Ashtangi Mami Wata

Ok, let’s jump right into it, shall we friends? I promised to talk this week about how I turned melancholy into something more uplifting right? I like to think that melancholy is my expression of creativity in its potential seed form and in order to transform it into something good and satisfying, I owe it to my inherent creative self to manifest it be doing something creative.

Brene Brown said it so well on Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast, Big Magic, “Creativity is the way I share my soul with the world and without it, I am not okay…and without having access to everyone else’s, we are not okay. There is no such thing as non-creative people, there are just people who use their creativity and people who don’t and unused creativity is not benign…it metastasises into resentment, grief, heartbreak. People sit on that creativity, or they deny it, and it festers. ” 

We’re all creative beings but somehow along the way, we’ve been taught to ignore and forget this in the work of surviving this serious life and tattered world. I’m encouraging that you, for the sake of us all, tap into your creativity, be it in cooking a nice meal or writing, singing, dancing, painting, making music…whatever your creative spirit finds expression and realisation in. It doesn’t have to become your full-time paying work. You don’t even have to show it to anyone for curation and display and posterity. You can keep it fully private and personal and do it for nothing but the reward of having made or done something. One sculptor makes these sculptures only to throw them into a river. Think of the Tibetan Buddhist process of sand painting these beautiful and intricate mandalas. Tibetan monks spend hours upon days upon weeks to create, and then dismantle these mandalas upon completion, as a symbol  of the transitory nature of material life.

It doesn’t even matter if you don’t feel you are particularly ‘good’ or ‘skilled’ at what you like to do. Most of us I would say carry wounds of shame from childhood surrounding our creative attempts, when you were told by someone, for example, not to quit your day job because your voice sucks. Especially for us African children growing up in the 80s and 90s, where creativity was routinely dismissed and mocked, which is like, so crazy to me as we have creativity through from our veins; where creative work was not considered to be work at all; where nonlinear thinking was not considered to be thinking at all. We have a lot of work to do to unlearn these false beliefs. That’s why I’m so happy to have someone like Lupita Nyong’o’s success story as it helps shift the narrative into more inclusive, tolerant, open-minded territory.

However, I’ll go far and wager that we can all unearth a painful memory, from childhood especially, when our creativity was shut down in harsh judgment. And this moment was so strong in its shame that the impression basically changed the way we thought about ourselves forever more. Think of a man who loved drawing more than anything else in a his life, how he found safety in it in what was essentially a traumatic upbringing. One day, as his mother was putting up one of his drawings on the fridge, his father said, “Look, we don’t want him to be a faggot artist.”* Now think how that was the last picture he ever drew until at 50, about 40 years later, he started drawing again. “Like in Big Magic, when you’re taking on creativity, you are taking on soul work. This is not about what we do, it’s about who we are”**

*Brene Brown; Big Magic Podcast; Season 1, Episode 12 ; **Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert

So please, for the sake of us all, don’t just watch and consume from the sidelines. Release the shackles of what you’ve (mis)understood and internalised yourself to be at an early age. Explore, enjoy and satiate your creative instincts either for yourself alone or to be shared and displayed, as I truly believe that much of life’s maladies can be solved or at least understood and come to terms with by using up our inherent creative energies.

Anyway, as I was marinating on the type of way feelings I wrote about last week,  I turned on the radio (Basso) and went to church for a moment. The djs on the show Radio Ouagodougou were killing it and that music felt like the sweetest balm for my parched spirit. Here’s the link to the song which spoke to the marrow of my soul at that moment. You can listen to it while you scroll through the photo shoot which has literally been an idea aching to become a reality for a good long while.

It seems like autumn is my ode to Mami Wata, the water spirit venerated in West, Central and Southern Africa and in the African diaspora in the Americas. This year, I managed to get the spectacular Bianca to join me for some nature deity celebration and black girl yoga consciousness raising (the quasi-Nordic edition). It is an offering, my narrative to show that there we are everywhere, spinning straw into gold. Black women, lift each other up and rejoice in the truth that when one black woman wins we all win. Black girl, lose yourself and find yourself again and create yourself and love yourself. Love her tenderly and fiercely, without shame and miserliness. Love her without permission. Love her without restriction. Love her completely and fully and whole-heartedly.

black-onyx-mala

unspecified

Earth mala: Black onyx: a powerful protection stone; absorbs and transforms negative energy, and helps to prevent the drain of personal energy; aids the development of emotional and physical strength and stamina, especially when support is needed during times of stress, confusion or grief; fosters wise decision-making. Use Black Onyx to encourage happiness and good fortune; useful in healing old wounds or past life issues; wonderful for meditation and dreaming, recommended to use a secondary grounding stone in combination with the Onyx.

Earth mala: Labradorite: enhances the mental and intuitive abilities of clairvoyance, telepathy, prophecy; assists in communication with higher guides and spirits; provides an ease in moving between the worlds, and permits a safe and grounded return to the present; brings out the best in people, making work life more congenial; courtesy and full attention to the customer; tempers the negative side of our personality, the traits and actions that rob our energy and may produce depression or shame; helps develop the hands’ sensitivity, making it useful for physiotherapists and all who use the power of touch to heal.

fire-mala

fire-mala

Fire mala: Agate: promotes inner stability, composure, and maturity. Its warm, protective properties encourage security and self-confidence; great crystal to use during pregnancy; also helps new mothers avoid the “baby blues”; Coral: calming; alleviates depression; changes adverse mental and emotional situations, such as nightmares, anger and fear, into more beneficial conditions, including intelligence and bravery; Garnet: energising and regenerative; boosts the energy of an entire system; stabilising; brings order to chaos whether internal or external; root chakra stone, excellent for manifestation; used to ground one’s dreams in reality, bringing abundance, prosperity, and realization of those dreams

water-mala

Water mala and bracelets: Aventurite: stone of luck and chance; said to increase perception and creative insight; creates good opportunities; has a stabilizing effect on the emotions and is excellent for teenagers; used to aid near-sightedness; enhances the immune system. Amazonite (markers and on one bracelet): mint green to aqua green stone said to be of truth, honor, communication, integrity, hope, and trust; said to enhance intuition, psychic powers, creativity, intellect, and psychic ability; often associated with the throat chakra, and as such, said to be beneficial to communication.

air-mala

vashistasana-variation

Air mala: Rose Quartz with Snow Quartz marker: Rose Quartz is a rose pink variety of Quartz; stone of universal love; restores trust and harmony in relationships, encouraging unconditional love; purifies and opens the heart at all levels to promote love, self-love, friendship, deep inner healing and feelings of peace. Snow Quartz: stone that brings good fortune; calming and soothing; helpful for meditation; has all the properties of clear quartz to a gentler degree; can be considered a very yin, feminine type of quartz.

Alright lovies, this was my tale of transformation. Join me on instagram @ashtangimami as I’ll soon be starting my version of #blackgirlyogamagic. I’ll be featuring a song a day by a black songstress linked with bits of yoga in the hopes that it inspires more of my brothers and sisters to take up the practice of yoga; which, and this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the science and art of this spiritual knowledge, is the most radical and truest form of self-love and self-care I’ve ever known. Stay safe, stay hungry, stay woke.

me-and-b

images om and 2000px-Heart_corazón

Bianca, sublime model and t-shirt designer at Kauppatori: @biancatmm

Eva, the perennial talent behind Heart of Joy mala beads: @eevaruotsalainen

Lars, photographer extraordinaire: @larskastilan and larskastilan.com

Black Girl Melancholy

Happy Monday morning friends. This is a day late. I was on single-parenting duty all weekend and decided not to stress out with getting the blog out yesterday and enjoy time with Sesam instead. Now the kid is at daycare and I am at Good Life Coffee in Kallio and yes, at this very moment in time, life does feel pretty good. My reward for being patient I suppose🙂

This past week I had a bit of writer’s block and felt this post only begin to come alive at the playground on Saturday evening. I was pulled out of bed at the lonely, early hours on Sunday morning, the witching hour, it seems. 3 am and I was aflame with spirit and energy. I got quiet enough to be led through all that my guide in my dreamscape wished me to write about. It’s a long one and touches upon a range of subjects so settle in and, as the indomitable Fela says in Shuffering and Shmiling,”You Africans please listen to me as Africans and you non-Africans, listen to me with open mind…”

I wish to write about black girl melancholy. I wish to talk about the profound sense of homesickness and heartache I feel not so much for a geographic place or home, for I have had many, but for a sense of being rooted in deep soil. I wish to write about how I felt like I did a Vipassana meditation course in the daily routine of life itself. At first I thrashed and resisted and hated my situation. I searched for any kind of distraction away from myself. I searched for a way to escape this emptiness so full, so alarmingly all-encompassing because, after going down the rabbit-hole of my own mental trip, what can be at the bottom of all this discontent? Then, by and by, as my mind began to drop away, release its vice grip on the yesterdays and the tomorrows conjured in the “in a few hours, days, weeks, months, it’ll be like this”; in the “I need to be doing something anything else besides this,” a deep, gentle peace began to pervade. A moment to moment nowness and I owed to to myself to give it my full attention.

I kept social media and others distractions to a minimum. Social media is the portal to much inspiration and a diversity of voices that’s so desperately needed in this one-world, single narrative view portrayed in mainstream media: However, as a regular participant myself, both in consumption and production of social media, I find that simply because of what it is, it distorts life. It cleans up and glamourises and beautifies life in a way that is just not true and while I appreciate the number of folk who’re trying to live their social media lives and tell their stories with as much authenticity as possible, by default, social media can never really escape its own distorting self. And so, instead of seeking escape through my phone, I made full eye contact with my single parenting task and single-handedly managed that mofo as best I could. Not perfectly, not even successfully. I ditched the potty-training chart, gold stickers and all, because my kid is not yet about it. I bought some potato chips as a way to bribe my way back into his good graces and guess what? It worked! So, you know not perfect, but fun and good-enough. And if by good enough it meant I had a happy toddler who had Monday morning blues about going back to kindergarten after the nice weekend, then, actually, I really do mean successfully.

And all along, this black girl melancholy had me feeling some kinda way. It’s a special kind of longing and heartache, this craving for sisterhood and true, sustaining friendship with other women of color. I’m not saying you can’t experience it with other women. You can and I have and I do. I cherish my friendships with my women friends. But right now I’m talking about that alchemical moment when you meet a like-minded woman of color…that this may be a friendship for life kind of meeting. It’s rare and so terribly precious. Right now, I’m talking about that forcoloredgirlswhohaveconsideredsuicidewhentherainbowisenuf kinda way. It’s that WaitingToExhale… that Nina Simone dish-water-giving-off-no-reflection sorta thing. It’s that sense of recognition that hey, here is someone who resembles me, there are more of us than I knew.

Now, I came of age in late-90s America, where, for better or worse (but I would say for better) the concept and the experience of race was thrust upon my wide-eyed, impressionable self. It confused me and frightened me, grappling to terms with my intersectional identity of black and woman and not-fully American in my black- woman-mostly-Bantu African body. But ultimately, there were answers to be found amidst the difficult questions I was living. I found my community and felt my little pocket of Black America welcome me into her Boston Collegiate, Chicago house, Afro-Brazilian capoeira and samba arms. I almost never left, so entrenched was I in that part of my life story, but somehow the world abroad wasn’t finished with me yet and I felt the ache, the pull to uproot and understand life elsewhere. Now, close to ten years away from the US and I wonder if I am homesick for those specific places where I felt such a true sense of community? For people and friends that I’ve fallen out of touch with and who surely have not remained as I remember them ? Or am I longing more abstractly for a certain time in my life, which memory paints in such pleasing, nostalgic watercolours? I cannot say, but what I can say is that this need to be represented in the place in which I live grows more than ever. I actively seek out channels where I can hear my voice and see people who look like me. And while, there  are so many quality podcasts and youtube videos and web series created by intelligent, conscious and creative people of color, at the end of the day, they are there, out there, and I am here, here only. Nothing beats a real live community, a face-to-face talk, a live collaboration. Shared lived experiences.

I started to find my homesickness for black America getting bigger rather than smaller after immersing myself in the online community of color creatives. I felt my dissatisfaction with Finland and Europe grow and wished myself away. I still feel myself hovering around other Diaspora stories clamouring to get in. I would say that after the highly visible African American diaspora narratives, the closest ones I can relate to over on this side of the pond are black British narratives. Up to a point thought because I’m not from London or Brixton at the end of the day and the good people there have their own stories to tell. They have their own storytellers weaving tales of marginalisation and gentrification; invisibility and black millennial identity with complete and utter nuance. It’s been really informative to steep myself in some Cecile Emeke, Michelle Tiwo, Shola Amoo and Warsan Shire. Or in the photography of the Afropean, out to prove that Europe is more than just a single voice and colour. Or in the music of Dizzy Rascal who, in my opinion is a bit asleep on certain concepts but whatevs, his experience is his alone and I can still vibe with his infectious energy in small doses.

So all this research into more diverse, global diaspora stories was great and all but what was up with this aversion to being in Finland? What was up with not wanting to speak Finnish as I convinced myself that I am not really even that good at it. Why bother? And it’s true, my Finnish language has stalled of late since I’m Sesam’s appointed god mother of English, but guess whaaat? It’s all in the attitude and man, I’ll be damned if I didn’t put my blood, sweat and grit into attempting a crack at the well-encrypted code of that language in my early Finland years. I cajoled native speakers of Finnish to speak with me and some did, most patiently and graciously, and some didn’t, most understandably. I struggled and kicked and screamed and worked hard and gained enough self-confidence to open my mouth from time to time. My Finnish is not fluent and not grammatically correct. Not even close. I don’t practice it actively enough since I work and write in English. What’s more, I’m not physically in Finland consistently enough to really sink my teeth in linguistically and get my hands dirty. I know, I know, where there’s a will there’s a way, but you know what, my Finnish is good enough for my simple purposes. I can rattle off a few pleasantries at the playground with other mums and grandmothers. I can follow the plot of a children’s TV show with relative success. I can get along in most basic transactions of commerce. It’s like, completely basic and totally good enough. It’s enough. I can gain an entry point on some level. The tyranny of perfection comes to an end now. I stop apologising for, underestimating and diminishing my linguistic accomplishments. I will take my basic ass, good-enough, scrappy, tatty Finnish by the hand as I hold it in the highest esteem. It represents my best foot forward attempts, hopes and wishes for myself here in this land. I’m going to keep code-switching as a legitimate form of verbal communication, a veritable patois and I’ll no longer feel guilty or defeated at needing to use English. My sucky Finnish, I’m proud of you and I love you!

Besides, I’m doing my son a grand favour for life, this gift of bilingualism, and while it comes at a personal cost, a sacrifice, golly, well, I consider this yet another initiation by fire into the embodiment of motherhood. The woman is hibernating and in her place stands a mother. Mothers are the one group where, for better or worse, sacrifice is considered paramount. I find this assumption to be problematic, leaving many women and mothers at risk for wearing a martyr hat that they didn’t particularly want or ask for. However, my truth on this is that sacrifice is inherent in most experiences of motherhood. Some sacrifices are more urgent and unrelenting than others, it’s true, but the element of sacrifice, I feel, is there, be it through the biological processes of pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding, to the more psychological assumptions of sacrifice down to the day-to-day division of time and tasks. This is not to ask for sympathy or invoke any sort of feeling one way or another. It is what it is. That’s all. What’s more, Nordic and Scandinavian dads are, culturally-speaking, some of the most involved and proactive when it comes to rearing children. What I’m referring to here is the struggle and pull of conflicting choices that many mothers feel themselves needing to make: to work or to stay at home or to try juggling with both? To feel guilty about putting your career first over your family or to suffer career-wise when you decide to put your family first? I feel it’s taken for granted as a shared worldview, this assumption that in order to be a good mum, women will and should sacrifice more of themselves for their children and families oftentimes at the expense of other areas of their lives. Cross-cultural and linguistic limitations aside, I do feel that, more often than not, fatherhood and career is encouraged and facilitated in a way that motherhood and career isn’t. This often means putting a particular sort of nurturing feminine energy on a pedestal while shunning and even vilifying other types of the feminine mystic that don’t fit within the patriarchal ideal of femininity. And this stunted, distorted sense of masculinity and femininity serves only to bind and constrain our inherent humanity.

But now back to being a black girl abroad. I wrote this blog piece in an effort to create my own narrative of blackness and non-Finnishness here in Helsinki itself. Surely, as I watch these groups of children coming and going about their day (specifically referring to that one child of color amongst a group of white Finns) I cannot help but think that it must feel some kind of way, even with native-speaker Finnish and all? Surely I’m not making up some sense of black pride and expression of consciousness raising when I see a trendy and hip guy with an pick in his afro at the metro stop? I’ve stopped smiling at random black folk in public spaces. Actually, that’s not true. I don’t think I can ever stop smiling at black folk, especially in such a homogeneous environment like Finland. However, I’m more cautious now and will suss out the situation before jubilantly striking up contact because I did that once and gave out the wrong message: this black dude’s girlfriend thought I was making a pass at her guy. I was like, “Na girl, not even. It’s a  culture thing. Look it up.” But old dude wasn’t hip to the game either and so I took this as a learning lesson: when in Finland, do as the Finns do, at least most of the time and don’t smile at strangers. It makes me feel a little colder but I suppose this is just par for the course in a reserved society that values its private space. I guess black Finns have their unique code of conduct and culture and identity amongst themselves that is both informed by and distinct from the mighty cultural and musical behemoth of black America. On the one hand, I don’t miss the annoying cat-calling, sexual harassment on the streets and weird comments like, “Smile girl, you should smile more.” I do, however, miss those genuine moments of connection and community that you can so freely and spontaneously witness and participate in, in the US. I miss the impromptu dance circle at a New York subway station, when busy New Yorkers appreciated the street musicians enough to set up a circle and take turns laughing and dancing in the middle before disbanding and continuing on their commute, happier and lighter from the joy of the shared moment. I miss that. I miss that solidarity and shared sense of, “I see you. We’re in this together; living and experiencing this black life in this white lens together.”

And yet, within the questions often lie the answers, or a partial one at that. Next week, I’ll be writing about how I transformed the beauty found in melancholy into something uplifting and creative. I hope you’ll join me to find out how!

As always,

images om and 2000px-Heart_corazón

The delights of daycare and home life

Hi friends :) I hope this Sunday’s treating you all well in your respective parts of the world.

I write this post, yet again, on the road and under the banner of Have Yoga, Will Travel. We’re here, for the first time, in Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia in Central Europe. It’s kind of funny to switch gears and talk about home life in this post, when we’re in that mode of travel when all is novel, exciting and warmly hospitable. Here’s my attempt at it nonetheless…

So yes, Sesam started daycare this autumn and it’s our priority that he gets a fairly consistent amount of home time and daycare this fall, to balance out the nomadic life we lead. I must say that I personally feel like I’m more of a homebody than a born wanderer. Maybe because I’ve been moving around quite a fair bit throughout my own childhood and as a young adult, I always marvel at people who grew up where they were born and have the same friends in adulthood as they did since the first grade or some such set-up. It’s something I find rather enchanting and yet, it’s pretty alien to me; this deep grounded sense of having such strong roots in a physical place.

Ultimately, at this stage Sesam’s ‘home life’ has been one of travel with brief periods at our home base. That’s essentially been his routine and having both his parents together, most of the time, in rotating geographic environs, well, that’s his home life. It remains to be seen how his social needs will differ and change as he grows older and starts to really take notice of his physical surroundings. I will say that from a parent’s perspective, knowing that there will be some time at home after a trip makes me appreciate the travel more. Too much back-to-back travel upon more travel can easily (and has) lead to burn-out whereas the knowledge that there’ll be enough time to unpack the suitcase and settle into a comfortable home rhythm can be a powerful antidote to stress. So, here is my list of the top three things I look forward to when we get back to Helsinki

1. Daycare 

It rocks my world! It seriously does. And gradually I trust that it’s rocking Sesam’s world too. Daycare is not just a place to leave your kids for a designated number of hours per day so you can get work done. It’s an education. I mean, the stuff that Sesam has picked up at daycare, just by watching what other kids are doing and by living up to the expectations of the daycare teachers, at this tender age, is super! Sesam has generally been able to play in a self-directed manner for short amounts of time but after spending his days at daycare, he can happily keep himself entertained for a good-long while. Maybe it’s just that he’s a bit older, therefore his attention span is longer, but somehow I feel like this environment in which kids really learn to play and interact in a social setting is so important and beneficial. He’s also learned to put his toys away after playing with them, which, as you can imagine, is a positive Pandora’s box for this mama! No going back now kid, now that I know you know the concept🙂 What’s more, I’m happy that for all the time Sesam spends in definitively adult spaces (airports and the like) that now he gets to be in a completely child-centered place for a good amount of the day regularly.

2. Visiting friends and neighbours

While it’s exciting to meet people on the road, having playdates with the same people at home is just as rewarding. We live in an area of Helsinki that’s geared towards families and children, so having your neighbour call you to say that the kids are out in the yard and come join us, gives you that sense of belonging and ease. Taking a quick trip into the city to play in a different playground with your friend and her kids who live in the city centre is a nice way to spend a weekend morning. Accompanying a parent and child on a walk to the next neighbourhood after spending an afternoon at the ‘home playground’ works well on two fronts: getting an engaging adult conversation in and pleasantly passing the lull that comes once the afternoon activities start to wind down but before the evening routine can truly begin. Getting to know other parents with similar-aged children, commiserating on the hard times and sharing each others’ small triumphs and celebrations in parenting, this is the stuff that communities are made of. These are the millions of moments that make up your days as the parent of a young child, and as time passes, your days as the parent of an older child and your days as the parent of a young adult. What a history you can potentially share with those around you, with those whose lives are woven into yours just by the sheer destiny of living in close proximity of each other  and of having become parents at roughly around the same time.

3. Moving with your child’s rhythm in mind

Let’s take a rest with the crazy wake-up times, please. No 3:30am-dressing-your-sleeping-babe-while-still-trying-really-hard-to-not-disturb-him! No more bright airport lights at 6am. At least not for awhile. The ability to slow your day down and simplify what needs to get done is refreshing indeed. Making a little plan, or not making any plans at all, and just going with the feeling and energy levels of your child feels positively merciful after the rigid necessities that comes with the time-management of travel. It never fails to astonish me how it only takes about a day or two before Sesam can slip back into his ‘home rhythm.’ And while he likes to travel and gets excited about being in a new place, it’s also really sweet to watch him move around his room and get acquainted with his toys and books again. I feel this unhurried and ‘smaller’ life at home is the most peaceful and rewarding antidote where we can all let our hair down and settle for awhile. Unpack our suitcases, completely, but maybe not take them downstairs to the garage just yet. It’s too much of a nuisance to get them in and out of the garage with this lifestyle. I’ve accepted that they are part of our decor.

IMG_7175My landmark in Bratislava. As soon as I saw this sign to the orchid shop, I knew home wasn’t very far (Slovakia, 2016)

Let’s see what next week will bring in terms of the post subject. I haven’t quite decided yet, so you’ll have to stick around to find out. I’ve loved getting feedback and comments and I’d like to touch upon what you all want to hear and read about. Please send me questions, ideas or suggestions and I’ll do my best to oblige.

With
images om  and   2000px-Heart_corazón

Five things to make life with a globetrotting toddler easier

Hi friends!

Last week I wrote about some advantages of traveling with a young child. This week, I’ve posted five of the most useful things we’ve learned as a family on how to make traveling less stressful and more enjoyable for everyone involved. So, let’s just jump right into it, shall we? These are in random order, some theoretical and psychological and others super practical which, as always, I hope you find to be of some help :)

1. Invest in a good stroller/baby carrier/baby backpack with ‘leash’ 

We’ve used all of the above and they’ve all come in very very handy. When Sesam was very little we carried him in a baby carrier and that was really quite convenient and straightforward when traveling. I used one from an Australian company called hug a bub* which is basically six meters of fabric that you tie around yourself so you ‘wear’ your baby. It worked really well for the first year and then I felt I needed a bit more structure as Sesam got heavier. We switched to a Baby Björn and used that until he was about two. Baby Björn was good in terms of structure but it’s a bit of a pain because it takes up a lot of room and doesn’t really ‘travel’ well. You can’t really fold it and put it away neatly so it get a bit annoying, taking it off, trying to store it in small spaces and putting it back on while in transit.

*I am not sponsored by,  nor do I represent, any of the companies I write about. This is just my own personal experience with these products…

You’ll need to have a good travel stroller that is equal parts durable and equal parts foldable/collapsable. None of those light and flimsy strollers would have survived the streets of India and where have you. At the same time, taking the bigger, smooth ride of a stroller we use at home in Helsinki was also pretty much out of the question. Too bulky and cumbersome to pack and transport. We’ve been very satisfied with the City Mini stroller by Baby Jogger. You can fold and unfold the stroller with one hand (totally excellent!), the wheels are able to manoeuvre well and you can lean the seat back so your kid can take a pretty decent and comfortable nap there.

The most recent addition to my arsenal has been a little giraffe backpack with an attachable tail which I can take a hold of while Sesam wears the backpack. I was hesitant at first to go there since there is this idea that you have you child on a leash which is humiliating and degrading for them, but honestly, I feel very comfortable with the decision to use it. Not only does Sesam feel a sense of responsibility by carrying some of his own toys and having a bag of his own (thereby learning the lesson that we all must pitch in and help by carrying our own belongings) but I just got really tired when he would run off in a crowded public area. And we are in crowded public areas a lot! So I gave it a go and can say that it has made getting from a to b smoother and more peaceful on my part. He’s also bonded with his little giraffe friend🙂

L1130177 (1)

Sesam points out some graffitti in Porto

2. Don’t compare what your child can or can’t do with other children                            

l’ll be the first to admit that I’m guilty of this one. Especially when you see younger children sitting in their own chairs, eating on their own and there are no issues (negotiations, pleading, bribery) to speak of. Especially when you hear of parents saying, after reading the bedtime story, they’ll kiss their cherubs goodnight, get up, close the door behind them and leave their children to fall asleep on their own. Man, I can tell you that it’s been challenging on the road for Sesam to learn a toddler’s ‘basic’ skills. There needs to be a certain sense of consistency and repetition in order for kids to begin to take things on and when you are on the road, at least in my experience, much of the work (feeding, putting him down to sleep) is, by default, parentally involved. In this case, you must cut yourself some slack and know that travel adds a certain amount of upheaval to daily home life. Even though you may get tired as a parent doing much of the work you know your child is potentially capable of doing on his or her own, realise that your child is also getting an invaluable education through travel. He’ll learn how to feed himself. He’ll learn how to sleep on his own. He’ll learn everything he needs to learn. It may not be on a schedule that is in line with other toddlers who have more stable, stationary lives in one place, but in the end, kids get to where they need to be. It’s not a race nor will it ever be so inhale, exhale and take it easy. I speak this very much as a guide on the side rather than as someone who is out in the clear. This is an ongoing reality for me🙂

3. At airports, use family lanes, find a children’s play area, make use of the airport strollers, ask for help (especially if you are traveling solo with kid(s))        

 Nowadays many airports have amenities with families in mind. Some airports have lanes for families so that you don’t have to queue in long lines with squirming children to clear security. Helsinki Vantaa airport is one of them (score!). The usually progressive, family-oriented culture of Denmark sadly lags behind, as to Norway and Sweden. So disappointed was I in the chaotic and thoughtless queuing system at Copenhagen airport that I asked to speak with someone in charge about this situation. It didn’t do much good. The airport representative patronisingly made a show of listening to me and that he would ‘raise the issue’ at the next meeting. Uh huh… I tried on our behalf families, I really did! To be fair, they do have a separate family line during peak holiday season, but for this mama, that’s simply not quite helpful enough.

If there are children’s play areas, these can be your salvation, especially if you have a long layover. The best one we’ve been to, to date, is at London Heathrow airport. There’s a huge diaper changing room with large sinks and lots of counter space. They have three different play areas for children of different age-ranges. Large, soft, squishy  things for the little ones to roll around on; a climbing frame and tunnels and slides for bigger kids; and a separate room with a TV and a billiards table for the tween and teenagers. They have a room with all these weird, dreamlike lights so that your kids can sleep in there. There’s a little kitchen space so that you can warm up your kids’ food and breastfeed in peace.  Seriously, it’s on fleek! Other places pretty much consist of play spaces with some chairs or benches for parents or child-minders, but still, kids are much happier travellers when they can let off some steam and move around. Take advantage of these services. Some airlines and airports also offer strollers once you’ve cleared security which you can use within the terminals. The same kind of aforementioned stroller that wouldn’t survive India generally does very nicely at airports so do make sure to nab one when you can. Lastly, ask for help, especially when you are the only one traveling with your child. I know it might feel a bit weird asking a stranger in a plane to watch your kid while you go to the bathroom. If this is the case, ask the airline hostess for help. That’s what they’re there for, your comfort and safety and it’s important that you speak up if you need to take a mini-break even for just a few minutes. Your child needs you to be in good condition so be sure to take care of yourself throughout the journey and ask for help when you need it. I’ll never forget how fellow commuters gallantly offered to help us carry Sesam in the stroller up and down the labyrinthian stairwells of the London Underground. It’s enough to warm your heart really.                

4. Keep some sense of a general routine but don’t sweat it too much                        

Travel means getting to sleep at odd hours and waking up at even more bewitching ones so this means that a regular bed time is pretty much not going to happen. The thing is, kids are so adaptable that it doesn’t take more than a few days for them to get into the swing of things, even with jet lag. The idea is to try and keep some general sense of when things should get done but do yourself a favour and throw out this sense of a strict schedule. Seriously, you don’t need the added pressure. Sesam tends to be a night owl and he generally can sleep in quite comfortably in the mornings. Naturally there are times when the evening and night get long with him still up but on the flip side,  I can generally get my yoga practice in (or part of it at least) come morning time. Oftentimes I feel that when we are back home, as a culture kids in Finland tend to wake up early, eat early and go to bed early and you know what? That’s okay. It’s also okay to do things a bit differently and establish a routine which works best for your family’s lifestyle.

5. Find parks and playgrounds; keep the activities as child-centered as possible; hang out with families with similar-aged children                      

While you may not be going to museums, art exhibitions or other cultural delights a city may have to offer, another good way to learn about and witness the culture of a place is at parks and playgrounds. For example, in Copenhagen, we saw more daddies at the playgrounds with their kids than anywhere else. We also noticed that dads will very comfortably get a beer and sit on the street patio of a restaurant while minding their children. The best playground we went to was when Sesam just at the beginning of his toddling stage was in northeast London. We got to see a rich cross section of community life in that particular neighbourhood and let me tell you, there’s something about hearing a Russian grandmother speaking to her grandchild, about chatting with one mother from Uganda, about watching Muslim-British kids play football with second-generation-‘from-the-islands’ British kids that makes this whole Brexit phenomenon a bit dismal. Buuut that’s a whole other can of worms…

We’ve been traveling pretty much continuously with our two and a half year old since he was just two months old. The first year or so was pretty straightforward, especially when he still wasn’t too mobile. On planes and other forms of transport, Sesam stayed on my lap quite comfortably, eating and sleeping. It gets a bit trickier when they need to move around, cannot sit still at all and don’t yet have the attention span to do seated activities. I’d say there was an extremely stressful and exhausting time at about 15 months when we were chasing Sesam up and down airline and train aisles. It gives me chills just remembering how awful it was. On this point, I can only offer a huge virtual hug along with my deepest sympathies and say that it does and it will get easier. As a seasoned traveler, Sesam knows the drill and the routines so well now that he is a bit older. Travelling with him has become so much smoother and I can delight in how much he enjoy’s his trips.

All right my dears, that’s all for now. Next week, I’ll post on the wonder and joy of daycare and life at home.

Until then, sending so much Om &❤ your way…

 

Three advantages of being a traveling toddler

Portugal is Sesam’s 24th country to date. That’s 24 countries in his 29 months of life! Pretty crazy, I know. His first trip on a plane was from Helsinki to Copenhagen when he was just two months old and it’s pretty much been go ever since. While this is a lifestyle that is not easy by any stretch of the imagination, I have noticed some pretty cool advantages to being a toddler on the transcontinental go. In this post, I’ll cover three of them, namely adaptability, tolerance and exposure.

Now I’m not sure if it’s nature or nurture that has made Sesam such a good traveler. Would he have been as easy-going independent from the rotating landscapes he found himself in from the word go? Surely if he had displayed fussier behaviour at so many environmental changes, the lack of appeal to keep traveling with him might’ve lessened the chances of doing it? In any event, I’ll wager that a constitution not fully adverse to the rigours of travel combined with a chance to actually travel both have had a hand at it. Anyway, back to those three advantages…

Adaptability: Sesam can pretty much fall asleep in a wide range of places. Planes, trains, buses, couches, laps, on my chest, you name it, he’s done it. He does not require elaborate nightly rituals to get himself ready to sleep. I’ve exchanged notes with parents whose children can wake up screaming and crying in the middle of night because a cherished, well-chewed rabbit toy was left at daycare the previous day. Sesam’s only real attachment was his pacifier and I thought he’d be going off into the world as an adult with it, so much did he need it for a good long while there. However, one day quite recently, he lost it. It stayed ‘lost’ and after about one cranky week, he’s never looked back. Now his main attachment is a little stuffed airplane that he was given on a Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt. Go figure.🙂

Tolerance: Similar to being able to adapt to new situations and people, a certain level of tolerance comes about through travel. Only packed the same few toys that were not too heavy and cumbersome to fit into the suitcase? No problem, I’ll throw stones in the water instead. This also makes coming home to his toys a most exciting novelty indeed. Reading the same two books for the sixteenth night in a row? Kids have their little obsessions and their ‘favourites’ even when there is plenty to choose from. Ear pressure during take off and landing? Not an issue. Waking up to a different care-giver while mum and dad are teaching in the early morning? So far so good. I’d say that Sesam’s ablity to adapt to, and tolerate, new and various situations has been a direct result of living in this peripatetic way.

Exposure:  I’d say this is the greatest advantage to travel, at any age really. The amount of exposure Sesam’s experiencing at this tender age is almost envious. Language, food, customs, wildlife, man, this kid sees a lot! He’s not fussy about eating and trying new foods. He may not like everything but at least he’ll give most things a try. He may not be talking yet, but he’s been exposed to all sorts of languages and sounds. He’s seen the inside to all sorts of places and houses of worship and has been a part of different rituals and rites of initiation. The most robust one being his welcoming ceremony that his Kikuyu side of the family did for him in Nairobi when he was five months old. He may not’ve been able to last through any of these, but the exposure’s there, nonetheless.

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Sesam meets Guruji; KPJAYI, Mysuru, 2015 (photo: Petri Räisänen)

Now that you’ve read about a few perks travel has had on this little one’s development, let me be perfectly clear that it can be, at times, uniquely and undisputedly draining for the parents or caregivers. It’s no walk in the park and I fully believe that a consistent and reliable sense of the world is of crucial importance for the wellbeing of a child. However, with a few tips, imagination and tolerance on the part of the adults, this sense of consistency can be taken on the road too. I’ll post next Sunday some of my top tips that I’ve learned along the way.

Until then, get that passport application in and Om❤

Just what the heck is Chavutti Thirumal anyway?

Hi friends!

If you’ve seen my recent posts on Facebook and read my last blog post, you might’ve been asking yourself about this full mouthful of a name which I’ve been writing about: Chavutti Thirumal. Or Chapati Thermal as auto-spelling will have you think it’s what I meant to write. Although eating chapatis in a thermal bath (perhaps?) doesn’t sound like a half bad idea.

Mmmm, chapatis…

Mmm thermal baths.. under Icelandic skies…but I digress fully.

In a nutshell, Chavutti Thirumal is a traditional Indian type of massage, but get this: instead of using your hands and elbows, you use your feet! Pretty cool huh? Yeah, it’s massage by foot press and it’s great because you can use the full weight of your body to give a really effective massage. In this post, I’ll provide some background information on this unique form of massage and where I learned it and from whom. So get that cup of tea on this fine Sunday afternoon, put your feet up and enjoy…

According to its wikipedia pageChavutti Thirumal,[1] literally meaning “foot pressure” in the Malayalam language and also known as “foot/rope massage”, is a traditional Indian massage technique developed by the Kalari Martial Artists of Kerala India (Kalaripayattu), and it is thought to be approximately two thousand years old. The Kalaripayattu not only trained in battle but also developed a range of healing modalities known as Kalari Chikitsa,[2] which comprises various massage techniques; Chavutti Thirumal, Marma Massage (Uzhichil), and the application of medicinal herbal oils.

Unlike most massage modalities, Chavutti Thirumal is unique as the feet are used to deliver the treatment. This act is an art form, with the technique being precisely executed by the practitioner’s foot in long, sweeping therapeutic motions from the fingers to the toes of the recipient.

The main focus of Chavutti Thirumal is to increase flexibility, so the position of the recipient’s body on the floor with the therapist holding onto a rope for support, is paramount. Correctly positioned, the massage enables the postural muscles to strengthen, the hips and thoracic area to open, and the energetic channels (nadi) to become activated.

An Ida and Pingala approach is evident in Kalaripayattu, with Kalari Chikitsa being entwined within the training regime where it is used to prepare and heal the body in the two distinct training and healing seasons.

Here are some pictures to give you an idea of what a Chavutti session looks like among the Kalari martial artists in India…
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I learned this form of massage from a British woman named Helen Noakes in Goa, 2013. She, in turn, learned from her teachers, Veejay and Padma Nair in Kerala, 1998. On her website, Helen describes Chavutti Thirumal as a “technique (that was) developed for maintaining suppleness in the body and for treating pain and swelling caused by combat. It is however, equally suitable as a treatment for those not involved in regular or strenuous physical exercise and wishing to maintain their own fitness and well being. It is based on the precise knowledge of the body”s energetic channels “nadis” or the merdian lines. Using the feet gives the client the feeling that tension is being ironed out of them!”

Here is a video of magical Helen in action (fun fact: shot at her beachside massage hut in Goa, where I received her training)…

And  photos…

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Helen is also a Scaravelli yoga teacher and, funnily enough, she has come to Finland on more than one occasion to teach workshops. Pretty cool right?

It was under Helen’s tutelage that I learnt the art of Chavutti Thirumal and I remain forever grateful for the experience. Here I am giving it a go on one of my first ever guinea pigs (images obscured to protect privacy of said guinea pig):

Helen Mandren school (19 of 28)

And here is one of me and my classmate, Heather, a Canadian osteopath

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That, my friends, is an short introduction into the wonderful world of Chavutti Thirumal. I’m setting up a home treatment practice out of our sweet and cheerful yoga room. If you live in or plan to visit the wonderful Helsinki region this fall, get in touch with me (wambuinjuguna@gmail.com) to find out about early bird rates and availability!

Om and so much healing❤

 

 

Guess who’s baaaack?!

Hello hello lovelies!

It’s been a minute; almost a year (but not quite) since I last wrote a post and let me tell you that I am super happy to be back!🙂

Some shifts in daily life – kiddo in daycare and less time on the road, relatively speaking, open up some opportunities to write on a more consistent basis. Yay!

First off, let me start by thanking all you folk who’ve let me know that you, or someone you know, follow(s) my blog and have been asking when I will write some more. It means the world to me that people might find some value here as this is my main goal: to be of service; somehow; in some small way.

In fact, so committed am I to this that I plan to write a blog post weekly. I’ll be publishing new content on Sundays. I can’t promise to be perfect in this but I’m making this a priority of mine this fall, so do follow this blog and be part of the adventure.

Speaking of being part of it all, I’d like to open this blog up to the community, so please get in touch with me if there’s some topic concerning yoga, healthy, mindful living, parenting and all round general awesomeness that you are interested in exploring.

One last thing and don’t mind if I do… shameless plug alert…🙂 For those of you living in/visiting the Helsinki region: Interested in some private, one-on-one Ashtanga yoga, Yin, and/or Pregnancy Ashtanga yoga classes? How about some massage by foot press? Comment below and I can DM you further information.

Don’t know what massage by foot press is? Never mind, I’ll be writing about it on my next blog post (coming this Sunday!) so stay tuned…

Stay well yogafam…Om❤