Cooking conquests

Not so long ago a “ping” filled the nation’s kitchens,
and with it came a slight end to those pastries filled with ‘mum’s special ingredients’.

In life you see, the fact is that time flies.
We simply feel too tired to cook at the end of the day.

No you may not be called “Ramsey”, “Berry”, “Oliver”, or “Lawson”.
But you might be inspired by them to experiment with la comida*.

It starts with the £3.00 spent on veg.
It starts with the chop on the board.
It starts with the sound of the fridge door.

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There’s so much to learn from
Parsnips boiling,
Potatoes peeling,
or things sizzling.

Not least, you learn more about yourself as a cook.
– Are you someone who moves at a pace, as ingredients come together like drops of water to form a splash of a feast?
– Maybe having a recipe down to perfection means you slam a book shut in celebration, so flour cascades towards the worktop?
– or possibly you go so far from the recipes that they ought to be written in symbols, yet the very entity that is your culinary masterpiece has you grinning like a Cheshire cat?
‘Only I know what the secret ingredient is’.

Whatever the kind of cook, the therapeutic
dicing of tomatoes, or whisking of that egg
is universal.

Unpacking and arranging ingredients, with the
warm crinkling of the packets.
Mysterious aromas of garlic and onions,
and others which never quite taste how you’d expect.
Promises to yourself and others
‘next time I’ll not put so much of this in’.
– All these serve to add to the fun.

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Above all else is the pride as you think observe the food-tastic output.
‘Just look at what I did’.

Until tomorrow, when you clean.
The non-stick pan gets ‘stickier’.
The rice-maker becomes ‘inconvenient’.
The spoon is ‘damaged’ by sauce.

After that Captain Scott like expedition,
You decide to tidy along to the radio.
After all, it’ll make the time go much faster.

By Amanda Lynsdale

Notes:- Comida,the Spanish word for food.

Massage therapy and Qi Gong

If you want to keep well and creative, I suggest a massive list of positive whole good things to do daily…so, along with gardening, meditation, relaxation, being grateful to everyone for their ‘small’ acts of everyday kindness, I have Massage Therapy from John Mackie.

I fell down the stairs 3.5 years ago, and as someone who values his fitness for gardening, self-defence, in a rough area – the roughest in Leeds – Holbeck, not Chapeltown! – it was a traumatic loss. Traumatic in both senses of severe damage: physical and mental trauma means not just psychological. The pains of tendinitis: heavy dragging sensation on foot, sharp shooting dull pains, in calf muscle, quadriceps, gluteus maximus/buttock muscle, dull, numb (which can indicate formation of scar tissue) tingling were indescribable.

I tried to get referrals to the physiotherapy care of my GP, but they didn’t do it – healthcare eh?! There was probably some stigmatization of me. It is well documented that mental health service users die younger on average, from severe physical disease and get less better heath treatment, because doctors believe they are making it up. Anyway, that’s only an aside.

I asked 3 GPs in my practice for a referral to a physiotherapist, several times but no joy. I plumbed for holistic massage therapy with John Mackie – he is trained in a wide variety of medicines. he knows and is practised in physiotherapy Chi Gong, Tai Chi, Reichian (body massage psycho) therapy. My whole system was suffering, and the bio-mechanics of my left leg, from the impact of 100s of pounds worth of pressure, as I rocketed down the stars. Somebody said, cruelly, ”Was I drunk?” ,”It was Monday morning”, I said and I drink a 10th less now down to 1 or 2 pints mild beer weekly. I asserted myself. People can be cruel. He shut up. Be assertive folks. 

I asserted my need for therapy despite the mentalist system, asserted my truth of health ‘gainst the fool with the cruel comment. Be kind to yourselves.  Deep down we are ALL OK, OK? Out of this practice of this wholesome idea I have been having massage therapy and Chi Gong, with John, since November 2014. although it’s fortnightly it really has helped.

I have had about 8 sessions, and I have noticed the muscle strength has returned almost entirely, however my balance is not quite right and I can fall over if not careful. I have to be mindful of my balance and take over, for now, this short-term conscious mind over body matter. (Normally, the unconscious, autonomous nervous system co-ordinates a healthy body without the need for conscious thinking).

The reason why I promote John Mackie are several:  He offers concessions; out of wholesome karma-choice I promote him spontaneously.. He is not a big commercial company; he is a holistic practitioner who is struggling to make money in the recession, as everyone is cutting back spends. He is a good listener/ diagnoser, and is clear in answering questions honestly, is open to feedback, attends Mind’s Peer Support Meditations with Steve Hart, e.g. Tuesdays from 5pm to 7pm, see other articles on Inkwell in this blog. Please see http://www.leedsmind.org.uk

John Mackie is a thriver not mere grim survivor. He is a good man indeed.

Milan Buddha Ghosh

Poetry slam

Winter nights sees me pretty much grounded for their duration, and with each year that passes the need to get active after them, becomes ever more apparent. Getting out and about keeps me physically and emotionally better, and attending the Headingley Literature Festival each March is often one of my first Spring evening jaunts.

LS6 always seems to buzz but the festival gives it that extra vibe. The programme of events is always extensive and varied, many events are free, of those that aren’t, they’re reasonably priced. This year’s theme was ‘Something Else’, and concludes on April 2nd  with, ‘Own Your Words’ …advertised as a poetry slam, see details here.

So far I’ve only managed to attend one of this year’s events, this too was also billed as a poetry slam, and named, ’One City – Many Voices’. For an entrance fee of £4 we were entertained by the internationally renowned poet, Lemn Sissay.Lemn Sissay

I’m not sure when the slang use of the word ‘cool’ became so commonplace. I don’t recall it being used in ‘my day’, and don’t feel comfortable saying it, BUT writing it occasionally seems expressive?,,,,Lemn and his performance were….. cool!

The word slam in ‘poetry slam’ is also slang, but this too I find expressive. It was used initially to describe a competitive poetry event, and was coined by Bob Holman. ‘a poetry activist and…slammaster’ who called the movement “the democratization of verse”…..he also said

The spoken word revolution is led a lot by women and by poets of color. It gives a depth to the nation’s dialogue that you don’t hear on the floor of Congress

The ‘One City – Many Voices’ poetry slam wasn’t competitive, but those who performed alongside Lemn were a group of talented wordsmiths from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. They were pupils of Leeds City Academy and Ralph Thoresby High School.  The flair and conviction of their words was astoundingly good. The young people had been coached by local writer and poet Michelle Scally Clarke.

Michelle told us how when younger, she’d struggled academically because of her troubled life, but she liked writing poetry and after sending some to Lemn, he’d encouraged her to continue. Ms Scally Clarkes’s performance, and presence were impressive. The Academy’s, Head of English, was an equally animated and motivational speaker, he spoke of the personal hurdles he’d overcome to be so. The teacher told us of his difficulties with a speech impairment and shyness when young, and then when older in a southern University, he’d faced ‘teasing’ for his Northern accent. I’m sure his and Michelle’s commitment and mentoring skills were a huge factor in the pupils finding their words and voice.

Most of the young performers displayed a confidence, beyond their years, they recited forthrightly, the young compere was dynamic and as an introduction demonstrated his moonwalking. The focus of the students poetry topics revealed many difficulties in their personal lives, they were angry at injustices they’d faced, but this seemed to spark the passion to expose it.

Though I like performance poetry, my preferred way of ‘hearing’ poetry is to read it silently to myself. Poets performing their own work however are most likely best able to add the nuance, or inflection which conveys their intended message. Lemn is a charismatic performer and he described writing poetry as ‘playing with the spirits’, that point alone inspired me to write about the poetry slam. Hopefully we who only listen to or read it, get to commune with them too.

Of the poems Lemn read, the following one stayed with me, as it spoke of the rejection he’d suffered. The poem also illustrates how when we’re a child, what it’s like to live in the land of ‘giants’ who sometimes get perplexingly angry. It was clear Lemn wrote the poem from experience but it wasn’t until after the event I found out just how difficult his childhood was. I also discovered that he’s an MBE, and whereas I claim letters before or after someone’s name mean little to me, I might have felt a little shyer inviting him to a World Poetry event elsewhere, or about his fee! Lemn, as the cliche goes, appeared to have ‘no edge’ and graciously, whilst not exactly accepting the invite, managed to appear not to rule it out.

Though childhood rejection wasn’t an obvious contributory factor in my angsty youth, it’s something many experience at some time, either as children or adults. Making it easy perhaps to identify with the boy in the poem who was misunderstood, and imputed with wrong motives.  It is only as an adult, and lately, that I’ve come to recognise the insidious ways certain groups are marginalised. If we find ourselves amongst them, choosing to re-frame the experience, see it as an advantageous place from which to act, gives the freedom to draw up inspiration from ‘that wellspring of creativity’.¹

Suitcases and Muddy Parks by Lemn Sissay

You say I am a lying child I say I’m not you say there you go again

You say I am a rebellious child I say no I’m not you say there you go again

Quite frankly mum I’ve never seen a rebellious child before and when my mates said jump in that puddle and race you through the park (y’know, the muddy one) I didn’t think about the mud.

When you said why you are dirty! I could feel the anger in your voice I still don’t know why. I said I raced my mates through the park. You said it was deliberate. I said I didn’t I mean I did but it wasn’t. You said I was lying, I said no I am not. You said there you go again.

Later in the dawn of adolescence it was time for my leave

I with my suitcase, social worker,

you with your husband, walked our sliced ways.

Sometimes I run back to you like a child through a muddy park, adult achievements tucked under each arm, I explain them with a child-like twinkle, thinking any mother would be proud…

Your eyes, desperately trying hard to be wise and unrevealing, reveal all.

Still you fall back into the heart of the same rocking chair saying

There you go again.

And I did.

And I have.

,Sue Margaret

1. Bob Dylan in interview.

Silence at Ampleforth Monastery – doing something out of the ordinary!

I recently did something quite out of the ordinary. I packed my bags and went off to stay in a Monastery to experience two days of silence!  It was a weekend of Mindful Meditation at Ampleforth Monastery in North Yorkshire.

‘Two days of silence, why would you want to do that..?’ some of my friends asked me, quite bemused at the idea.   ‘…because i can feel my head going on overdrive!’

A few year ago I took up Mindfulness Meditation in an attempt to be more present in my life, less anxious, to come out of auto-pilot and have more control over how I respond and react to things and basically to help manage my depression at the time.  It helped. However my practice had since lapsed, and like many of us who have learnt to spot the early warning signs of a dip, I knew it was time to do something about this.  The retreat came at a time when I needed it.   It provided a chance for a change of scenery, a break from my usual routine, an adventure and some meditation – hopefully these things would help give me the lift I was looking for.

When I arrived I was taken aback at the beauty of the Monastery and its surrounding grounds. The monastery filled me with awe as it has such presence. It grandly overlooks a  valley, which contains rugby grounds, trees, nice walks and green hills in the distance. Rumour has it that  ‘Hogwarts,’ the castle in Harry Potter was inspired by Ampleforth, which is also a public school as well as a monastery.  After having a quick look around  I felt absolutely giddy with excitement that this would be my home for the next few days.

Ampleforth

The retreat was both relaxing and challenging. My mind wandered to places I really didn’t want it to!  But hey, that’s what minds do – right?  Part of the practice involves noticing this and bringing the attention back to the focus of the meditation.   I tried to allow thoughts and feelings to come and go, observing them without getting too attached to them, like clouds passing through the sky.  The theory is that this then becomes easier in daily life, and it does help me.

I experienced some beautiful moments whilst at the retreat. In the evening I would look up at the sky and see so many stars twinkling back down at me.  I marvelled at the constellation of Orion, which I rarely see from my home in Leeds. The starry sky was so clear and bright and reminded me of stargazing in India which I had done many years previously when I felt much more carefree. It was a nice reminder.

The monks were very hospitable and welcomed us to drop into their worship, which is open to members of the public and I highly recommend!   Their singing is enchanting, mesmerizing and moving. It was like being on the front row of a free concert!

…and while I was there I felt time stand still just for a little while…a pause

Anyone can visit Ampleforth Monastery (As long as it’s not a special day.)  Members of the public can eat at the tearooms, stroll around the grounds, observe and take part in the worship (you don’t have to be religious – I’m not! ) and buy nice gifts at the shop  – it’s a beautiful place to go!

Volunteering

“…Volunteer”

This is a word that nowadays carries as much prestige on a CV, as the word “Chartered” does before Accountant. In this current economic and financial climate, this is hardly surprising.

So what exactly are the benefits, of having a voluntary role?
– Before I start I’d like to say that a voluntary role is not for everyone.
Indeed it can be like Marmite: you either love it and find the idea of volunteering truly exciting, or you alternatively find the prospect uninspiring.

For those of us in our 20s-30s trying desperately to find our way in the world, volunteering as a great way of showing interest in a certain area or profession – for future employers. Indeed whether you’d like to be an airline pilot, work with a specific social group, be a waitress, or an artist of some description, volunteering these days can set you apart from the rest of the candidates. This is demonstrated well I think, in a sketch by Monty Python:

(Michael Palin’s character wants to be a Lion Tamer, John Cleese is the Careers Adviser)
John Cleese : Do you have any qualifications?
Michael Palin: Yes I’ve got a hat
John Cleese: A hat?
Michael Palin: A lion taming hat, with Lion Tamer on it..
John Cleese: The snag is that if I now call (the contacts name) and say to him look here, I’ve got a 45 year old Chartered Accountant with me who wants to become a Lion Tamer, his first question is not going to be “does he have his own hat?”. He’s going to ask what sort experience you’ve had with lions….

In short then: experience is the evidence of your enthusiasm, that will encourage an employer to eagerly eye your CV.

Of course however, a person might not be looking to move into a career through volunteering. In these cases other benefits of volunteering will be equally important. Indeed a weekly voluntary role could have hugely significant benefits for a person’s health, psychologically and physically.
There are certain volunteering roles which would allow someone to become more active: I’m thinking here for example of gardening-based roles, roles that involve working with children and other social groups etc., or positions that involve organising and putting-on various events.
Whatever the role a volunteer has, there are inevitably going to be other people at these organisations who they can build up a great and long-lasting rapport with. This is turn will have significant and positive effects on a person’s mental health. Firstly, since getting out and meeting new people is always a positive thing to be doing – if people feel they would like to. Secondly some volunteers get a sense of accomplishment, have the gratifying feeling of participating towards a good cause, or enjoy their role because they feel they are doing something productive. These are the feelings that some people have about their volunteering roles, and it is for this reason that they find such work to be so motivating.

A last benefit of volunteering is one which is perhaps less obvious, though no less important. It is something that happens far more gradually. As I write this I have the words of a politician in my head: ‘education, education, education’. This mantra perfectly sums up the personal developments and subconscious changes, that result from volunteering. Simply put, “you’ll learn a lot”. For example I currently have a role volunteering with people, in a fast-paced environment where no two days are the same. I find that in the short time since I started, I have learnt a large amount about the industry I’m in. In addition, and this has been happening so slowly that I haven’t noticed, but doing it has allowed my confidence to greatly improve.

To close I would just like to “shout-out” to everyone I’ve met in my various volunteering roles; I really appreciate what they’ve done for me, and the opportunities I’ve had because of them. Indeed each of the roles I’ve done has ultimately helped me to grow, in unforeseen  and positive ways, into the person I am today.

To the audience: if you feel like you can, and would like to volunteer, then I encourage you to try it. Indeed as I hope I’ve shown: there’s not much to lose from volunteering, but instead a vast amount to gain :).

By Amanda Lynsdale

 

Resilience

Resilience is something of a constant on-off meditation. I’ve had to think about what resilience means? Being resilient makes me happy: I said recently to a friend:

“There is no such thing as adversity.”

Yes, I live from that more and more, a very resilient thought creating joy for me and others?

“There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way”

The Dalai Lama.

We have to be very mindful, because there is no belief system of absoluteness, in mindfulness, or Buddhism. If you have the neigbours from hell then move; conditions are important, but only as important as you make them.

I was a ‘depressive’/ ‘despairive’/despairer’, although I do not now have disabling or clinical depression, as I have basically recovered, my friends will be relieved to know. This recovery took me many years. In those years I despaired of ever healing and recovering. However apart from good friends, two things really helped me change my life, ‘gainst the ground-hog days we all suffer indeed:

Buddhist practices including meditation; there is contemplation to induce the practice of wisdom-compassion in your life, but at least 5 other practices. However.meditation alone will not change your life.

Therapy and counselling. I count them as the same difference as unlike certain therapist and counsellors, they argue over very little and the prime focus should be the clients needs to heal, not professional intellectual differences!

And my acquaintances too:  I mustn’t forget the latter for a very simple reason: every source of support is necessary to overcome the low self esteem behind mania and depression, or any other form of self-defined distress. Both are Jungian overcompensations for something denied and that something is low self esteem or more graphically self hatred.

I will say again one needs a massive support system to overcome even mild depression, moderate despair or the worst manic and suicidal despair depression.

We need to be extremely mindful, aware and kind to ourselves, and others in order to overcome the worst in ourselves and make the best of the rest of our lives. The only point about being mindfullly-aware is to develop the insights for you to be compassionate yourselves, and to others.

Despair depression and other mental ‘illnesses’ are deeply ground into being-karma, so the medicine must be strong, varied and penetrate to our unconscious depths. This allows integration of horrible and repressed demons, our worst fears and doubts and to overcome the fear of freedom from neurosis. But as I once discovered if we don’t watch it it can kill us. Neurosis and psychosis killed my dad and brother many years ago, and deep mental pain, anguish can make life not worth living. If we fully recognise these realities and talk to our friends, nurture friends who earn trust, then slowly we can recover with consistent practice of recovery techniques, invented or not, over time.

Mindfulness (being in the mo-ment, enjoying life, being efficient, being joyful, but not driven, etc.) also makes one very aware in ones home garden, bus or wherever of one body in a relaxed yoga like fashion. In fact just taking 5 percent reduction of my high speed mania, helped, or adding 5 per cent to lift myself from despair pits worked. Tis the middle way, not foolish ground-hog day overcompensation.

I cannot value therapy/counselling, Buddhist practices, or friends over and above one another. In a sense the telling thing is they are all friends, OK a professional listener was paid by me as an exception, but if you feel it is merely about the money, then be firm with your counsellor or therapist (search this website for more on talking listening treatments counselling and psychotherapy).

The Buddha said ”Do the wholesome. Do the wholesome always.”

Conclusions:  For people with disabling despair, depression anxiety-neurosis, psychosis, or people with distress,  it is important to look after yourself by asking for help (there’s a future blog of this title coming soon), by nurturing self insight/ self help, asking friends and therapists for help, but don’t be exploited by any unethical ‘friends’ or therapists .

Stick with the bad-weather friends, and genuine people – those who will stick by you in thick and thin. And who love you even for your faults, which they see as amusing and delightful and charming. Those who nurture you and love you.

You can recover. Indeed. It is totally true – even the worst cases can transform their lives to contentment happiness and a greater kindness.
You can change.
But you need self insight and to ask for help so sharing, and halving your problems.
You need to stop the Ground-hog Days of unconscious addictive karmas, and if you fall back into despair anxiety and mistakes; that’s OK there’s no such thing as failure only feedback.
Create a massive support network
Be happy,  that’s the only point of living after all, without harming others through anger, drugs, battles, resentments, verbal darts – in fact cultivate the opposite of these weeds of the mind. Please cultivate the lotuses and sunflowers of our lives. For the rest of our lives.

If you want to learn mindfulness for resilience, more humour and more joy and wisdom in your life, please leave a message on this post, or e-mail us at Leeds Wellbeing Web.

or google leeds buddhist centre or mindfulness or buddhist centres leeds u.k.

Enjoy your life, I lick the lid of life.

Milan Buddha Ghosh