Using turmeric to treat eczema

I’ve had eczema since childhood. The medics told me I’d grow out of it. I didn’t think to ask when. I’m 60 now and there is still awful dry, flaky skin around me ears. Until now, I’ve been using steroid cream as the only effective treatment. Recently, I read that there is some evidence for treating eczema with turmeric. According to study carried out for the BBC, the active compound in turmeric is best absorbed when heated in oil.

I’ve been taking a big teaspoon of turmeric once a week. I heat it in cooking oil and add it to my Huel vegetable protein. I’ve just re-read the BBC article and noticed they mention black pepper may be useful as well, so I’ll add that next time.

The results are very good with my eczema reduced by 90%. This obviously isn’t remotely like a proper clinical trial, it’s just an anecdote. It’s a nice safe experiment, though. Unless turmeric allergy is a thing. I’d like to come up with a way to take a smaller amount daily.

Llangranog beach

Walking meditation

I’ve been practising walking “meditation” on the beach at Llangranog. I begin with my awareness, in my personal here & now. Staying in awareness of myself, my physical presence and senses, I become aware what is around. The experience is as though I’ve opened my eyes & ears further, more gets in, and what arrives is less “filtered”, without judgement. The experience reminds of me of John O’Donohue: “When we walk on the earth with reverence, beauty will decide to trust us”. Is this reverence? Is beauty deciding to trust me?

(The “meditation” practice is my own creation, distilled from different things I’ve been taught over many years. I don’t suppose it’s original. It is original to me).

Llangranog beach
Llangranog beach

Our deepest joy is only as deep as our deepest grief

I’ve been having a rich and full year, the most full of my life. It’s been filled with love and grief, with listening and learning. I’ve been thinking a lot, I’ve made some sense of my experience and come to a conclusion I can’t escape: it’s good to embrace grief and heartbreak.

Perhaps that sounds masochistic or just plain nuts. Allow me to explain. The experience began in November 2015. I went to listen to Stephen Jenkinson speak, not far from my home in Wales. At the end of the day, I shook Stephen’s hand and thanked him for ruining my life, for shaking me up so much when I thought I was approaching an age for settling down a bit. What I particularly took from that day was the thought that the more I embrace the inevitability of my death and the death of my loved ones, the more I will be able to love life.

It fits well with Francis Weller’s First Gate of Grief: Everything You Love, You Lose. It might be possible to avoid grief by loving nothing & no one. Which sounds like a recipe for a bleak life of depression & despair. Or we can love wholeheartedly, and embrace the inevitability of losing those we love, right up until our own life slips away.

This all became a lot more real only a month later when my dear friend and housemate LJ was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Being beside my friend in her dying time was a sad, painful, joyous and precious experience, the most precious time of my life. I surprised myself by showing up in a way that was a rejection of what I had been brought up with. Coming from a dull, middle class English family who shun strong emotion, my upbringing told me to keep some emotional distance between myself and my dying friend. Instead, I chose the opposite, I chose to lean in to the experience, to lean into love knowing I was also choosing heartbreak. And by the middle of January, when LJ returned from her last holiday, I knew my love had grown, that I really had chosen the way of love & grief.

LJ died on Good Friday 2016, at the home we shared, in her own bed with two friends beside her, and me in the next room (we had agreed only two of us at a time with LJ — she didn’t enjoy more people). I her final days, she received wonderful care from friends, her doctor, Paul Sartori Foundation “Hospice at Home” & the district nurses.

The evening before, and only a few hours before she fell into unconsciousness, LJ & I connected in a way that is unique for me. I didn’t intend or plan this. I went to sit with her for a while. Knowing she enjoyed company and didn’t enjoy hearing people speak, I chose to sit silently and try to remain present to my friend. What happened next was so far outside my experience, it took a while to make sense of it. We spent about two hours in deep, radically trusting connection, and I experienced something which I will call “love without attachment”. The  experience of these two hours are the most precious of my life so far. I am sure my friend died knowing she was loved.

I wept easily in the days after LJ died. I got more deeply in touch with my grief a few weeks later with friends while I was in Mallorca. Here, I found all of it, and I howled like a wounded animal. I beautiful, precious and painful experience. Grief, someone said, is a way of loving.

So in the first few months of 2016, the deepest connection, gentlest love and the deepest grief I have experienced. Not a coincidence, I’m sure. We can’t selectively numb ourselves — our deepest joy is only as deep as our deepest grief. We can have neither or both.

My suggestion? Show up wholeheartedly for all of it: love, joy, grief and heartbreak. Yes, it’ll hurt sometimes. And the love might be exquisite.

Personal heroism

I had a moment of inspiration a while ago. It’s been running around my mind ever since. I applied this to gaining understanding of a personal experience, and I think it will be useful to others. Actually, I think it’s such a good idea, someone has probably thought of it already.

If we compare ourselves to others, we could easily miss our finest hour, our moment of personal heroism. If I think I did something brave, my next thoughts might be of someone I saw on TV rescuing a family from a car sinking into a river, or of a firefighter risking her life to bring children from a burning building. Not all acts of heroism will be famous. We won’t all get on TV or into the papers. And yet, for some, leaving the house will take as much courage as it takes for a firefighter to run into a burning building.

I have a suggestion for a way to examine our moments of personal heroism, the times when we act from our values, even knowing there is a risk to ourselves.

The American scholar Joseph Campbell identified a narrative structure that appears in almost all myths, legends and old stories, and a lot of newer stories as well. He called it The Hero’s Journey. I’m going to borrow a simplified version from Erica Sosna’s excellent book Your Life Plan. In this version, the journey has these stages:

  • The invitation to adventure.
  • The commitment: stepping into the unknown.
  • The quest: challenges, obstacles, setbacks, victory (or failure).
  • The return: the hero returns, transformed by the quest.

Here is a way we can tell our stories of heroism to ourselves, and if we choose, to trusted friends. Your story doesn’t have to be a literal journey. It may have taken place in familiar locations, perhaps even in your own home. The difference could have been in your mind, your attitude and perhaps no one noticed any change.

The invitation

How does your story begin? How were you invited to this journey? How did you decide to accept the invitation? How difficult was it? How long did the decision take? Did you consider refusing? What dangers did you anticipate?

The danger could be emotional or physical. For example, if we commit ourselves to a love affair, we open ourselves to heartbreak.

The Commitment

How did you step into the unknown? What did you leave behind? How different was the new? Did you find it frightening, or exciting, or something else? What other emotions arose?

The Quest

What challenges did you face? What obstructions? Did anyone try to discourage you? Were there any allies helping? Any thoughts, books or objects that helped?

Were you victorious?

The Return

How were you transformed by the journey? What did you learn? What did you lose? Are you glad you made the journey? What would things be like if you hadn’t? Do you have any regrets? What feelings arise when you think about your story?

I poem about a conversation that didn’t end when I thought it would

Stillness

I stand beside my friend, bathed now and wearing a favourite dress, laid on her bed, surrounded by flowers, profoundly still. Without a sound, I hear her gift: “Life is precious”. But I know this already. “No”, she says, silent, insistent, “it’s much more precious than that”. My heart is open and her lesson lands without resistance. Watching her shocking stillness, I understand. Life is precious. “And another thing; you could be a lot more gentle”. I know this is true. But how will I become more gentle? Silence. Stillness. Incomprehensible stillness.

[This is an edited version of the piece I posted in June. I like this better — it’s actually shorter, I have been able to say what I wanted to say using fewer words].

Electro etched copper pipe

Electro etching copper pipe with salt water

This is my second attempt at electro etching copper using salt water. This time I used the Silhouette Portrait to cut vinyl masks which worked very well. I used a saturated salt solution of tap water and table salt. Then a 9v PP3 type battery. The battery drained in 30 minutes and I used a second one to complete the job. If I decide to do this again, I’ll use a mains adaptor.

First attempt at a prose poem

I’ve been intrigued by the idea of a prose poem since I first heard of the form. Not sure I’ve understood the concept, I’m having a go anyway. I’m wanting to capture the essence of a moment.

I shared this first with friends in a closed Facebook group. No one said it sucks. Of course, they may be being kind.

Stillness

I stand beside my friend, bathed now and wearing a favourite dress, laid on her bed, surrounded by flowers, profoundly still. With no sound or movement I hear her gift: “Life is precious”. I know this already. “No”, she tells me, silent, insistent, “it’s much more precious than that”. My heart is open and her lesson lands without resistance. Watching her shocking stillness, I understand. Life is precious. “And another thing”, I hear from the silence, “you could be a lot more gentle”. I know this is true. But how will I become more gentle? Silence. Incomprehensible stillness.

Biting off more than I can chew?

My dear friend and house mate Lindajoy died on Good Friday 2016. She was well known in the circle dance community as a dancer, musician and teacher. Another friend is planning a celebration of Lindajoy’s life at Small World Theatre, Cardigan in June.

I want to be able to sing one of LJ’s favourite songs at the celebration which is a tall order as I can’t sing and I gave up trying to learn guitar a couple of years ago. So now I’m hoping to find a guitar teacher to fast track me to being able to play this sweet little song. Recently, I’ve been going to Finding the Voice sessions at Small World which has given me a little confidence in singing. It’s going to be tough.

I don’t know who the performers are here and I’ve no idea what the copyright is. If anyone who reads this can help, I’d be pleased to hear. It may be that the link to the MP3 shouldn’t be here. I’ll take it down if anyone makes a convincing case for being the copyright holder.

Earth Hour, Sound Scape

I’ve been invited to submit a sound recording for a sound scape project for Earth Hour. Sounds from the natural world are requested. I haven’t made outside recordings before and the quality on this isn’t as good as I hoped. Lots to learn, I guess. The sound is water running down the cliff face at Caibwr, with the waves breaking on the beach in the background.

It’s noisy at the start, improves at about 20 seconds in.

Some days, when the weather is just so, the waves pile into the caves and the air bursting out sounds like distant artillery fire (I used to live near an army range). I’d love to record that, perhaps using something more sophisticated than a mobile phone.

I love the name of this place — I think Caibwr is pronounced like Khyber as in Khyber Pass.

Cliff at Caibwr

Download

 

Embracing Mystery

We are, Sartre told us, doomed to be free. “Essence precedes existence”, which is to say there is no essence of human calling us to be human. No other animal has such freedom. If a wolf ignored the essence of wolf and tried to live as a haddock, he would soon die. A haddock trying to live even as a different fish would be doomed. But we humans have a huge range of choices on how to live. Anyone who finds freedom on this scale unbearable has an easy way out: just sign up for the voluntary slavery offered by any religion. Hand your unwanted freedom the men in funny hats (and it nearly always is a man).

With unanswerable questions, I can see two obvious choices but I’m going to recommend the third. The obvious choice with difficult questions is to rely on the men in funny hats again, a popular option for religious people. Not only can they be relied upon to answer the unanswerable, many will even insist on obviously incorrect answers and perhaps stone you to death if you disagree. The second option, typically chosen by atheists, is to ignore unanswerable questions, deny they exist or insist asking them is futile and absurd. This may leave some atheists looking rather cold, having intellect but little emotion about them.

I’d like to recommend a third option: embrace Mystery, even come to love it. Ask the impossible questions. Embrace the beauty of the questions and embrace the Mystery of not knowing the answers. If you find the knowledge that your questions will never be satisfactorily answered, acknowledge the fear, embrace it and live with it. If you genuinely believe a question to be worth asking and yet unanswerable, is it not wiser to embrace Mystery than to pretend to know the answer?

What is love for? I don’t know. Are there different kinds of love, or are they all variations of the same experience? I don’t know. What happens to me after I die? Probably nothing, but I’m not sure. Is there a god? Unlikely, but I can’t be certain. What is the purpose of life? I don’t even know that it has a purpose. Do I have a soul? Probably not, but I can’t be sure. Is there intelligent life on other planets? I don’t know, and if there is, they could be so far away we would never meet them or even know they exist.