The Joy of Making Music, Animal-Style

It seems that we could all do with a little more happiness and calm these days. Animals seem to be less keyed up than we are and perhaps we could take a note out of their books…

Music making is seen as a human activity. However, animals also make music and not just using their own natural sounds. Mozart may have transcribed the melody of his pet starling in a diary; Beethoven may have included representations of real birds in his Pastoral Symphony, and whale songs may have been recorded for meditation purposes, but it seems that animals’ musical abilities go far beyond this.

Elephants, for example, can actually play instruments, especially gongs, drums and even harmonicas which they sometimes blow into their own ears using the flexibility like fingers at the ends of their trunks.

In 2000, Richard Lair, aka Professor Elephant, set up the Thai Elephant Orchestra along with Soldier, an accomplished musician and composer and professor of neuroscience at Columbia University. Together they built 22 giant instruments in a metal workshop, all designed to be operated with the elephant’s trunk or with a stick held in the trunk. Since then, they have gone on to prove that elephants can not only distinguish basic melodies but also set up original rhythms. Interestingly, elephants prefer their music well-tuned. They learn where the sweet spot is on the instrument without being taught and avoid dissonance wherever possible.

The Orchestra has now recorded several albums some of which are improvised and the only cues given to the elephants are when to start and stop playing. Others melodies are renditions of traditional Thai melodies using five note scales. When a (human) orchestra in New York performed an arrangement of one of the elephants’ own compositions, asking the audience who they thought the composer was, the answers came back with names such as John Cage, Dvorak and Charles Ives.

Elephants aren’t the only ones to perform original music. I once had a dog who would sing ecstatically to the harmonica, displaying a quite extraordinary vocal range. Peter Gabriel performed an impressive duet with a bonobo, a pygmy chimpanzee, playing a keyboard. Chimpanzees can play hand-bells and certain monkeys will form choirs and sing together. Philosopher David Rothenberg set up a duet between his flute and a white-crested laughing thrush and captive zebra finches have been known to sing when asked.

In all cases, music making seems to calm the animals and make them happy so perhaps we should consider taking a leaf out of their book by creating a little more harmony. The more of us that get together and make music, the happier and more relaxed we will all be. Our pets will enjoy it too and, you never know, they might even join in…

Happy March!

Love Laurelle

Happy Imbolc!

1st and 2nd February marks the Celtic festival of Imbolc (pronounced Imolc), an honouring of the first stirrings of new life. Outside, trees are beginning to bud, the snowdrops and crocuses are blooming and the birds are definitely getting flirty!

Imbolc means ‘in the belly’, referring to sheep who are pregnant at this time as well as the fertility of the Earth herself. Another name for this festival is Oimelc which means ‘ewe’s milk’ which was an important supplement to our early ancestor’s diet.

Central to the festival is Brighid, the Celtic triple goddess. In early times she was represented in three parts: one would hold a baby, another a sheaf of grain and a third a scroll to represent knowledge. This has been replaced by the modern triplicity of maiden, mother and crone; crone being linked to the word crown and meaning wise woman.

At one time, Brighid was worshipped all across Britain and Ireland and was the particular goddess of the Brigantes tribe in Northern England. Today she is still associated with wells and springs such as Bride’s Well in Glastonbury. She is also the same goddess as Brigantia after whom Britain was named – Britannia was the Roman version of her name.

With the coming of Christianity Brighid became demoted to St Brigid/Brigit, her associations making her the midwife of Christ. Her holy day of Imbolc was then transformed into Candlemas, a remaining vestige of her fire worship. However, solar wheels made of straw or willow and wool, otherwise known as Brighid’s crosses, are still popular protection and blessing in Ireland and across Celtic borders. Corn dollies are also sometimes made and dressed to represent a ‘bride’ and encourage fertility and virility of body or mind.

There are several beautiful and helpful ways to honour Brighid energy, which represents sovereignty both of the nation and of ourselves in the sense of personal power, fertility and the bonds of home, hearth and family. For us in the twenty first century, this might mean honouring the time needed to nourish ourselves with food, rest and knowledge, for example. Try cleansing any negative energy that may have built up in your house over the winter and then lighting a white candle and blessing the flame so that it brings health and protection into your home. It is also lovely to help the birds at this time of year when food can be scare for them. Putting up a bird table filled with fat balls, nuts and seeds can be a glorious way to show gratitude for the food that has lain on our tables over winter and also to welcome in the turning season.

In celebrating Imbolc, we ask for clarity and purity to cleanse ourselves ready for spring. The first shoots will soon bring us encouragement, wisdom and inspiration and show us that we can be reborn whenever we choose. However, do not be too hasty to move ahead. We are still in the quiet of winter rest and this too can be beautiful. Allow yourself sufficient time and space for reflection so that when spring stirs in earnest, you will be ready to walk out into a more active time.


Love Laurelle

2018 – The Year of the Dog

Astrology is a fascinating combination of metaphysics and ancient theories of energy that has been called the “Mother of all Sciences”. The study of the patterns and relationships between the cosmic and human life has developed into three main zodiacs: Chinese, Western and Hindu. Hindu astrology is based on the macrocosm and microcosm whereas Western Astrology is a form of divination based on the time and place of someone’s birth.

The Chinese zodiac is the oldest in the world and divides people into twelve personality types based on animals, the two balancing principles of Masculine and Feminine and the five elements of water, metal, fire, wood and earth. The main difference between the Chinese zodiac and that of the west is that the Chinese is based on the movements of the moon whereas that of the west is based on movements of the sun. Chinese astrology is firmly rooted in the world of human activities and is consulted as a matter of course in China when making important decisions such as marriage partners and business ventures.

On 16th February this year, we will enter the Year of the Earth Dog which will end on 4th February 2019. The dog is a symbol of intelligence, protection and loyalty. Dog people are honest and direct and dislike psychological game playing. They like people to be straight with them and are straight in return. They are concerned that justice is done and seen to be done and they thrive on a sense of fair play, equality and have concern for social issues.

On a personal level, dogs are a fascinating combination of loyalty, love of family and independence. They can appear aloof and cynical and be slow to make friends, preferring to hold their own counsel. Unsurprisingly, they can be dogmatic and view the world in black and white. Someone is either right or wrong; your friend or your enemy. They have lively minds and tongues and will use both of these weapons very effectively either in support of good causes or to bring a perceived enemy down.
2018 is the year of the Earth dog. Earth dogs are stable and secure and happy to take each day as it comes. They are well balanced, practical and realistic as well as idealistic, and they do like to lend a hand to those in need. They are loyal and make exceptionally good friends but their high standards are hard to live up to and they may quickly become disappointed. Fortunately they forgive easily.

Each sign returns once every sixty years and each element every twelve years. Dog years are 1910, 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006 and 2018. Famous people born in the year of the dog include Donald Trump, Prince William, Kate Middleton, Justin Bieber, Michael Jackson, Prince, Mother Teresa, Sophia Loren, Madonna, Alec Baldwin, Dolly Parton, Andrea Bocelli, Benjamin Franklin and Bill Clinton.

So what is this Year of the Earth Dog likely to bring? As the Year of the Rooster comes to an end, it is time to put its waste and unnecessary expense behind us and concentrate on communication, selflessness and generosity. Dogs are active and like to go for walks so 2018 will be a year of action and moving forward. Environment and humanitarian causes are likely to come to the forefront along with a resurgence of idealism. International security may well be prioritised and, at home, property issues may become particularly important. 2018 will be an auspicious year for the family and so an excellent year to get married or have children. It will also be a good year for lifestyle changes such as stopping smoking, losing weight and getting fit.

Business wise, 2018 will be a good year to start new ventures and any gnawing problems may dissolve or even turn to advantage. It will also be excellent for new authors. Dogs are confident and self-confidence is paramount for success this year but businesses will also need become interested in the welfare and health of both employees and customers. This means that areas like recycling, renewable energy and social care are likely to grow stronger.

2018 is a time to be caring, protective and loyal and to look beyond ourselves to the needs of others. We need to be aware of the potential for fighting and scrapping but if we can hold our nerve and walk out with confidence and the desire to help, we should end up in a better place by the end.


Love Laurelle

The Different Ways of Celebrating New Year all over the World

Nowadays, we tend to think of New Year’s celebrations as explosions of colourful fireworks and the peeling of church bells but there are many varied and, at times, peculiar ways in which New Year is celebrated round the world.

While England seems to have more traditions associated with Christmas, this was not always the case. The Celts celebrated their New Year with the festival of Samhain on 31st October and their New Year on 1st November with fire using flames to represent light and life springing from death and darkness as well as smoke to ward off evil spirits. In 153 BC, however, the Romans decided that New Year would be 1st January and in 1572 Pope Gregory introduced the Gregorian Calendar to establish more consistency around Easter. Catholic countries followed suit but Protestant Britain resisted until 1752 when it finally switched for trading purposes. Nowadays, the Celtic fire rituals still remain central to festivals in modern Scotland and Northern England. On New Year’s Eve in Stonehaven, Grampian, a parade of sixty kilted marchers with pipes and drums swirl balls of fire on wire ropes around their heads. In Allendale, Northumberland, a procession of men in fancy dress called ‘guisers’ carry tubs of flaming tar above their heads to the town square where they are launched onto a bonfire. The last one is thrown to coincide with midnight when the flames reach their zenith and the church bells ring in the New Year.

Sound has become central to the dying of the old year and the bringing in of the new. Church bells ring, ships blast their horns in ports and people run out into the streets banging pots and pans. In Ireland bread is thrown at walls to get rid of evil spirits while Scots celebrate Hogmanay on New Year’s Eve. On New Year’s Day there is the tradition of First Footing in both Scotland and Wales when a dark-haired man lets in the New Year for good luck. He leaves the house by the back door just before midnight on New Year’s Eve and on the strike of midnight knocks on the front door. The householder opens the door and receives salt for seasoning, silver for wealth, coal for warmth, a match for kindling and bread for sustenance. In Victorian times in Wales, it was also considered unlucky to lend anything on New Year’s Day.

In Europe, there are many colourful New Year traditions. In Denmark, unused dishes are saved until the 31st December when they are affectionately shattered against the doors of friends and family. The Danes also climb on top of chairs so that they can jump into the New Year. In Spain, it is reckoned that stuffing twelve grapes into one’s mouth at midnight will bring good luck for the next year, whereas in Switzerland ice cream is dropped onto the floor. In Romania spare coins are thrown into the river for good luck while in Belgium it is the cows who are wished a Happy New Year. In France pancakes are the New Year delicacy whereas in Estonia food is eaten seven times to ensure abundance. In Siberia folk jump into frozen lakes carrying tree trunks while in Finland predictions for the coming year are made by casting molten tin into a bucket of water.

New Year celebrations are not confined to Europe. In some parts of South Africa old furniture is thrown out of the window. In the Philippines, food is baked in circles and coins collected because of the belief that everything round will bring good luck. In Japan bells are rung 108 times for cleanness, whereas in Thailand people throw buckets of water onto each other before they smear each other with grey talcum powder.

Central and South America is home to some of the more bizarre customs. In a small Peruvian village, fist fights settle differences so that the New Year can be begun with a clean slate whereas in Panama, effigies of the famous are burned. Seven waves are jumped in Brazil whereas paper filled scarecrows are burned at midnight in Ecuador along with photographs from the previous year. In some parts of Puerto Rico pails of water are thrown out of windows to drive away evil spirits, coins are baked into sweets in Bolivia to bring good luck and suitcases are carried in Colombia to encourage a year full of travel. And that is not all. In some parts of South America, coloured underwear will determine fate for the New Year with red for love, gold for wealth and white for peace. Chile has one of the more gruesome traditions, however, when families spend the night in the company of their deceased loved ones by sleeping at the cemetery.

New Year, therefore, can be a most colourful time, so, wherever you are in the world, here’s wishing the entire world a wonderful New Year and a 2018 blessed with peace, health and harmony.

Love Laurelle

Celebrations Around the World

Around the world, December is a sacred month full of celebrations and commemorations for Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Pagans and Zoroastrians.

6th December is the Feast of St. Nicholas. St Nicholas, the fourth century Bishop of Myra had a reputation for piety and the leaving of gifts for disadvantaged children in the dark time of the year. He inspired the legend of Santa Claus, a tradition which began in the Low Countries and spread to the rest of Europe and to North America with Dutch immigrants.

 8th December is Bodhi Day when Buddhists remember Siddhartha Gautama’s vow to sit under a tree in what is now Bodhgaya, India, and not to rise until he was enlightened. The title Buddha means “awakened one.”

8th December is also the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a Catholic celebration of Mary, the mother of Jesus, being born without sin.

Ashura is celebrated on the 10th day of the first month on the Islamic calendar. On this day, Sunnis, the largest group of Muslims, remember that the Prophet Muhammad fasted in solidarity with Jews who were observing Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Shiites also recall the death of Muhammad’s grandson in battle, an event that led to their differences with the Sunnis.

12th December is the Hispanic Catholic Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe which celebrates the 16th century sighting of Mary by Juan Diego, a poor Indian, on a hillside near to what is now Mexico City.

The Jewish festival of Hanukkah begins at sunset on 20th December and continues for seven more nights. It is the remembrance of an effort to restore the Temple in Jerusalem after a period of desecration. Faithful Jews found only enough oil to light the temple lamp for one day, but the flame burned for eight.

On 21st December, Zoroastrians mark Yalda, a celebration of the Winter Solstice.

December 22nd, the shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere, sees the celebration of Juul, a pre-Christian Scandinavian festival during which fires are lit to symbolise the heat, light and life-giving properties of the returning sun. This is also celebrated as Yule and the Winter Solstice by Wiccans, Druids and other pagan and spiritual groups.

25th December is Christmas Day, the celebration of the birth of Jesus by Christians since the Middle Ages although some Orthodox Christians follow a different calendar so that Christmas may fall on a different date for them.

On 26th December, Zoroastrians observe the death of the prophet Zarathushtra, known in the West as Zoroaster, who lived in what is now Iran in about 1200 B.C. His teachings include the idea of one eternal God; seven powerful creations: sky, water, earth, plants, animals, humans and fire; and that life is a struggle between good and evil.

26th December is also the starting date for Kwanzaa, a weeklong, modern African-American and pan-African celebration of family, community and culture.

So, wherever in the world you are and whichever traditions, culture and religions you follow, enjoy this sacred month and have a wonderful December that is full of love, peace and compassion for all.

Love Laurelle

Are you giving thanks this Autumn?

In September 1620, a small ship called the ‘Mayflower’ left Plymouth, England, to carry over a hundred passengers to the New World. These folk were made up of persecuted Christians seeking freedom to practice their faith along with others who were seeking prosperity and land ownership. After a treacherous and uncomfortable crossing that lasted sixty six days, they dropped anchor near the tip of Cape Cod, far north of their intended destination at the mouth of the Hudson River. One month later, the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly known, began the work of establishing a village at Plymouth.

Throughout that first brutal winter, most of the colonists remained on board the ship and suffered from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew lived to see their first New England spring.

When they were close to death, they were visited by an Abenaki Indian who greeted them in English. Several days later, he returned with another Native American named Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe who had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery. Seeing the desperate plight of the Pilgrims, Squanto shared food with the starving Pilgrims and taught them how to harvest pumpkin, grow corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped them forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe, which lasted for fifty years and tragically remains one of the sole examples of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans.

On the fourth Thursday of November, which this year is 23rd, this act of kindness will be celebrated as Thanksgiving. I am very blessed to have a dear friend who invites us to celebrate this lovely occasion in a very special way. As we sit round the dining room table, everyone is invited to say something they appreciate about the person on their left. Then a delicious meal of turkey cooked in champagne, succotash: a Native American dish made from peas and onions; sweet potato, and pumpkin pie is served. Afterwards, entertainment is shared; perhaps a song or two or some appropriate poetry.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful occasion and has now become one of the highlights of my year. With love at the forefront of the celebrations, let Thanksgiving, wherever we live and whatever our history, be a salutary reminder to all of us to be kind to those in need and generous with our time for those who need to learn new skills.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Love Laurelle

Are you Home or Away?

If you were lucky enough to go on holiday over the summer you hopefully returned feeling refreshed. However, does that holiday already seem a long time ago?

Daily life can be so overwhelming that we lurch from one break to another only to sleep most of that break away. If we can find a still point inside ourselves and visit it daily, however, we can learn to feel refreshed after just a few minutes.

A dear friend of mine, Jackie Jarvis, recently walked both of the long Caminos in Spain and Portugal and has written “In the Pursuit of Slow” as a result. During her adventures, she learned that taking time out and slowing down to a natural rhythm completely redefined how she wanted to live her life. Her worries and anxieties fell away and she found a deep inner peace. I thoroughly recommend her book – not only is it an enjoyable read but it also gives lots of tips and hints about how to achieve peace on a daily basis.

Try this: sit in a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed, close your eyes and design your perfect inner sanctum. It might be an empty space or a cosy room; it might be filled with beautiful flowers, exquisite paintings or the most comfortable bed you’ve ever slept on; it might be in nature by a lake, a mountain or the sea; it might be in a concert hall filled with beautiful music. You can create whatever you like as long as feel completely safe and relaxed.

Now imagine yourself sitting, lying or standing within it and allow its healing properties to infuse you with strength, hope, compassion or whichever quality you most need at the moment. Allow any tension to melt away and return to the refreshed self you would like to be all the time.

Do this on a daily basis and soon you will no longer need a holiday. Of course travelling and time away can be huge fun but don’t spend all your breaks sleeping because you’re so tired. By visiting your inner temple regularly, you will be able to take off in that aeroplane or drive away in that car and give everything you’ve got to the wonderful adventures ahead, including your daily life.

Enjoy creating your inner sanctuary and have a happy, peaceful October.

Love Laurelle

The Wisdom Family of Archetypes

This month we will conclude our exploration of archetypes – the language of the Unconscious mind – by exploring the Wisdom Family of archetypes. In the Wisdom Family we will look at the Mentor/Coach, the Teacher and the Student/Seeker. We will then see how understanding our twelve major archetypal patterns can help us to understand our behaviour.

There are three archetypes which sit very closely together – Mentor, Coach and Teacher.  For the purpose of this analysis we will look at the Mentor and Coach as the same although their professional roles can be differ. In its light aspect, the  Mentor/Coach is trustworthy, passing on wisdom, refining a student’s character, taking individual students under his/her wing and guiding many aspects of their life. In the shadow aspect, however, the Mentor/Coach can develop an overbearing attitude that imposes control. There may also be an unwillingness to allow the student to become empowered and become a Master. Examples of the Mentor Coach archetype are Alec Guiness in Star Wars, Yul Brynner in The Magnificent Seven and Paul Newman in The Colour of Money.

The Teacher archetype is slightly different. The Teacher communicates knowledge, experience, skill, and wisdom to another. In its shadow aspect, however, there can be the manipulation and/or abuse of pupils. Along with too great a desire for recognition and acknowledgement, there can also be the teaching of negative traits and destructive skills. Examples of the Teacher archetype are Betty Davis in The Corn is Green, Sidney Poitier in To Sir with Love and Michael Caine in Educating Rita.

Finally, let us look at the Student/Seeker archetype. In its light aspect there is the desire for constant learning and the need to search out wisdom and truth wherever it is to be found. In its shadow aspect, knowledge can be misused or the person can become lost and aimless, with no particular goal of learning. Moreover, the Student/Seeker can become infatuated with a certain practice or guru without learning new things from them. An example of this is Mickey Mouse in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice where he plays the Student Wizard who gets carried away with his own unperfected talent and causes havoc. An example of the Student is Julie Walters in Educating Rita and an example of the Seeker is Brad Pitt in Seven Years in Tibet.

The purpose of looking at some of the archetypes in the Family, the Power Family, the Relationship Family, the Justice Family, the Creative Family, the Spirituality Family and the Wisdom Family has been to glimpse into the possibilities for the other eight major archetypes that each of us work through. Once we know what these are we can then add them to the shared four survival archetypes of Child, Victim, Saboteur and Prostitute to give us our major twelve archetypal patterns. This knowledge then gives us a much better chance of understanding the default behaviour that lies in our unconscious minds so that we can then choose how to respond rather than react before we have had a chance to think about it.

I do hope that these glimpses have been interesting for you and that, as a result, you have a better idea of your and others’ behaviour. These archetypes, however, make up only a small number of the possibilities and if you want a deeper understanding then I run workshops on archetypes as well as private sessions in person or on Skype and would be delighted to work with you personally.

Exploring archetypes is a lifelong journey so continue observing yourself and others on this wonderful and fascinating journey we call life.   Enjoy September and the beautiful start of Autumn.

Love Laurelle

The Spirituality Family of Archetypes

This month we will continue our exploration of archetypes – the language of the Unconscious mind – by looking at the Spirituality Family including the Alchemist, the Priest/Priestess, the Monk/Nun, the Healer and the Shape-Shifter.

The Alchemist converts lead into gold. This can be a cure for cancer, for example, or something that will effect spiritual transformation. In its shadow aspect, this archetype can misuse power and knowledge for personal gain. Nostradamus and Isaac Newton were both alchemists. Other examples are Greer Garson in Madame Curie, Robin Williams in The Absent Minded Professor and Jane Powell in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Examples of the shadow aspect are Jeff Goldblum in The Fly and Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in X-Men.

The Priest/Priestess archetype is committed to divine authority and serves as a spiritual channel of energy for others, performing rituals such as weddings and funerals. In the shadow aspect, there is an inability to live according to those teachings, along with lapses of personal morality and the breaking of vows. Examples of the Priest/Priestess archetype are Montgomery Clift in I confess, Richard Todd in A Man called Pater and Richard Burton in Becket.

 The Monk/Nun archetype is different in important ways. There is no ritual giving here. Rather there is spiritual intensity, devotion, dedication, persistence and wisdom. This archetype is not concerned with earning a living. Instead, there is a single-minded devotion to a spiritual path or to any great achievement that requires intense focus. The shadow aspect can result in the person becoming a recluse who removes him/herself from the real world and is overly pious.

The Healer archetype is different again. In its light aspect, the Healer serves others by repairing body, mind, and spirit, assisting people by helping them to transform their pain into a healing process. In its shadow aspect, this archetype takes advantage of those who need help, including over-powerful claims that they can heal any and every illness. There are different types of Healer archetype such as the Wounded Healer. Examples of this are Ellen Burstyn in Resurrection, Louise Fletcher in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Barbara Stanwyck in Miracle Woman.

Finally, let’s look at the Shape-Shifter archetype. The Shape-Shifter has the uncanny ability to change appearances. This is often exemplified by politicians who change their guise depending on the situation. However, the Shape-Shifter may choose to use his/her skill in a more spiritual way by navigating through different levels of consciousness. In its shadow aspect, the Shape-Shifter may become unstable, fickle and display a lack of conviction. Examples of the Shape-Shifter archetype are Lon Chaney Junior in The Wolf Man and Aaron Eckhart in In the Company of Men.

 There are many archetypes within the Spirituality Family. However, if you want a deeper understanding that these newsletters can give you, then I run workshops on archetypes as well as private sessions in person or on Skype and would be delighted to work with you personally. Meanwhile, keep observing the behaviour of yourself and those around you, maybe adding to your list of possible eight archetypes to add to the shared four. Next month will be our final visit to the world of archetypes with a look at the Wisdom Family.

In the meantime, have a wonderful August.

Love Laurelle

How do we cope with terrorism?

I have decided to write an extra newsletter this month in response to the horrendous tragedies that have befallen in the UK over the past months. Many of us are feeling frightened and emotions are contagious. Terrorism tires to put fear into all of us and it is an insidious strategy indeed for when we are in a place of fear we are easily manipulated.

But how do we stay calm in the face of atrocity and not let them succeed?

Conscious breathing is the easiest way to do this, easiest because we all have to breathe all of the time and by learning to control our breathing, we can change the focus of what we feel and thereby learn to control our emotions.

The first step is to become aware of the breath. If it is short and shallow, then we have gone into in flight/flight, which mean that, on either a conscious or unconscious level we are trying to escape. Notice as soon as you can when you are feeling the fear response.

Now check that that you are breathing correctly. Put your hands on your belly and breathe deeply into them. Make sure that your belly is expanding when you breathe in and contracting when you breathe out. Reverse breathing: i.e. belly coming in when you breathe in and going out when you breathe out; is guaranteed to put you and keep you in stress.

Next, then try this exercise. Again with your hands on your belly, breathe deeply into them for four counts (or fewer if that is more comfortable), hold your breath briefly and then slowly exhale for a similar count, holding briefly before you repeat for as long as you need to calm down.

After that, you can become creative with breathing. For example, use a word or phrase and split it into two parts. E.g. re-lax, peace-ful, for-give, all is-well. Use the first half for the in breath and the second for the outbreath.

Visualisation is also extremely effective. Try breathing in from above the crown of your head down into your heart centre, then exhale downwards to below your feet. Once you have established this and feel comfortable with it, reverse the process by breathing in from below your feet, up to your heart centre, and exhaling out through the top of your head. Finally, bring both directions together by visualising breathing in from above the crown and, at the same time, below your feet, into your heart centre. Then breathe out into the world, perhaps infusing the out breath with intentions such as peace, love or compassion.

Conscious breathing exercises like these can be done anywhere and at any time and, with practice, retrain the mind and body to withstand stressful events, even while watching the news or listening to a bulletin.

Using conscious breathing to reset your mind and the responses of your body, teaches us to halt the fear response and turn it into something useful so that we can stay in control even when life around us seems to be falling apart. It also enables each of us to make our little bit of difference. If enough of us stay calm and breathe out peace, compassion and forgiveness, even the terrorists will gradually learn that fear is not the way.

Wishing us all happy and powerful breathing and a more peaceful, loving world.

Love Laurelle