How quickly this year appears to have passed by. I can’t believe that it is December already and another year of hope and new projects beckon. I am writing this newsletter to you all from Chisembanje, in the southern highlands of Zimbabwe – my spiritual home. With the temperature rising to 35°C at 9am, and the monkeys collecting all the fruit fallen overnight from the Marula tree, the days here are a cycle of familiar activity and simplicity.
The Marula tree, best known for its contribution to the Amarula drink, has a tart flavour when eaten alone. Yet marula oil it is highly regarded in Ayurveda: high in antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and amino acids. It’s high in Vitamin C, great for dry skin, and it’s wonderful at making your hair look silky! I love the folklore that elephants can get drunk by eating the fermented fruit rotting on the ground and occasionally have seen elephants staggering around, seemingly a little tipsy, where there are many Marula trees in one area (although many scientific research papers have disproved this amusing legend).
The Praana Wellness Health and Well-being Virtual Group continued this year. It was a beautiful space where people supported one another by sharing their ideas and collectively discussing concepts around the chosen monthly well-being topic. When I began the group, it was with the intention of supporting people through the uncertainty (and loneliness) of the Pandemic. I like to think we have offered a safe space to allow people to open up to their vulnerabilities and find the ‘tools’ and coping mechanisms that will carry them forward into the new year, enabling them to thrive and not just survive in this coming year.
As a group, we have decided that the program has reached its natural conclusion and we will be moving much of our learnings from the group to our FB page – the Praana Wellness Health and Well-being Community. Click here to check it out and join this invaluable free resource.
Being here in Zimbabwe reminds me of the very real struggles to survive each day for the majority of the local people in this beautiful country. Every morning you will see women and girls going to collect water from the local well, to take back to their home for the day. How far they must walk can be anywhere between a few hundred metres to several miles. I’m encouraged to see far more wells evident now, in 2022, than there were in 1992. I am reminded of how different (yet still real) the issues are for our women and girls in our more developed societies, and in the Middle East where I have been spending time more recently.
Around the world, in every walk of life, people experience their own, specific issues that impact on their individual, holistic, well-being. Yet imagine, for a moment, not having water available to your family, or in your home. For many people here, they know nothing else. As I met the local children on my walk only this morning, I can’t help wondering about the lack of evident stress in the lives of the people here. Their routine and life seems to have remained similar to the lives I witnessed thirty years ago, when I first visited. At face value at least. They are still ecstatic, for example, when you share lollipops with them.
Whatever anyone’s circumstances, challenges and situation they are indeed real and worthy of being heard compassionately. We will continue to support and empower people to take control of their own health and well-being into 2023 and beyond.
I choose the life of a ‘traveling Psychologist’. I prefer this to being restricted by one country’s system. I continue my work with ex-pat adolescents and families all over the world and particularly in the countries I spend more time in. I understand the challenges of our young adults, and I also have first-hand experience of how hard it can be to navigate parenting or caring for adolescents. With this in mind, I have developed a series of online training courses for 2023, drawing on my 25 years of experience, so that I am able to reach more people via my online therapy sessions. One of the first courses I have created is a virtual 10-week programme for parents and carers of adolescents. You can check out my blog on the topic, here.
Since the Pandemic, the progress of online working has moved apace, and many of us have adjusted to a new way of working, educating, and communicating. While we seek to retain a healthy balance, in person connection continues to be vitally important, yet the Internet has proved invaluable in being able to deliver online programs of work to a much broader audience. For this reason, in my training groups, such as the Virtual Well-being Group, or the Virtual group for Parents and Carers of Adolescents, you will always meet a diverse spread of different cultural perspective which brings a richness to the conversations.
Chez Vallée, Praana Wellness’ retreat centre in southwest France, had a wonderful 2022 season, welcoming many guests from around the world. We were able to host a wonderful yoga retreat that had been planned in 2020.
We hosted the wedding of our own daughter, Sophie, and her husband, Carl, and it has given us the confidence to offer our restored distillery as a venue for other weddings next year. The guests at this year’s wedding represented fifteen countries, a testament to their love of exploring different places and cultures. It is such a pleasure to watch families and groups of friends coming together to share this space and give their precious time to each other, something that has become more valuable and appreciated given the restrictions of the previous two years.
When I get to spend Christmas in the heat, I miss the seasonally cold Christmases of the North of England. I miss my ancestral country at Christmas: the carols around the tree outside our local pub; the mulled wine and mince pie parties with friends; family and friends. I realise this year is harder for many and I urge you to keep warm by taking the precious opportunity to huddle together with those you love, play games, and share the brussel sprout peeling.
As I grow older, I yearn only to be surrounded by those I love in an environment I thrive in. This year, it is not to be a cold one, but a hot one, with our family, and for that, I am grateful.
Let me round off by saying thank you to all who follow us, share our content, contribute to our groups and visit us in person. Each and every one of you has contributed to the Praana Wellness energy and community in a way that will continue to support others into the future. We are so grateful to you.
For those who celebrate Christmas, as I do, a very merry Christmas to you all. More importantly, may 2023 be a pathway for peace in our beautiful world, a resting of all judgment on our fellow human beings, and a simple unspoken tolerance of all, whatever their choices.
Let us thrive.