Mallorca Death Café

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Since last December, I have been hosting regular Death Cafés in the village of Binissalem where I live.  This summer I also hosted one in our capital Palma and last weekend another up in the beautiful mountains in the village of Deia.  To say I am happy I discovered the Death Café movement is an understatement – I am ecstatic!

As a bit of background first and taken from the Death Café website to make it clear:  “at a Death Café people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss death. The objective is ‘to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives’ and is a group directed discussion of death with no agenda, objectives or themes”.

Every meeting I have ever hosted has been unique but perhaps one regular occurrence is that whilst I may try to suggest topics of discussion, my wonderful DC members prefer to do it their way!  If I were to give our encounters a quality, I would say that respect pours out of everyone at every encounter.  Some people’s opinions on death can be very different but the atmosphere of respect makes every opinion count.  I have learned a lot about myself too and see that my opinions are constantly challenged in the setting of my head whilst I hear what other people have to say about subjects about which I may have previously been quite closed.

Everything about the Death Café movement has me excited!  From the name itself – after all saying the word death generates so many reactions,  from horrified facial expressions to curious bemusement!  In all cases it does get people talking!  The guidelines suggested for hosting a death café are also entrancing!  Setting a death café in a tea room or eco café, enjoying tea and cake, how could I not enjoy conversation about death in this type of setting.  For my village to boast an eco café serving the best in tea and cake makes every encounter that much sweeter (plus the kilos have been piling on)!

Whilst the guidelines do advise that a death cafe is not a bereavement support group, even that has been questioned in one of my events simply because Mallorca is not yet set up to offer the recently bereaved a setting for support as I recently discovered.  Seeing the compassion and love so freely shared in a recent event towards a grieving widow made me proud of my fellow sisters and brothers residing on planet earth and I saw how the death café can help.

We meet to talk about death and through that we talk about life, about hope, about different cultures and we break down the taboo around death.  We challenge ourselves and our opinions and beliefs always in an atmosphere of respect and interest.  Our conversations are our inner most thoughts and reflections, shared perhaps for the very first time.  In short, these encounters free us up to get on with life and living and I am so glad to have discovered the Death Café movement.

Find a Death Café near you          www.deathcafe.com

Enjoy tea & cake near me              L’Exquisit, C/Rectoria 2, Binissalem, 07350 Mallorca

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Down to Earth – a journey to inspire

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I was delighted to attend my favourite cinema in Palma recently, Cine Ciutat, for the pre screening of Down to Earth, a film described as a mirror to humanity.  The film was made by Rolf Winters and Renata Heinen and their three children and is about their journey around the world meeting indigenous peoples charged with keeping humanity’s wisdom alive.

The film was inspiring in its simple message – live in the now, take only what you need from Mother Earth and stay connected to her in nature.  Perhaps the message of “slowing down” could be the starting point for those of us fortunate to enjoy the film yesterday.

This beautifully made film, shot on location around the world from the Amazon, Ecuador to the Northern Territory in Australia, covered the family’s journey across six continents and the young family learned from the elders, those wise ones, about the importance of connecting to nature.

Afterwards we were treated to having the family – bar Zoeli, the eldest child – answer questions and give us their thoughts and reflections on their journey.  The two younger children, Skye, some 15 years and Levy, 11 years now, impressed everyone with their maturity and natural wisdom and it was a delight to see them comfortably growing up.  As the questions could have gone on all night, it was suggested we take our message from the film home with us and I did so, with great consequences!

For me the film was a reminder of the importance of staying connected with nature and I am blessed to not only live on a beautiful island, but also in a small town surrounded by nature where it is easy to get out into her on a regular basis.  I feel I am blessed as quite frankly the idea of living in a city or having a regular 9 to 5 scares me witless.  The best thing I ever did was to give up my job two and a half years ago and start my own journey, albeit here in Mallorca!

I will take the message of staying in the now, not dwelling on the past or focussing on a future of what if’s and maybe’s, something I have been trying to do these past couple of years.  I shall also persevere with letting go and what better result of having done that this week than having four more weddings confirmed as soon as I did so!  I had decided that I was willing to let what needs to come into my life and bam, the magic happened.

Down to Earth is a beautiful journey with an important message.  There is nothing we need except what is our human right on earth – safe shelter, food and water.  The Earth Guardians are simple in their living and wise beyond their years.  Why?  Because they are connected to God, to Mother Nature, to their source and to themselves, something so many of us find hard to do.

Thanks to Christer Soderberg, another Earth Guardian here in Mallorca, responsible for being inspired by Renata and Rolf and for filling the cinema to bursting!

Down to Earth – http://www.downtoearthfilm.com

Living and dying

I recently went to an event at the people’s cinema in Palma, Cine Ciutat, organised by Dona Sana Feminista.  Various clips of films showing different dying scenes were shown.  The Sea Inside (Mar Adentro), based on the true story of a man who spent 28 years fighting for the right to end his life was shown as well as The English Patient, One True Thing and Whose Life is it Anyway.

The event, “La muerte forma parte de la vida” (death forms part of life), also heard the views on death and dying from two eminent and respected doctors.  Dr Carlos Barra, member of the Spanish association Derecho a Morir Dignamente (the right to die with dignity), and Dr Enric Benito, senior consultant in palliative care and in charge of the Balearic palliative care units.

What struck me about the clips and the debate afterwards was firstly that the topic of death is everywhere.  From Death Cafés taking place all over the world in which the subject discussed is death – my own participation in this has monthly meetings well attended here on the island – to end of life care, soul midwifery, green burials – it’s become a 21st century concern and a one that is changing perceptions everywhere.

Dr Barra talked about freedom of choice, democracy and dignity whilst Dr Benito talked about spirituality and transcendence almost promoting healthy dying.  They agreed on dignity and that things need to change in terms of care and support as well as choices.  I felt that whilst it is important that dignity and choice are paramount for people in moments of pain, what wasn’t discussed is how we live life.  Dr Benito did touch upon this by suggesting that people die like they have lived.  The room seemed to take an in breath at such a suggestion but I liked what he said.

What does that mean, to me?  Choose a life of happiness is a start.  Choosing relationships that allow me to grow, choosing to learn from challenging moments in my life, choosing good health over medication – the list goes on.  I chose home births for my two boys.  Why?  Because I could.  I had healthy pregnancies and I wanted them to be born to people they knew, in a setting that was calm, quiet and above all, stress free.  I could have chosen a hospital birth with strangers, maybe the same doctor who would have seen me throughout my pregnancy might have been there.  Along with bright lights, forms to fill out, questions to answer – but that wasn’t for me.  My list of choices affects the education of my children preferring small and alternative to big and standard; my working habits at this age of my life have also been chosen with me in mind.  In fact I have never been poorer financially as I am now, having chosen to give up a well paid job some years ago to forge ahead in a new direction – one that is satisfying, one that is helping others and one that fulfils me.  When I die, I shall chose to die in a healthy way, whether I am ill or not.

I remember my good friend Rufus who died of cancer some years ago.  He was well supported by his partner, my good friend Jo, and lots of friends besides.  The weekend before his death, we friends gathered at his home to support him and Jo.  We knew that Rufus wanted to die there and we wanted to respect his wishes as much as possible, but at the same time, this was a decision that affected Jo too.  It was decided that he would go to Hospital Joan March, up near Bunyola, where they have a specialised, palliative care unit.  He was admitted on the Saturday.  The care there was excellent.  It was attentive, it was peaceful, it was accommodating and it was filled with love and light.  Over the next days, Rufus received many visits and Jo was supported at all times.  Between the friends and the hospital staff, the end soon came.  When I arrived there in the middle of the night a few minutes after Rufus had left his body, I entered a room with Jo at his side and a nurse in the background.  I shall always remember her name – Consuelo (comfort) – and I shall always remember her, not for anything she said but for all that she did by being there, close to Jo to support her in that moment and allowing Rufus to go to sleep, forever.

I want to die like Rufus should ever I become ill.  He was dignified whilst ill, conscious to the last whilst ill, medicated for the pain whilst ill and above all, alive and happy whilst ill.  He never complained and I think his acceptance of what was going on in his life helped him.  He died like he lived – as himself and with a greater wisdom and a dignity which was all his.

 

Harmony

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Happy family!

We’re getting there, the ex and I!  It’s coming up to 8 years this summer that we split up in a manner befitting a Mexican soap opera but that’s all in the past now.  I behaved badly in the beginning – and how – but gradually I learned things about myself and started to grow up and take responsibility for me first.  It was my mid-life crisis – if I live to 90 that is – and now I am happy to know that I don’t need another mid-life crisis, one was enough!

This week I have appreciated my ex’s kindness as out of the blue yesterday he showed up at the door with wood he had cut for the fire.  It’s little things like this that really create a good atmosphere.  Without thinking therefore, I offered dinner that evening and we sat with second-born and enjoyed a meal together.  First-born, as often happens, was out!!

This week I have also appreciated first born´s efforts to make up for leaving the cake out on Sunday.  Resident diva-cat Miss Mypenny Mishau very delicately ate one half of the carrot cake I had made for a customer!  I think it was worth losing the business because my older son has been making smoothies for the family before he rushes off to work at 7am.  How lovely it is to get up to that every morning this week.  I even forgive the dishes in the sink although I wasn’t amused at the fruit in the general bin instead of bringing in the organic bin from outside!  Oh well, I am getting there, slowly.

The topic for the show this week is on harmony so I have been thinking a lot about what that means to me.  It’s all very well that I ask our listeners to comment but I too have to have some thoughts.  So I have been remembering when I used to go and visit my brother and his wife when I was in my 20s and their house was always so harmonious.  They never watched tv, infact they went without tv for over a year once because they believed it to be broken, or was that what they told the kids!  We would visit and the children would be busy playing or doing arty things if the weather was bad and always the atmosphere was a peaceful one.

I think harmony has to accompany silence, quiet, it’s the peaceful moments that create harmony.  The vibrations we pass onto each other can be harmonious or not, just like a music that has harmony can create a stillness in our heart but if the music grates away, that too can grate upon our soul and disturb us.

I enjoy my life very much.  I am happy that I am growing up and learning more and more as each year goes by.  As my beloved father used to say to me on my birthdays – it’s not another year older, it’s another one wiser.  It’s true.  Opening my heart, my eyes and my ears to all around and listening for the music, the harmony, life is so much easier.  For sure, I have moments in which I cannot hear anything except the noise of my mind and my heart beats faster and my eyes blink and doesn’t see much.  But the soap opera way of living in my 20s and 30s is slowly leaving me.

Being the better side of 50 is a wonderful experience so far.  Sure my body flops in yoga when teacher Eva effortlessly shows us another posture but the fact that I do yoga now is a plus.  I am learning to relax a bit more each time I get up and get creative, the dry throat and racing heart are still there but the mind is a little better.  Maybe by 80 years I shall get up and do improvisation with no hang ups at all!  By the way, first show with my improv class is on Sunday 8th March, International Women’s Day and in Spanish so I hope to see you there!

So harmony, welcome into my heart and my home – I enjoy having you as part of my life and I look forward to having you more and more.  Where does harmony come from?  I believe the first step is love, in loving myself I can experience more and more harmony in my life.  If I love me, I can love others more easily.  It’s not been easy at times in the last 8 years to love my ex but I wasn’t loving me enough.  Don’t get me wrong, he still drives me insane and I can make up a list as long as both my arms with complaints and criticisms when I get going.  That’s why harmony is so important in relationships and with love as the foundation, anything is possible.

Listen out to my show The Happiness Café next Monday at 10am.  Download the app and take me with you.  I look forward to hearing your thoughts on harmony too!

The Happiness Café Radio Show – http://www.mallorcasunshineradio.com

“Improv Show” with Estudio Gori Artieda Sunday, 8 March 2015 6pm in Teatre Lloseta, Mallorca

Je suis Ms. Nadia Lopez

Mott Hall Bridges Academy; Brownsville; HONY; Humans of New York; Brandon Stanton; education; scholorships; fund raising; inspiration; values

Principal Nadia Lopez, Mott Hall Bridges Academy (Photo Brandon Stanton)

Last week I was inspired by this woman!  Along with thousands of people around the world, I took note of her thanks to Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York blog.  If you have never heard of this blog, check it out now!  Brandon Stanton is living proof that we all have a purpose and he has found his purpose which is to allow people to be seen, heard, listened to and believed in!  It all started with him randomly stopping a young man, Vidal, last week and asking if he could take his picture.  What makes Brandon Stanton special is that he asks some quite meaningful questions to the subjects of his pictures and this day was no exception.  Vidal told the HONY world that his principal, Ms Nadia Lopez valued him, she has told him he matters.  Not only him but all the scholars at Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brownsville New York.

I want to be like Principal Nadia Lopez!  I want to be a woman who influences others, who believes in others, who guides others.  This is where I want my life energy directed, to positively influence those around me.  I believe I am Ms Lopez, we all are, no matter how small our contribution to our world, we all matter!

I know another Ms Lopez, another influential being who believed everyone mattered and he was called Gerry German.  He was an educator too and he was a man who influenced the thousands of children who had the good fortune to cross his path.  He taught in Jamaica, England, North Wales and Nigeria.  He was one of the founder members of STOPP (Society of Teachers Opposed to Physical Punishment) in the late 60s. He was Chief Education Officer at the Commission for Racial Equality back in the 80s.  He was involved with the Working Group Against Racism in Children’s Resources in the 90s after his retirement as an activist.  His proudest moment was founding the Communities Empowerment Network, CEN, in 1999 an advocacy and campaigning service, working for equality and justice in education particularly with African Caribbean parents whose children had been permanently excluded from mainstream education.  He was a daring and innovative man, a concientious objector, he was also my father.

I am blessed to have been his daughter, I had the good fortune to be born to him and my mother Patricia, two hugely influential people, two incredible beings who have loved and guided me at every step of the way.  I attended one of the schools where Gerry was the head, or principal as you say in America.  I saw the love the school kids had for him, never more strongly demonstrated than when he was sacked from the Mold Alun as being too “much” for the establishment!  I was stopped by school bullies and told to pull up my socks and make my dad proud of me because they were proud to consider themselves his children.  I picked up the phone many a time whilst living with mum and dad or visiting them and many an ex student would ring to share their good news – graduating from school or university or just wanting to share what a huge influence Gerry had had on their lives.

Gerry passed away in May 2012 at the ripe old age of 84.  He passed in the night after having spent the day before at the office in Brixton where he met with a young man, recently excluded from school.  That day, my father had brought the first smile to this young man since he had taken on his case.  My father believed in him and that day proved to the young man that he mattered.  He went to bed that night satisfied with another good day, expecting to get up the next day to go back to work.  He left a legacy, he left behind an organisation that is relentless in providing justice and equality for all in education in Britain.  He left a team committed to this ideal, working together and now guided by my brother Deuan and joined by advocates, volunteers, trustees and many, many children needing their services.  He left his mark.

Ms Lopez is the same.  She believes in her kids.  She knows that everyone of them matters and she has high expectations of them.  She leads her team like my father led his team by being the example.  She is a woman with her heart in education, she is the teacher, the real meaning of the teacher.  I salute Ms Lopez and I say “Je suis Principal Nadia Lopez” – je suis in the sense of improving the lives of all, not trashing the lives of any!

Mott Hall Bridges Academy has now had over 700,000 dollars raised in less than a week and these funds will be used to form the Vidal Scholarship Fund, named after this young man who one day was stopped in the streets of his neighbourhood and asked by a stranger if he could have his photograph taken.  Brandon Stanton, Nadia Lopez, Gerry German – these are people who are proof that when we find our purpose in life, we are where we are meant to be.

We all matter, let’s never forget that!

 

 

CEN (Please consider donating)                        http://www.cenlive.org/

Humans of New York                                           http://www.humansofnewyork.com/

Mott Hall Bridges Academy                                http://www.mhbabrooklyn.com/

To donate to Mott Hall Bridges Academy        http://bit.ly/1JmIB8u