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!

 

This Little Piggy Went to Market – In Thailand

Today was a day of incredible markets and unusual experiences. In Thailand like in most markets, they are not just a place to purchase food, goods and pick up desirables. It’s a place to commune, connect, and perpetuate community. This is more than evident in the markets we visited today.

First stop, the Maeklong Railway Market just outside of Bangkok proper in the Samut Sakhon Provence. There is no other market like this one in the world. The story goes that the market was originally on land that became too expensive for the merchants, so they decided to relocate to place that would be free, the railroad.

This market is set up on either side of the railroad tracks and when the train comes through (eight times a day) everyone has the clear the tracks and make room for the train. For shoppers this merely means moving out of the way. For the merchants this means, winding in their awnings, rolling back the carts that their wares are on (a foot or two) and then there are other items low enough to the ground that the train passes over them without harm. It’s a most unbelievable experience.

Once the train passes, awnings are rolled back out, crates with wares are rolled back into place and the shoppers are once again all a bustle. Everything you might need for creating a dish is there, vegetables of all sorts, as well as fruits, seasoning, fresh fish and seafood, meats of all kinds and young girls stringing the worship garland of marigold and jasmine that I purchased and wore around my neck.

The second stop was the Floating Market in Dameoen Saduek. We drove another half hour or so to arrive at the dock to take the long nose boat to the floating market. This is a canal that was dug by hand which is incredible to imagine considering the length of the canal. We were on a pretty fast moving boat for at least twenty minutes.

Two of the elements of both of these markets are the incredible heat and humidity and this is true despite the fact that we began our journey at 7:00 to avoid the height of the heat. Despite that the heat was quite intense a somewhat draining. Thank goodness for the air-conditioned tour bus. The other element consists of droves of people, locals shopping and tourist from all countless far away lands. The largest groups are tourists are from China.

Last stop wasn’t your usual market; it was small and was actually a cocoanut processing compound. At this stop we were taught how the cocoanuts grow, the many ways it’s processed for oil, to make sugar, syrup, soap, oil, milk, juice and of course we were able to purchase, fresh, young coconuts to drink. Most Thai food includes some element of the coconut. As a special treat for us, our wonderful tour guide, Nok, purchased some plantain bananas that were rolled in cocoanut shavings and deep-fried. It was very delicious.

At this stop we were also able to go inside of a traditional Thai home. Made of teak wood, these homes are on stilts to raise the house to avoid flood, to house the water catching device and because having the house high off the ground, makes for a cooler home.

Inside each home is a shrine to the Buddha, in varying degrees of elaborateness.   There are also shrines outside of every home and business. Each home has two shrines, a shrine to the land elements (soil, air, water, plants, all botanicals) and a shrine to the ancestors. The ancestors have their own home outside the house because they are not allowed to live inside the home; they have their own home.

The land shrine is on a single pedestal and the ancestor shrine is typically on six legs. There are offering made to the shrine daily of acknowledgment and prayers, incense burned, food offered and worship garlands made of flowers like the one I purchased. I wore mine all day long and was just enchanted by the fragrant aroma of the marigold and jasmine. I can only imagine the ancestors loving this fragrance too. It’s jasmine that is the primary essence in the Anu Essentials Sea Scape Perfume, a fragrance that has easy access to my heart.

Also, this home, market had many animals, monkeys, birds, roosters, dogs and a cacophony of insects, which made for quite the sound system.  We finally arrived back to the hotel and just as I was about to prepare for a nap, veteran globe trotter Kay called and asked me to go with her to an antique mall.  That would take a whole other blog post if I could even find the words to describe one incredibly fabulous store with antiques that are just mind blogging. That’s another post for another day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally there was a delicious dinner with my two veteran, globetrotting friends who planned this incredible trip, Kay and Patricia at the night market on the river front.  Yes indeed, the market remains a hub for people to come together, to be together, to live and enjoy life.

St. Croix and Incredible Connections

I hadn’t really plan to go to St. Croix for my 60th birthday, but as fate would have it, I found myself on a flight headed there. My good buddy Edward Jones aka EC, was in town to photograph my 60th birthday photo shoot, and insisted that I go.  EC, had lived in the Virgin Islands for a number of years and still has many friends there. He assured me that if I were to go, his friends would take good care of me. He then introduced me to his friend Robin via text.

I arrived in St. Croix and there was Robin excited about making my 60th all it could be. At first I was a bit disappointed because when I arrived it was overcast and raining and this had been going on all week with the prediction that it would continue.  Robin reminded me that they capture rain for water. If a home runs out of rain water, then they’re forced to purchase water for bathing, flushing, cooking, for living and it’s not cheap. I was reminded of my first brush with this way of life from my days spent in Bermuda many moons ago. This reminder put the Weather Sister in check.  Connecting with nature and her gifts, yes indeed, let’s Give Thanks for rain.

Over cast and drizzling

First stop on our trek, a baobab tree.  I was so amazed to see this ancient, West African specimen standing majestically on the island of St. Croix. Baobabs are one of the oldest forms of plant life on the planet. This one is a mere 250 years old. I hadn’t been near a baobab since being in Senegal some 30 years ago. So it was quite a treat to connect with this grand being again.

baobab tree

It wasn’t too long in Robin’s presence before I learned of her incredible project. Robin is in the throws of building a gorgeous house up on a hill.  Let me say, they are hills and then there’s this hill over looking what I can only describe as God’s land. The view is just breathtaking!  I was so inspired to see this insightful, brave woman take on being project manager for the house that she is having built; and she assured me that it’s quite a feat, time consuming, at times tedious and exhausting, but at the same time very rewarding.  Robin had the foresight and insight to purchase this land 28 years ago for a fraction of what it’s worth today. To say I was inspired would be an understatement. I was deeply reminded of the long standing vision I have long had for my own life, to be surrounded by nature. Robin’s husband and three children support and inspire her quest to build this family compound on the land of her ancestors.

Robin caught in web of her vision

When it was time to eat, Robin and I got together to have a little nosh with another of Edward’s friends, a fiber and jewelry artist named, Kim Lyons. Then one of my neighbors, the famed Malene Barnett mentions to me on Instagram that she was just talking to Kim Lyons who told her she had met me that evening.  This world is so small. Serendipity and more connections.

Robin Barlow Jones, Anu Prestonia and Kim Lyons

In the late 80s I became the client of manicurist Olivine Calvin, better known as Ollie. Ollie was a very talented nail artist who hailed from St. Croix and carried that cool, Caribbean vibe wherever she went. Loving, nurturing with an easy laugh, Ollie was loved by many.  Never one to rush, if she was running behind and you were in a rush, Ollie would not change her pace.  And when it was your turn, she gave you that same time and special attention she gave the person before you. Ollie later became a Loctician at Khamit Kinks, and her Loc clients fell in love with her.  It’s nearly five years now since Ollie made her transition.  But since I was going to her homeland, I had to meet up with her vivacious sister Millie.  Millie is like the mayor of St. Croix, she knows everybody and everybody knows her.  Exuberant, positive, always smiling and full of laughter, she is still celebrating her own birthday which was on March 5th, a Pisces. Millie turned 70 and is still as fabulous as ever, as she sashays in her high heels and her great smile. And I forgot to mention, the week prior had been Robin’s birthday.  We were all in celebration mode.

Millie Calvin

Wouldn’t you know it, thought my first two days on St. Croix were overcast, on my birthday the sun shown brilliantly!  I felt it was a sign of a bright future. I had decided though, come rain or come shine, on my birthday was going to the beach and getting in the ocean. At that point I was down with the clouds and rain, so the sun was like icing on the cake.  Leave it to Robin to not take me to just any beach, we traveled to the gorgeous Sandy Point National Wildlife Reserve.  That day Sandy Point was closing at 4:00 in the afternoon and would be closed for the next six months, for the turtle nesting season. This signaled sacred ground to me and I felt so blessed to be at this place on this special day. I recalled my visit to Tulum, Mexico, when one night on the beach we watched as a great turtle’s eggs hatched and the little hatchlings made their way to the ocean. Talking about the wonders of the world!!! Turtles also signify long life as they are able to live well past 100 years old barring predators and polluted environments.

Sandy Point – Wildlife Reserve

The sweetest and wildest connection of them all was when Robin kept talking about her 28 years in Oakland and Richmond California. So I just blurted out, you wouldn’t happen to know my sister-in-law Fanta Lawrence? After I mentioned Fanta, all Robin kept saying, was “get the hell outta here.”  LOL!  Not only did she know Fanta, but Robin has another friend Amena.  For years, these two friends of Robin’s,  Fanta and Amena had been talking about their incredible granddaughter and Robin just realized a few months ago, that they had been talking about the same child, my great niece, Amenta.  So it was such a delight for me to go visit my great niece whose been spending time in St. Croix with her dad and paternal grandmother.

I connected with my great niece, what a treat!

In addition, I now have not one, not two, but three dear sister friends who have purchased property in St. Croix.  Retired educators, they are having fun with life. One after the other they have put down stakes in the Virgin Islands  and now I know why. I want to drink that Kool-aid too!  I had planned to spend my whole time in St. Croix sequestered, at my sister’s beach side condo, contemplating this next leg of my journey.  But the Universe had other plans.  Robin gathered me from the airport and we had one amazing moment after another and it was until my last evening there that I spent time on the other end of the island at my sister’s condo. This property is beautifully landscaped with a pool, just before reaching the ocean’s water which is quite wild, with big crashing waves. Like Robin’s property, my friend’s properties double as vacation rentals.

Pool side at my sister MK’s rental property

Sometimes you can’t plan for the good that the Universe has in store for you, you just have to allow yourself to be guided.  I was certainly in one of my favorite element for my 60th birthday, surrounded by nature and loving people.  I was  treated by a most gracious and generous host, the incredible Robin Barlow-Jones.  And the connections were made of the stuff you can’t even make up, just simply magical.  Yes indeed!  Let me give Thanks for my years on this planet and for incredible connections.

In my element

Many Thanks to Robin for a wonderful 60th.  Thank you to my dear sister Linda, for this such a memorable and generous birthday gift.  Thank you EC for a long time friendship and for being the incredible connector.

Me and EC circa 1993 in St. Thomas

Having a friend like EC is like the gift that keeps on giving.  Thank you EC for being such a dear friend and for making my 60th a memory of a lifetime.  From now on I’ll just refer to you as “The Connector”.

If you’re longing to connect with the sea, try our Sea Scape!

 

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

The Four Aspects of True Love

It’s daunting to consider that most people know very little about true love, yet it is very thing that we desire most. In the western world it is common to have learned about love from Hollywood, romantic novels or poor examples of relationships. It’s incredible to realize that an ascetic, the Buddha conceived these undeniable teachings on ‘romantic’ love.  Zen Master Thích Nhât Hanh shares with us the teachings of the Buddha on “Being Love”. It seems we have to be love in order to give and receive True Love. In this post I cover “The Four Aspects of True Love”. It is profound philosophy and practice.  This is an excerpt of Thich Nhat Hanh’s lecture on BEING LOVE ~The Four Aspects of Love.

“The teachings of love presented by the Buddha are very clear. True love can only make yourself and others happy.”

Maitri ~ The first aspect of love Maitri means LOVING-KINDNESS. Maitri is defined as the intention of making a person happy; to offer happiness, that is Miatri. But intentions alone are not enough. Maitri is both the intention and the capacity of making one person happy. There are five types of people to offer Maitri 1.ourself 2. the person with whom we have sympathy 3. the person we are very fond of 4. the so-called neutral person 5. the person we dislike, that we believe is responsible for our suffering

And according to the tradition, we have we use ourselves first, as the object of our love; because our capacity to love another person, depends on our capacity of loving our self. If we do not have peace, joy within ourselves, we have nothing to share. We cannot make another person peaceful, happy if we are not peaceful, happy ourselves. And if there is no Maitri your love cannot be called true love. Instead, it will be the kind of love that can only bring sorrow and anger, and that is not true love.

Karuna ~ The second aspect of true love is Karuna, which means compassion, the capacity and willingness of remove, to transform the pain in the person you love, the object of your love. And the object of your love could be yourself. If Karuna is not there, then it’s not love. When we look deeply into the nature of our love, we find out whether there is the element of true love, of compassion there. If compassion does not exist, then it’s not true love. Then it’s the kind of love that can only bring suffering, attachment, slavery, and despair.

Mudita ~ The third element of true love is Mudita, JOY. True love always brings joy to you and the person you love. If your love is not bringing joy to you and the person you love, then it’s not true love. And you’ll have to work to transform it. If you only cry, if the other person also cries, then it’s not true love.

Upeksha ~ The fourth element of love Upkesha means equanimity, it means FREEDOM. Equanimity means no discrimination. When we love someone that person should be able to  retain his or her freedom, to be himself, to be herself should not ever feel that they are in prison, the prison called love. They have space around them to move, they have space within their heart, and this is Upeksha. If your love deprives yourself and or deprives the other person of freedom or space, that’s not true love. So love in such a way you can preserve your freedom and the freedom of the person you love, that is true love, that is Upeksha.

Stopping and Looking Deeply ~ You have to practice looking deeply into love everyday, so that these four elements grow. The more these four elements grow, the happier you will become, the happier the person you love becomes. And if we practice looking deeply we see that one aspect of love, contains the other three aspects. If one of the aspects develops truly, the other three will develop. It is the nature of inter-being. If one of the aspects is missing they will all be missing. If freedom is not there, then loving-kindness is not there, joy is not there, compassion is not there.

~Thích Nhât Hanh ~“The greatest gift you can offer your beloved, is your true presence. To offer your true presence is the first act of love.”

Hear the entire lecture “BEING LOVE