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REVIEW: VIPASSANA MEDITATION CENTRE

Considering I only lasted only two days at the retreat it didn’t seem fair that I should write a review.. let me introduce Cassandra Mansueto. She and her partner gave me a lift to Hereford from London – (which was a very enjoyable part of the journey). Here is Cassandra’s review of the Dhamma Dipa Vipassana Meditation Centre in Hereford.

The year of 25! Quarter-life crisis! I have strayed from the Garden of Eden; my body has embarked on the primrose path and my soul is at odds with this! I expect my new fixation is the answer: I will float out of this 10-day meditation course, as light as a feather, my tarnished heart very nicely polished. Sometimes, when I walk with my partner in nature, I scream an adaptation of an excerpt from Apocalypto: I AM ALMIGHTY POWERFUL!! THIS IS ­MY LIFE AND I AM NOT AFRAID! After these 10 days, my title in the world will be ‘she who is strong and controls her own mind’.

For the duration of our stay we are to live humble lives as nuns and monks (kind of). All sexy areas (knees and shoulders) to be covered in modest clothing. No communication allowed! Males and females separated! We are served vegetarian meals (well, breakfast and lunch….apologies to my tummy if it thought we were off to an indulgent retreat).

Each day, everyone is greeted by the 4am gong and a two hour meditation (which means only another 8 hours of meditation to go within the day). The technique itself is quite basic in theory, but applying it is something else altogether. During the first few days we are slowly introduced and eased in to the practice of Vipassana, which slowly cultivates our awareness to perform the technique correctly. We all hear the looped message of, ‘Awareness and Equanimity. Anicca, anicca, anicca. . .change, change, change –insert never-ending, possibly Sanskrit tunes from the past-’.

The Vipassana technique, in my opinion is a good one. The method behind the madness is really quite simple and powerful, but on a primal level I want to throw all of my primrose path toys out of the cot and scream, especially during the three daily one hour sessions where all movement is prohibited. Eventually the chanting becomes unbearable to listen to, as is Goenka’s monotone voice, and the incessant talking at the beginning of each meditation.

This must be part of the plan, testing our tempers and ability to be equanimous, after all, Vipassana is ultimately to be applied at all times, throughout our daily lives, forever and ever.

It’s incredible what silence can do to the mind. Many memories resurface of even the most insignificant mistakes, actions and words. I make mental lists of all the people that I need to apologise to, when I do eventually go back home. This is precisely what I shouldn’t be doing. Vipassana teaches the mind to be present and cease all craving and aversion. This is all too sobering for my liking, so I start to entertain myself. During one session, I envision a fire has erupted and in a panic all of us meditators are forced to get up and speed out of the hall, but it’s happened during our ‘Simon says be a statue’ meditation hour and I’ve lost all sensation in my leg, so instead I’m falling all over the place.

There is no shame at this course. On the first day, the ladies’ bathrooms were filled with sounds of plopping jobbies and pee-induced farts. No-one wears make-up. A sense of liberation pervades the air. I take it a step further, being an eco-bunny, washing and hanging my reusable fabric panty liners on the washing line. Have I taken it all too far I wonder? Or will they all gawk in wonder and amazement at how dedicated I am to being a super-being?

By the fifth day, I’ve seen most rules broken, a girl smiling at her boyfriend across the hall and another woman wrapping food in her scarf and hiding it in her room. One evening my roommate makes rustling noises and it sounds like she’s opening a forbidden Wispa-Gold. It then sounds as if she’s disguising the noise of her chewing, by rubbing her hands together as if she is very cold! I refuse to look in her direction for fear of making her feel uncomfortable. I want her to know that she can trust me with her secret, so I myself break a rule in her presence, by writing something down. The next morning I look at her bedside table and realise there was no chocolate, she was actually moulding ear plugs. Paranoia sets in and I start to wonder if I snore.

The highlight of each day is the teacher’s discourse in the evening, recordings of Goenka. He’s got such an amazing warmth and understanding of human nature. A teddy bear of note. . . a Buddah-Bear. What a sense of humour! We all laugh hysterically! Surprisingly, it’s only on day seven that I start suspecting an aura of brainwashing around my head, but after some rumination (again, while I should be meditating), I come to the conclusion that Goenka is telling us to do the same thing over and over again because we simply aren’t following the simple instructions the first 100 times.

 I chastise myself for having a weak mind!

Finally, day 10 arrives. It’s the lowest point that I’ve had, as so much has been brought to the surface. But there’s a surprise for all of us. We come out of meditation that morning and mixed areas have been combined for the males and females. We may talk! I am greeted by my Henry-Bear (boyfriend) and all is right in the world. We are standing under an umbrella in the rain recalling all that we’ve been dying to tell each other. He can’t believe that in one of the chants (quite a catchy one), I don’t hear ‘gay protection’. Believe you me, I hear it in every meditation session for the rest of the day. Upon leaving, we are instructed to meditate each day for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening and naturally, we all promise each other that we will – insert ominous raised eyebrows-. I don’t leave as spiritually light as I would have liked, but I definitely have dropped a jean’s size!

Four months later and I’m onto my next fad, Feminism (read ‘Eat my Heart Out’ and ‘How to Be a Woman’!!) but I’m still feeling the effects of this donation based course and know that I want to keep Vipassana part of my life. I just haven’t been disciplined enough to follow through with the prescribed meditation sessions, which I know would alter my whole reality. Goenka claims less sleep is needed, one is more efficient and you will ultimately live in line with karma. Changes are occurring in my life on a subtle level. Most nights I have a ritual of meditating after a hot shower. There is a lot more awareness in my thoughts and speech and best of all, I’m letting go of every bad memory as it occurs, forgiving myself immediately, so that I never have to be burdened by it again, until I can live in line with karma and have a clean slate. I also intend on going back and I encourage any person who wishes for a better life, to embark on this journey.

Cassandra Mansueto Xx

Would you like to write an article for ohDearyme? Get in touch at beckiburrows@gmail.com

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DATING DIARY: CHIPS

He looks at my drink…”let me get you another!” and runs off toward the bar. He comes back with a full pint for me.. I look over at his glass.. only half full. Then back to my own. An overflowing curvaceous goddess of liquid gold full to it’s brim.

I grab his glass… and pour half of the drink he came back with into it before he can say…

Hey!!! Why did you do that?” he looks at me slightly angry. I don’t really understand why because they’re both the same drink. And I hadn’t even taken a sip of mine. Sharing is caring right?

I decide I won’t take a sip until he takes one first. I wait patiently. One minute… two minutes. Three pass. Four.. then FINALLY. 

He takes a gulp. Ok. Probably rohypnol free then. My green light to go. I drink my half with an innate awareness. Why is he going so slow…..It doesn’t take long. I’ve finished. And I get up to leave.

“Where are you going?” he glances up looking perplexed. I shrugAnd decide to culminate a less paranoid explanation… “Er.. I need to get some.. chips? Night!”. Chips, chips, chips, du, du, du, du, du. Mmmm chips Ci bum ci bum bum

Good luck my baby.

Becki Bx

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TRIED+TESTED: NANO-KERATIN TREATMENT

Perhaps I had my finger in the electrical socket as a child too many times – as frizzy hair has been a life long annoyance. When hair straighteners were introduced.. smooth hair became a wondrous new world and these appliances soon became a daily maintenance tool I could not live without. But time is of the essence and a minimal morning routine is always gratefully received. 

Introducing the Nano Keratin treatment….

Browse the internet and you can find hairdressers offering the treatment ranging from £60 to £200. But why do the prices vary so much? What’s the difference and what establishments can we trust? Many Keratin treatments or ‘Brazilian blowdrys’ have formaldehyde present and it can be difficult to know which products on the market are the safest. And let’s face it – who wants to sabotage their health for the sake of smooth hair?

before nano keratin

 (before – frizzy? Yes I know! Ahhhhh)

Keratin is protein and the key structural component of our hair and nails. The Nano Keratin product is a treatment applied directly to dry hair. It then enters all the little holes in the hair that are missing Keratin basically re-strengthening it from the inside out.

The Nano Keratin is a smoothing treatment which claims to have the smallest amount of formaldehyde as opposed to other brazilian blow dry products that contain higher levels of formaldehyde and it also claims to be within British standards.

I was ensured that all Toni and Guy products are thoroughly researched by the Toni and Guy team.

The Nano Keratin treatment is meant to make hair smoother not straighter… and with it being an active ingredient for 3 days (meaning the keratin is still working its way into the hair)… to get the best result hair must not be washed for 72 hours.

The treatment took approximately an hour and a half to apply (my hair being shoulder length) and by the end of the three days I was relieved to be able to wash it again as it was starting to feel… er a little uncomfortable. As soon as I washed the hair with the product given to me in the store: Label M Lemongrass Shampoo and Conditioner… (which smells so god damn good!) and blow dried it I noticed the difference already. Straighteners no longer necessary.  Yipppeee!!!Label M Shampoo

The Label M Shampoo (Lemongrass) is sulphate free – i.e. it it has no salt in it – which is one of the ingredients many shampoos on the market have in them, that scrub away at your scalp removing the dirt. This ingredient also slowly erodes at the expensive Nano Keratin treatment so a sulphate free shampoo is vital for ensuring the treatment lasts longer.

Nano Keratin treated hair

(After – new hair! OMG it’s SO sleek!)

Shortly after I had the treatment I went on a trip which involved the sea and a bit of scuba diving. Lots of online sites recommend not immersing the hair for too long in chlorine or sea water and if I’m honest I did feel the hair was a little drier after these events. At £175 a pop this is not a cheap treatment so personally I would recommend avoiding swimming and deep sea diving if you can!

The Nano Keratin treatment however, is well worth the money, having halved the time it takes to style my hair. If you suffer from dry frizzy hair and want glossy locks no matter how many times you have dyed your tresses, this is a brilliant way to boost your hairs health and get it back on track. I aim to try (try!) and grow my hair and as someone who likes to change colour and blasts it with a hair dryer on a daily basis – the Nano Keratin treatment is definitely the best way to keep it looking tip top.

So the result? An expensive treatment but definitely worth the money.

An ohDearyme 5/5

Contact your nearest Toni and Guy salon here

With thanks to the Technical Director Shabana Adam and Style Director Lewis Maharaj

I absolutely love the way it feels!

Becki Bx

Screen Shot 2014-09-06 at 14.46.21

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EXPERIENCE: OPTIMAX LASER EYE SURGERY

I had worn glasses since I was about 7 years old and I always felt..well… a bit of a nerd. Yes, fair enough the nerd look is finally now fashionable… but it took a little too long for me..and I never really felt very sexy with glasses on. Especially during fitness sessions.

Laser eye surgery is something I considered for a pretty long time before I finally took the plunge. I would describe myself as an anxious person and pre operation I found myself scouring youtube and other social media sites for pro and con stories about the process. These, after all, are my eyes! I need them! Especially as someone who would describe themselves as a ‘visual learner’.

Also I do believe we should really do our homework when taking the plunge for something as serious as an eye operation.

So I posted an update on facebook asking if any friends had had the procedure done. It turned out actually a lot of them had. And thankfully 100 percent of the responses came back positive.

My next step was to attend the Optimax clinic for a test to see if I was suitable. It turned out I was suffering from dry eyes. I was gutted. Damn! Did this mean I couldn’t get it done after all? Contact lenses had always been a problem for me in life, drying up after a few hours – and making my eyes feel itchy and uncomfortable. After a chat with the optometrist – I was put on some dry eye drops, ordered to drink more water and take a fish oil supplement every day.

Three months later of diligently following Optimaxs’ advice – and cutting down coffee – I was ready to take the plunge. My eyes were cured of their dryness. So I was booked in for the operation. I was relieved. And excited. And scared.

The staff were extremely professional, putting me at ease about the operation and explaining the ins and outs. But in all honesty I was still quite scared. I’d never had an operation before.

My eyes were anaesthetized for the operation and as I lay on the operation table I stared diligently at the red beam staring back down at me. It was an odd feeling; being conscious during the event.

Seeing the movements and shadows above me, but not being able to feel a thing that was happening. It was an out of body experience. And it all was over so quick. A couple of minutes was all it took. If that.

“You can get up now”, the surgeon’s voice said to me.

I swung my legs up off the table, looked at the surgeon and stumbled in shock towards him. Perhaps to hug him in relief? I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing. But, I know I was feeling super-happy that I still had vision. My eyes focused on him and he smiled at me. I still had vision! Phew! Relief shuddered through my body.

Already anaesthetized, I was sure I wasn’t going to need the extra anaesthetic they issued me for my trip home.

“Try not to use all of it” the nurse said to me as I got into a taxi half an hour later. “Nah! I won’t need any!” I confidently said back.

By the end of the taxi ride home, I had started to experience some pain. But thankfully, it wasn’t unbearable pain.

The rest of my day was spent listening to meditation music as I wore cotton pads over my eyes. It was suggested that I chill, don’t cook and give myself a rest. A few days later my eyes had completely healed, and a few weeks later I had forgotten that I had ever worn glasses. And that’s been the strangest feeling of all. I wore glasses for almost thirty years of my life – and now I can honestly say… I have forgotten what that was like. It’s as if I’ve never needed them. A grateful and amazing experience. I am so happy with my new eyes. Thank you Optimax for giving me vision.

Becki Bx

 

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Girl getting fit… PRESTIGE BOOTCAMP

Since my last gruelling bootcamp (article HERE) of the three days of intense work outs, I discovered that mentally I could easily become obsessive about working out. Or thinking about working out. Actually two different things. ‘I should go to the gym’ had now been replaced with ‘I should really go to the gym for at least three hours’. And that sort of thinking can really be off putting to doing anything. The all or nothing thinking that replaces that of moderation.

You see an hour at the gym was now no longer good enough after I discovered through the world of the bootcamp that I was capable of working out for eight hours a day. I now found myself to be a binge gym goer, not seeing the point if I wasn’t going to do a spin class, followed by yoga and perhaps a nice swim followed by then running home.

I was after all now cutting down those daily intense workouts from the bootcamp by more than half. And… I had to keep the fitness up….! The good thing about the bootcamp avenue is that you’re cut off and woken up at six thirty in the morning, hidden away from ALL temptation. Rehab for foodies. But as soon as you step back on that high street (and something I feel quite disgusted about) is how much temptation of the absolute crapness we’re actually surrounded by. The strongest of minds might find it hard to centre oneself and keep motivated when brands spend so many millions on advertising rubbish at us! Every day I walk home I walk past.. pub/nandos/mcdonalds/burgerking/pizzaexpress/kebabshop/boots/costacoffee/pub AGAIN/nail shop/sainsburies/wineshop/oooh Marks and Spencers yep that’s a good un.

But all that aside it really is up to ourselves to stay present and look after one’s health. I’ve become aware recently of how much mental space this has been taking up in my mind. And I’ve been consistently trying to lose weight since I started to try and lose weight. Not good. I have a friend who never works out, is extremely slim and has really conquered what works in terms of food habits for her. And I guess that’s what it’s all about. Finding what floats one’s boat and keeps one motivated and happy with the self. I however, do enjoy the feeling of feeling fit and the feel good factor that working out gives me… and lately I have been desiring an athletic body similar to that of the women racing in the 100m Relay at the Commonwealth Games.

commonwealth games

Abs. They look amazing.

I was invited to try a day working out with the Prestige Bootcamp in Hyde Park. The day consisted of a mix of boxing, body combat, core training and circuit training followed by a team game of netball. Led by two professional, friendly and motivational trainers the atmosphere was down to earth and the series of exercises crushed into an 8 hour day, keeping it entertaining. I can imagine how intimidating these bootcamps might be to someone who has not attended one before – but most people there had turned up on their own, simply because they wanted to get fit/lose weight so the atmosphere was relaxed and fun. Everyone is there for themselves.

One lady I met at the last bootcamp was checking in to the same retreat every month to keep her fitness/weight loss consistent and help her maintain motivation. A great idea… if you can afford it!! Prestige Bootcamps currently have a sale on and their days in Hyde Park are definitely worth it and currently a snip at £39.50 (let’s just be real and call it £40 yeah?). It was awarded Best Womens Bootcamp in England although there were a few men there so I didn’t get the impression it was restricted to only females. So men… don’t be afraid..

The best thing about the bootcamp apart from exercising in a motivational atmosphere for me, was the boxing. I’ve wanted to keep this up.. and as a regular attender at the gym I’ve looked at the boxing gloves and kit sitting in the corner of the room. And passed by in embarrassment. There’s some things you need a personal trainer/bootcamp for..

Prestige bootcamp – a fun day of fitness! Recommended!

This week Becki is trying the maple syrup diet… 

Good luck with your personal goals. Try not to give up… whatever it is 😉

Becki Bx

 

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