Saturday, 31 December 2016

Shiv Charan Singh's numerology reading for 2017

I am sharing with you all the numerology reading for 2017 by Shiv Charan Singh, lead trainer of the Karam Kriya School for Kundalini Yoga in which I teach and help train teachers.


"Welcome to 2017 
Stepping into a new year with new numbers:
2017 = 10 = Radiant Body = Royal Courage

Radiance can be a result of compassion which starts with your Self. It is supported by a renewed optimism towards your Self. Backed up by the mind-set of permitting your light. Including the greater you in the Greater Picture. A year of consciousness and illumination. Or eclipse and blackout. Be vast or be nothing. A full year or a non-year. Bright or obscure. Just when you think this is the limit. Things can yet get far worse or far better. A year to go the extra step. To give that little bit more. 

It is not easy to write about 10. 10 has no script. It is the writer of the script. It is the context in which all is written. Everything is born from and dies into the 10.  

10 is radical. It is 10 x 1. The 1 is brought to its full intensity, through the amplification of the 0. 
To speak of the 10 is to speak in the language of extremes. Absolute, Total, Whole, Entire, Universal, All, Everywhere. A Self-Regulating All-Inclusive Totality. 

10 is opportunity for a collective awareness which serves us to migrate through changes far easier than an individual could ever do alone.

The 1 of the 10 is the mallet which hits the gong, or the bowl. The something which hits nothing to produce the primal first sound, of which we are all the echo. The Stick that rolls the wheel. The magical wand that strikes the air and transforms the environment. A greater will from beyond the boundaries of our normal everyday awareness. 

As the 1 is outside, beside the 0, it asks that we think outside the box, beyond our known limits of knowledge and activity. When things get too much then it is the greater 1 of the 10 that we call on to give the holding capacity. 10 is the courage we call to be at our side so that we may go through what seems otherwise overwhelming and impossible.
10 gives the possibility to be sensitive to, and intimate with, the Self-Existing Transcendent Unity. The Extraordinary Sum Totality of All time and space; or the micro sum of any situation, as well as the greater sum of yourself. 
It takes you beyond the temporary fragments, or sub-personalities, of self. Beyond the realms of fascination with reflections of the ego. To the Radiant Reality that All is One.

The 10th Spiritual Body is known as the Radiant Body, the Body of Light. It is the light of the soul shining through the transparent Ego. The light that shines on all without discrimination.
By the dynamic projective nature of radiance it also establishes a protective radius. Meaning it will dissolve inauthentic attacking projections at the periphery of your being, preventing them from entering into you inner space. Though when filtered by your ego it will become a circle that suffocates, oppresses and imprisons your latent potential for greatness and excellence.  
It is time to recognise that you are your own light. The illuminated self.

Listening is a transcendent activity associated to the 10. The ears are placed at the sides of the head and create a circular arena in which listening takes place. Where you are not involved in the horizontal arena, but simply attuned to the deeper and greater message of what is going on. Free of reaction which would filter the consciousness. In other words listening does not interfere with existence - it holds it. 
In full listening we hear the voice of the collective rather than just the clamour of individuals. We learn to echo the Eko. The infinite resonating chamber of the Cosmic Eco-system. Such listening is the mouth of God. Any word spoken thereafter is the One speaking through someone. 
So it is a good year to practice meditations to hear your self and to hear the unheard.

As 10 is a unit of 10 times greater proportion that the unit of 1. It means the zero (0) of the 10 will enhance, magnify and intensify the qualities of the 1. That may be solitude, exile and extreme loneliness, feeling like an outsider with no place in the circle or group space. Or the 1 expanded by the 0 can provide a sense of the Unity and interconnectedness of all existence in all time and all space.  The 0 may bring brightness and illumination or it may nullify and eclipse its environment. To not Fall into the oblivion of the 0 we need to relate to its expansive and All-encompassing nature.

''The soul is in a cycle, a circle. A circle is an orbit. An orbit is a zero. Zero is an expansion. Expansion is inter-related. Inter-relatedness is existence. Existence is dimension''. Yogi Bhajan 27 Oct 2001.

10 is the undifferentiated unity of all, which is continuous before, during and after all creation. To acknowledge the 10 implies to remember and relate to the extra-ordinary state. To remember there is always something more, beyond your sphere of awareness. To remember that you are always missing something until you become a conscious zero-point on the Infinite Thread of the One; as represented by the infinite number of points on a circle. So expect the unexpected. Relate to the unknown. And consider every experience as a modified expression of the primary pre-existing bliss of the 10. Variations of the Ecstasy, Glory and Splendour of Universal Consciousness.

17 = 8: A focus on power, authority, energy, purity, and compassion. A year of understanding through compassion. Compassion is impersonal. Call for it, receive it, be nourished by it and share it.

7: the hidden treasure.
Take altitude before judging the world. A platform for another view.  
A year to dig deep into the spirit and bring forgiveness to yourself and the world. 
Permission to be you and shine.
Permission to let each and everyone shine. 
See the world as God sees it. 
See the world as if for the first time. That brings right understanding.
See the essence, see the soul in all. 
Courage to see the Divine Command at work in everything.  To see the perfection in the imperfection.  
Bring that understanding down into the world. 
The light of the higher self 
As a lighthouse, or a street lamp.  That reaches a wider radius as it brings light into the dark.

Conclusion:
What the mind can't measure 
And the heart can't hold
May the Transcendent Zero 
Within the cup of the heart 
Receive without hesitation
To fully recycle and renew.
From this sacred inner ambience 
Of deep and total listening 
From the nothingness of the empty heart 
From where all is possible 
May the light of the Spirit Flow through and into the world
May our excellence radiate without limit of radius
Illuminating the paths to peace and genuine happiness.

- SCS "

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Ecoegg's Reusable Bamboo Kitchen Towels



In February I already wrote about Ecoegg's Laundry Egg in a post about ecological laundry solutions.

But the company has much more to offer to folks looking to remove household toxins and searching for ecological solutions to the products in our homes that are harmful to the environment. My latest purchase from their brand is a roll of 20 reusable bamboo towels to replace my paper kitchen towels.


Each bamboo towel can simply be washed (with e.g. the Ecoegg laundry egg) and used up to 85 times -- that gives me up to 1700 uses of these bamboo towels, for the price of £9.99.

On Ecoegg's website, you can find a short demonstration video. You can also find the bamboo towels on Amazon, and currently there is even a -20% offer on ethicalsuperstore.com, giving you the same product at £7.99!

A great way of saving money, bleached paper towels and the wrapping plastic those all come in!

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Homemade herbal chemical-free hand sanitizer gel with organic aloe vera gel and essential oils

As Amritdhari Sikhs, my husband and I keep a strict rehit (discipline) around sucham (hygiene) when it comes to preparing and eating food. Just as most Amritdhari Sikhs will do, we keep the kitchen and all utensils very clean, don't allow shoes in the kitchen, wash everything that we buy in shops or on the market before we put it away, to wash off anything that might be stuck to it, especially cigarette smoke or the touch of people who smoke and who might have touched the cans/jars/bottles/... we bought.

We constantly wash our hands while cooking: once we have touched the fridge, the stove, a drawer, ... and we're about to touch a spoon or pot again, hands get washed again. It's a simple way of keeping things hygienic and is part of the Sikh teachings. No spoon goes back into a pot or pan if it has touched anything else than the food (so definitely no tasting and then using the same spoon again for stirring!!).

As we also try to remove all chemicals from our household, we don't use store-bought washing up liquids or hand-soaps - I make all cleaning products myself. (Here you can find the recipes for my DIY washing-up liquid).

And all vegetables and fruit get washed with a white vinegar or apple cider vinegar solution to remove possible chemicals.

But when we're out and about, we take just as much care about hygiene and washing our hands regularly. And sometimes there simply isn't the opportunity to just wash your hands (or you wash your hands, but have to touch the door of the toilet again in going out, and that's not really the last thing I want to have touched before putting any food in my mouth...). In India, we bought some great natural hand-sanitizer gels from the Himalaya brand, but here in the UK it's proven nearly impossible to buy a natural, chemical-free hand-sanitizer; most contain alcohol, triclosan, (animal) glycerin and antibacterial ingredients that may contribute to resistant strains of bacteria. And we don't want to simply substitute bacteria for chemicals! And thus I had to start making my own. As so often, blogger Wellness Mama came to the rescue, as I found that she managed to make a hand-sanitizer gel from organic aloe vera gel and a selection of essential oils - 2 things I happen to have in the house and use regularly anyway! And because of the use of aloe vera, this gel doesn’t dry the skin and is actually nourishing.

Here is a wonderful and simply DIY recipe. It does contain essential oils in quite high concentrations, so do check her post about the risks of essential oils first.

Essential oils that are used:

* Orange - Natural antiseptic and antioxidant
* Cinnamon leaf - Antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial & astringent
* Clove - Antimicrobial and antibacterial
* Rosemary - Anti-fungal and antibacterial
* Lavender - Antibacterial and antiviral

The essential oils also leave your gel smelling wonderful - and not like so many chemically-rich store-bought versions.

The recipe is ridiculously simple. I use small brown glass bottles with droppers to keep mine in (easy to use on the go), but you can use other containers if you like.

Ingredients

1/4 cup aloe vera gel (preferably organic - I use the Several Minerals brand)
20 drops orange essential oil (I generally use Freshskin essential oils and am very pleased with their quality)
5 drops clove essential oil
10 drops cinnamon leaf essential oil (don't use cinnamon bark essential oil as it's not safe for topical use)
10 drops lavender essential oil
5 drops rosemary essential oil

Instructions

Mix all ingredients and store in a glass bottle or reusable silicon tube.
Use as needed to naturally remove germs from hands.

Notes

Always check with a doctor or health care provider before using essential oils, especially on children or if you have a medical condition.

This version wouldn't be sanitizing enough after for example a visit to a hospital or a place where there are resistant strains of bacteria, but it works great for general purposes, and you can make a more powerfully sanitizing version by adding witch hazel.

Wellness Mama also shares a recipe for a stronger hand sanitizer that contains rubbing alcohol and witch hazel and is more similar to commercial versions without the triclosan.

Ingredients

Rubbing Alcohol
Vegetable Glycerin (optional)
(Organic) Aloe Vera Gel
Cinnamon leaf Essential Oil
Tea Tree Essential Oil
Distilled Water (or Colloidal Silver/Ionic Silver if available)
Other Essential Oils if you like the smell

Instructions

To make, mix 1/4 cup aloe vera gel, 1/2 teaspoon glycerine, and 1 tablespoon of rubbing alcohol in a small bowl. Add 10 drops of cinnamon essential oil and 10 drops of tea tree oil along with any other oils you want to add for scent (lemongrass, orange, lavender and peppermint are good choices).

Mix well and add distilled water (or Colloidal/Ionic silver) to thin to desired consistency and add any other oils to desired smell.

Use a small funnel or medicine dropper to transfer hand sanitizer into spray or pump type bottles.

Use as you would any other type of hand sanitizer.


Feel free to let me know how you get on with this!
Vaheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Vaheguru Ji Ki Fateh

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Yogic Morning Routine & Cold Showers (Ishnaan)

Just as yoga is not just a physical exercise system intended to keep the body healthy and vital, practicing yoga is not just about coming to classes once or twice a week, not even about having a daily practice. Yoga is a way of life. There are yogic teachings for every aspect of life, ranging from dietary advice and tips to take care of your hair to teachings on how to get up in the morning and how to go to bed at night so that you can be your most vital self during the day. Integrating this yogic science into your daily life will help you to be more effective and efficient and it will assist you on your path to awareness.

The following morning routine can help adjust the body upon awakening. It will adjust the spine, navel point and nervous system, so that you will feel more alert and ready for the day. And it only takes a few minutes.

Traditionally, yogis and Sikhs alike will rise before dawn during the amrit vela (the ambrosial hours), yet this routine can be done any other time of the morning as well.

While still in bed, first turn onto your back. With the eyes still closed, bring the hands to the face and begin stroking the face with your hands. Then gently open your eyes into the hands. Slowly lift the hands away from the face, keeping the eyes open so you can adjust them to the light in the room. Massage the face. Next, stretch your arms overhead as this will help to channel the magnetic energy of the earth, point the toes, and do a Cat Stretch. Cat Stretch is a diagonal stretch where you bring one bent leg across the other. To come into Cat Stretch, place the right foot on the left knee, then let the right leg drop across the left leg and turn your head to the right hand side, in effect twisting your spine. Your arms are stretched out sideways and you feel the stretch in your armpits. Then repeat the exercise on the other side. This stretches and wakes up the spine and gives room to the kidneys.
After that, do Stretch Pose to set the Navel Point. For Stretch Pose, you lie on your back with the feet together. Flatten the lower back into your mattress or futon (I personally have started sleeping on a futon and feel the benefits for my back). You can either have your arms stretched out at the sides, with the palms facing the thighs alongside the body, or have your hands over the thighs, palms down. If your lower back comes off the floor (or mattress in this case) during Stretch Pose, place your hands underneath the back of your buttocks for extra support. Now lift the head up by lifting up the heart, apply Neck Lock, look at the toes and then lift your feet up 6 inches (15 centimetres). Either breathe long and deep, or engage in Breath of Fire, for 1 to 3 minutes. Do not bend the knees during Stretch Pose.

Next, turn onto the right side and pull the knees to the chest for a moment. This will strengthen the heart. Return onto the back and pull the knees to the chest with the nose up between the knees. Lock your hands around the legs and again do Breath of Fire for about one minute, then roll up into Rock Pose (sitting on your heels). Bring the forehead down to the mattress for a moment and relax, breathing normally. This posture helps eliminate gas. Lie back down on your back and rub the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet rapidly together. This breaks up crystal deposits that build up in the nerve endings, thus allowing the energy to flow freely through the body. Now you are ready to get out of bed and head for the bathroom. Do this barefoot.

Once you are in the bathroom, first relieve yourself. Then brush your teeth and gums with a powder of 1 part salt and 2 parts potassium alum (potassium alum mixture is effective for preventing gum disease). Also brush the tongue, including the root of the tongue, to remove toxins. Brushing the back of the tongue will make you gag, and the alum and salt mixture will pull out mucus and bacteria that have accumulated overnight in the monkey glands. These monkey glands are two pockets in the throat which contain a mucus that collects in the throat at night and gathers toxins from the body. This mucus must be expelled before you drink anything, to prevent it from going into the intestines and causing diseases. The gagging reflex also causes the eyes to water, thus helping to maintain good vision and to prevent cataracts. Then drink at least one glass of spring water to neutralise and ground yourself. (If you are a Sikh, you can wait with drinking water until after your Nitnem (prayers).)

Now you can get ready for your cold shower (ishnaan or hydrotherapy).

I will first explain the benefits and science of hydrotherapy, so you can understand why you would want to put yourself through what on first reading might seem an agonising experience, first thing in the morning. Then I will describe how to take a cold shower (as you wouldn't just stand full body underneath the ice cold water).

The science of hydrotherapy has been known since ancient times, and while warm (never hot, if you want to preserve your health and youth) showers can be used at other times of the day, a brief cold shower in the morning is the healthiest and most efficient way to start your day. Cold showers have a wide range of benefits: they keep your skin radiant, open up the capillaries, flush the organs of toxins, keep the blood chemistry young and healthy, stimulate the healthy secretion of the glandular system and strengthen the entire nervous system. They also strengthen the 8th chakra - the aura - which is your protective and projective shield. On top of all that, cold showers really wake you up in the morning - you will not need any coffee after a cold shower - and they give you a lot of mental strength. If you can put yourself voluntarily through a cold shower in the morning, nothing coming across your path during the day will be able to stop you. And once you have had your first cold shower experience, you will be hooked: a warm shower just cannot give that same feeling of being alive and feeling your blood rush all throughout your body.

The science of hydrotherapy is very precise and sophisticated, and very simple at the same time. If you let the cold water fall just below the lower lip for 10 to 15 minutes, your mind will become very bright and clear. Letting the water fall between the eyebrows and the upper lip will energise you. Do not let the water hit the forehead, as this will make you extremely sleepy. Also don't keep your head underneath the ice cold water and don't wash your hair with ice cold water as it closes off your crown chakra (dasam duaar). (Briefly rinsing after washing with cold water is okay and can prevent hair loss.) If you massage the upper arm, you are curing your stomach. The part from your elbow to about 2 inches (5 centimetres) above your wrist corresponds to your digestive tract, while the part from 2 inches above the wrist to the wrist corresponds to your heart. The wrist itself corresponds to your liver, and the fingertips correspond to your brain. If you put the water on the front of your neck and let it run down your entire body and over your hands, you will change all your cells. If you let the water hit your chest and let it run all the way down to your genitals and then stay under it for a while, you are totally changing the chemistry of the blood from unhealthy to healthy. If you let the water hit your feet and massage the right foot with the left foot, and the left foot with the right foot, you are actually massaging your entire body.

Before you go into the shower, you may first want to massage the body from head to toe with a pure oil. This brings the toxins out through the open pores and nourishes the skin. (Almond oil is preferred for its high mineral content, but it is very warming and so better suited for winters. It is also quite heavy on the liver. You can also use any other pure type of oil, such as coconut oil - ideal for summers as it is cooling to the body - , sesame oil - not the roasted sesame oil or you'll smell all day - , avocado oil, jojoba oil, ...)

Get under the cold shower (use ice cold water, not lukewarm water), but do not simply go and stand underneath, just begin with the outer extremities: first hands, then feet, then arms, then legs. The thighs should not go under the water first, as that would disturb the calcium-magnesium balance, and we highly recommend wearing mid-thigh or knee-length cotton shorts under a cold shower to protect the sexual organs and the femur bone in the thighs - for Sikhs, kasheray are a natural protection. Do not put your head under the water either (see above). 

There are some contraindications to be mentioned: do not take cold showers when you have a fever, rheumatism or heart disease. Women should not take a cold shower during pregnancy or menstruation. If there are problems with the sciatic nerve or high blood pressure, make sure you start slowly.

Massage yourself as you move in and out from the cold water. Pay special attention to the lymph nodes under the armpits, as it will help to prevent colds. Women should also pay extra attention to their breasts: massaging them in a cold shower on a daily basis will keep circulation strong and acts as a preventative against breast cancer. Everywhere the cold water hits your body, the blood will rush to the surface to meet the challenge. All the capillaries will open up, causing deposits and toxins to be cleansed out. The whole body will be cleansed from the inside out. When the capillaries return to normal, the blood supply goes back to the organs, and as each organ has its own blood supply, having a cold shower flushes all the organs clean. This in turn has an effect on the glandular system: the glands now immediately have to change their secretion. The glands are the guardians of your health, and when they change their secretion, youth returns. Also, everywhere you massage your body, rebuilding will occur and the psyche of each cell of the body will be reconstructed.

Chanting a mantra under the shower may help you keep going. You will feel the cold, but if you keep at it long enough, the capillaries will open up to the maximum and the body will stop feeling the cold, as it meets the cold by its own circulatory power. You will be ready to come out once the body feels warm from the inside and you do not feel the cold of the cold water anymore - for some this will be 1-2 minutes, for some up to 5 minutes or longer. (Throughout your cold shower you can keep massaging yourself and going in and out of the water, letting the water constantly hit other parts of your body.)  Towel yourself dry, rubbing the skin briskly, put on warm clothes (cotton would be the best choice) and if needed put a blanket around you. You are now ready to start your day...

Monday, 11 July 2016

Vegan sugar-free matcha-mint & mango-mint ice cream or "soft-serve"

For most people, nothing says 'summer' as much as ice cream. And even though so far the UK weather hasn't been all that summery this year, the craving for ice cream has set in in our house.

As a vegan, that can cause some problems. And even while hubby isn't vegan (although he practically has been since he moved to the UK, as we simply don't have dairy in the house), as amritdhari Sikhs we don't eat eggs, so that again rules out a lot of the prebought possibilities.

Luckily, Leicester graces us with a number of great ice cream parlours that also cater to vegans, with lots of yummy sorbets. But the sugar-content of these is still extremely high, so I thought: there must be a way of making this at home.

And who came with a solution but the Minions:


BANANAS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Over the weeks I've been testing out some soft-serve recipes, and they are so much tastier than any ice cream, sorbet or gelato I have ever had! And most importantly: hubby thinks so too, which is a small miracle as it has no added sugar to it!! (While Mr. Singh loves my cooking, one of the things we do not agree on are amounts of sugar and salt. Neither of them are ever enough for him. And as I don't keep refined sugar in the house and will use things like dates, honey or coconut sugar for him instead, sweet dishes never taste sweet enough for him. But these soft-serves are perfect!)  

 

Matcha-mint banana soft-serve with different toppings

My personal favourite is my matcha-mint banana soft-serve. Second comes my mango-mint banana version. I will give you both recipes. You don't need an ice cream maker for these recipes, just a food processor with an S-blade. And it won't take more than 15-20 minutes of your time to make them, including clean-up time!

First of all, you will need to keep some peeled and cut bananas in your freezer. I generally use either one really large banana or 1 1/2 to 2 small ones per person, For the mango-mint version, you also want to keep peeled and cut mangoes in your freezer. I now try to always have some of both in my freezer, so I can make my ice cream whenever we feel like it.

When you are ready to make your soft-serve, simply take however much banana pieces (and mango pieces if you are making the mango version) you need out of the freezer, and put them in the food processor. Now leave them to thaw slightly for about 15-25 minutes (just go and do something else in the meanwhile)! I didn't do this the first time and as a result I broke my food processor because the banana was so rock solid it made the plastic bowl of my food processor shatter into pieces! (Luckily I had a second one in the house, and the end result was so yummy that we both quickly forgot about the casualty). You still want your fruit to be frozen, just slightly less rock solid - but don't leave it out to the point you can easily put a fork through your fruit pieces.

For the matcha-mint version I add about a teaspoonful of matcha to my bananas if I make it for 2 people, and 6 large leaves of mint (which grows abundantly in our patio). This ratio works well for us, but obviously you can add to your taste.
For the mango-mint version, I use a ratio of 1:2 bananas-mangoes (so twice as much mango as I use banana pieces), with again 6 large leaves of mint for the both of us.


Mango-mint banana soft-serve with fresh mint leaves and raspberries

Switch on the food processor. First the big chunks will easily be processed into smaller bits, then slowly into a more creamy consistency. With my food processor (a cheap one from Aldi) I have to regularly stop the processor and use a spoon to bring the already creamy bits to the top and bring the still chunky parts to the bottom so the S-blade can do its work. I'm not sure if you'll need to do this with better processors, but just keep an eye on the consistency and help out if needed.

The matcha I will only add once I the bananas are processed into very small pieces, right before it starts becoming creamy - not right at the beginning as the powder will just go to the lid and stick there, and it's too precious for that. The mint I do put in in the beginning.

Once you have a really creamy soft serve, you simply scoop into bowls (and make sure you scoop out every last part of deliciousness, as it's too good to let go to waste)!

We have also been experimenting with toppings for these. Some smaller fresh mint leaves are a must for me. Raspberries, blueberries, blackberries (and really all berries) are absolutely delicious on both. I personally like my soft serves with some raw cacao nibs on top, and raw coconut shavings are also a treat. You can even put a small spoonful of maca powder on them. Hubby is crazy about cashew nuts, almonds and raisins, and he puts it on breakfast cereals and ice cream desserts alike - I haven't tried it myself as the thought of it doesn't really appeal to me, but he loves it.

I personally believe this will stay a favourite our entire lives - it's ideal for adults and kids alike, and it contains nothing but fresh fruit (and toppings are all super foods).

More experimenting is lined up in our house for the coming weeks - carob powder, cacao powder and vanilla are on the list to try out, as are frozen berries, but I'd love to hear your recipes for vegan sugar-free soft serves!


Tuesday, 9 February 2016

My own journey into living more healthily and environmentally consciously

Vaheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Vaheguru Ji Ki Fateh.

People regularly ask me if I have always been this conscious about health and well-being, and about the consequences of my actions on the environment. The answer is a definite NO when it comes to health, and a 'yes sort of' when it comes to the ecological side of things. There was never much consciousness around healthy eating or healthy living as I was growing up. Both my parents smoked when I was young and my mother still does; both drink; and both eat a pretty unhealthy diet. To be fair, my mum did try her best to get us to eat more vegetables and fruit when we were growing up, but vegetables for me were rabbit-food (I happily borrowed that phrase from my dad who would use it daily), and for nearly every meal I would substitute my portion vegetables with a second piece of meat. That lasted well into my years at university. As to healthcare, my parents blindly trusted (and still trust) their GP and the pharmaceutical industry and would insist on us taking antibiotics for a common cold. I remember having to plead for 3 years with both my parents and my GP to be allowed to see my first chiropractor for the migraines and scoliosis I was suffering from so badly! And I was already in my early twenties at that stage, but they would still not allow it. Both are still extremely reluctant about the path in life I have chosen a few years ago: that of teaching yoga, becoming a health and nutrition adviser, massage therapist, and counselor, after I initially had a very successful 10 year career in academia. On the other hand, both have always been very active when it comes to social justice (my mother was a social assistant, my father a union leader) and have always supported the Green Party. But while they do pay a lot of attention to their ecological footprints in certain ways, there is an incomprehensible lack of awareness and care in certain other ways, which absolutely baffles me.

My upbringing did plant some seeds of consciousness in the sense that I have only ever voted for the Green Party myself, I have always given dasvandh to different nature-protection organisations, and I never got a driver's license, for a large part because I don't want to pollute in that way so I consciously choose to use public transport, my bike, my own two feet, or drive together with someone.

 

One of the three bikes I have at home - I try to get other people to bike too when they visit

My own journey into more healthy and conscious living started nearly 10 years ago when I started practicing yoga, but at the start the changes were mostly around what I ate and drank. Those who knew me as a university student or pretty much up until my mid-twenties know I used to be quite the opposite of who I am know: I hardly cooked for myself, could eat the same food for weeks, drank loads of coffee, was still an avid meat eater; I used to drink alcohol, smoke, and use marijuana, although I started late with all of this (I was already 18+ and luckily didn't do any of it for more than a good few years). And because I have been suffering from migraines ever since I was 12, there was really not any time when I was not taking very heavy medication to help me deal with them, including a good few years when I was on anti-depressants and sleeping medication. On top of all of that I had hardly any awareness of all the chemicals body washes, shampoos, creams or household cleaning products. (I died my hair red since I was 14 and only switched to natural henna products in my mid-twenties, before I stopped using anything once I came into Sikhi; luckily enough I never used any make-up so my skin got saved from a lot of extra chemicals!)

The changes however started happening when I started practicing yoga. Without forcing myself in any way, the changes just happened automatically as I became more conscious of myself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I stopped smoking marijuana and tobacco and I stopped drinking. After a while I became vegetarian, and pretty much vegan straightaway too. I stopped drinking coffee or black tea and stopped using nearly any pharmaceutical medicines, only using herbs and foods as medicine, as well as Ayurvedic or homeopathic medicines and holistic treatments such as acupuncture, shiatsu, osteopathy, cranio-osteopathy, and yoga. By this time I had started coming into Sikhi as well. A few years later I started eating gluten-free. My physical body became healthier and healthier, I started looking a lot younger than I am, my skin became incredibly healthy (and this is the same person who struggled with acne since the age of 12, had a face like a crater, was a bit over-weight and was incredibly ashamed and self-conscious about her appearance throughout puberty and adolescence, pretty much until her mid-twenties). My reasons for becoming vegan were both to do with my own health and with the impact on the planet -- by the grace of Sikhi and its philosophy, compassion/love for myself and for mother earth became inseparable as that Ek, that Oneness, pervades everything.

Consciousness in the products I used for skincare came quite naturally too. I gradually started replacing store-bought shower gels with natural organic body oils which I apply before I have my cold shower. The few skincare products I would ever use (like a day cream) would usually come from health stores that only sell products not tested on animals, but up until about a year ago I could just as easily go back to buying my products for Poundland for months on end again, sinking back into that state of non-awareness of the impact of these products on my body and on the planet. I definitely never ever thought I would one day start experimenting with making any products myself!

For my cleaning products I would likewise buy Ecover products for times, and then slip back into old habits of just picking them up from the poundstore. That was until last year, when I started eradicating (nearly) all chemicals in the house -- I invested in a terrific water filtering system, I started replacing any plastic containers or objects that come into contact with food with glass or stainless steel, and I started looking into making my own alternatives for all cleaning products (see other posts on this blog).

It's still an ongoing process and there are still quite a few things I want to replace but haven't found a good solution for, but I'm already quite happy with where it has got me. And I'm incredibly happy to have just married an Indian Sikh man who shares this environmental consciousness and who does his own research into how we can live with awareness for our own health, the health of the family we hope to raise if Guru Sahib does kirpa, and the well-being of this planet. He is particularly inspired by all forms of sustainable living and is researching alternative house-building options for us, which we are both incredibly excited about. There are so many amazing alternatives out there! I'm hoping he will start contributing to this blog on that area soon himself :)

So for anyone thinking that they are too old or too much set in their habits to make changes like these, I hope that sharing my own personal journey has helped in convincing you: it doesn't matter what your lifestyle is right now, you can always start making changes towards more health for yourself and the world around you!

Vaheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Vaheguru Ji Ki Fateh

Monday, 8 February 2016

DIY washing up liquids

As food was one of the first areas I started becoming more conscious about, food containers (mainly the avoiding of any plastic coming into contact with my food) and products used to wash anything that comes into contact with my food (i.e. pots and pans, cutlery, dishes, ...) have been one of my main focus areas for switching to natural solution.

I had already switched to Ecover washing up liquids some years back (although the occasional one from Poundshop would sometimes still creep into my kitchen) but around 7 months ago I started looking into ways of making my own washing up liquid. I personally don't use a dishwasher, so I am focusing here on liquids to do your dishes the old-fashioned way: by hand, in the sink. Not having a dishwasher, having quite a small kitchen and working from home also means that I am doing dishes very regularly throughout the day to keep things tidy, so I want something that is quick and efficient.

For a while I simply used white vinegar in a sink filled with water, and I was actually quite happy with the results, apart from heavy duty cleaning. But I didn't like the smell too much, and I missed the soapiness. But for a lot of people, this might be a great thing to try-out.

I then started making liquid out of the soapnuts I already talked about here.
The liquid is quite easy to make: simply boil 50 grams of soapnuts in 1 liter of water for 25 minutes. When the liquid has cooled off, strain the soapnuts out and pour the liquid into a suitable container. This will give you about 500ml of concentrated soapnut liquid. Now pop the soapnuts back into the pan with a fresh liter of water and repeat the above steps 3 more times. You will then have 2 liters of chemical and preservative free detergent.


It does an excellent job at washing your dishes, even very dirty ones. You can also add some essential oils to your liquid (like tea tree oil or eucalyptus oil for extra disinfection and cleaning power, and for better smell). You can use this liquid for the dishwasher too (just put it in the soap dispenser), although I have heard quite a few people say that you want to use it on alternate days/cycles of your machine, as when used for a longer time in a row dishes don't always come out completely clean anymore.
The really wonderfully easy thing about this recipe is that it requires only one ingredient. If you already use soapnuts for your laundry, you don't have to buy any other ingredients, and it really serves as an all-round detergent (just some ideas here).
I used the soapnut liquid for about a month or two, but I kept looking for another solution.

And when I stumbled upon castile soap I was sold, and I haven't used anything else since. (How did I not know about the existence of this amazing product until recently?). Castile soap is actually not soap; it is a vegetable oil turned into soap. Traditionally olive oil was used, but nowadays any vegetable oil can be saponified into castile soap: hemp, coconut, sunflower, jojoba. Please be sure NOT to choose palm oil based castile soap (and avoid palm oil altogether if you care about animal welfare and our planet).
You can buy it made, or you can even choose to saponify your oils yourself at home. There are tutorials on Youtube, and it only takes a few minutes apparently. I haven't tried it myself yet, I buy my castile soap ready made, but might do this in the future to save on more packaging. You can find castile soap in health stores or online.

Lavender Pure-Castile Liquid Soap - 32 oz.Dr. Bonner is the most well-known brand. They mostly use a hemp oil as base (as well as an almond oil base) and they sell an unscented as well as different scented versions; plus they do the liquid as well as soap bars. I now buy a 5 liter one from BiOrigins, based on organic coconut and sunflower oil, and am very pleased with that one.

I use castile soap for a whole range of products now on which I'll blog later, but my recipe for washing up liquid is as follows: I simply mix my castile soap in a 1:1 ratio to water (if you use distilled water, the mix will last longer). And for a large bottle (which I keep reusing) I then add around 20-25 drops of almond oil, 5-10 drops of vitamin E oil (good for your hands, plus it is also a natural preservative), 15 drops of tea trea oil for extra disinfection, and 10-15 drops each of both sweet orange and lemon essential oils for a refreshing smell. Pine obviously works well too.

Enjoy!

Vaheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Vaheguru Ji Ki Fateh




Sunday, 7 February 2016

Ecological laundry solutions

Have you ever read the ingredients of and labels on all the different washing powders and liquids out there? Like REALLY read them, and contemplated their effect on you, your family and the environment? Traces of all these chemicals will enter your skin, and thus your bloodstream through wearing the clothes. All of these chemicals enter our ecosystem through the water pumped out of your washing machine. Not to mention all the plastic packaging that you assemble over a year!

(Our use of plastic packaging deserves a whole post on its own, at some point - but please, start doing some research for yourself if you are not aware yet about the detrimental effects on our entire ecosystem and our own health, and try and eliminate as much plastic from your homes and lives as possible. Replace with glass, stainless steel, reusable packaging, etc. Making your own products will greatly help in reducing your plastic footprint.)

So what are good ecological and make-it-yourself alternatives?

If you don't fancy making your own laundry products, there are some really good ecological alternatives out there which save you TONS of money as well.

Last year I purchased an ECOEGG (http://www.ecoegg.com/product/laundry-egg/).

      

It is a natural detergent without any harsh chemicals, super easy to use, skin-friendly (also for kids and babies) and one ecoegg lasts you a very long time! It's a plastic holder filled with cleaning pellets. I bought my ecoegg that lasts 210 washes for only £9.98 via buywholefoodsonline.co.uk; the one that lasts 720 washes is currently £19.99 on the official website. Just do the math, and see how much money you can save here! You just put it straight into your washing machine, for washes between 15° and 60°, and it really works well. The minus for me is the packaging of the ecoegg and the plastic the actual egg is made out of. But in the long run you still save a lot of packaging compared to other products. And the ecoegg comes with a 10 year guarantee.

More often though, I simply use organic soapnuts or soapberries (Sapindus, or also known as Reetha in India, where they have been used for centuries). A totally natural product, which is very versatile in its use: you can use it for laundry (which is what I use it for mostly) but also as a dishwashing liquid, as a shampoo and body wash, for skincare, etc. etc. AND was used in puratan times to make the patasha (sugar crystals) used in Amrit Sanchaar! (I think soapnuts might deserve a blog post in themselves too at some point...).

Image result for soapnuts

You simply put 4-6 soap nuts in a little hemp cloth bag in your washing machine, and use it for around 6 washes. When the berries are used up, their colour will have changed, and you simply take new ones.
Or if you prefer a liquid, you can boil the soapberries and strain the liquid - this is also the way to make your reetha washing up liquid. (Here are some excellent recipes for its use: http://www.crunchybetty.com/the-mother-of-all-soap-nuts-recipe-resources). The liquid does not last very long though (about 2 weeks) and you will need to keep it in your fridge. I personally prefer using the nuts in a simple cloth bag straight into my laundry machine.
The old berries can be composted - no waste whatsoever, no downsides whatsoever, and totally safe for you and for the environment. 1 kg of soapnuts can be used for up to 150 loads of laundry so it's very cheap too. This would be my number one recommendation to sangat.

For tough stains, you can simply add some soda crystals or borax to your washes, or organic bleach (Ecover does a good one - they also have a good stain remover that you can apply on your clothes before putting them into the washing machine).

Finally and if you have a bit more time, you can make your own laundry detergents from scratch. There are many recipes out there, you can google your way around. The typical ingredients are castile soap, baking soda, washing soda, borax and white vinegar. Essential oils can be added for fragrance and their qualities too. Here is just one easy to make recipe: http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/2009/04/natural-homemade-laundry-detergent/ Later this week I hope to post about other ecological make-them-yourself cleaning products, and they all pretty much use the same basic ingredients. Once you invest in these 5 basics, you're pretty much good to go!

Also do regularly clean your washing machine itself to remove any mold and mildew from the gaskets and dispensers. Vinegar can do the trick if you use it regularly. And once a month, let your machine run empty on its warmest cycle with either 1 cup of baking soda or 1 cup of bleach added directly to the wash tub. This will help keep smells out and keep your tub clean.

Vaheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Vaheguru Ji Ki Fateh

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Sikhs and environmental consciousness - intro to this new blog

Dhan Dhan Guru Har Rai Sahib ji, the 7th compassionate Light of Nanak, the 7th Guru of the Sikhs. 
Their recent Gurpurab (the day They took birth) on 1 February has been the final push to start this blog that I had been thinking about for a long time already.



Sikhs see the Light of the One (Ek) pervading through all life, and they recognise that all life is connected through the cycle of reincarnation. There are 8.4 million life forms (species) on Earth, and we all have gone through those life forms thousands, millions, billions of times. Through the gradual awakening of our consciousness we are again, in this lifetime, reminded of that intricate connection and we start honouring it in our daily life, in the choices we make, in our actions. We strive for a life of righteousness (Dharam) instead of one where we keep creating more Karma.

While the task of all Sikhs is to serve selflessly, that of Khalsa (initiated or 'Amritdhari' Sikhs) in particular is to protect and serve. Not just protect and serve other Sikhs. Not just protect and serve all humans. But protect and serve Dharam (righteousness) and that includes the whole of Creation. 'Raj Karega Khalsa' ('Khalsa will rule the world') means that this consciousness of righteousness, of truth and true living, which is the consciousness of Khalsa (the pure ones), will ultimately prevail everywhere on Earth. 

But is seems like we still have a long way ahead of us. As Sikhs we don't live ascetic lives somewhere withdrawn from the world, trying to change it from the margins. We are right in it, in the muck of it, we are trying to live like lotus flowers, feet in the mud but unaffected by that mud. Yet it is often hard to stay unaffected, to not get drawn into so many unconscious habits that are prevailing all around us. Because of the busy lives we lead, because of financial strains, because of a whole variety of reasons we sometimes end up choosing the 'easier' rather than the more conscious way. Making your own cleaning or toiletry products for example might seem daunting or impossible at first sight - while it doesn't have to be and some are made in just minutes. Choosing the foods that are right for us, for general health or for a particular condition, requires a lot of research and we might just not have time for all of that - so we end up taking medication we might not need, and which then ends up unbalancing/damaging our own health and that of our planet. And just as often we are simply not aware of the alternatives or the natural solutions out there, because nobody has ever told us!

This blog is a humble attempt to touch upon those various aspects. It's not just for Sikhs, and most posts will not speak about Sikhi. But my identity as a Sikh underlies everything I do in life. And it underlies this blog too.

Environmental consciousness is not an 'optional choice' for Sikhs, it is an integral part of our legacy and teachings. Dhan Dhan Guru Nanak Dev ji Maharaj, the first Guru of the Sikhs, already tells us in Japji Sahib:


ਪਵਣੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਪਾਣੀ ਪਿਤਾ ਮਾਤਾ ਧਰਤਿ ਮਹਤੁ ॥
Pavan Guroo Paanee Pithaa Maathaa Dhharath Mehath ||

Air is the Guru, Water is the Father, and Earth is the Great Mother of all.

We read this line every morning. Let's start living in the consciousness of it, every day a little bit more. 

May we treat Mata Dharat Mahat, our great Mother Earth, with the same kindness as was shown to us by our Guru Sahib. May that consciousness pervade our choices in what we eat and how we grow our food, in the modes of transport we use, in the choices we make as to what detergents and beauty products we might be using, in the packaging we use or don't use, etc. 

May this blog inspire others, and may those others in turn inspire their families, their communities, etc.
May it become a lighthouse.

Vaheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Vaheguru Ji Ki Fateh.