taragardiner

A yoga asana guide

Yoga is not about twisting your body up like a piece of spaghetti but maintaining awareness in the movements and can be practiced by anyone, whatever state of mind or health. The word ‘Yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Yuj’, signifying to join, combine or unite, by bringing together the body and mind in harmony through breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures. This makes for a strong, clear mind which decreases stress, anxiety, and the need for external validation. So of course, brings about healthy and sound living. In addition, a clear mind increases self-awareness, focus, disciple, physical health, emotional stability, memory, and the ability to empathize with others. It can improve posture, increase flexibility, build muscle strength, boosts metabolism, helps in lowering blood sugar, increase blood flow, keep diseases at bay, and increase self-esteem. So why are you not doing it? I would like to introduce you to a quick but very effective set of postures to get you started, called Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salutation.

We all know how important the sun is and love to feel its heat and vitamin D, but it’s more than just that. The sun has been a source of both spirituality and vitality on the earth since time immemorial. Its significance can be traced from Mayan, Egyptian, Aztec, Tibetan, and Indian civilizations to the ones that emerged later. Spirituality apart, there is also a logical reason behind the sun’s prominence.

Scientifically, the sun radiates energy to the earth in the form of heat and sunlight – without which life couldn’t have sustained here. Sparing just 10 minutes for yourself every day can have dramatic changes in various aspects of your life. Hence, Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salutation, has a range of effects on the human body. There are many variations of the sun salutation, but usually, it consists of 12 postures for the 12 cycles of the sun. I will explain one cycle where in step 4, the left leg goes back first, and in step 9, the right leg comes forward, and in the second set in step 4, the right leg goes back and in step 9, the left leg comes forward. Confused? All it means is steps 4 and 9 are the same posture. So you work one side of the body in the first set and the other side in the second, which makes one cycle and your goal is to do six. Don’t force anything, listen to your body and flow with the movement. Maybe at first, you are unable to do the full posture but I’m sure after a week you’ll be jumping out of bed and whacking out a sun salutation in 10 minutes.

Surya namaskar or sun salutation.

1. Pranamasana (Prayer pose)

Stand straight, keep your feet together and balance your weight equally on both feet. Expand your chest and relax your shoulders. As you breathe in, lift both arms up from the sides, and as you exhale, bring your palms together in front of the chest in a prayer position.

2. Hastauttanasana (Raised arms pose)  

Breathing in, lift the arms up and back, keeping the biceps close to the ears. In this pose, the effort is to stretch the whole body up from the heels to the tips of the fingers.

Tip to deepen this yoga stretch: You may push the pelvis forward a little bit. Ensure you’re reaching up with the fingers rather than trying to bend backward.

3. Hastapadasana (Standing forward bend)

Breathing out, bend forward from the waist keeping the spine erect. As you exhale completely, bring the hands down to the floor beside the feet.

Tip to deepen this yoga stretch: You may bend the knees, if necessary, to bring the palms down to the floor. It’s a good idea to keep the hands fixed in this position and not move them until we finish the sequence.

4. Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian pose)

Breathing in, push your left leg back, as far back as possible. Bring the left knee to the floor and look up.

Tip to deepen this stretch: Ensure that the right foot is exactly in between the palms.

5. Dandasana (Stick pose)

As you breathe in, take the right leg back and bring the whole body in a straight line. Try to bring your whole body close to the floor, by bending the elbows.

6. Ashtanga Namaskara (Salute with eight parts or points)

Gently bring your knees down to the floor and exhale. Take the hips back slightly, slide forward, rest your chest and chin on the floor. Raise your posterior a little bit. The two hands, two feet, two knees, chest, and chin (eight parts of the body) should touch the floor.

7. Bhujangasana (Cobra pose)      

Slide forward raise the chest up. You may keep your elbows bent in this pose, keep your shoulders away from the ears. Look up at the ceiling.                                        

Tip to deepen this yoga stretch: As you inhale, make a gentle effort to push the chest forward; as you exhale, make a gentle effort to push the navel down. Tuck the toes under. Ensure you’re stretching just as much as you can and not forcing your body.

8. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward facing dog pose)

 Breathing out, lift the hips and the tail bone up to bring the body into an inverted V pose.

Tip to deepen this yoga stretch: If possible, try and keep the heels on the ground and make a gentle effort to lift the tail bone up, going deeper into the stretch.

9. Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian pose)

Breathing in, bring the right foot forward in between the two hands. The left knee goes down on the floor. Press the hips down and look up.

Tip to deepen this yoga stretch: Place the right foot exactly between the two hands and the right calf perpendicular to the floor. In this position, make a gentle effort to push the hips down towards the floor, to deepen the stretch.

Step 10. Hastapadasana (Standing forward bend)

Breathing out, bring the left foot forward. Keep the palms on the floor, bend the knees if necessary.                                                                                                                                                 

  Tip to deepen this yoga stretch: Gently straighten the knees, and if you can, try and touch your nose to the knees. Keep breathing.

11. Hastauttanasana (Raised arms pose)

Breathing in, and slowly roll the spine up. Raising your hands above your head, pushing the hips slightly outward.

Tip to deepen this yoga stretch: Ensure that your biceps are beside your ears. The idea is to stretch up more rather than stretch backward.

12. Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

As you exhale, first straighten the body, then bring the arms down into prayer position. Relax in this position and observe the sensations in your body.

Congratulations!! You have just completed one set of Surya Namaskar. Now balance your body with another set bringing the right leg back first in step 4, and the left leg forward in step 9. If you manage to do one cycle today, that is brilliant, then tomorrow go for 2 cycles and so on until you can complete the full 6. Remember do not force or rush anything, and just let your body flow. Once you have finished, lay down flat on your back, close your eyes and relax your whole body for a few minutes as new energy revitalises your whole being. Roll over onto your side and gently push yourself up into a sitting position. give yourself a big hug for taking 10 minutes to make a better start to your day.

Have a great day.

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A Pranayama guide.

From the Sanskrit words Prana (“life force” or “vital energy”) and Yama (“control”), the practice dates back to ancient India since 700 BCE. It includes a variety of breathing patterns and techniques that boost both your physical—respiratory, cardiovascular, metabolic, and your emotional—stress, anxiety, concentration health. Our breathing directly affects our nervous system via the vagus nerve, which governs our fight or flight and rest and relaxation responses as well as our cardiovascular, respiratory, and digestive systems. In other words, the way we breathe controls just about everything. You can also find Prana in food such as ash gourd, honey, coconut, whole grains, beans, lentils, millet, nuts, seeds, fresh fruits, dried fruits, and fresh vegetables.

The benefits of pranayama.

The immune system: Deep breathing activates our digestive tracts, where as much as 80 percent of our immune tissue lives. Breath retention significantly increases our count of white blood cells, which are the first to attack infections and viruses.

Reduce anxiety and depression:  When activated, it increases levels of Gamma-aminobutyric acid, (GABA) in our bodies, the neurotransmitter that helps us unwind.

Respiratory: Breath control improves lung function and capacity for healthy individuals and those with asthma and chronic bronchitis.

Digestive: IBS, diarrhea, and hyperacidity are disorders closely linked to brain activity. These symptoms subside with consistent breathing practice, thanks to its calming effects.

Cardiovascular: pranayama has an immediate and positive effect on your blood circulation, heart rate and blood pressure.

Sinuses: Certain techniques help clear our nasal cavity and create ventilation, improving allergies, sinus infections, congestion, and sinus headaches.

Sleep: Deep breathing slows your heart rate and relaxes your mind. This improves sleep quality and combats insomnia.

Weight loss: Deep and forceful breathing quickens our metabolism and activates abdominal muscles increasing oxygen supply.

Skincare: When we hold an inhale, retained breath supplies oxygen to our skin cells. This increases the blood thrush and detoxifies our blood, improving skin appearance and preventing premature ageing like wrinkles and sunspots.

How to practice pranayama?

The best times to practice Pranayama is with an empty stomach either at dawn, before sunset or sleep, when you’re stressed or tensed. Try to commit to 10 or 15 minutes a day, and slowly build up to longer sessions, but you must listen to your body. Never force or rush the breath, unless it’s part of the technique of course, and if you feel dizzy stop and rest. Loose-fitting cotton clothes allow freedom of movement during the practice.

There are a host of different practices and styles of pranayama, which include lots of techniques and breathing patterns, each with their own unique benefits. The seven different techniques for beginners are Kumbhaka, Kapalabhati, Nadi Shodhana, Alternate Nostril Kapalabhati, Dirgha Pranayama, Ujjayi Pranayama, Simha Pranayama. I will just touch on the first three essential techniques.

First, it would be a good idea to blow your nose, then sit in a comfortable, relaxed position, some Pranayama techniques allow you to lay down. Follow the rhythm of your natural breath then when you’re ready, begin your Pranayama session.

Relax and follow your natural breath.

1. Kumbhaka or “Full Breath Retention”
Best for: An immune boost

“Full breath retention” presents dozens of benefits, like increased lung capacity, brain tissue regeneration, and reduced inflammation. Most importantly, though, it increases oxygen and CO2 levels in our bodies, nourishing our white blood cells to fight off infection and viruses.

Sit or lay down comfortably.  Begin following a 1-1-2 pattern. For example, inhale through the nose for 5 counts, hold for 5 counts, exhale through the nose for 10 counts. With practice, begin to increase the retention (hold) for a ratio of 1-2-2 or 1-3-2.  Soon it will become easier to inhale for 5, hold for 10, exhale for 10. When you feel ready you can increase to inhaling for 5, holding for 15, exhaling for 10, and so on.

2. Kapalabhati or “Skull-Shining Breath”
Best for: Reviving energy and giving you a little glow

Also known as “breath of fire,” this model improves concentration, aids in digestive functioning, quickens our metabolism, and gives you that glowy complexion. It also warms the body, which is good if you’re in a cold place. Practice this one when you need a little energy reboot. 

Sit comfortably (cross-legged or on your knees), resting your hands on your thighs. Inhale and exhale fully through the nose. Then, inhale halfway and begin forcefully exhaling in short bursts through the nose, pulling your belly in. You could place a hand on your belly to feel contraction and expansion. Continue for 20-30 exhales, then breathe in fully, retaining the breath for as long as you can, and finally, slowly exhaling. Repeat the cycle for 10 to 15 minutes, on your last breath bring your right thumb up to your right nostril and exhale through the left nostril.

3. Nadi Shodhana or “Alternate Nostril Breathing”
Best for: Unwinding before bed or trying to calm down

 This technique can lower your heart rate and blood pressure. Try it when you are angry, frustrated, or fed up, just before bed or even before you eat. There are many variations of breathing and nostril holding, but here I will explain the easiest one. 

Sit, with crossed legs or on your knees, or lie comfortably. Bring your right thumb to your right nostril and your ring and pinky fingers to your left. Your index and middle fingers can rest on the bridge of your nose or fold them down toward your thumb. Exhale completely. Using your thumb, press on the right nostril and inhale through the left, then exhale through the left. Close the left nostril, and inhale through the right and exhale through the right to complete one cycle. Repeat for 10-12 cycles.

Take your time, relax and enjoy the flow as prana fills your body with vital energy. Soon you will become more calm and happy, and you will start to notice the beauty and colours of all the things around you that you never noticed before, as you become more mindful and conscious.

Breathe and enjoy.

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Happy New Year!

A new years gift ~ A meditation guide

Some people think that mediation is some kind of religious mumbo jumbo or hippy stuff, but in fact, it is an ancient technique to focus and calm the mind. Once the mind is calm you can achieve mental stability, which slows down the turbulent flow of thoughts that run through your head day and night. And an awareness that enables you to see things more clearly, without the projection of your constant flowing thoughts adding stuff. Once you start to slow down the mind and not follow its need to do something, you create a peaceful gap of pure awareness where only love exists Morning is usually the best time to meditate because the mind is fresh and it’s usually quiet, but anytime that you can fit in a quick 5 to 10 minutes is good. At first, do short sessions, maybe 5 minutes three times a day, and then slowly build up to longer sessions. There are many different styles and techniques of meditation but it will be easier to start with a simple but effective breathing one. First, you need to get any jobs done that you need to do and then sit comfortably. If it’s possible you can try this seven-point posture of Vairocana, which should be natural and comfortable, and can be applied for any kind of meditation.

The position of the legs:

  • Sit on a cushion with the back a little higher than the front. It is better to sit crossed-legged in the lotus position, but if it’s too difficult, sit in a half-lotus position. This posture is very stable and allows you to sit for a very long time without moving or getting tired. In the beginning, it won’t be easy but the body will become more flexible, the more you try. If either of these positions is too difficult, just sit comfortably or even on a chair. The most important point is that your spine is straight

The position of the hands:

  • Rest your hands four fingers below the navel; the right hand gently rests on top of the left, with the thumbs touching to form a triangle.
  • Elbows are away from the body so that the air can circulate.
  • The position of the back is the foundation of all postures. It should be straight, the vertebras aligned like a pile of coins.
  • The neck is a little bent forward such as the tip of the nose is aligned with the navel.        
  • The eyes are slightly open with the gaze in the direction of the nose. If opening the eyes brings too much distraction, then close them until you are more experienced. It can be helpful to meditate facing a wall, where the eyes can rest. you should not wear eyeglasses, they may agitate your mind.
  • The tip of the tongue touches the roof of the mouth, behind the teeth and the lips are a little open so that the air can flow easily. It also keeps the mouth from becoming dry and allows saliva to flow down the throat.

Sometimes the second and third points are counted as one, but then the last point is divided in two (tongue and mouth positions). So that we still have seven points. These positions are very important because of the connection (interdependence) between body and mind. The physical conditions affect the mental conditions.

Take a deep breath in, and exhale slowly and fully – pause – then exhale again. There’s always a slight residue left in the lungs. In that residue is the sludge of toxic memory and ego, breath it out. Let them go, and start to feel a deeper state of peace and spaciousness. Then breathe normally, don’t force anything, just notice and invite your body to relax. Feel the sensations it experiencing – the rise and fall of the abdomen, the touch, the connection with the floor or chair. Breathe out any tightness or tension and tune into the rhythm of your breath, just feel the natural flow of breath. In – gap. Out – gap.

Notice where you feel your breath in your body. It might be in your abdomen, your chest, your throat, or in your nostrils. Feel the sensation of the breath – one breath at a time. If you are not able to notice the breath in all areas of the body, that’s fine, we are connected to certain areas of the body than others, at different times of the day. Just focus where you feel it strongest and start your count.

You might start to notice, that your mind is wandering like a fast train or a flowing river running through your head nonstop, or you start thinking about other things. This is normal. Try to notice that the mind has wandered by saying “thinking” or “wandering” then gently redirect your attention back to the breath and start your count again from the beginning. If the need to get up and do that something is too strong, then gently get up, do it with as much awareness as possible and then sit back down again.

Remember the first time you tried to ride a bicycle? It’s a bit like that, you just have to keep trying until you finally get it and ride away. Soon you will notice the gap between the in and out breath. Try to rest your mind in that gap.

Breathe in – gap – breathe out – gap – one. Breathe in – gap – breathe out – gap – two…… until 21.


 

REST IN THE GAP

Feel your body solid like a mountain and just follow your breath flowing in and out. Leave your mind free and open like space and watch your thoughts like a movie. Soon you will start to learn its tricks and patterns and not act them. Maybe you don’t reach 21 in that session, but the more you practice the easier it will become. When you feel the session is over, offer yourself some appreciation for doing this session and slowly get up and continue your day. Try to find that gap as you move around doing stuff, especially if a negative emotion is about to raise its ugly head, breathe into it, and remember it’s just a movie. Some days your session will go smooth and well, while others it will be difficult, that’s normal. Just keep going slowly up the mountain. Soon you will start to notice how your life is changing positively and your interactions are meaningful and peaceful.

This technique is also very helpful if you can not sleep. Lay flat on your back with your arms by your side, follow your breath as it moves throughout your body. Breath in relaxation, breath out tension/stress – one,….. Breath in relaxation, breath out tension/stress – two, and so on. Soon you’ll be having sweet dreams.

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Life on the Road

Don't let a mosquito destroy your dreams

I backpacked around the world for 20 years, constantly on the move looking for new beginnings, adventure and excitement. Yet no matter how many times I packed that bag the nerves and uncertainty would come sneaking in—a nagging little voice that buzzed around my head like a mosquito.

“Why are you leaving, it’s alright here, you know where everything is, can you be bothered with the hassle?” 

I would continuously swat it away as I carried on rolling up my clothes and stuffing them tightly into every clevis of my backpack.

“You’ve got all mod cons, a job, money and friends? Life is easy, Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!” It would nag.

“Yeah yeah, it’s all easy. But, same-same day in, day out, where only drugs, alcohol and men can bring me a taste of something different, is boring” I would answer it.

“Where are you going to stay? You don’t know anybody or anything about the place, food, culture, you don’t even know the language. Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!”

“That is true you irritating little shit, but that’s why I’m going! to explore and try something new, an adventure,” I’d zapped at that annoying pest.

I guess the uncertainty, fear and freedom all mixed up together, was part of the excitement. I loved the sensation that I would get when I put that backpack on and headed to the airport. That thrill of adventure, which tingled all over my body that I couldn’t find in anything else I tried. No drugs, no alcohol or man could beat the high of exploring a new place.

I preferred a medium-sized backpack, so I could only fit in practical, essential stuff. I liked to keep my pack or my house as I called it, light. It made moving around and getting on and off of transport easier but the main reason was that my disabled right knee struggled with the extra weight. So if it didn’t fit in my pack, it didn’t come and if I bought something new on the road, I would throw something out or give it away, if I thought it would be of use to someone.

Bag packed, money belt on and steaming hangover from my leaving party I would still hear that nagging mosquito all the way to the airport.

“Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!” all around my head, but I would battle on regardless, thinking of the freedom that awaited me. All through the airport rigmarole, it would still be niggling and stabbing at me with little stings.

“You can still back out and go back to your nice, cosy, safe, predictable life, it wasn’t that bad, was it…… Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!”

But as soon as I squeezed into my economy seat by the little oval plastic window and the pilot announced for the cabin crew to prepare for take-off, the adrenaline and excitement that filled my body would be intoxicating, and that fucking mosquito would start to slowly disappear like the land below me, as we reached high into the sky.

“A spicy bloody Mary, please.” I would ask the flight attendant who stood beside me with a tin trolley—my favourite in-flight drink.

“Cheers” I would announce to the space around me and enjoy its tomatoey, spicy taste. Placing my plastic glass down on the pull-down table in front of me in victory, I’d squashed that buzzing little fucker dead!

“Yay! Now it’s happening.” I could finally relax and let all the past tensions fall away as I kicked back to watch the shitty movie on the tiny screen on the back of the seat in front of me.

~      ~      ~

As soon as we landed my seventh sense for survival would rise from its dormant corner of my body like a long lost friend, and that misplaced smile that came from the depth of my heart would crack my face open, as I stepped back into the life that I loved with a dance.

At the baggage claim, I would always check for other travellers to see who wanted to share a taxi to the city/town or beach and usually found one or two, who like me had never been here before. Often we would become friends, share a room to cut the cost, do the sights and play out.

Sometimes even travel together, if we were going the same way. I preferred these casual friends for travelling because it was easier to move on from them if it didn’t work out or if I wanted to be alone.

As soon as I booked into a room I would always check for a place to hide my money belt, I never left it in my bag, which was too obverse and easy. But would slip it under the wardrobe or bedside cabinet, pull out a draw and fit it behind then push it back in, unscrew the electricity board and stick it in there and screw it back on, even burying it under my beach hut.

Once my stuff was stashed safely, party dress and makeup on I would go out and get as fucked up as I liked knowing that if my roommate had sticky fingers or forgot to lock the door, or we were broken into or I bought a random man home, they would not find my stash.

Ripping out the map from my guidebook, I would hit the streets and explore my new environment where everything was fresh and exciting. It was exhilarating not knowing what was around the next corner, who I would meet, or what I would get up to. Oh, and the food—all the different smells, delicious new tastes and combinations—I loved snacking at the street food stalls.

But the best bit was if I fucked up—which I usually did due to excessive partying— I could just pack up, move on and start again.

If I resonated with a place I would always find a casual job, so I could become part of it, rather than just a drifter passing through. You can always get a job if you don’t mind what you do, be it handing out flyers, dishwashing, bar, waitress or picking fruits or vegetables.

More about this later.

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The Cool Dharmakaya

Doggie Town – Temple Style

The Spice Girls, Beckham and The Street Dogs of India

There was something about the street dogs in India that I resonated with; maybe it was their suffering, rejected, loveless, desperate lives, or their scarred, scabby, skeleton, mangy bodies. But I think it was their shiny eyes that pleaded for love, affection and acceptance, the same eyes I saw looking back at me when I looked in the mirror. The Spice Girls, Beckham and The Street Dogs of India

Stripe spice girls mother dog pic
Stripe, the mother of the Spice Girls

I truly understood how they felt, all alone in the world to fend for themselves, and I knew I had to help them. I started by just giving them a biscuit and some love and was amazed at how docile and friendly they become, soaking up every second of my attention.

They soon became the best friends I could ever have—loyal, loving and so much fun.

~ ~ ~

Looking down into the concrete electricity box on the middle kora—Tibetan name for the circumambulation path around holy sites—of the main temple, I was delighted to see that Stripe, the black dog with a white Stripe around her neck, had given birth to five babies.

“How beautiful” I exclaimed to a very proud Stripe, who opened her legs to give me a full view, of the sightless balls of fluff with four tiny legs, that were wiggling about to get closer to her swollen tits.

My heart melted as I stretched my arm down into that concrete hole and gentle engulfed one of the fluff balls. It smelt all milky, fresh and new, as it snuggled into my hand, and I gently flipped it over to check the sex. One after the other….girl, girl, girl, girl, and girl… five beautiful healthy girls! —I decided to name them after a famous girl band called the Spice Girls.

I would go daily to bring food for Stripe, check their health and clean up their home. My heart would almost explode with love, as I watched these fat, fluffy balls of curiosity and naughtiness, slowly grow, open their eyes and explore their surroundings.

Ginger Spice who is twice as nice
‘Ginger Spice, who is twice as nice’

Once they became independent each Spice Girl found their way out of the temple and into the town but ‘Ginger Spice, who is twice as nice’ stayed on. She rocked the temple and eventually became the queen and one of my number one doggies.

She was an amazing singer and would burst into song with her tail propelling around and around every time she saw me coming. We would sit together in the garden in the middle kora of the temple every afternoon with her mother, Stripe, sharing food, love and meditating.

Stripe’s husband, David Beckham, was a very handsome dog, with long, soft brown fur and big brown eyes. He had been missing for a few days, and I was starting to fear the worst. Until one day my friend shouted down to me from the outer kora “David Beckham is on the kora!”. I was completely relieved and overjoyed as Stripe, Ginger and I ran up the steps to greet him.

the handsome David Beckham
The handsome David Beckham

The reunion was a magnificent ball of love as we all group hugged and tail-wagging dogs all sang to each other in a language only they knew. Then through the fur, paws, and tails, I noticed quite a crowd was coming up to the outer kora.

“Who’s coming?” I asked a passing monk thinking that a high lama must be inside the temple.

“David Beckham the famous footballer is here!” he said running excited towards the gathering crowd in front of me.

“No, no! this is David Beckham!” I shouted after him as I cuddled the brown-eyed beauty.

It wasn’t easy to convince them that David Beckham was actually a dog! But the crowd of red-robed monks, nuns and pilgrims eventually figured out that there was no famous footballer anywhere in sight. They slowly went back to their practice and me and my balls of fur went back to our cuddles.

Where had David Beckham been? One lady had kidnapped him for her pet. I mean who wouldn’t want to cuddle up with David Beckham? Man and dog were both fit and handsome. But my handsome boy had escaped her clutches and found his way home.

When he went missing again, I went to her house just to see if he was there and he was! My poor handsome Beck’s was lying down all sad, behind the metal gated entrance of her courtyard.

“Woof, woof, woof” he shouted at me through the bars, which I’m sure meant “Get me out of here”.

“Hello, hello, open the gate!” I shouted through the bars, banging on them until a little old Nepali lady came to the courtyard.

“Please give me back my dog,” I told her sternly.

“He’s my dog” she argued back.

“I’m not here to argue with you, just open the gate and we let the dog decide” I insisted.

As soon as she opened the gate David Beckham ran out singing in all kinds of doggie tones and entangled himself around my legs.

“He lives in the main temple; you can come and visit him there, anytime. But do not kidnap him again or I’ll be back!” I told her firmly. Then Becks and I walked away to make our way back home.

~ ~ ~

At the same time Stripe was pushing out her five babies, Ruby was also busy in the bushes in the cemetery next door to the temple, popping out three beautiful boys—Sambogakaya, Nirmanakaya and Dharmakaya.

Sambogakaya and Nirmanakaya soon moved into the Hindu temple across the street, but Dharmakaya stayed faithful to the cemetery.

He was a big strong boy and very demure—the master yogi of the cemetery and another of my number one doggies. Every morning he would wait at the entrance of the main temple. Then we would walk into the cemetery together to sit on a temple roof and meditate there.

Ginger getting her fill

The only problem with this daily set-up was Dharmakaya and Ginger Spice were rivals for my time, love and affection. Ginger would hide somewhere in the cemetery and when she was sure Dharmakaya was sleeping or in deep meditation, she would sneak up the temple steps to the roof and cuddle into my lap with a smile of victory.

After she had had her fill of love and kisses, her skinny little arse would then sneak back off to wait for me in the main temple, the sleeping Dharmakaya not realising anything about our secret rendezvous.

And that is how life rolled in Doggie Town, at the main temple.

Meanwhile, on the streets of Doggie Town, there were even more escapades…

Coming soon!

pink water lily flower on water

Why a lotus trail?

A lotus is a beautiful flower that plunges to life from beneath the mud. As it elevates and rises it does not allow the dirt that surrounds it to affect its growth or beauty. Its spiritual symbol is of purity, enlightenment, self-regeneration and rebirth

In part one of my book, which is about backpacking around the world for 20 years, I was swimming around in the dirtiest water through shadows and darkness, getting addicted to every pleasure and always grasping for more. I was like the roots of the lotus pushing my way through the mud.

Part two is how I managed to finally stab and prod my way through that mud and slowly attain the wisdom and discipline to cut my addictions and develop more kindness and compassion, especially for myself. It was a long hard trail, and I often sunk back into the swampy mud but eventually, I broke through and slowly began to open my petals one by one to become a lotus.

We all have the potential to push through the mud and become a lotus, no matter how much dirt and mud is surrounding us or holding us back. But first and more importantly, you have to want to!

You need to get to know yourself, love yourself, forgive yourself, definitely laugh at yourself and change your mind-stream. That takes a lot of discipline and effort. Through studying the Dharma I learnt the tools that helped me to stop following my thoughts and emotions that lead me along the wrong path.

Just because you think it, doesn’t mean it is true.

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Why I wrote this book (part 2)

I moved to India in 2004 in search of yoga, as an alternative to a knee replacement and found so much more.

Studying and practising many varieties of yoga and meditation with some of the greatest masters in holy places all over India, not only fixed my knee but also changed my mind and style of living. I was finally ‘clean’ and settled down in the most sacred Buddhist place in the poorest state of India.

In 2020 when the first lock-down came I rushed to Goa to be close to the ocean in a more developed state of India, in case I got sick. After a few months, the virus situation improved and I decided to go to the Himalayas to be near my guru. This journey involved two flights with a layover in Delhi, one of India’s biggest hot spots for the virus. It was horrific to see the way life had changed with all the social distancing and precautions but the most devastating was the desperation, uncertainty and fear in people’s eyes staring out over the tops of their masks—I was heartbroken.

After a sleepless night on a cold floor in Delhi airport, the travel rules to the Himalayas had changed and no foreigners were allowed to enter. I was horrified that I would be stuck in one of India’s hot spots and almost broke down. I managed to control my fear and anxieties using the techniques I had learned from my teachers and felt extremely blessed to be able to return to Goa.

Sitting on my flight to Goa looking at everyone’s confused and fearful eyes, I released I had the knowledge of some of the most precious life-coping tools and it was now time to share them with the world, but how??? That’s when Part two of ‘The Lotus Trail’ manifested—my inner travel guide.

After months of book, book and more book, Christmas came and I decided to have a break. On Christmas Eve I was meditating on my favourite rock beach with my dog protector when he started barking. I opened my eyes to see a western man standing in front of me,

“Can I disturb you?” his soft voice asked me. Well, he already had!! So I nodded a yes.

“I have a message for you from Jesus, that I have to tell you” Oh here we go!! You can tell it’s Christmas, I thought as I continued to look up at him.

“Jesus said you have a message for the world, and you must deliver it now. But you must not force it, you must do it ‘softly’” and he smiled and walked away.

I continued to sit there thinking about this encounter. Was it truly a message or was he just a loony tune? Then it dawned on me that maybe he was talking about the book? When I got home I opened my computer and didn’t stop until it was finished.

With all my heart I hope whoever reads this book receives the ‘soft message’ I have to share with the world.

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Why I wrote this book (part 1)

A Lotus Trail is one of the hardest projects of my life and has taken me about 20 years to write because I have written it all from my life journey.

“You should write a book” most people I met would tell me, after listening to one of my many travel stories. I did think about it but being dyslexic, uneducated and definitely not an author put me off. Also, I never had much time outside of travel, fun and debauchery—I was a full-time party girl, where anything and everything goes… it’s a wonder I’m still alive today.

Fed up with being controlled by my addictions and realizing I was at rock bottom, I came to truly hate myself. I knew I had to change my lifestyle but just didn’t know how!! After many attempts, I finally succeed in 2002 with yoga as my support. Now I wasn’t at the party or in bed sleeping off the hangover, I had a lot of time and a clear head and finally started to write my book, in 2002 in Thailand.

I thought it was going to be some kind of a funny travel guide and in a way, it is—an external travel guide. I put it on the back burner for many years thinking it was done and not sure what to do with it. Then in 2020 when Covid came to live with us, and I saw the fear, anxiety and desperation in the world, I knew I had to do something.

I had been studying yoga and meditation with some of the greatest masters in India for 17 years and had received so many blessings and learnt many life tools. How can I keep them just to myself? I felt Now is the time to share them with the world, so I picked my book up again. I rewrote Part One and Part Two came to life naturally—my internal travel guide.

If only one person gets some benefit from ‘A Lotus Trail’ then it was worth all the hard work, effort and time.