helenlehndorf

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you can’t lie to yourself when you are walking

walking

My favourite mode of transport – my feet.

I like walking. I do my best thinking when I walk. I have my best thoughts. I process stuff. I see interesting things.* I couldn’t walk there for a while (about 18 months) because I had a pesky injury  which precluded walking, much to my horror,…but it’s better now and so I’m back to the way of the plod, foot over foot.

* (You have to walk without music, though, and without your phone in your claw. Put it away, for the sake of all that is holy, or better yet, leave it at home.)

I live in a very flat town. I miss hills. I’ve lost my hill-fitness (I know this because of the walks I take each time I’m back in Wellington.) I miss not knowing what is up ahead because of the terrain. Manawatu is big sky country. You can see for miles up ahead.

The best place I ever lived for walks was up a hill in Newtown in Wellington. The green belt was about fifty metres from my back door. I could be high up in the pines with an grand urban vista within a few minutes. Bloody lovely.

I also lived in Island Bay for a brief spell and when I moved there I swore I would walk along the beach every day, and I did, in all kinds of weather with a baby in tow.

No sea here, no hills, but still there is stuff to see, places to go.

I like reading about other people walking. I’ve read quite a few memoir about the Camino. I love Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I’ve read the Peace Pilgrim book. No Destination is another fascinating memoir of a long, long walk.

A recent walk around Lake Taupo – Willow trees and rowboats…

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So, with all this love of walking, I was fascinated to read this essay over at Dark Mountain blog recently about the Dutch artist Monique Besten who has made walking part of her artistic practice and process. Like Peace Pilgrim and Satish Kumar, she is walking to make a political/spiritual point. She wears a men’s three-piece suit (the ‘soft armour’ of her essay) which she embroiders along the way. She is refusing speed and fear and comfort in order to go very slowly across Europe, meeting people, finding things, making art along the way.

Right now she is walking from the Netherlands to the south of France. She expects it to take 99 days. She is 17 days into her trip and she is blogging it. You can read it HERE. Go back to the start and read it chronologically, perhaps…

I am enjoying it so much! It’s like the books I mentioned above, except with the extra thrill of being in real time, so each update is an account of her day.

Wonderful rich stuff for the fantasy life of the domestically tethered.

Lake mirrors sky – Lake Taupo…walking_4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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shameless 2014: proud maker of bad art

After a couple of creatively dry years where I have only been writing in my journals and sticking the occasional thing in…I have re-found my zeal for art-journaling.

Yup. I make rough-and-ready bad art in my journals. It is so soothing and therapeutic and fun to me. It’s more about process than product.

I started a fresh journal for 2014 and made this page with my WORD OF THE YEAR. 

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I was going to scan it so the details would show better, but then I couldn’t be blathered and I just took a photo because I am SHAMELESS — ha ha!

Glitter, flowers, obnoxious colour. Vomit of my brain. Vitamins for my eyes.

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fresh inspiration

When is an ‘inspiration wall’ not an inspiration wall?

When it’s been up for almost two years and you’ve stopped seeing it anymore…

I have a creative room out in my backyard. Our garage was converted to a sleepout by previous owners and now we’ve set it up so half of it is guest-room (well, guest-nook) and half is my creative space.

The wall beside my desk I put up a montage of inspirational images. It was overdue for a freshen up, so for a couple of months I slipped anything that caught my eye into a folder (magazine cuttings, mail my friends sent me, vintage book pages etc etc) until I had enough material to redo the wall.

Here is the old inspiration wall:

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& Here is the new:

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Do you think I am the only 41 year old still sticking photographs of pop stars on her wall? Ha ha.


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a wish for you, a wish for me

Recently I saw THIS NECKLACE on etsy and fell in love. I’m going through a bit of a love affair with Dandelion. It’s a mysterious yet common plant – it has manifold healing properties. It is rich in history and symbolism. You can eat all parts of it. You can’t ever kill it off your property. It grows pretty much all around the world. To me, it’s a magical, special plant – I find it sad that people see it as a weed….I love a lot of ‘weeds’.

I thought, ‘maybe one day I will treat myself that necklace’….but then, I was in Spotlight and I saw some small glass bottles with cork lids, and I had an ‘aha’ moment. Why buy dandelion seeds from America when I have them all over my own back yard?

So I bought a couple of the wee bottles, harvested some dandelion seed, poked the seed inside with a knitting needle and voila! dandelion seed necklaces for me and a friend who was having a birthday!

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Dandelion seeds represent wishes – I think it’s a nice ‘totem’ to carry a bottle of wishes around your neck through the world.

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feel the fear….and feel the fear

“Love what you have, and you’ll have more love.” -Regina Spektor

Aah, THIS SONG …”the piano is not firewood yet….” so much yearning in this song.  I’m can’t stop playing it. In it she is saying, ‘Who knows what is ahead of us, so dance today, love today.’

I am an environmentalist, or a greenie, or an eco-freak or whatever – I hate these labels – we should ALL be these things if we care about our future on this planet, and they shouldn’t need labels – it should just be conscious living.

Anyway, because I am awake and aware to what is going on in the world (unlike many people who prefer to do the hands over their ears -“LAH LAH LAH LAH – I CAN’T HEAR YOUUUUUUU….!” thing) – the awareness comes with a great deal of pain. However, it’s not all bad….knowing the things I know does two things to me – firstly, it gives me a great appreciation for what I have, while I still have it and it returns me firmly to the ‘now’ of my life. I sit with so much fear about the future, for myself, my children, my country, the planet…so much fear. But the fear is ultimately pointless, unhelpful, useless. So I sit with the fear in meditation, I observe how it manifests in my body – churning stomach, tight neck, tears coming into my eyes, overwhelming feelings of powerlessness – I try to just sit in that place, observe the physicality of the emotions….and then it goes, it always goes. The sooner I observe it and name it…the sooner it goes.

The second thing the fear does it that is leads me to cultivate beauty and celebration in my life. Actively, I seek it out. I try to create it. I NOTICE all that I have and I am thankful for it, so thankful!

The intellect only gets us so far. Most of what we experience is physical and sensual. To live a life of contentment (not happiness – happiness is a fickle, lightweight state of being that flits in and out of our days like a butterfly, just to be content is what I aim for) takes attention, cultivation and gratitude. These are mental attitudes that often take a bit of effort in our human minds which more naturally descend into chaos, anger, jealousy and fear.

I don’t know how I ended up writing this today – I meant to post about my vegetable garden. I still will – but I guess I wanted to say a bit about why I post so often about simple things which bring me pleasure, beautiful things in my life…which may seem facile, unintellectual, maybe even banal. There is so much going on underneath these little observations, so so much.

I was at Buddhist study group last night and my teacher, Demo, was talking about bringing Dharma (buddhist wisdom) into the heart, to stop intellectualising it and feel it, physically feel it, and I knew just what she meant. On Monday I was having a particularly fearful time – for no reason – it was beautiful sunny day, at home alone, no pressures on me, nowhere to be, no one needing anything from me and I was sitting at the table gripped with so much fear I could barely breathe. I named it fear, and I went from being enslaved by the fear and panicking at it’s escalation, to observing the fear as it manifested in my body. Stomach, shoulders, heart, face. I breathed deeply. I leaned into the fear. I sat there breathing until my shoulders loosened, my body relaxed.

And then I finished my tea, went outside, picked vegetables and took these photographs:

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yoga retreat

I went on a yoga retreat a while back, down in the Kapiti hills. I was so full of everything that happened there, that I couldn’t blog about it right away. It was a wonderful three days – lots of yoga, herbal tea, hill walking, confronting aloneness, confronting togetherness, restful, tiring, thought-provoking, detoxing…..oh yes, detoxing! I stopped drinking coffee four days before the retreat, because I didn’t want my retreat to be ruined by headaches. My goodness, going off coffee was HORRIBLE. I had headaches, insatiable thirst and cold-like symptoms for days. My whole system went all weird.

Since I came back I haven’t wanted to eat meat, drink coffee or alcohol. It’s weird, like the thought of any of those makes me really queasy. I’m listening to my body and going with it for now…for as long as that’s what I’m experiencing. I think my body obviously needed a big break.

Life without coffee is interesting. I only realise what a drug it is when I’m off it. No wonderful rushes of energy and mental clarity, but also no frayed nerves, acidic stomach, and much less anxiety. Going to a cafe is much less attractive, which means money saved! (Who likes paying $4.00 for tea? Often cafe tea is really bad, too, because they use water from the coffee machine, which is too hot for a good brew.)

The retreat was a great way to drop me into post-library-job life….even if I spent about a week afterwards processing everything that had happened there.

I had major collywobbles about yoga teaching during and after the retreat, along the lines of ‘I don’t know nearly enough. I can never know enough. There is so much I can’t even do myself, yet, how can I possibly TEACH???’ but then I had to front up to teach my class the next day – we had a great kick-ass class together, my students said nice things to me and I thought ‘Ah well, I guess I’m doing OK.’ I think as long as I am continuing to train, learn and improve my own practice, it’s OK to teach. Maybe my insecurities even make me a better teacher, who knows?

Here’s some photos from the retreat – I haven’t included photographs of people doing yoga because I think it’s kind of a private thing. I know I wouldn’t want someone to post photographs of me doing yoga on the internet! (I did have to show you how we ended the retreat, though. The sun came out, after a weekend of cold and rain, so we rushed out onto the deck and did Viparita Karani (legs up the wall) whilst sun-basking! :)

 


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the rush to fill the empty spaces

There is a gap opening up in my life soon.

Nature abhors a vacuum, right? My tendency is always to fill spaces up with more things, new things, ways to make money/art, projects, whatever. This time, though, I promised myself I would sit with the space, lean into the quiet, listen in and see what comes up.

When I teach yoga, my students often talk to me about savasana (corpse pose, or the relaxation bit in a yoga class)…how the first few times they experience it, it often makes them feel uncomfortable. Their minds race, they feel awkward and overly intimate with their classmates by lying down in silence, they are hyper-aware of the sound of breathing, they might lie there waiting for it to be over, even…

…but with a bit of practice, after giving it a few goes….they come to like it, and then to look forward to it. Conscious relaxation (i.e. staying awake whilst deeply relaxing) can sometimes feel more restorative than eight hours sleep.

I think it is the same feelings with any empty spaces that appear in our lives – we are not used to stopping, to silence, to deep rest…at first it makes us feel uncomfortable, like we are ‘wasting time’, being unproductive, or we just don’t like the thoughts and feelings which come when there is a bit of room for them to rise up.

I have a feeling something big, absorbing and fulfilling lies ahead for me, but I’m not entirely sure what it is yet. This is why I am going to let the empty spaces be empty spaces….so I can create enough quiet to listen for what’s coming.

I’ve always been a to-do list person. If I have any free time, I write a big to-do list and set myself a goal of getting it done by the end of the morning, or the day or the week. I work methodically through it….tick! tick! tick!

I’ve written on here about how this year has been a bit of a creative low-point and there’s been a bit of burn-out, too.

I’ve discovered a new approach to free time. (No doubt this is not a revelation to many of you, seasoned moochers!)

Free-form pottering.

Instead of enslaving myself to a to-do list, which -while organised and productive- leaves my already frazzled spirit feeling weirdly pressured- I am pottering. Doing a bit of this, a bit of that, drifting from one task to another and back, dropping tasks if they start to annoy me…stopping for cups of tea more often.

Here’s what I am experiencing by pottering:

-my free time feels free

-I am nicer to my kids and am doing more with them, because I letting go of the notion of what I ‘have’ to achieve in a day. A game of Operation or a spontaneous round of biscuit baking with the kids is more important than me calling the IRD or editing a poem or whatever would have been on that to-do list.

-I am still getting a lot of things done. Pottering doesn’t mean doing nothing.

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So, in my pottering space, in my savasana space, in my go slow/do less/breathe more space – I am sitting here – awaiting further instructions.

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