13 ways to improve your love life…

Guidance

A friend of mine sent me a poem the other day, of two female comedians making fun of the sex tips offered to women in magazines, promising a wonderful sex life. Those articles all went into detail on how to please a man, but make little or no mention of a woman’s needs (which in my opinion are far more complex!). So together with a few of my girlfriends we came up with our own tips.

What follows below, is what we came up with, all of which are ways of exchanging energies with your partner. Sex is just ONE way of exchanging energy, but there are so many others that are equally important in building up the layers of connection before sex even happens. What we really enjoy is starting with the subtle energy exchanges before building up to the more intense ones. Think of it like this, if you did an intense workout without warming up, you would probably pull a muscle, end up with an injury, be in pain and worst-case scenario, have to discontinue the activity completely. Its the same with sex, you first need to warm the energies slowly and engage as many of the senses as possible to get a full-spectrum experience.

This article has been written mostly with new couples in mind, but those in long-standing relationships are also more than welcome to be inspired! Of course, its understandable that some people’s lives, especially those who are parents, are just too busy at times to fulfill a lot of the below ideas, but you can always take one or two of them away with you for when you do have time. These might seem obvious to you, but never underestimate their power.

1. Conversation. If you can engage your partner’s mind with good conversation, you are half way there. Whether you discuss the mysteries of life or your day at work, finding out about each other is what’s important. Find out what gets your partner excited, a conversation about food or travel can often spark a sexy idea… or simply tell your partner what you love about them. Don’t make anything up! Be genuine. Compliments are free and they make people feel really good. Ladies – when a man pays you a compliment, simply smile and say thank you. Don’t argue! Arguing about the compliment, is like rejecting a gift. You needn’t immediately respond with a compliment either, your man didn’t compliment you just so he could hear one back, just let it sink in and allow yourself to enjoy how good it makes you feel.

2. Listen to your woman A lot of women feel like they are not heard. So listen to her opinions, her hopes and her fears. You need not agree, disagree, or make any judgment, just listen and acknowledge with a simple, ‘OK’ or ‘I understand’. When a woman feels safe and understood, she will open up to you like a flower. If she feels she isn’t being heard, it’s likely she will find it harder to communicate her sexual needs too. Listening doesn’t just involve listening with your ears, however, but also listening to her body (being aware of your woman’s body language and how she is reacting to things).

3. Make eye contact. Look her in the eyes when you’re speaking to her. Caress her face with your eyes first. Let your eyes tell her how much you want her. Looking someone in the eyes is a great way to communicate sincerity and can be very intimate.

4. Smiling and laughter. If you enjoy each others company, this will come naturally. If you’re nervous, smiling will help ease your nerves and hers too. Humour is the best way to break tension, so try not to take yourself or the situation too seriously, stay light-hearted and playful (but do take each others pleasure seriously!).

5. Take your time. Don’t be in a rush! Make sure you’ve set aside enough time so that you both feel relaxed. You wouldn’t go to a restaurant and skip straight to desert without enjoying your starter, your main and a glass of wine to sip from… so enjoy all the aspects of your partner’s presence; mind, body and soul.

6. Setting the Mood. We all agreed that the mood cannot be forced or staged and has to happen naturally. This isn’t a box-ticking exercise and depends wholly on the two of you and your unique experience. Just BE YOURSELF and give 100% of your attention. There should be no expectations of making love, just enjoyment of each others company. There are certain things which can kill the mood though, like checking your phone every 5 minutes, so put it on silent for a while, and give yourself over to the present moment. Equally, switch the TV off or turn it down… the last thing you want to hear is Pat Butcher saying “stick the kettle on Frank”. There is nothing wrong with some music, scented candles, or a hot steamy bath to relax in, but none of this is particularly necessary.

7. Touching. There are so many erogenous zones on the body. Every part of the body can be touched in a pleasurable way. If you have time, massaging the hands or feet is a great way to start. Don’t worry if you know nothing about massage, just stroking her skin softly is a massive turn-on for most women. Touching gently is also very relaxing… and when we relax, our energies can flow more freely. The opposite is true of when we are tense, our energies get blocked (for instance, tension headaches are a type of pain that can be caused from tensing the muscles around the neck).

8. Kissing.  Kissing is often seen as more intimate than intercourse. Cher wasn’t wrong when she said “it’s in his kiss” so kiss slowly, give yourself up to the moment and be alert to her responses. Keeping your eyes closed can help you to focus on the inner sensations and your partner’s energy. Kissing isn’t just for the face either, you have endless places you can kiss to give your woman pleasure… like starting at the lips and then working your way down to the neck, shoulders, inner elbow, stomach, hips, knees and feet… or wherever your curiosity takes you.

9. Communicate. Finding out what someone likes is as easy as listening for a kettle boiling. When you hear a moan of pleasure, you know you did something right!  However, ladies… I would urge you to become more aware of when you are making moaning noises; simply check whether you are on autopilot, or whether your moans are genuine. Guys, if you aren’t sure she likes something, you can always just ask… ‘did you like that?’ or ‘would you like it if I touched you there?’ It’s easy to feel crushed if your partner communicates that they didn’t like something you did… so try and follow by telling them something you did like. Remember that not everyone likes the same things, so its OK to ask. What worked for one girlfriend might not necessarily work for another. Ladies – don’t be shy, tell him what you like! It’s very likely he will enjoy it too. Instead of focusing on what you don’t like (I don’t like it when we kiss too fast) try focusing on what you DO like (it really turns me on when you kiss me softly and slowly)…

10. The Holy Grail. Touching a woman between the legs, should be the very LAST PLACE you venture, UNLESS you get a very clear sign from her that this is what she wants (women occasionally fancy a quickie too of course!). How you then make love really is just about practicing and getting to know each other (again, listening for responses). For some people, chemistry is instant, and for others it takes a while to get the right balance, but practicing should always be fun and full of communication.

11. Techniques and positions… the things I did with past partners were not techniques I learned in magazines… they just arose naturally from playfulness, love and paying attention to my partner’s responses. They were my specific, unique response to having listened to my partner’s body and reactions and it should be the same the other way around. There are no techniques that will work on every woman without fail, so its important to explore sex together in partnership and to try and keep a fresh perspective.

When discussing positions, our group had very mixed preferences. One thing I would say about trying out new positions is that it takes a little time to build up trust in your partner, but once that trust is established, its more likely that you will both naturally become more comfortable with trying new and exciting things together in a playful way, or simply perfect your favourite position. Trying out lots of new positions with someone you have not built trust in is like running before you can walk. There are positions I have personally disliked in the past, that I have come to enjoy with a new partner, and that is because we first built up trust in each other and then playfully found variations that worked for both of us.

One thing I have learned and wanted to share is that it can be beneficial for the woman to be on top sometimes… this is because the man’s hands are then free to explore her body and this gives her time to warm up and set the pace for lovemaking. This can also restore some balance and enable her to make love to her man, as well as being made love to.  However, this doesn’t mean every woman will enjoy being on top. If your woman is unfamiliar or shy about being on top, you will need patience and understanding and stick to what she is comfortable with or if she simply doesn’t enjoy that position, you will both need to work together to find something else you both enjoy. Ladies – there is no pressure to ‘perform’ here (or with any position), simply sitting on top and kissing/touching is a good start. Only do what feels good for you and take it from there.

12. Love. You don’t have to be ‘in love’ with someone to have beautiful sex. Love is a way of life, and everything you do throughout your day can be infused with love. This means doing things to the best of your ability and putting your heart into it. From making your breakfast, to carrying out your job. Doing things halfheartedly only does yourself and those around you a disservice. If you find it difficult to put love into your daily life, then perhaps its time to make a change and find something you do want to put your love into. The same goes for the person you are in a sexual relationship with – if you do not want to put your heart into making love with them then you are probably with the wrong person. Making love to someone you care about and respect is roughly 100 times better than having random sex with someone you don’t care about (most women will agree with this). SO WHY ARE YOU SETTLING FOR LESS!?!

 “Sex is the consolation you have when you can’t have love”
Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

13. Porn.  Be aware that porn is some other guys idea of sex, not yours. It’s purpose is to make money, not to satisfy women. Porn has been made by men for a male audience, so it simply isn’t a representation of what women want.  Firstly, most women I know would rather make love than have robotic, mechanical sex, and those who actually do want meaningless robotic sex, most (but not all) are only settling for it because they don’t realise they deserve better. Some might even think this is the only way to keep a man happy and never voice their real needs in fear of losing their man.  What’s interesting here is that the man has no idea he isn’t satisfying her and would probably be very happy to try new things to please her. Secondly, porn slowly conditions your mind to a certain view of sex, so be aware of what you are watching and what effect it is having on you. You wouldn’t look to Eastenders for an example of how to lead your life, so don’t look to porn for an example of how to please your woman! For extra clarification, check the MakeLoveNotPorn website. Thirdly, porn can stay with you much longer than you bargained for. If you are making love to your woman and images of porn are invading your mind, then you are not really in the moment with her. Fourthly and finally, porn is a representation of friction-based sex, which is only the masculine (yang) form. Have you even tried the feminine (yin) form of sex yet? Think about it… when you rub something really hard (friction) you lose sensation, it becomes numb. This is what you are doing to your genitals with so much friction. On the other hand, when you touch something gently, how sensitive does it feel! Touching gently allows us to relax and sense the subtle energies we have lost the ability to feel through the numbness of friction. For further reading, I would point you in the direction of Tantra, Osho and this blog, which I found sums it up nicely.

So now you know what we ladies want, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!!!??? GET LOVING. ❤

All fathers want a son… or do they?

Guidance

vladiJen2

Playing in the branches of a big tree one summer afternoon, we came across a small girl. She climbed up to join us, her father waiting patiently on the ground below. We were surprised he was letting her climb so high without worry on his face. I asked him if he might write a piece for my blog, and a few months later, here we have it!

_______________________

There is a common preconception that a Man seeks a son to feel truly complete. Someone to play football with, to encourage through his sporting endeavours, and to pass on his knowledge and lessons in manhood. A pretty limited worldview it is fair to say, and pretty indulgent too.

True or not, like so many preconceptions it is one which needs to be challenged and explored to find the truth. Certainly many men may gain pleasure in the familiar, and bringing up a son will keep them inside their comfort zone. The pleasure will come from the reinforcement received from succeeding in passing on the same lessons they learned themselves. But ultimately a son will establish his own identity and rebel against the father. This last fact is rarely taken into account by a man when questioned. Could it be this lack of examination and imagination which may be behind the ‘knee-jerk’ response in favour of a son?

I am a father of a daughter. Did I want a son? No. Would I rather have a son? No. Can I envisage any aspect which would have been easier or more enjoyable with a son? No.

When experiencing the pregnancy, I had fervently hoped to have a daughter. When the news was revealed, and my hopes were realised, I was one very happy man. Throughout my life I have been fortunate to encounter a range of experiences where I have noted the adaptability and quickness of the women I have interacted with, whether professionally or in my personal life. So my readiness to embark upon fatherhood was tinged with the knowledge of the many challenges and delights a daughter would bring. And as someone who relishes a challenge, this was something I found hard to resist.

So now I have a daughter of 8 who is the centre of my universe, and her reactions and character are a source of endless amazement and delight. Is this where the story ends? Hardly.

Being a man in society I fully understand is a totally different thing from being a woman in the same context. Despite the many years of progress I have witnessed, there are still some inequalities a woman may encounter but a man will not. Fortunately these are becoming scarcer and are now legally indefensible, however they can still persist when supported by inflexible minds. It is this world in which my daughter will grow, and so I see the role of a father to a daughter as more than just a care giver and source of constant love. It is also to support her development so her character can reach its fruition and her inner strength can overcome any obstacle which she encounters. As such I am conscious in play, conversation and actions (in fact the entire gamut of my reactions) how I need to provide an example, and also a reference point for her to discover and understand all she experiences.

A little over analytical? Certainly I have been guilty of this in the past. However you only have to watch a few minutes of any music channel, or encounter a magazine or mainstream movie to see how men and women are represented. Let me point out straight away that I am not advocating any form of censorship. I believe you risk over-protection and can end up negatively insulating a person from reality and free expression.

No, I believe in challenging stereotypes through the power of explanation and discovery. For example, if I see a male singer in a music video with a horde of voluptuous women cavorting around him, giving the illusion of interest, I have to step in to the debate. Although I would rarely seek out such videos as they show a lack of originality which will also be present in the music itself. Such moments if I am viewing with my daughter, offer a teaching opportunity. We discuss how videos are made, the role of a director, of an artistic vision, of the dancers being paid to perform a role, all aspects which highlight how this is more than a ‘slice of reality’ and how this has been constructed to provide an artificial view of life. By the end we are both smiling at the absurdity of the content, and the lack of imagination of the artistic direction. Ultimately we use it to discuss how she might have done the video differently and once again I see her imagination unleashed on a unique problem, often offering fascinating conclusions.

Another aspect is the traditional realm of play. For decades there are certain gender roles associated with types of play and toys themselves. There is a saying, “You can never stop your son from wanting to be a pirate, or your daughter from wanting to be a princess”. And it is not for me to discourage this realm of expression. Rather it is for me to unlock the potential of both sides. Ok, choose to be a Princess, but why not a Pirate Princess?

Fortunately Disney, Pixar and similar large animation studios are catching onto this ‘lost’ market opportunity, and releasing many similar female role models who even if they are Princesses, are not recognizable in the traditional sense and are just as comfortable in sword fights as their erstwhile Princely companions (oft times, more so!). This is making the job a lot easier but still some questions persist when older content is seen. Once again being ready with an explanation and discussion as to whether the view portrayed is in fact realistic is always valuable. Meantime, it is important to highlight and reinforce female role models when they present themselves whether in a historical context, in modern life or the realms of fantasy & entertainment.

In having responsibility for a daughter the onus is always to be as challenging and supportive as you would with any ‘rough and tumble’ boy. Amusingly, often the reason girls don’t involve in such ‘rough and tumble’ fighting or activities is because they recognise the inherent pointlessness in it. Already the female mind is assessing and coming to conclusions it will take their male counterparts many years to understand for themselves.

I do have to register one frustration, and this relates to how others do not seek to challenge their own prejudices and seek to impose the same upon you. The classic ‘advice’ in parenting which sadly will be offered more by mothers to me than by fathers. “Should she be doing that?” “Aren’t you worried she might fall and hurt herself?” These last examples are most often offered when my daughter is halfway up a tree or surmounting some other obstacle she has spied.

To be honest, my daughter has gift for climbing. One of her most fondly held wishes is to be able to fly (fairy style). I guess her delight in scaling increasing heights is a reflection of this ambition in some small way. The climbing I have seen viewed with envy and interest by many a child, boy and girl, who secretly wish to be in a similar ascent but have been warned off by their parents too many times and are now conditioned to ‘know their limits’. This is a travesty for any child but so often accepted for a girl, as such behaviour is labelled ‘unladylike’ or otherwise unbecoming. How much more ‘becoming’ can it be for a child with athletic abilities to express them in some momentous struggle with an opposing tree or other challenge?

It is the very essence of childhood to be exploring and learning your own capabilities and talents. To intrude at such a point is to prematurely handicap a child, even before the onslaught of modern society begins in earnest. There will be enough people telling your child how to behave and whom to be as they get older, particularly for a girl. So why join the rush to limit your child, especially your daughter, when what she needs is to be free to know herself and to be confident to express herself and stand against those who would seek to place their views upon her? We have all been in situations, at work and even more sadly in relationships, where someone seeks to impose their worldview and just expects you to comply. It is here where the greatest gift you can offer your daughter is to support her character and the development of her inner strength and the knowledge of her own potential.

As a father my job is not to mould, to shape or to develop my daughter. It is to support her own growth and development. It is a journey I am fortunate to be an invited witness to but ultimately it is a journey for her alone. I will not always be around to offer protection or guidance so must help her develop her own coping strategies and strength of character. It is this which will allow her to truly experience all the world has to offer, and to not be afraid to be herself or accept a role she does not believe is worthy of her talents and personality.

Being a father to daughter is a gift, an honour, a responsibility and a constant pleasure. Who could ask for anything more?

vladiJen

On trust

Guidance

kit branch

Imagine that all it took for someone to be trustworthy, was for you to put your trust in them? Well, in part, this is how trust works. Think about it… try and remember a time when someone put their trust in you. Maybe it was a special task, or maybe someone shared a painful secret with you. How did you feel when that person opened up to you or put their faith in you? You probably wanted them to know that you wouldn’t let them down and that they could rely on you to do your best, or you may have even risen to the challenge and gone the extra mile to show that person that they were right to put their trust in you. Their trust brought out the best in you.

Now lets look at it from the other side… when someone doesn’t trust you, how does it make you feel? It probably won’t make you feel that good, and you will wonder why they never shared their problem with you and you could end up feeling that you were maybe not a good enough friend. Or if that person is your lover and they do not trust that you will respect the relationship, that could also make you feel like you are not worthy or good enough. Could those negative feelings bring out the worst in you? This is why it is better to put your trust in someone, even if there are no guarantees that this person will uphold that trust. Just the act of you trusting them, can help them to understand that they are worthy and bring out the best in them.

Part of the reason we don’t trust people is because we don’t want to end up looking a fool, or getting hurt, but this is just ego getting in the way. The thing is, if someone breaks your trust, it is generally them who ends up looking bad, not you. The only way you can really look a fool is by your own actions or reactions, not someone else’s. So don’t let this be your reason for not trusting. Not trusting someone, can in fact push them away from you and make that person feel disconnected from you.

I can hear some of you asking (and myself at times), what if that person REALLY isn’t trustworthy? How do you know who to trust? Well its fairly simple… You can often see the quality of a person by how they treat their family, their friends, their co-workers and even by how they treat strangers they interact with. If someone has shown signs of integrity, sincerity, good morals, and consistent behaviour (for instance, doing the things they said they would do, when they said they would do them) then you have no real reason to distrust them.  Over time, watching their actions and interactions will give you a good idea of how decent a person they are and whether they deserve your trust or not.

If you STILL then do not trust that person, even when they have shown themselves to be worthy, then its likely there is a deeper trust issue you are holding inside which has nothing to do with that person but more to do with past experience of people close to you having lied or let you down in some way. This is where you need to make a LEAP OF FAITH, and ignore your previous default programming, over-ride it and say “I can trust this person!”… it’s like looking at something RED and saying that its BLUE, it doesn’t seem logical. But understand that even if they were not being trustworthy, even if they were lying and cheating, worrying about it will just completely drain you of energy. Energy which could be better put to something positive and constructive in your life (like learning a new skill, musical instrument, language or sport for instance). So imagine that person eventually does ‘let you down’, at least you have not wasted your time sitting at home worrying, and whatever positive project/activity you invested your time in, is still there for you to continue building on. The new project/activity will also keep you engaged in learning so you have less time to worry. Wasting time and energy worrying about whether someone is lying to you or cheating on you is just not useful to anyone.

When we feel worry coming on, we can also help ourselves by keeping small positive reminders – whether it’s a note in your purse, or a saved text from a friend or loved one telling you how wonderful they think you are. And if you don’t have a note or text from a loved one, then write one to yourself!! (remember you can be your own best friend)… For instance “Dear me, I know I am struggling to trust this person, but I am now free to choose to let go and just trust them“. It’s good to remind yourself that this person you are finding hard to trust actually loves you and every time you look at the reminder/text/note, you will reinforce positive feelings about that person and your trust will gradually grow. It’s also important for that person to know and understand why you have trust issues, so communicate and make it clear!

And what if it is YOU who is not trusted… how do you help someone to put their trust in you? Consistency and Reassurance are key here. So if you say you are going to do something, stick to it. If you say you will arrive at a certain time, arrive at that time. Be sincere, speak from your heart, don’t be scared to say what you really think, speak your truth, and take your time when you speak. Give that person eye contact when you are talking to them, it lets them know you are in the present moment and not day-dreaming about something else. Also skin contact helps to ease communication and increases bonding. So holding someone’s hand or rubbing their back can be very soothing if you are discussing something difficult. A hug is even better. Be the first to say sorry when you are wrong. Be patient if you feel an apology is also due from the other side, but hasn’t yet come. Your own apology will help to clear things up from your side and allow the space for them to then look at their side.

This video of two dancers from Cirque du Soleil sums things up nicely: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWypWe9UAhQ&sns=fb

“A bird sitting in a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because her trust is not on the branch but on her own wings. Always believe in yourself”

Amaretto & Cherry Truffles

Recipes

Amaretto & Cherry TrufflesOne of the lovliest and funnest things to do with your friends is make truffles!

They are really very easy to make and you can customize them to have any flavour you fancy… These ones are Amaretto & Cherry. But I also have a great recipe for Spicy Orange & Rum ones. The recipe below is very rough since I dont ever measure anything!

Ingredients:

  • 3 x 100g bars of dark chocolate (Sainsbury basics 30p bar, roughly 50% cocoa, but 70% is also great).
  • 3-4 tablespoons coconut cream (I use this instead of butter or cream)
  • 3-4 tablespoons Disaronno
  • 3 teaspoons almond essence
  • 2-3 tablespoons honey
  • Dried Morello Cherries (or any dried fruit)
  • flaked almonds or dessicated coconut for coating
  • cocoa powder for rolling
  • tiny truffle cases

Directions:

  1. Melt your chocolate very gently in a pan (or bain marie, or in microwave in a tupperware)
  2. once its all melted, slowly add the coconut cream and stir in, the mix should go dark, smooth and glossy
  3. now add the Disaronno, almond essence and honey
  4. mix together well, the consistency should be thick (this is called ganache)
  5. put the ganache in the fridge for 2-3 hours to set
  6. meanwhile, gently toast the flaked almonds or dessicated coconut in a non-stick frying pan or under the grill. This happens VERY quickly, so don’t walk away, watch it the whole time and shake the pan so it all gets a little golden. Then you can crush the almonds a little so they are in small peices which will stick to the outside of the truffle.
  7. once the ganache is cooled it should be thick enough that you can only just push a spoon in there and scoop out a blob. (if too hard, you may need to melt again and add more coconut cream, if too soft, you may need to melt again and add more chocolate.)
  8. press a dried cherry or two into your blob of chocolate and roll in the cocoa powder, then roll gently in the palm of both hands into a ball, the cocoa powder should stop the ganache sticking to your skin.
  9. now roll the ball in the nuts until completely coated and put in a case
  10. carry on until all the ganache is used up! Your hands should be quite messy by this point!
  11. Put the truffles back in the fridge to harden up again, since they may be a little soft after rolling in your warm hands.
  12. After an hour or so, they are ready for eating, firm and chewy! Eat within about 3-4 days… if they last that long =D

 

 

 

 

Forgive Yourself

Guidance

Image

We have all been angry at someone for doing us wrong. That anger just sits inside like holding a hot coal in your hands, burning away at you slowly. This is why forgiveness is so important. Understanding why someone did something helps you to forgive them. But what about when you need to forgive yourself?  It can be really hard to forgive yourself when you have made a mistake, but we all make mistakes and that is how we learn. Making mistakes is absolutely fine as long as we are always learning from our mistakes. In fact, its good to make mistakes, it encourages growth! The problem is when we keep making the same mistake over and over again that it becomes toxic and can really have a negative effect on our lives and stops you moving forward.

The quickest way to move forward is to actively forgive yourself as soon as you make the mistake, beating yourself up about something only wastes energy that could be better used on a more positive emotion. So for instance, if you decide that you would like to give up smoking, it helps to start by forgiving yourself for any damage you might have already done to your body and to others who may have inhaled your smoke passively. You can do this by placing your hands over your lungs (or chest) and saying “I’m sorry, forgive me, thank you, I love you“.  I have taken this powerful phrase directly from a talk I watched by a man called Dr. Hew Len – you can read more about where this phrase originated from here. By forgiving yourself, you allow the healing to begin.

This works for both small mistakes and big mistakes (getting drunk, being jealous, over-eating, self-harming, being inconsiderate, being judgmental, telling lies, etc.)  It doesn’t matter whether you made the mistake or someone else made the mistake (for instance in the case of rape or violence) you can still use this phrase to forgive your perpetrator and forgive yourself for any guilt you may be feeling about being responsible for the attack.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” – Louis B. Smedes

On Selfies

Beauty, Guidance

 

selfiesWhen I look at a picture of myself, its a bit like looking at a picture of someone else. This is because the picture is not actually me. It is just a split-second representation of me which is dependent upon the quality and strength of light shining upon my face, the angle of my face and the emotion I feel at that moment. So that gorgeous picture I took when I was all done up and on my way out, THAT IS NOT ME! Likewise, that dodgy picture my friend took from a bad angle so that I look like I have 3 chins, guess what? THAT IS ALSO NOT ME!

None of your pictures are really you, but just a split-second of time where light made you look a certain way and captured certain of your features. And none of your pictures will ever come close to representing all the incredible, dynamic, unique, multi-faceted aspects of your being… Look at this video and see how various types of light from various angles affect the way you look! It really is all an illusion…

Have you ever noticed that someone becomes more beautiful as you get to know them? This is because you start to see their inner beauty instead of just experiencing only their external appearance. Have you ever fallen in love with someone you were not even attracted to on first sight? It could be that their funny jokes, stimulating conversation, charming manner or caring nature drew you in. Well this is the best place to focus, on our inner beauty, since it only gets stronger with age. Whereas our physical beauty will eventually fade.

How much does beauty weigh?

Beauty, Guidance

Black beauty

Above are two of the most beautiful women I have photographed, not just because of their physical beauty, but because of their strength of character and the love they radiate as mothers. But you wont see them on bill-boards and ad campaigns because they do not fit the beauty ‘standard’ that has been set by society. You know the standard I’m talking about, the one where you have to be below a certain dress size, above a certain height and below a certain age…

When you have been forced to look at that one ‘type’ of beauty day in and day out for the whole of your life, its no wonder you might be conditioned to only recognize that one type of beauty!! What about all the other types?? When our own beauty doesn’t match this ‘standard’ we start feeling less than adequate, but who wants to be standard anyway?! Be YOU in all your unique glory!!

My advice would be to make a conscious decision to AVOID too much exposure to ‘beauty’ and ‘celebrity’ magazines where this type of beauty is idealized, watch LESS TV, and most importantly, don’t compare your unique beauty to someone else’s.  Think about it, these magazines firstly tell us what we should think is beautiful, and then go and publish the worst pictures they can find of those models and celebrities without makeup or in bad light, in a bid to somehow make us feel better or show us they are not that beautiful after all? However, shaming someone else for not always looking their best isn’t a positive way of making ourselves feel better. A better way would be to represent all beauty types in the first place. Take for instance, the latest Selfridges advertising campaign The Beauty Project, which uses unconventional models and no retouching.

We should also remember that size is viewed differently depending on which country you come from. In the TED blog this week it states that countries with a low socioeconomic status (i.e. poorer countries) value a body that carries more fat, since “body fat is an indicator of status where resources are scarce”. Could our preference for thin body types also come from this same ‘status’ value? If you think that we prefer a thinner body because its healthier, think again. Last week’s New Scientist (3 May issue) contains an article about the misleading idea that being overweight or obese is unhealthy. Research has shown that actually overweight and obese people are NO MORE likely to die prematurely of diseases (such as cardiovascular disease or cancer) than a ‘normal’ weight person (using the BMI scale – body mass index). This is because weight is not an indicator of fitness. In fact, an underweight person is more likely to die prematurely of disease compared to an obese person. Yes, you read that correctly! The problem is, that even now that we know an ‘overweight’ person can be just as healthy as a ‘normal’ weight person, is that the terms ‘overweight‘ and ‘obese‘ are not positive ones and we have created a stigma, shame and discrimination towards those who carry more body fat. So apart from needing to redefine what we consider overweight or obese in the first place, we now also need to find a new term… a bit like CURVY, but more scientific… and which can apply to both sexes… any ideas?!

The BMI scale also, is an outdated method of deciding whether someone is overweight or not. I recently took a BMI test with Fitness First and I came out as ‘mildly obese’. Well, I am a size 10-12, am 5ft 5 and weigh around 10 stone. I don’t call that mildly obese? Perhaps they just wanted me to sign up! Well I didn’t. I get plenty of exercise cycling to work and jogging around the park, and some body weight exercises at home.

When Kate Moss uttered those famous words “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”… I thought to myself, well the poor woman has no idea how it even feels to have wonderful, voluptuous, sumptuous curves, so she has nothing to compare ‘skinny’ to… It’s like saying nothing tastes as good as bread, when you have never tasted anything BUT bread!

Can’t Sleep?

Guidance, relaxation

Have you ever had one of those nights where you wake up and can’t get back to sleep? How come we can fall asleep on a packed commuter train with our mouths wide open catching flies, yet not in the comfort of our own beds? I think a little of it comes down to the rocking motion of the train, but maybe a bit it comes down to expectations. When we lie in our beds expecting and trying to fall asleep, we end up annoyed that we are awake. This state of annoyance is what keeps you awake. So start by enjoying being awake for a moment. Enjoy the feel of the covers on your skin, bring your awareness to the various parts of your body, feel the tingling in your toes and the pulsing in your palms, lay your hand on your heart for a moment, and listen to it gently beating in your chest. Then enjoy just breathing, as soon as you begin to relax, you will notice your body breathe a sigh of relief and your lungs and belly will naturally expand to take a wider breath. As you breathe in, take the breath deep into your belly… you can now try a visualization! I’ve listed a few below:

  • As you breathe in, imagine yourself absorbing energy from the earth below you, this comes in through the soles of your feet and travels up your body and into your lungs to be circulated around your body. As you breathe out, then release any tension or negative thoughts.
  • Imagine yourself looking deep into the night sky. See all the glittering, sparkling stars and as you breathe in, imagine that you are breathing in the energy from these stars, in the form of a pure white light. This light feels warm and tingly as the energy enters your lungs and spreads down into your belly – you might even hear your belly give a little grumble – this is great, it means your visualization has caused an energetic movement and a shift of energy.
  • Imagine yourself to be an ice cube melting – not so much in the sense of being cold, but in the sense of going from solid to liquid. As each drop of water trickles away, you release any tension in your muscles… you gently and slowly melt down into a liquid pool of water, holding no tension at all.

Puy Lentil Salad

Food, Recipes

Puy Lentil Salad

Ingredients:

  • Puy Lentils
  • Aubergine
  • Red / Yellow Pepper
  • Red Onion
  • Sweet Potato
  • Feta Cheese
  • Coriander
  • Tomato
  • Cucumber
  • Thyme or Rosemary

For the Dressing:

  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • garlic clove

Place the sliced vegetables on an oiled baking tray and sprinkle with a little salt and either Rosemary or Thyme. Bake for at least an hour, turning occassionally so that both sides of each slice are golden brown.

Meanwhile, boil a pan of puy lentils (not green or orange ones since they go mushy!). Cook until soft, but still keep their shape (maybe 40 mins).

Then get to chopping the tomato, cucumber, and corriander – save aside in a bowl.

For the dressing I use a pestle & mortar; crush the garlic clove, grate the lemon zest and add the cumin and olive oil and give it a good smashing. Then add the lemon juice and a little salt and pepper to taste.

Once the lentils are ready, add them to the tomato mix.

When the vegetables are ready, you can either chop them and add them to the tomato/lentil mix, or you can decide to arrange the roast veg on a platter and keep lentil/tomato mix in the centre as per the picture above.

Finally, chop or crumble the feta over the top of the whole thing and drizzle with the dressing!