Friday, 6 August 2010

Checking in to say hello

Just to let you know I am not dead. *Waves to show arms still moving*

I have been busy with my new tarot hobby and working out with my latest fitness acquisition, Turbo Fire. I love it! It is like Turbo Jam on crack--not to be offensive. It is seriously intense and it's really very fun.

Check out the infomercial--it's a FI-YA!

I am up to 17 tarot decks now. I just ordered the Golden Tarot by Kat Black. Check it out:

I can't wait to get it, I managed to find it relatively cheap on Amazon (£9). It's made using a computer and bits and bobs of medieval art to create Rider-Waite-Smith tarot images. It originally came out in 2004.

Other recent tarot acquisitions which I love (these by trade on Aeclectic Tarot forum):

Herbal Tarot
Pearls of Wisdom Tarot

And this one, which Derek loves:

Rabbit Tarot

Oh, and I bought this one for Derek, as he loves video games:

8-bit Tarot

Thursday, 29 April 2010

What can I do to empower myself?

I asked the tarot this question recently, using my Anna K deck: 'What can I do to empower myself to lose this weight I've gained?' Then I drew three cards--

The Moon, Death, and Ace of Coins.

The Moon represents the shadowy world of our inner being, so this card suggests that I shed some light on the murky goings-on there. Recognize patterns of behaviour. Remember things that I have forgotten. Become aware of what I instinctively want to do. Distinguish what is realistic from what is illusory.

Okay, so let's examine my pattern of behaviour. Every morning I get up filled with good intentions. (Even though the breakfast I eat contains roughly 400 calories or more--toast and peanut butter, etc). I get to work and as soon as I walk in the door I can 'feel' the presence of the table in the staff room, which nearly always has chocolate on it. It begins calling to me at once. Usually by 9.30, but sometimes before, I have had a piece of whatever is on that table. At break, I will eat whatever I brought with me, then have something from the table. At lunch, same. Afternoon break, same. If I am on late shift, I will nick bits from the table around 5 or 6 PM. Then when I get home, sometimes before I even take my coat off, I forage in the kitchen for a bit of something. A spoonful of peanut butter, it doesn't matter what it is. Some days I eat more than others, depending on what's in the kitchen. Then I do my workout, then begin making dinner. I usually do some nibbling and tasting during food prep. For dinner, I eat what's on my plate, then usually go back for a smaller portion of seconds. Occasionally thirds. Then when helping wash up, I nibble from what's left as I pack leftovers for tomorrow's lunches. Sometimes we've both nibbled up all the remains of dinner so that there are no leftovers. Around 8.30 or 9 PM, Derek will suggest coffee, and we usually have a bit of Kit Kat or whatever naughty tidbit he's smuggled home. Then quite often, I will reach into the cereal box and have a handful of cereal around 10.00 or 10.30. That is a typical day, and why I have gained 9 lbs over the last 2 years or so.

What have I forgotten? I've forgotten how to put my long-term goals and priorities above the instant gratification of stuffing things in my face. I've forgotten how to look with contempt upon things that by rights should not be called food. I've forgotten how to enjoy being truly slim above any allure that junk food might have.

I instinctively want to eat well. I know this because I have observed my body's joyous reaction when I am eating a healthy dinner. It's a completely different feeling eating a veggie tofu stir-fry filled with crisp, gloriously colourful vegtables, compared to the feeling of eating a loaded veggie burger and oven chips. The first is a zinging feeling that thrums through the body--it's purely physical, it's like it trips something in the brain that acknowledges that this is good fuel. The second is more an emotional experience, sort of voluptuous pleasure. It's often accompanied by a quick, subtle feeling of being overfull, sometimes even a queasiness, but you keep eating because something weird is happening to the pleasure centres in your brain. It's almost like they're being overstimulated against your will and there's nothing you can do about it. This is the first time I've tried to describe this, but I know from experience that this is how my body reacts to the different types of food. My body itself prefers the good stuff. It's my emotions that prefer the junk. It's that simple. Feel how you feel and I bet you'll discover the same.

What is realistic and what is illusory? For me, it's illusory to think I can be disciplined all the time and live in my culture. I am surrounded by the worst possible temptations and my culture doesn't have a clue how it should relate to food or how it should be eating. I am going to give in to my cultural training and my emotional temptations sometimes. But it is realistic for me to try to set limits on that behaviour. In the past, I would limit it to weekends and special occasions. At the moment, it's a free for all.

Death is not the scary card it seems to be at first glance. It is almost always a positive card, an archetypal energy, concerned with transition. Particularly in the Anna K tarot, you can see that Death is a fairly attractive fellow who is beckoning to lead you down a path. It's possibly a new path, and he's definitely going to pare away what you no longer need with that scythe of his, if he hasn't already done so. This card asks me to identify what I need to let go of--both behaviours and emotions.

It's obvious to me what I need to let go of. It's no more subtle than a card called 'Death'. I need to let go of mindless and emotional eating.

Ace of Coins can represent both the beginning of and the culmination of worldly or material or corporeal concerns. It represents the centering or grounding of energy, having ideas materialise, sustaining the body, getting tangible results, reward for effort. The card asks me to look at any new opportunities for work, stability, home, money or health available to me now. Identify what makes me feel secure and grounded. Identify how I am putting plans in motion. Consider what kinds of seeds I am planting with my current actions. And identify what my reward will be for my efforts.

Right. Every day is a new opportunity to eat well. I acknowledge that each morning, then proceed to behave in exactly the opposite way. Routine is what makes me feel secure and grounded. I have got into the routine of eating poorly, and because of my nature, I like to stay where I've planted myself. So wrenching myself out of this pattern and starting a new one is hard for me. But, when I consider the seeds I am planting by continuing on this path, I can see that it leads to nowhere but regaining all the weight I lost and which I maintained for so long, and I desperately do not want that to happen. I want to grow old in good health, and I want to be able to take care of myself for as long as possible, because we don't have any kids or other relatives to look after us if we get old and feeble. I want to be alive and kicking until I keel over. Fine one minute, dead the next. Hopefully not for another 40 years or so!

This reading has given me a lot to mull over. I suppose the next step is to figure out the next step! :)

Sunday, 11 April 2010

It's a daily choice

These things I do:

I do not weigh or measure my food.

I judge portions using common sense.

I do not count calories or grams of anything.

I write down what I ate and the time I ate it.

I avoid food products containing ingredients no ordinary human would keep in the pantry--I must be able to picture each ingredient in its raw, natural state.

I avoid foods that list any form of sugar in the top three ingredients.

I avoid food products that make health claims on the packaging.

I believe it's not food if it's called the same name in every language (Fritos, Big Mac, Coca-Cola.)

I eat mostly plants, especially leaves.

I eat the rainbow daily.

I drink the spinach water. :)

I eat whole fruits and avoid juices.

I only eat junk food that I made myself.

I serve a proper portion and don't go back for seconds.

I eat meals.

I limit snacks to unprocessed plant foods.

I follow the 'S-Policy': 'No snacks, no sweets, no seconds except on days that start with S.'

These are rules I used to follow. (They're also some of the rules Michael Pollan recommends in his book, Food Rules). Over the last two years, I've slipped out of these good habits to varying degrees, and I've also gained 9 lbs. I weighed 142 lbs this morning. My jeans are tight--too tight to wear to work anymore. I don't like the way I look in my clothes now. I don't really like the way I feel when I eat the way I've been eating, although to be honest I have really enjoyed the food while I'm actually eating it.

I used to have a preachy food and exercise blog I called 'No deadlines, just daily choices.' That's going to be my mantra again. (I had to Google to find that old blog for the link I gave, but if you have the time, browse around in the older posts, like from 2006-7. There's some pretty good stuff in there!)

I'm also going to stop being so complacent about my workouts. I do work out regularly, I work out hard, and I am keeping fit. But I don't ever actually work out until my legs are jello and I'm truly, completely spent. And those are the only kinds of workouts that are going to get me a true training effect. I've got to push myself. I want to push myself. The workouts I'm doing now are the ones that used to really push me 6 years ago. It's not they're too easy now by any means--but I'm not pushing myself hard enough while I do them. I still make modifications when I know by this time I should be just doing it. I sink to the knees if I even start to get uncomfortably tired during push-ups. I don't lunge or squat as deep as I can when the reps start to add up. I take impact out of moves when I know I'm fully capable of doing them, just because I don't want to push myself. In fact, I'm being lazy. What I'm doing is cheating. I've cheated my nutrition AND my workouts--for 2 years!

If I'd been doing my best, by now I could have been ready to run a marathon. I could be wearing a UK size 6 skirt. I could have cut arms, which has always been my dream. I could be doing pull-ups--another fitness dream. I could be flexible enough to do the splits and able to do a backbend--yoga dreams. It's certainly been enough time to accomplish these things. I've just chosen to do the same old workouts at the same old pace and sit on my butt eating bourbon creme biscuits and in my spare time baking cakes and cookies!

Part of me, of course-- my lazy, I-don't-want-to-change side-- wants to just go curl up with a book in one hand and the other in a Doritos bag. Meanwhile the other side finds herself browsing websites for fitness bootcamps in order to blast off this gained weight and get to the level of fitness I dream of at long last. (Then my hey-wait-we-can't-afford-that side wakes up and says, look you, just eat less and work harder and see what you can accomplish for free!)

Friday, 2 April 2010

I'll be bouncing soon!

I thought I'd post about my latest acquisitions because I'm all materialistic like that. :)

A few weeks ago, I read about this workout that focuses on the lower body. People at Video Fitness were giving it rave reviews, so I ordered a copy of Tonique, featuring this reedy little Polish gal called Sylwia Weisenberg. It is a brutal workout of three segments: Squats, Lunges and Mat, with added segment of Drills and Cool Down. What's so brutal about it, you ask? Sylwia does all move in sets of 30 reps, with absolutely no rest breaks in between. You watch the clip and think, man, that looks like a good workout. But I guarantee you if you try it, you will be sweating, breathing hard and wondering if this woman is a robot. Look at the Squats segment, for example (all moves done holding 2 lb dumbbells):

30 basic squats
30 basic squats with a shoulder raise
30 squats with a front kick
30 squats with side leg abduction
30 plyo squats
30 squats into a side kick
30 double side kicks (no squats)
30 squat jumps (as for basketball)
30 one-legged squats
30 butterfly squats (a one-legged squat where you lift your opposite leg out behind you while doing lateral raises with the arms) right leg
30 more butterfly squats left leg

Then comes the Lunges segment:

30 R, 30 L basic back lunges
30 R, 30 L back lunges with a front kick
15 R, 15 L curtsy lunge/back lunge combo
30 R, 30 L curtsy lunge with side abduction
15 cross front lunges, alternating sides
15 R, 15 L back lunge/basic squat combo
15 Brazilian lunges, alternating sides
15 skaters with a hop
15 R, 15 L lunges with knee up and over head raise
30 side lunges, alternating sides
30 side lunges with knee up overhead raise, alternating sides

Mat work:

30 bent leg raises followed by 30 pulsing bent raises on same leg, per side
30 straight leg crossover raises per side
30 side raises per side
Then a series of hip lifts where I lose count: regular lifts, one-legged lifts, pulsing one-legged lifts, clam-shell lifts, pulsing clam-shell lifts
Then some killer ab work

It's truly brutal!

I fancied a couple new step workouts recently so I ordered 'Ready Step Go' with Kelly Coffey-Meyer, my first of this instructor's workouts. It's curiously old school because there is a lot of tapping going on, only this woman must have had 50 espressos before she shot this workout because she never taps, she HOPS. I myself do not hop. I remember reading (I think it was Cathe) that hopping like that is actually bad stepping form, hard on the shins, etc. If you watch the clip, notice that the background exerciser on the far right (the tall one) doesn't hop on the floor. All the rest of them do. Well, I follow her. :) The workout is okay, very high impact, and there's a vertical step segment that will take me some getting used to because I don't have quite enough room and have to modify it a bit, but overall, it's okay. :)

I ordered Cardio Fusion on the same day I ordered Ready, Step Go. This is Cathe, my favourite step instructor. This DVD is a compilation of segments from three of her other workouts, two of which I don't own, so it was new footage for me. I enjoy this and will do a lot, I'm sure. It's very high impact, though. If you watch the clip, you will see how fun the workout is. But it's no place to start with Cathe. If you want to start out with Cathe, get Basic Step and Body Fusion and work up. :)

Speaking of high impact, I can't remember why I got it in my head a week or two ago that I want a rebounder, but I shopped it and shopped it and finally decided to order a Heyman's Trimilin Pro Plus. Just ordered it day before yesterday, so it should be here next week! Yay! Do have a look at the link. The website is quite messy and could use an overhaul, but it's got a lot of information and the lady who runs it (Michele) is very nice.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

I'm still here!

Just waving hello to anyone who might check this blog looking for me. All is well. I'm still working out, still trying to get my snacking under control, still yo-yoing up and down in a silly 4 pound range, and still enjoying my new hobby of tarot.

I will update this weekend!

Saturday, 20 February 2010

136.6 this morning!

I may be naturally pulling out of my year long bake-cakes-and-eat-everything-in-sight phase. For some reason, the thought of a cake is giving me a nauseated feeling, and I'm not going back for seconds at meals. And my weight has dropped 3.5lbs this month.

I've been doing a rotation of Jillian Michaels 30-Day Shred, mostly, with some of Chalene's Fat Blaster (that clip is a great one someone taped of herself doing the workout--so that's how I must look doing it! LOL) and new Cathe step ('Step Moves') thrown in. (Cathe seems to have managed to get more makeup than I even OWN stuck to her face for this one! :) It's a great workout--moderate intensity, complex choreography. Very fun!) So some of the weight loss could be muscle loss--I haven't done any heavy lifting or even any high endurance low resistance work this month. BUT I wore my skinniest jeans to work yesterday and they seemed to fit fine. So that has to be a good sign.

9 card spread

So a subordinate of mine phoned me today from another branch to tell me 'someone' called. She gave me a vague description of what the lady called about, said the lady didn't leave her name or her phone number, nor did this member of staff ask the lady what specifically she was requesting, because the lady 'seemed sure someone knows all about it.' Apparently she thought she'd pass it on to me and I'd sort it out. I told her off for not taking a message properly and throwing this in my lap to sort out. If you can even sort out a message that has 1) no name 2) no number and 3) no message! I said to her rather coldly, 'So you didn't ask her name? You didn't ask for a phone number? It would have been VERY USEFUL to have that information.' Which I think showed considerable restraint. Maybe too much restraint. All I know is, some customer is going to come back to me eventually very angry that she hasn't heard anything from us, and there's nothing I can do until she calls, mad.

I was livid when I got home and threw 9 cards from my Anna K, no reversals. (Quotations from Anna K LWB).

What lesson can I learn from this? 6 cups, 3 wands, ace cups

6 cups--The lesson is that some members of staff (me included, most likely) are allowing 'the influence of the past to colour their judgement and decisions'. There is a long history in my work place of poor communication, a fuzzy and little understood heirarchy, lack of strong leadership, and letting poor performance slide. I'm sorry to sound critical, but it really is true. Those of us a more supervisory role are working with management to tighten things up, but we're in for a long haul changing this culture. Really, it says so much about us in general that I feel so conflicted about what most supervisors would rake you over the coals for without a second thought.

3 wands--This is a time, though, when it's vital that we invest our energy in forming a realistic vision of the future. We have to figure out 'how to coordinate to achieve our plans'.

Ace cups--The current climate at work is a new situation that is definitely emotionally charged. Our work place has been undergoing a massive transformation for the last two years or so, and more major change is on the horizon. This is upsetting for people. But it's also a chance to create real vitality and enthusiasm. If handled well.

How can I handle similar situations in the future? page swords, knight cups, 2 pents

Page swords--I must 'be prepared for conflicts, for clarifying discussions and for criticism', but I 'must not be overly fierce'. The Anna K LWB is so perfect, I think, saying, I must 'not be preparing for a fight, but for a conflict for which I need objective, realistic points, not the taunts of a diatribe'. That rings so true and perfect for this sort of situation--how to deal with my anger when someone is so blatantly incompetent. The page of swords seems to me to speak to discipline and reasonable assertiveness. I was not overly fierce with the member of staff, but I certainly launched into a diatribe when I hung up the phone!

Knight cups--I must use my emotions--my sympathy--in an appropriate way. I believe people have been let slide for too long, but as Anna K LWB says, 'It is a time to approach an enemy peacefully...and be careful not to fall into naivety, credulity or inappropriate helpfulness.' I don't know if enemy is the right word, but you certainly feel like there's a possibility of making an enemy if you correct someone where I work, and I know a lot of griping and criticism goes on about supervisors and managers amongst staff.

2 Pentacles--The key to success seems obviously to be to strike a balance between the assertiveness of swords energy and the compassion/sentimentality of cups energy.

How can I assert my authority effectively at work? Queen wands, Death, Ace swords

Queen wands--I need to be self-confident and full of energy but not 'self-dramatising or overestimating my own capabilities.'

Death--The best way to assert myself is to attempt to die to my old ways of thinking and dealing with members of staff.

Ace swords--I must look at things with a clear head and clear mind. 'It is the time to make clear the things which had been unclear or incomprehensible'--which is the best way to describe the convoluted and backward way we have supervised and managed people so far.

I was amazed at how accurate this reading rang for me when I threw the cards and looked them over intuitively, so I checked the LWB for deeper levels of meaning, and was really surprised at how sentence after sentence fit the situation so perfectly.

You tarot folk, what further or different insights do you have?

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Ma Po Doufu

Ma Po Doufu ('Pock-marked Ma's Tofu')

Prepare and set these aside:
2 packages firm tofu, drained and pressed, cut into bite-size cubes
approx 2 cups frozen veggie mince (or reconstituted dried TVP)
1/2 cup shredded dried black fungus (wood ears), soaked in hot water
2 whole dried red chiles

Combine in a bowl:

1/4 cup dark soy sauce
2-1/2 Tbs Sichuan chili bean paste
1 Tbs black bean paste
1 tsp sugar or a Tbs mirin
4 Tbs cornstarch
a big squirt of garlic paste from a tube (or 2 fat cloves minced)
a smaller squirt ginger paste (or about 1 tsp minced)
a squirt of chile paste from a tube (or a pinch of ground cayenne, or a chopped fresh hot red chile)--adjust heat to taste, but traditionally should be pretty hot!
several grinds black pepper and Sichuan peppercorns
sesame oil to taste (a little goes a long way)
about a cup of water

To prepare:
Heat a little peanut oil in a sauce pan or wok. Toast the dried red chilies for a few seconds, then pour the liquid mixture in sauce pan and add the veggie mince and wood ears. Stir and simmer until thickened and veggie mince is done to your liking. Taste for spiciness and adjust accordingly. (You might want more pepper, more soy sauce, whatever.) When it's perfect for you, add the tofu, stir very carefully, and allow to heat through.

Serve over rice,with a large portion of crisp stir-fried mixed vegetables on the side. (Keep the flavour of the side dish light because the tofu dish is very rich. I just put some ginger in my veg and didn't make a sauce...) Garnish the mapo doufu with fresh chopped green onions.

We had this for dinner last night!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Me and resolutions, we lose interest in each other fast

I was going to post my food for a week, but alas I haven't. Probably just as well as it's terribly dull reading. Well, it's kind of like a Greek tragedy. You know, where the protagonist's weakness is the cause of his own downfall. And you surely don't want to watch that happening.

So rather than focus on my tightening waistband, let's talk about something else.

I have rediscovered the Heart Sutra, also known as the Prajnaparamita Sutta. It is a sutra that is very dear to me. It is said to contain the essence of Buddhist teaching, and is recited daily in Mahayana temples and practice centres around the world. It is very short sutra and quite profound. In the sutra, Avolokiteshwara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, speaks to Shariputra, a disciple of the Buddha, about ultimate reality. The orginal version of the sutra is in Sanskrit, which I am in the process of learning to chant, but I also chant it in English, using my beloved Thich Nhat Hanh's translation:

The Bodhisattva Avalokita,
while moving in the deep course of Perfect Understanding,
shed light on the Five Skandhas and found them equally empty.
After this penetration, he overcame ill-being.

Listen, Shariputra,
form is emptiness, and emptiness is form.
Form is not other than emptiness, emptiness is not other than form.
The same is true with feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness.

Listen, Shariputra,
all dharmas are marked with emptiness.
They are neither produced nor destroyed,
neither defiled nor immaculate,
neither increasing nor decreasing.
Therefore in emptiness there is neither form, nor feelings, nor perceptions,
nor mental formations, nor consciousness.
No eye, or ear, or nose, or tongue, or body, or mind.
No form, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no object of mind.
No realms of elements (from eyes to mind consciousness),
no interdependent origins and no extinction of them
(from ignorance to death and decay).
No ill-being, no cause of ill-being, no end of ill-being, and no path.
No understanding and no attainment.

Because there is no attainment,
the Bodhisattvas, grounded in Perfect Understanding,
find no obstacles for their minds.
Having no obstacles, they overcome fear,
liberating themselves forever from illusion, realizing perfect nirvana.
All Buddhas in the past, present, and future,
thanks to this Perfect Understanding,
arrive at full, right, and universal enlightenment.

Therefore one should know
that Perfect Understanding is the highest mantra, the unequaled mantra,
the destroyer of ill-being, the incorruptible truth.
A mantra of Praj├▒aparamita should therefore be proclaimed:

Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha
Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha
Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha
To hear it chanted by members of the Plum Village sangha (Thich Nhat Hanh's home in France), click here.

Now, I would never profess to be a teacher of Buddhism. I am not posting this as instruction. I am also not asking for corrective input. I am merely sharing my thoughts on the sutra as I see it, based on how I have been taught by Thich Nhat Hanh (through reading his books and listening to his lectures online).

What The Heart Sutra is saying is that Avalokita observed life (the 5 skandhas are the 5 aggregates of life, the 5 aspects of existence: form, feeling, perception, mental formations, consciousness) and found that when you look into them deeply, you find that they are 'empty'. (This is the interesting thing about this sutra. It carefully goes through some of the most basic Buddhist teachings about reality and 'deconstructs' them, proclaiming that their teaching is not a teaching at all. This in itself is an important Buddhist teaching, in fact the most important Buddhist teaching.)

Okay, here we go, then. What are the 5 skandhas? Remember they cannot exist independently.

Form (rupa in Sanskrit)--material, physical factors, including our bodies and the material objects that surround us--the physical sense organs and the corresponding physical objects of the sense of organs--but also the mind and its constructs

Feeling (vedana in Sanskrit)--physical sensations and emotions experienced as a result of interacting with Form--'sensation' is the key word

Perceptions (samjna in Sanskrit)--attaching a name to an object or experience, conception of an idea about a particular object, conceptualising

Mental formations (samskara in Sanskrit)--conditioned response to the object of experience, volitional actions whether good or bad--biases, prejudices, interests and attractions

Consciousness (vijnana in Sanskrit)--the faculty that connects Form to Feeling--you cannot feel without consciousness

Now, Avalokita observed us all and considered the Buddha's teaching that each of us is merely a conglomeration of these 5 aggregates, and that nowhere in any of these 5 aggregates can we pinpoint the 'self', nor can we pinpoint it in any combination of them. Therefore, there is no self. We are empty of self. Think of it this way. Look at a chair. Why is it a chair? What part of it makes it a chair? It's wood. Does that make it a chair? It has legs. Is its chairness in its legs? When you're putting it together, at what point does it become a chair? Conversely, if you deconstruct it, at what point does it stop being a chair? What is a chair? You can deconstruct it down to its atoms, but you won't find where its 'chairness' is. It's the same with you. You can't find the part of 'you' that is you. The concept of self is as much of an illusion as the concept of chair, when you look at it that way. The chair is made up entirely of not-chair elements. You are made up entirely of not-you elements. In fact, if you look deeply into things, you will see that there is nothing that is not an element of everything. The only thing lacking is a 'separate self'. And that's what Avalokita meant when he found all skandhas 'equally empty'. Everything is equally empty of a separate self. And understanding this, 'penetrating' this truth, he overcame suffering, or 'ill-being.' There is no fear when there is no separation, no beginning and no end.

The rest of sutra goes on to say that there is nothing that is not empty of a separate self, which is a curious way of stating that everything is actually part of everything else:

'Neither produced nor destroyed.'-- Nothing can be destroyed and nothing can be created. (You can't make something out of nothing. Think about it. And you can't make something into nothing. You burn a piece of paper, it turns to smoke and ash. It doesn't become nothing. Nothing becomes nothing.)

'Neither defiled nor immaculate'--a rose becomes garbage eventually, and garbage is compost to the rose.

'Neither increasing nor decreasing'--everything that is, already is, and cannot be produced nor destroyed.

So when you relax into the knowledge of our oneness, our 'interbeing', suffering ceases. There is no attaining to this, nothing to strive for, no concept to master. It is merely a matter of seeing an 'incorruptible truth'--everything is part of everything else.

The 'mantra of Prajnaparamita' (which means 'perfect understanding') is 'Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi swaha'. This means, 'Gone, gone, all the way gone, everyone gone over to the other shore. Hurray!' Which is a funny way of celebrating that we're all one, and a sort of prayer that we'll all realise it.

Oh, here's a perfectly beautiful rendition of the Heart Sutra in Sanskrit, by a Malaysian recording artist named Imee Ooi. It's the one I'm learning: Heart Sutra Imee Ooi .

And finally, if you want to hear a dance version in English, check this out: Heart Sutra Club Mix. (It's not Thich Nhat Hanh's translation, but if you listen closely you can hear every word.)

Friday, 29 January 2010

I know you're dying to find out

what I'm eating today, so here you go:

6.45--my standard breakfast--2 slices seeded wholemeal toast, coconut oil, marmite, peanut butter and all-fruit strawberry jam, black decaf, water

10.30--coco loco nakd bar, water, 1 Cadbury rose (a bite-size choc)

13.00--sandwich--2 slices wholemeal bread, squirt each of mustard and 'burger sauce', a salad topping made of beetroot, tomato and roasted red pepper chopped up together, 4 slices of Cheatin' Meats coldcuts; carrot sticks, water, 3/4 a banana, 1 Cadbury rose

3.30--1/2 punnet blueberries and 1 pot soy yogurt, water, 2 cadbury roses

6.30--about a tsp peanut butter and a lick of jam

7.30--1.5 vegetarian schnitzel, roasted egglant and zucchini, about 2 cups of oven chips

No workout today.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Let's all play food diary for a week. Who wants to join me?

My astrological year has officially begun and my year card for 2010 is Death--the card of transformation. The Death card is an archetypal energy concerned with transition from one state to another. Something ends, something begins. It is a time to embrace change rather than fear it. This might mean a change of consciousness, entrance into a new state, giving up your sense of self to a feeling of merging with the cosmos, cutting through the superficial to understand what is at the core...or it could be as simple as a new job. Maybe for me, it's as simple as putting down the Doritos.

I'm posting my food from Thursday to Thursday here, but just so you'll get an idea of what I'm transforming from, let's have a look at a randomly chosen day from January.

18th January
6.45--2 slices seeded wholemeal toast, 1 tsp coconut oil, squirt of marmite, heaping tsp peanut butter, heaping Tbs jam, black decaf, zinc and multi-vitamin supplements

8.05--2 squares dark chocolate

8.55--1 chocolate bon bon

10.30--a small banana and a glass of water

12.00--2 veggie 'meat' balls, about a cup of wholemeal pasta with roasted mixed mediterranean veg and pasta sauce, green beans--followed by 3 Quality Street chocolates

3.30--1 Quality Street chocolate

5.00--1 bite of a chocolate cornflake thing (it was gross so I binned the rest)

5.40--1 slice of chocolate cake

7.30--1/4 lb breaded veggie pattie, steamed broccoli, oven roasted potatoes, 1 slice of chocolate cake

9.30--2 squares dark chocolate, 1 cup black decaf

Exercise: Chalean Dynamic Flow Yoga

I have written down everything I've eaten since 30th December. I'm not kidding, it has been that bad for a while now. I'm very lucky not to have gained more weight than I have. (I weighed 139.8 day before yesterday).'s time to transform. So here's what I ate today.

28th January
6.50--2 slices seeded wholemeal toast with coconut oil, marmite and jam, black decaf, water

10.30--banana and water

12.00--sweet potato topped cottage pie, water

3.30--soy yogurt with a punnet of blueberries

5.30--a heaping tsp of peanut butter and a tsp of jam, eaten off the spoon

6.45--1 cup brown basmati rice, chickpea and cauliflower jalfrezi

7.30--large bowl Special K with unsweetened homemade soy milk

Exercise: The Firm Calorie Killer

Right then, that's Day One done. Not too bad! See how telling you about it makes me do better?

Saturday, 16 January 2010

The Rainbow of Prosperity Spread

This spread comes from Aeclectic Tarot forum.

-------------------3---- 4---- 5------------------------




1. What I want
2. What I need
3. What I already have
4. What I need to give up
5. What step to take next
6. What resources are out there?
7. Who can/will help me?
8. End result/pot of gold at end of rainbow

1. 7 of Coins--I want to watch a full harvest coming to fruition. True! I want to make investments that I can watch grow as I move toward retirement.

2. Queen of Coins--I need to develop my ability to visualise (and thereby manifest) abundance. This is true. I tend to spend a lot of time visualising lack--worrying about having to choose betweeen rent and food. Worrying about who will take care of us when we're old, as we have no children or family nearby and are quite insular. I can visualise all sorts of disaster and loss. But I hardly ever allow myself to visualise abundance.

3. Queen of Swords--I already have a tendency to research and gather lots of information. I use my logical mind quite a bit. I love to write things down, put them in order, color-code them, cross-reference those skills are in place.

4. The Tower--I really need to give up the notion that making decisions about a retirement plan is going to be the difference between a rosy future and certain disaster. I need to let go of the notion that making an investment will prevent bad things from happening. Or that there is any investment that is going to be 100% safe.

5. 2 Swords--No easy solution exists to what step to take next, and all possibilities seem like compromises. A new approach may be called for. (Direct quote from the book that accompanies the Legacy of the Divine Tarot book). This is definitely true. Everything I read about savings & investment shows that no matter which way you go, you may feel like you're being shortchanged or taking too big a chance. This is what has caused me to be frozen on the whole issue for so long. A new approach may be called for. But what?

6. Page of Cups--The question asks about outside resources, but the Page of Cups points to the inner. It is earth of water. The fertile soil of emotion. This seems very touchy-feely for an outside resource about finances. Ciro's book suggests that his Page of Cups has some street smarts, a bit of the Artful Dodger about him. Kafka's Ghost suggests that this is 'more creative and less risk-averse' ways to save and invest. Yikes! Doesn't Tarot know how risk-averse I am! :)

7. 7 Wands--Who will help me? Apparently no one. The 7 of Wands is all about standing up for myself. I guess this card is telling me that I can't expect any financial adviser (or anyone else for that matter) to be able to give me the magic formula for a comfortable retirement. I have to look out for myself. Also, Kafka's Ghost suggests that this means once I have made an investment plan, I should 'stay the course' regardless of market activity. Yep, okay.

8. 2 Wands--My 'pot of gold at the end of the rainbow' is that I get a big decision to make. 'A window of opportunity is presented,' says Ciro's book, 'but in order to take that opportunity it will take leadership, vision, and decision making. Start making plans and setting them in motion. Keep your intentions clear.' Harrumph. I was really hoping for 9 or 10 of Cups here, but the cards suggest what I need is fortitude. Right then.

Mercury is out of retrograde now. I guess it's time to start making some decisions.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Make way for the knights

Following on from my Meet the Pages post, here are the knights. Knights carry the message of the nature of their suit into the world. They've gone from the potential they showed as little kids, to feeling the stirrings of action as teenagers.

Knight of Pentacles
So, when Wally Cleaver/Kyle (my Page of Pentacles) grows to be a teen, what character from movies, literature or TV would he become? There won't be a lot of movies or TV shows revolving around a Knight of Pentacles, because he's not a really exciting guy. He wants to work hard, keep a low profile, meet his own goals. He doesn't necessarily have the best grades or the most talent. He compares himself to other kids and wants to have what they have. He doesn't want to be unique! He wants to organise his album collection, make sure he has properly valued his Star Wars collectibles, and shine up his car. He values his home life and family and his few good friends. I think the Knight of Pentacles is Kevin Arnold from 'The Wonder Years'.

Knight of Wands
Who does Bart Simpson morph into as a teenager? He's still Mr. Popularity amongst the other kids. He wants to be top of the heap, so he'll either be captain of the football team or the class clown who decides to be the only male member of the cheerleading squad. He is likely to be involved in the school clubs and might even play the lead in the high school musical. Prom king, top junior salesman at the local Sears department store, the most important thing to him is not necessarily to be the best, but to be numero uno. He can have a tendency to think he's a hotty and is likely to put himself before all others, again not because he's mean-spirited but because he finds himself just so darn irresistible. From mainstream TV, I'm thinking Cordelia from 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer.' Lesser known, a character called Nazim Iqbal, the PR guy for the local university in 'Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About,' one of my favourite books. (Hey, it means something to me. :) )

Knight of Cups
A moody and dreamy teen--that's who Butters, my Page of Cups, would grow into. A poet or writer of song lyrics, an artist who has taught himself to play 'Dust in the Wind' on his guitar, he can fall prey to a series of earthshatteringly significant crushes. Not the least of which might be on himself and his own deepness. Nobody understands him, no one has ever felt the way he feels, nor felt as deeply and agonisingly as he feels, and so he retreats into his room to grow his hair long enough to flop down over his soulful eyes, or he strikes out from home at a young age in search of meaning and of himself and of 'love'. The true Emo, he better be careful or he could fall into a black depression and then all sorts of bad stuff could happen. This is Ricky, the kid who liked to film floaty carrier bags in 'American Beauty'.

Knight of Swords
Lisa Simpson was our Page of Swords. As a teen, she would continue her quest to be the righter of wrongs and the knower of more than you. The Knight of Swords would be the kid who loves to try to trip up the teacher in class discussions, gets a charge out of playing devil's advocate and considers himself victorious if he can get you to lose your temper in a debate. This just has to be Alex P Keaton from 'Family Ties'. (What would we do, baby, without us? Sha la la la)

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Today's draw

Today's draw was 4 of cups, The Star and Page of Wands. Boredom and apathy, hope of renewal, and the restless desire for something new to happen. Well, if that doesn't just sum up my winter blahs. The cards seem to hint that something may happen, some message or idea may come my way to kickstart my enthusiasm. I will keep my eyes open for it! (If I don't fall asleep from the boredom first!) Seriously, I'm so ready for some sort of change. I am in a rut! I have no idea what I want to happen, though.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Meet the Pages

[most of the content of this post has been inspired by 'Meaning of the Pages' at Aeclectic Tarot]

I've been trying to get my head around the court cards. I decided the best way to do it would be to relate the qualities of each card to a character from a TV show or literature or a movie or something.

First things first. You have to digest the spirit of each suit, and how each member of court characterises the quality of that suit. So here's some information drawn from a wide range of sources I've read online and in books, which has all amalgamated in my head and come out like this...

Pentacles are about security and physical/material realm--earth

Wands are about action and achievement, creativity, moving forward, being a 'go-getter' -- fire

Cups are about emotion, the world of feeling, relationships, how we relate to the external world --water

Swords are about mental strengths and how we use (and misuse) them --air


The KING of each suit is like its sun, the source of its life--fire

The QUEEN of each suit embodies the spirit of the suit in the real world, like rain watering the earth -- water

The KNIGHT of each suit moves its spirit around, like the wind blowing seeds --air

The PAGE of each suit is the actual soil where the spirit of suit takes hold and begins to grow; he's like a little Fool--earth

The Page of Pentacles -- Wally Cleaver 'Leave it to Beaver' & Kyle 'South Park'
The Page of Pentacles is a youngster who is in touch with the practical matters of life and is close to the earth. His version of play is to build things from dirt, like making fortresses for his cars and trucks. He will build a treehouse. Even his games are work, in that way. He enjoys earning his own money, will do extra chores, take a paper route, work in a soda shop (in Wally's case), shovel snow from the neighbours' pavement (in Kyle's case), and likes knowing how much money he's got. He can be seen as overly serious because he lacks imagination and is more interested in practical matters. He is very earnest and values his family and security and has a strong sense of right and wrong.

The Page of Cups--Butters 'South Park'
The Page of Cups is a sensitive little kid who gets caught up in his own daydreams and doesn't pay as much attention to the real world as he should. He loves listening to stories and telling stories and he has a vivid imagination. He likes to play make-believe. He enjoys reading and being read to, because it lets him live out the stories in his head. He is extremely loving, loveable, kind and sweet, very tender-hearted. As Thirteen on Aeclectic Tarot describes, he is the kind of kid who will bring you a flower, try to rescue wounded birds, and who takes very seriously the death of a goldfish. He can get very caught up in his emotions, going from the quiveringest, quakingest fear to the most hilarious of hilarity, from the depths of despair to the heights of bliss, over things that other people might not think are quite that earth-shattering.

The Page of Wands--Bart Simpson 'The Simpsons'
A popular kid and a leader, the Page of Wands never stands still. He runs around everywhere, climbs on everything, never slows down. He's a thrill-seeker, always up a tree or plotting mischief. He is always late to dinner, always wandering beyond his boundaries, a natural born explorer. He's the type of kid who will slip away from you in the supermarket to run karooming into the frozen foods. He loves being the centre of attention, and if you're not careful he can be a bully to other children, not because he's mean spirited, but because he's just so forceful and dominant.

The Page of Swords--Lisa Simpson 'The Simpsons'
This kid loves to talk, talk, talk. She questions everything. She loves facts and is full of arcane knowledge. She thinks she knows more than you and she usually does. She is extremely brainy, loves challenges of logic and takes pride in her smarts. She can be too forthright and honest and in what she says and how she confronts what she sees as flawed logic or injustice. These qualities can turn her into a tattletale or a know-it-all if she doesn't watch out. She loves to argue, or as she would see it, enter into debate!

Saturday, 9 January 2010

My Christmas money has all been spent.

Today the beautiful Buddha Tarot arrived from America. I managed to buy this deck for £4.72 on Amazon! I took it out of the box and shuffled it, did a quick 3-card draw and found the reading almost intuitive. I don't think it will take long for me to get into this deck. The major arcana are based on the young Siddhartha Gautama from birth to becoming the Buddha, giving his first sermon at Deer Park, then his death at age 80. The pip cards are true pip cards,with only a token symbol or depiction of what the card means. The suits are vajras (swords), double vajras (cups), lotuses (wands), jewels (pentacles). It is based very closely on RWS, so is a pretty quick study.

I decided that I wanted a digital RWS clone, and settled on Ciro's Legacy of the Divine Tarot. This one is so gorgeous, and I got word earlier this week that it has shipped. Maybe it will be in on Monday--gives me a reason to go to work, to collect my parcels!

I am most excited of this last acquisition. It's a self-published tarot by an Austrian artist called Anna Kleffinger. I am very, very happy that I managed to get a deck, because she only had 500 printed and they are now sold out! I love this deck because all the cards are very earthy and, to me, they are instantly readable. I think the characters look like hobbits.

This is the card that won me to the Anna K tarot. I interpret the 8 of swords to represent that the woman tied up and surrounded by swords is a victim of her own perception of her situation. That in reality, she is free. I had no basis for that, really, other than my gut feeling. Lo and behold Anna depicts it perfectly:

Also, the Lovers card. Most decks depict the lovers as nude young people, surrounded by arcane symbolism and references to the Biblical Adam and Eve. Not Anna:

The Lovers are an older couple. They made the commitment to be together, and they have been. They are life companions, trust one another implicitly, have enjoyed each day together and will stay together. Anna K says this card represents the 'unconditional yes'--yes to life, yes to love, yes to taking responsibility, yes to your chosen path. That's just so fantastic. So I ordered the deck. She sold out within the next 24 hours! Serendipity.