Memories of Italy

For my 50th birthday my husband took me to Italy for a treat. We went to Umbria which is billed a a quieter version of Tuscany and so it was.

It was beautiful and I learned how to smile again. Our hotel was on the top of a hill and it had been an old castle. The views were the most wonderful thing. You could see for miles: olive groves, woodlands, farmland right down in the valley and mountains in the distance. It was a perfect landscape – a little bit of everything. The hotel grounds were full of birds singing away until the evening. Every day was sunshine but one when it rained.  I loved it.

We went on lots of outings in the hire car to smart mediaeval towns full of flowers. We ate some amazing lunches. Italian gelato is exquisite, absolutely nothing like British ice cream. I must learn how to make it. We don’t eat meat but the rich farmland meant there were lots of vegetable dishes to choose from.

There was something special about the area. Pilgrims come from all over the world to the shrines of St Francis. Many saints had made their homes here in the past, living in caves in the hills. I could see why. There was a spiritual quality to the place, particularly on the high ground which I hadn’t felt since the West Highlands. You can feel close to God here.

I felt far from the cares of my life. I could feel the weight of my depression leaving me and even my constant sinusitis got better. I ate too much and drank too much and delighted in everything. On the last evening I sat on the terrace and tried to imprint the view on my brain so that I could remember it back in dreary old England.

Of course you cannot be on holiday forever though I wish you could. I need to incorporate at least some aspects of the trip into my life. I have concocted an ambition to have a little albergo in the hills  of Umbria and have people to stay. It would be wonderful. It can be my goal.

Already back in England I can feel the weight returning so I must fight to remember how life can be. I must think of Italy when the shadows come. One day I will get there.

Buddhism for Dummies Jonathan Landaw: Book Review

This is an excellent introduction to Buddhism. It is written in a simple style making some complex ideas very accessible. It is packed with information about the life of the Buddha, different styles of Buddhism, basic tenets and historical information. I found it fascinating and enjoyable. It has made me want to delve deeper into the subject and to start to practise more seriously. I feel incorporating Buddhist practices with my pre-existing shaky Christian beliefs could solve a lot of my problems. I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in spirituality.51id0U2rgDL._SX394_BO1,204,203,200_

Notes from The Old Chapel – summer – a year in Norfolk

It has been a year since we moved to The Old Chapel in Norfolk. It does not seem like a year. The summer is in full swing, the sun is shining and everything is in bloom. It is an idyllic time of year. The fields are full or ripening barley and the hedgerows are full of birdsong and wild flowers. It is hard to believe that a few months ago I felt like I was freezing to death.

It is wonderfully warm. The birds in the garden, ever hungry, get through a container of bird food a day. It seems like one minute it’s full, the next it’s gone. The garden is growing vigorously in its unruly way and I am battling weeds and overgrown bushes.

My mood has improved with the sunshine as has my sinusitis that has blighted my health this year. I am feeling almost well though I have to guard against my dark moods.

I set up a business this year, LittleBuddha, where I sell handicrafts online from India and Nepal. Business has been very slow and though I love selling Buddhist things I am not sure it has a long term future. It seems pretty hard to get noticed online and I can’t afford heavy advertising. I am deciding if it is worth keeping it going for longer or if I should just jack it. It has taken up a lot of my time for very litte reward.

My novel lies neglected. I have not been very productive with writing so I need to get back to it. I can feel it calling me again.

I have done a lot of work on myself to try to heal my mental health but it often feels like one step forward and two steps back. I have found meditation and the tenets of Buddhism to be helpful. I try to concentrate on the moment and not dwell on the past and future. I think I may still need to seek outside help.

The Chapel is lovely to live in in summer. The conservatory holds the heat and is wonderful to sit in any time of the day or night. I still feel like it isn’t mine, that I am just a visitor renting a holiday home for a time. I need to make my stamp on it. If it could be eternal summer I feel like I could be truly well here.

I am mostly alone as my husband works long hours. I sometimes wish for friends but I would rather have no friends than the wrong ones. This is a mistake I have made many times. It is a year I have shed yet more toxic people from my life and I don’t regret it. It was a necessary clearing out of the past.

My dog Didi is  a constant companion and he is a great friend, funny, mischevious and ever loyal. We heal each other.

Looking outward, it has been a year of many disasters: Brexit, the election, terrorism attacks, the London Tower fire. All these events weigh on the mind. I struggle to find a way to deal with their impact.

I feel like there has been a lot of reflection but not enough action. I need to move forward to find my place in the world. I feel a great restlessness, a need to do something meaningful, to make some mark.

I need to write… and maybe something else…

Yogi Cameron Diet – Week 7 Review

So I am already on week seven of the Yogi Cameron diet. The diet rules remain the same this week as for other weeks. The spiritual emphasis is on refraining from sex. Yogi Cameron suggests it takes away your energy from more important things like developing your spiritual practice. I think this idea will be very hard for most Western people where we are taught that a healthy sex life is good for us. I think when I was younger I would have scoffed but now I am older I can see some wisdom in it. My interest in all matters sexual has certainly waned in recent years. Yogi Cameron even abandoned a relationship to concentrate on Yogidom. You have to admire the dedication that I think most people could not emulate.

I have felt better than last week though I think I am still a little under the weather and get tired easily. I have discovered the joys of stewed fruit for breakfast. This is recommended as part of an ayurvedic diet as it is easy on the digestion. Just add water to fruit and simmer for a while. Add a little sugar though nowhere near as much as they tell you to in traditional cook books. The result is divine. It works for lots of kinds of fruits like cooking apples, pears. I have even tried strawberries and nectarines.

I have been sticking to the vegetable curries and rice for lunch. I have been doing much better this week on the no alcohol rule though I did have two glasses of wine on Thursday when I went out for a Thai meal. It was easy to stick to ayurvedic principles in Thai food. I had a vegetable curry with rice. I should have resisted the wine but I didn’t.

I still haven’t lost any weight. Sigh. To do this I think I am going to have to make some  significant changes to the diet.

I have kept up yoga and meditation. I am now meditating for twenty minutes. I am more successful in going deep on some days rather than others. I feel calm and I am not so bothered by negative events as I used to be. I am learning to manage stress and to bounce back from setbacks. I think I still need more help in this area. I really need to believe in myself as a trainee yogi and convince myself I can do it.


Yogi Cameron Diet Week 6 Review

Week 6 of the Yogi Cameron diet is the same as Week 5. The spiritual emphasis is on not stealing.  The diet is the same. I have kept to it about eighty per cent of the time. I have still been drinking alcohol which I am still annoyed with myself about. As of today I have eradicated all alcohol from the house so as of today I haven’t had any. I have taken the pledge. Food wise I have been doing pretty well and eating healthy whole foods. I notice when out and about how difficult it is to get healthy food in town. Most choices seem to be really unhealthy and don’t fit with ayurvedic principles.

I haven’t been feeling well this week. I don’t think it’s to do with the diet. Maybe I am coming down with something. I am not sure if it’s mental or physical or a  bit of both. The week has been full of minor irritations. I am facing up to a lot of my demons and I know this means I have to make changes in my life. I need to change the way my mind works. It is a  lot of work and sometimes overwhelming. I am hoping I will be better when I get through to the other side.

I have been reading more about ayurveda. There are a lot of conflicting opinions as the diet comes from ancient Vedic texts which are thousands of years old. Some ayurvedic diets allow meat and fish but Yogi Cameron does not. I am doing the more strict type. The emphasis is on fresh foods that are grown locally and organically. Eggs are almost never mentioned. I have read this is because they are considered dirty and low because they come out of a chicken’s bottom. I have still been having the odd egg. Most Indian recipes with eggs in them stem from the Raj and the British influence.

Here’s hoping to a return to health and well being next week.

Yogi Cameron Diet – Week 5 Review

I had a health check this week as I am a new patient at the surgery. I am in perfect health according to the nurse. This is good news. She said I am not overweight but for myself I would like to lose about a stone. Frustratingly, I still haven’t lost any weight. I can’t blame Yogi Cameron though. I can only blame myself as I keep cheating.

The diet is the same as the other weeks. The spiritual emphasis is on not stealing. This doesn’t just mean actual stealing but other types like stealing a parking space. I must admit I don’t do this type of behaviour really so I can feel success in this area.

I have been feeling out of balance this week and as a result I have been eating far too much and I have drunk too much alcohol. I am feeling really annoyed with myself for my lack of willpower. I have been eating all healthy whole foods but just too much of them. I find myself ravenously hungry in the evening and that’s when I cheat by having a piece of bread.

I have had lots of thoughts from the past that make me feel bad. I think this is part of the healing process to get it all out of your head. It’s hard though. I have kept up my yoga, meditation and praying. I have slept well. I have had a reasonable amount of energy but not as much as I would like.

I need to get my head into the space where I follow the diet properly and then I can really evaluate it.

Yogi Cameron Diet – Week 4

I  am sticking with the Yogi Cameron Diet. Week 4 is really the same as Week 3. There is an emphasis on honesty and turning your ‘I can’t’ statements into ‘I can’. The diet is still fruit and vegetables with basmati rice. The largest meal is taken in the middle of the day and there is no eating in the evening.

I must admit to feeling really well this week. I have energy and a sense of well being. I have cheated as it was my wedding anniversary on Thursday so we went out and I had lunch in the UEA art gallery cafe. I had fish cakes so that was a Yogi Cameron no no. I also had wine on Thursday. In spite of this I still feel good. Unfortunately, I still haven’t lost any weight in spite of my vigorous yoga routine, jogging and healthy diet. This is puzzling to me.

All I can do is to be ever more draconian next week. Absolutely no cheating whatsoever. Just fruit and vegetables.

Here’s hoping.

Week 3 – Yogi Cameron Diet

I am now in Week 3 of the Yogi Cameron diet.

The focus this week is on truthfulness. It is not only about telling the truth but finding your authentic self. This is something I have been working on for a while.  I still haven’t found my true purpose. I don’t know what I am meant to be doing. I am going to continue to search. I need to try different things until I find a fit. When you are doing something that is right for you things should flow. They should feel easy rather than a chore. This is a challenge. I find lots of things a chore. The search continues.

I am gaining clarity as I move through the programme about many aspects of my life. I have spent a lot of time thinking about how I behave, how I react to things. I know there is a lot wrong in my life that I need to put right. I do feel that I am making progress though in small steps. The new home has made me feel much better about my life. The connection with nature is really important. As I sit here I can see a blue tit pecking at the bird feeder. This makes me feel really good.

The diet is the same as the previous weeks. No meat, no fish, no processed food, no frozen food, no microwaved food, no caffeine, no alcohol. I have been eating fresh fruit and vegetables with some butter. A small amount of dairy is allowed.

Five minutes in the morning should be spent in thinking about how to act truthfully.

In addition to this I have added in my yoga practice, jogging and meditation. Unfortunately I have cheated on the alcohol and already had a couple of glasses of wine this week. This is a real problem for me and something I need to work on. Giving up all the other things was easy and I don’t miss them at all. Wine is some kind of comfort blanket for me. I need to work harder on getting rid of this addiction.

On the topic of truthfulness like most people I have told lies in the past. I have a tendency to embroider the truth. Why do I do this? I think one of the reasons is a need to impress or please people. This tendency has lessened in me as I have worked on self-development. The only person I need to please is myself. I have definitely made progress here. Sometimes I think I have been too honest and it has got me into trouble. Often people don’t want to hear the truth. I am not sure what to do about this but I can see spiritually honesty is the way to go.

I had a darker mood yesterday which explains the reversion to wine drinking. Some dark experiences from the past came to haunt my dreams. Today that feeling seems to have gone. I am feeling more at peace. It is raining again today but that is good so the focus can turn to indoor activities.

The best thing about this week is I have started to write again. I worked on my novel yesterday and I felt positive about what I have written so far. Maybe writing is my  purpose though I am still not sure about that.


Notes from the Old Chapel – Tractorameggodon

So I am settling in really well into the Old Chapel. Harvest is in full swing so tractors are rumbling by the house every five minutes. They have cut down some of the wheat and made the straw into bales. The rest is still ripening in the sun.

I seem to have been buying lots of wooden furniture as we don’t have enough. So much for trying to live simply. There seems to be an endless list of things I need to buy. I will have to look at more eco friendly options. I have bought an oak desk for me to do my writing on. I have set up my computer in the conservatory and my writing nook is looking pretty professional. I just need to get on with it now.

I have been pretty healthy, keeping to my diet, doing yoga, jogging every day and walking the dog for hours. I am finding it really easy to avoid caffeine now. I haven’t had any for weeks and I really don’t miss it. The headaches and leg pains have stopped so I feel pretty good. My energy levels have definitely improved and I am much more active than I used to be. Maddeningly I haven’t lost any weight so I will have to cut down again next week. I was annoyed with myself for weakening on Sunday and having wine. I also had rhubarb infused gin. Bad, bad, bad. This was because we went on a day trip to Sandringham. We just went in the country park and had a walk through the woods. My dog Didi had a great time. Woodland is his favourite habitat.

The weather has been amazingly warm and the sun has been out quite a bit. I love the sunshine. I have been sunbathing a little each day to get my vitamin D and I am now quite tanned.

Work wise I have updated my CV as I am tentatively having a foray into the world of work again. The very thought is scaring me. I have finally opened up my second novel on Word and I am working my way through what I have written so far. I really need to finish it.

My cat Monty has for some inexplicable reason decided he doesn’t want to go outside any more and is staying in the house all the time. This makes it difficult as he doesn’t get on with the dog so I have to keep them separate.

I have tentatively begun to garden. So far I have deadheaded some roses and cleaned a lot of green something or other from the surface of the pond. I found a dead baby bird in the pond. Poor thing. Samsarra.

I have kept my meditation sessions quite short but it is wonderful to be able to meditate in such a beautiful garden. A real feeling of peace descends.

This week I really need to get into a routine and write every day. I think  I need to treat it like a job and give myself breaks but otherwise write all day. It’s the only way. I also need to apply for jobs so I can feel like a productive member of society. I need to get over my fears.

The news has been awful with all these terrorist attacks. I feel more able to detach myself from it now so I don’t get so upset. I wish somebody knew what to do. I think on a personal level we just have to remember to be kind to each other. If everyone did this the world wouldn’t be in the state it’s in. I am working on myself first. Then I can help others.