Fierce Femina

IMG_2787 How to raise up our girls?

She might be small but she's fierce. May she be kind and surefooted. Please tell her, her body is a bridge between the Earth and the stars. Might she grow to honour her connection to the entire universe. When she looks at the moon, might she see her own special place in the heavens. Please make her choose proud over pretty, strong over salacious, clever over compliant.

We bring so much shame into the lives of young girls. So much sanitation in regard to their bodies. So much pressure to stay clean, be quiet, be good. "Hide your power, no one wants to see it." Apparently, at a certain age, it's ok to flaunt your sexuality but please make no mention of menstruation or that fire in your belly. Don't scare the boys away. Men like to be taken care of. Put others first. Fix your hair and smell nice.

Yet it surprises us when our girls fall victim to acts of violence or abuse?

Please God (poetic licence) let my daughter know what she's worth. Not to me but to herself and the entire universe. Let her squarely know that shame doesn't suit her loveliness. Let her know that all men (and women) should honour her and treat her well. Self respect is her unconditional birthright. As is safety, not to mention love.

Please don't think that for one second I'm suggesting that women allow themselves to fall victim to violence. I am not suggesting that they take responsibility for the abhorrent actions of others.

I'm merely trying to understand why we accept sullying the loveliness of young girls with the ugliness of indignity? What does it teach them? Is it possible that they might take that awkward shame inside themselves? That they might own it in a way that prevents them from seeing their perfection?

I don't understand why culturally, when girls reach puberty, we teach them that their bodies are just a little bit unfortunate. We are cursed with menstruation. We roll our eyes at their hormonal outbursts and how difficult they can be. For us. Without a second of remembrance for how it felt to be thirteen years old.

As women, we often contribute to the wounds of the feminine. Unaware and from a place of our own fear and hurt, we damage our daughters. We silence them, we ask them to keep our ridiculous secrets and play our silly games. We stand before them insecure, poking our thighs and staring disapprovingly in the mirror.

All she sees is her lovely mama.

Imagine if we honoured our girls. Imagine if we told them that they bled with the moon, belonged to the Earth and were filled with light? Imagine if we taught them that their sexuality was natural and guided by love. What if we listened to their feelings and asked about their dreams? What if we celebrated menarche with gifts and reverence? What if we delighted in our own ageing bodies and taught her to do the same?

Imagine what titanic creatures might emerge if we taught them to embrace their power.

While we're at it we could also tell them that Justin Bieber is a douche, high heels are torture, Kim Kardashian is 42% actual plastic and it takes a village to prepare for that ridiculous bathroom selfie. In fact, no selfie will ever actually, be a reflection of your true self.

Any man that has a bar fridge next to his couch is a bad idea. Don't date a man that hates his mother and that gorgeous fifteen year old that broke your heart will possibly turn into a portly 35 year old with an overinflated sense of importance. Oreos might be vegan but technically, so is a care tyre.

'Gorgeous'  is heaps of fun for about two weeks, then, you actually have to live with him. Bad shoes are totally unexceptable. As are bad boys. Or girls. No bloody cars with noisy motor-thingies or fluffy dice. Stoners end up stupid. The nice guy winds up being........drumroll.......a nice guy. Who would have guessed?

........I could go on.

The first time I saw you, you took my breath away. Just because you're you.

You are love.

M xx

Planting seeds of perfection

IMG_1612 copyThe other day I was talking to a student of mine who told me she was looking to improve her practice. She wanted to be better at yoga and a better version of herself. She wanted a stronger core and to lose weight. Sincere and sweet, I didn't want to risk offending her by my reaction to what she was saying. My response (in my head) came from a place of love- but to her ears it may have sounded a little like judgement. I made a vow to myself some time ago to be a Truthspeaker but I still struggle at times with the delicate balance of ahimsa (non-harming).

So I went home and spoke it aloud to the trees in my yard. Weird I know. But I really wanted them to pass it onto her somehow. Like some sort of arboreal osmosis, take these words and plant them in her lovely mind. While you're hands are dirty, put these seeds in my daughter's mind too.

What if today you were perfect?
With no air-brushing, no modification, no transformation at all. What if everybody, in every room, exploded into applause when you entered and smiled when you left?
What if you stopped searching and found everything?
What if when you looked in the mirror today, you saw what your mum sees?
Or your child, or your best friend?
What if you could see yourself with a heart full of love? What if you saw the truth? What if your yoga was enough? What if you were enough?
Imagine if you decided to stop worrying about everything and just walked in the light and accepted grace.
Imagine if, just for today, you nourished your body with food from the earth. Filled up with art and music and soulful gifts. Made a new friend. Did stuff that made you whole and happy.
What if you gave thanks to your body and mind for it's brilliance?
What if you found gratitude?
What if I told you that all that hurt you've been carrying is a choice you made? Would you put it down? Would you choose a different way?
If everything could be forgiven could you let it all go?
What if, in a moment of quiet, the universe spoke only to you?
What if she whispered of your divine magnificence?
Would you listen to the truth?

Namaste

Mxx

Alchemy in the suburbs

IMG_2714 I was chosen by the bowl.

I'll never forget the moment the tiny Nepalese witchy-woman wound the swede wrapped mallet around her. The way the vibration enveloped my whole head, a strange disorientating sensation that seemed to have a altogether different origin. Some exotic heavy sound that possessed a weighty mass not unlike a heavy woollen blanket.

I was reminded of being tucked into bed at my grandmothers house, the satisfying poundage of lavender scented layers as she pulled them up to my small chin. Way too hot and heavy considering the mild night, but magical all the same. Safe and secure.

I bought the bowl, paid too much, quite happily.

........................................................

Yesterday my son was tender. Sore and sorry in that way that young men can be. A general malaise that doesn't form words and sits on his shoulders, resulting in a uncharacteristic darkness- the weight of the world.

I thought of my bowl and it's gentle mass of music.

He started too fast. To eager to get it done. I held his hand, correcting the angle and urging him to slow down. I watched his face as the vibration built and the sound lifted into her song. The look on his face was a beautiful combination of surprise and joy. Healing sound. He sat with her for ten minutes, until his hand grew tired of her heaviness.

He walked away transformed. He came and found me in the kitchen, big grin and a cuddle. Look at that! Transformed.

It made me think about how we could take our troubles and put them in a bowl. Mix them around and turn them into something else. Alchemy in the suburbs. What if it was possible?

Just throw in your shame and shit, couple of turns and wait for blissful swathe of trouble-no-more. A thorough energetic scrub down that turned your frown upside down and cleared the crap from your life. A bit like instant yoga, an easy ride to Ananda.

A little magic and lazy mysticism that asks little and gives loads- a whole bowl full of goodness.

On open letter to cauliflower. Ugly words, ugly fritters.

IMG_2712 Oh cauliflower why do you bore me so?

With your pasty, lumpy  motionless moonface. You don't sway your leaves in the vegepatch or even attract the caterpillars. Such is the sad miserable fate of your rotund little self.

Does anyone get passionate about your ho-hum beige-ness?

You need some serious jazzing up that only a little bengali spice and a frypan can do. I apologise for the blistering baptism of oil you are about to endure. Nevermind the food processor. Eeek.

I quite like you in a salad, raw and unsullied, but it's cool outside and I need some naughty in my life. Somehow I see that your bumpy, lumpy self still manages to show it's head even with all my chopping and changing.

I remember how my granny boiled you into submission served with corned beef and (I think) PVA glue. Urgh. You tasted like an old musty Tshirt that was left in the rain. I shan't be sayin' "Don't go changin."

You need some serious wrangling.

Unapologetically,

Michelle

Cauliflower bhaji

½ head cauliflower

½ cup caramelised onions

handful of spinach

handful parsley

1 clove garlic and a little knob of ginger (2cm) grated

1 tablespoon Panch Phoron (bengali spice mix) toasted

2 eggs

1 cup rye bread crumbs (you can use ordinary crumbs)

3 heaped T yogurt

salt and pepper

Grab a food processor and blitz your cauliflower into a chunky crumb.

Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Heat a frypan on medium heat with a little oil (I use rice bran)

Fry on both sides until toasty and crunchy. Serve with Spinach leaves, mango chutney and minted yogurt.

 

A map for pre-menopausal moon howling.

IMG_0632 It seems like yesterday I was checking my temperature and looking for those two parallel blue lines. Reading volumes into late cycles and feeling thrilled at the slight nausea that arrived with my morning coffee.

Fast forward a decade or so and the next chapter is stirring within the delicate confines of my ovaries. A way off yet says my doctor but I hear it's whispers. Preparation is key I think.

I wasn't prepared for the eruption of maternal reverence that accompanied the birth of all three of my children. The weird paranoia (what if I drop him), the stress (what if he turns 16 and drops me), The crazy all consuming love (I have the most perfect children in the entire universe) and the horror (Please go to sleep or I'm going FREAKIN LOSE IT!!!!!!) I'd read all the books about conception, pregnancy and birth. I'd researched early developmental phases and sleep techniques, but I wasn't prepared for how I'd feel.

Same goes for menopause- information is power and I want to approach this next chapter armed with a map that will guide me both physically and spiritually. I also want to share it, which is why I teach women how to navigate this territory using yoga, meditation, visualisation, whole food, deep relaxation, women's circles, art, soft cheeses, (the occasional stiff drink), green juices, moon-howling, chocolate hoovering, crazy-making....and laughter. Women are so good at laughter.

It's powerful provocative work.

Know it young my beautiful friends. Hear the whispers in your own life so you might avoid the horrid shouting of night sweats and moods that might darken the very doorways of demon-hell-fire-houses. Use yoga to clear the way in your body for a new beginning. Opening your life to wisdom, compassion and steady strength.

Peri-menopause

Physically

The root of the word peri means around or near and in the case of peri-menopause, refers to the period of time that a woman’s body goes through hormonal changes that will eventually lead to the cessation of her monthly cycle (menopause).

Just as it takes around 4-7 years for a woman’s cycle to become balanced after her first period, peri-menopause can last for  many years. Most women transition for a period of two to seven years with a spectrum of symptoms ranging from nothing to debilitating suffering.

In the case of medically induced menopause, through cancer treatment or removal of the ovaries, women can experience a few years of symptoms condensed into a few weeks. Many suffer psychological trauma because they are unable to experience the gradual process of working through this important time.

During this process oestrogen levels remain fairly stable until the final year before menopause. Testosterone levels drop but not markedly and some women actually produce more testosterone.

The most significant change occurs with a decrease in progesterone and this accounts for most peri-menopausal symptoms. Progesterone and oestrogen are supposed to counterbalance each other during the menstrual cycle, with one falling as the other rises, so this drop in progesterone means that oestrogen levels go unopposed. The result is a whole lot of oestrogen that can lead to a whole lot of problems!

Symptoms of oestrogen dominance include mood swings, headaches, weight gain, reduced circulation, breast tenderness, bloating, irregular abnormal periods and decreased sex drive.

The ovaries slow down at this stage of our lives because reproduction is no longer a biological requirement. However it is important to know that in a healthy body, hormones are produced in body fat, skin, the brain and adrenals. Therefore we are biologically able to create balance within our changing bodies without relying on the ovaries.

The pituitary gland regulates the production of hormones within the ovaries. At peri-menopause the pituitary no longer signals the ovaries to produce hormones. In a functioning healthy body, the adrenals then produce small amounts of hormones in order to provide balance within the body. A healthy liver is necessary for processing excess hormones within the bloodstream.

If a women has experienced a lot of stress in her life it is likely her adrenal function will be impaired. If she has smoked or drank too much or eaten a diet high in processed food, her liver function is likely to be poor. Many westerners have an iodine deficiency due to iodine antagonists in the environment, this leads to problems with thyroid function.

All of this can compound to make peri-menopause a difficult transition that may require change and intervention. In this way it can become a positive motivator for nurturing ourselves and seeking to improve our health.

Spiritually

Peri-menopause can often be a confusing time for women. It is a period of reflection, adjustment and change.

Within this change, many women experience the death of an old life, old ways and old thinking. This often manifests in her disposing of what isn’t working in her life. Many women leave relationships that no longer serve them. They might radically change the dynamics within their families. They might return to the workforce and want to step out of the role of constant carer.

This can be a confronting and unsettling time as we find ourselves wanting to step out of the mothering phase of our lives. We feel guilty and sometimes resentful because we want a greater independence from our dependents! This is becoming more of an issue as we have children later in life.

This process of letting go allows us to experience the death of who we were before, so that we may ‘rebirth’ the fullness of our new self. By the same analogy, the process is not without it’s labour pains. Sometimes we need the space to grieve for what is gone.

Before we are clear on what has to go, it’s common to experience a frustrating paralysis. Unsure of what is required and feeling overwhelmed by doubt or fear. We do nothing, but an insidious discontent forces us to see things with new clarity. Our intuition hasn’t been this available to us since menarche. The universe is whispering to us, we need time and space to listen.

It’s normal to want to retreat or rest. It is required for our reclamation.

Many women are terrified by the ageing process. In our culture, we often don’t value the crone, the carrier of wisdom. Looking to other societies however this ‘change’ is one of the most exciting transitions a women can undergo.

In American indian culture women cannot become shaman until they have entered menopause. The word ‘crone’ may conjure up images of dried up old witches but in fact it comes from the word ‘crown’. As a woman reaches the pinnacle of this stage she is crowned with the jewels of her knowledge. American indian women rarely colour their hair because grey is a symbol of wisdom that is respected by both the men and women of their tribe.

The same is true for many eastern and european cultures. Australian Aborigines observe the moon cycles and teach girls about their cyclic nature. This wisdom is passed down through their maternal grandmother.

But some women are devoting their life work to changing this in our culture. We are beginning to hear the collective voices of those who went before us. We are looking for something that we have lost and we are being guided to honour our moon phases and in turn, our magic.

Women are mysterious creatures. We are governed by the moon in the same way as the ocean tides. We are cyclic and we beat in time with the rhythm of the Earth. Our cycles are intimately linked with the lunar phases. During her fertile years, many women will ovulate during the full moon. However as we approach our ‘crone’ years, entering peri-menopause, we bleed with the full moon.

By becoming aware of this cyclic relationship between ourselves and the universe, we open ourselves up to wisdom. We accept our magical connection to each other and the planet. We begin to respect our intuition. By learning to practice conscious menstruation we learn to trust our bodies and our inner-guidance to support us through our whole lives.

It is then our responsibility when we close our cycles to become elders in our community. We can serve women by passing this knowledge down the line. By promoting cyclic awareness we offer our daughters and grand-daughters a priceless gift. They too will be given the opportunity to witness their divine nature.

Peri-menopause is a time to enter your own possibility.

In honouring ourselves we learn to become Truthspeakers. As we begin this transformation we might struggle with this desire to be more authentic in our interactions. We might ‘lose our cool’ or erupt rather than being able to speak with dignity and restraint. But we are pulled into this urgent wanting to make our genuine voice heard. It’s important that we are aware of this spiritual calling so that we can make a conscious effort to observe ahimsa at this time. (and forgive ourselves when we don’t.)

We can speak with the weight of experience and the clarity of past mistakes in order to serve others.

We open ourselves up to kundalini energy. Ancient yogis believed that this is a time that the kundalini is released, cleansing the body of past trauma and burning off our ego. Anyone thats ever experienced a hot flash will have a sensual reference for this experience!

The Chinese believe that there is an increase in yang energy during peri-menopause. In our mothering phase, a woman in more yin (moist, receptive, passive) and as she enters the next phase of her life she is more yang (passionate, firey, independent). This burst of new energy gives rise to hot flashes until she settles into her new self.

One of the most difficult aspects of entering peri-menopause is the lack of support from other women. With many women so desperate to hold onto their youth, we don’t openly discuss the difficulties of this phase. We are loathe to mention our heavy bleeding or waning libido or night sweats because we’re projecting that image of the ‘thirty something’(sometimes till we’re sixty!). We don’t want to see ourselves as ‘old’.

At the other end of the spectrum are the women who have already crossed the bridge. We can certainly learn from these women but it isn’t the same as being ‘amongst your sisters’. That is why I’m drawn to this work. So that we might create opportunities to stand together and walk into wisdom.

Menopause

Physically

Menopause is declared by the medical community as twelve months after a woman’s last period. It marks the end of our reproductive cycle and means the ovaries no longer perform their primary function. We no longer release ova and we no longer shed our uterine lining each month. Once menopause is reached the symptoms of peri-menopause subside.

Spiritually

When we talk about the experience of menopause we often speak of a bridge to the other side. It’s true that whilst peri-menopause is a journey, menopause is a destination and should be celebrated.

We may appear to the world as ‘our old selves’ again but most of us are changed forever. For those of us who embrace cyclic wisdom and have crowned themselves, they are reborn into warriors, truthspeakers and wisewomen.

Pinkola Estes says it beautifully....

We may appear unchanged outwardly, but inwardly we have reclaimed a vast and womanly wildness. On the surface we are still friendly, but beneath the skin, we are most definitely no longer tame.

What ensures that we remain full juicy women as we embrace ageing, is being fully immersed in our lives. We might find meaning in ritual or reading, yoga or quilting. It doesn’t matter how we squeeze the life out of experience, it matters that we do it whilst being true to our spirit and aware of our gift to the universe.

Yoga for Hormonal Balance Workshop

Saturday 5th September

10 am- 4 pm Pine Rivers Yoga

In this workshop we will be exploring different ways to balance our hormonal cycles with yoga and meditation.

We will look for soothing antidotes to modern day life with all it’s demands and distractions. Exploring the benefits of pranayama, meditation, yoga nidra and restorative yoga. We will touch on the benefits of discovering our unique rhythm and learning to work with our bodies to create a sense of balance.

Please join Michelle and Ruth in a day of nourishing yoga designed to restore and rejuvenate. We will also cover ideas for you to establish a home practice and a light vegetarian lunch will be provided.

Cost $105 including lunch Bookings please go to www.pineriversyoga.com or contact Michelle on 0430 222 274 or Ruth on 0434 775 645

 Michelle xx

 

Conscious 'what the'?!!

cropped-img_1180-copy.jpg It was quite a few years ago that I met her.

I had begun to deepen my interest in yoga and had signed up for a workshop run by a beautiful yogini that specialised in postnatal yoga. I arrived nervous, feeling out of place and in the wrong clothes-I'm pretty sure I had baby cereal in my hair. She, by contrast, looked like she had spent her entire life in some approximation of a yoga pose. She threw her mat down next to mine and enveloped me in a warm haze of patchouli.

I forget her name and I forget most of the workshop. I can't remember the teacher's name or anyone else from that day- but I clearly remember the first thing that came out of her mouth after hello. She complained about the fact that it was a new moon and asked if I was bleeding.

Whoa mama! What? I remember feeling a bizarre mixture of shame and confusion and fear and excitement. This conversation was heading off the rails for me!!! She followed through with asking me where I was in my cycle and whether I new anything about conscious menstruation?

If I could have politely excused myself at that point I probably would have. But, there's the whole-pick-up-the-mat-move-to-the-other-side-of-the-small-room-weirdness. I considered telling a fib but I wasn't sure I'd be able to sustain my furby in the harsh light of further questioning. Instead I chose to tell the truth. "Um....I have no clue what you're talking about?"

Menstruating-Where are you in your cycle? How long is your cycle? How does it compare with the lunar cycle? You look like you bleed with the full moon. Do you chart? What brand of cup do you use? How's your rhythm?.......crickets. Nothing. I just stared at her slack jawed and totally stumped. Thank goodness the class started at that point and I was saved by the arrival of the teacher. The first thing she asked us was where we were in our cycles....The day passed in a blur of my own bewilderment.

But...I left the class with a burning curiosity to find out what these amazing women were banging on about. I had a long reading list that included Alexandra Pope and Uma Dinsmore-Tuli and I was inspired by how confident and self-assured they appeared.

So what is cyclic awareness? For those of you that find yourself in my shoes of old, I'll give you a quick rundown...

Women are cyclic creatures. 

We have circadian cycles- an approximately 24 hour cycle (in humans its actually 25.9 hours) of sleep and wake which is triggered by exposure to light (the day/night cycle) which then triggers cyclic shifts in hormone levels. It is a universal rhythm to which all living things respond – animals and plants.

Behavioural cycles - are one’s daily habits. It’s what time you sleep/wake, eat, work and exercise. One’s schedule may work with or against circadian rhythms. 

And we have menstrual cycles- the reproductive cycle of ovulation and menstruation. We are biologically driven to behave differently at different times of our cycle. As a general rule, we require rest at menses, are more vital and energetic at ovulation and more introspective as we approach a new cycle. Interestingly our menstrual cycle is approximately the same length as the lunar cycle and often corresponds with us e.g.. ovulating with the full moon and bleeding with the new moon.

This is however, only a general rule. All women are different and there cycles are also different. That is why it is a powerful process to chart your cycle. Being aware of your own unique rhythm allows you to understand your own specific needs. When we keep track of our cycle over a period of time, a clear pattern usually emerges. We may feel and act in a similar way at a specific time.

For instance, maybe you have heaps of energy from day 10-14. You notice this time is an excellent opportunity to get big jobs done with energy and enthusiasm. In future you might schedule work on these days. Or perhaps you notice your libido wakes up on the 13th day. Maybe you could plan a mid-cycle weekend away with your partner.

Perhaps when you witness a dark mood clouding the end of your cycle, you remind yourself that this is not crazy hormones. Rather it is your bodies innate intelligence telling you to turn inward and rest.

Within this menstrual awareness is enormous power and insight. We begin to truly understand ourselves and also the other women in our circle. If we begin to listen to our bodies and respond it’s signals, we create balance and ease in our life.

Armed with my new knowledge and a healthy dose of skepticism I began to chart my cycle and a really weird fact started to emerge. I (crazy, loose, batty ol' me) was predictable.

No kidding. Weirder still was the fact that I did in fact bleed around the full moon- handbag full of crazy right there.  :)

After a few months noticing my unique rhythm, a strange unexpected consequence occurred- I began to understand my fluctuations and plan my life accordingly. I threw myself into work around ovulation. I stopped worrying about dark clouds that gathered before my period and welcomed rest. I responded to my loved ones by showering them with attention at ovulation but took introverted space when I bled. I kept an eye on the moon and silently thanked her for making me feel connected to the Earth. I walked barefoot on the grass more and started listening to kirtan.

It's a slippery slope my friends.

So when she sat down and spoke to me that day- it was the first step for me on an important path of discovery. Conscious menstruation has been an amazing tool for self realisation, deepening my relationship with myself, my family and the universe. I can't explain the strange sense of self confidence that comes with understanding your own unique physical and emotional blueprint.

That's why I now teach about finding hormonal balance through charting and practicing yoga. To come to a workshop just click on workshops and see what's coming up. And don't worry if your a little green when it comes to the red moon....I still remember how that feels and by reading this, you've already taken your first step on the path.

Namaste.xx

mudra7sml

Yoga approaching Menopause

In this workshop Michelle Spencer will address the hormonal and spiritual changes that eventually lead to menopause. These changes often start to arise from the age of 35.  Yoga practises can provide both mental and physical balance to minimise symptoms and help us to enjoy the transition to the middle and later years of life.

Saturday 5th September 10.00 am – 4.00 pm

Fee: $105 which includes a light lunch

Location: Pine Rivers Yoga Studio, Cashmere

1 Pinedale Rd, Cashmere

www.pineriversyoga.com

A moment of confession...

the_night_sea_(sml)

..in that bethel of sound

I aroused my dark thoughts into silent invocation.

A small utterance of protest,

Against the darkening pall of wasteful words.

A thrown mass that held a storm

in its gravid deliverance.

The moist air heavy,  

abounding with consequence.

I held my breath,

and dove beneath the weight of sound,

to enter a deep sea of silence.

What do you have to say?

Will it improve on silence?

I have realised of late, that I use chatter like a bridge between meaningful conversation. To all of you that know me well, I can hear you having a chortle-"Well, um yeah, the girl loves a chat." It's true.

Ever since I was a child, I've talked too much. Every teacher said it, some debating whether or not I have anything worth banging on about. I use words to connect, to soothe, to scold, to lift, to lighten, to laugh, to protest, to ponder and to question.

Some days I never stop with the endless drudge of bloody words until I fall exhausted into bed, heaving big old sighs of wiped-out-sick-of-the-sound-of-my-own-voice.

Lately I've become more aware of the sheer volume of waste that pours forth from my muzzle. Just loose cannon blah-blah stuff that interrupts the quiet, it's made me question-

"Do I have anything to say that will improve on silence?"

I've begun to daydream about transforming into the strong silent type. Or at the very least, just the sometimes quiet one.

IMG_2516

The truth is I love silence. The three am quiet that descends on the house. Hallways filled with soft breathing and stillness, a dog far-off. All is far away in that moment. Putting on my coat and stepping outside, black trees against an indigo sky, the gentle light of the moon, the grass seems laid out smooth.

In this soft, languid quiet it's hard to fathom anything other than a peaceful world.

I am reminded of my time as a painter. It took me many years to arrive at a balance point in my work. It's experience and a good dose of confidence that prompts you to leave space in a painting. A place to rest- it's like visual silence.

Why not apply the same principal to speech? "Will it improve on silence?" Or music, television, media. So much noise and distraction and entertainment. We have arrived at some strange place of fear- that silence might hold some uncomfortable truth at it's centre.

But what if all that it held was a profound state of peaceful awareness? Nothing more or less than that. I'm so desperate for a little space to rest...

Quiet.

Bitchy, sexy, bad-Breaking the Beast

  IMG_0161I'm in a storytelling mood folks, gather a blanket and a mug of hot tea and lean in.

I'm writing this because I'm confused and a little sad and I'm trying to understand. Sometimes, when I'm struggling with something, I tell myself a story in order to try and make sense of it all.

This story is about us all being good. Despite all the horror and hardship, I would like to think of goodness being the basis of our humanity.  In a hippy dippy shared-consiousness kind of way I think were all just a lump of peace and love borrowing a meat suit for the hundred or so years that we keep on kickin'.

The problem seems to lie in the fact that we all seemed to have hooked up with an interloper. We're all tied for life to a big ol' lummox called Ego. He's bossy and bad and shits where he eats. He's not interested in our perfection or our happiness or anybody else's.

He's into self gratification, envy, money and his own importance. He would rather look good than be good. He's nasty and judgemental and righteous - basically he's a massive d**k.

But he's tied to every single one of us. We exist in antibiosis- an antagonistic relationship between two organisms, in which one is adversely affected. The more he consumes, the less fodder for our good selves. He gets bigger and badder and we shrivel under the weight of selfies and stinking media manure.

The yoga world is sadly not immune. In fact, two minutes on Face(less)book will bombard you with perfect yoga bodies screaming "Look at me!" from some glamorous locale. Probably trying to sell something thats sadly not yoga- clothes, props, retreats, books, packaged green juices and plastic wrapped 'perfect.

Big ol' egos dressed up as idols.

It made me think about that antibiosis. The bigger he gets, the smaller we get. The more we allow him to strut around, beating his chest and bringing the poocake to the party, the more we aren't able to share the love. He thrives on drama, gossip, bitchy, sexy, badness. He likes fast food, shiny shit and look at me flattery.

When we indulge him we starve ourselves. This made me think about how I feed my beast and at what cost?

We grow when we feed our souls with connection and kindness, good food and true beauty. When our work becomes service, our financial freedom is aligned with authenticity.

I'm so glad I became a yoga teacher after I'd cut my ego down to a manageable beast. Thank god I didn't find this in my ego driven twenties. I have no aspirations of grandeur as a teacher. All I really want is to be of small service. I hope if my ego ever chucks on a bikini and splatters bendy bullshit on social media someone tells me I'm a twat. I'll thank you in advance.

What I really want is a small and simple life. Connection. I want to learn and love and laugh. I know I'm going to have to drag around this whiny egoist but I'm going to try very hard to keep him firmly in check. I'm still trying to break the beast.

I've spent way too much time caring what other people think of me. Thats a whole lot of energy that I should have been devoting to being a better person. That's Ego's sly trick to keep us meek and needy. It sounds trite but realising our perfection renders him redundant.

But what is perfection?

Connection. With ourselves. With each other. With the moon and the stars and the universe. And even with him in a strange sort of twist. Best to understand who he is and the great threat that he poses to our humanity and our happiness.

Namaste.

 

 

Not-a-green-juice cheesy beans with chilli and rosemary crispy-polenta-deep-fried goodness

IMG_2590Look, to be fair, I do have green juice and granola days. I do. They aren't as frequent as I would like and they tend to be rather balanced. And by balanced I'm talkin green juice and hot chips. Are you picking up what I'm putting down here folks?

I'm a girl that all about balance.

So, I wanted to ditch the wheaty breakfasts, all that toasty deliciousness was making me, well..... bloated. I woke up dreaming of beans (because god knows they were never responsible for a belly full of gas!) but I needed a crispy counterpart.

"Welcome fried Polenta, top of the sunny morning to your crunchy self. Now get in my cake hole !!"

I used my usual beans recipe. You can get it here. But they weren't quite badass enough to stand up to my spicy polenta wedges. So I smothered it all in cheese and popped it under a hot grill. Holy snappin people! Mamma needed a little horizontal meditation after this plate of cheesy-chaff.

IMG_2592Cook your polenta as per the instructions on the pack (but make it quite dry)-different brands require methods. I cooked mine in buttermilk for a slightly cheesy finish but you can just use milk or water.. Once it's done, add a handful of parmesan, a tablespoon of chopped rosemary and some chopped chilli. Season to taste.

Pop the mix into a silicone tray or a lined tray. Refrigerate for an hour or so- I left mine overnight. Turn out onto a chopping board and cut into pieces. Fry on both sides in a little olive oil and enjoy with the cheesy beans. Top with a little parsley (greens are really important folks).

IMG_2594Maybe take it easy on the serving size. Maybe just clear your schedule for the morning. Maybe have a green juice instead of a double espresso.

Yeah, I'm all about the balance. Breakfast of champions.

IMG_2596Michelle xx

Celebration cake

IMG_2538 Yesterday was my mama's birthday.

What better way to pay tribute to her than cake. The best cake. Quite simply the most perfect cake. Ever. A whole big slice of gluten free goodness that begs to be hoovered with soft cream and slightly unconsidered manners.

Light, nutty, slightly chocolately and beautifully moist. This cake is complex, the flavour artfully grownup and just the right amount of pretty. It doesn't shout it sings.

Happy Birthday to whoever is lucky enough to grab a slice of this goodness. This little baby sings Happy Birthday better than Marilyn Munroe in her birthday suit.

Nice pot of tea and a sunny spot in the garden and this cake means you don't even need to buy a gift.

Yep, that's right Cheapskate- it's a good thing you can bake like a mother....

Celebration Cake

210gms of roasted walnuts (make em nice and toasty in a 180degree oven till they smell good)
180gms good quality dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)
4 eggs separated
200gms caster sugar
200gms  butter
Tbs vanilla paste
Cocoa to dust and cream to serve.

Preheat oven to 170. Grease 24cm round cake tin.

Wizz up chocolate and walnuts in a food processor until it resembles course crumbs. Leave some texture in the mix.

Beat egg whites until stiff and transfer to a clean bowl.

Beat egg yolks with sugar until creamy. Add melted cooled butter and vanilla paste.

Add yolk mix to whites and fold gently until incorporated. Pour mix into tin and bake for about 50 mins.

Allow cake to cool in tin for about 15 mins and then carefully invert onto a rack.

To serve, dust with cocoa and add a dollop of lightly whipped cream.

Celebrate the cake. It's all about the cake.

Letting go under a pink moon....

IMG_0476 I never was one for organised religion. Even as a child, it just seemed to present an opportunity for  debate. I could no more get my tiny mind around the idea of the resurrection, than leap to believe in fairies. It just wasn't the path for me.

I happily embraced the religious holidays however, but only the ones that promised chocolate or presents or both. Throw in a fictional bunny or two and I was all for it. Bit of craft and a big family meal and I had bells on.

The moon at Easter is called a pink moon. Pink for springtime in the Americas-it's named after wildflowers blooming and reminds us of new life. As an adult, Easter has come to represent a kind of resurrection of my own. It asks the question, "What can I let go of in order to become more of myself? What no longer serves me?" Easter is a time for renewal.

As we get older it's quite normal for us to cart around a whole heap of 'stuff'. Old, outdated beliefs that mask themselves as home truths. Our mind can replay the same old songs that we just don't need to dance to anymore. So how do we let go? ......by letting go.

Saturday April fourth is the Easter moon. Clean the house, take a long bath and ask yourself what needs to go in order for you to radiate your unique light into the world. What is creating shadows in your life and how can you leave it behind?

Gather it all up and hold it a moment, you can do this metaphorically or by writing it down. Take a moment to thank your experience for what is has taught you. Light a fire under the Easter moon, burn sage and leave it in the fire. Invite your children to do the same. It's a beautiful practice to teach young children, introduce them to the power of choice. (and what kid doesn't like to burn stuff?)

It is no longer.

Moment by moment, we are transformed by our intention. Each day offers the opportunity for change and everyday we choose what we carry on our backs. Rituals like these can help us to decide who we are and where we're going. By connecting our present intention to old religious observation, we tap into the power of devotion. We walk with the ancients. We might choose not to put our faith in organised religion- but we can put our faith in our humanity. We can choose to be the best version of ourselves in order to serve our families, our friends and our planet.

This is how we change the world.

 

 

Raw Chocolate Heaven

This beautiful recipe is for my new friend Cheryl. I've been making raw chocolate for many years. The upside are all those good fats, lots of antioxidants and a solution to the 'I need a little something with a warm mug of tea' munchies. The small downside is the need to eat them cold because they liquify at room temperature. So feel free to eat straight from the fridge, while the kids aren't looking!

Raw Chocolate

¼ cup coconut oil
2 T raw cocao butter

2 ½ T honey 4 ½  T raw cocao powder small pinch salt Simply melt all of your ingredients gently in a double boiler and once combined, pour into chocolate moulds and refrigerate. You can experiment with replacing the honey with maple syrup for a vegan option. :)

And as for those small ones, roughly chop a handful of walnuts and dates. Mix it up with some homemade muesli and add your raw chocolate mixture. Allow to set in a slice tin and cut into squares. Better than muesli bars and no nasties in sight. They'll love you even more. Michelle xx

Beauty mark

IMG_1478 Ever considered what your idea of the perfect earthly existence might be?

Mine would be an endless yoga workshop. Just show up, throw your mat down and get happy people. Learn stuff, use your body and your mind. Be amongst good bendy folks that smile easily and laugh freely and eat their veggies. The best thing about yoga is well yoga but the next best thing is definitely yogis.

I cannot believe that there are still people in my life that have never tried yoga. What?? It's like saying you've never tried ice cream or french brie. Why not? I seriously do not comprehend a life lived without some experience of this practice. Um.....no? Really?

Native Americans might talk about something possessing the quality of Beauty. However, the word Beauty doesn't have the same shallow definition to them as it might to us. The word Beauty to them is richly layered, spiritual and surprising, majestic or moving. It doesn't refer to a comely lass or flash ride. It's applied to those things that wake us up to magic, mystery and awe.

We live in a Beautiful world. (Despite what the news might want us to believe, thats a whole other bale of hay.) But if you can do something. Do it often and all the better to do it with good folks. Maybe try and do it well, not perfectly, just with a full heart of trying. Your life will open to the promise of Beauty.

...and that experience will mark your entire life.

A Beauty mark.

 

 

 

 

The first requirement of yoga teacher training is a sturdy pair of boots.

IMG_2413 When I decided to begin a teacher training in yoga I thought that I would arrive somewhere.

It seemed like a good opportunity to sort out my stuff and make some big changes. I had my money on metamorphosis and I was excited. I wasn't interested in the whole journey rubbish. I was interested in the prayer beads and the yoga pants and the freakin Zen baby! I may have been interested in a better body along with my clearer mind, but the point is I wanted it yesterday.

Well how do you hope to get anywhere without a journey?

I've now completed 200hrs of teacher training and the road stretches long both before and behind me. 

It occurred to me that I've taken about 150 million steps in my lifetime. Sometimes I ran like a tap or stumbled around in circles. Sometimes I strode like I was on a mission and sometimes I tiptoed quietly from the scene. But I've walked and walked and walked.

hate the word bloody 'journey'. I blame reality TV for completely overusing what used to be a rather romantic notion. I've witnessed too many tear stained beauties crying over their saggy soufflés or self imposed incarcerations. "Oh go and be quiet about your journeys and your pursuit of the Master Brother award for the best bloody Block! I'd rather watch Ross from friends than listen to your bleating."

Each day I just walk.

I can't decide I want to be 100 million steps in front without putting on my boots and taking each-single-step. The only way to move along is to move along.

I've learnt a lot in this past year. I've loved being challenged by yoga philosophy, I've faced some big fears and even stood on my head a few times. I've hurt myself and healed myself and made some good friends along the way. But most importantly, what this year has taught me is to put one foot in front of the other.

Where I stand today is exactly where I need to be.

Present.

More than the fancy poses and the yoga fads. More than the beautiful arms and hypnotic chants. More than the bliss and the bali huts and the mala beads and the love ins - I think that's actually yoga.

Just two feet on the ground, heart open present.

Grace

8a80a-img_1221 The wind blew your name across the wild grasses

the spiny call of the egret left

the air, out there

wheaten

hung over the idols of my youth.

Seed against cerulean sky

blown

promises suspended

caught for a moment

in a current of uncertainty

to fall at my bound feet.

I have walked

towards that sound,

made up ground,

in skins and ceremony.

I have carried a village

that spoke not a word of

worship

nor ever wrote

a sanguine wish

for peace.

In my memories,

we were sundered by the sea.

A glassy swathe

of welcome water.

Grace that brought

a flood to feed the earth

and flow between us.

I felt you near

still

in time.

Shelter from the storm.

IMG_2315It's rare that one is offered the opportunity to learn from not doing. I realised today that I learn more from not doing when it comes to my meditation practice. The lesson speaks loud and clear when I don't attend to stillness.

When I tell myself to 'have a holiday', 'sleep in' or whatever excuse I care to use.

I always take my kids away in January, prior to that Christmas spins through my life and the weeks flap by in it's wake. I drop my bundle for a month or so and the inevitable consequence is a post holiday storm in the teacup that is my mind.

 Chakras, whirling wheels of prana- I am reminded that our energy spirals.

Without my morning meditation I step into the spin of life. I allow myself to bounce around in fear and insecurity. Old habits surface, I become less patient, less certain and my world is quite literally louder. I am a whirlwind, I was born that way. I've ran with the wind in my face for most of my life. Torn up, turned on, trouble for a good part of it. I've brought the lightning and the thunder through more sunny days than I care to remember. I friend of mine once said I could turn the weather with a stick (whatever that meant!).

Meditation allows me to step into the centre of myself. It's my shelter and my sure bet and when I don't do, I experience the storm.

I'm not very good at it.

I'm never sure if I'm doing it right.

But then I don't do for a month....and this is how I learn.

I see the change in me and I know I need to turn in. I sit quietly and do the practice of not doing.

After one twenty minute session I am reminded. I am back and the sun is warming my face. I hear birds and crickets and the trickling water from last nights rain. I breathe into that warm dark place between my eyebrows and I see myself without the tempest and the tumbling. I am infinite energy, love, part of a whole that isn't bordered by my brain or my body.

I am back.

Mama's Unplugged...

IMG_0006I know it's been quite a while since I've posted anything. I'm not sure what started it. I think I began with a modest spring clean that just gathered momentum, spurred on by the desire to live differently. Somehow quieter.

I got rid of a lot of my stuff. Culled the embarrassing number of a 'certain kind' of black dress and gave my  high heels to charity so that others might suffer the way I have. I ditched the bloody wicker baskets all over my house and even thinned out my bookshelves. I tossed toys and tearfully gave away my children's tiny clothes.

Then, when the house finally felt spacious, I turned on the 'time wasters' in my life. I wanted my days to feel spacious too. I closed my Facebook account. Instead of writing here, I wrote poetry and recipes and plans for the garden.

I spent time in the vegetable patch. Desperately trying to tame the tomatoes that threaten to take over the entire garden. The vines hang heavy with fruit, we pick kilos, trying to save them from the mouth of my lovely girl. She wraps them in fresh mint leaves and devours handfuls.

The zucchinis have taken up the call and given up a bounty of fruit. What to do with ten thousand of these babies? Fritters, salads, muffins, cakes and slices. With lemon, mint, feta, and chocolate. They've forced my creative hand and yet they're still producing new growth everyday!

IMG_1393

With my days expanding I baked bread and made fresh pasta. I make meatballs with the kids and made sauce from the tomatoes grown outside the kitchen. No basil yet? That's ok, we'll add chilli and fennel seeds to the meat and pick some oregano from underneath the stairs. We find one with a love heart mark, my son squeezes me tight and he smells like fresh herbs. It's all about slow pleasure and anticipation as it bubbles away for the afternoon. By dinner the boys will defy their biology and consume mountains of fresh spaghetti slathered in the rich sauce. We talk about girls and ebola.

How strange it is to be a kid these days....

 

IMG_1475I read mountains of yoga books and meditate everyday. Suddenly there seems to be so much time for nothing. I feel still inside, like this moment is all that requires my attention. I walk around my house. The aquaponics is bubbling away, ready for new seed. By summer we will pick greens and golden beetroot for salads. I've planted heirloom tomatoes and cucumber.

I sit with the chooks. We have beautiful new hens but they're still learning the ways of our bossy Squirrel (weird name I know! She's the boss). She pecks and pushes them all around. The eggs are warm and chalky and fit beautifully into my palm. Nothing makes me happier than pushing through the rosemary and finding a half dozen for breakfast. I no longer watch the news so the only soldiers I see are smothered in butter, awaiting their delicious fate.

cropped-img_1378.jpg

I'm amazed at how this land I own can still surprise me. I take my shoes off and walk barefoot at dusk. I am aware of every step, the softness of the lawn compared to the rocky earth as I get closer to the bush behind our property. I check for snakes, none to keen on that kind of surprise! I find a bumper crop of tomatoes hiding down the hill. I threw old clippings here last summer and they've fought their way to fruition. I tuck handfuls of the little gems into my pockets and then fill my hat. This would cost a packet at the farmers market!

Sometimes I think about that young girl I used to be. All long hair and heels, heading off to this or that, champagne in hand. The latest clothes and seventy pairs of shoes in her wardrobe. I marvel at how I ended up in this quiet life. More amazing is how happy I am, elbow deep in dough or cleaning out the chooks. Curling up with three gorgeous children that I (somehow) haven't damaged.

I realise that it's all for them. That somehow they gave life to this new me along the way. I couldn't boil an egg at twenty! Their love has transformed me into this mama I've become. Not fodder for social media or gossip, but a full person, living a full creative life. Many thanks to my small people.

I am thoroughly saturated in simple joy.

(and I've no desire to post it on Facebook)

 

No Bunny Food for Breakfast!

IMG_1996 Hallelujah! Finally we've been sprung. The days are slowly getting longer and the sun has been high and bright. I love this time of year in Australia.

Its funny how much the seasons affect my mood (and my food). I get such a boost of optimism with the warmer weather and the garden gives up the good stuff. The zucchinis have gotten showy. Huge fulvous blooms that beg to be stuffed with lemon scented ricotta and fried in olive oil. One cannot live on green juice alone- a brisk (long) walk should take care of this breakfast treat before it slides south to my thighs. Tomatoes dressed in a little more oil ensure the calorific count remains high enough to present a challenge! Some pretty flowers provide a welcome distraction from any conscientious objections from the green-goodness police in my mind.

Life is short my friends and if you can't linger over fried cheese, it may not be worth the melancholy of a wasted spell. Eat up.

The back deck is warm by 7am and there is to be so much chatter amongst the butcher birds. They've learnt that we're good for a free meal and line up along the balustrade while the kids toss them half their breakfast. The dog looks on bemused at their good fortune.

We are all swept up in busy weeks at the moment. The kids are over scheduled, my beloved and I are go,go,go. Weekend breakfasts are a wonderful antidote to the push and pull of obligation. We talk about our plans for the garden and the future while my girl picks more tomatoes from the vine. Bliss.

No need for a fancy recipe here. Grab a zucchini flower, take out the stamen and  stuff with a mixture of ricotta, lemon zest and soft herbs. Crumb them and shallow fry them until golden. Eat them hot and oozy with tomato salad and lemon wedges. Grab a patch of sunshine and linger a while. No rabbit food today. If your feeling guilty about all this crispy fried goodness, wash it all down while a kale and quinoa smoothie. :)

Some days are better spent seeking pleasure and besides, the bunnies want their breakfast back. :)

IMG_1989

Michelle xx

Being really, really bad with really, really good bread.

IMG_1988 Yes, I know my last post was all about me renouncing wheat.

I know. You're right. But, I believe it was some sort of God of Gastronomy who made me look through that old box. It was divine intervention, the kind of "Aahhhh" moment that us mere mortals are powerless to resist.

There's a back story people, about fate and a little late night antics and youth and romance and well...yes wheat. But I should start at the beginning...

I was nineteen when I first caught the boat from Athens to the little Greek island of Aegina. With my hair in long braids and a backpack, I found myself staying in a small hotel that looked a lot like the back of someone's house. Complete with a yiayia in the kitchen and a few stray kids with grubby grins and old taped together bikes.

Because of it's close proximity to the mainland, the island was a playground for the locals with good food and great bars. Really good bars. Lots of really good bars that one could easily lose a few hours in and forget dinner. In those days I was a tad forgetful at times.

Where was I? ....

At an hour more suited to waking than eating, I fell into a little gyros place (don't judge me!) for some much needed sustenance. My high hopes for the dinner/breakfast of champions were in doubt. Everything was anointed with a fine mist of smoky grease but when handed a warm, chewy blanket bread stuffed with (who cares) I fell deeply and madly for a middle aged Yanni in a buttonless cheesecloth shirt.

That bread! Holy heck. Salty, warm, chewy, puffy, light and lovely. What was happening? Did I have the mouthy equivalent of beer goggles? Because it was the most perfect wheat treat I'd ever shoved in my cake hole! The best part was that the whole heavenly experience was repeated for my actual breakfast a couple of hours later. This time served with cheese and fruit by my temporary yiayia.

"What's the deal with this amazing bread!!!!" I said, trying not to shove the doughy goodness into my face lest I appear to be a horrid hungover tourist (which of course, I was).

Later that day her rather pervy spotty teenage grandson handed me a piece of paper with a rough recipe, which at the time meant little to the wayward me that could barely boil an egg. I think I must have kept it as a souvenir because keeping ouzo bottles would have made me look cheap and too cheerful. :(

I couldn't believe it when I found it amongst some dodgy old love letters and faded ferry tickets. There it was, the holy grail of bread recipes in my hot little hands. In service to you, I'm going to share it. But only if you promise to put fried potatoes on it with lashings of tzatziki. I don't wan't any healthy versions or spelt flour people! This bread is the absolute best way to be B-A-D!!!

Take your Kitchen Aid or a bowl and put 5 cups of flour in it and two cups of warm water. Next add two tablespoons of yeast and two tablespoons of olive oil. Knead by hand for about ten minutes or by machine for five. Add two tablespoons of salt and knead for another five minutes by hand or three minutes by machine. Cover it in an oiled bowl and let it double in size in a warm place.

Roll into into rounds on a floured board until thin but not too thin- about three millimetres is probably good. Heat up a frypan to medium heat and add about a tablespoon of oil. Roll the oil to coat the pan and then tip excess oil into a little container for the next one. Fry bread until golden on each side.

This recipe makes a lot but it keeps in the fridge for about four days so I'm assuming my yiayia made enough for her family and her wandering guests for a few meals. She also had to get to the serious business of making amazing pastries and shooing stray cats. If you have no interlopers or doe eyed boys, you can halve the recipe if you wish.

Get on and get dirty people. Being bad was never so ridiculously good!

Breaking up is hard to do....

IMG_1535 Dearest Wheat,

I am breaking up with you. It's not you, it's me.

I just feel like we've developed some weird co-dependancy thing and I believe our relationship has become a little unhealthy. Besides, if you'll pardon the pun, I'm not sure what you're bringing to the table? I think I'd prefer to hang out with some vegetables, sorry if that makes you sad.

We've had some good times you and I. One of my happiest memories is when you came to me all toasty and hot buttered after my babies were born. Tea and toast. Perfect for the ravenous hunger of a exhausted mama. It was comforting, like grandma food, after the ravages of labour. Thank you.

...And pasta! Lord, do you remember that trip through Italy when you kindly gave me an extra five kilos! I'd never been so happy we were friends. The sauce was a bonus but the chewy, toothsome You was spectacular! I could eat bowls and bowls of you washed down with a sticky red. (remember wine??)

France. Good God. France. I fell in love with that boy with the eyes like shiny copper coins. What was his name again? Doesn't matter, it's you that I remember. Those crusty, chewy loaves of glory. Wrapped in white paper, you smelt like hay and hot earth. Lord I worshiped you, I think that might be when we started spending too much time together.

Don't worry, I'm not scared of gluten and I'm sure I'll see you from time to time. I just feel like you show up and almost every meal. I miss you too much when you're not here, it's not healthy. I want to make room for other stuff, good grains, I'm a little tired of your neediness. It's just a little hard to digest you.

I've started seeing a little spelt and quinoa and buckwheat. Maybe one day we might be able to hang out occasionally, but for now, I need some space.

I hope you understand.

Michelle xx