Mommy – Get Ready To Bloom!

There is no substitute for a mother’s love.  Some have been fortunate to have loving, supportive mothers.  Others lost their moms at a young age, some barely knew their moms or knew them not at all.

Mother’s Day, like many national holidays, can bring up a mixed bag of emotions.  As I wrestle with my mom’s latest illness, I realize the enormous love my mother has had for me and I for her, but I cannot discount the fact that mother/ daughter relationships can be fraught with complications.  In the end, love is the greatest healer.

serenity and yoga practicing at sunset, meditation

We all need to be mothered in one way or another.  One way to heal the mothering energy is to nurture ourselves.  When we nurture ourselves, it’s easier to nurture others  from a pure place. We bathe those in need with unconditional love.  This is the behavior of a healthy, mother energy.  If you’ve had a mom who has impacted your life in a most positive way, I know you count your blessings daily.  For those who have not had that kind of love, I think of you, especially on this occasion and send you Light and Love.  And for those who have recently lost their Mothers, I feel your pain more now than ever…  Mother’s Day can be a great time to put together a memory shrine for your mom no matter when she made her transition.

We have two botanical offerings to help invoke that nurturing energy, our Spiritual Spritzer called Nurturing and our Sea Scape Perfume.  Both are made with real jasmine essential oil and elements from the sea to calm and heal, not just for this special occasion, but for all year round.  Yemanja, Auset, Mother Mary, Privhti we call on you!

Happy Mother’s Day To All!

 

Thailand – Land of the Buddha

Back in October when I asked my friend Patricia Patton if I could join her on an excursion to Thailand, I really knew very little about Thailand, except that I’ve always enjoyed Thai massage and Thai food. This was going to be my gift to me for my 60th!  I had forgotten that the movie The King and I,  was based on a true story and in many ways influenced the future of Siam aka Thailand.  Nor did I realize that the food chain 7- Eleven was founded by a man from Thailand.  Those stores permeate the country, with over eight thousand 7-Elevens in Thailand, and over three thousand of those are located in Bangkok.

And I had no idea the level of devotion to the teachings of the Buddha, the Buddha consciousness that is palpable throughout Thailand. Despite the fact that most of the population are poor, people appear at peace and happy.  This may sound naive, but I do believe it’s the culture, tied in with the beliefs of the Buddha (regardless circumstances, happiness is available in every moment by controlling the mind) that makes for these easy going population. I’m not saying they’re happy to be poor, but the Thai people are just very pleasant to be around.

Patricia and I

I cannot deny what it requires of me mentally and physically to take these exceedingly long flights to far away lands. The whole mind game to endure an 18 hour flight to Thailand was substantial. There are some folks who travel around the globe on a regular basis and think nothing of the travel time. Many of them tell me they just sleep through it. I find it quite grueling and resort to all kinds of techniques, like talking to myself and practicing breathing exercises, watching lots of movies and reading. Still, I feel like a kid constantly trying not to ask myself “How much longer? Are we there yet?” And I was so thankful for the compression socks my sister loaned me. At the last minute I couldn’t find mine.  But won’t travel without them. What a life, legs, saver!!!

Typically, I was never one who could sleep on airplanes. But these days when I travel, I used my Spritzers and essential oil blends to calm and center myself. These Spritzers are my constant travel companions whether traveling locally in my car, on the subway or headed across the globe. Their botanical ingredients provide an easy access to natures healing powers.

Ancient ruins with countless statues like this of the Buddha – It was 105 degrees this day

It was incredibly hot when we arrived in Thailand.  We later found out that we arrived at the beginning of the Thai summer season. Ours would be the last tour of the season due to the extreme heat.  That first week the temperature ranged between 95-105 degrees. No wonder they have Night Markets, where mostly tourists shop at outdoor markets in the evenings when the temps have cooled down. One thing I did notice with all that heat, the little aches and pains I typically have were non-existent.  Now that I’m back home to cold, damp temps, those little annoyances have returned….We also happen to be in Thailand during the Thai New Year, April 13th-15th. Since it’s so hot during the New Year season, that it is celebrated with water.  And people literally douse each other with buckets of water, water guns, water hoses, it’s hilarious and fun.

In the big city of Bangkok, there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to how the city is laid out, if you can even call it that. It’s a mesh-mash of shanty type buildings thrown right in with 5 star hotels. Not my idea of beauty. Though there are many fabulous boutique hotels and other businesses that have all the bells and whistles. I found the city of Bangkok quite congested and unattractive along with the underlying smell of sewage; much like what I have experienced in Africa and the Caribbean.  These facts did not subtract from the overall experience of Thailand, which was just incredible. For my taste, the countryside is far more appealing with rice farms and lots of greenery, palm trees, coconut trees and all kinds of huge plants abound. We traveled to five cities but they were all up north, nowhere near the amazing beaches of the south in cities like Phuket, the place that introduced most of the world to the word tsunami.

Young novice monks on daily walk to receive offerings of food

What most amazed me was the devotion to the Buddha and his teachings. It’s in the air in the way that the people conduct themselves and interact with others. Imagine begin in a place where everyone who greets you brings their hands into prayer position and bows their head. This is everyone, from the children on up, the shop keepers, the concierge at the finest hotel restaurants, everyone greets you this way in Thailand. There’s something very sacred about that kind of interaction. It’s a cause for a mental pause, to really see the person you’re greeting and who is greeting you. People tend to be easy going and calm, gracious and patient, soft spoken and considerate. Drivers give each other the right of way, and there is no car horn blowing in Thailand. Drivers have the option to buy their cars with or without a horn, and most do not. Imagine that!

An artisan making a Buddha

There are incredible images of the Buddha, everywhere. There are 14 million people in the city of Bangkok alone and our tour guide said that there are least 3 Buddha statues to every one person. Thailand is an ancient country with statues of the Buddha that date back 700 years. There are ancient temples and ruins to the Buddha that both local people and travelers pay homage to daily. They bring offerings of money, bouquets of fresh cut flowers, garlands of flowers, jewelry, incense, they burn candles, genuflect and pray. The monks are given food daily by the people as a way of honoring those who take very seriously the teachings of the Buddha. All this to say, I was happily in a kind of, Buddha heaven until that last day. The many innumerable temples of all varying sizes, ages, details, are too many to list here.

The King graciously accepting a flower from an elder

Another point that stood out in a major way is the love that the Thai people have for their deceased king; this is evident everywhere. Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, was the world’s longest-reigning monarch; he died on October 13th 2016, after 70 years as head of state.  All over the city, the country, in the homes and businesses are huge photos, posters, and elaborate water resistant framed images of this king, the late Rama the 9th.  Yet, he was hardly ever in the headlines.  Why, because he was a great man, an upright leader who cared.  Had he been a tyrant we would have heard much about him.

Seemingly he was a king of and for the people. Our guide told us of the many ways he regularly went into the proverbial trenches to support and empower the people, to be with them through natural disasters, to uplift the farmers, to teach the Cambodians other skills so that they gladly left the lucrative business of opium behind. His Highness passed last October, but if you were there now, you’d think he just died the other day as buildings, businesses and homes are draped in black and white mourning cloth. He loved his people and their love for him is still quite apparent.

Sitting here with young girls from the Karen Long Neck Tribe

Last but not least, this time around on Thailand, are of the beautiful indigenous people who live in the hills of Chiang Mai. There are 10 Hill Tribes and the one that is most well known are the Karen Long Neck Tribe. They are located up the hill from the elephant reserve in Chiang Mai.  Unfortunately, these tribes are becoming like most indigenous people around the planet, scarce. Their numbers are declining as the elders pass on and the young people succumb to the influence of western civilization via satellite television and tourists. There are seemingly more people who live in the 75 brownstones on my block, than who reside in those 10 tribes, put together. There didn’t appear to be even 100 people in those hills.

Up in the hills where nature and beauty prevails

I was heartbroken that this was not a part of our scheduled tour. And since our tour was so jammed packed, it was just a few of us who decided that on the last day in Thailand (when I was out of steam, time and money) we would get up early to make the journey to see the people of the Hill Tribes. They were the real deal, the ones with the ancient artistry, living the way of the ancient customs and traditions. This was for me the soul of Thailand. I would have gladly skipped spending one more day seeing yet three to five more temples and dozens more Buddha images to spend a whole day and even several days in the hills with the Hill Tribes.

A young Kayaw girl weaving on loom

These people of art and the land make their living selling their amazing artistry to tourist. I found myself feeling guilty for being there as a tourist, taking photos of them and with them. I felt like I needed to be doing more, giving more than just an exchange of money for their goods.   I’m still grappling with this and wondering what more can I do? But needless to say, despite all the many Buddhist temples and incredible statues of the Buddha, this 45 minute visit to see the people in the hills, was the highlight of my trip to Thailand. If I ever make it back to Thailand, this is where I will be spending my time and money.

This wonderful Akha elder had us all smiling

There’s so much more that we experienced and learned, like ride on the elephants (images of elephants are also quite prevalent in Thailand) learning how to cook Thai food, we learned how to make paper with botanical designs in the paper, and the list goes on and on. If you haven’t already visited, consider going to Thailand for a most unique and fortifying experience.

Celebrating My 60th Year!

This past weekend I celebrated my 60 birthday by marking the date with a photo shoot. My father was a  photographer for the navy; and as such I’ve been in front of the camera with a professional photographer starting in my youth.

Part of me was hesitant about this decision because when I mentioned it to key people in my life they seen to yawn at the idea. But I found certain images kept reappearing before me as if they wanted to be born. Finally, I called a long time friend, photographer Edward C. Jones, who I’ve known since our days at Howard University and asked if he was up for this venture. His was the first positive feedback. Even with that vote of confidence, I vacillated many times, I wanted to cancel, but eventually I went forward with this plan.

Part of my inspiration to do this shoot was to address “looking younger” than my age. What has been most important to me, is feeling vibrant and healthy. I have often felt humbled by these compliments and wanted to share that my looking younger and being healthy did not come from “good genes”. My so-called youthful appearance, I believe has come from a lifestyle of both discipline and sacrifice.  What has been most surprising to me is that as I become older, being disciplined has not become easier.  There is a part of me wants to rest on my laurels, but I know it doesn’t work like that. You use it or you loose it. I know that I’m only as good as my last meditation, my last yoga practice, my last act of compassion.

When in my 20s and 30s I was not out partying and drinking on weekends like many people are at that age. I was at home going to bed early, including on the weekends, after standing on my feet braiding hair for 8, 10, 12 hours a day. Instead of partying and drinking alcohol, I was consuming herbal infusions and fresh pressed juices, and in bed most nights by 10:00.  And practicing yoga helped mitigate the occupational hazards of that sedentary work of standing and sitting on a high stool for hours on end.  Yoga saved me.

I am still an early to sleep, early to rise kind of gal. I was also a vegan at that time and practicing yoga on a regular basis as well as doing aerobic workout regularly (mostly power walking and bicycling around Central Park when I lived in Harlem and Prospect Park when I moved to Brooklyn). In addition, I belonged to Ausar Auset an African religious organization that focused on yoga, meditation, a spiritually based lifestyle and many of the same spiritual concepts and practices that I am re-visiting through the teachings of the Buddha, via the teachings of Thích Nhât Hanh, I was also introduced to at Ausar Auset .  Most of my close friends from that time are still my close friends today and they are all healthy, vibrant and on no medications; and many of them are five to seven years older than I am.

I sincerely believe my decision to live a healthy life style was greatly influenced by loosing my grandmother, who was my best friend, at the age of 8. My grandmother was just 48 years when she died of complications from type 2 diabetes and stroke. Diabetes “runs” in my family. But as we all have learned by now, that it’s really the diet and lifestyle that “runs” in the family and creates the conditions that lead to type 2 diabetes.

On the table behind me, my Ancestor shrine with photos of my dear grandmother and other family and friends now on the other side of eternity.

My grandmother amazed me as I watched her inject herself with insulin; she was a courageous hero in my eyes. And like most grandmothers of that era, she didn’t exercise. My Grandmother was a hairstylist who ended up with varicose veins, that later crippled her when she had a botched operation on them.  Additionally, my mother has been very sickly all my life in and out of hospitals ever since I was a young child and the same is true to this day. I did not want to continue this legacy of illness in my family. But of course I did not realize this consciously as a child.

It has been an amazing journey to reach this age in my life, many years past my grandmother’s time on the planet. My inspiration for this photo shoot in addition to celebrating my 60th year, is to hopefully inspire others to take care good care of their selves and consider including the wonders and benefits of yoga into their lives to uplift both the inner and outer body as well as the mind and spirit. And to also say, “Here’s to you Grandma.”  I feel she’s never left me, she ever at my side. Feel free to reach out to me for a yogic consultations and or private yoga classes.  You can reach me at Anu@AnuEssentials.com

Grandma, I made it! 60 and healthy with a life full of love and joy!

 

Check out the my YouTube video of a little Vinyasa Yoga Flow.

Photos by Edward C. Jones @edwardcjones3 / Make-up by Prentiss Anais @the1prentissanais

Come Bathe With Me

Speaking with a friend, I was surprised when she shared that she couldn’t remember the last time she’d taken a bath. She said that it had been years, that she only takes showers. I couldn’t imagine that. As a child living in the south, we didn’t have showers, we only had bathtubs. And when we moved to NY, I never wanted to take a bath again. I thought baths were passé and showers were cool and hip. But my mom would insist we take baths too. Perhaps that’s why as an adult I returned to the pleasure of bathing.

These days, showering seems to have replaced the bathing experience in most people’s lives. I wonder if it’s just a city thing? Urban dwellers tend to live more hectic lives and people believe they are too busy for baths. Lost is the concept that bathing is a very ancient remedy that would mitigate the stress of our modern lifestyles.  It’s a magically therapeutic experience. Many ancient cultures took bathing to its heights with luxurious public bath houses.

My friend admitted that one reason she didn’t take baths is that she didn’t like her tub. That certainly could be a deterrent, just as a beautiful tub beacons. Your average hotels will have tubs that are just meant to stand in for showering. But the hotel that it is encouraging its guests to bathe, to relax will typically have a stand-alone tub that is not connected with a shower; and I take full advantage of such a design.

I once stayed at the Hotel Nikko, a Japanese owned hotel. In addition to everything else that was absolutely exceptional and exquisite, they had a soaking tub, an ofuro. For those who are unfamiliar, a soaking tub is shorter and deeper than American made tubs. The impact is that the depth of the water slows down your heartbeat causing a deeper form of relaxation. It was a very special experience.

There have been many a moment when I’ve found myself standing in the shower, warm water spraying down on my body, and I realize how very  tired I am.  I then wonder why am I standing there, when I could be laying down, in a tub of warm, fragrant water?  And in some instances, I have just stopped and turned off the shower and ran a bath instead. I never regret doing that, switching gears for my well being. Laying down in warm to hot water is a far more relaxing experience than standing up in a shower. It naturally slows you down and gives you permission to lay back and unwind. Yet, many forgo this rejuvenating treat.  Water is healing, water renews, it is the elixir of life and it is my firm belief that every woman should sit in water and soak from time to time. The same goes for men. Everyone in the family can benefit from a bath, from babies to elders.

I am curious to know why aren’t people taking more baths? It seems with the level of stress that many are experiencing this would be a very accessible remedy. Please share with me your preference, shower or bath and why.  And of course I encourage to naturally enhance your bathing experience using Anu Essentials botanically based Body Care.  I do!

Anu Essentials Botanical Soaps

The End of The Line

It has not been easy for me to admit this to myself, let alone anyone else. But I can no longer delay informing you that after much consideration I have decided to discontinue the Anu Essentials Line of Hair Products with the exception of the Hair Oils. Our botanically infused Hair Oils have been handmade by yours truly since 1980 and will continue on.

In the current stock there are just a dozen or so of the Deep Conditioner and a couple of dozen of the Nourishing Gel Shampoo and Moisture Rich Conditioner. But due to a recent delivery there is enough Leave-In-Conditioner, Luscious Curling Cream and Soft Set Gel to last through the spring and summer. Yes, I know. I’m more heart broken than you can imagine over this reality. But at this point I must cut my losses.

My focus now is on my true love, botanical elements (herbs and essential oils) and all the ways I can infuse them into our lives. This includes Body Care, Essential Oil remedies (soon to come) mood enhancers that include our Refresh and Spiritual Spritzers, Perfumes and semi-precious, gem stone jewels. We will also be offering unique home and environment fragrances to enliven, cleanse and enhance your breathing space. It is our plan to expand in all the above categories.

As one who has been studying the healing arts for many years, I have studied Chinese Medicine, I am a Certified Yoga Instructor, and Reiki Practitioner, the desire to heal is a part of my DNA.  The infusion of herbal based beauty and environmental care products of Anu Essentials are an extension of my desire to offer natural healing solutions that beautify and inspire. I will be turning 60 years young this month and what better time than now to fulfill my soul’s desire to heal and beautify using the gifts from God, via nature?

Anu Prestonia – Yoga photo session, summer 2016

I would like offer my heart felt appreciation to all those who have supported Anu Essentials line of Natural Hair Products over these four years. We encourage you to stock up on the Hair Products you like most, while they last. I have! Due to the quality and cost of manufacturing the products, there will be no sale or reduction of prices.

Last but not least, Great News!!! We are very excited to inform you that in the coming days, we will be launching a new Anu Essentials website.  Stay tune.  And Many Thanks!