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

Clearing, Cleaning and Cleansing

Spring is on the horizon, the perfect season for clearing, cleaning, cleansing and throwing it away. Giving us a jump-start in this direction was the full moon in Virgo this past Sunday.  This is the planet in charge of structure and putting things in order, including ourselves. It’s not just cluttered drawers and closets that need clearing out, there’s a whole cadre of categories that are in need of “throwing it away.”

The Home ~ Though we may ignore it, we know when things need to be cleared out of closets, drawers, basements, attics, etc.  Perhaps it’s our office or the car that’s sorted with grime and or clutter. When we clear our physical spaces, it allows more mental space, for a clearer mind. Spring is the perfect season to throw it away or give it away, all those things that are taking up space in our physical world that we no longer use, want, or that no longer addresses who and where we are today. If you’re ready to seriously de-clutter, be careful to not go overboard. If you share a space with others, don’t assume it’s okay to thin their herd.  What may mean nothing to you could have great value to them. It’s wise to be both considerate and strategic on how you de-clutter. It will offer an opportunity to refresh and realign the energy in your space and within you.

The Body ~ Spring is the perfect season for internal cleansing. We are soon approaching the Spring Equinox, a time of the year for renewal, for clearing out the accumulation in our bodies from the winter season.  We can assist this process by including bitters into our diet, eating dandelion, chicory, plenty of fruits and increasing the intake of fresh, green juices into our diet.  The seasonal remedies of our grandparents, castor oil, cod liver oil, Swedish bitters and other home remedies worked back then and they are valuable now.  Cleansing the body is an uplifting and proactive way of welcoming spring and rejuvenating ourselves.

Many will “catch” a cold, in other words, will begin an internal cleansing. The mucous coming out of the body is the body’s natural way of cleaning out.  Instead of trying to suppress this cleansing with medications, assist this natural process by drinking plenty of fresh green juices, citrus juices and water to help flush out all the gook that has been storing up. Yes, it can be a bit snotty, but in the end your body will thank you.

The outer body needs clearing to. Exfoliating is a rejuvenating way to clear and reveal the silky, smooth skin under all the accumulated, dead skin cells. Exfoliation also stimulates the lymphatic system. Follow up exfoliation with smooth, hydrating moisturizers.

The Mind ~ During winter we may not be aware of the many subtle ways in which we hibernate. Winter is a time for resting, ruminating and planning, but we may gather a bit of mind clutter during that time with thoughts, ideas and perceptions that don’t serve us. Spring is a great time to let go of the mind clutter weighing us down. We may seek the help of a support group or therapist to guide us with freeing and clearing our minds and finding peace. Exercising can also help with mind clutter – aerobics, yoga, tai-chi, bicycling etc. and connecting with a spiritual practice can help release mind clutter.

Social Media ~ I recently took just two days off from social media and I can’t begin to tell you the level relief I felt, and the space in my head (peace) from not habitually checking my digital devices to see, to respond, assess and process image after image and idea after idea. For someone who is “required” to be on social media for work and who is in the habit of being there, taking that little break was a welcome reminder of the good old days of living only in the real world, leaving the virtual world behind. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with mind clutter, clocking out from social media for a spell can be very helpful with becoming centered again, of checking in and being present with the real you and your ‘real’ world. Perhaps you’re not on social media but there’s some other activity that you habitually partake in that’s draining you. Consider taking a break from it and experience the peace of mind.

Spirit ~ Last but not least, spiritual clutter. If your heart is not centered at this time, “spring can really hang you up the most”. It’s more difficult to hide inside the home or inside of ourselves once spring arrives. But nature knows best. Spring may just be the ticket we need to free ourselves from spiritual stagnation.

Consider spending time in nature. Go to the park or botanic gardens. Or if you’re able, take a trip to a place where nature abounds. It could be just an hour’s drive outside the city or hop on a plane to someplace that inspires. Just don’t forget, your spirit needs space too. Perhaps you already live around nature and instead you need a cultural excursion. Do that! Take some time alone away from all the many things, people and ways we distract ourselves from checking in with what’s really going on with us. Tap in and address what you’re truly feeling in a meaningful way, follow your soul’s call and give it what it needs.

Clear, clean, cleanse and throw it away ~ all that does not serve your highest good. In-joy spring!

Touch, Heal and Love Yourself

With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, I have been thinking about the touch of love. For many women (and men) Valentines season can be a painful reminder of being without that loving touch. Even for those who have a spouse or partner, being touched in a meaningful way can be an element lacking in the relationship. Because there’s the unfortunate truth that there are many who do not  know how to touch others, or how to receive being touched or how to lovingly touch themselves. So often the hunger for touch is ignored or even buried. This very essential need can and should be addressed and we are responsible for taking care of ourselves, our needs.

Being touched is one of the most affirming and healing aspects of this physical world. A cruel study revealed that babies who are not touched (other than to be fed and bathed) simply died. The power and radiance that comes from our hands is far greater than most of us realize. The great news is that there are plenty of wonderful options to address our needs as humans to be touched and I’m here to share some of them with you. And let me assure you I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I haven’t done myself.  I practice these rituals of self care on a regular basis and I’ve had every healing arts modality that I’ve listed below.  Each one leaves you feeling the magnificence of how we could all feel daily, if we lived in a world that put spirit above dollars. Welcome to healing.

First up, Touch Yourself  ~ The easiest and most accessible way to be touched is to use our own hands. Ever notice that as soon as you hurt yourself, the first thing you do is reflectively place your hand on that area? We do this because even though we may not be consciously aware of it, we intuitively know that our hands are healing tools. I suggest that you search your heart and mind to find out if you are in need of being touched and if so, allow yourself to address this need. Here are just some of my suggestions.

Tap In ~We can show ourselves some love by caressing our own bodies. Any time  you are unable to be with a lover and your needs arise, be your own lover! That’s right!  Who better than you can know what you truly want and need? Well actually a healing arts professional might be able to better assess your true needs;  that information is a little further down the page. In the meantime, since you’re always with you, this is the least time consuming option, you won’t have to travel anywhere to be with yourself, you are already there. And since it’s likely that you won’t charge yourself anything, this is the least expensive way to receive that loving and healing touch.  It can be difficult to make this decision if you haven’t been practicing self care on a regular basis.  But remember there is a part of you that longs to be taken care of.  Make the commitment, explore and enjoy.

Self Care ~ My favorite and easiest touching ritual is bathing. No, not showering, but getting in a tub of deliciously warm water. After relaxing in this elixir of life, begin washing your body sans a wash clothe. Instead of using a clothe, use just soap and your naked hands. There will be some tender parts of your anatomy that will delight in the feel your hands.

Be mindful, be intentional and truly be present to what you are doing. Feel the beauty of your hands on your body. After bathing the body, an exfoliation treatment can awaken the skin, making the body feel more alive, more radiant as exfoliation stimulates your lymph system. Follow up the exfoliation with a soothing cream. When you apply the cream focus 100% of your mind on what you’re doing. Imagine how lovingly you would apply that cream or butter to a baby you love and then baby yourself in the same way.  If the thought of a baby caring for a baby doesn’t inspire you, then touch yourself the way you’d want a lover to touch you, and enjoy it. Have your favorite music playing, a delightful fragrances burning and scrumptious chocolates and divine wine at the ready. You’re going to fall in love you!!!

Sexual Healing ~ My other suggestion for self-care is for you to offer sexual pleasure to yourself. Some women and men know how to please themselves and others may have no clue. If you know how to please yourself, during this Valentine’s season take this opportunity to go there. It may be the release you truly need, ahhhh… But if you have no clue on how to sexually please yourself, remember we’re in the information age… research! Consider taking a class. There are wonderful, insightful, and fun classes being taught at places like Babeland here in NY. If you’d rather more privacy, seek a highly praised book on this topic. One of my favorites books on this matter is by famed African American Gynecologist, Hilda Hutcherson, entitled, “What Your Mother Never Told You About S-e-x.” You might consider watching a how-to video or a steamy, foreign film. Call up your sexiest friend and ask him or her for some tips on this subject. They will be delighted to share with you and excited you’re finally getting your glow on. You can do this. Decide to find a way to stimulate yourself. Perhaps dancing gets you in the mood. Whatever it is that gets you going, get going.

Healing Hands ~ As a one who has studied Chinese Medicine for a bit, is a certified yoga instructor and Reiki practitioner, I truly believe in the power of the healing arts. Being touched by a professional who respects and loves their work does not fall under the banner of being sensual.  Nevertheless, the senses are subtly engaged by the relaxing music, the burning incense, or the essentials oils being applied. I highly recommend booking an appointment for one of the healing arts as a means of being touched. It’s a curative and sacred touch, but that might be just what the doctor ordered. The benefits are just amazing and you’ll want to thank me when it’s all said and done. So let me tell you now, you’re welcome!  Don’t worry if you’re unable to book on February14th, that’s probably one of the  busiest days for spas and not the best day for you to receive the attentiveness you deserve. Since everyday is a good day to love yourself, book your treatment for a the day or two after or as soon as you are able. Just do it!

 Healing Arts Options

Massage – There’s nothing like a good massage to renew you and make your feel relaxed, restored, renewed from head to toes.

Acupuncture – Is one of the oldest and best healing practices available in our modern times. This ancient healing modality is my first option after massage when something ails me. But having it just for a tune up is also very calming and healing. Two of my favorite acupuncturists are Elizabeth Healy and Bishara Wilson.

Manicure and pedicure – With added on services like a leg massage or chair massage, your mani-pedi might just do the trick. Even hand massages at a good nail spa can offer great relaxation. They are just wonderful.

Reiki – A Japanese form of hands on healing that will allow you to relax so deeply. You will feel submerged into a world of peace and calm. Please feel free to contact me to book this service.

Cranial Sacral Massage (head massage) OMG, talk about relaxing, you’ll be in heaven wondering when it’s over, why you have to come back to earth. Cranial Sacral Massage

Facial –I truly enjoy the way a facial feels and beautiful glow after the treatment. The fragrant botanicals used for facials, naturally heightens the entire experience. My two favs skin specialist are Skin by Mamie McDonald and Tres Belle Spa.

Reflexology (foot massage) – When booking spa appointments, many people forego this wonderful healing service. But all of our body’s organs have a region in the feet that are readily accessed via reflexology, making it a worth-while investment.

Thai Massage – There are so many types of massage therapies, but a Thai massage is like a having someone do yoga for you, using your body. As the massage therapist moves your limbs in graceful, stretching and circular ways, you wonder how you can do this more often.

Ayurveda – Hailing from India, Ayurveda is the oldest holistic healing therapy in the world. There are many different Ayurveda therapies. My favorite spa for Ayurveda treatments here on the east coast is the Kripalu Yoga Retreat located in the Berkshires. Kripalu specializes in Ayurveda and their treatments are simply, divine.

Yoga – Take a restorative yoga class.  In restorative yoga it’s all about relaxation.  It’s for beginners or those who just want a chill yoga class. There’s no competition, you don’t need fashion savvy yoga clothing.  All you need to bring is a willingness to go within. There’s a small, intimate class taught by Dianne Scott at the Joy of Living Yoga, right around the corner from Khamit Kinks on Bond Street.

How Do I Love Myself ~ So there you have it, more than a few ways to show yourself the love you deserve and may want from another. As the great Buddhist Monk Thích Nhât Hanh reminds us “we must truly love ourselves in order to be able to love another.”  Check out this beautiful video by Thich Nhat Hanh called How Do I Love Myself.

Happy Valentine’s Day Beautiful Ones!