Well I’m still here in the forest four months after I first arrived, that’s a third of a year!!! Very happy to be here though and grateful to have been in lockdown in such a verdant little paradise and in a safe and welcoming community.
The days continue to pass quite quickly really but in a relaxed sort of way. Very little is planned and then what is tends to change anyway and I’m becoming much more comfortable with going with the flow and in fact really enjoy it. Such a sense of freedom, spontaneity and curiosity abounds when one is more open to life unfolding rather than trying to control and manipulate it. Even if we have grand plans for the future right now none of us can begin to know what is around the corner, we never could but now, more than ever, I think we are truly coming to know and understand that.
When we let go of what we think should happen then there are more choices when life takes unexpected and maybe unwelcome turns. I know personally the initial frustration at having some well thought out plans just collapse overnight and finding it difficult at first to grapple with and accept. I’m truly grateful however for the last nine years or more of yoga and mindfulness training and practice that I believe has helped me to be more accepting of the current situation and to learn so much from it. It has truly been a gift to be made to stay in one place and have time to take care of myself and to reflect.
Since my last blog, life has continued in a similar vein with regular walks in the forest and also further afield, spending time with the children and listening to lots of podcasts and reading books. Here is a little flavour of what has been inspiring me during lockdown….
Since reading Eat, Pray, Love and meeting the author Liz Gilbert earlier this year I have been meaning to read her book The Signature of All Things. It has been on my mind since November last year when someone said to me that the book had changed their life – I’ve still yet to find out in what way – but that certainly provided the intrigue to read it myself. I read her latest book City of Girls last December and what strikes me about both novels is the extent and depth of Liz’s research into the era in which the story is set and the vividness of the characters that leap off the pages as you read.
I found the City of Girls quite challenging to read and at one point felt really emotionally drawn into the main character’s dilemma which left me feeling quite uncomfortable. If I’m honest I’m still not sure what to make of the book but I suspect like Eat, Pray, Love I may “get it” whenever the time is right for me to read it again.
In the Signature Of All Things I could identify more with the main character Alma and I loved the internal struggle she had with trying to marry her strong scientific background with spirituality. Through her painstaking botanical studies, she has some powerful insights in to the nature of life whilst realising that these scientific discoveries cannot on their own explain every aspect of our existence as human species on this planet. I really couldn’t put the book down and so enjoyed being led into Alma’s life adventures from her birth to her final days.
I also follow Liz’s Instagram posts and admire her promotion of women of colour and various charities that she supports. I have really enjoyed listening to her being interviewed on numerous podcasts.
Another person that I have been listening to more recently is Russell Brand – he has also interviewed Liz during lockdown. I first saw him live when he was doing a double act with none other than HH the Dalai Lama! In truth I had gone to see HH the Dalai Lama and was a little judgemental about Russell Brand being on the same stage but I warmed to him at that time and this was probably over 8 years ago. He has continued on his spiritual path and what I like about him is his bare faced openness, humility, vulnerability and honesty. He freely talks of his own struggles and issues and does some great weekly interviews on his channel Luminary. Unfortunately, I can’t subscribe to it here in India but I watch clips on Instagram from the show and also video clips that he posts on current issues. I’m sure he’s not to everyone’s taste but for me I feel that he makes, what to some might seem like fluffy spiritual stuff, accessible and thought provoking. He has some great guests with amazing experiences, talents and insights that he draws out through some great questioning mixed in with his own fascinating insights. He recently interviewed Kehinde Andrews about the racist attack on and death of George Floyd in America. Kehinde talks easily and in a very compelling way about some real fundamental systemic issues that we collectively need to address. Racism is systemic in our society and requires each and every one of us to admit that and see our own racist tendencies and biases, in fact not just racism but all the other ism’s and inequalities that exist. These traits are so ingrained in white people having originated in the objectification of people for many centuries so that most of the time we are totally ignorant of these biases and we might not even consider that our actions, words and deeds are racist.
Talking of good questions then Charles Eisenstein is your man. I first came across him on FB when a friend posted a link to his brilliant essay called the Coronation which if you haven’t already read then it’s a must and you can find a link here Coronation Essay. If you prefer to listen to him read it out instead that is also an option here Coronation Audio. Like me there may be parts of it that go over your head, he’s an intellectual scholar after all, amongst other things, but just let those go and take from it what you will. He doesn’t purport to have all the answers but he does ask some great challenging questions about the world we want to live in. He has some brilliant short podcasts (2 to 20 mins) on Spotify and on his website that have inspired me to find out more about our earth and I’m feeling drawn to explore deep ecology, eco-systems and permaculture. His view on our planet is that we must seek to protect, preserve and regenerate life on this earth and whilst climate change is an important part of this he claims that it’s not the most important and that it can become a diversion away from the work that is even more important to address. Do check out his website to find out more.
In the same vein I’m reading Joanna Macy’s book World as Lover, World as Self in which she says “As we work to heal the earth, the earth heals us”. She has been working tirelessly since the 1960’s to send this message out to us, knowing that to carry on as we are, caught up in materialism and capitalism, an insatiable greed to want and to have more, is leading to the destruction of our planet. And that also through connecting more deeply to the earth we can heal the loneliness and sense of separate self that creates most of the suffering that we feel as human beings. You can find out more about her life and work here on a great interview from “On Being Studios” on SoundCloud called “A Wild Love for the World” . There’s a podcast here with Tricycle on “The Work that Reconnects” recorded just two months ago.
I love Eckhart Tolle’s teachings and often listen to some of his podcast’s too. He has just been on Russell Brand’s weekly podcast which you can find on Luminary and which thankfully is also available on YouTube.
I continue to meditate with Mooji from time to time and also Louise Kay whom I have done some 121 sessions with these last few weeks. There’s a great podcast here where Louise is being interviewed by Rob Watson on “finding balance and joy in the present moment” . In this I was reminded of two books that each brought significant insights when I first read them, namely “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle and “The Untethered Soul” by Michael A Singer and it’s prompted me to read them again. Rob and Louise have recorded a more recent podcast on “awakening through adversity” and the teachings that COVID is offering . Here is a short calming and connecting meditation by Louise that I like to listen to.
Emma Slade ran a series of Sunday morning sessions during April and May with some simple practices and suggestions to help relieve COVID anxiety and to connect to a sense of calm and compassion. She also ran a 5 week course on “Fearless Compassion” drawn from Buddhist teachings and I found all these sessions really interesting and super helpful . It’s also great to connect with other people from across the world in these virtual communities. She is resuming the Sunday sessions again starting June 28th at 10am – 11am BST and I can highly recommend them. You don’t need to be a Buddhist or have any prior knowledge of Buddhism or Yoga, just join the zoom meetings with an open mind and heart and I’m sure you will find some little nuggets of insight. Here’s the link for the event this Sunday – Emma Slade
I’ve also been listening to Tara Brach again and I can highly recommend her ‘Sheltering In Love’ weekly talks that she has given over the last few months. You can find these talks and also some useful meditations here – Tara Brach webiste
I’m often moved by John Donohue’s work and this blessing (that Tara Brach read out in one of her talks) really resonated with me….
A Blessing for BeautyJohn O’Donohue from Beauty – The Invisible Embrace
May the beauty of your life become more visible to you, that you may glimpse your wild divinity.
May the wonders of the earth call you forth from all your small, secret prisons and set your feet free in the pastures of possibilities.
May the light of dawn anoint your eyes that you may behold what a miracle a day is.
May the liturgy of twilight shelter all your fears and darkness within the circle of ease.
May the angel of memory surprise you in bleak times with new gifts from the harvest of your vanished days.
May you allow no dark hand to quench the candle of hope in your heart.
May you discover a new generosity towards yourself, and encourage yourself to engage your life as a great adventure.
May the outside voices of fear and despair find no echo in you.
May you always trust the urgency and wisdom of your own spirit.
May the shelter and nourishment of all the good you have done, the love you have shown, the suffering you have carried, awaken around you to bless your life a thousand times.
And when love finds the path to your door may you open like the earth to the dawn, and trust your every hidden colour towards its nourishment of light.
May you find enough stillness and silence to savour the kiss of the Divine on your soul and delight in the eternity that shaped you, that holds you and calls you.
And may you come to see your life as a quiet sacrament of service, which awakens around you a rhythm where doubt gives way to the grace of wonder, where what is awkward and strained can find elegance, and where crippled hope can find wings, and torment enter at last unto the grace of serenity.
May Divine Beauty bless you.
I’ve also just started reading his book The Four Elements and I’d love to visit Ireland one day when we can get back on the road.
Another great source of inspiration are the Conscious Café online meetings and last week Gina Lazenby who organises the meet ups in the Skipton area put out a topic for discussion on “Emerging into a New Normal” . She is inviting a conversation to consider and reflect on what you have been going through during lockdown, what insights have come to light for you and do you see a new way forward for you and the world?
I responded to Gina with my own thoughts which are as follows……
“I have one overriding wish and that is that all humans emerge and move forward from a place of love rather than fear.
Fear contracts the body and mind and often drives hatred and greed. Love invites a curiosity, a blossoming and a willingness to wake up and engage with life.
I wish for this love to be channelled into self-love, love for all sentient beings and love for our Mother Earth.
Like many others I have had, and am deeply grateful for, time to do some self healing work and reflection. I have had the guidance of many teachers (mentioned above) and my own good Self/The Universe.
At times it has been an emotional rollercoaster but one I have been truly grateful for. I feel I have walked a little further ‘home’. I have read, listened, watched, meditated, walked and written so many words – journaling, blogging and a little poetry too.
Here’s a poem I wrote one day on reflecting the nature of tears….
“Tears are the Divine rains that clear the streams of manmade pollution and debris to leave them naked of ignorance and open to life flowing as nature intended.
They are a way of beauty, of deep rooted intelligence springing from love. A joyful flowing of fresh possibilities and adventures.
A torrent of vitality, an outpouring of love, washing through us, carrying us back to Source.”Lisa Milnor 5th June 2020
I feel drawn to explore and care for Mother Earth more. I’d like to dive deeper into eco-systems, permaculture, deep ecology and to learn more about the medicinal, healing and culinary properties of herbs and wild plants. I’ve been looking at courses and the possibility of working at Schumacher college near Totnes. I’d also like to visit Navdanya Farm (https://www.navdanya.org/site/) here in Uttarakhand, North India and ultimately when I’m ready to set down some roots maybe buy some land to live a more sustainable life opening it to visitors to learn and to heal.
But for now I’m still going with the flow, letting life unfold, trying to live as awake and as consciously as I can in each moment. Using the time to shed unhelpful layers to connect to the heart more often and let love shine through. And I trust that at some point the Universe will open doors and offer opportunities to guide me on my path of service when I am ready.
I am also ready to speak out more about our rights and freedom. It would be heart-breaking and totally unacceptable if any of our freedoms are taken away from us with the virus as an excuse. It’s a golden opportunity for systemic change in our cultures to eradicate greed, racism and other inequalities – much of which, I feel, is rooted in capitalism through the objectification of people and Mother Earth – and its going to take a whole lot of awakening and love to do this 💜. I’m up for it, how about you?”
Above are some images of the beautiful flowers, fruit and plants growing on the estate. Anu and I have also made some peony infused oils.
I mentioned above about visiting Ireland one day – travel, now that’s an interesting topic to debate right now! I think all of us know deep down that unnecessary air travel is not in the interests of our planet and ultimately our own health and wellbeing yet I for one have turned a blind eye to that for many years. A part of me senses the importance of us living more in tune with the land in our home countries or wherever we chose to put down roots and another part also recognises the value of travel in terms of broadening our outlook on life and for learning and personal growth. Maybe we need to reconsider just jetting off somewhere for week in the sun or a yoga retreat half way round the world and replace it with more responsible travel and use of our time. I do still feel that to travel as a way to explore and come to understand other cultures and heritage and the different eco-systems is to be encouraged and to be of service. It is also very potent for personal growth and development, as I am myself experiencing.
We travel not to escape life but so that life does not escape usAnonymous
So with that in mind I have chosen to stay on here in India as long as I can rather than to come back to the UK and then return again. My visa runs out in August and it remains to be seen whether it will be renewed on the same terms as before once international flights resume.
Meanwhile life goes on in the forest and as lockdown restrictions ease here in Uttakarahand I am hopeful of visiting the National Heritage site, Valley of the Flowers during the monsoons and the source of the Ganges in the Autumn. I have been getting out a little more here exploring the area and spent a little bit of time in Jaberkhet nature reserve early one morning and three of us walked a 10km circuit from Lal Tibba to Kolti village last Friday. The walk involved a long descent down from the mountain top to the valley below and then a steep ascent back up. We saw many beautiful flowers, grasses and trees and we feasted on some tasty wild berries as we went along too.
As we neared the end of the walk we meandered through a cemetery with beautiful Deodar trees and monuments and we enjoyed the lovely serene gentle energy that was present.
I await with some trepidation for the monsoons which are soon to be upon us by all accounts. Apparently the eight weeks of intense rainfall and storms can be more of a test of the nerves than being in lockdown! It seems that I will be here to experience this and will share with you next time. Until then enjoy emerging from lockdown (whilst it would seem I am about to go back into it 😂) and remember to “choose love over fear always”.
“If we live this life fearful of dying then we are already dead and we will have wasted a precious opportunity to live a conscious life full of love, joy, kindness and wonder.”Lisa Milnor, lockdown reflections, 31st May 2020
Since posting this blog I became aware that Air India were sending out repatriation flights to the UK to return Indian nationals and offering seats on the outward leg to UK nationals. My original intention had been to head back to the UK for the English summer to swap the torrential rain of the monsoons of India for lighter rain 😅. So unexpectedly I’ve managed to get a seat and will be arriving back in Yorkshire on Friday 10th July to self isolate in a lovely holiday cottage in Haworth.
The end of an amazing life enriching six month chapter and the beginning of a new one and new adventures. Can’t wait to see and hug my family again and catch up with all my wonderful friends which could take a good while!
Two weeks of self isolation will give me not only time to catch up on some admin 🙄 but also time to intuitively feel into future travel adventures and the Camino Way in Spain is definitely calling …..
May the wonders of the earth call you forth from all your small, secret prisons and set your feet free in the pastures of possibilities.John O’Donohue