Welcome to Carolyn Cowan Online; Designer, photographer, teacher, mother, counsellor and bodypainter.
Archive for July, 2008
Literally, physically and figuratively, it was a trip.
I spent ten days with 1500 yogis camping in a forest in France. It is hard to describe how it was, as it changed a lot over the days, but suffice to say it was a trip.
I was camped in a tent in the forest. It is the same place I have camped with my family for the last few years, but alone, in a very small tent, it had a Kaliesque atmosphere and as usual, she did not disappoint; the nights were long and filled with death. My imagination took new flights of fancy never previously visited and sometimes I would lie for up to three hours at a time in a state of terror. Listening to creatures killing each other, rustling through the undergrowth and going about their evening business was very different to trying to make sense of it all in the daylight. Creatures that would open my heart and have me cooing in delight in the daylight became scary monsters in the dark and I really did not love them at all.
My tent had an inner lining and rats 9probably cute little dormouse thingys) would hurl themselves over it in the middle of the night, scratching and tearing their way over my head. Owls would plung with a scream into little things and there would be the howling death cries just beside me. I heard a snake pounce and kill just behind my head and really I did not love nature. I wanted it all to go away and leave me alone. Of course it did not and I am a sleep deprived yogi who lived to tell the tales of tiny creatures in the night. My best bit was the disappearing sponge. A bright blue thing that I used for washing up. It was always gone in the morning and I would have to hunt for it. It would be dragged off into far off corners to be nibbled by something with ever such pointy teeth. The last day I could not find it at all. Packing up revealed the whole thing in tiny little pieces in a box. Sweet.
Several hundred mosquitoes dined upon me, too, and by the second to last day I peaked. A storm was brewing, the sky was black and other rainy nights had seen all manner of beasties trying to shelter under my tent, so I de-camped and slept in a friends tent. They have 4 kids and a tent like a house. We lay and giggled all night. It was fab. All my fears evaporated and everything was better after that.
The festival was great fun. My seva (selfless service) was to organise the food being served to 1500 people every day. I had nothing to do with cooking it, just had to run the 55 people who dished it out to yogis who had gone all day with just bananas and oranges to eat. I loved it. It is the best seva I have been given so far.
I am back home now, having been starved of parmesan cheese and the internet for 11 days. Today I made my way through hundreds of emails and now feel worn out but pleased that I could do all that and run a successful shop in a forest on my own. I dragged my stiff arse out of the Landrover at midnight last night and thought:
I did it. And it was good. I will go again next year.
Do not think that is my motive for being here, but I am conscious of a desire to be ahead of myself all the time; wishing I was already in the next section of the current experience instead of being immersed in now. I don’t feel it is my drama alone. I am sure we all go through it, so I do not indulge in feeling bad about it.
I am at the European Yoga Festival, camped far out in the forest. It is very lovely; calm, shady and cool. The sun is cutting a swathe through the trees and making shadows of mosquitoes all over my computer as I write. They are huge, the size of small horses but in the main they are just inquisitive, not to fierce, so I am not engaging with them.
My tent is compact. I have a duvet and read by candle light each night before I fall asleep wondering if I will be killed by a herd of large boars with sharp hooves. Oh, the joy of a wandering mid. But so far I am alive and well. Not sleeping as deeply as I want, but it is cold at night. There are birds here this year. Some times I have spend 10 days in the forest and heard nothing at all, but this year there is an OCD woodpecker and some smaller associates with hiccups. It is all very calm and lovely and I am not at all relaxed yet. I suppose I need to be patient. It will come. But my shop is a mess, I am a missel leader and there is so much to do.
It is pretty wild being here. Usually there are around 1500 yogis from all over the world doing their thing. All sorts of different interpretations of what that thing is, all manner of dress, age, hairstyle, turban and projection. It is a great experience and always teaches me a lot about patience and self-control. I cannot see myself going to anyworkshops. Certainly not today, as the first trading is this evening, but Intuitive Archery has my oin stuck in it. I guess if I miss the first session I will miss the point, but I will ask the glorious warrior who is teaching if I can trip up late.
But for now I am one of three women making sure that 1500 yogis get their supper. We have to find 50 people, 25 of them male, to serve each evening and it is billed on my missel leader paperwork as a job demanding great patience. So I will be slathered in it by suppertime tonight. I will report back how I do .
Life is such fun.
I am reading the Secret and managing to apply the principles to pretty much all areas of my life, but God has a wild sense of humour, and not all my plans, well laid though they may be, have come to fruition.
This is causing me huge amounts of grief. Not in the “are you looking for a little grief? Sneering question, but in the Oh, My God, it is so painful kind of grief that has taken me by surprise and will not go away. And on top of it all I feel so responsible and should have seen it coming and ought to have known better.
I am not in need of a swathe of cheering up, I promise. But I suppose it is an attempt to give clarity to the space I have left in my recent writing.
I do not imagine I am the only person having a tricky time right now. I think we are all having deeply grating experiences of some sort. For some it is financial, others it is personal, yet more will be in spiritual crisis and of course there is an army out there who are totally unaffected. But my awareness is that at the moment all tools are needed all the time, be they emotional ones, meditative practice, a sense of humour, an open mind or an iron will. I seem to move through my panoply of options in random sequence, but almost all the time now, I am looking for something to help me stay grounded, be calm, keep smiling and so on.
So, yes, there is a lot of Argh, even though I am working on really positive projections.
I am going to France tomorrow, to the European Yoga Festival. 1500 Yogis all camping in a forest in France. It is a trip. I am looking forward to the experience even though I know what it can be like as this will be year eleven, I think. Yogi Bhajan always said that it is really important to lie on the ground, to sleep on the ground, to be out in Nature, and right now I do feel that it is what I need to bring some balance and perspective to everything. Gosh, how I need that now. My feelings are getting in the way of my reality. I know it happens to all of us, but I have peaked on it.
Dominating so much of all our thoughts right now, it is also one of my favourite things on the planet. Not actually true. I love my children best, but I do love good bread and cold, unsalted butter. There is no competition; if I had to choose it would be kids all the way, trust me, but right now, with my new found bread making skills, Thank the Lord I am running or it would be a style disaster.
I feel like a Farm Girl. I know I will get flack for saying it, but that’s OK. There is no war, I am not driving a tractor and wearing men’s clothes for the first time, but the whole siege economy thing is seeming to bring out the best in all of us. Good old Brown telling us not to throw away so much food. Are these recent figures he is using? Or are they from last year? You would need a lobotomy to throw away anything edible right now.( I have stopped giving my dog whole apples and give her the core and peelings now. She still has a carrot every morning, though. I can persuade the poodle that a pear core is a good thing, but nothing else. He like oat cakes after his run.)
I am looking at the idea of a Food Festival in Balham. I want to take part in it, not run it. I want someone else to do that, and to that end have spoken to the Balham Town Centre Manager. It may happen, it is thrilling. She already had the idea and now, with support, is willing to take it to the next stage of beaurocracy. It may happen in late September.
I am also going to join Food Up Front. Lots of people growing food in their gardens and available outside space. I love it. We are all taking responsibility for ourselves and getting on with it. Although I must confess the news that a recession was looming did dampen my post-run euphoria this morning. I thought we were already in one- a recession. But there are lots of TV stations, newspapers and media rags to fill, so disaster must be capitalised upon, expanded, stretched, drawn out, spun, woven…..
I have had a day of domestic bliss. An early run with the dog was fun. I heard or read that it is better to run after a coffee, so I tried it. Wow! What a difference. It was wild. A truly high speed dash around the leafy streets of Camberwell. I have taught Rollo the poodle to drink from my water bottle and we had a much needed swig under a tree in the park before buzzing off again to a roaring finish down Brunswick Park.
From there, breakfast in the garden with a friend, then a massive Domestic Series starting with 2 kilos of raw chocolate being made. Ah, my, it is so good. Nothing like commercial chocolate. An immediate high at the smallest slice. From there, a large loaf of fresh brown bread made by Louis and I. Golly it was delicious. I used to be able to kill yeast just by looking at it, but I must have softened, as I can now get bread to rise. The new economies of the credit crunch are rather fun right now, but I am quite sure that the glow of achievement will wear off quickly and it will become all become mundane, boring and normal, like the running semms to be becoming. Now I am used to it I can feel very lazy, almost making it an effort now, to get up and run. Argh! The joys of endlessly needing new entertainment and experiences.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in a skateboard park watching Isadora rollerblading and Louis teaching himself to skateboard. Funny how fast they move onwards and upwards.
On the way home we saw a man with a duck’s arse (a hair style) and crepe shoes. Gosh, it has been ages since I have seen that. It brought so many memories flooding back of the styles that abounded years ago before everything got lost in a morass of Primark and blue jeans.
Mods, Skin Heads, Teddy Boys, Goths, New Romantics. What happened to style and fashion? Where are the new trends? Why is there no rebellion now against the dross of the High Street?
I remember being locked in Boy in the Kings Road in 1976 with the infamous John Krevine and his cronies and the famous burned foot in the Doc Martin boot in the window and all the Punks and Skin Heads fighting in the street. It was wild. So Exciting and startling, right outside the window, next to the number 22 bus stop. The following day the punks were all going down the kings Road handing out roses to the old ladies who were horrified by all that they had read in the Daily Mail. It was fun, vibrant and very naughty. Now it is endless knife crime by boys in ghastly sports gear. It really does not have the same ring at all. No good music, no style, just thuggery. I feel frustrated.
I think it is a Buddhist saying, and I have quoted it before, but before you speak you should think:
Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?
Can you imagine? It would stop most of us in our tracks. But sometimes things are unkind, but true and necessary, and today my life is coloured by this reality.
I went home and cried for the first time in ages, yesterday. I cried all the way home, too, but today, until writing now, I have been a master of charm and self control. But some things have to be done and I did them. Brave and fearlessly I stepped up and took responsibility, and I continue to mourn the loss of “my self that had little or no responsibility”.
But it is a sunny day and I am practicing Loving the Hell. I am sure we all are whilst we live in this poverty heavy media frenzy. The newspapers, TV, radio and financial markets all feeding on our minds and later the carcasses. I am sure it is all a plot for the banks to accumulate massive amounts of property, but maybe I am misled…..
Hildreth Street is basking in the glory of Mary Queen of Shops having done her bit for Independent retailers in the guise of endlessly pushing huge High Street chains like Gap and French Connection. I wonder what the pay is for spending 10 minutes advertising big businesses on the BBC? I am certain it must be huge. But it draws crowds and we are grateful for all the help we can get in the face of Panorama and Primark.
Gosh, I can see that the Buddhist saying has gone right over my head!
I do, I do. Today, especially, I wish it could be simple, sweet, world peace.
But hey, a loaf of bread in Zimbabwe costs 6 billion dollars, so what do I have to worry about? But then again, life is not like that, is it? If we all endlessly compared our woes to those around us it would end up as a competitive spiral into hell.
If I was “good”, and went to lots of 12 step meetings I would be told that my problems are high class. Sweet, and profoundly irritating, and I have been accused of complaining, but some days are hard and today gets a rosette.
Interestingly it is not only my head that makes it hard, the realities of others, where they meet mine, are also very challenging and the day has been an endless succession of deep breaths, tears, frustration and lost dreams.
But as usual, most of it cannot be expanded upon in weblog and I will digress wildly into the realms of body image and corsetry. A nice distraction.
I am noticing the demise of the waist. All around me, not only literally but in reality, too, there is no waist to be seen. The low slung look that swept the country, the world even, for the last few years has finally borne fruit and that fruit seems to be large, unrestrained waists and bellies that enter first into every situation. A quick glance along Hildreth Street reveals swollen hips leaning dangerously over low-slung waistbands and bellies leaning woefully over belts. I was reminded yesterday that they are called muffin tops. That and bum antlers, the waist is well on it’s way out.
I have lost my own grasp on my waist, post natally, but now want it back, big time. Of course, less is more, but I mean smaller but with lots of energy.
So I have been looking at websites where I can find the means to achieve this longing. They make for interesting trawling. There are all manner of wild and whacky pieces of underwear out here, most made for those who do possess the mythical ideal of a figure as propounded by Vague and the likes, but for those of us who desire restraining, the choice diminishes somewhat. I love the idea of real corsetry, but I am challenged by the idea of actually working in one, so I am looking at any thing else and the journey has been fun.
I am currently trying a waist cincher. It looks and feels fabulous. It is so great that I want more. I am even thinking of selling them. A waist cincher with high heels is pretty fab, too, and so much kinder than the visual effects of motherhood upon my person.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my children, and I mourn my waist. So it is a work in progress. I am determined to diminish it by 3-4 inches. I will let you know how I do . But if you, too, long for a cinch, look at simplyyou.co.uk. The amazing thing about the site is that they give you credit. Send the items and you pay for what you keep.