Monday, 17 July 2017

The Heartsong Of The City

It is very easy to fall out of love with a place.  Just as with human relationships it's sometimes when we take the good things for granted, only focus on the bad points or we become bored with ourselves.

Southampton is the city which is closest to my heart, it is the place of my birth and indeed has been my home for large parts of my life.  Nowadays I live just outside it, perfectly situated between the heart and hubbub, and the more tranquil scenery of the forest and shore.  Like most places it has a rich, long and complex history.  At times it has shone as a beacon of trade, adventure and invention, and other times has fallen foul of many an invasion, the waging of war and great tragedy.  There have been times when I've not been in love with it at all.  I have moved away, and then somehow ended up back again.  Each time I've looked at it with both the eyes of familiarity and also of new perspective.

Southampton Coat of Arms 

I've been working with the energies, waters and lines of force in the city for many a number of years now, alongside researching it's history and spirit.  This getting to know the place has made me quite passionate about it, and in love with the subtleties and the richness in the land itself.

It is a place where Five Waters Meet, or perhaps I should say was, because the city has lost it's way a little.  There is ancient magick here in the land and it is still very much tangible for those with eyes to see and hearts to feel, but somewhat forgotten in recent years.  I will write about all that soon no doubt.

Anyway, regarding the being in love with the place.  Often when we begin to look we see much more happening than we thought and an aliveness that we neglected in our surroundings.  This weekend, I was reminded once again of how vibrant the city really is, and how much of a glorious multicultural and multigenerational tapestry it is.

On the Thursday evening I held circle for a group of women as part of the regular offerings of Southampton and New Forest Red Tent.  This took place at in the upstairs red velvet draped gallery of the Art House.  This cafe being a veritable centre of juiciness all on it's own I ended back there on Friday night for drinks and a bit of late night energy work.  The cultural quarter was ringing with the sounds of laughter and midnight mayhem as I crossed the Guildhall Square to go home, and there too were the skateboarders flying up and down in front of the the ionic columns.

On the Saturday I was back in the square for a rousing political rally.  Feeling the hope and unity of a passionate crowd of all ages was inspiring.  I was reminded that a city is also for many not just a few.  In that crowd were many friends, old and new, from all walks of life and different community circles all overlapping like a complex venn diagram of social awareness and careness.

After food I wandered with friends down to the Mela Festival in Hoglands Park and was greeted with sounds, sights and smells to tantalise the senses.  I only stayed for a short time.  After a quick chat with the Mayor, in which we discussed our mutual gripe about city pollution and our love of the waterfront and need for access there, we wandered back towards the car.  We meandered via the park and the new development at West Quay.  There in the sunshine along the old walls was screening of Wimbledon.  Crowds sprawled upon the fake grass, temporarily covering the fountains, and the arena like steps.  It was a joy to see yet more people of all ages gathered together, finding the common ground of a national sport.  Then went on to one of the international food stores.  I spent ages perusing spices and oversized bags of all sorts, eventually filling my basket with some favourites.

On the Sunday, just a little out of the city centre I performed with Ancasta Rising at the International Family Day Festival.  Our band is named for the Celtic Goddess whose altar stone was found on the banks of Southampton's River Itchen. Our performance is ritual wrapped up in song, a short public ceremony of sorts.  By the time we had finished I was full to the brim and rather peopled out, but it was a wonder-fullness from all the events over the few days.

So I do, as I always do, and retreat to solitude for a while.  Today I pondered on how much the city gives to me and to others.  I felt moved to write this and acknowledge that the more we engage in a place and it's offerings, the more we are enthralled by it.  The real joy comes from being part and taking part, not sitting back and waiting for the entertainment to begin.  When we become an active member of community we see things we had not seen before and meet people that enrich our lives. It is the people that are the heartsong of the city.  It is that which others see when they come and visit.  We become part of the rich tapestry, the life and soul, that tourists see and benefit from when they visit.  We owe it to the land and our urban settings to be active and present.  It is part of our stewardship and care to keep places alive and thriving, and in the giving there is more than enough receiving to nourish the spirit.

Heidi x

Thanks to Jacqui Forster Photography for the Riverside shot of Ancasta Rising

Thursday, 13 July 2017

How Radical Is Self Care?

I've read a lot about self-care recently.  Even one better, "radical self-care" seems to be the new buzz phrase.  I've had plenty of conversations with other women about their self-care practices and ultimately been examining my own habits.  I came to the conclusion that there is self-care in the "I do love myself, honestly I do" type of way, and then there is Self-Care in the "I lurve the friggin fuck out of myself, my needs and my health are of paramount importance, and I will invest in myself without guilt" type of way.  The latter is the one I aim for, because let's face it new bubble bath isn't really that radical is it.  On the surface, self care may seem obvious, but actually there is whole load more to it than just having a green smoothie and moisturising.

When we care for a plant or a child, we nurture them in the best, most attentive way possible because we want them to be strong, healthy and achieve their potential without dis-ease.  We don't expect the plant to bear copious fruit without this level of care.  We know that the child needs emotional, mental and physical sustenance and love to achieve healthy adult status.  But it seems that often we expect the abundant produce and healthy adult scenarios from ourselves on the budget version of self-care from Poundland. We scrimp on sleep and nutrients.  We do 50% deals on our emotional and mental health. We spend a limited amount of time on our dreams and still feel bad for doing so. We look for the two-for-one offers where we get to do for ourselves, as the freebie, alongside giving for others.

What's with that?

It's what we've been taught in truth, via subtle or not so subtle messages, to put ourselves on the backburner, in favour of giving to others.  But it makes no sense.  It is more logical and truthful that when we give to ourselves in a truly nurturing, wholesome way we are better equipped to be happier and healthier, more energetic and enthusiastic, more diligent and efficient, all the things those around us would benefit from.  We need to teach ourselves anew.

I'd like to suggest a look at different levels of self-care.  The Basic Essentials Package, The Long Term Investment Plan, The Radical Rejuvenate and Reform Program, and The Luxurious Icing on the Cake Bonus. The first one is for staying healthy and sane.  The second for building up inner resources, energy and clarity in order to achieve life goals.  The third for either rebooting your life from unhealthy and insane, and getting back on track, or for breaking through some obstacles to reach for your dreams.  The last package is obviously the living the dream stuff.

To up the level of output in life we must consistently up the level of input.  Often what happens though, the more the level of output, as in job, responsibilities, family etc we often lower the level of input.  We expect more of ourselves for less.  The result is permanent exhaustion that we barely notice, chronic stress, and emotional and mental fragility. We also need to be wary of the self-care that masquerades its harm as self indulgence or that which smoothes a veneer of pampering over self-negligence.

The Basic Essentials Package
The indispensable or necessary element.  If we go back to the plant or child analogy, that would be water, warmth, food and air for body, mind and spirit in order to be an all round human devoid of physical, mental and emotional malnutrition.

Now I'm guessing that there are a few things that you may have mentally shoved in the other self-care boxes, that actually belong in this one. I know I did.  It is good to assess though what is essential to keeping you healthy and sane.  Sleep, good hydration, balanced diet and movement are a given, yet sometimes we cheat ourselves out of even these.  When it steps away slightly from the physical, and more into the zone of mental and emotional health we are even more likely to brush it off as non essential.  Yet the right amount of space or social interaction can make so much difference to our basic happiness and ability to cope with day to day stresses. What about the home environment, is it a place of sanctuary and retreat supporting our overall wellbeing? What about people or situations that are overtly toxic, taking away from our mental and emotional health?  Really harmful toxins, whether ingested via the body or mind, have no place in self-care at any level.

Boundaries are essential to self care and at each new level, there are new bars to be set in terms of needs and requirements.  Others always look and respond to cues from us in regard to what we expect for ourselves.  Implementing boundaries around our basic needs is vital.

The questions here to ask are:

What do I consider to be basic physical, mental and emotional health, and what needs to be done to maintain it for any length of time?  What steps am I taking to achieve it? 

Be honest with your answers and don't fool yourself.  Get real if you know you haven't implemented your personal version of The Basic Essentials Package yet.

The Long Term Investment Plan
When we invest in a business project we pour time and money into it, building it up in the hopes to reap greater rewards in the future.  Investing in ourselves via self-care is exactly the same.  This is on top of the basics, which is just like keeping something ticking over in good running order.  The essentials are about not getting sick or rundown mentally emotionally or physically.  The investment is more like a steady climb to greater and greater vitality, happiness and productivity.

Now the thing is, the higher the levels of output then the more and more of the long term investment then becomes a basic essential.  Think of it like an athlete whose necessary eating and exercise regime is very different to a busy office worker.  The athlete would also no doubt have regular nutritional assessments, physio and massage.  But if that person steadily worked towards similar athletic standards then they too would eventually have the same basic weekly needs.

The questions here to ask are:

What could I add in daily or weekly to enhance my energy levels, my health, my ability to cope and my mental clarity? What areas of myself do I want to invest in and how do I do that? What do I now need to take away that no longer serves my long term goals of mind, body and soul well being?

The Radical Rejuvenate and Reform Program
FYI here are the definitions of radical ...

(especially of change or action) relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough.
synonyms: thoroughgoing, thorough, complete, total, entire, absolute, utter, comprehensive, exhaustive, root-and-branch, sweeping, far-reaching, wide-ranging, extensive, profound, drastic, severe, serious, major, desperate, stringent, violent, forceful, rigorous, draconian
"radical reform is long overdue"
characterized by departure from tradition; innovative or progressive.

Now you see why the lemon water and bath salts aren't in the radical category.  Radical is great change.  It is not our normal way of doing, because we desire not our normal result.  When we need and want vast transformation from our body, our energy levels and our mood, then we investigate the hows of creating that.  Radical is implementing systematic daily self care at such a level that it alters us from the inside out.  Radical could be changing our diet completely.  It could be drastically cutting our workload. It could be upping our work and income level, and realising our value.  It could be setting big new boundaries.  Radical is bringing in the super duper nutrient rich, mentally, emotionally and spiritually supporting and altering foods, people and activities into our life.  It is looking at the areas of chronic stress and over stimulation, and making the right choices to eliminate them permanently.  It is looking at our intake, being brutally honest with ourselves, and cutting out what is inflammatory and irritating to our body, mind and soul.  It is working at and crafting self love and care with a high degree of determination and diligence if it doesn't come naturally.  It is moving to a loving self acceptance at the roots and branches level.  Radical is many angles all at once over an extended period of time, not just the odd yoga class followed by a turmeric almond milk.  It is taking us to a whole new level of being in a shorter amount of time than the long term investment plan.  And after a while some of those radicals may become our new basics to maintain our new level of being.

The questions here to ask are:

What change do I really want to call in? What am I doing right now that is detrimental to my health that I need to stop?  What is adding to my stress and unhappiness that I need to change if I can?  What boundaries have I not created that allow my personal power to ebb away?  What steps do I need to take to repair any damage I have received to my person on a physical, metabolic, emotional and mental level?  How can I support my rejuvenation and growth towards wholeness and health? What help do I need to call in from friends, family or professionals?

The Luxurious Icing on the Cake Bonus
This is the languishing by the pool lazily dipping a toe in, sipping a pixie juice, whilst waiting for a two hour massage, followed by a mani-pedi and a sprinkling of glitter on day four of a two week retreat.  Let's face it, this is the stuff we all want.  But the truth of it is, unless we have crafted a lifestyle that allows us to have the energy to get the income to afford it; have our lives set up to be free and available to afford the time off; and realise our self worth we are not going to get the icing or even allow ourselves the luxury. And here is the key, implementing the basics, doing the long term investment, taking the necessary radical steps are going to get us closer to the icing than if we just sit and dream. And the ultimate truth, is that if we don't implement the basics and invest in ourselves long term, the dazzling effects of our stunning beach holiday and pampering, body shimmering time will be dulled very quickly by dehydration, exhaustion and stress.

On another note, this sort of luxury may not be a luxury, it maybe the radical step that is necessary to kickstart great change and a rethink around self care and self worth.  We tend to put luxuries in a far out of reach box, only for use on special occasions with special people.  Remember you are the special person and life is the special occasion.

The question to not ask here is:

Am I worth it?   The answer to that is obvious, in case you were actually asking it ... yes, too bloody right you are. 

In conclusion then, self care is not so radical, unless it really is drastic and rapidly life changing and life saving.  Self care is a necessary way of life.  Self care is fundamental in going from the survive to thrive scenario.  Let's all get back to basics, shall we?

Heidi x

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Being Human, Being Spiritual

One thing thing I have been asked so many times over the years in various ways is "how do you weave your spirituality into everyday life, with so little time to do so ?"  I hear frustration in the voices that ask, and sometimes a touch of despair in the knowing there is more out there, but not knowing how to access it.

The truth is you don't add it in, it is already in you.  You just realise that your spiritual life is your daily life. That is it.  There is no separation.  Your spirit is not on a completely different planet from your body or your mind.  The only thing that makes it feel "more spiritual" is the attention you bring to it.

"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience" Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

By being aware of the effect each and every thing has upon the inner you, is for each experience to feel more spiritual, more alive, more connected.  Connected to what?  Connected to all of you, connected to all of life, to the ebb and flow, and something more than the physical.  

Being spiritual does not mean being uber positive and shiny all the time, it just means being mindful of your spiritual aspect, your subtle energy. Sometimes it is true, we do take part in specific activities to help us become conscious of that subtle flow and that interconnectedness.  They are tools though, methods to achieve a goal.  Sometimes we have lots of time or we prioritise those ways and means, and it ups our level of everyday spiritual awareness.  Sometimes life is busy and our "spiritual" practice goes by the wayside.

So here are two simple methods you can do any where, any time, any place to connect you to all that you are.  Using these regularly, several times a day, can bring a sense of peace and gratitude.  They also expand a sense of time, because they bring us frequently into the present.  We use up a lot of time and energy thinking of the past or future, so by being in the moment we actually gain real time. More time for those other "proper" (whatever that is) spiritual practices. 

Sensual Orientation:
This practice brings you right into your body and  your five senses. We often miss the trick of being fully present in our physical body. To yourself name three things you can see; three things you can hear; three things you can smell; three things you can touch, or that which touches you; and finally become very aware of the taste in your mouth.   Really see, hear, smell, touch and taste all that you can.  Drink in the sensations.  

Five Breaths of Awareness: 
Close your eyes. Take five deep breaths.  The first is to become fully aware of your physical body. As you inhale connect with all the body sensations, without judgement, just being aware of aches, pain, tension, your strength and physical alertness. Exhale, let go and relax.  Next breath do the same, but for your emotions.  With the third breath do the same for your mental state and your mind. Remember each time to release with the out breath. The fourth breath is to connect and become aware of the you that is not body, emotions or mind, sensing your presence in the space around you.  The last breath is to open your eyes, breathing in all of that which surrounds you into all the layers of your being that you just became aware of. 

In truth, it is sometimes that human experience we lose sight of being aware of, not the other way round. We forget to connect with the reality of being in a body that can feel and experience the length and breadth of humanity.   We forget how wonderful it is to feel a huge range of emotions, to think a thousand thoughts, to create a multitude of things, and sense a million sensations. We forget that the spirit part of us is not only informing our journey, but learning, growing and evolving via all of this very physical time here on Earth. We forget to check in and see what effect all the body stuff is having on our spirit. Sensuality is connected to spirituality.  When we feel our bodies deeply in each moment and take pleasure in them, our five senses expand into more subtle realms, and somehow the whole thing gets a little more spiritual.

Thus our spiritual awareness develops, and our natural desire to create and experience things that bring our spirit joy and peace also expands.  The small acts of mindfulness and sensuality lead to big shifts in awareness and us choosing a life that serves us well.  We find ourselves taking more time to look after body, creating space for our soul, and making time for spirit. 

Heidi x

Monday, 3 July 2017


"I'm not like other girls", or "I'm different to other women" is just code for comparison, putting other women down and internalised mysoginy.
I used to do "othergirling" when I was younger not realising that it stemmed from so badly wanting to be cool and approved of by men. It's taken years of self healing and trust building to realise that the damage done by "othergirling" is vast and how much of that patriarchal crap we internalise, digest and spew out upon our fellow females in various ways, whilst insidiously eroding away our own identity and esteem.
This is part of the reason why I love women's circle work and Red Tents, there is naturally no need for "othergirling" or dissing the "club". We come to see very quickly there are no 'other' girls, there are no 'other' women. There are in fact just women and girls being and doing all sorts of things, in all shapes and sizes, all ages, with all hobbies, beliefs and outlooks ... some a lot like us.

The only "other" is that perceived by those that are still fearful and still desperately trying to survive in patriarchy. That is ok too. There is a space for us to hold that. But I'm calling it out, and naming it. It is internalised mysoginy. It's ok, we all swallowed a chunk. We are detoxing together. But there is no club, there is no other, there just is. Women and girls together, learning to love, trust and build community alongside the men we love and trust too.

Heidi x