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It’s been almost a full year since we left the Uk and it feels time to share with you why I have chosen the path I am choosing.
In November 2013 a new horizon presented itself at a time when our projects in the Uk were coming to a close. The College Project in Bristol and the Swindon Yoga and Massage Centre were wonderful educational journeys, yet it was becoming clear that commuting was not a sustainable way of life. The two projects were also unsustainable under the landscapes that were on offer at the time. What now for Inner Smile Nurture?
An opportunity came to work with a very different landscape. We were asked to house sit for a lady in Spain, quite close to Malaga. During those 7 months my partner and I followed the Artists Way, a book that guides you through a journey of creative exercises. The house was called Las Tinajas, The Pots, with stunning 360 degrees of mountain views. In this pot we were held through winter and I gave time to my creativity. Whilst my work has always been beautifully creative, it became such a part of me that I gave little time to who I am outside of Inner Smile Nurture. The Artists Way gave me an opportunity to crack the egg and look at myself as an individual. Who am I? What do I need? Where am I going? Why? Am I making choices based on what I value?
At this time I chose to use the name ‘Maya Gayle’. In Portugal 2013 when practising yoga this name came to me in a wave. As I sat in meditation at Jai and Sofia’s house in Ericeira I felt an arising peace in life being an illusion. An illusion that I create, it was with this realisation that I embodied the name Maya. This name is a reminder of who I am, an ancient being older than time.
I was nervous to share my chosen name with friends and family, thinking they might judge or feel it disrespectful of my past given name. Frances Lewis helped me with merging this experience by using ‘Maya Gayle’ in an email response. Now most of my friends happily call me Maya, some find this more difficult to adjust to & so call me Gayle. I happily embody both of these names. I also still feel a strong connection to my surname ‘Fletcher’ and even more so when practicing archery here in the mountains. “Fletcher” is an old name for someone who makes arrows.
Whilst at Las Tinajas my partner Alex also took on a different name, Felix Rey, meaning Happy King. Around the time when his father passed away on New Years Eve this name was gifted to him by a friend. His father Nomad, also had many names through his life. Nomad was a wonderful yogi and always shared the sun in his heart. For many yogis changing name is part of their life journey, in exploring self mastery and becoming Kings and Queens of our nations of one.
It feels that Felix and Maya are guardians as we move into adult life, gently encouraging Gayle and Alex to unlearn preconceptions. Maya holds hands with Gayle and helps me to step into taking responsibility for this life. The name Maya reminds me that there is a sense greater than life, wholesome and infinite. Gayle grounds me in experience and gifts love to all my friends and teachers. Maya Gayle is just a name and not really representative of who I am, I respond to it in conversation. Just as learning a new language, any object can have multiple names yet it still has the form, this form can be perceived in many ways at the same time by differing minds. The same mind can gift a different perspective of this object in any given moment, such is the dream of existence.
During this time in Las Tinajas we regularly visited our friend who lives in Yegen, a small mountain village in Andalucia. She has given Felix and I a most amazing gift, approximately four acres of land to live and work with in Yegen. Surrounded by the Alpujarras mountain range it is one of the most biodiverse lands in Europe. The landscape is quite incredibly supported by the irrigation channels created by the Moors. The water travels from snow that gathers on the mountain peaks, pure spring water. Clear air, pure water and fertile earth, of course we jumped at the chance to be with natures gifts.
As we packed up in the Uk this past summer I felt huge layers of clearing. It was an emotional time and as we were packing I felt a lot of fear and resistance. As we hugged my parents ready to leave I acknowledged the leap I was making. I am the little bird finally flying the Swindon nest. I cried deeply, as I imagine it maybe like for those who marry, the symbology of the father giving away his daughter felt very real in this moment. My Dad cried, one of the few times I have seen his tears, as I write tears again return to me. I felt so supported and such love and trust handed to us from my parents, they gave us two horse shoes, also a symbol of this change.
We travelled on the ferry with our converted ambulance and a yurt ready to set up on the land in Yegen. Now living here we are getting to know the local villagers and learning the language. The population of Yegen is rapidly decreasing as the youth go to work in cities, we bring youthful enthusiasm back to this area of stunning beauty. Without people to maintain the water systems the Alpujarras will return to desert. Climate change may see it that way regardless. The region has been inhabited for over 10,000 years and well managed can maintain fertile lands for all of natures inhabitants to thrive.
In choosing to live more closely with nature and leaving much of what I know behind, I have everything to learn. In the not knowing and accepting being a fool, I am vulnerable in this venture. I regularly feel fear, in fact savasana (corpse pose) is often feeling more like gripping to a rock face rather than the blissful surrender I’ve known in the past. This will change, as all things in time. I trust in the greater spirit to guide me and I step slowly in surrender, palms open with tears in my eyes.
What are we doing in Spain?
Here in Yegen we are steadily growing a food and medicine garden, living yoga, simply and in tune with natures rhythms.
In Autumn I naturally deepen my pranayama (breathing practice) and invite aloe vera to cleanse my system. There will be an article about seasonal yoga practice in my October blog at www.innersmilenurture.com
I am steadily researching venues to host some regular yoga classes and workshops, for now classes are available in the natural park with beautiful mountain views. In time I aim to offer yoga classes in Spanish too.
Research is in progress for us to grow and create aromatherapy essential oils, this will take some time. For now “Message in a Bottle” prescription blends are made to order.
Yoga for gardeners is something I’m discovering, easing the lower back, shoulders, and hands. I’ve been surprised that my hands can ache from pulling weeds!
Thanks to Gerald Jones, a yoga student from Swindon, we are learning about wonderful water harvesting technology that could help us to have a lesser impact in living with our environment.
How can you be involved?
You can come for a holiday to Yegen, it’s one of the most beautiful hiking routes in the world. Come for a camping visit to help out with gardening and building. Or you can stay in a holiday apartment in the village and still come to play on the land.
During your stay you can book yoga classes and massage therapy with me.
You can mail order “Message in a Bottle” aromatherapy blends for yourself or gifts by emailing me at : firstname.lastname@example.org
In May 2015 I have hired a gorgeous venue in Lanjaron to host a yoga retreat “Yoga for Nurturing the Wild Within” Full details for this are on my website listed below. If you book before December then you can receive a half price massage with me for during the retreat.
Join my mailing list for newsletters, follow my blog and Facebook at : www.innersmilenurture.com
You can also make a donation to support our project. Donations help us towards creating a medicine garden and building a holistic space for yoga, dance, therapy, women’s circles, music and community sharing. We are naturally getting involved in helping with animal welfare in the local area.
You can email us at email@example.com for details to donate through Paypal or Bacs payments.
Keep in touch, I’d love to hear from you.
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
With love and bright wishes,
As the wind outside enters my hearing
I become immediately aware of my breath
Heightened definition of leaves pictured
On my pillow case
The wooden head board against the textured wall
Each breath enriching senses
Wind drawing me into intimate connection
I am here with you
Loud and clear
I hear you
Dance through my veins
Pour through my pores
Shine through my tears
I am yours to ride into the sweet night
Another spell binding leap of faith to dance
Don’t hesitate over my words and dreams
Tide them into open seas
Of glittering gold
Sun light skimming over
Bed of reality as mist
Curling sea, twirling, rolling
Enveloping sky & earth
Sealing sun and moon
A kiss on a letter to the stars
You are this caress
Wind pressed letters stream
Licking laps to seal this letter
Sea hosting ships
Of marvel through life
I am a ship and I sail for you
Sail your words between hazy worlds
I call them out
Singing for all to know your love
To feel you here and now
Lips hugging wind, words
Solo sounds melt
Into pages of reality
Soaking between souls
Cultures brought to hold one another
I am interested in having a dialogue with you, conversation with those who are enticed to read it or feel inspired to share a picture, poem, video, or concept. I welcome your feedback, your experiences from using the yoga lessons and dietary ideas. I am interested in your relationship to wildness and nature, for this blog to be an experiential sharing space.
I have recently been studying Wild Therapy, Nick Totton’s book. He says “It is true that ‘individual’ and ‘culture’ are mutually dependant & co-arising. A human individual can only organise herself authentically and spontaneously in and through culture, while at the same time there can be no culture without the individuals who carry and express it”. These writings are helping me to consolidate learning, exploring who I am and how to express my culture.
It is interesting reading for study, relating everything to personal experience. I feel that from life experience I have an authentic space from which to relate to a subject. Learning at school was categorised and I did not feel a relationship to many subjects I read about. This is a new relationship to learning for me.
I am currently reading Jay Griffiths ‘Wild’ and Nick Totton’s ‘Wild Therapy’. They research terms I have a tangible interest in, such as, ‘wild’, ‘wilderness’, ‘civilisation’, ‘nature’. It is so wonderful to connect with psychology and to be in relationship with other writers. It takes time to understand the way they are thinking and what they are saying. I aim to share subjects from my personal perspective, so that you can relate with me and be inspired to share from your own life experiences.
Something as human beings I feel we all share relationship to is an innate sense of survival, so we begin here.
For each of these blogs I intend to consider a core subject to web out from.
What better place to begin than Earth element, researching our sense of ‘Survival in times of change’. This subject, our survival, being the core from which we weave.
This stunning sketch by Nicola King captures the magic of nature of which we are part. See more of her creations at www.facebook.com/henna00heaven
Attached is an audio Yoga Nidra for you to use at home, but first, here’s why I chose Yoga Nidra in relationship to this topic.
Survival to me is connected to the will to live, fight or flight, the ability to know when the time is right to adapt and evolve. A wild mind response that is intuitive and sensory, our internal climate responding to our direct external environment.
Survival is core to life, our biological drive to procreate. The earth is our means of survival, our source of food, water, and connection to sunlight. Earth as an element provides our nourishment, in connection to both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines it relates to our stomach and spleen organs. Our stomach being our centre of digestion, transforming and transporting our food. Our spleen stores platelets and white blood cells, recycles red blood cells and builds blood. The spleen nourishes other internal organs, providing lift to hold them in place. Much like gravity affecting surrounding planets. This important organ also helps with metabolism, controlling appetite, regulating the immune system, nourishing muscles, controlling blood within the vessels, and promoting healing to injury. If you bruise easily it is a sign that your spleen needs some quality nourishment.
Our internal system is affected by thoughts and emotions. The body has a direct response to our mental creation of life, our physical survival responds to our perception of the world. Over thinking, dwelling, pensiveness, and worry have a depleting effect on the spleen organ. These sinking feelings bring a sinking feeling within the system. Being responsible for our sense of sweetness and satisfaction, this organ is affected badly by processed sugars and needs the nourishment of warm foods and earthy sweet grains. These grains give a different quality of softness and strength to the body where sugars prove to offer a slumping, sluggish texture leading to wanting more. I include more detail about the spleen here as it provides like a mother to the organs, giving blood needed to fulfil their functions. The mother earth of the internal solar system.
For seasonal dietary advice visit this link: Fantastic food blog
Sofia has included a great recipe for nourishing the spleen-pancreas, this is a good tonic during a change of season and during harvest time in late summer.
I find these yoga postures helpful for connecting to the earth element :
Bridge pose, Warrior sequence, Mountain pose. Finding a steady pose & holding for up to 12 breaths. Still & sturdy, focusing on the stability between the parts of my body that are in contact with the earth. In future blogs I will include asana yoga rituals to follow.
Aromatherapy oils for Earth element :
Our sense of smell is strongly linked to our sense of survival.
Sandalwood, patchouli, tangerine, black pepper, coriander, & geranium.
In this unique life time, when our human existence as a whole is threatened, how do we find a sense of safety within the present moment? Seeking the reality of the present without disregarding the fact that the way human life currently exists is threatening us as a species.
Right now there are over 7 Billion people on the planet earth, this number is rising rapidly almost beyond imagination, what is more, the birth rate is more than double the rate of death. Whilst I feel a deep urge in my womb to have children I also feel disturbed by the future available to our grand children. The resources available now will be used up. Having created a human dominant environment we are no longer under threat from predators, other human beings are now the core threat to our existence.
There are different types of threat we can consider, imaginary threat, physical threat, social threat, and species threat. The mother instinct has a strong nose for potential threat, as she seeks to protect her young. So it is to this earth mother that I ask what we can best do in this life time to provide a future life for our species.
Threat triggers our survival instinct, we are biologically programmed to survive, in this way our threat instinct is our friend and ally, yet can grow out of control and become something that limits our freedom. Whilst it is right to calculate risk, if I choose not to walk out at night to ponder the stars for fear I may come under attack, I am limiting my freedom. How can I trust my instinct or body to know that I am safe?
Survival holds hands with evolution, we have evolved to be incredible animals that can sense threat and respond intelligently to survive. Consider your body and senses for a moment, perhaps there is some lack of tone in the muscles as hunting has been replaced by a drive to the supermarket. But let us return to contemplate the human potential that we see in athletes, dancers, circus performers, musicians, and You. The ability to sense and respond appropriately to your surrounding environment.
I took some time to look at human sensory abilities, having found the information difficult to relate to I suggest this may give a more tangible idea. Take a moment (away from the computer screen) to be fully present with your sense of sight, look around you, notice the colours, textures, definition, distance and field of your sense of sight. Try closing one eye and notice any differences between how each eye focuses. Now close your eyes and focus on the sounds you can hear, the depths and distances. Then become aware of touch, the air against your skin, notice if this gives a concept of distance and your surrounding environment. Try the same for your sense of smell and taste. There are no rules to the sequence, take as long as you like to play with this experience. Notice if being alert to your senses helps to provide a map of the environment surrounding you. Become aware of any changes to your emotional state. Take some time to focus on your breath moving in your body, feel your feet in contact with the earth, ensure you take time to come home to yourself so that you feel comfortably grounded.
This exercise I hope will be helpful to remind you of the magical gifts you have within the human body. It is a remarkable piece of biological technology that offers you the ability to distinguish between reality and imaginary threat to your survival. Meanwhile of course we all return to the source eventually.
Being able to distinguish real threat assists our survival. Physically it can save your life from danger for we as animals are both predator and prey. Whilst in the Uk we do not have predators other than human beings, we have other threats created by the social systems in which we live. Our physical need for spontaneity and relaxation is interfered with by elements in our culture that demand tension and alienation.
I notice that changes in my environment can sometimes create a sense of anxiety. When the wind picks up I can feel flighty and unsettled, adrenaline can rush making my skin sensitive and heart beat faster. Coincidentally as I write this Bob Dylans Blowin’ in the Wind has come on in the background.
I recall when teaching children’s yoga the children were always excitable and wild on a windy day. Whilst this heightened activity is a natural reaction to potential risk to survival, if my mind distills this into imaginary threats this can lead me to being overly cautious and limit my feeling of freedom and spontaneity.
The fear is not of the wind. What comes is an imaginary fear that someone will break in the house and cause me harm. So why is this fear coming? I consider the rape of our land, the disrespect that human beings as a whole demonstrate to this earth. I wonder if this fear is relative to the threat that human nature offers itself. Blowing our own fate to the wind as we continue to live beyond our needs.
These thoughts and meandering contemplations can roll through this endless ocean. So I turn to direct experience for a reality check, sometimes a change will come mentally through physical action, sometimes physical patterns change through mental action. In this way there is direct relation between mind and body. So much so that our body doesn’t distinguish between mind or memory, it will respond to thoughts directly. Hence thoughts, dream, or illusion leading to a physical feeling of reality, feeling threatened when the direct threat is relatively non existent. Yet the threat to humanity is constant, we are ambivalent, diving into our own destruction.
I do not have the answers to these big questions, I can only offer what I experience. Rolling through tides of joy, despair, love, fear, a glowing hue of emotions in response to life. There is a steady constant connection that I find in my breath, an intimacy with life. A coming home to the present moment, a coming home to my body as a part of nature and all things. A universal “I am”. It is in this coming home that I feel safe in my body where ever I am. Imaginary fears melt away and patterns cease. The environment can be changing, yet in this space of feeling my inner and outer worlds connect, here I feel I am home.
I have chosen to offer Yoga Nidra for this subject, it is a ritual where you focus your mind rapidly around your body. I find this ritual incredibly focusing and relaxing to my mind and body. It is important as human animals to have a sensory awareness of our physicsal bodies, an awareness of our internal and external relationships, I find yoga nidra is helpful for this process.
Yoga Nidra is best done in a space where you are alone and will not be disturbed.
This should not be done whilst operating machinery.
It is most important that you are comfortably warm, so prepare your environment for this journey by clearing the space.
Preparation for savasana (corpse pose):
- Have cushions if you need them to be comfortable laying flat on your back.
- Placing a cushion under your knees will offer relief to the lower back.
- A small folded blanket under your head can help to keep your neck long and the back of your head soft.
- An eye pillow can help you to drop your attention into the body more redily.
- Have plenty of blankets and do not skimp on comfort.
- Lay on a hard flat surface, your bed will do if you have no better space.
- Your feet are apart and arms away from sides of your body, palms face up.
- Gift yourself plenty of time to follow the yoga nidra from start to finnish.
- It takes 20 minutes, I suggest you allow 30 minutes to enjoy the ritual fully.
The yoga nidra ritual is provided here as an audio piece :
Yoga Nidra Nurture : created by Gayle Fletcher
Please email me with any questions or feedback, please let me know if you have trouble using the link.
Dedication to Swami Satyananda Saraswati :
As you grow to know the sensation of bringing breath and attention to different parts of your body, you can use a simplified version anytime and anywhere to bring yourself home. For example you might bring your attention to feeling the movement of your breath within your belly, or bring your attention to feeling your feet as you are walking. These simple techniques bring yoga into daily life. Following the full yoga nidra regularly has many benefits, you can experience these for yourself.
Gratitude and love to Uma and Nirlipta Dinsmore-Tuli, your cd ‘Simply Calm’ brought yoga nidra to my daily life and has been inspiration for this recording.
With thanks to my wonderful friends & teachers Frances Lewis, Sofia Arjuao,
Jai Garruda, Alex Harvest, Keef Miles, Amber Rose, Nickie Heape, Vick Finch, Nicola King, Astrid Van Waveren,
Andi St Clare and all who are a part of my yoga journey.