Flowers & Fire Yoga Yoga Garden – Gili Air

Author Archives: Emily

  1. Creativity, Validation, and surrendering attachment to outcomes

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    Creativity, Validation, and surrendering attachment to outcomes

    I just found out yesterday that we have been featured in Jetstar magazine’s top 15 holiday destinations for 2020.  I was supposed to have the day off under pain of papaya leaf juice. (Ania threatened me with this disgusting, but healthy concoction she loves to drink, if I even tapped one keyboard to work) so I was trying to behave. I was checking my non work email and I saw a Face book notification that some people had commented on a post that had been posted to the Flowers and Fire page.  These comments were congratulatory. I couldn’t think of any thing due to be posted that warranted this, so curiosity got the better of me and I followed the link to the page! At first I thought the article was a general feature on the Gilis but when I looked closely I saw that they had specifically named us along with 2 other businesses (including David Hasselhof’s new venture Bask ha ha) under their Lombok section, which as a region was listed as one of their top 15 destinations. I was so excited I felt butterflies and a kind of hyper semi panic!!

    I can’t quite understand why but I am so stoked to find this out! Maybe because I am Australian and this is our airline? Maybe because I always read these type of articles when I am flying (they kind of have a captive market there) and I have fantasized about how wonderful the recommended places look and how I can fit them into my itinerary. To think that now someone might be doing the same thing on their next flight and will find out about us up in the skies makes me feel like we have made it! I feel really honored, but also if I’m honest, surprised. I’m not sure how we got on their radar, but I’m incredibly grateful that we have. This is such great exposure and while I believe that it’s important to create for the sake of creating, not for validation, I do feel really validated by this. I also feel it validates the process of creative risk taking and not knowing the rules!

    When I started this business, I lacked business, construction and space design experience. I was scared a lot of the time and didn’t have a plan beyond the intention to just keep creating moment to moment and let fate look after the rest. My intention was to show up every day with all my presence but surrender attachment to outcome, otherwise I would feel too much anxiety and pressure to move forward. To have the business recognized so early in the piece by such an established player in the tourism industry, as one of only 3 tourist destinations mentioned in the whole of Lombok/ Bali region is so beyond anything I could have expected and makes me a little teary when I think about it.

    To create is to take risks. It is to make a bet on your impulses. Sometimes these risks pay off and sometimes they don’t but by surrendering attachment to outcome you can create a less risk averse psychological space. So surrendering attachment to the fruits of actions is powerful, but it still is lovely to receive validation when the risks do pay off. It validates a process, which I sometimes question as it is opposite to the way I was taught about project management in art and design school. It also was useful as it told me an opposite story to the undertow of some of the less constructive voices in my head. When I got this news I was going through a dark night of the soul moment. Questioning the viability of the business, where it was heading, feeling really tired in this process of constant creation and feeling very unanchored. These are normal business blues but there are times when fear and doubt are stronger then others and this was one of them. At this point in the process I really needed this nod from spirit, saying keep going.

    This nod also validates the hard work of everyone who has co created the business with me and their faith and willingness to take a punt and support the adventure of betting on creative risks. It recognizes the fact that even though there were many times we felt lost and weren’t sure of what we were doing, what is more important is that we had faith, we showed up and we worked hard. This proves to me, and this is where I get excited, that anyone in a creative process with no real sense of how they are going to ‘pull this off’, and a lot of doubt and fear are not frauds who have no right to engage in the process!! This uncertainty which maybe even carries an undercurrent of unworthiness, is not a failing, in fact is normal and in no way indicates the outcome. Please believe me, that if this is you, from my experience you don’t need to know it all in advance! You can work it out. Just keep going, keep showing up and know that fear is a liar. That is all you need to do.


    Photo by @captured.by.nicole

  2. Not on our watch.

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    As 2020 kicks off my heart goes out to all Australians affected by the current bushfire crisis destroying homes and lives across the country. As an Australian who has experienced so many wonderful times in the bush on the N.S.W South Coast, now a massive inferno, how can it be anywhere else. My news feed is full of terrible and devastating stories in places I know and love well and I can barely believe what I am seeing. My heart is breaking when I think of all of those beautiful innocent and voiceless animals and people trying to protect their homes and lives. I don’t want to switch up my feed focus though, because this IS happening, this is not #fakenews and I want acknowledge this. In this post-facts era, where our idiot heads of state are peddling delusion, I want to stay awake. I want to stand witness for all those who have been affected by greed fueled lunatic policies. The time of heads in sand is long past.

    I know what it is like to be in a natural disaster zone, to have all the order around you turn on its head. I also know what it is like to lose a home and all material possessions in a fire. It is scary, and completely surreal and the support and acknowledgement of people around is tremendously powerful. So even though I am far from home I won’t turn my head here. It’s blazingly obvious that we are facing a weather and climate change related crisis on an unprecedented scale and things will only get worse. Preparing for a time of massive un-ravelling is probably necessary though of course I pray that technology and the enforcement of saner policies will see us through.

    I also want to acknowledge those who have already experienced such apocalyptic crisis’ that we collectively fear. I met many of these people when I was running sewing projects in the camps in Greece. Mostly Syrian and Iraqi families, fleeing from their own Nation’s apocalypse. A friend recently relayed to me that they had heard an Indigenous Australian elder during a symposium about this upcoming climate crisis, essentially saying that indigenous Australians have already lived through multiple apocalypses so when things start really unraveling they can offer some solid council. This is a truth sadly echoed by nearly all indigenous cultures, still surviving today. I’m sure they have a lot of wisdom forged from their resilience that we could learn a bunch from.

    What gives me hope, as it did when I sat in sewing groups with some inspiring young girls and women in Greece, who had just survived the annihilation of their home towns, is that hope and love can still survive all this. The love of those holding space and holding out a hand to those who have lost all and the love, hope and strength of those who have survived. As these events driven by climate change and shifting weather patterns increase, and its quite certain that they will, I hope we can hold these humanitarian values of love and compassion that bind us to each other, and hold our politicians and the corporations they protect, accountable to these values too.

    My love and my heart goes out to all those suffering through the fires now and those people around the world already surviving their own versions of an apocalypse. My contribution is to maintain my commitment to creating beautiful, ethical, sustainable, heart centered spaces that defy the rhetoric of fear, prejudice and separation for as long as is possible. I know the problem is extremely complex and this post a little intense, naïve, depressing and possibly futile, but I feel that 2020 is the year when we are forced to pull our heads out the sand, wake up to the reality of what is unfolding and start taking action to uphold and protect the spaces and values that should never be left to the sociopathically merciless agents of chaos and greed fueled destruction. Please, not on our watch.

    Many overseas friends have asked me where they can donate. Here is a sampling of some organisations doing great work that have come to my attention. There are many more out there if you get online and google search ‘how can I donate to Aussie bushfire crisis’.





    Animal Rescue Collective (ARC) (facebook group)

  3. Christmas ghost stories: Dark Christmas by Jeanette Winterson

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    We had borrowed the house from a friend none of us seemed to know.

    Highfallen House stood on an eminence overlooking the sea. It was a square Victorian gentleman’s residence. The large bay windows looked down through the pines towards the shore. Six stone steps led the visitor up to the double front door where a gothic bell-pull released a loud mournful clang deep into the distances of the house.

    Laurel lined the drive. The stable block was disused. The walled garden had been locked up in 1914 when the gardeners went to war. Only one had returned. I had been warned that the high brick wall enclosing the garden was unsafe. As I passed it slowly in the car, I saw a faded notice falling off the paint-peeled door. DO NOT ENTER.

    I was the first to arrive. My friends were following by train and I was to collect them the next day and then we would settle down to Christmas.

    I had driven from Bristol and I was tired. There was a Christmas tree roped on the top of my 4×4 and a trunk-load of provisions. We were not near any town. But the housekeeper had left stacked wood to build a fire and I had brought a shepherd’s pie and a bottle of rioja for my first night.

    The kitchen was cheerful enough once I had got the fire going and the radio playing while I unpacked our festive supplies. I checked my phone – no signal. Still, I knew the time of the train tomorrow and it was a relief to feel that the world had gone away. I put my food in the oven to heat up, poured a glass of wine, and went upstairs to find myself a bedroom.

    The first landing had three bedrooms leading off it. Each had a moth-eaten rug, a metal bed and a mahogany chest of drawers. At the far end of the landing was a second set of stairs up to the attic floor.

    I am not romantic about maids’ rooms or nurseries, and there was something about that second set of stairs that made me hesitate. The landing was bright in the sudden way of late sun on a winter’s afternoon. Yet the light ended abruptly at the foot of the stairs as though it couldn’t go any farther. I didn’t want to be near that set of stairs, so I chose the room at the front of the house.

    As I went to bring up my bag, the house bell started to ring, its jerky metallic hammers sounding somewhere in the guts of the house. I was surprised but not alarmed. I expected the housekeeper. I opened the door. There was no one there. I went down the steps and looked round. I admit I was frightened. The night was clear and soundless. There was no car in the distance. No footsteps walking away. Determined to conquer my fear, I walked round a little. Then, turning back to the house, I saw it; the bell wire ran along the side of the house under a sheltering gutter. Perhaps 30 or 40 bats were dangling upside down on the vibrating wire. The same number swooped and swerved in a dark mass. Obviously their movement on the wire had set off the bell. I like bats. Clever bats. Good. Now supper.

    I ate. I drank. I wondered why love is so hard and life is so short. I went to bed. The room was warmer now and I was ready to sleep. The sound of the sea ebbed into the flow of my dreams.

    I woke from a dead sleep in dead darkness to hear… what? What can I hear? It sounded like a ball bearing or a marble rolling on the bare floor above my head. It rolled hard on hard then hit the wall. Then it rolled again in the other direction. This might not have mattered except that the other direction was upwards. Things can come loose and roll downwards, but they cannot come loose and roll up. Unless someone…

    That thought was so unwelcome that I dismissed it along with the law of gravity. Whatever was rolling over my head must be a natural dislodging. The house was draughty and unused. The attics were under the eaves where any kind of weather might get in. Weather or an animal. Remember the bats. I pulled the covers up to my eyebrows and pretended not to listen.

    There it was again: hard on hard on hit on pause on roll.

    I waited for sleep, waiting for daylight.

    We are lucky, even the worst of us, because daylight comes.

    It was a brooding day that 21st of December. The shortest day of the year. Coffee, coat on, car keys. Shouldn’t I just check the attic?

    The second set of stairs was narrow – a servants’ staircase. It led to a lath and plaster corridor barely a shoulder-width wide. I started coughing. Breathing was difficult. Damp had dropped the plaster in thick, crumbling heaps on the floorboards. As below, there were three doors. Two were closed. The door to the room above my room was ajar. I made myself go forward.

    The room was under the eaves as I had guessed. The floor was rough. There was no bed, only a washstand and a clothes rail.

    What surprised me was the nativity scene in the corner.

    Standing about two feet tall, it was more like a doll’s house than a Christmas decoration. Inside the open-fronted stable stood the animals, the shepherds, the crib, Joseph. Above the roof, on a bit of wire, was a battered star. It was old, handmade in a workmanlike but not craftsmanlike sort of way, the painted wood now rubbed and faded like pigments of time.

    I thought I would carry it downstairs and put it by our Christmas tree. It must have been made for the children when there were children here. I stuffed my pockets with the figures and animals, and left quickly, leaving the door open. I had to set off for the station. Stephen and Susie could help me with the rest later.

    As soon as I was out of the house, my lungs felt clear again. It must be the plaster dust.


    The drive to the station was along the coast road. Lonely and unyielding, the road turned in a series of blind bends and tight corners. I met no one and I saw no one. Gulls circled over the sea.

    The station itself was a simple shelter on a long single track. There were no information boards. I checked my phone. No signal.

    At last the train appeared distantly down the track. I was excited. Memories of visiting my father as a child when he was stationed at his RAF base give me a rush of pleasure whenever I travel by train or come to meet one.

    The train slowed and halted. The guard stood down for a moment. I watched the doors – it wasn’t a big train, this branch line train – but none of the doors opened. I waved at the guard who came over.

    “I am meeting my friends.”

    He shook his head. “Train’s empty. Next stop is the end of the line.”

    I was confused. Had they got off at the earlier stop? I described them. The guard shook his head again. “I notice strangers. They would have boarded at Carlisle, asked me where to get off – always do.”

    “Is there another train before tomorrow?’

    “One a day and that’s your lot, and more than anybody needs in a place like this. Where are you staying?”

    “Highfallen House. Do you know it?”

    “Oh aye. We all know it.” He looked as if he were about to say something else. Instead, he blew his whistle. The empty train pulled away, leaving me staring down the long track watching the red light like a warning.

    I needed to get a signal on my phone.

    I drove on past the station, following the steep hill, hoping some height would connect me to the rest of the world. At the top of the hill I stopped the car and got out, pulling up the collar of my coat. The first snow hit my face with insect insistence. Sharp and spiteful, like little bites.

    I looked out across the whitening bay. That must be Highfallen House. But what’s that? Two figures walking on the beach. Is it Stephen and Susie? Had they driven here after all? Then, as I strained my eyes against the deceit of distance, I realised that the second figure was much smaller than the first. They were walking purposefully towards the house.

    When I arrived back, it was nearly dark.

    I put on the lights, blew the fire into a blaze. There was no sign of the mysterious couple I had seen from the hill. Perhaps it had been the housekeeper and her daughter come to make sure that everything was all right. I had a telephone number for Mrs Wormwood, but without a signal I could not call her.


    The snow was thickening in windy swirls. Relax. Have a whisky.

    I leaned on the warm kitchen range with my whisky in my hand. The wooden figures I had brought down from the attic were lying on the kitchen table. I should go up and get the stable.

    I don’t want to.

    I bounded up the first set of stairs using energy to force out unease. At my bedroom I put on the light. That felt better. The second set of stairs stood in shadow at the end of the long landing. I felt that constriction in my lungs again. Why am I holding on to the handrail like an old man?

    I could see that the only light to the attic was at the top of the stairs. I found the round brown Bakelite switch. I flicked down the nipple. A single bulb lit up reluctantly. The room was straight ahead. The door was closed. Hadn’t I left it open?

    I turned the handle and stood in the doorway, the room dimly lit by the light from the stairs. Washstand. Nativity. Clothes rail. On the clothes rail was a child’s dress. I hadn’t noticed that before. I suppose I had been in a hurry. Pushing aside my misgivings, I went in purposefully and bent down to pick up the wooden nativity. It was heavy and I had just got it secure in my arms when the light on the landing went out.

    Hello? Who’s there?

    There’s someone breathing like they can barely breathe. Not faint. Struggling for breath. I mustn’t turn round, because whoever or whatever it is, is behind me.

    I stood still for a minute, steadying my nerve. Then I shuffled forward towards the edge of light coming up from downstairs. At the doorway I heard a step behind me, lost my balance and put out a hand to steady myself. My hand gripped something wet. The clothes rail. It must be the dress.

    My heart was over-beating. Don’t panic. Bakelite. Bad wiring. Strange house. Darkness. Aloneness.

    But you’re not alone, are you?

    Back in the kitchen with whisky, Radio 4 and pasta boiling, I examined the dress. It was for a small child and it was hand-knitted. The wool was smelly and sopping. I washed it out and left it hanging over the sink to drip. I guessed there must be a hole in the roof and the dress had been soaking up the rain for a long time.

    I ate my supper, tried to read, told myself it had been nothing, nothing at all. It was only 8pm. I didn’t want to go to bed, though the snow outside was like a quilt.


    I decided to arrange the nativity. Donkey, sheep, camels, wise men, shepherds, star, Joseph. The crib was there, but it was empty. There was no Christ child. And there was no Mary. Had I dropped them in the dark room? I hadn’t heard anything fall and these wooden figures were six inches tall.

    Joseph was wearing a woollen tunic, but his wooden legs had painted puttees. I pulled off the tunic. Underneath, wooden Joseph wore a painted uniform. First world war.

    When I turned him round, I saw there was a gash in his back like a stab wound.

    My phone beeped.

    I dropped Joseph, grabbed the phone. It was a text message from Susie. TRYING 2 CALL U. LEAVE 2MORO.

    I pressed CALL. Nothing. I tried to send a text. Nothing. But what did it matter? Suddenly I felt relief and calm. They had been delayed, that was all. Tomorrow they would be here.

    I sat down again with the nativity. Perhaps the missing figures were inside. I put in my hand. My fingers closed round a metal object. It was a small iron key with a hoop top. Maybe it was the key to the attic door.

    Outside, snow had fallen snow on snow. The sky had cleared. The moon sped above the sea.

    I had gone to bed and I was deep asleep when I heard it clearly. Above me. Footsteps. Pacing. Down the room. Hesitate. Turn. Return.

    I lay in bed, eyes staring blindly at the blind ceiling. Why do we open our eyes when we can’t see anything? And what was there to see? I don’t believe in ghosts.

    I wanted to put on the light, but what if the light didn’t come on? Why would it be worse to be in darkness I had not chosen than darkness I was choosing? But it would be worse. I sat up in bed and pulled back the curtain a little. The moon had been so bright tonight, surely there would be light?

    There was light. Outside the house, hand in hand, stood the still and silent figures of a mother and child.

    I did not sleep again till daylight, and when I slept and woke again, it was almost midday and already the light was lowering.

    Hurrying to get coffee, I saw that the dress was gone. I had left it dripping over the sink and it was gone. Get out of the house.

    I set off for the station. There was an air frost that had coated the trees in glittering white. It was beautiful and deathly. The world held in ice.


    On the road there were no car tracks. No noise but the roar and drop of the sea.

    I moved slowly and saw no one. In the white, unmoving landscape, I wondered if there was anyone else left alive?

    At the station, I waited. I waited some time past the time until the train whistled on the track. The train stopped. The guard got down and saw me. He shook his head. “There’s no one,” he said. “No one at all.”

    I thought I would cry. I took out my mute phone. I flashed up the message. TRYING TO CALL U. LEAVE 2MORO.

    The guard looked at it. “Happen it’s you who should be leaving,” he said. “There’s no more trains past Carlisle now till the 27th. Tomorrow was the last and that’s been cancelled. Weather.”

    I wrote down a number and gave it to the guard. “Will you phone my friends and tell them I am on my way home?”

    On the slow journey back to Highfallen House, I filled my mind with my departure. It would be slow and dangerous to travel at night, but I could not consider another night alone. Or not alone.

    All I had to do was manage 40 miles to Inchbarn. There was a pub and a guesthouse and remote but normal life.

    The text message kept playing in my head. Had it really meant that I should leave? And why? Because Susie and Stephen couldn’t come? Weather? Illness? It’s all a guessing game. The fact is, I have to go.

    The house seemed subdued when I returned. I had left the lights on and I went straight upstairs to pack my bag. At once I saw that the light to the attic was on. I paused. Breathed. Of course it’s on. I never switched it off. That proves it’s a wiring fault. I must tell the housekeeper.

    My bag packed, I threw the food into a box and put everything back in the car. I had the whisky in the front, a blanket I stole from the bed, and I made a hot-water bottle, just in case.

    It was only five o’clock. At worst I’d be in Inchbarn by 9pm.

    I got in the car and turned the key. The radio came on for a second, died, and as the ignition clicked and clicked, I knew that the battery was flat. Two hours ago at the station, the car had started first time. Even if I had left the lights on… But I hadn’t left the lights on. A cold panic hit me. I took a swig of the whisky. I couldn’t sleep in the car all night. I would die.

    I don’t want to die.

    Back in the house, I wondered what I was going to do all night. I must not fall asleep. I had noticed some old books and volumes when I had explored downstairs yesterday – assorted dusty adventure stories and tales of empire. As I sorted through them, I came across a faded velvet photograph album. In the cold, deserted sitting room, I began to discover the past.


    Highfallen House 1910. The women in long skirts with miraculous waists. The men in shooting tweeds. The stable boys in waistcoats, the gardening boys wearing flat caps. The maids in starched aprons. And here they are again in their Sunday best: a wedding photograph. Joseph and Mary Lock. 1912. He was a gardener. She was a maid. In the back of the album, loose and unsorted, were further photographs and newspaper cuttings. 1914. The men in uniform. There was Joseph.

    I took the album back into the kitchen and put it next to my wooden solider. I had on my coat and scarf. I propped myself up in two chairs by the wood-fired range and dozed and waited and waited and dozed.

    It was perhaps two o’clock when I heard a child crying. Not a child who has scraped his knee, or lost a toy, but an abandoned child. A child whose own voice is his last hold on life. A child who cries and knows that no one will come.

    The sound was not above me – it was above the above me. I knew where it was coming from.

    I put my hands over my ears and my head between my knees. I could not shut out the sound; a locked-up child, a hungry child, a child who is cold and wet and frightened.

    Twice I got up and went to the door. Twice I sat down again.

    The crying stopped. Silence. A dreadful silence.

    I raised my head. Footsteps were coming down the stairs. Not one foot in front of the other, but one foot dragging slightly, then the other joining it, steadying, stepping again.

    At the bottom of the stairs, the footsteps paused. Then they did what I knew they would do with all the terror in my body. The footsteps came towards the kitchen door. Whatever was out there was standing 12 feet away on the other side of the door. I stood behind the table and picked up a knife.

    The door swung open with violent force that rammed the brass doorknob into the plaster of the wall. Wind and snow blew into the kitchen, whirling up the photographs and cuttings on the table. I saw that the front door itself was wide open, the entrance hall like a wind tunnel.

    Holding the knife, I went forward into the hall to shut the door. The pendant metal lantern that hung from the ceiling was swinging wildly on its long chain. A sudden gust lurched it forward like a child’s swing pushed too high. It fell back at force against the large semi-circular fanlight over the front door. The fanlight shattered and fell round my shoulders in shards of sharp rain. Flicker. Buzz. Darkness. The house lights were out. No wind now. No cries. Silence again.

    Glass-hit in the snow-lit hall, I walked out of the front door and into the night. At the drive, I turned left and I saw them: the mother and child.

    The child was wearing the woollen dress. She had no shoes. She held up her arms piteously to her mother, who stood like stone.

    I ran forward. I grabbed the child in my arms.

    There was no child. I had fallen face down in the snow.

    Help me. That’s not my voice.

    I’m on my feet again. The mother is ahead of me. I follow her. She’s going towards the walled garden. She seems to pass through the door, leaving me on the other side.


    I tried the rusty hoop handle. It broke off, taking a piece of door with it. I kicked the door open. It fell off its hinges. The ruined and abandoned garden lay before me. A walled garden of one acre used to feed 20 people. But that was a long time ago.

    There were footprints in the snow. I followed them. They led me to the bothy, its roof patched with corrugated iron. There was no door, but the inside seemed dry and sound. There was a tear-off calendar still on the wall: 22 December 1916.

    I put my hand in my pocket and I realised that the key from the nativity was there. At the same time, I heard a chair scrape on the floor in the room beyond. I had no fear any more. As the body first shivers and then numbs with cold, my feelings were frozen. I was moving through shadows as one who dreams.

    In the room beyond there was a low fire lit in the tiny tin fireplace. On either side of the fire sat the mother and child. The child was absorbed playing with a marble. Her bare feet were blue, but she did not seem to feel the cold any more than I did.

    Are we dead then?

    The woman with the shawl over her head looked at me with deep expressionless eyes. I recognised her. It was Mary Lock. She nodded at me, or at not me, at some other me in some other time, I do not know. Her gaze went to a tall cupboard. I knew that my key fitted this cupboard and that I must open it. I did so.

    A dusty uniform fell out, crumpling like a puppet. The uniform was not quite empty of its occupant. The back of the faded wool jacket had a long slash where the lungs would have been.

    I looked at the knife in my hand.

    “Open the door! Are you in there? Open the door!”

    I woke to blinding white. Where am I? Something’s rocking. It’s the car. I am in my car. A heavy glove was brushing off the snow. I sat up, found my keys, pressed the unlock button. It was morning. Outside was the guard from the train and a woman who announced herself as Mrs Wormwood.

    “Fine mess you’ve made here,” she said.

    We went into the kitchen. I was shivering so much that Mrs Wormwood relented and began to make coffee.

    “Alfie fetched me,” she said, “after he spoke to your friends.”

    “There’s a body,” I said. “In the walled garden.”

    “Is that where it is?” said Mrs Wormwood.

    At Christmas 1914, Joseph Lock had gone to war. Before he left for Flanders, he had made a nativity scene for his little girl. When he came back in 1916, he had been gassed. They heard him, climbing the stairs, gasping for breath through froth-corrupted lungs.

    His mind had gone, they said. At night in the attic where he slept with his wife and child, he leaned vacantly against the wall, rolling the child’s marbles up and down, down and up, pacing, pacing, pacing. One night, just before Christmas, he strangled his wife and daughter. He left them for dead in the bed and went out. But his wife was not dead. She followed him. In the morning, they found her sitting by the nativity, her dress dark with blood, his fingermarks livid at her throat. She was singing a lullaby and pushing the point of the knife into the back of the wooden figure. Joseph was never found.

    “Are you going to call the police?” I said.

    “What for?” said Mrs Wormwood. “Let the dead bury the dead.”

    Alfie the guard went out to see to my car. It started first time, the exhaust blue in the white air. I left them clearing up and was about to set off when I remembered I had left my radio in the kitchen. I went back inside. The kitchen was empty. I could hear the two of them up in the attic. I picked up the radio. The nativity was on the table as I had left it.

    But it wasn’t as I had left it.

    Joseph was there and the animals and the shepherds and the worn-out star. And in the centre was the crib. Next to the crib were the wooden figures of a mother and child.

    (taken from http://www.jeanettewinterson.com/christmas-story-dark-christmas/)

  4. Returning to our Roots

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    Christmas is an emotionally ‘interesting’ time for me and I’m sure for many other people too. I have very nostalgic associations that are often disappointed on the day so it can have a quality of sadness to it. This sadness can be about a lot of things but often it feels like it is about time passing. About the naïve childlike state that once so starry eyed believed in the magic of Christmas and since has been disillusioned. The disillusionment that there is no world, full of enchantment where kindly old men climb down chimneys and bring presents to all the children (OK this does seem a little creepy now!!!).

    Christmas is a nostalgic passage marker, bringing to mind not just the passing of internal states of innocence now gone, but the memories of loved ones who once were with us and are no more, and the ideals of family that perhaps were never true for us. 

    My mum often used to cry at Christmas as it brought up for her so powerfully the ghosts of family, across the seas no longer with her. Coming from an American/Serbian background, her Christmas was a time of cooking and gossiping, incredible traditional foods coming out of the kitchen and boisterous family togetherness, warm, loud, love, fights and all  (Serbians are very loud and firey). Her efforts to try and recreate this richness for us kids and our extended community in a more toned down, emotionally flat country (Australia) was heroic and also painful. Now with her children grown and moved to foreign lands and Christmas day an intimate affair, there is grief for those long gone times. 

    I feel haunted at Christmas too, this year especially, being so far from my family and traditional community. While I love my life here on Gili Air and the new community ties created at the centre, I have noticed a sense of sadness and a craving for that which is enduringly familiar. No matter where I am or where I am not though, I noticed this seems to be the nature of the season- a sense of longing for something that no longer is there, or maybe a dream that was never there. So I wanted to honour that a little in this post.

    Interestingly enough, Christmas was traditionally a time of telling ghost stories. It rivalled Halloween’s summoning of those long departed, back to the world of the present. A Northern Hemisphere winter holiday, it occurred during the solstice when the day was shortest and the night longest. People would gather and tell ghost stories around the fireplace, Dicken’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ one of the most famous. It was a time to honour the dead and cherish the living with gifts. In the dead of winter we most appreciate the gifts of connection, warmth and light. Tales of the ghostly dead ignite gratitude for the warm fire in front of us, the warm hand holding ours, and the warm bed we will soon take rest in. 

    Going back to its origins as winter solstice festival, this season marked the moment when the old cycle made space for the new, when the dark would turn back to the light. The longest night promises to stop growing, instead pledging space to the quickening day, auguring the rebirth of warmth and fullness. When Christians grafted Christ’s birth onto this holy festival, the essential archetypal story was a similar one. A new life was born in the darkest of times. A new light, bringing the gift of hope and salvation for us humans fumbling in the dark. Gifts were given to honour this light of Christ consciousness by wise men following the night’s brightest star.

    Resurrecting this idea of gift giving outside the commercial overlays that have obscured its essence can be a nice way of trying to restore some meaning to this ‘interesting’ and emotionally charged time of year. For me, Christmas offers the gift of remembering so I love its association with tale telling. Under the nostalgia, under the pained memories of loved ones gone, or innocence disenchanted, is a sense of such sweetness. This energy that is longed for can be reclaimed by re-feeling those past times and reprioritising the values that their memory brings. Isn’t this the moral of all those smaltzy Christmas cinematic weepies? Suddenly many stresses fall away and the importance of love, connection, family (whether it’s the one you were born into or selected later in life), sweet, wide-eyed, innocent, hopeful open heartedness is remembered and re-valued. These don’t have to be qualities lost and now mourned. Like ghosts re-visiting us from the grave, these can be reclaimed. 

    We further reclaim these qualities through gifting them to others. Maybe calling your mum and telling her how much you love her, maybe taking a dear friend to a smatlzy movie and squeezing their hand as you pass the tissues, maybe bringing some treats and kind words to someone who has less then you this year, maybe someone who never knew the potential for magic in the season. The internal welling up of warmth that heartfelt gifting brings, can resurrect that lost energy you mourn. Embody what you want to receive and then you already have it because it is in you.

    I woud like to honour the gift of my melancholic memories, of familial richness created by loved ones, now gone or far away, by recreating the magic these remembrances crave. At Flowers and Fire we will mark the day with a special Christmas circle to honour the ghosts of Christmas past through inviting participants to share a ghost story or the sweet memories that haunt them. We will feast together on a Vegetarian Christmas lunch followed by heart warming and spooky Christmas movies all afternoon (with lots of tissues). If any of you are in the region I invite you to join. But even more, I invite you to gift yourself to fill the empty space that Christmas can activate, by being whatever it is that you are longing for. Be kindness, be magic, be love as your gift to those around you, and then maybe that energy will transcend its ghostly form, and be gifted back to you.

    Photo by @saraheaven_

  5. The Divine Feminine and Creative Manifestion

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    I’ve been musing a lot on the creative process having come out of a rather wild and wooly creative marathon in the conceptualizing, building, opening and directing of Flowers and Fire, now a beautiful and bustling yoga retreat centre on the paradise island Gili Air. It was such a surreal and surprising journey that expanded me way beyond the limits of what my self concept and beliefs said was possible. I had no personal precent for what I was doing with zero experience in construction, business, attracting finances let alone doing this all in a foreign country. I also didn’t have the funds for the entire venture or experience or knowledge about how to attract them. With no credit rating, or even a credit card no bank was going to back this with a loan. Yikes!

    I wasn’t particularly inspired by the density of business as I understood it conventionally, so I made a radical decision quite early on that if I was going to commit to creating this, I would do it in a heartfelt way, true to my values and processes in all aspects; financially, conceptually, materially, and in terms of management and operations. These methods of creating and bringing idea seeds into phenomena were informed by Divine Feminine principles of creativity, taught to me by many teachers, most specifically through the approaches of my mother, Chardi Christian. The common thread was that rather then force and direct outcomes, ‘making things happen’ there needs to be a sense of surrendering to, and trusting a process of mystery unravelling. There was so much I didn’t know when I started, but as the process, urged, tugged dragged and carried me along, I learnt A LOT. What amazed me was that these seemingly mystical processes were incredibly effective in yielding tangible, effective, unbelievable outcomes. So I would like to share some of my musings on these approaches. 

    These processes, in my experience are not always easeful and serene. I sometime compare my experience to seeing a very demure and tame little pony in a little field and hopping on its back for a little stroll about. Suddenly the horse bolts and I’m hanging on for dear life, responsively figuring out, moment to moment, what I need to do to stay on its back. And then suddenly the horse arrives and stops. I am let off in a new field. It is expansive, enchanted and magical beyond anything I could dream of! I have been taken home.

    According to Tantric philosophies, Shakti, the feminine aspect of god, is conceived to be the dynamic force that energizes the emergence of all phenomena in the existential world. Shakti delights in creativity and the play of form. She whirls out of the absolute, enduring, timeless field of consciousness, Shiva (the masculine aspect of god), dancing it in and out of different structures and temporary creations; atoms, stars, planets, life, us.

    In Shaiva Tantra, a non-dual Tantric tradition, Shakti is associated with Spanda, the energetic blue print that makes up reality. Spanda is a quivering pulse of energy that moves out then returns; radiating from centre then back again like the beating of a heart, or a vibrating wave, in and out, up and down. This energetic pattern, this pulse, this vibration, is seen to be at the heart of all phenomena. It is the mechanism of Shakti gathering up the fabric of reality to create manifest form at different densities. This concept is very similar to modern scientific paradigms that attribute the formation of all phenomena in the universe, including dense structures like matter, to energy waves vibrating at various frequencies. E= MC squared, basically says that all matter is just pulsing energy, which was locked into dense structures a few seconds after the big bang. “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” Nikola Tesla.

    Ancient sages from the lineage of Shaiva Tantra, say that the emotional flavor of these vibrating frequencies of conscious energy is bliss and so the Universe is inherently ecstatic. If we can unravel the temporal form of stuff, the fiber at the heart of it, is a pulse of love. ‘Spanda is the pulsation of the ecstasy of Divine Consciousness’ Abhinavagupta 

    The recognition that Shakti is at the heart of all, that we are just blissfully pulsing packets of Spanda, allows for a more inclusive attitude to our minds, to ourselves, to creating and to living in this life. Nothing is unsacred at some level and everything is created through consciousness. Everything can be used as path back to the arms of the Divine. Every arising in your field of awareness, in your life, can ultimately be unwound back to this pulse of bliss. ‘Satchitananada’ is a Sanskrit term that states this-Sat ultimate reality/truth of Chit consciousness is Ananda Bliss.

    When we work with Divine Feminine processes, we learn to recognize and honor the different aspects of Shakti energy so we can alchemize them into fuel for our creativity. When there is rage we learn how to lean in-maybe Kali, the Shakti of destruction, revolution and devouring time, is in the house, providing the wild courage of anger to clear situations obstructing us from truth. When there is grief we learn to drink deeply until we can taste the flavor note of sweet tenderness, returning us home to our quivering, loving hearts. When there is material anxiety we humble ourselves to the ever-shifting fates and surrender this groundlessness to Lakshmi, the Shakti of beauty, abundance and manifest fertility. We beseech her to fertilize our inner and outer fields with abundant new bloomings. All of the different emotional and experiential flavors, the ones we habitually preference and the ones that we like to discard, are useful path and wonderful creative fuel, but its important to learn how to imbibe them, taste them and then… to use them.

    We will be exploring these processes of working with different aspects of the Divine Feminine for inspiration and creative manifestation in an upcoming ‘Retrieving the Divine Feminine’ retreat. We will play with ways we can bring idea seeds and dreamings into reality, which require us to let go of the reigns a little and surrender to a more receptive stance. These approaches apply principles of magnetism and emergence, rather then active principles where we impose the will of our minds to drive a situation into the form we desire. 

    While we may have a pretty clear idea of what it is we most want to magnetize into our life, how many times have you gotten what you most desire only to feel; empty soon after? Or are already desiring the next thing, relationship, or circumstance?

    If you choose to accept the Tantric worldview that sees us as a microcosmic drop emerging out of the ocean of consciousness that is all reality, then ultimately our heart pulses with the heart of the divine. Our conscious mind, which forms our separate sense of ‘I’ however, only offers up a limited perspective on our true nature- it is like a thin film membrane wrapped around this small drop, separating us from the vast sea of who we really are. Our deep desire to align with this state of loving bliss, to return to our true nature, is therefore filtered through the very limited lens of this aspect of mind…and our mind has some very odd ideas about what will make us happy. 

    I have found that outsourcing the job of deciding exactly want I need to the Divine intelligence which pulses through me, is often is a smarter way to go. Though my mind is a form of this intelligence, it is a limited form, flavoured by my social conditioning creating patterns of desire. Even if I intention and manifest what these desires tell me I want- I’m not always brought closer to my heart’s desire, which to be honest can be a mystery. By surrendering the grip of the mind level desires and allowing another kind of intelligence to come through, you can open to a greater wisdom and power that is more aligned to the essence of who you are. 

    When I applied these principles to create Flowers and Fire, what ultimately emerged was so much more magnificent then anything I could have let myself believe was possible. My mind and its densities and my limited self concept was more representative of collective social constructs forming conditioned capacities and beliefs. Undercutting my mind therefore guaranteed a much more satisfying result and surprising alignment with my heart’s desires! While my rational mind still cannot quite comprehend how anything will work out of I don’t drive it forward through the mechanism of pre-planning and knowing all, I know experientially that ‘mystery unraveling’ is a much more effective vehicle for manifestation.

    My inspirational mum, Chardi Christian, an artist, story teller and teacher, has been running women’s creativity groups, teaching these processes of working with Divine Feminine energy since the late 1980s. Chardi works more within European cultural traditions, articulating these ideas through Western Mythic frameworks and Jungian concepts of archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. While I like to explore these teachings through a Tantric lens, essentially both traditions honor the process of creativity being one of mystery unraveling. 

    Chardi and I will be exploring all of these ideas and inviting more to descend and fill us in our ‘Retrieving the Divine Feminine Retreat’  June 8th-14th 2020
    Come join- find more info here.

    Photo by @laurabccom @her.nomad.soul

  6. Never Give up Keep Letting go

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    The yoga sutras of Patangali spend a lot of time exposing on the idea of balancing; doing and allowing, Abhyasa and Vairagya. 1.12-1.16.

    Abhyasa is single pointed focus, practice, determination, when we make an effort to keep the mind on an object or action or goal. We need this intentional dedication, heat, tapas, discipline to do stuff like make the beautiful shape in this picture. Vairagya on the other hand is the surrendering of any attachment to the out come of our efforts. This balancing act according to Alan Finger ‘allows our consciousness to take action in the world without attachment…without getting entangled in its interactions’ Alan Finger ‘Tantra of the Yoga Sutras’

    What’s the obsession with non attachment? Because attachment to outcome can get us stuck and our capacity to manifest becomes limited to our narrow egoic self concepts. Expectations, especially when not met, are a great cause of suffering and can freeze that magic space in creation, where grace and miracles enter the process. Intention and action are important, but the balancing of this with allowing and surrendering is key to creating happiness and higher purpose in life. Or as Mark Breadner http://markbreadner.com/sums up so beautifully ‘Never give up, keep letting go’

    Photo by @michellequirogawellness

  7. Dharma before Drama!

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    As one of my teachers @Mark.Breadner teaches, Dharma before Karma- Dharma before drama!

    When we live an unexamined life we tend to perpetuate the same unconscious cycle of- same actions, same results. We get stuck in old behavioral patterns and predictable outcomes. According to yogic philosophy these patterns are determined by our karma, the blueprint that directs the course of our lives. We enter the world as a way of sorting them out. In an unconscious life, karmic patterns become circular. We keep doing the same actions and going down the same path. This path is our Dharma.

    The practice of Yoga is a way to break the alliance with karma so we, more consciously determine our Dharma. Through conscious intentionality we create our life’s purpose, our Dharma, rather then giving this control over to unconscious and reactive karmic urges.

    The first step towards this Dharmic reclamation is simply to begin looking inside. Slow down. Notice your mind. Feel the texture of your thoughts. Awareness itself can take some of the colouring out of these karmic drives. Have Dharma before Karma. Dharma before drama!!!

  8. Cosmic Earth Vessel

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    The human body is one of the most complex, exotic and beautiful structures in the known universe. Most of the atoms in your body were forged billions of years ago as massive stars died in huge supernova explosions, scattering them through the galaxy. Everything that is now you was once star dust. Among the atomic elements that made up this star dust, are incredibly rare sets of elements, relative to the makeup of the universe, formed in rare circumstances. Most of the universe consists of plain old Hydrogen and Helium. But not us!

    The implications of this are that by sitting in your body right now, you are hanging out in the VIP lounge of the periodic table. Just having a body on this incredible, rare planet, is so exceptional that no one with any sense of the odds would have betted on it. That alone makes you a super winner in the game of cosmic chance. Gratitude practices can powerfully start with this. I have a body. That’s epic. I exist in a cosmically rare, mind-blowingly complex physical sheath on a cosmically rare, mind-blowingly complex, life filled planet. Holy moly. I share a planet with a whole bunch of fellow champions of chance. My deepest hope is that we still have time, collectively as species, to let chance know, we were worth the bet. 

    My dad David Christian wrote the most wonderful book called ‘Origin Story’ Mapping this great cosmic passage from an exploding singularity approx 13.8 billion years ago to the incredible coalescence of complex atomic information that makes up the earth vessel you are sitting in now as you read this post. Bill Gates recommended it last year in his top 5 Summer reads.  Just sayin’! If its good enough for Bill… you know!!! ha ha!!   


  9. A New Era is Dawning

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    I feel like a new era is coming and I’m called to follow a new siren song. The last two years have been the most intense of my life, creating this place, materializing my vision.

    Every day having to show up- no matter what was playing out in my internal state, with no space for breaks or time out. After experiencing near burn out and an enduring lack of joy or libido for life, I realized I was drowning in endless duties that weren’t aligned with my bliss or even my skill set. It was time to make a Sankalpa Shakti, an unwavering commitment to cut back and realign.

    With a huge amount of gratitude and pride I now finally feel I am near the stage when I can step back a little. Certainly from the day to day operations of this magical centre. The gratitude is for the amazing job my incredible staff team, Ania and our beautiful teachers do to keep this place running at the standard that my vision dictates. The pride is that I could wrestle with my own perfectionism and fear enough to step back and trust others with the space to manage things without me. My nervous system is slowly settling, I can calmly breath. I’m falling in love with teaching again. I’m returning to a passionate relationship with my studies, and I have some wonderful trainings where I can be student, coming up on the horizon. I want to go back to my creative roots in textiles and fabrics and start developing a Flowers and Fire Yogawear range. I also long to return to my work in design development with communities of women who don’t have such access to financial resources and co-create a range of wonderful yoga accessories with them. Maybe return to the yogamehndi ladies in India. Maybe start running a Flowers and Fire teacher training program next year.

    So much bubbling up in the creative cauldron. Through stepping back and letting go, passion can rise again. So watch this space! There’s some new things brewing!

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At Flowers and Fire we offer a range of class levels and workshops to accommodate all levels of experience - from first-timers to experienced yogi’s and yogini’s.

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