6 things you didn’t know about chocolate

6 things you didn’t know about chocolate: 

1. It’s good for you! Now I am not advocating eating entire packets of chocolate covered biscuits, or a whole tin of roses/quality streets. These are all loaded with refined sugar which really isn’t good for you. But the key ingredient, Cacao, has been used as a medicine for centuries. Good news, right? 

2. It originates in South America, where it grows as an understory layer of the rainforest. But now, most commercial chocolate you eat comes from West Africa where farmers grow new crosses and subspecies on small holdings. 

3. It was first available in the UK in the early 1600s when you could drink it in private clubs. When it first came to Europe it was brought as a currency. It was later that the Dutch worked out a way to process it and remove some of the bitterness. 

4. Which brings me to number four - it is very bitter in its natural state. Pure sugar - saccharine - is also very bitter. Strange,  I know. When I serve it in the Cacao ceremonies, I always warn people of the bitterness. When i first drank it in Ceremony, I felt like I was taking in bitter, warm mud. But I love it now... and I always add a drop of rose and geranium oils to give it an essence of sweetness. 

5. And finally, a bit of plant geek vocabulary: Cacao is ‘cauliferous’. Like a cauliflower, it’s flowers grow straight out of the trunk. The flowers are very 3 dimensional. You can see pictures (and visit them to see the real thing growing!) on the Eden Project’s website: 

http://www.edenproject.com/learn/for-everyone/plant-profiles/cacao

My next Cacao ceremony is on 14th February 2018, 11am -2pm. Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a bit of self-love and nurture. Booking and info link here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/valentines-day-cacao-ceremony-tickets-41643120695?ref=eios&aff=eios

Enlightenment is like....a cup of tea.

Enlightenment is like....a cup of tea.

I crave tea. I crave what a cup of tea represents. I am so busy providing for others I rarely make one and have time to sit and drink it from start to finish. 

When I go to work, one of the highlights is that I can drink two or more whole cups of tea in a day, no child on my lap, no disturbances. 

Of course, the reason I crave these things is that I currently don't get them. When I had lots of tea drinking time, I yearned for motherhood. 

It is not to say that one is right or wrong or better or worse. The point is we are always moving from where we are now to someplace else. Life is transient, or transcendent in fact. We move beyond. 

Of course, the actual best cup of tea is the one I make and drink with my baby, whilst he is playing around and doing his stuff, but when I have enough presence within myself to savour the experience of the tea and the joy and bliss of the baby. 

Meditation (or enlightenment?) that requires everything else to stop is not in fact enlightened. Life has to and will continue. Meditation that expands our ability to 'include' (i.e. To feel more than one emotion or experience at a time) is what we want. 

 

 

 

 

My hut, my hut… or how do you know how far you’ve  come?  

This morning my baby woke, as usual, and I picked him up and gave him his milk, as usual, and we snuggled down back under the duvet, as usual. Mostly he takes the warm bit and I have to have a cold bit, with no pillow. This has also become our habit. 

He is clearing a cold, so he coughed. Then he coughed a bit more, and then so much that I suddenly heard and a millisecond later, felt,  vomit running down my face. My immediate reaction was disgust, then high speed stripping the bed and pillow to reduce the smell lingering…. 

But as I began the process of washing EVERYTHING, I realised that it has been a couple of months since this happened. In fact, this rude awakening prompted me to remember just how good and healthy he has been recently. In fact, I almost felt gratitude. I was up and in the shower quicker than usual, and the washing machine was emptied and reloaded with great speed! Unexpected ‘bonus’.  

There is an ancient tale of a prince of high standing who was raised in a hut in a swamp as a potato farmer. As he grows, he can see the place in the distance and wishes he could visit one day. What would life be like if …? he dreams.  

In a Disney-esque plot twist, the royal guard turns up one day and tell him that in fact he is the future king and needs to come and live in the palace he has been hankering for.  

Amid great excitement, he takes his new position and all is well. A few months later, as the excitement of the new has subsided, now replaced by political intrigues and the pressures of responsibility. As he is standing on his palace walls, he looks out at his old hut. Reminiscing, the prince says “My hut, my hut! If only I was there, life was simpler then”. 

With the power of the palace at his disposal, he summons his escort and demands they take him back. At first, he enjoys seeing the old place, but as he settles in, he remembers the damp, the discomfort that he lived with at this time. Of course, he returns to the palace with a new appreciation for the journey travelled and the current status he occupies.  

Meditation practice can be this dramatic an upgrade. The problem can be that we normalise these benefits, unless we can find ways to compare before and after. If you have lapsed in your practice, I recommend remembering how life was before you learnt. Just as habits are built moment to moment, so to do we evolve our understanding, our health, our relationships. I wouldn’t recommend lots of nostalgia, but sometimes a quick insight (not necessarily as  smelly as vomit!) gives us a deep understanding of how far we have come.  

 

 

 

How did a pomegranate seed change my life?

How did a pomegranate seed change my life?

The story of a 'chance' meeting, a throw away suggestion, and a total career change!

I was in India, glowing after my first retreat in Rishikesh. I stayed at an Ayurvedic clinic for a few days before a pre-booked tourist tour of Rajasthan. I watched a girl eat her way through an entire pomegranate with a spoon. They are good for women's issues she told me, as she like I was having the famous 'banana' treatment, which involved eating only milky rice each day and a morsel of banana covered in medicine and full of chanted mantras. My British establishment-raised mind was boggling at every turn. She had a beauty that was compelling. Her lustrous eyes fixed on me. "Are you single?" I nodded. "I have someone for you". I nodded again. Back in England, he contacted me - by Skype as it turns out he was in Australia. I flew out, then moved out, and although the love affair with him ended, I fell into bliss with the sunny country, the barefoot teenagers, the surfboards on the bus, the no-nonsense humour. The meditation community and knowledge I gained access to there were a key step in me training to be a teacher....5 years and 2 continents later. .  I have not seen Natalie since those Delhi days, but I always think of her when I break in to a fresh, messy, abundant, divinely juicy pomegranate. 

I was in India, glowing after my first retreat in Rishikesh. I stayed at an Ayurvedic clinic for a few days before a pre-booked tourist tour of Rajasthan. I watched a girl eat her way through an entire pomegranate with a spoon. They are good for women's issues she told me, as she like I was having the famous 'banana' treatment, which involved eating only milky rice each day and a morsel of banana covered in medicine and full of chanted mantras. My British establishment-raised mind was boggling at every turn.

She had a beauty that was compelling. Her lustrous eyes fixed on me. "Are you single?" I nodded. "I have someone for you". I nodded again.

Back in England, he contacted me - by Skype as it turns out he was in Australia. I flew out, then moved out, and although the love affair with him ended, I fell into bliss with the sunny country, the barefoot teenagers, the surfboards on the bus, the no-nonsense humour. The meditation community and knowledge I gained access to there were a key step in me training to be a teacher....5 years and 2 continents later. . 

I have not seen Natalie since those Delhi days, but I always think of her when I break in to a fresh, messy, abundant, divinely juicy pomegranate. 

How did you spend 'Back to the Future' Day?

21 October 2015 was chosen by movie makers 30 years ago as the day to peek into the distant future. Their depiction of a dystopian future showed that our hero had succumbed to his flaws (“no one calls me chicken”) and everyone drove flying cars. The fashions had a distinct 80s flair for neon, but the talking devices were not too far from the truth. 

 I spent ‘Back to the Future day’ visiting Stonehenge. On a grey fog-swept Wednesday, the site was still busy. Human interest in time travel is not limited to movies. People are drawn to this ‘portal’ that shows us a glimpse into the past, showing us monumental human ingenuity and organisation, whilst leaving much open for speculation: why make it? Who made it? Was it calendar, crematorium or cathedral? 

The Vedic view of time is that it is circular, not linear. In every moment, all things, and all times are happening. When we are deeply connected into our own consciousness, we access different states of being. As we meditate, we get to tap into something that is both within and beyond our current self. We can heal the past, and improve on the future, without having to fuel our futuristic car to reach 88 miles an hour. Marty had his Time machine and Doc to help, fuelled by a determination to save his family. To meditate you need a technique, a teacher to keep you on the path, and some effort to get in the chair. Carve out for yourself the precious time it takes to meditate, and you are giving your old self an improved past as well as a happier, healthier future. But I can't promise a hover board.

Group meditation is open to everyone at The Stable House. Beginners are welcome, and I will be running a couple more introductory courses before December when my baby is due. For experienced meditators, I have some spaces left on my rounding retreat 29 October to 1st November. All enquiries to camillaebaker@gmail.com. 

Thoughts on my 40th birthday, 6 months on

On my fortieth birthday I found myself in the chalk pit, surrounded by family friends, feasting on South African food with djembes singing. The ground had been cleared, through slash and burn and a scorched earth technique more familiar to the Australian outback than rolling Kentish downland. 

This pit was dug, we think, in order to supply the chalk for the mortar to build the house. It has a road that spirals down into it around the northern edge, and I fancy I can picture the one man and his donkey diligently chipping and pulling the rocks up and out along it. My great grandparents planted the cliff tops with indigenous tree species and a special snowdrop collection, which overtime evolved a unique cultivar, named the 'Florence Baker'. It is one of few memorials to the feisty but camera-shy widow of my much feted great-grandpa. 

As a child I first encountered this landscape at a time when I read Stig of the Dump. I am a bit shamefaced to remember I found our wild space a bit disappointing because we didn't have an actual cave man living in the undergrowth. I played here alone mostly, not very brave or adventurous but more observant and with a vivid imagination. 

As an adult, during shamanic training in Australia, we would be asked to journey into our landscape. Each time I climbed up onto the eagle's back, I would look down immediately onto this space. It wasn't the house of Owletts that called me home, but the energy of the land. Especially the wild, the unknown, of this slightly off bounds crater.

I sat, now 40, and three months pregnant, soaking up the moment. Kids played by the fire, or slid on the slide, or read books in the shade. Adults talked or parented or drummed or gossiped or cooked or tidied. The wood pigeon cooed its three beat song: 'ron-daaaaa-vel'. This melody evokes my mum, as it is a sound you hear all over the world, but especially on the family farm in the dry Free State where my mother grew up, and where her ashes now rest. A trio of magpies stood by (one for sorrow, two for joy, three's a girl .....we'll see!) a totemic animal spirit representing, to me, the need to hold the shadow with the light. To stand comfortable in duality. 

My mother's family began to tidy up and leave. They save their extra special hugs and meaningful messages for their farewell, and as night follows day, my tears begin to flow. 'Do you have hay fever?', my niece asked. 'No', I replied frankly, 'this is liquid happiness'.

As the pit filled with people and sun and hanging vines, so had my old sadnesses and old hurts and sense of loss been filled with an in-pouring of joy. Two days of dancing and festivity and laughter and rekindled friendships and future well wishing had been working it's way into my system. Happiness had been percolating as if through layers of rock, seeping into gaps and washing out old vestiges of grief. 

To build the house, the ancestors dug a pit. The negative space as equal and opposite to the positive construction that is more public than was also manmade effort. However this hole is not a scar, but a creation of potential. It is a vessel in which energy, people, wildlife can collect. I feel my own loss, of parent, friendships, homes, relationships, dreams unrealised, all these are in fact an equal creation of the potential for love to flow in. 

So I cried with joy for a happy future. Then I took my self, and my baby, for a much needed nap. Thank you all for the music, the merriment, the memories. 

Diwali, Sunday 15th November

Hello! Diwali is a good excuse for lighting candles, and usually, a lot of fireworks. There is an epic tale (the Ramayana) behind the tradition of Diwali. It contains all the usual Vedic characters and subplots: kingdoms lost and won, demons, monkey gods, banishment and of course an all conquering, powerful love.

Diwali is a chance to welcome in abundance and wealth into your house, whilst bringing light and colour to a winter's evening. I would like to invite you to join a group meditation with lots of candles, and afterwards please stay for a bite to eat. If there is interest, we could watch a modern animated take on the Ramayana, created by Nina Paley (one of the early artists to distribute her work freely, ie widely and for free). There is a trailer here if you want a flavour:   http://sitasingstheblues.com/watch.html

If you can't join us, be sure to get your meditations in today. You can welcome in abundance by having a light in each window of the house. A 'diva' oil lamp or  candle is traditional, but of course please be safe with naked flames!

Here's wishing us all light and abundance for the year season ahead.

Getting even closer to nature

The summer is here. It is the most beautiful place to be: outside on a sunny day in the UK. The grass is still green, the flowers are lush and aromatic, and most of all people wear the smiles of those who know this too will pass......

At the request of the group, we have begun meditating outside when possible. We have a 'summer house' that once was a fully contained and heated hothouse home to my great grandmother's tropical ferns. And quite often I imagine she installed herself here too, savouring the warmth. I send belated gratitude to the series of gardeners who woke early to stoke the boiler to create the steam that came in through the pipes.

Now this space is really half a house: just half the walls and some roof beams which hold a small area of cane weaving. But there are chairs, and that is all we meditators need. As it is inside, everyone has their preference: hardbacked, or soft? sun or shade? and I enjoy watching people indulge their simple, natural, desire be comfortable. We settle in, we gently chat about the day, we close our eyes and get ready to dive.

Ah nature. The sounds of the birds (and the traffic) and the gentle blessing of the warm air on our face, are all closer here. It is a different experience to being inside, we all agree. Different, but equally lovely. Or as the Indians say, 'same, same but different'.