Sounds of Freedom

I am listening to The City and the Stars by SPIRO (on their album Kaleidophonica) and it sounds to me like birds taking wing to the sky.

It got me thinking about freedom and what it sounds and feels like. Maybe freedom is just ‘putting something heavy down’ like a dilemma or a task or a fear or an addiction.

Perhaps the more we put down, the more our hearts soar, from the city to the stars.



Cat Moment


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Sometimes I have a Cat Moment, where I fall into wonder at the beauty, cuddly-ness and just wildness of our small furry friends.  It happened to me yesterday.

I was in Prague teaching (a scientific workshop) and I got an email that Smokey (my cat) was momentarily famous. You can see him on this fun blog dressed in Spring:

Being far away, I felt that pang I get when I miss my little beast, and when I think he might be missing me.  So I reflected on two big virtues of having him in my life.

  • He’s full of love.  When I come home from a trip or from a normal day at work, he demands immediate attention.  This brings me into the moment- I stop, my adrenaline cools, calmness and a sense of ‘being home’ arrives, and I purr along with him.
  • He knows how toCropperCapture[1419] enjoy resting.  I’m a person that does lots of things- one thing after another.  I rest when I meditate.  But when I find him curled up in a sunny ball on the patio, I tend to sit there along with him, having a cup of coffee, in the most relaxing and joyful way.

So, I would just like to honor all Smokey brings me and more.  May everyone reading this find their own ‘Cat Moment’ (even if it involves a dog).


Cat on my lap


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I have been sitting here listening to the Spring hail outside, with my cat on my lap, thinking about Mindfulness. It seems my experience deepens as I sit here. At first I thought- how nice to have a quiet moment with my cat, here in my living room protected from the crazed weather outside. Then I started to focus more on the moment itself.

How do I feel? The cat, warm- a pressure on my legs where he sits- a tingling in my toes as he lovingly cuts off my blood supply.

My breath feels rich and deep- not high in my chest but in my belly. There is a taste of celeriac in my mouth, and sounds of drops as the hail stops, birds take over.

Suddenly this one quiet moment becomes alive with feeling and sound. The world alive. I am delighted to stop and listen, then listen deeper.

What do I miss if I rush through the day, one task to the next, without stopping?

Wishing any readers I might have a moment to stop in a peaceful place, and connect with themselves and the vibrant world.

Through a Glass Door



photo (9)Watching the pair of them through a glass door, what do I see?

Two hungry birds. Nature, in mid-winter, keeping itself alive.

I look closer. The birds work together. One pecks, the other scans for danger. Two partners, one keeping watch and the other feeding. A beautiful friendship.

And then I see myself, excitedly hanging the feeder, hoping for a moment just like this one. Hoping some tiny birds might make it through cold days with nourishment from my garden. Inter-species friendship. A past act of mine making this current moment possible.

But all the time I’m looking through a glass door. And there are many things I don’t see in this moment- a dim promise of reality in all its complexity. What beauty and connections do I miss? The seed growers, the reapers. Those seeds transported, stocked. All those human links in the chain leading to this moment. All those people supporting our feathered coinhabitants of this planet.

I refill the bird feeder. Maybe next time I will understand more. For now, I am just hoping to see more of nature’s beautiful, flying creatures.

Rainbow Dragon

Gentle music
twinkling bird song
weaves through us
today and our
hearts sing back
a soft song.

Each note a color
until rainbows flame
smiling, arching,
dancing dragons in
a sky once barren.

Now we know
each gentle song
is part of the paint
of beautiful creatures
we sing stronger
our hearts full
of love –
dragon fire.

Take the Yoga With You


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At the end of another fantastic YogaGlo class, done from the comfort of my living room, the instructor wished us a good and positive rest of the day. In fact, he said ‘Take the Yoga with you’.

This struck a chord with me. Can we bring that peace and calm, that positive mental state we find on our mats to our normal lives? Yoga brings me (in my mind) to an island happy with sun and calm. Can we take that island away with us- keep it inside us?

Though I often find myself rushing through the city with a million things to do, I think maybe we can. In such moments like noticing the blue sky, and letting ourselves pause for a moment in its happy color. Maybe we can find yoga in the smile of a friend – taking that extra five minutes to really notice how that person is, really ‘be there’, be present. Or, in a few deep breaths after jumping into quick-closing metro doors, we can find calm and presence again.

I travelled with a huge suitcase the other day, and a stranger noticed me lugging it along and offered to help me carry it up a flight of stairs. I was struck by his manner. I thought, I’d like to be so observant, calm, and helpful. Meanwhile, commuters rushed past in the frenetic London Underground without a glance at us. Maybe he had the yoga in him, to be so calm amidst the rush.

This Christmas I am lucky to have some holidays, but I could easily plan to fill every minute. Instead, I am going to leave myself some free spaces to relax, be calm, and get into the yoga headspace. So I can really engage with my family and friends, and even spread the calm by being a positive and relaxed presence.

Hope everyone not only finds the yoga within, but spreads it along with Christmas cheer. May the yoga benefit you and the ones you love. And even the stranger you help on the street- sharing the time, helping carry a suitcase- whatever it may be.

Beauty in Fall



CropperCapture[1127]The other day I was struck by the flaming leaves, some vibrant red, some gently golden, forming magical carpets on grassy parks here in Cambridge. Is Autumn (in the UK- Fall in the US) so beautiful because we know it’s followed by a black and white landscape, where months may pass before we get a taste of Spring’s new green?

Or is it just the decadent color that delights our eye, especially with the low angles of sun streaming in?

Whatever it may be, I hope readers have a last leaf moment, a colorful indulgence, before winter is upon us.  Sometimes a brief moment of beauty is enough to warm our hearts, bring a smile to our faces, and spread joy to others, all inspired by a single, red leaf.

40 – Learning as I Go


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Screen shot 2013-11-03 at 15.00.30When I was young, I thought my life would be together by 40. I would navigate the world easily and achieve many things. I admit I also imagined I would be married with children. I turned 40 this year on the 29 Oct and when I think about where I am … a bittersweet laugh erupts.

Bittersweet but more sugary than lemony. In fact I have achieved some things by now- I published two books (Fireheart coming out in paperback soon!), I worked as a research scientist for 14 years and now manage a team in a challenging and dynamic scientific field. And I have made some excellent friends along the way- really amazing people who live their lives with both mind and heart. However, there is so much more I wish to do.

As to navigating life easily … no. In fact, this year I’ve gone back to being a student. I just finished a Writers Workshop course in Writing for Children (excellent) and I’m sure I will be taking more of their courses in the future. I also became a student of meditation, and now Buddhism. So in my ‘middle-age’ as some would call it, I’m aware of not yet knowing how this world works, and I turn to teachers for guidance.

Am I over the hill now, or at least on the top?  I don’t mind that analogy- as long as the way from here leads me to exciting new places, in excellent company.

A new center




When our situation changes, we often feel off balance. Tonight at dance class my teacher said something that struck a chord. We were doing a “high release” on our tip toes that involved arching one’s head and shoulders backwards over the “bra-line”. The trick is not to fall backwards. As I wobbled and fought to remain on tip toes, my teacher said, “Change your axis. That center line is no longer coming out of the top of your head, but out your breast bone.”

I immediately felt more stable. I understood that the axis, that center line that runs through my body, had changed. My position changed, but I was unstable until I realized it.

It strikes me that this happens in life. I’m thrown off course by a change, for example moving to a new city, starting a new relationship, or ending one. This can be very unsettling until I reorient myself around a new position and realize my center has changed. Maybe I have to shift priorities to meet this new life, or maybe I just need to accept a new identity.  I feel unstable when I still try to live as if I had my “old center”.

For example, moving to a new city, I have to make a lot of new friends, find a dance class that I like, or even just the supermarket.  If I constantly compare this to my old life, I will be miserable and flustered.  But if I realise this is my new and current reality, I reorient to that new situation, and things feel more “in place”.

Whatever change happens, I feel more stable when I recenter myself, realize my new position, and stand solidly on my tip toes (which is the most fun place to be anyway).

So to all those unbalanced folk facing a new situation- may you reorient yourselves peacefully and happily to a new center line.

Writing on Water

Screen shot 2013-10-07 at 20.14.57I’ve been thinking about this image- black ink on water, writing on a lake. It can be interpreted as nihilistic- ‘what is the point if our words and actions dissipate?’ But there is a more positive way to see the same image.

Oddly, my boyfriend around the same time dreamt of (Neil Gaiman!) trying to communicate with him by writing on water. My boyfriend tried to read what was written but couldn’t. But rather than be nihilistic about it, he took it to represent the beauty of communicating.  The communication mattered in his dream, not the end result.

Are our words rain on a lake? And if someone hears them patter down, is that the beautiful, meaning of it?

(Then again the end result can be wonderful. I found Neil’s latest children’s book ‘Fortunately the Milk’ to be hilarious.)