Tag Archives: femininity

The learning spiral – from fractals to freedom



Have you noticed how time never passes ‘normally’? It’s always faster or slower than you think. Which makes me wonder how we intuitively know what is time’s normal pace. Otherwise how can we experience it passing by at a quicker or more lazy pace than it ‘should’?

Although our brains love to turn time, and most of our experience of life, into a linear pattern of moving from A to B, there may be different, more interesting shapes out there in the universe.

Like the spiral for example. It’s everywhere in nature…from our DNA to roses, snails, hurricanes and even galaxies like the Milky Way. In maths, the Fibonacci sequence (0,1,1,2,3,5,8 etc) describes these gracefully unfurling shapes.

If you add two Fibonacci sequences you approximate the Golden Ratio which defines the architecture of historic monuments such as the Giza pyramids and the Greek Parthenon.

Dogmatic creationism aside, there is poetry in the idea that “the spiral is the fingerprint of God which resides in all of creation.”


From Fractals to Freedom

Even in our subtle emotional bodies we experience spirals of deeper and deeper learning.

Again they’re often misinterpreted by our brain as a two-dimensional line. We feel disillusioned when an issue we thought we had ‘dealt with’, comes back with a vengeance.

‘What? It’s still not over?! I’ve not made any progress and am back where I started?!’ – our saboteur brain starts chattering. We become convinced that we’ve taken quite a few steps back on our journey.

I see this often happening when coaching clients go through grief, process a break up or even let go of patterns that are no longer serving.

Instead of perceiving progress as linear, let’s add a third dimension and experience it as a spiral. Then we’re not going back to where we came from, but are tracing a circle, adding depth with each step taken, like the rose, snail and planets do.

In the reiki healing tradition, the sacred symbol of the spiral adds power and protection, indicating to “place the power of the universe here’.

Every time we reach the same side of the circle at a deeper level, we have the opportunity to understand the issue more deeply so that healing and integration can occur at a more profound level.

We continue to go deeper down into our learning spirals until we reach the deepest core of the issue, the end point of the spiral.

Then we may become aware of an even bigger spiral repeating the shape of the first smaller spiral. Like in a fractal image of expanding symmetry, one spiral is the building block for an even larger spiral.

In yoga philosophy, the serpent lies coiled like a spiral at the base of our spine until the kundalini energy, or the intelligence of complete maturation, is awakened.

Perhaps our fractal learning experience continues until our karma expires. Until we reach enlightenment and we’re free of patterns, be they lines or spirals.


What spiral are you on?

I’d love to hear from you about your current learning spiral!

On the Maitree Community – the Sangha of Joy’s September calls, we are sharing and learning about spirals of self love, following the heart, being soft and firm, letting go.

I’m on the ‘surrender’ spiral. Every time I’ve surrendered more deeply, I’m presented with an even harder thing to surrender. It’s almost as if the universe is trying to tell me:

“Do you think you’ve mastered surrender by letting go of your high performing corporate career, and receiving a beautifully balanced and free life doing what I love most?

Then try this: surrendering your relationship.

Now do you think you’ve mastered the trick by breaking up and being gifted a fully unexpected reunion with your partner when he asks you to marry him?

Then try this: give up your home and sense of belonging in Auroville.”

That’s where I am at in my surrender spiral.

Deep down with no end in sight and a smile on my face thanks to the gift of 20 all Indian sisters in the dance and movement therapy course I just started in Bangalore. But I’m sure despite these gifts I’ll find something else to cling to!


Spirals and movement

The dance and movement therapy course has much inspired me in many ways, integrating movement into my coaching practice and finding innovative ways of exploring authentic intuitive movement with clients.

In the sangha calls, we have been exploring the fun yet sacred element of moving spirals. Once we identified our learning spirals, we found movement to express them – from whirling dervish to rolling child and surfing on the waves of life.

The spiral movements we discovered were both liberating and transformative. They helped us shake off old patterns, for exampling shifting into an anti-clock wise upward spiral when in a clock wise downward spiral. And shifted us into new ways of being, for example from strongly spiralling our arms to protect ourselves, to a gentle swaying of the hips as a soft and peaceful pillar of strength.

Some say that spiral movements are among the oldest on the planet, as eye-less creatures grazed the ocean floor following their mouths with their digestive tubes.

There is a mysterious power in recreating ancient, primitive movement patterns – at once healing and joyful. While it’s fun to move in spirals, the movement awakens a deep vibration within us that seems to allow us to shift quickly from one state to another.

If you’re interested in exploring the mystery further, join me end January in Auroville for the ‘Swing Your Hips’ 3-day women’s intuitive dance retreat.

I’m also starting to offer authentic movement spaces in Auroville and Pondicherry, organically for women only for now, yet I’m planning mixed dance spaces later in the season.

For more info, keep an eye out on the website or get in touch via julie@maitreecoaching.com. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Restoring the Lotus

I’ve been much resonating with this passage from Anodea Judith on ‘Restoring the Lotus. Healing the Fifth Chakra’:

“If we express ourselves before our truth is fully ripened, then our actions are out of sync with our potential fullness. This is commonly experienced as ‘poor timing’.

Years ago, I habitually pushed myself in my work rather than waiting for my organic fullness to motivate me. When I rushed myself ahead of my own natural rhythm, I felt unprepared, stressed, anxious, and even a bit breathless. We push our timing out of sync because of financial pressure, emotional insecurity, fear, hunger for power, and the excessive rule of our mind as it orders our bodies with its barrage of “shoulds.”

Instead, when mind and body are balanced, we can dance to the rhythm of our own personal vibration as it resonates with the environment and the people around us.”

From her beautifully complete and masterful work on the psychology of the chakra system, ‘Eastern Body, Western Mind.’ Highly recommended!

The last full moon highlighted for me a blockage in my throat chakra and in the process of working with that I rediscovered Anodea’s work.


I realised I was very much fighting to acknowledge and express two realisations brought up by my return to Auroville which coincided with this strong Aquarius full moon. I’ve noticed a funny pattern over the past half year – all my travels have been aligned to the full or new moon.

In Auroville I feel the presence of the moon stronger. Being in the forest the night sky is more visible, and the absence of city vibrations leaves more space to notice the moon’s impact.

This month’s full moon was in the sign of the future. Aquarius, the harbinger of things to come. A curveball moon, full of unexpected turns.

These turns were twofold for me – in love and work. And they shook me, making me feel quite wretched until I let go of attachment to what I thought was meant to be. As soon as I found back my flexibility, I could see new perspectives open up.

In Anodea’s words, as soon as I lost my rigidity of fear, paralysis of uncertainty, I could resonate at a new vibration, and create opportunities. Another approach to going at the pace of what is real.

I acknowledged two core inner truths about my love and work, and now feel fully aligned again.

In love, I renewed my vows to my life partner and committed even more deeply to a love and union of evolution.

In work, I moved on to work with those people whose values I share. Again, it comes down to the frequency – we resonate more fully when we work with people and organisations that we are aligned to. Then creativity can flourish.

Let’s see what the next full moon has in store!

Love turns: a preview

After spending two marvellous and transformative months writing on Thai islands, I’ve been preparing my novella for publication. I’ve decided to go for self-publication because traditional publishing houses are unlikely to be interested in a ‘women’s novella by a first time author’. And even if they were, it would take a long time before you could actually read it. Instead, self-publishing  is a fast and easy way to get a book on Amazon in e- and print copy. My aim is not to reach a mass audience but to share with you the journey of growth and insight that this book has been for me. And, guys, trust me, there’s plenty of things for you to like in a women’s book too.

So, I’m proud to present an excerpt from ‘Love turns’, my novella about:

‘A granddaughter, liberated and searching in modern-day London; her grandmothers, constrained by a lack of choice in mid-twentieth century Holland. Three women, three stories. Three journeys in love, dreams, independence, roots.’

The launch date for my book will be in May. I’ll keep you posted and in the mean time, I’d love to hear your thoughts about this preview!


Carnival night (1956)

Snow fell in the deep night, covering the little pond at the end of the street, the ducks hiding from the cold. Every now and again they huddled together as people shuffled by. The revellers were so drunk that they didn’t feel the cold through their colourful costumes. The ducks made soft squeaky sounds, fearing another may be taken away.

Earlier, one of the revellers on his way to the prince’s ball thought a duck was a useful addition to his outfit, firmly positioning it between the grapes in the fruit basket on his head. On these three days prior to Ash Wednesday, life south of the rivers Rhine, Maas, and Waal was turned upside down while the elected princes of carnival societies ruled the towns and cities. Marching bands roamed from café to café, their drums accompanying chants of love.

The ducks, however, had nothing to fear from the revellers returning from the ball. Inebriated with wine, intoxicated with food and dance, they were saturated with pleasure. For every post-war year, the display of abundance surpassed that of previous years. This year it reached its peak, golden as the shimmer from Sophia’s dress, as she ordered Henri’s Pontiac Firebird to a halt.

‘Henri, mein Liebster, you will understand that I will serenade these poor ducklings. Nothing less will do for them on a night like tonight.’ She was certain that this was the right thing to do and left small marks in the snow as she carefully placed one high-heeled foot after another. Still a little too heavy-set, she gingerly stopped at the side of the pond, giggling to herself that she may fall, the state that she was in. She cooed the ducks to come closer. They shyly approached, nonplussed by this woman in fur who sang the drinking song of Verdi’s La Traviata to them in the moonlight.

While she sang, Henri watched her appreciatively. He was smoking a cigarette and leant back against the side of the car in his white smoking jacket, hair parted immaculately. Although he had forbidden her to sing in public when they married after the war, he adored her voice and was flattered when people call her the nightingale of the South. Ten years after their marriage she was still known for the distinct timbre to her voice.

Sophia, especially when tipsy, also shared with Maria Callas her diva attitude to life. Her walk was as gracious as Maria’s and her presence as striking. Yet, unlike Maria, she had never been able to lose those 100 pounds. Perhaps this was partly Henri’s fault for keeping her in the house. After there were some stories of a local housewife losing her mind, a woman much less like a bird of paradise than Sophia, he’d asked her whether she was happy. ‘I’m happy when you make love to me, darling. What else do you expect?’ she had said with raised eyebrows and a mischievous smile. She had refused to take him seriously and started to seduce him instead.

Angry with himself, and emotional when drunk, he muttered, ‘What else could I have done? What would people have said when she had been performing on stage, night after night, dressed in these costumes and in the arms of another man? It would have meant bankruptcy to my business, and no one to look after the children.’ Even now, the thought made him mad with jealousy.

Schätzchen, get in the car now, will you?’ he strained his voice to break through the waves of hers, echoing down the snowed-in street.

She shrugged, determined not to have her mood spoiled. She ignored the string of memories she had of earlier occasions when he had stolen moments of glory, albeit from audiences more appreciative than these ducklings. Besides, her neighbours, woken up by her song, must be expecting another of their loud rows. But things turned quiet as Henri and Sophia drove up the hill to their house.

Stumbling through the front door, she was swearing at every object she bumped into. She reached the living room and realised the room was awfully cold. She inspected the lifeless fireplace, thinking that she was damn well not waiting for Henri to fix things, ‘that good for nothing man, a good salesman that’s all he is.’

She found the maid’s white spirit and amply covered the wood in the fireplace. As she lit the fire the heat and the bang were so strong she was thrown back onto the sofa, grinning contently at the wild open fire that she has caused.

Henri, still lingering outside, slammed the door of the car shut and lit a cigarette as he closed the door of the garage. The snowfall was slowing down, and he could vaguely smell the pines. He walked towards the house, remembering to avoid the pool, and taking in the quiet night. The revellers were now sleeping. He looked up at the stars. A moment later something shot through the sky, waking the neighbourhood dogs, then landing in his neighbour’s garden. In slow motion he traced the sound back to his house, noticing a hole in the roof and fire breaking through. He started running towards the fire, praying to god almighty that his wife and children were not hurt.

A weekend in London: three encounters

This weekend was a great London weekend – and I’d been longing for one for a while. Few things beat this town’s diversity. It’s international and yet so British. It’s full of unexpected encounters. I’ll share three of them. They made me think.

On Friday night I was walking home. It was just after eleven. People who live here know that this is a dangerous time to walk about. It’s the time pubs close – or rather the time they used to have to close, and most still do. After closing time it’s common to see guys too drunk to stand on their feet, and girls unable to manoeuvre their platform shoes.

From afar I could hear the noise of the karaoke bar around the corner of my flat. It was the sound of breaking glass accompanied by the screams of teenage girls. When I came closer, the fight erupted in full. About ten teenage boys were taking turns to smash up one guy, until he managed to escape. He ran straight onto the high street where he was nearly run over by a car. Dazed and blinded, he staggered back into the arms of his attackers. The whole bar had gathered outside to watch the fight. No one intervened.

So I rang 999 for the first time in my life. My stomach was weak and my voice trembled as I saw one of the gang kick in the head of the boy. These kids seemed to operate in some sort of lawless video game. A police officer at the station told me the next day that the usual thing happened when they arrived at the bar. No one had seen anything. ‘It’s a gang fight, that’s what happens,’ the officer said. ‘We’re powerless.’

So I cycled on to Chelsea for a pedicure. The beautician turned out to be a lovely young woman from Sri Lanka. When she came to London about ten years ago, her Sinhalese boss was not intending to pay her any wages. She and some of her colleagues successfully sued him. She now works full time to support her one-year-old baby girl and stay at-home-husband, and is all smiles and sweetness.

The girl was a perfect nightmare during the first three months. She tried to force her into a rhythm and all the girl did was cry. After reading a child psychology book, she made the girl trust she was in a safe environment where food and sleep were guaranteed. It’s been perfect harmony ever since with everything happening at regular intervals.

She also shared her thoughts on the situation in Sri Lanka and how the Sinhalese people have taken preconception seriously. ‘Yet,’ she said, ‘I don’t know whether this is for the best because it means that we don’t grow as fast as India. We don’t have the population size and it’s the Tamils on the island who still have large families.’ I said, ‘Yes, you can see the same thing in many countries, such as Israel, Turkey and also in Western Europe.’ The question is whether moderate modernity catches up with the new generations in time.

On Sunday, I met an elderly English lady at church. She had a Lady Thatcher hairdo and said she wouldn’t attend the feminist reading group because she doesn’t consider herself a feminist. I said, ‘I wouldn’t either, but I’m sometimes shocked at the lack of progress made in breaking the glass ceiling. So very few women make it to the top in firms like mine and there are hardly any role models. It seems very difficult to combine a career with being a mother.’

She responded, ‘Yes, that’s true, it’s very hard. That’s why I decided not to have children. I wanted to be the best school headmistress I could be.’ I don’t think she realised how exceptional it is to hear her say that and how few people in my generation accept that as a legitimate choice.

foodie people

Sometimes it seems that all people these days live for is fine dining and cooking. Last Saturday night I was at a Canadian thanksgiving dinner, and the main conversation topic was food. On Thursday a participant on my training course expressed his main concern about the programme: the quality of food. On Tuesday night I turned on the TV and had a choice of three cooking programmes. Am I the only one who is bored by all this? And why has declaring yourself a foodie become a hallmark of sophistication?

It’s not that I don’t enjoy good food or do not enjoy cooking. In fact, I love to improvise a good meal from fresh and various ingredients. It gives me sense of history to share knowledge of preparing food with a long line of ancestors. It soothes a busy mind to focus only on the flow of cooking, with a ‘tasty’ dish as the result. Yet I do not ask for a set of cooking knives as a birthday present. After an exhausting day in the office I prefer to get take away and read a book. Nor do I think that the long line of housewife ancestors on the female side would have had to think twice about whether or not to bake their own bread or pasta, a favourite foodie pastime. My mother’s Japanese friend once confided that she had to learn to make sushi herself so that she could teach her keen Dutch friends.

Maximising the experience of our taste buds seems quite a hedonistic activity that has little to do with the need for food to survive. In the 1940s, psychologist Abraham Maslow claimed that self-actualisation rather than hedonism would be the end stage of individual development. At the lower rungs of Maslow’s pyramid are the need for physiological well-being, safety, belonging and respect. Having secured all this, Maslow anticipated that individuals would focus on morality and creativity to become all that they were capable of becoming.

Although some of us run marathons or engage in charity work, I imagine that Maslow would be disappointed to see that most of us at the top of the pyramid profess ourselves to be foodies at heart. Picture him going to the cinema to see ‘Eat Pray Love’, a dead-serious Julia Roberts vehicle about a successful thirty-something who leaves her husband for no reason at all and moves to Italy to eat. She then moves to India to find her true self in a foreign culture and religion. She then moves to Bali to fall in love, although it is unclear why this time she won’t take off to Italy again.

This modern fairy tale made me quite sad because it is such a hollow Hollywood take on Maslow’s expectations for us, lacking both morality and creativity. The one touching moment is at the start of the film when Julia clumsily falls on her knees to pray, searching for words to address god. Perhaps being more rooted in our own culture would make us less focused on chasing fleeting satisfaction, and find more balanced and longer term happiness.

The passion of Adèle Hugo

Go see Isabelle Adjani play Adèle Hugo in ‘L’histoire d’Adèle H’ by Francois Truffaut (1975), one of the most fascinating films I’ve seen in a while. It tells the real life story of the second daughter of Victor Hugo whose obsessive unrequited love for a naval officer brings her to behaviour totally unsuitable to a young lady at the end of the 19th century, and ultimately to madness. I’ve been thinking about this film now for over a week because of how unusual the story is – totally feminist and totally submissive at the same time; a scandalous taboo, female obsessive love; and the haunting acting skills of 19-year old star-bound Isabelle Adjani.

So it’s about 1870. While the world famous writer Victor Hugo lives in exile at Guernsey during the Bonaparte revival in France, his 20-year old daughter elopes to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Adele knows no one in the new world, only the womanising Lt Pinson whom she is determined to marry. The bourgeois girl has the admirable survival skill to secretly set up a new life in the new world. Meanwhile Pinson does not want to have anything to do with her. She persists, stalking him, even by pretending to carry his child, and announcing their marriage in the French press.

Her father begs her to come home before her mother dies, yet Adèle is exasperatingly convinced that it is her destiny to be wherever he is. She writes obsessive romantic entries in her diary about the violent beauty of a true love that must be followed even though he is unworthy. Her money runs out, she moves to a poor house and her appearance and state of mind rapidly fall apart.

When the officer’s regiment is moved to Barbados, she goes as well. Emaciated, she wanders the African quarter, her mind so far devoured by love that she does not even recognise the officer. A newly liberated slave mama nurses her, and writes to Victor Hugo that she will bring his daughter home. Adèle will spend the rest of her long life gardening in a mental asylum.

Ok, now I’ve spoilt the plot, but that won’t make the film less intriguing. What does it take for a girl in that time to undertake such a journey and live her life on such as scale? She was supposed to be a domestically kept creature, not venture out to the colonies on her own…And while she’s very capable in setting up a life of her own, it’s not independence that drives her but single-minded self-destructive fantasy. Why does she direct the force of her conviction and willpower to such a pointless, yet grandly romantic aim? Is she too susceptible to the romantic ideas of the time, her character lending her no down to earth protection to torment? Or is she trapped in circumstances where her great mind can only be used destructively rather than creatively? There is no real answer in the film other than that she is haunted by the memory of her older sister, the favourite of her parents, who drowned after her coach tipped off a bridge.