Another year is drawing to a close, and of course with this comes the inevitable desire to reflect and plan ahead. I was able to have a once in a lifetime kind of adventure where thanks to a couple of years of saving and planning, I was fortunate enough to step the soles of my feet onto the soil of three continent, nine countries and dozens of cities. Along the way, I crossed paths with three (forgiving) snakes, swam with a group of rescued elephants and dipped my toes in warm turquoise seas. The journey was diverse too, one month saw me hiking through handfuls of exotic national parks while the next had me immersing myself in ancient Roman history. I crossed paths with countless other souls too, from my time meditating with Buddhist monks to shaking hands with African villagers who’d never before seen blonde hair.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the human body is energized through specific internal paths, otherwise known as meridian lines, along which the life force, otherwise knows as chi, travels. There are twelve major meridians that run on both side of the body, mirroring one another. Each of these pairs is associated with specific organs and working with them through holistic practices such as acupuncture, massage or yin yoga are believed to have specific healing effects. This article will explore the kidney meridian and it’s relation to female reproductive health in specific.
It’s official, meditation has become mainstream. An increasingly huge range of people, from CEO’s running multi billion dollar businesses to pre-teens over-bursting with energy during school time, are embracing the practice with open arms. Scientific evidence overwhelming supports it’s benefits - meditation has been shown to reduce our stress levels, improve our concentration and physiologically, benefit our cardiovascular health and immunity too. This all illustrates that taking some time out of our day to meditate has the potential to greatly improve the feeling and productivity of the rest of it. No wonder the world has caught on! So, how exactly do you meditate, aside from in a lotus position in some remote cave? There is no one right approach that will suit everyone and if you've never tried meditation before, consider giving a few different options a go to see which will resonate with you most.
I recently came across a beautiful poem that made a deep impression on my psyche. It was lighthearted but very meaningful and it managed to stick with me for the past few days, to the point here I'm now drawn to share it. It's a gentle reassuring reminder that we are only responsible for our own path and should not let the actions of others interfere with our truth. And our actions and character should be coming from a place of love, deep within, uninfluenced by our circumstances and without seeking external rewards. And when we seemingly do everything possible right without receiving any support in return, we should keep doing it anyway, because it's our truth. People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered; Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; Succeed anyway.
Having just completed a 3-month trip to Madagascar, here is my account of the experiences with the various NGO’s that are doing amazing things for the Malagasy population and supporting the countries development. Akany Avoko Faravohitra is residential rehabilitation centre in the capital city, Antananarivo. It provides a safe haven for nearly 50 girls who have been placed in the juvenile justice or child welfare systems. The girls are looked after, mentored and provided with empowering training that aims to give them the opportunity to become self-sustainable in adulthood through avenues such as cooking and various handicrafts. The centre also hosts international volunteers who give the girls an opportunity to learn about other cultures and provide them with hands on experience of learning languages such as English and French. Ankizy Gasy is another wonderful organization based in the town Ambohidratrimo just outside the capital. The main focus of their work is supporting the families of local underprivileged children by funding their yearly expenses of attending school but they also organize activities and English lessons with their volunteers and run a canteen for the poorest of the community.
If you are considering becoming a volunteer English teacher with Hope for Madagascar and are interested in hearing about the perspective of someone who has already had the experience, here is my very recent and detailed account. When researching volunteer opportunities in Madagascar, I came across dozens of possibilities but only a couple immediately grabbed my attention because of a combination of two reasons. First, the programs were already well established and received regular participants, often quite a handful at a time. This is wonderful of course but Madagascar is huge and I felt that my time would be better given to a location that is more remote and not in receipt of so much attention already. Second, the majority of these programs were also very expensive with costs running into thousands for a couple of weeks of work. While I understood that this money would go on to support the local economy and the running costs of the NGO, on this occasion, I wanted my contribution to be of time and energy, not money.
I’ve observed that many people now turn to holistic practices such as yoga and meditation in times of turmoil and this is wonderful as they offer a way to heal without trying to numb which has been the dominant approach for us in the West for some time. But with time, these practices tend to be pushed to the sidelines as we begin to feel better, get busier and generally get sucked back into what we consider to be the ‘real world’.
This is unfortunate because the value in finding such time for ourselves extends far beyond healing what already hurts. It can also provide us with motivation, mental clarity and meaning so we can aim to be our best more consistently. My own practice slipped in the past couple of months as I spent all my time travelling and given the chance to reflect on this recently, I noticed my usual levels of intention and mindfulness lower too. My mind can provide a thousand excuses for why this is OK but thankfully I know better than to listen to that.
Chiang Mai is a bustling city in the Northern mountainous region of Thailand; it’s full of obvious treasures (and plenty of hidden gems) ready to fill visitors with awe and wonder. Chiang Mai is the fourth most populous city in the country with about 170 thousand people living within the perimeter and many more on the outskirts.
While the center of town can feel typically Southeast Asian with lots of concrete, traffic and pollution, rest assured there is peace to be found within the chaos and luscious jungles and gorgeous mountains and not very far away. All in all, keeping yourself busy, relaxing, and generally making the most of your time will be so easy as there is much on offer.