Welcome to Carolyn Cowan Online; Designer, photographer, teacher, mother, counsellor and bodypainter.
News and Updates
I am currently looking to set up new classes in South London – so if you have the perfect location contact me.
Mind Body Spirit Festival, London May 2013
I am teaching at the Mind Body Spirit Festival which runs from the 24th – 27th May 2013 at Earls Court. Click here to go to the festival homepage where you can book online. My classes are in the Mantra Lounge at 11 am on Friday the 24th on Mastering the Kundalini and, at 2pm on Mantra and calling in Angels. Then on Monday 27th at 12pm on removing Karmic blocks. Come and join me there.
The Mothers Journey. January – June 2013
There is a new Mother’s Journey Teacher Training starting in January 2013. 5 weekends over 5 months, building up to an exam, after which you qualify as a Pregnancy Yoga Teacher.
Open to mothers, mothers-to-be, yoga teachers and Health Carers, the course is based in London and upon completion, certified by KYTA. Insurance is then available through DSC Insurance.
I am thinking about this quite a lot at the moment. Since last year, turning 50 was a leap. I stand on a different page in my life, I am older, am I wiser? I am as yet unconvinced, but I am in the throes of divorce and may say that I had no idea what I was walking into when I decided it was time to end the marriage.
I have learned a lot, but now know that there is a long way to go on this curve, and finding it fun seems to be the hardest part. If I look at all that is plastered around me on my journey it is a collection of platitudes, so called great writers who cull and tease the words of others so they fit into the empowered new speak of the Me generations. The overall message seems to be that it is all perfect. I am failing if I cannot or do not find it to be so. The fine line between suicidal misery and getting out of a rut is never explained, expanded upon nor open to discussion in this high-speed life where misery is apparently optional.
I teach in Camden twice a week. I get off the tube and walk through an interesting melee of people and am always caught by the punks who hold up the signs for the tattoo parlours. Why punks holding the signs? I have no idea. Why do I look at the punks? Because I was a punk….. before they were a punk….. and as I hit 20 years sober I have met yet another rock bottom.
I do not drink, smoke, take drugs, eat any sugar and now, kicking and screaming to the altar of 24/7 consciousness, I cannot take another mouthful of caffeine in either tea or coffee without exploding in fury, irritation, stress and veins filled with sand. I have finally had to admit that I cannot take it any more. I have to be caffeine free. I do not want to be. I do not. Why can there not be just one last piece of comfort: A great cup of builders tea or a strong latte? Why not? It makes me furious.
But here is the oxymoron: I feel so much better it is just awful!
And so I look back at the punks and remember. I was up on stage at the Roundhouse when the audience ripped up all the seating at the Clash concert and threw it all on the stage. I had a Saturday job at Scissors in the Kings Road and had bright blue hair standing up on end in 1976. I went out with the man who started BOY in the Kings Road and aged 16 was regularly locked in the shop whilst the punks and the skinheads rioted outside in the street. I was at the Tubes concert when Fee Waybill jumped into the audience with a functioning chainsaw turned on, broke his leg and carried on the rest of the concert….
When I went to my first NA meeting in Dublin in 1991 the man who took me suggested I empty my handbag of all paraphernalia. 2 hip flasks (both empty), one large flick knife, a set of playing cards, a roll of poker dice, a razor blade, a bag of hash, some downers and a packet of Rizlas.
And now I cannot drink a cup of tea without loosing the plot? It is a disaster.
It is a skill that I put down for a while to build up Devotion. I now feel it is time to pick it up again. I have certain projects that interest me greatly and I wonder if you would be interested or able to take part;
I want to continue photographing women with scars. This does not exclusively mean breast cancer scars although the image here is as the result of a mastectomy. All scars are what I am intrigued by. I work discretely, in my house, away from assistants. The images are only shown in an exhibition with your permission and a print for you, the sitter, is absolutely part of the exchange between us. For many women, this work is a great experience and a lot of physical confidence can be built as the result if that is what is needed or lacking. Otherwise it is a wonderful way to pass a few hours, naked with me. My years as a body painter allow me to hold a very comfortable space.
Another project, one that requires the Great Outdoors and to be fully dressed, is a series on Women who Shoot. If you are a woman who shoots, be it deer, pheasant, big game etc, I would love to photograph you. If you know anyone who might be willing to participate or who hosts a shoot themselves, please do pass this on. Again, it is great way to spend a few hours together, always an interesting way to get to know someone better and a print is a part of the exchange.
If you are interested in working with me on this level please do email me and we can take it from there.
First published March 27th 2011.
We are watching one of the mountains very closely, waiting for a skydiver to appear as a tiny blue dot against this beautiful background. The dot is meant to be my daughter who, in her role, is supposed to have jumped off the mountain wearing a parachute and then deftly caught a helicopter on her way down and so landed safely.
The joys of being 8 are unchallenged. I am the one who is challenged. I am seriously struggling with the Perfection of the Universe.I rail against this reality. I want to be elsewhere, doing other things than sitting in the background making sure she is safe and hydrated. I want to be in another reality, a different experience…. And it causes me to suffer hugely. I was with a friend who lives out here for the last few days and her mantra was endless: It is all perfect, the universe is perfect. It gets irritating to listen to and even more annoying to realise that my endless issue, the lack of trust that I have in this perfection, is so painful.
In retrospect everything is always fine and good, all turns out well. But sitting here surrounded by the most exquisite view on the planet, being paid to be here, all expenses covered, all creature comforts considered, I still range, roam mentally and itch to be elsewhere.
I guess it is the addict in me that will never sit still. Nothing is ever enough. I need to take care of this aspect of me every day, moment by moment. I am aware of this beast inside me. I know how to cage and tame it. I am just not good at it when the caging and taming are not enough. How to reign in the screaming wildness inside me that surfaces when things are not going my way?
My plans have been waylaid by circumstances beyond my control, I should no longer have been here; I ought to have been at home, quietly stroking and tending to my business, instead I am stretched beyond the gap I had allowed for this experience in my life and I loathe it.
I have stretched my body as far as I can with my yoga practice. (I cannot run here, apparently it is too dangerous for women to run alone…), I have meditated, here I write to offload my writhing, and I will breathe deeply all day and work with the Just for Today Card. An aspect of 12 Step Recovery that is life transforming, takes me out of my self-centeredness and puts me firmly on the side.
The first line says: Just for today I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle my whole life problem at once. I can do something for 12 hours that would appal me if I felt I had to keep it up for a lifetime.It goes on in this way, rather in the vein of Eckhart Tolle and other spiritual masters, to bring everything into the moment. The moment is perfect, I feel better. I can square my shoulders and turn to the next person with a calm smile.The universe is perfect…….. just for today.
I went to the theatre last night with a friend. We went to see a new play that had no reviews…. Enough said. But dinner afterwards was at Joe Allens in Exeter Street. Thirty years later, I could not remember where the loos were, but it all came flooding back as I descended into the brick walled room….. The drunken evenings, the cocaine in the toilets, the Bloody Marys, me and my friends at twenty something, rolling out of Rumours, the cocktail bar round the corner and staggering noisily into dinner at Joes. It was an institution and one that had slipped out of my thoughts completely.
As I sat down, I looked up into the room and there, a few tables away, still utterly resplendent was the beautiful Michelle Paradise, thirty years later. Time had folded and we were both still wearing red lipstick. Neither of us works in the industry where we met, but we have moved on into similar fields: the endless fascination with empowerment.
So the introduction is that I looked good. I had made an effort to go to the theatre: excellent haircut, slim, wearing a skirt I have not worn for 12 years, and a tight fitting black V necked T shirt.
As I brushed my teeth, looking at myself in the mirror I wondered what my new haircut looked like from the back. With an electric toothbrush still whizzing it’s way gaily round my jaw I turned to hold up a mirror to see the back of me. I have a certain way that I look at myself in the mirror. I lift my chin, slightly pull in my checks, tighten my belly and smile slightly. All of this is an attempt, mostly successful, to diminish the pain of looking at the parts of me that do not behave as I desire them to.
I will digress here… When my children were small, and my daughter had really long hair, I had this ongoing story about Invisible Pigs in velvet waistcoats and smoking hats that had combs dipped in honey. Every night they would dance around Isadora’s bed whilst she slept, tangling her hair with the honey dipped combs. It was a funny story that trailed along with us for years and if Isadora tripped over, she had fallen over an Invisible Pig.
I now know that the Invisible Pigs have a new remit: Adjust the flesh on my body in areas that I cannot change, flex or suck in. Make sure the changes are permanent, depressing and true to type.
So I return to last night, the tooth brush whirring away but slowing down as my gaze swept across my 51 year old rear view. Damme, frankly. Not what I want others to see or know is going on as I gaily trip out of the room, walk away, storm off, turn to do something else or present my back whilst I work, cook, read, or any number of other daily tasks that require my attention to be turned away from the gaze of the person looking at me.
I jest, in a way, I do.
I do not enjoy the ageing process, tis true, but I am doing it quite well considering all the drink, drugs, mayhem, smoking, sunbathing and hooliganism that my life has largely consisted of. It is just that when I look at the front, as long as I am concentrating, I have quite a lot of control over it all….. my mirror face is good. But the back, my back, the chocolate mousse under the arms, the bra lines, the waist, there is no way that I can bend it to my will.
Coming back to the mirror, I exhaled, released about thirty muscles down the front of my body, took a long hard look at me now, shrugged, put down the mirror, released the toothbrush from it’s slavery and went to bed thinking about time, thirty years ago and the horror of 51 year old under arm flesh.
The only good news, according to the delightful woman at Rigby & Peller, the Queens Brassier Constructors, is that all women have it…. But that does not make me feel any better about it. A long flared coat is the only way forward……
I did promise I would write and I have sat back many times and thought about what to say….. it leads me into the realms of my personal life in ways that I am not comfortable with. I have contemplated what I could write that skirts the issues, but all seems to just wind endlessly around the same drawing pins stuck in my notions of what is an acceptable landscape and in the end I find I am not being honest which ultimately defeats the purpose of it all and the need for openness about the Human Condition is the basis of what fuels my writing.
So I am neatly back round to myself and my reality: Do I write weblog or do I shy away from public disclosure of my reality?
Clearly I have made the decision to write.
I am the mother of two delightful children and in July last year I instigated divorce proceedings against the man I married 18 years ago.
Of course there is a bigger picture as to why, and the broadest brush can say I have been unhappy for years, for such a long time, that I woke up on my 50th birthday last year, in February, and realised that there was no way I could live the second half of my life being so deeply unhappy. It is a big decision to make and one that has had and continues to have huge ramifications in my life. It is scary and stressful, slow and painful, but there is not a moment when I regret my decision. It is just taking a long time to get to where I really want to be in my life; To unravel the possessions, the behaviour patterns, the choices, compromises and unspoken longings and desires that have built up into an intolerable wall of pain that I now need to take apart, concept by concept, without causing unnecessary suffering and pain to our two children.
The choices I now make have polarised friendships, led to big changes in how I run my business and have left me feeling very isolated, but then that in turn creates new friendships, new behaviour patterns and new learning curves, all of which I really enjoy. Judgements by others have, in the main been bearable, but there are moments when people show themselves in the harshest and most intolerable light and I wonder if I ever really knew them at all. By the same token, other lesser known acquaintances have become extraordinary friends and exhibited great emotional generosity and I find that I wonder how I never saw this side to them. And there are those to whom my actions appear terrifying: The very idea that I could stand up and say I am unhappy and that I have had enough, they reel against, turning away in fear and a certain disgust is apparent as though they are witnessing road kill happen. How could I dare? Is written across their faces, but at the same time there is a fascination for the notion that it is possible, but ultimately too many structures are threatened and the only way forward is to turn away. So turn away they do.
The process has not unravelled itself as I had imagined it would. It is harder, more tangled, far more subtle and more gross than I hoped or dared to think, it has taken far, far longer to get where I am now than I ever thought, and I feel as if I have made no progress at all. As I turn to the possibility of a court divorce, I realise that I have not even met real stress yet. I need lessons in how to adjust my mind to allow things to unfold, not to see each step as profoundly personal, but part of a bigger process that is a massive beast that will ultimately bite all of us. That thought can stop me in my track, but time spent living as I currently live instantly reminds me that I have no option but to find a way through and out.
I have had to use all of my tools, the meditation, the running, breathing practices and tools to still my mind, over and over again, I have honed my practices until they are second nature to me. I have better boundaries, I am clearer in my communications and more circumspect in my disclosures. I feel endlessly aware of my children and the consequences to them but had no choice but to effect this massive change in all our lives. Will they be ok? I really do work to do my best for them in all decisions and actions. I went through my parents’ unhappy marriages without over being told what was happening until it was a done deed. That was a profoundly disturbing experience that had repercussions for all of us and for some, still does. Marriages made without notice to us, divorces, moving house overnight, boarding school the next day. It was a horrifying bad dream that I thought I would never wake up from.
Whether I do the right thing in being open to my kids, I can only pray that I do, I have been open and clear about every step I take. I have instigated a policy of telling the truth about the situation, why, what is happening, where I am with it and what comes next. To break the no talk rule seemed to me to be one of the most important steps I could take. To have spent so long in a conspiracy of silence, of learned behaviour passed down through generations, is a terrible act. I will no longer play along. So openness and it’s subsequent consequences are my only route and friend now. The status quo will no longer be maintained or bolstered by my silence and compliance. It has to be held open, bare and present. I have made the right decision, I want to be divorced and as I look to the future I am happier than I have ever been since making these changes and seeing that there is a future ahead.
So now it is out. I have told as much of my reality as I can in this strange land that is the world wide web. In future I want to write more openly about what it takes, as a 50 year old woman, to go on, what I face and fear and the triumphs as I step further into being myself. I hope that what I say resonates with other women who have had similar experiences: divorce whilst running a business, a marriage contract not in my language, nor in my country, a large mortgage and the joy of debt.
We will spend 5 days in Jaipur, the beautiful and historical Pink City, famed for it’s shopping. There will be Kundalini yoga in the early morning at 7am, followed by a fabulous breakfast. Time to relax and get organized, then a morning spent shopping, a lazy lunch, and an afternoon adventure followed by an early evening meditation or chanting session and later a delicious dinner in one of the many famed restaurants in the city.
I have manufactured in Jaipur for 5 years and worked with all manner of tradesmen during that time. I am able to introduce you to expert jewelers, tailors, silk merchants, to hand block printers, quilt makers and the sellers in the cutlars…. these are the narrow bazaars where the wild and wonderful mad Indian things are found ….it is a wonderful way to see Jaipur especially if you have never been and, if you know it already, a different view.
To join the five day adventure will cost £1000 per person, this includes all the yoga sessions, transport to and from our adventures, accommodation and breakfast. Not included in the price are your flights to and from Jaipur, nor the costs of lunch or dinner or any personal excursions you choose to make. Getting to Jaipur: There are direct flights from all over the world. Virgin, BA, etc all fly to Delhi, only a few fly to Jaipur and the price is good, around £480 for cattle class. The drive from Delhi is tiresome, long and expensive but possible if you need that option.
I am a Kundalini Yoga teacher with 13 years of experience, a Kundalini yoga class is usually a dynamic and elevating experience and will include various aspects of what is traditionally considered yoga, as in the postures, but will also contain pranayama, mantra and meditation. Kundalini yoga is said to strengthen the nervous system, to elevate hormonal flow and can also promote a more balanced and even approach to our history and how we process all we have experienced to date. It is deeply relaxing, and a great way of managing the human experience of being in the 21st century.
The hotel is a family run 4 star hotel within the gates of the city, close to Samode Haveli. The food is delicious, the rooms are comfortable, all furnished in a Rajasthani style. There is internet, stone balconies and terraces overlooking the city and a very lovely large garden where meals can be eaten. Each of the rooms are double rooms and all have en suite bathrooms, TV and are very spacious.
To register your interest send me an email to email@example.com and I will get back to you with more details. No previous experience of Kundalini yoga is needed for you to have a great time with it.
There is a pdf of the trip to download here. Jaipur Trip March 2011
Read the newsletter here.
I suggested the idea of a Yoga & Shopping trip to Jaipur last year and there was a lot of interest. I was unable to go through with it as my daughter was given a part in a film which has taken up monumental amounts of time over the past year. There is just one last block of filming to go and we are done, with the film launching in June 2011.
So I have come back round to the plan to run a Yoga & Shopping trip to Jaipur in late March.
5 days in Jaipur with yoga in the morning, a delicious breakfast, a shopping trip, lazy lunch, an adventure, meditation or chanting in the evening followed by a delicious supper somewhere…..
I would like to know how many of you would be interested. I am a Kundalini Yoga teacher. No previous experience of this form of yoga is needed for you to have a great time with it. Couples, partners, men and women, all welcome.
I am able to introduce you to great jewellers, tailors, silk merchants, clothes shops, cheap and sparkley bazaars, temples, restaurants…. a wonderful way to see Jaipur if you have never been and perhaps if you know it already, a different view.
I will sort out costs etc based on the response I get, and would ask that you take responsibility to get yourself to Jaipur. There are direct flights from all over the world. The drive from Delhi is tiresome, long and expensive but possible if you need that option.
To register your interest email me and I will get back to you with more details
I have peaked on snow. It may seem a strange thing to say but the more I think about it, experience it and sit here looking at it, the more I feel that it is exactly how I feel.
My snow karma over the past few weeks has been beyond the pale: I have driven in it, been stranded in 18 inches of the stuff, literally, I have hitch hiked through it, packed a van in a blizzard, sat in a plane at Paris Airport being hosed down by cranes spraying orange anti-freeze all over the exterior, landed in a another blizzard just five minutes after the runway re-opened. This morning I looked at the endlessly falling snow and cried. I had had enough, and I still had to face a 20 minute walk uphill, thankfully, in leather soled shoes with two cold children to find an RER station to take us to the Eurostar. All our luggage is lost in it, we have sat for two hours now, stationary, in the 1st class cabin of the train waiting whilst the train in front of us has got itself embedded in more of the white stuff….. I feel that I have done my bit as far as full-on snow is concerned.
Ironically I spent several days in Iceland recently and there was not a flake… but I digress.
What has been interesting through all of this is how much I have had to battle with myself.
Whilst stuck in Kent I was alone. That in its’ self was a trip. A rented long wheel-base white van stuck in a snow drift takes me to places that all my travels with nomads in India and elephants in Africa cannot touch. The voices in my head whilst I marched through the snow, hitch-hiking to get to a main road and being ignored, were quite wild; not only was I astonished by how little a good handbag does for one, but I had not really taken in that I might look dangerous or scary enough not to stop for in 18 inches of snow. It was rather an eye opening experience. When a car did finally stop, and it was just a Golf, none of the tractors or Range Rovers saw fit, I took a moment and a sharp deep breath to get myself into the car. The driver seemed perfectly respectable, but who the hell were they?
Luckily they were the manager of the place I was finally headed towards and I rode with him all the way. Delightful.
In the last few days getting to and from Morocco on a schedule provided by the film producers and travelling with an 8 year old girl and early teen boy I have met a whole raft of other aspects of myself that I could honestly wish would go to hell.
The 24/7 experience of sharing every moment of my waking, sleeping, bathroom, food and walking life with two kids is one thing. To have every strand of patience, tolerance, calmness, reserve, and charm torn to shreds by the plans badly laid by another and blasted to smithereens by the humour of the Divine has been something else entirely.
I have talked myself through pretty much all of it with aplomb, I have. To an outsider I have been calm, amusing and kind. Inside I have been a boiling pot of fury, helplessness, rage, irritation, and insane longings to be left alone just for 5 minutes. It has been a wild and trippy journey just watching myself.
The delightfully amusing steward on the Air France flight last night who informed me, in front of both my children that not only were we taking off into 190 kph winds, but we would hopefully land and it would be a blizzard, joyfully told me how calm and serene he found me in the face of 24 hours travelling, no food, missed connections and lost luggage. The ability to smile sweetly, to keep the illusion and keep going onwards are aspects of myself that I rather like.
But I really have hit moments, minutes and hours, when I have wished I was a better person. Not an experience I have ever enjoyed, feeling like that.
The upside has been the indomitable aspects that so many of us have in a crisis: the people we have spent fleeting moments with, the hilarity, like when all the lights went out at Casablanca Airport last night after 8 hours of waiting for a plane, and the man next to me started singing Happy Birthday. Such a great humour!
Last night I waited in a blizzard with freezing kids and grumpy other displaced passengers for taxis that would take Air France vouchers. None would. I finally peaked and organised 7 of us to share a large van thing and we all, strangers, travelled through the surreal Paris snow storm to a hotel for the night with a driver who must have been heaven-sent he was so wonderful.
Now I sit on a Eurostar train, having abandoned the idea of flight and all luggage, with a woman sharing our table who is funny, thus far enduring 36 hours of travel from Singapore. She is a delight and makes the whole thing the adventure it really is.
The thought of Christmas in an Ibis Hotel on the outskirts of Paris was too awful, but heading out into the snow, the moments, the meetings, the dialogues and the positive energy that one can meet and manifest make it all an experience I am pleased to say I am having. And I am incredibly proud of my children who have been amazing throughout. Taking it all in their stride and only loosing their cool for short moments.
Perhaps I can adjust my feelings about snow, after all…… but then I have to be careful. I am still on the train and it has taken almost all afternoon to get to Calais and we have stopped, just short of the tunnel….. massive snowflakes abound…. 32 hours later…