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Little-Known Feng Shui cure revealed

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Think of the room in which you regularly work or where you go to get your personal administration done. If it’s at home it’s likely to be your spare bedroom, which you share with the Christmas decorations and the toys the children have out-grown.  Sound familiar? 

Typically the desk faces the wall and the door is wide open behind you.  There’s probably a bed in there too with the ironing on it.  How motivated are you to get to work in here?  How easy is it to stay focused when it's not set up for business? 

If you work in an office consider a typical room you might congregate in for meetings. There are stark white walls, it relies on artificial lighting, it receives no fresh air and already smells stale from the previous occupants who, by the way, have also left their debris behind. The table is a long rectangle occupying the centre of the room with chairs crammed underneath it and there's just about enough space to circumnavigate the edge.  I'm reaching for the Anadin already ....

Now let’s take a peek at the main open-plan office.  How many people can you see with their desks facing the wall like they've run into a dead end - and with their backs to one another.  That's disengagement played out right there.

Meanwhile the rest of the gang are likely to blown around in the middle of the room like dust bowls, never sure from one day to the next where they’ll land in a hot-desk culture.  I wouldn't be surprised to learn that morale is low and staff accused of being unproductive.  The company will never get the best out of its people in this way. 

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Some of us are fortunate enough to start our working day on a life-enhancing note.  On the way we pass by green fields, we see trees, hear birds - all of which lifts our spirits if we raise our head long from the mobile phone.  A 10-minute walk around the block can achieve the same effect if we work from home or do the school run on foot.

Contrast this with the mad dash to work in the rush hour, partially underground to arrive at offices that are 15 floors up and look out onto a concrete landscape.  In this instance the company would need to work extra hard on the interior using Feng Shui methodology to create a space that feels more natural and healthy in which people can thrive. 

One of the operating system of Feng Shui is concerned with creating balance between the two opposites -  ‘yin’ (the feminine) and ‘yang’ (masculine).  When an environment is disharmonious – whether it’s a room or a whole office block – the people working there will not function well.  The company is paying for their salaries and a chunk of this is going straight down the drain in reduced effectiveness.  

Whether it’s through good quality lighting, a humane arrangement of furniture, the introduction of a water feature, enriching colour schemes, healthy plant life, inspiring artwork and accessories - or a combination of all of these and more - by paying mindful attention it doesn't take much to create a more harmonious environment that’s conducive to work in.

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I walked into an architectural award-winning office block once to do a Feng Shui consultation with an image consultant in tow, only to find the two receptionists wearing woolly cardigans.   She wanted to go straight up to them and sort them out.  I asked her why she supposed they had a need to dress like this in such a prestigious building.  She didn’t know.  So I took her on a quick tour of their high-tech environment through Feng Shui eyes.

The reception desk was like a tiny island floating in the middle of a vast open sea exposed to the elements.  Right opposite, where the two were seated, were large impressive, revolving doors.  While these were energy efficient and minimised drafts, for the women it was like sitting in front of a wind turbine and very disturbing.

Right behind them were two sets of lift doors, opening and closing constantly.  As the front line of the business, no wonder they felt vulnerable and exposed and needed to add 'yin' layers in the form of woolly cardigans to feel safe and protected.

The surrounding area in which they were seated could be described as very 'yang' – with strong angular lines, lots of harsh natural light and steel supporting structures.  The Feng Shui solution to obviate the need for woolly cardigans was to relocate the reception off to one side, to introduce softer, curvaceous lines in their desk area, utilise large healthy plants to screen the reception desk and warmer, softer tones to define their working area.  

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The seating area for waiting visitors was also exposed and needed similar treatment in order that visitors could arrive, feel welcome and relax.  

The purpose of a Feng Shui assessment is to enhance the quality and quantity of chi (life-force energy) in our living and working spaces.  For so many of us who are deprived of any natural experience during working hours, we risk returning home more depleted than we should be.  After a few months of this, along with the lack of protection from electromagnetic stress that saturates a typical working environment, can leave us wired and frazzled.

When the environment is clean, clear and vital people respond by feeling happy, motivated, productive, creative and engaged.  Absenteeism and staff turnover are minimised.  Clients and stakeholders enjoy visiting. The company becomes a magnet for success.  And the same goes for the office at home.

That's why Feng Shui makes perfect business sense even if it's difficult to pronounce!  
And why there's always room for a woolly cardigan as a stand-by Feng Shui enhancement.

Harmonious wishes to all, Mary

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Shed a skin and make a fisherman friend

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Shed a skin and make a fisherman's friend

Descending the causeway that declines steeply to the pebbled beach, I encounter the remains of Beer’s fishing fleet that still braces the sea every day. Past charming Lillie May, bearing the same name as my grandmother and about the same age too I imagine, I admire her colourful beach garden.  

I’m in Dorset here for a weekend of Sumara meditation and dance-movement in the landscape.  The plan is to spend the mornings in the studio awakening our bodies and preparing them to move outdoors in less familiar terrains.  We round off the day seated in meditation.

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 I'm now toggled up in outdoor clothing expecting to roll, glide, slither, crawl over damp rocks revealed by the rapidly retreating shoreline.  The sun has already broken through the patchy clouds and the temperature is rising.  I reach for the zip of my jacket that’s sealed around my neckline and find it won’t budge an inch.  I’m trapped inside this waterproof, windproof skin and I've already broken into a sweat on the inside.  If this continues I’ll be throwing myself into the cold sea.

And then I remembered the fisherman … sitting outside his stone hut selling the catch of the day.  Surely he’d have a knife to cut me loose! 

As so it was Alan, captain of the fleet, who came to my rescue but using a large pair of scissors.  Quite an intimate operation it was.  And thankfully I was saved the large knife that removes the heads and tails of fishes and splits their guts open.  In all his years Alan admitted he'd never had to perform this procedure before and alas my jacket didn’t survive the surgery.

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Once liberated I join the rest of the group to crunch across the pebbled beach.  I gaze longingly at the tea drinkers sitting sedately under umbrellas in the afternoon sun, past Barbara Ann who’s hanging out with the bad boys having clearly thrown in her lot with the pirate boats.  Arriving at the far side of the beach, under cliffs strewn with fallen rocks worn smooth as a baby’s bottom, I drapes myself over a sugar loaf mountain wait for the moment when the urge to move arises from within, led by my body and not my head.

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At the tail end of the afternoon I wind through a verdant valley of wild flowers towards neighbouring Branscombe.  This village is enchanting and quintessentially English.  It would seem that thatched roof cottages be-speckled with flowers aren't just reserved for chocolate box covers.

I round off the day with Sumara, the Javanese meditation.  Nothing special about how I should to sit in the chair or on the floor - just not lying down.  Giving my body plenty of time to settle and come to stillness, feeling my weight drop down through my bones, supported by the chair.  I feel like I'm shedding a little more of life's debris. 

No need to follow my breath, a sound, or a mantra.  Thoughts and feelings come and go as I sit here like this for 45 minutes.  If I need to move, cough, mutter, shift position I do so.   My mind wants to dance me around but I reign it back in to where I am seated on the chair with my friends around me, accompanied by birdsong.  The ordinariness of this is completely luxurious. 

On the drive back to Beer I track a deer slowly down the lane until he finds a suitable gap in the hedge.  I then  encounter an out-of-control bonfire threatening to take the hedgerow with it. I summon a rather drunken homeowner from his deck chair and hope he'll succeed in extinguishing it with his pitchfork without falling into the firey inferno.  

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If you’ve yet to discover the rural delights of Jurassic East Devon I highly recommend you do so.  It’s the perfect place to make a fisherman friend and shed a skin or too.

 

 

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Feng Shui - ancient practice or New Age nonsense? 

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I’ve been a Feng Shui practitioner for 21+ years. I qualified just before I became pregnant with Celine.  In the early days I used to take her around with me on jobs strapped in a sling.  One time I left home so fast to bundle her in the car that I forgot to put a nappy on her and had to wrap her delicate regions in my scarf. Tra la la ...

I'm very passionate about this ancient, universal practice and I'd like to share some of the wisdom and common sense behind it.  If I had my way I'd rename it living mindfully because it makes such an important contribution towards leading a healthy, wholesome life - a far cry from New Age nonsense.  

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Going with the flow
We're all familiar with the expression going with the flow, which is about adopting the path of least resistance. When we embrace the flow, things seem to miraculously fall into place and our lives evolve with less effort. 

 

When we go against the flow, other symptoms are instantly recognisable: we get sick, feel exhausted, and lack direction.  If this continues, we risk depression and burnout, which are increasingly evident in our frenetic world. 

Part of the flow solution requires significant changes to our lifestyle.  Another approach is pay closer attention to the spaces in which we spend most of our time. Living and working environments that are clunky and don't promote well-being, make additional demands on us - physically, mentally and emotionally.  When homes, offices, gardens and any sub-set of them are going against the flow, similar symptoms to those described above can affect the inhabitants.  Enter the dragon ...

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Good chi
Feng Shui is a practical and metaphysical tool used to promote health, wealth and well-being by improving the quality of our environment.  

At the heart of this practice is the recognition of chi or qi (life force energy) which moves invisibly through space and knowing how to cultivate it to our advantage.  There's a similar principle at work in practices such as Acupuncture, Yoga, Reiki, Tai Chi,  Shiatsu, Qigong, - the purpose of which is to open the channels (meridians, chakras, nadis) in the body for chi to flow more freely so that chi can reach and refresh all parts, like Heineken. 
 
When we neglect our homes and offices thinking we have other more important things to do, then we miss out on the opportunity to cultivate good chi and improve the quality of our life. 
 
Where there are constrictions or blockages to the flow of chi - such as inappropriately placed walls, too much furniture for the size of the room, and other unconscious clutter - our task is to remove these obstacles so that chi can flow more easily.  Since everything that appears to be solid all around us is actually atoms and molecules in motion (according to quantum physicists), then everything in our environment is worthy of mindful consideration from a Feng Shui perspective.

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Wind and water
The literal Chinese translation of the words Feng Shui means ‘wind and water’ and provides further understanding of this invisible phenomenon, still considered by some to be a fabrication of the imagination.  If we could go back in time and ask a Chinese farmer 3000 years ago where he would choose to site his home and grow crops, his answer would be couched in terms of Feng Shui - prevailing winds, proximity to water, aspect to the sun, and soil quality - because all of these would affect the quality of his life.
 
Ask a gardener today the same question and he would give a value judgement which included similar considerations.  To do a good job, both farmer and gardener need to be mindfully aware of where their land is situated in relation to life-sustaining elements.  The rest of us don't typically know and yet we are still at the effect of these all the same, even though we spend most of our time indoors.  

Suitably located wind and water delivers good chi - and most primitive cultures knew this and worked with Feng Shui in one way or another, although they each had their own name for it. The wisdom is therefore ancient, universal and timeless. 

Feng Shui for all
I would argue that our lives are lop-sided when we don't pay more attention to our relationship with the environment in which we are unfolding.  Feng Shui is not a philosophy since it encompasses many practical tools and techniques.  It's not a religion although some may consider it part of their spiritual practice.  It's not recognised as a science since its principles have not been proved by scientific method, although an electron microscope could reveal a thing or two about matter that appears so solid.  

I went to work for a scientific establishment both in their London and Monaco offices.  They had no problem at all understanding why management had employed a Feng Shui consultant to help them improve their business.

Feng Shui is an art - and when applied wisely can enhance our living and working spaces so that the life force energy that envelopes us works for us rather than against.

May the flow be with you.

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Moving with Mindfulness in the Landscape

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I walk along a near-empty beach and find my way to a black rock revealed by the receding tide.  Tenderly I lie down on my side and edge backwards so that the length of my spine rests against its face.

My body is laid on damp sand, my knees curled up in front of me and my head resting on my hands.  I drift into sleep under the watchful eye of Golden Cap, the highest point on this coastal section of Jurassic Dorset.

 

The density and stillness of the rock engenders a corresponding stillness in me so that when I awaken I am alert yet my mind is empty.  No instructions were given; the wisdom of my kinaesthetic body led me to this and it is nourishing to both my body and soul.

The harsh gaunt cliffs are like sentinels behind me, slumping their mass of black clay into the sea while fossil hunters risk their lives at the foot of them.

Rivulets of clay emerge from the base of the cliffs like molten lava coursing across the sand towards the sea. Shards of sunlight pierce the clouds and spotlight my dance across this rocky tide line.  I feel at home here.

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This is what Moving in the Landscape means for me.  A time when I experience myself most physically alive.  A time when I give my body permission to move in response to the immediate natural environment, in this instance the beach.  I have three glorious days of this ahead of me, the mornings spent in the studio in preparation for the afternoons when I am moving outdoors.

As my body finds ways to move naturally and organically in this unfamiliar terrain, I discover ways of moving I'm not accustomed to.  It’s a terrific workout for my whole body while my mind takes a break from an overloaded routine.

As my rib case expands my breathing deepens and this has a calming effect on my nervous system. My headache has cleared and my movements are no longer dictated by thoughts running through my head. I move with a new-found freedom and vitality.  I am present, centred in the very ground of my being and at one with nature.

 

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Moving with Mindfulness close up

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Have you heard the line from James Joyce's 'The Dubliners'?  "Mr Duffy lived a short distance from his body."  It sums up this state of affairs perfectly and I chuckle every time I read it.

There isn't anywhere we can go without our body goes too.  It is an essential part of our humanity yet so many of us can forget this as we trundle along with a disembodied head perched on a stick (our spine) which bears no relation to the rest of our anatomy.

I run movement workshops to rectify this.  I am on a mission to create more awareness of the kinaesthetic body because when we become dissociated from our it, we are weakened physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. 

 

 

My meditative movement practice is called Moving with Mindfulness.  I draw on natural movement, which everyone is capable of to encourage our bodily experience of relationship and connection to ourselves, each other and the environment, which is all most empowering.

It's only when we inhabit our body to the same degree we can occupy our minds that we can appreciate what wholeness means.  

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We spend the morning widening our movement vocabulary and exploring beyond our habitual patterns of motion. We gain confidence in extending our boundaries to occupy the whole studio space and avoid becoming glued to the spot as you do when dancing in a club. This brings a sense of freedom and possibility as we claim new ground for ourselves.
 
“I enjoyed connecting with the group and a chance to explore my feelings and myself physically.  I love Mary’s movement courses and I feel alive and enriched by the experience I have.  It fills a need in me to move creatively and with meaning.  I leave feeling both grounded and uplifted which is quite an achievement.”   Debbie, Adult Dyslexia Specialist.
 
With our bodies enlivened and attentive through the movement preparation, we take to lying on the floor.  In turn and with care, we outline a full-size body print for each other.  While inhabiting these body-scapes, Doreen Gowing, Hypnotherapist, leads a guided visualisation to help us let go and drop deeper into our bodies.
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We allow plenty of time to colour in our body prints in whichever way we feel fit, intuitively not logically because there is no right or wrong way to do this.  The room quickly fills with body portraits and after lunch we tour the gallery together. 

In pairs, we take turns to dance for our partner the energy of the body portrait we have created. 

“How do I do this?” the head protests while the body knows exactly what dance is needed and how to do it with our partner as our witness.   

"The Body Portrait process is unique for gently revealing and reminding me of my inner self.  Working with a partner magnified what I knew already as well as throw a light on parts I had forgotten or hidden.”  Doreen, Hypnotherapist

Then it is our partner's turn to give their movement response to what they had seen so that when the dance baton was returned to the original dancer, they were inspired to continue moving with it further.  What had been resting just below the surface immediately became visible, both in the body portrait and the dance that accompanied it.  It was a joy to see and a wonder to be shared and celebrated.

Please check my Events page for the next public Moving with Mindfulness workshop.  I'm also available to facilitate this process to any private peer groups.  Or if you’d like to explore Moving with Mindfulness with me one-to-one, you can always join me in the studio.

“It was a beautiful and powerful process.  Moving together with a partner and having my movement reflected back then interpreting the movement and the body drawing I’d created was very valuable.”  C. Barnes, Business Consultant.
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Your body never lies...

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When I attended a 4-year dance-movement therapy training, there was a performer in my group from  a prestigious London Contemporary Dance school.  Karen had a vast movement repertoire and a highly tuned body.  This was her first real taste of dance-movement improvisation however. 

During the  first module she touched on something through free movement and began to cry.  Something that had been buried in her subconscious for years was surfacing but she didn’t yet know what. 

As she continued to explore over the months/years so too did she unravel memory of incest that had remained a family secret until now.  The trauma now surfaced completely to be released, her shame located and healed through movement, simply by allowing her body to move of its own accord, at its own speed, with its own mode of expression.  The result can be more immediate than any verbal analysis. 

When Karen later turned her experience into a performance piece, her sister was in the audience.  Without providing a verbal description of what her piece was about, Karen conveyed her story through the dance.  Her sister received it - through her body - and remembered her own experience of incest that she too had buried.

I don't want to suggest this happens in every somatic movement or dance-movement therapy session.  It’s just to illustrate how informed the 'soma' (the inner intelligent body) is. 

Here's a more typical experience from Caroline, whose husband bought her a movement session as a present. 

“Wow … I want to give a shout out to Mary Nondé.  After a 2-hour movement session with her I feel like I’ve had a deep massage and my body is aligned in a completely new way; I feel freed up and relaxed at a whole new level.  

“If you’re feeling stressed, stuck or want to be more in your body, I would highly recommend this.  It does require you to be open to moving and really get into your body, and to park the old thinking brain for a while.  But that was a relief to be honest!” 

Caroline Burr, Your Relationship Coach.

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"I'm not interested in how people move but what moves them"

Pina Bausch, dancer and choreographer extraordinaire strikes a powerful chord.  Dance is not just about technical perfection which means only a minority should pursue it.  It's also about giving the soul a voice through movement.  And this practice is inclusive and as old as the hills.

I’m in the throes of learning West Coast Swing.  There’s a woman in my class who’s in her late 70s.  You’d never believe it to see her move, let alone the way she dresses.  She always has a big smile on her face when she dances, while her husband is at home watching the rugby.  I’ll wager a bet on which one of them lives the longest.

While I’ll always try my hand at any dance form, the method I believe offers the greatest potential for restoring your equilibrium on all levels has no prescribed form.  It’s organic.  It’s natural. And has nothing to do with following the prescribed moves of the teacher. 

The fastest route to stillness.  I currently call my practice Moving with Mindfulness. I used to call it Dancing for Joy.  But since we're all very familiar with the concept of mindfulness, it requires only a small stretch of the imagination to see how mindfulness applied to the whole moving body can have a marvelous effect.  It's also described as Somatic movement.

It’s the fastest route to stillness, returning you to the inner river-of-life and at a pace and a rhythm that is nurturing for you.  And believe me, anyone can discover this for themselves.  You don't have to be a dancer to arrive there.

With the impulse to move arising from within, who's to judge whether it’s right or wrong, good or bad; it is as it is.  You have total freedom to be spontaneous.  

With the subtleties of movement taking priority over getting steps right, this practice creates a bridge to deeper intelligence which is impossible to language through words alone.  Carl Jung called this engagement with the unconscious 'the active imagination'.  To explore this way is both liberating and delicious - like arriving home to your playful self after a long time away.

Moving with Mindfulness is an embodied practice that awakens your creative spirit and refreshes your relationship with your living, breathing body.  As you grow to recognise what it is you feel (through the sensations, intuitions, emotions and instincts that arise naturally), so  too your trust in your yourself to know what's right for you grows.  

When you over-ride these feelings because you don't understand their value or can't find a file to put them in can leave you disenchanted with life - and then wondering why.

If you'd like to find out more about what moves you please drop me a line: mary@marynonde.com or call 07827017188.

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