Friday, 25 July 2008

Next to godliness

We were going to go for a town visit, but somehow this morning hubby and embarked on an epic cleaning session that involved moving furniture and cleaning the entire laminate floor in the living room, then everything in the kitchen from the top of the cabinets down to the floor, and then the bathroom.

Next week, after we get back from Amsterdam, we are going to do the INSIDE of the kitchen--cabinets, drawers, oven, under sink, and the FRIDGE.

My knees are killing me from crawling around on the floor. Yes, I did both floors on my hands and knees with a cloth and a bowl, the old-fashioned way!

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Practice session

Hubby and I did an impromptu driving practice session just now. I drove around and through the town centre and down some roads I haven't done before. I went around some of my most dreaded roundabouts. I am pretty sure my driving instructor would have picked my performance to bits, but hubby and I think I did pretty well. In fact, he suggests I drive us somewhere tomorrow. (We plan to go on a town visit, so I will be driving us on A roads and in town centres I have never been to.) All that slowing to 10 mph and being in 2nd gear by the time I'm 5 car lengths from the stopping point and all that business, I'm not sure I did, but I drove the car. That's something.

Review: Wall-E

I knew I was going to love this film when the screen lit up with stars and planets in space, and the voice of Michael Crawford singing:

Out there
There's a world outside of Yonkers
Way out there beyond this hick town
There's a slick town
Out there
Full of shine and full of sparkle
Close your eyes and see it glisten
Listen, Barnaby...
Put on your Sunday clothes
There's lots of world out there
Get out the Brillantine and dime cigars
We're gonna find adventure in the evening air

I was hooked from the very start!

And I was going to write a review of this film, but I just found one that says exactly what I want to say about it, so please go read it:

One of the Best Sci-Fi Movies in Years, Disguised as a Cartoon

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Driving Lesson #6

Weighed in at 135.2 this morning. (That's 9st 9lbs to you, Tess). Glad to see a downward trend already. What a relief. Now to get it back to the normal 133lbs (9st 7lbs).

I did the neti pot again this morning, my third morning. It was much easier today. Not so much of a drowning feeling this time; I'm still working on getting the angle of the head just right, and I think I may need to measure the salt instead of just sprinkling some in. I will have to look up how much salt goes into 240ml of water.

Breakfast: 2 bowls of soaked muesli. (But each bowl only had a bit in the bottom of the bowl, so I guess it was really one full bowl...) Caro, 1 pint water.

Snack: After the driving lesson, half a Linda McCartney burger patty, a few chunks of roasted potato (definitely not more than half a potato), two dates and a small handful of Derek's granola cereal. *sigh* Stress induced. See what an emotional eater I am.

Lunch: None

Snack: It's all a blur, but it involved more handfuls of cereal and dried fruit.

Dinner: Steamed courgette and broccoli with brown rice.

Snack: Yes, another bowl of muesli.

My driving lesson today was on junctions. Approaching a junction is like a choreographed dance. Mirror, signal, position, slow to 10 mph, put the car in 2nd gear, keep clutch covered while checking if you can proceed, if you can't see, brake and drop it into 1st, but don't stop unless you have to. The object is to keep moving. As you go around the corner or roundabout or whatever, don't accelerate until you have completed the manoeuvre. My driving instructor says I can talk her through this stuff, but I'm 'not doing it'. I'm sure 17 years ago when I drove a stick regularly, I must have done something similar to this, but I feel like I never get the chance to try because she is always telling me what to do. And I have to do it exactly the same each time. I never seem to time it exactly the way she wants it done. If she says at one junction I waited too long to brake, then at the next junction I brake sooner, she says I braked too soon. I'm sure it's not her, she has a reputation of being a good instructor. It's me not able to get it perfect.I can't imagine how people ever learn to do this exactly 'perfect' every time. She also doesn't like the way I use the clutch to change gears or the way I put my hand on the gear knob.

I'm trying very hard not to feel discouraged. Taking driving lessons is creating a fear in me of driving. I was never afraid to drive in my life until I started taking lessons.

All I can do now is put thoughts of the test out of my mind. I must stay in the moment right now. In the moment right now, I have had a lesson on junctions. I am (sort of) making progress. The test is in the future. I have to trust that if I stay in the here and now, I will be ready for the test in the future. Looking at how far I have to go just leaves me feeling hopeless and wanting to give up. It makes me feel worried. I have to remember all the other things I've accomplished that in the beginning I didn't think I could. Yet I did.

Things I Have Accomplished
*I was the first person in my family to finish university and earn a degree.
*I taught high school English for 17 years, even though I really hated it. I kept going back because I didn't know what else to do. That's fortitude, however misguided!
*I survived an unhappy marriage, an unfaithful partner, and the divorce.
*I faced the trauma of voluntarily relinquishing custody of my son and survived that.
*I moved to England.
*I got a job here, passed national tests in maths and IT, endured two days of scrutiny by a DfES official and earned Qualified Teacher Status.
*I got married again, this time to a wonderful person.
*I left teaching and took a job in a library, which was a huge cut in pay and forced me to face my fears of not earning enough money to live on my own, thus making me financially dependent on another person.
*I lost over 70lbs (5st)over about a year and a half and have kept it off for three years.
*I stopped eating meat and became a vegan.
*I started an exercise regime and have not had an unplanned fallow period from it for four years. (Wow, that amazes even me!)
*I stopped worrying my mind with Christianity and relaxed into the Buddhism that had attracted me all my life.
*I got Indefinite Leave to Remain. (Which is one step below citizenship, and you don't have to take it any further if you don't want to).
*I passed the UK citizenship test and became a UK citizen.
*I got a British passport.

What's clutch control compared to all of that!

And to take another leaf from the Girl's Guide to Losing Your L-Plates:

A List of Reasons Why I Really Want to Pass My Test

*I'll be able to get in the car on impulse and go anywhere I want to go--and it won't matter if it's a Sunday, bank holiday, the trains are doing works or if the destination doesn't have a railway station.
*I won't need to rely on lifts from other people or public transport when I have to travel in my current job.
*I can pick my family up from the airport and take them around to interesting places when they visit.
*I won't have to drag groceries home in the rain in a tartan wheelie bag.
*I can go when I want to go and return when I want to return and not be a slave to a train or bus timetable.
*The UK driving licence is the last qualification on my lists of things I wanted to accomplish here. I got a teaching licence, citizenship and a passport. I got the right to vote. Now I want the driving licence. I am British, after all!

Monday, 21 July 2008

Uh oh

So I got on the scales this morning, as I do every morning, and got a SHOCK. I weighed 137.0 lbs. I haven't weighed that much in over a year. I have seen the scales creeping upward for the last few days, but was hoping it was just water or a fluke or something. I guess all this nibbling and munching has caught up with me at last.

This just cannot be allowed to happen. If I get back up into the 140s, I'll kill myself! Not to mention not be able to wear any of my clothes. I just took my measurements and I'm up at least a half inch on the waist and hips. (I was never very good at taking measurements. I can do it four or five times in a row and come out with a slightly different number each time!)

Well, it's all my own fault. I guess it's food diary time again.

Might as well start with today. I'm going to be good and not eat so many sneaky snacks--handfuls of cereal pulled right out of the box, dates from the packet while I'm cooking dinner, all that sort of thing. There's no excuse for gaining 3 pounds in a week! What is UP with that!

Breakfast: 2 slices wholemeal seeded batch loaf toast with a scrape of almond butter and about 2 Tbs total of peach and strawberry no-sugar jam, 1 cup plain Caro, 1 pint of water

Snack: 1/2 banana and 1/2 papaya topped with about a cup of soaked meusli (oats and raisins soaked in oatmilk--I've provided a link to Jamie Oliver's recipe, although I've never made it.I may pay a visit to the shops today to get the ingredients for it, though!)

Lunch:a plate of brown basmati rice with refried beans and some piri piri dressing

UH OH: I ate a few handfuls of Derek's granola cereal. I have no idea why.

Another UH OH: Mixing up the pukkola, I ate dried fruit and a brazil nut.

Snack: No official snack because of uh-ohs.

Dinner: Roasted carrots and potatoes and a Linda McCartney burger patty.

Snack: None

WORKOUT: Jari Love's Get Ripped 1000

I'll be back to fill in the rest of this as the day progresses.

:( Ugh. 137.

Maybe this is the kick in the pants I've been needing.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Wait a minute--you want me to pour what up my what!

Okay, another weird and wonderful day in the life of a budding yogini.

I have been reading about neti pots for years now, but finally decided to buy one after seeing Dr. Oz demonstrate one on a rerun of the Oprah show. Yes, I am American enough to still believe that if Oprah endorses it, then it's legitimate. Seeing it on Oprah helped me to stop wondering and go for it! So what did I do but go straight online afterwards and order one--the cheapest one I could find, and they do range wildly in price. The one I got is a little purple plastic one that cost £3.00, ordered from the Yoga Mad website.

Well now, what is a neti pot, and what is it supposed to do for you?

The Yoga holistic approach to health recommends daily cleansing of the nasal passages using a neti pot, which can help prevent harmful bacteria, dust and chemicals from entering the body and causing infections and irritation.

A neti pot is basically a specially shaped pot for holding water which has a spout on the end designed to fit snuggly into the nostrils. It is used to flush the nasal passages and sinuses. In India neti pots have been used for centuries and even today they are as common as tooth brushes, so they say. (There's a lady from Calcutta who works with me. I need to ask her what she thinks of neti pots!)

What you do is fill this pot with a warm saline solution and then you stick the spout in one nostril, hold your head over the sink and tilt to one side and let the water flow out of the other nostril.

You think I'm kidding you, don't you. Just have a look at these links:

This video is squeaky clean, and for some reason includes some yoga bends after the snorting! Official Neti Pot Demo

But the videos below are by real people, and couple of them include actual snottage.
Fat Guy Radio demo

Demo with porno style music and a wink

This chick's so hardcore she can talk while using--and her neti pot's called a 'horn'

So the neti pot arrived today, and all excited I filled it up and made my first attempts. I tried it over the sink, over the bathtub and even considered getting into the shower with the thing, but all I accomplished for the first couple of pots of water was to choke myself. The water would stay in the ingoing nostril until I could feel a burning in that side's eye and I would pull the pot away and splutter and spit. Same other side. On one attempt, I managed to pour the stuff in my nostril and right down my throat. Choking and coughing. I became convinced I was the only person in the world whose nostrils aren't connected!

After about a half hour of failed attempts and repeated searching on the internet for people who CAN'T use the thing (there aren't many!), I watched these videos again and went for another go.

This time I was careful to line up the spout with my nasal passage. I didn't cram the spout in as hard. I noticed that people on the videos were sort of looking in the mirror, so I kept my face up more. Then the real secret for me was realising that I need to really hold the elbow up high to tilt the pot properly to let the water flow out. And the biggest challenge of all is you have to relax, open your mouth, and breath through the mouth. Do not hold your breath. Then turn that outflow nostril down toward the sink and twist the inflow nostril up while raising the elbow to keep the water flowing. Viola! Water just poured right out of my other nostril!

It had to be one of weirdest sensations of my life.

I blew my nose and did the other side. Weird again.

It's been about a half hour since I did it, and I feel like you do after you've used some of that nasal spray that unblocks a stopped up nose. Like lots of cool air is going straight up into your head when you inhale and right out the top! It's bizarre.

Anyway, my big adventure for today was taming the neti pot. I am going to use it again tomorrow. I hope this will help me cut down on my daily doses of Sudafed for those god awful sinus headaches I get nearly every day.

May all beings be at ease--and if you pour anything up your nose, do tell!

Edited to add: I completed today's push ups. 12, 12, 10, 10, 10--all done on toes! So far so good!

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Push up Challenge Begins!

One Hundred Pushups

I completed my initial test and was able to do 16 good form on-toes pushups before wanting to sink to the knees and/or start cheating.

So now I embark on week one. I'm to do pushups every other day using this program:

Day One (today)
10 push ups
rest 60 seconds
10 push ups
rest 60 seconds
8 push ups
rest 60 seconds
6 push ups
rest 60 seconds
as many as I can do (at least 7 though)

Day Two (Saturday)
12 pushups
rest 90 seconds
12 pushups
rest 90
10 pushups
rest 90
10 pushups
rest 90
as many as I can do, shooting for 10

Day Three (Monday)
15 pushups
rest 120 seconds
13 pushups
rest 120
10 pushups
rest 120
10 pushups
rest 120
as many as I can, shooting for 15

This looks like a really ambitious plan. Fortunately, you don't have to do all of them on your toes. I will start out doing as many as I can on toes, then complete the set in the modified style.

Actually, I'm kind of excited about this! Three of my fitness dream goals have been to be able to do 50 pushups without stopping, to be able to do a backbend and to be able to do the splits. Maybe this challenge will get me closer to the pushup goal. (The other two I don't know if I will ever learn to achieve, at least not without a real yoga teacher).

Edited to add: Just completed the Day One push ups, and did 8 for that final challenge. So onward and upward on Saturday!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

One Hundred Push Ups

Anybody want to join me for the One Hundred Push Ups Training Program?

Last time I did a check, I could do about 15 good on-toes push ups, about 25 if you count the really rubbishy ones at the end. Or about 40 or 50 girly-girl push ups. I'd love to be able to do a hundred! The website's training program will help you get to 100 in 6 weeks.

Any takers?

I am going to start tomorrow morning. Will check in here--join me!!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Feeling like I'm waking up

It could be that I've had three days off now, but I feel like I'm waking up from a fog. My attitude yesterday toward my lesson was better than it's ever been. (My performance wasn't better, but my attitude about it was!)I think something may be contributing to that. I have added a new flower remedy to my collection: wild rose.

I have been feeling tired and run down lately, so I was taking Olive, but I couldn't see that it was helping me at all. In Holland and Barrett the other day, I had a look at the Bach Remedies and 'For when you can't be bothered' caught my eye. It was Wild Rose. I thought maybe I'd been mistaking apathy for tiredness, so I bought a bottle. I can say that I really think it's helping.

Here are some descriptions of Wild Rose from different websites:

Wild Rose is for life's drifters, people who are happy to sit back and free-wheel through the years, not minding where they end up. There is no problem with this so long as the person concerned is happy - something which is generally the case with true Wild Rose types. However, there are times when people of this nature, or in this frame of mind, feel that life is passing them by, that they are missing out. They want to pull themselves out of their apathetic state but are unable to do so. Wild Rose helps them to feel more motivated and alive, so that they can get more out of life.

In the Wild Rose state, the mind has resigned to unfavorable conditions and does not seek new opportunities for improvement. Usually, the person has made an attempt to find more wholesome or desirable options of life but has failed and given up. To protect from disappointment and continued despair, the mind chooses to resort to apathy and resignation, both of which instill a necessary tranquility and relative release from struggle...

The typical Wild Rose state shows a retreat from involvement in unfavorable circumstances which could not be overcome. This withdrawal from reality helps to safeguard emotions so that the drain of despair and frustration does not take its toll. Simultaneously, however, the emotional capacity for joy and liveliness suffers as well. This stifling prevents exactly those energies from arising which the self needs to lift out of its deadlock. Outwardly, this stifled capacity for joy is visible in a disinterest in amusement and play, in a lack of hopes, wishes and dreams.

I've come to realise that you can be overenthusiastic and need grounding (Vervain--which I take when I get too bogged down in yoga, crystals, and even flower remedies!) in some areas of your life, and still suffer from complete apathy (Wild Rose) in others (like buying a house, learning to drive and other big ticket items that are too stressful to deal with). That seems obvious now that I think about it, but I never associated it with my issues about driving until recently.

I took Beech for a time to overcome my intolerance for the entire system here being different from back home. I have pretty much accepted now that the whole thing is different. What I need now is some enthusiasm for getting through the system, and Wild Rose seems to be the answer. I just now found this article:

Jump Start Your Dreams with Wild Rose

I found the case study particularly interesting. The client was a 'go-getter' in certain aspects of her life, but upon taking Wild Rose, all sorts of things began popping up, new interests, expanding herself in new ways. That's awesome!

I have also been taking Clematis lately. This is another remedy I didn't think I needed, because it seems to be indicated for people who daydream, and when I think of daydreamers, I think of Walter Mitty and the like. Since I never thought of myself as doing that, I didn't consider the remedy as applicable. When you think of it as a lack of grounding, though...

Reality may actually appear hazy, as if veiled, and there may be the tendency to suddenly lose touch and become drowsy or sleepy. Or one may feel lightheaded or vacant in one's mind, as if the mind was removed and not fully centered or concentrated.
These states can come on not only from daydreaming about future happiness but also from fatigue, from a strenuous or saddening daily routine that one removes oneself from internally, as if it was too painful to experience fully or look too closely.

Clematis flower essence helps remind the floaty spiritual type individual that he has a physical body. It offers clarity to the scatter-brain. Helps one manifest his dreams and ideas.

Clematis is for imaginative, creative people who often seem to be in their own world. They are inattentive, dreamy and have difficulty concentrating. Children may have poor coordination and be accident prone. Clematis helps focus attention.

Well, although I never considered myself a 'daydreamer', I can certainly relate to aspects of those descriptions! And I can say that since I have been taking Clematis, I do feel that I can pay better attention to things. For most of my life, I've only been able to pay attention to things I'm interested in. Clematis is helping me stay more firmly in the present moment, even if the moment involves something that is NOT interesting to me (like at work, or reading The Highway Code).

Driving Lesson Number 5

Today we were going to go over approaching and emerging from a junction, but we ended up doing a lesson on the Push-Pull steering technique. I am absolutely rubbish at it and it cost me £25 to have my driving instructor tell me over and over I am doing it wrong.

Here is what is expected of me:

Push-Pull Steering

Another Push-Pull sample

See below for the way I learned to turn a car. Notice they are both American techniques. If I do these on my UK test, I will FAIL instantly:

American style push-pull and slide technique

Hand-over-hand steering

Now, I spent 24 years using the two American steering techniques. It is quite a battle to fight that conditioning to do the British Push-Pull steering, but if I don't master it, there is no way I'm passing my test. No pressure then!

I heard somewhere you have to do something 21 times to learn it, and 21 times more for it to become habit. *sigh* I really need to drive the car every single day. That's all there is to that!

Sunday, 13 July 2008

REVIEW Chakra Meditation

Chakra Meditation: Discover Energy, Creativity, Focus, Love, Communication, Wisdom and Spirit by Swami Saradananda

This came through as new stock in the library the other day and had such an attractive cover, I had to have a closer look. When I saw that each chapter offers advice on the flower essences and crystals associated with each chakra, I instantly checked it out to myself to bring home for my annual leave. (Yes, I am on annual leave for the next three weeks! Hooray!)

The book is eight chapters long. The introduction is a simple explanation of the chakras, the three bodies, prana and kundalini energy. Then one chakra is discussed in each subsequent chapter. Each chapter is organized thus:

*Introduction to the specific chakra

*Yantra meditation (during which you contemplate an image provided in the book that represents the chakra--example, the root chakra yantra is a 4 petal crimson lotus with a yellow square in the centre; the character 'LAM' and a downward pointing triangle are in the yellow square; there is an elephant at the top of the lotus and a coiled snake at the bottom. In essence, this is a mandala meditation)-- 30 minutes

*Element meditation with mudra (during which you meditate on the chakra's corresponding element--example, the root chakra element is earth, and you do the meditation with hands in prithivi mudra (thumbs and ring fingers joined))--30 minutes

*Chakra and emotion visualisation

*Breath techniques

*Tools for working with the energy of the chakra (flower essences, crystals, gems and stones, essential oils, incense and foods)

*Yoga asanas associated with the chakra

The book is absolutely beautiful to look at and is so filled with wonderful meditations and exercises that it would take months to work through it. I may just have to buy myself a copy of this book! I certainly intend to work from it during the coming weeks of annual leave.


On a completely different note, DH and I visited Cannock Chase today for a walk in the unexpectedly lovely weather. We got lost from the rather useless map they provided us at the visitor's centre, but had a good little walk anyway.

Derek poses by an elven rivulet. (No sign of the River Daughter, though).

And here I am on a bridge over troubled water. (The 'waterfall' under the bridge seemed nicer in real life--in the photo it just looked full of dead branches, so I cropped it out!)

May all beings be at ease.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

REVIEW: Yin Yoga, The Practice of Quiet Power

Yin yoga is a series of long, slow postures designed to stretch the deep connective tissue of the body. The term seems to have been coined by Sarah Powers, but the concept is very old. The poses, or asanas, are the same ones used in other yoga styles. But where the other yoga styles put emphasis on 'yang', or movement and muscular contraction, yin focuses on gently increasing the flow of qi and prana through the connective tissues. Most of the oldest yoga seems to have been 'yin' yoga, which some refer to as 'Taoist' yoga.

I became interested in this style of yoga when I read about Sarah Powers's DVD 'Insight Yoga', so I ordered that DVD a year or two ago. To my dismay, I felt instantly and deeply put off from the practice because of a personal dislike I took to Sarah Powers's style of delivery. To be blunt, the women never stops talking. I couldn't understand how I was meant to go into a deep meditative practice with her yammering on at me incessantly. (That's my personal reaction to her--I know some people love her, including Biff Mithoefer!) So I sent that DVD back to the seller, who was good enough to give me my money back. If she was the best yin yoga had to offer, I couldn't see myself getting into it.

Then recently a friend online pointed me toward Biff Mithoefer's 'Yin Yoga Kit', assuring me that he keeps his commentary to a minimum. I ordered the set, even though there is no DVD, just a book, a set of 14 cards and a CD. Hubby and I tried out the practice day before yesterday.

The CD takes you through 11 of the 14 poses taught in the book. Biff's narration is helpful and brief. He offers mantras to accompany the breath, which I was surprised and pleased are from Thich Nhat Hanh! You hold each pose for 5 minutes, at the end of which a bell rings. Between each pose there is a 1 minute savasana (corpse pose) Props of various types are encourage to aid in proper alignment. We ended up using cushions from the sofa to help with some of them.

Both of us were surprised at how intense our reaction was to this yoga. There are only two rules to it:

1. Assume the posture and allow yourself to go into it to a bearable but challenging edge. Do not strive to go deeper into the pose.

2. Allow your muscles to relax, remain still, and hold the pose for the determined time.

And yet, we both felt a deep response in ourselves to this yoga. I personally found myself feeling shaky inside, a little nauseated and light-headed. My muscles were not shaking with strain, I was not hurting myself physically, but I was getting a very strong reaction anyway. I used long deep breathing and repetition of the mantras to move myself through this. At the end of the practice, I felt quite emotionally drained. Perhaps if I had done the metta meditation on the CD or done a deep relaxation savasana for an extended time afterward, it would have given me some recovery time, but we pretty much jumped up from the practice at the end of the 11th pose and started getting dinner ready. I will know for next time this is not The Firm Power Yoga--this is real yoga!

At the end of the CD there is a track of a silent five minute segment ending in a bell chime, which you can set your CD player to repeat. Then you can lay out the yin yoga cards in whatever order you wish on the floor next to you, start the player and do your own practice in silence, with just the sound of the bell every five minutes. I was also thinking, since the mantras on Mantra Girl's CD are roughly 5 minutes each , I could do one pose per song to her CD. There are lots of possibilities using this practice.

I believe this would be a good addition to anyone's yoga library. It's a wonderful, quiet and contemplative practice. We'll see if it increases my flexibility, which is the reason I bought it, but I think this yoga can offer so much more than just that.

Highly recommended.

Nap time!

Hubby and I have made a new policy that as soon as we get in each evening, we have a 30-minute lie down before we do anything else. No TV, no computer, no exercise, no snacks, just go stretch out and lie there. We never really sleep, but it's very refreshing to have good long lie down doing absolutely nothing. We might talk a little, but not about anything serious. It's rest time. I've been playing Deva Premal's 'Dakshina' during this time, so we often just lie there and listen to that. I am going to look into other relaxation CDs as well. So many of them sound like elevator music and I don't find that relaxing at all. If you have any recommendations, please let me know!

Overall, I think this is a practice we are going to keep forever. It's great to just snuggle up and rest for a few minutes each day.

May all beings be at ease.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Legend tells of a legendary warrior...

whose kung fu skills were the stuff of LEGEND...

So begins 'Kung Fu Panda', a super cute little flick we saw yesterday. See the opening dream sequence here:

There is no charge for awesomeness

And catch hubby's review at his blog, Goosey World.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

What is it about beads?

I have ordered three new malas for meditation: rose quartz, carnelian and amethyst. I got them from Green Man Gifts, and would just like to take a moment to praise the customer service I received there. My malas arrived promptly and were all very nice, but the amethyst mala had one bead with a chip out of it. Not only did the owner, Pangie Jackson, offer instantly to replace it at no extra charge and pay my postage for the return, but also is generously including an extra mala for free to 'make up for my disappointment.' That is fabulous customer care! The two new malas are to ship out on 8th July. I will definitely be doing more business with Green Man Gifts if I need additional meditation aids or other New Age gifts.

But anyway, what is a mala? It's a circle of 108 beads, with a 'meru' or 'Buddha' bead and usually a tassle. It is used as a meditation aid for counting mantras during chanting or silent meditation. The mala is sort of the Eastern equivalent of the Roman Catholic rosary. I have always loved prayer beads of any faith, and have a collection of 8 or 9 Catholic rosaries, 2 Anglican rosaries and 1 Tibetan Buddhist mala. Now I have added to that collection 4 japa malas. Only the Buddhist and japa malas were purchased for actual use. The others are for display and enjoyment of their inherent beauty. There are other traditional prayer beads from various faiths that I intend to add to my collection, such as the Islamic tasbeeh, which has 99 beads, the Greek komboloi, Wiccan Goddess prayer beads, and any other tradition I discover along the way.

I selected the rose quartz, carnelian and amethyst malas for specific reasons, as they are associated with certain chakras. I have cut and pasted a few snippets of information about the three stones from various sources:

Rose Quartz
Rose Quartz helps to open the Heart Chakra and connect to the energy of love. It is rejuvenating to both the physical and emotional body and assists the wearer to remain present, calm and peaceful. Helps us discover the ability to love ourselves and makes us more open to other people.

It is of particular value in helping us to forgive ourselves, hastening self-acceptance. Helps us realize that all change is important, even difficult change. Stimulates love and tender appreciation of all things.

Pink quartz (rose quartz) allows you to be in touch with your basic self. It will allow you to get to know your true self and to love that true self in all its beauty.
Rose Quartz is a good stone for someone who has trouble loving themselves or accepting love from another because they do not believe that they are worthy of being loved. It opens up the heart for both giving and receiving love. It soothes negative influences. This stone is good for dealing with issues on an emotional level. The rose quartz is also good for helping one to release childhood traumas, neglect, lack of love, self-esteem. The best stone for opening the 4th chakra.

Carnelian brings good luck and opportunity, awakens talents within and encourages creative visualization. It provides protection and was referred as the protection stone to warriors.

Carnelian dispels apathy, helps to increase motivation, energy and endurance. It is a stone of strength, self-worth and satisfaction and helps to open doors while bringing joy, confidence and happiness. Stimulates the Sacral Chakra, appetite, emotions, passion, sexuality, physical energy, celebration, reproductive system, fertility, menstrual cramps, lower back pain.
To many Carnelian is a powerful motivation stone and some have called it the "Self-Esteem Stone."

Among the New Age community, believers revere Carnelian’s mental grounding power and believe this is the source of its greatest mental effects. They say it teaches one to focus on the present for the moments in life when all one’s mental powers are necessary for success at a single, important task and is a source of confidence, eloquence and inspiration. For instances when you need a boost to creativity for problem-solving, Carnelian can assist in getting the mind out of mental ruts and back on track for success. In the long-term, it bolsters ambition and drive and reminds the wearer of the future’s goals, hence becoming a powerful tool in major decision-making. Overall, many hold Carnelian dear as a stone with the ability to protect the individual, bolster confidence and generally enhance and expand the experiences of life.

Chakra healers regard Carnelian for its connection to the 2nd Chakra or the Spleen Chakra. This area is the body’s center for creative and sexual, pure emotional energies, but healers also associate it with the five physical senses. The six petaled Lotus, deep orange colors and Aries are all connected to this region. When these energies are unblocked by Carnelian and the energy flows freely, one feels a deeper appreciation of his or her body, a greater connection with friends and lovers and a reduction of guilty feelings. These effects result in a more spontaneous, energetic and giving individual.

Amethyst is a stone of spirituality, contentment and meditation. It has the ability to absorb negative energy while emitting positive energy. It is considered a stone of wisdom as it increases ones psychic awareness. Amethyst is worn to enhance intuition, inspire creativity, quiet the mind, and encourage peace and stability. Wear to reduce anger, impatience, and headaches. Can benefit people with insomnia or troubled sleep. Stimulates the Brow and Crown Chakras.

Amethyst has come to be known as a power crystal with prolific healing powers which can be characterized as purifying, pacifying and transitional. Amethyst has the ability to transform lower energies into higher and acts as a healer at all levels of mind, body and spirit. The healing powers of Amethyst date back as far as the ancient Greeks who believed that Amethyst protected from the intoxicating effects of alcohol. The word "amethyst" is of Geek origin and is translated as- "amethystus" meaning not drunken, or intoxicated ("-methystos" from "methyein" or intoxicated, "methy" = wine).

Amethyst as a healing stone contains sobering and calming qualities which allow this stone to be commonly associated with peace. Amethyst is known to calm and protect the mind. It soothes those who have engaged in constant rigorous mental activity. It has been deemed "nature's tranquilizer" by many healers because of its effectiveness in relaxing not only the mind but also the nervous system.

Amethyst is related to and found to heal and align ailments of the the 6th and 7th Chakras, which are the Third Eye or Brow (6th) and the Crown (7th).
Amethyst aides the 6th Chakra, Third Eye, by opening and heighten awareness, both spiritual and psychic. Its calming qualities help to awaken and ease stress in this area. It helps to also heighten perspective and allows development of strong introspection (inner-self view). Amethyst is used to also increase intuition and psychic development. The Third Eye is the energy center for all levels of consciousness for which amethyst aides the in the transition from a normal state of consciousness to a deeper awareness.

The 7th Chakra, or the Crown controls the energies used in any mental activity. Amethyst helps to relieve strain or tension in this area. It is considered a helpful aide in meditation and in the facilitation of psychic visual enhancement. Its tranquil sobering effect allows those who are energetic to relax. It also is a cure for insomnia and nightmares and makes the intuition sensitive to understanding that outside of scientific reasoning.

I love this stuff!

Anyway, I have enjoyed meditating with my new malas, and look forward to receiving my amethyst replacement mala and the surprise freebie!

May all beings at ease.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Oh no, not that again

Yes, it was another driving lesson today, fraught with tension, nerves, brainlessness and seething. And that was just pulling away from the kerb!

Let's see. I've now had four lessons with my current instructor, plus three with that first guy who I hated last year. I don't think I'll count those. So, four lessons total. She says my steering has improved a great deal, my clutch control is improving. That's it. She asked me if 'had' to drive a manual, to which I replied yes. It made me feel defensive, but I can see where she's coming from. My redneck Arkansas driving style is a combination of a few minutes' tuition from someone who passed his test back in 1949, plus the self-taught survival techniques I developed while learning to drive a manual transmission car after I bought it! (And even that was over 17 years ago). The way I've always driven a manual is a lot like how you'd drive an automatic, only with a clutch. Meaning, when I stopped, I have always just stopped, clutch and brake together, then shifted it into first (or second if I only actually slowed down), and proceeded on my merry way. All this slowing down to 10 mph while putting it into second with the clutch and brake depressed, all this split second timing and magical knowledge of precisely how many revs I should be at before I change gears, etc, is something I never thought about or fathomed would be necessary. So, I am struggling. At this point, I don't exactly feel I'll never get it right, but I do feel it's going to take me a very, very, very long time. I just have to reconcile myself to it, and to the possibility that it might not happen at all. Well, it certainly won't happen the way I'm approaching it now.

So, how long is it going to take? Well, conventional wisdom suggests that in lessons, it's your age times 1.5. That means for me, 61.5 lessons. Let's round it up to 62 just to be on the safe side. At the moment, I am only managing to get in a lesson every other week. That means if I continue at this pace, it will be 114 weeks, or roughly two years and three months before I'm projected to pass my test.

And how much is it going to cost me? At the moment, my instructor charges £24.00 per lesson, which is going up in July to £25.00. So far I've spent £96, plus the projected £25 times 57 equals £1425, for a total of £1521, and that's if the lessons don't go up again, which of course they will.

Right, well, I want to get my licence sooner than that! If I could manage to do one lesson per week, that would be a year and a month. And if I do two lessons a week, that would be 7 months. I think the choice is clear. I need to do two lessons per week.

The only way I can figure out to get in two lessons per week is to block book some annual leave in hour-long chunks and block book it with my driving instructor as well. I will talk to my instructor about that on our next lesson.

God, I'll be so glad to get this behind me. All I can think is, every oik I see has a driving licence. I KNOW I can do it. Question is, do I want to? And the answer is, no not really. But I have to.

I just ordered a book that will hopefully give me some moral support, The Girls' Guide to Losing Your L-Plates. The author writes,

This book was inspired by my own struggle to get my licence. I didn’t pass my test till I turned 40 and consider it one of the major achievements of my life! Afterwards I decided to write the book I’d longed to read when I was learning. An alternative to the usual dry guides which would be packed full of useful information but also be lively and entertaining. The Girls’ Guide to Losing Your L Plates covers finding the right instructor (and tactfully extricating yourself from the wrong one), going out practising with family and friends without wrecking your relationship (or their car), coping with driving test nerves and tips on getting the best car insurance.

At the very least it sounds like a fun read. The author, if you didn't click on the link above, took 23 years and over 200 lessons to finally get her licence at the age of 40. Now that's what I call perseverance!

May all beings be at ease. (Even if you're driving).

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Stop it stop it stop it

It's been months and months since I tried to curtail my eating of junk. Things have gone from moderate and planned splurges to pretty much daily, mindless stuffing. I have weighed the same since just after Christmas, so there's no problem with my weight as of yet (although I am up 3 lbs from my glorious all-time low last Octoberish), but if things don't change there very well could be weight gain that goes on and on and on. This must be avoided, of course, but I think there are bigger issues here. I don't like how I feel or who I am when I am eating junk. I don't like that person. I don't like the greasy, bloated, glugged-out feeling. I don't like this layer of goosh around my middle, which regardless of what the scale says, always feels to me bigger and softer when I've been overindulging in crap food. (I'm sure some of this bloaty and yuck feeling could be TOM-related, but that's no excuse to inhale every deep-fried or otherwise fat-laden food product in Warwickshire).

This weekend was bad, but no worse than nearly every other weekend, and many week days, over the last few months. DH and I can't buy a packet of biscuits and make them last. We eat them all in one day. We eat an entire bag of Doritos in one sitting. We eat a cake in two rounds. We go through an entire large chocolate bar in a quarter of an hour. It's ridiculous. DH is as thin as ever and seems to us be getting thinner. We don't know what to do about that, but the answer is certainly not more junk food! I'm not gaining (yet--which is good) but he seems to be losing (definitely not good), but we're eating more and more rubbish. Any way you look it, it's not good at all.

So what's the plan? I don't know. There was a time when I would not have eaten any of the stuff I've been eating lately, even if you paid me. Cakes, biscuits, chocolates, crisps, stuff I don't even actually like, sometimes. I would sit and look at it in disgust and sip water during breaks at work. I had a reputation at work of being the one who never touched the junk. Today, on the other hand, I had a small piece of chocolate cake at first break, another even smaller piece at lunch, then right before work was finished and I was locking up, I had two more bites of it. That doesn't sound like a lot, but it's the principle of it. There was a time when I had myself so disciplined that if I did find myself putting something in my mouth that I knew I shouldn't be eating (like a Cadbury Street or something) I would spit it back into the wrapper and drop it in the bin. I know that sounds like some sort of eating disorder, but trust me it was not. It was a survival technique for someone with serious food issues and no ability to regulate herself. Now I eat one, shrug and eat another, sneak up and get another. I've started doing furtive eating again, and that worries me. I don't want to think I'm self-medicating with food again, but what else can it be? If I don't take control of this, I'll be back in the bad old days when I would forage in the kitchen for absolutely anything to binge on. Heck, if I'm honest with myself, I've always done that, even when I was eating my cleanest. The only reason I was eating clean was because I refused to buy any junk. I have a problem with food, a serious and real problem, and we are buying junk food nearly every day! I don't know where this is coming from now, and I want to nip it in the bud. I absolutely will not gain back any of the weight I lost. Will not, will not, will not. It was the sneaky bites of cake during lock-up that really made me feel bad and to take a look at what I'm doing. But what did I do when I got home? I ate the rest of the Pringles in the can and finished off that chocolate flapjack that we bought for DH 'because he's so thin'. No wonder the poor man is so thin, he never gets the chance to eat if I'm around!

Even meals aren't as nice as they used to be. Too many vegan convenience entrees have crept in, and with fruit and veg getting more expensive and my taste running to the cheap junk lately, we have been putting less fresh and good stuff on our plates at mealtime. I feel fat and lazy.

I guess I need to start where I started the first time. More water. Always water, nothing but water, no hot beverages during the day. Snack on fruit or something healthy like a Lara Bar or soaked meusli. And then DO NOT follow that up with chocolate digestives! And most important of all, keep the junk out of this house. (Hoping that poor DH doesn't dry up and blow away entirely).

It's just a constant struggle, but at the end of the day I know it's one I can win. It's never too late to make a change.

May all beings be at ease.