hearing loss). So chances are I will never go deaf.
7. Hearing aids can help alleviate the stress associated with severe tinnitus.

So the outcome of my visit was:

1. I am being scheduled for a CT scan.
2. I am getting a pair of Siemens Acuris Life open-fit hearing aids, and I was assured I would have to wait no longer than 2-3 months for them. (The audiologist was going to fit me right then, right there, but the clinic was out of the ultra-thin tubing for the open-fit aids).

The Siemens Acuris looks like this:

And when worn, they look like this:

And if you squint you can see what the aid looks like from behind:

Even with my hair as short as it is right now (completely over the ears--it's super short!) the aids are virtually invisible. They are light as a feather. I will probably keep fumbling for them to make sure they haven't fallen off!

So that's good news. Finally, at last, after three years, I'm getting hearing aids. And the NHS is paying for them! (Technically they are property of the NHS, but even if I lose them I only have to pay £70 for replacement ones. And batteries are free! If I bought these from a shop, they would be £1500 and batteries £20. At last I'm getting some value for all the money I have paid into the NHS all these years!)

May all beings be at ease.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Another new DVD: Yoga Shakti

I ordered this because I've heard good things about Shiva Rea and her version of vinyasa yoga, and I found it on for under £9.00. Bargain! I thought this was only one workout, so when I got it, I found out that it was actually a superbargain...the DVD contains four separate workouts, plus 30 basic elements that you can mix and match using the 'yoga matrix' function. So the combinations are numerous, and as I learn which segments are my favourites, I can string together workouts using only those components. That is so awesome!

So far we have tried 'Basic Flow' and 'Lunar Flow'. The Basic Flow was 43 minutes long and consisted of a brief movement meditation, sun salutations and warrior poses, and a final meditation. The Lunar Flow was pleasantly reminiscent of kundalini yoga. It started with sufi grinds, then into cat-cow (although she put her 'Shiva flow' into it!) and progressing on to what she calls 'moon saluations', some killer hip openers, a segment of inversions which we ultimately decided to skip (I HATE inversions...), alternate nostril breathing meditation and a final meditation in corpse pose (savasana). It was 73 minutes.

One thing about Shiva is she tends to use the Indian names for yoga poses, though she will throw the English in as an aside for us lesser mortals who don't know them yet. I am going to try to start using them myself, just to make things easier when I do this DVD and Eionn Finn's Power Yoga for Happiness.

Another thing about Shiva is that she is incredibly bendy and strong, and she makes the most advanced poses look effortless. This could be quite discouraging for beginners, or perfectionists like me who beat themselves up over the fact that they're only slightly more flexible than when they started yoga 2-3 years ago, conveniently forgetting that not only has Shiva done yoga for 20 or 30 years, she is master yogini enough to be world famous. It's not like the average housewife who buys this DVD can get into those poses that easily. (At least I hope not, for the sake of my poor self-esteem). Some reviewers of her DVDs say she is self-worshipping, and I can see how you could think that, but I really believe her intentions with her DVDs are good. She wants to share yoga, not show off. But this is the reason why many yoga teachers don't show the extent of their skill to their students, but save it for their own personal practice.

I'm not sure yet that I like this vinyasa flow business. You don't stay in any one pose for very long at all. There's a lot of dancer-like movement in the transitions--I suppose you could call it grace. Shiva looks graceful. DH and I so far have just produced grunts and the occasional unexpected bone pop. Still, it's early days with this particular practice. It's challenging to me. It's going to take me a while to work through it. I bet in a few months I will be totally hooked.

Here is the 'Classic Sun Salutations' segment from Yoga Shakti. This segment is included in the Basic Flow premix that we did day before yesterday. The voice over with instructions for postures and movement has been removed, leaving only the music, the sunrise, the beach, and Shiva. Enjoy.

Shiva Rea Sun Salutations

And here is an interview with Shiva:

Sitting Down with Shiva Rea

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Into the Wild

We watched the film 'Into the Wild' last night. It is the story of Chris McCandless, a 24-year-old would-be Harvard School of Law student who decided to drop out of society and try living rough in Alaska for a time. He was inspired to do this by his lifelong love of reading Thoreau, Emerson, Jack London, and other idealistic American writers/thinkers with a love of nature and introspection. It is based on a true story, of sorts. There really was a Chris McCandless, but whether his story was much like what is depicted in this film is debatable. The film is based on a book called 'Into the Wild' by Jon Krakauer. Krakauer's version of Chris McCandless is also debatable!

To put it briefly, Chris McCandless was from a well-to-do family, but apparently found his parents hypocritical because of their materialism and constant fighting. The movie suggests that their marriage resulted from an affair--his mother was his father's mistress at the time of his conception. These things cause him to be troubled, and he decides to drop out of society, dub himself 'Alexander Supertramp' and become a homeless wanderer for two years, during which time he was preparing himself mentally and physically for an epic sojourn to Alaska where apparently he intends to find 'THE TRUTH'. Along the way, he touches many lives with his Buddha-like observations and emotional detachment.

You would think this happened in the 70s, when college kids were meant to 'tune in, turn on, and drop out', but no, McCandless missed the counterculture. He dropped out of society in 1990, and made his way to Alaska in 1992, carrying many books, a machete, a few odds and ends, a mixed up and naive head full of ideas, and a 10-lb bag of rice. He was lucky enough to find an abandoned bus in which he made his makeshift home. He survived 113 days.

The book by Jon Krakauer claims that he died by ingesting seeds of the wild potato plant, which led his body to shut down and cause him to starve to death, but lab tests reveal that the seeds are harmless. The fact, is Chris McCandless simply starved to death because he was an idealistic dreamer who was way out of his depth in the Alaskan wilderness. He tried to walk out on the 79th day, having realised that it's human company that provides true happiness (and also about the time he ran out of rice!), but could not cross the raging river that had been frozen over when he crossed it months before. For unknown reasons, rather than walking along the river to find another crossing, he returned to the bus, where he starved to death 33 days later. Perhaps he was afraid if he didn't follow the exact same 20-mile route back to the road, which he had marked as he went, he would get lost. This in spite of the fact that he had a map, showing a manual tram crossing one mile down the river, and another road 10 miles in the opposite direction from which he came. None of this is depicted in the movie. The movie shows him reaching his spiritual epiphany, being thwarted by the power of the river, then accidentally poisoning himself in a valiant attempt to live off the land.

It might sound as if I disliked the film. On the contrary, it is a wonderful film, riveting really. I didn't even dislike Chris McCandless, but I did find him frustratingly immature and idealistic. I agreed with so much of what he thought and said, admired a lot of his notions and observations, but I also wanted to just give him a shake and tell him to wake up. A character played by Vince Vaughan tries to do this, saying, 'You're a hell of a young boy, a hell of a young boy. It doesn't pay to get too deep into that shit.' Which I guess is as good a way as any to say it. I was unsure why every person he encounters is entranced with him and is crushed when he moves on. And I was left unsure why I should care that this privileged but wooly-headed boy managed to off himself in the most ridiculously misguided way since Timothy Treadwell ('Grizzly Man').

Good links, worth a read:

This one is from Men's Journal and is a real attempt to have an objective look at the story.
The Cult of Chris McCandless

And this one is just hilarious.
Ten True Facts about Chris McCandless, OR Alaska Scores Another Point for Natural Selection

If you have a chance to get this movie on DVD, I recommend it. It might even be fun to watch it as a double feature with 'Grizzly Man', if you're a cynical old thing like me!

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Bottom line on the remedies

Lately I've been worrying about my choice of Nelson Bach flower remedies as opposed to the remedies produced by other manufacturers. This is because I have been doing too much online reading! Other companies include Healing Herbs, Crystal Herbs, Ainsworths, and I'm sure there are many others. All of these companies are small scale and all label their bottles 1:240. This means there is one drop of mother tincture to 240 drops of water/brandy in the bottle. These companies claim that they are adhering more closely to the methods of Dr. Bach by using this labelling. I have read claims that the healing properties are stronger in these other companies' products, and I have fretted about it. So I wrote Nelson Bach to find out what they had to say about it. I got this letter back:

Dear Carla,

Thank you for your e-mail dated 29th May which has been brought to my attention.

Further to your enquiry, we believe, as did Dr Bach, that the remedies he created are medicines. Indeed, the 1-38 individual Remedies, Rescue Remedy and Rescue Spray are all Fully Licensed Medicinal Products in the UK, the licences having been issued by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). As a result of which, the manufacture, labelling and retail of the products have to be in compliance with the corresponding pharmaceutical legislation.

Pharmaceutical Legislation is frequently amended, and in order to remain fully compliant, we have been obliged to revise the labelling of the Bach Flower Remedies from time to time. Perhaps the most notable example of this can be seen in the expression of the "active ingredient", currently written as 5X on UK labelled product.

As is the case with all drug products, the level of active ingredient must be expressed quantitatively on the product pack. This is not particularly easy to achieve with products such as the Bach Flower Remedies, as the “active substance” is quite difficult to define. Nonetheless, we were obliged to do so in order to satisfy the regulators.

We conducted a number of studies with the mother tinctures, and devised a method of determining the level of plant material dry residue created by the Boiling and Sun Methods. This provided the regulatory authorities with a quantitative level of what they consider to be an "active ingredient" with which they could assess the products, and so issue licences for the remedies.

The manufacture of the products has not changed in any way, nor has the level of "active ingredient" been altered. We have simply been obliged to express the active level in a different manner. Effectively, we now have to label the product with the level of dry residue in the Mother tincture, and not simply with the level of mother tincture itself. Such a scientific approach to the labelling of the product is not entirely satisfactory. However, it is a legal requirement with which we must comply.

Whilst some people believe that we have made a fundamental change to the Bach Flower Remedies themselves, I can assure you that this is not the case. The products are manufactured in accordance with the writings of Dr Bach, and the mother tinctures are provided to us exclusively by the Bach Centre at Mount Vernon. In fact, as a result of the products being licensed medicines, our methods of manufacture are lodged with the licensing authorities, which means that we are regularly inspected to ensure that we manufacture the products in precisely the same way.

I do hope the above helps answer some of your questions, but should you require any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me direct alternatively you could contact the Bach Centre direct on 01491 834678 (Mon - Fri 10:00 - 15:00).

Yours sincerely,

Eve Hunt
Product & Consumer Information Officer
T: +44 (0) 20 8780 4245

Well, that makes me feel much better. The methods used by Nelson Bach are exactly like those used by the other companies, it's just that they label their product differently because they are a pharmaceuticals company. I also appreciate her emphasis on the products as medicines, because some of these other companies tout their products as containing the 'magical' properties of the flowers and talk about how important it is that a 'powerful healer' prepare the remedies. This is the sort of hocus pocus that Dr. Bach himself did not want associated with his remedies.

Besides which, I have since learned that Dr. Bach himself worked with Nelson to bottle and distribute his remedies even back in the 30s, and as the email above says, all the mother tinctures are made on the very land where Dr. Bach discovered the healing properties of the remedies. You can't say better than that!

My head was turned, briefly, by the talk of these other companies, but I think I will stick with what I've started with. I'm not saying they are not as good as Dr. Bach's remedies. But I am convinced they are not better. Dr. Bach even encouraged people to make their own remedies! So anyone can make them. Claiming that your product is better than another is against the original spirit of Dr. Bach's system, which is to use the vibrational healing powers of plants to treat ourselves in the simplest way possible.

“Our work is steadfastly to adhere to the simplicity and purity of this method of healing.”
- Edward Bach

That doesn't leave any room for false claims of superiority!

May all beings be at ease.

Kundalini Yoga with Gurmukh

I received this DVD yesterday and of course had to jettison my planned workout for it. (Sorry, Rodney Yee--but you know I'll be back to you!)

DH and I did this workout together. We didn't know what to expect of it. I knew that Gurmukh was a former hippie and had been trained by Yogi Bhajan himself. The DVD was made in 2000, when Gurmukh was 58. She looked about 35. These days, she's finally beginning to show her age, but all the same, she looks radiant. Just a have a look:

Gurmukh at 58

Gurmukh at 66

What a great testimony to kundalini yoga and a vegetarian lifestyle!

The workout is set in what seems to be a rainforest glade in Hawaii, with the participants on giant oriental rugs and Gurmukh on a kind of bamboo platform. We start with a single 'Ong namo guru dev namo' (as opposed to the usual 3 repetitions), then straight into the traditional warm-ups of sufi grinds and spinal flexes, etc. The workout is divided into Awaken, Energize, Strengthen and Relax. The Awaken section features the grinds and flexes. Energize is mostly the twisting movements peculiar to kundalini yoga. You do seated twists and then standing twists. The Strengthen section features lots of punching and vigorous movement. I was sweating during this part! There are some really fun chorus girl style high kicks going across the body--I wasn't expecting that! Gurmukh encourages you to push yourself, but also constantly reminds us to work at our own pace. The Relax section features a very brief satanama meditation, then a silent meditation in corpse pose accompanied by a gong. The workout takes an hour from start to finish.

I loved this workout! It is a great complement to KY for Empowering Women, because KY for Empowering Women is mostly floorwork emphasising the abdominals and pelvic floor in a series of static poses, while KY with Gurmukh is vigorous cardio-style stuff with no static poses at all.

Highly recommended!